Sturbridge, Massachusetts is pleasant in August. There’s Echo Lake, outdoor taverns, and the usual New England whatnot. So I journeyed up to one of the indefatigable Bill Goichberg’s events, the 37th Annual Continental Open.
Here are some crazy G/1 hr. games I played.
Elizabeth Vicary – Mark Ginsburg Round 1, Continental Open 2007
Sicilian 2…e6 3. b3!?
Elizabeth arrived a little late for the board which is always a handicap in a G/1 hour match. That’s how I lost to GM Akobian. The moral is to avoid it if possible (she had car problems which are hard to “refute”). I was late in the Akobian (Las Vegas) game simply by being in a long coffee line in the verdammt Bally’s hotel. This game features incredible variations with most perplexing piece placements (alliteration!) that remained behind the scenes.
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. b3!? b6!? 4. Bd3 Nc6 5. O-O Bb7 6. Re1 Nge7 This looks like the best; when the knight gets to g6 it eyes the tender f4 spot.
7. Bb2 Ng6 8. Na3 Be7!? 9. Nc4!? Of course white can grab the pawn with 9. Bxg7, but in a fast game it’s not so much fun. Black will play 9. Bxg7 Rg8 10. Bh6 (awkward but necessary to prevent knight jumps to f4) 10…Qb8 with good prospects for kingside counter-action.
9…O-O 10. c3?!
Here, 10. e5!? is sensible to gain space and thematic and 10. a4 is perfectly good too. The text is self-blocking. On second thought, 10. e5 isn’t so great: 10…Nf4! and now if 11. Bf1 f6! seems fine, or if 11. Be4 then 11…f5!. So I will leave myself recommending 10. a4.
10…d5 11. exd5 exd5 11…Qxd5 12. Be4 Qd7 is OK but approximately equal.
12. Ne3! 12. Nce5? Ncxe5 13. Nxe5 Nxe5 14. Rxe5 Bd6 is clearly good for black.
12…Re8 13. Bc2? The only way to justify the 10th move is by playing 13. Bxg6! hxg6 14. d4! with good chances for equality.
13…d4! By far the best move. In fact, it was stronger than I realized at the time.
14…Nb4!? A very tricky and interesting try, but black had the stronger and rather obvious 14… Nxd4! and after 15. Nxd4 cxd4 16. Nf5 d3! wins, using the motif of dividing the board in two to build up a decisive initiative. White has to play 17. Bb1 undeveloping the queenside and gets in a losing bind. This I had not appreciated. Play can continue 17…Qd5 18. Ne3 Qg5! and everything is happening with gain of tempo. White defends with 19. g3 (19. Bxd3 Nf4 loses) and then black continues the attack with 19… Nh4 20. f4 Qg6 21. Kf2 Nf3 22. Rh1 Bc5 23. a3 Nxd2! and wins in a gruesome finale.
15. Bb1 Nf4! 15… Bf6 is less strong – 16. a3 Nc6 17. Bxg6 hxg6 18. Qc2 Nxd4 19. Nxd4 Bxd4 20. Bxd4 cxd4 21. Nf1 and white holds on.
16. Ne5? Strongest here is 16. dxc5! and now there’s a funny variation. Black might fall into 16…Nfd3? (16…bxc5! is reliable; 16…Nbd3!? is probably somewhat worse due to the in-between move 17. c6!) 17. Ne5! Nxe1?? (white is on top anyway, but this loses) 18. Bxh7+!! winning in all variations. 18…Kxh7 (witness 18… Kf8 19. Qh5! Bd5 20. Nxd5 Qxd5 21. Qxf7+! Qxf7 22. Nd7 mate! – a savage and really unusual finale that deserves a diagram, see next!)
Position after 22. Nd7 mate – analysis
19. Qh5+ Kg8 20. Qxf7+ Kh7 21. Qg6+ Kg8 22. Nf5! Bf6 23. Nh6+ Kh8 24. Nef7 mate. It’s strange how white gets a crushing attack seemingly out of nowhere in this line.
16… cxd4? The optically somewhat ugly 16… f6! is surprisingly strong and leaves black with a big plus in the mutual dance of the knights. For example, 17. N5c4 Nfd3. The text gives white a hidden way out.
17. Nf5 This move is not good, but not as bad as I thought at the time. I thought 17. Qg4! was forced and now 17…dxe3 18. Qxf4 holds for white although it looks at first glance very precarious. For example, 18…Bf6 19. Rxe3 Nd5 20. Qf3 Nxe3 21. Bxh7+! Kxh7 (Not 21…Kf8 22. Ba3+! Re7 23. Qxb7! Nd5 24. Nd7+ Ke8 25. Nxf6+ gxf6 26. Qc6+ Kf8 27. Be4! with a total rout) 22. Qh5+ with a perpetual check mechanism for the draw.
17… Bf6 The move does win, but tricks remain.
18. Qg4? Now black really does win easily with an extra piece. But white had 18. Bxd4 Nxg2 and now the strange tactical lunge 19. Qh5!! for excellent tricks in time trouble. Look at this for a moment.
Position after 19. Qh5!! (Analysis)
This is a really unique situation. It’s not even easy to see white’s threats, but they are real. White cannot play, by the way, the passive 19. Re2? Nh4 20. Nxh4 Bxd4 as the bishop on d4 hangs and Qg5+ is threatened. But after 19. Qh5 things are very strange. First of all, 19…g6 20. Nh6+! Kf8 21. Bxg6!! is an amazing resource. It deserves another diagram.
This shocking blow makes the game very weird and unclear. Taking it further leads into crazier and crazier tactical complications. Let’s try: 21…Nxe1 (much weaker is 21…hxg6 22. Nxg6 hxg6 23. Qxg6 Rxe1+ 24. Rxe1 Bd5 25. Bxf6 wins for white) 22. Bf5! Re7 23. Qg4 Bg7 24. Nd7+ Ke8 25. Nf6+ Kf8 26. Nxh7+ Ke8 27. Qxg7 Nf3+ 28. Kg2 Nxd4+ 29. Kh3! and wins. But I would be amiss if I didn’t point out the hilarious variation 29. f3? Re2+ 30. Kf1 (Amazingly 30. Kh3?? gets clobbered to 30…Rxh2+!! 31. Kxh2 Nxf3+ 32. Kh3 (or 32. Kg2 Qxd2+ and wins) Qh4+ 33. Kg2 Qh2+ 34. Kf1 Nxd2+ 35. Ke1 Nf3+ 36. Kf1 Ba6+! 37. Bd3 Bxd3 mate!) Qd6!! (a phenomenal defensive and offensive resource) 31. Nf6+ Ke7 32. Qxf7+ Kd8 33. Qxb7 Rf2+!!! (Black’s turn to find a shocking resource!) Let’s look at this:
Position after 33…Rf2+!!! (Analysis)
What a move. If it actually occurred OTB, it would make the pantheon of shocking coups. First of all, white cannot get cute and decline: 34. Ke1?? Qe5+ mates, for example 35. Qe4 Nd3+ 36. Kd1 Rf1 and mate. Similar mates occur on other interpositions on e4. And 34. Kg1?? Qxh2 is also mate. So white must accept: 34. Kxf2 Qxh2+ 35. Ke3 Qe5+ 36. Qe4 Nbc2+ 37. Kd3 Nb4+ and let’s catch our breath here for another analysis diagram. We’re almost at the end of this incredible trail.
Position after 37…Nb4+ (Analysis)
What a fantastic position! Both sides have been ignoring each other for many moves and somehow equal chances are the result. Now we have two lines. In one, 38. Ke3 Nbc2+ 39. Kf2 Qh2+ with an amazing perpetual, or the hara-kiri attempt 38. Kc3?? Ne2 double check 39. Kxb4 Qc5+ 40. Ka4 Qa5 mate! Such a high intensity of tactics for so long! Note also, of course, 38. Kc4?? Qc5 mates immediately.
Let’s go back to the start of this analysis possibility after 19. Qh5. The best sequence for black is 19…Rxe5! 20. Rxe5 g6! (20…Nc6?? 21. Rd5! Qxd5 22. Nh6+ uncovering queen on queen attack) 21. Qh6! Qxd4! (21…Nc6 22. Rd5! Nxd4! 23. Rxd8+ Rxd8 24. Nxd4 Rxd4 should win for black, but it’s scary in G/1) 22. Nxd4 Bxe5 (this queen sac is actually good for black but pitfalls remain) 23. Nf5!! and now not 23…Bxa1?? and this greedy move is dramatically punished: 24. Ne7+ Kh8 25. Nxg6+! fxg6 26. Bxg6 and white mates with very little material left! The final nail in the coffin would be 23…Re8! and black does in fact win after 24. d4 Bxd4 due to back rank problems, but in G/1 the reader can clearly see how insane this all is. The complications exceed a dozen “normal games” and it’s anyone’s guess what would happen in mutual time trouble.
The game concluded prosaically with black retaining the extra piece while simplifying.
18…Rxe5 19. Rxe5 Bxe5 20. a3 h5! 21. Nh6+ Kf8 22. Qf5 Qf6 23. axb4 gxh6 24. Qxf6 Bxf6 25. f3 h4 26. Be4 Bxe4 27. fxe4 Be5 0-1
The behind the scenes variations were really quite astounding!
Here’s Round 2 vs GM Ildar Ibragimov.
GM Ildar Ibragimov – IM Mark Ginsburg, Continental Open Round 2
Gruenfeld Defense, 4. h4!? sideline
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 I don’t normally play the Gruenfeld but if I knew in advance my opponent would play a sideline, I would definitely try it more often. The only way to kill the beast, I think, is 4. cxd5. Or, white can try to bore black to death with 4. Nf3.
4…c6! A solid and good response to white’s impertinent sideline that was actually featured in a recent NIC “SOS” booklet.
5. cxd5 cxd5 6. Bf4 Bg7 7. e3 Nc6 8.Nf3
Believe it or not, Manuel Bosboom tried the crazy 8. h5?!! here versus Ivan Sokolov, Leewarden 1997. That game continued 8…O-O (black declines, why?) 9. hxg6 hxg6 10. Nf3 with some white edge, although he was outplayed by the strong GM playing black. If 8…Nxh5 9. Bh2, white has some nebulous compensation but it hardly looks enough.
8…O-O 9. Bd3 Bf5! 10. Bxf5 gxf5 Black has completely equalized.
11. Qb3 Qd7 12. Rc1 e6 13. h5 Ne4 14. h6 Bf6 15.Nxe4?! Black had no problems, but this move actually gives black a plus. Better would be 15. Rc2 or 15. Ne2 or even 15. O-O waiting.
15…fxe4 16. Ne5 This is the first critical moment of the game. How does black remove the knight?
16…Nxe5? Completely strategically wrong! Much stronger was 16… Bxe5 17. dxe5 f6! (underestimated by me) 18. exf6 Rxf6 19. Bg3 Raf8 and black has an obvious edge. 17. Bxe5 Bxe5 18. dxe5 f6! is also good for black. The text gives white a simple to play space advantage and is a really weak choice in light of the strength of the other recapture.
17. dxe5 Be7 18. O-O Rac8 19. f3 exf3 20. Rxc8 Qxc8 21. Rxf3 Kh8 22. Rg3 Rg8 23. Rxg8+ Kxg8 24. e4! Fortunately black can survive this strong shot although he is definitely worse.
24…Kf8 25. exd5 Qc5+ 26. Kh2 Qxd5 27. Qc2 Bg5! A tactical trick to stay afloat despite white’s annoying threats against the h7 pawn.
28. Qc8+ Of course, 28. Bxg5? Qxe5+! picks up the bishop next.
28…Qd8 29. Qc5+ Qe7 30. Qe3 Bxf4+ 31. Qxf4 Ke8 32. Kh3 Qf8 33. Qf6? 33. b4! keeps an edge. The text lets black’s queen get active and I escape.
33…Qc5 34. Qh8+ Ke7 35. Qxh7 Qe3+! An important intermediary move to soften up white’s king position before munching on e5. The game is now clearly drawn.
36. g3 Qxe5 37. Qg7 Qh5+ With a simple perpetual. Agreed drawn. A lucky escape and my first draw vs Ildar after two prior reverses.