Archive for the ‘Vladimir Epishin’ Category

The Fabulous 00s: Crazy Slav Theory

December 22, 2007

Who said the Slav is boring? Here is a crazy sac line. Well, the *main* game is a short draw. But there are lots of insane variations nestled inside, like a Russian doll-within-a-doll Matrioshka!

Let’s see it.

IM Mark Ginsburg – NM David Filipovich (CAN) Chicago Midwest Masters 5/04

I first met my opponent in Quebec 1980, an infamous tournament where Sammy Reshevsky, in a bad position and in time trouble, riddled me with 5 consecutive draw offers – I got so annoyed I blundered and wanted to shake the little man very vigorously.

1. c4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Qc2 White is trying to avoid mainline Slav lines. Black can simply play 4….dxc4!? here with good chances of equality, or go for the Gruenfeld structure with 4…g6. In that case, the most testing move is 5. Bf4 and now black has the chance to play a very interesting move, 5…Na6!? A very interesting sideline. Let’s look at it in some detail.


Position after our Slav “Sideline” 5…Na6!? – What’s going on?

The “solid” but rather uninspiring 5… Bg7 can be met by the “also solid” 6. e3 O-O 7. Nc3 Na6 8. cxd5 Nb4 9. Qd2 Nbxd5 10. Be5! Bh6 11. h3 Be6 12. Be2 Qa5 13. O-O Nxc3 14. Qxc3 Qb6 15. Bc4 and white nursed a small edge to victory, 1-0 Tukmakov,V (2570)-Mariotti,S (2475)/Las Palmas 1978.

6. cxd5? A totally lame move. Also really lame was 6. Nbd2? as played in Ginsburg-Lower, Az. St. Ch. 2004 a few weeks before this game. I won that game, but it had nothing to do with the opening. I really hadn’t studied it!

Correct is 6. e3 Bf5 7. Qb3 and now we get to a key position.

Black can choose from

1. the “gambit” 7…Nb4?,

2. the “speculative” 7…Bxb1?!,

3. or the sensible and apparently new 7….Qb6! – is this really a novelty? No, it’s no novelty; as David Filipovich points out in his comments, 7…Qb6 didn’t do well in games he has seen.

We need to dismiss the first two.

The first thing we have to know here is that 7….Nb4? is totally unsound. The second thing is we have to know why!


Position after 7…Nb4? (Analysis). We have to deal with this tricky bad move.

7… Nb4? 8. Qxb4! The only way to refute something is to take what the opponent gives you.

8…e5 9. Qxb7

Now black has two tries, both of which are quite insufficient.


Position after 9. Qxb7. White is just winning.

Variation A. 9…. exf4? (loses more simply than the alternative)

Variation B. 9….Rb8

Variation A.

The rather primitive try 9…exf4? 10. Ne5! wins for white (remember this!) ,e.g. 10… Bd7 11. Nxd7 Nxd7 12. Qxc6 fxe3 13. Nc3! This is the most accurate. (Humans are tempted by 13. fxe3?! which is OK but less accurate; 13…Rb8 14. Qxd5 Rxb2 15. Bd3! with a white edge – but not 15. Be2? Bb4+ 16. Kd1? (16. Kf2! and white king is out of the danger zone; white is still better) 16…O-O with a huge black initiative, IM Richard Delaune-NM Alexopoulous Philadelphia 1994 and shortly white’s king expired …. 0-1. Black winning the cited game in an upset is an example of the shock and surprise value of placing the horse en prise on move 7.

But again, remember 13. Nc3! is strongest. Don’t be scared of the various hanging pawns. It’s more important to get the guys out of the felt box.


Position after 13. Nc3! Analysis. Remember, don’t worry about the f2-pawn!


13. Nc3! exf2+ (No better is 13… Rb8 14. c5 exf2+ 15. Kxf2 Rxb2+ 16. Kf3 Qf6+ 17. Qxf6 Nxf6 18. Bd3 Be7 19. Rhb1 Rxb1 20. Rxb1 O-O 21. Rb7 Bd8 22. Rxa7 and wins easily) 14. Kxf2 Qh4+ 15. Kf3 Qf6+ 16. Qxf6 Nxf6 17. c5 and black has a terrible game. 13… Rb8 14. Qxd5 (14. Nc3 Rxb2 15. c5 Rc2 16. Ne4 Qh4+ 17. Ng3 Qf6 18. Qxf6 Nxf6 19. Bd3 Rxg2 20. Be2 and the black rook is trapped! White wins.)

Variation B.

Let’s go back to 9….Rb8. 10. Qxa7! This is the right choice. 10. Qa6? is simply bad and 10. Qxc6+!? leads to crazy and unnecessary complications after the queen sac line 10… Bd7 11. Qxf6!? Qxf6 12. Bxe5 Qb6 13. b3 Bb4+ 14. Nbd2 (14. Kd1 is maybe best; 14… O-O 15. Bxb8 Rxb8 16. cxd5 and the computer likes white, but it looks scary to play!) and eventually black won in Alburt-Shabalov, Parsippany 1996.

So after 9….Rb8 remember that 10. Qxa7! is the best move. Now, the try 10… exf4 is refuted by our familiar 11. Ne5! and white wins easily. This may explain why this line is not seen nowadays. For example, 11…Bd7 12. cxd5! (white actually lost after 12. Bd3 fxe3 13. O-O Rxb2 14. fxe3 Bh6 15. Rxf6? A bad misstep by the Swedish GM Akesson in a game vs. GM Hector, Sweden 2004. The brutal 15. Nc3 is correct!


White is going to win after the cold shower variation 15…Bxe3+? 16. Kh1 O-O 17. Nd1!! and wins. It’s worth remembering that if white gets his king to safety, it is likely he’ll win in this set of variations – he can afford pitching pawns left and right because black’s structure is so compromised.

If black does not grab on e3, it transpires that his errant rook on b2 gets in trouble:

15… O-O 16. Rae1 Rd2 (what else?) 17. cxd5 cxd5 18. Qa3! Ng4 19. Qc1 Rxd3 20. Nxd3 Qh4 21. h3 Nxe3 22. Rxe3 Qxd4 23. Rff3, featuring a weird piece line-up, White wins.

Going back to the game, after 15. Rxf6? Qxf6 and poor Akesson was worse now; …. 0-1, Akesson-Hector Sweden 2004. Typical Hector to swindle/win with a very dreadful opening choice.

12… cxd5 13. Nc3! Another familiar motif. White gives up the b2 pawn to speed his agenda. 13…Rxb2 (13… fxe3 14. Nxd7 exf2+ 15. Kxf2 Rxb2+ (15… Nxd7 16. Re1+ Be7 17. Nxd5 wins) 16. Kg1 Nxd7 17. Re1+ Be7 18. Nxd5 O-O 19. Nxe7+ Kg7 and white will be able to convert the material edge into victory.

If the greedy pawn grab 13… Rxb2 14. Nxd7 Nxd7 15. Bb5 Bb4 16. O-O! This is a very important tactic to remember!


Position after 16. O-O! One of the winning tactics in white’s arsenal in this line!

16…Bxc3 (what else?) 17. Bxd7+ Qxd7 18. Qa8+ Qd8 19. Qc6+ Ke7 20. Qxc3! and with a nice bit of tactics, white wins this middlegame.


It is time to draw a conclusion: ater 6. e3 Bf5 7. Qb3, 7…Nb4? is totally unsound.

Let’s go back to 6. e3 Bf5 7. Qb3. We’ve seen 7….Nb4? is actually rather ridiculous and loses. Now let’s see 7…Bxb1?!, tested by Shabalov unsuccessfully: 8. Qxb7 Qa5+ 9. Nd2 Rd8 10. Qxc6+ Nd7 11. Qb5 (11. Rxb1! Nb4 12. Qb5! White wins easily!) and Epishin went on to win, but it took some time. … 1-0 Epishin,V (2465)-Shabalov,A (2425)/Tbilisi 1989.

Black of course can try the simple 7…Qb6!? here.  However, David Filipovich sent me some games where white did well:  8. Nc3 Nh5 9. Be5 f6 10. Bg3 Nxg3 11. hxg3 += and 1-0, 47, Spraggett, K. – Zysk, R. Dortmund 1984.  Or, 8. Nc3 Nb4?! 9. c5! Nd3 (9…Nc2+?? 10. Qxc2 wins) 10. Bxd3 Qxb3 11. axb3 Bxd3 12. Ne5 += and 1-0, 23, Skembris-Titov, EU-ch, 1992.

In my game, after the lame (but not new)

6. cxd5?, 6… Nb4 7. Qb3 Nbxd5 8. Be5 Qb6 9. Nbd2 was totally equal. White also tried 9. Qxb6 axb6 10. Nc3 Nxc3 11. bxc3 and got nothing after the game 11… Be6 (11… Bg7 12. e3 Bf5 or even 11…Ra3 are both very good for black as well). White actually won later but it had nothing to do with this position, 1-0 Kosic,D (2415)-Lazic,M (2495)/San Benedetto 1990.

9… Bg7 10. e4 Qxb3 11. Nxb3 Nb4 12. Bxf6 exf6 13. Kd2


Position after 13. Kd2. White has nothing.

I have zero here; even worse, the most obvious move 13…f5 is very scary looking. Strangely, white can hold the balance here in what appears to be a bad position: 14. e5 Be6 15. a3! Bh6+ (15…Nd5 16. Nc5 =; 15…Bxb3 16. axb4 =) 16. Kc3 Nd5+ (16…Bxb3 17. axb4 =) 17. Kc2 b6 (to keep a knight out of c5) 18. h4! and white is all right. Over the board it just looks scary and bad after 13…f5 but with accurate play white can neutralize the two bishops.



What conclusion? 5….Na6 is indeed somewhat dubious. After 6. e3 Bf5 7. Qb3, black’s relative best is 7…Qb6 and not one of the crazy gambit ideas.  Even so, he is not quite equal. In my game, 6. cxd5 promised zero.