Archive for the ‘National Open 2007’ Category

Sicilian Kan, 5. Bd3

June 17, 2007

My young opponent scared GM Korchnoi in the first round, almost scoring an upset win. The crafty veteran found a way to swindle a draw by reaching R vs R+f-pawn+h-pawn.

NM Gurbauzade – IM M. Ginsburg, National Open Las Vegas, NV, 2007. Round 3.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Bd3 Qb6!? A good idea to chase away the centralized white knight.

6. Nb3 6.c3 is seen sometimes but is not particularly scary. 6…Qc7 7. O-O Nf6 8. f4 d6 9. c4 Nbd7 10. Be3 b6 11. Nc3 Bb7 12. a4!? Nc5


13. Nxc5?! I would prefer the more consistent 13. a5. The text makes the pawn on a4 look a little silly.

13…bxc5 14. Qf3 Be7 15. Qg3 g6 16. h3 Rd8 17. Qf2 Nd7 18. Bc2 Bf6 19. Rad1 O-O 20. Rd3 Bg7 21. Rfd1 Nb8


Both sides are playing consistently. White has espied a weak black pawn on d6, and black sees a weak square to occupy on d4. The chances are balanced.

22. Qd2 Nc6 23. Rxd6 Nd4 24. Rxd8 Rxd8 25. Kh1 Bf6 Black has full compensation. 26. Bd3 Bc6 27. e5 Bh4 28. Bf2 Nf5 29. Qe1 Bxf2 30. Qxf2 Qb7 31. Bxf5 Rxd1+ 32. Nxd1 gxf5 33. Nc3 Qb4 34. Qh4!? An interesting try.


The game reaches a critical moment. White has many weak pawns and black is threatening to invade and attack the white king with the powerful Queen and unopposed bishop duo, but black has to worry about an open king and being temporarily a pawn down.

34…Qxb2? An incorrect decision in that the game ends in an immediate draw. As so often happens, positional considerations (removing the b2 support of white’s knight) are overshadowed by tactical ones. Much better would have been 34…Qxc4! restoring the material balance in a different way and there is no forced draw. The game would continue with black having some chances to press using his superior minor piece. There is no perpetual check in the position because the black king can get to f8, with the idea of interposition of the bishop on e8 if need be.

35. Qd8+ Kg7 36. Qf6+ Kf8 37. Nd5! This is the simple resource black missed. It’s a perpetual check now. 37…exd5 38. Qh8+ Ke7 39. Qf6+ 1/2-1/2.


There is no way for black’s king to escape the checks since 39…Kd7? 40. Qd6+ is not possible.

The Dutch Defense, Leningrad Variation

June 13, 2007

National Open, Las Vegas, NV 2007. Round 4.

IM M. Ginsburg – WFM Y. Cardona (2270).

1. Nf3 f5?! An inaccuracy on the first move! To get to a Leningrad Dutch, much more circumspect is 1…g6 2. c4 and only now 2….f5 to avoid a nasty pitfall in this particular move order.


The problem here is that white has the surprisingly strong 2. d3! as demonstrated by GM Magnus Carlsen recently in a crushing win versus veteran Russian GM Sergei Dolmatov. As a New In Chess Secrets of Opening Surprises (SOS) book analysis noted, “this move argues that 1…f5 is weakening.” So it does! That game went 2…d6 3. e4 e5 4. Nc3 Nc6 5. exf5 Bxf5 6. d4! and white had an obvious plus. After 2. d3, black is not having any fun at all. Why didn’t I play it? I knew about it, but didn’t really remember how the Carlsen game went. Still, 2. d3! is strongest and I should have played it.
Side note. There is another attempt for white – in the 1980s and 1990s, GM Michael Rohde revived the Lisitsin Gambit (2. e4 fxe4 3. Ng5) with success but in the intervening years, methods were found by black to combat that try. Nevertheless, 2. e4 is exceedingly dangerous and black has to be well prepared for it. This is moot, though, given the strength of the apparently modest 2. d3!
In the game, I played the insipid 2. g3?! and play reverted back to the Leningrad proper.

2…Nf6 3. Bg2 g6 4. O-O Bg7 5. c4 O-O 6. Nc3 d6 7. d4 c6

One of the main lines of the Leningrad. Another move here, 7…Qe8 (A favorite of GM Malaniuk), is dealt with in a separate installment.  I have had experiences with 7….Qe8 going back to a tussle with Bareev, Naestved, Denmark, 1988.  For the time being, we will note that 7…Qe8 8. d5!? is a logical move. See Ginsburg-Sarkar, US Championship 2006, in which white was much better but let black escape with a draw.


8. d5! The best reaction.   MG Postscript 6/16/08:  Korchnoi’s 8. Qb3! is exceedingly dangerous.

8…e5 Not the only move, but a popular choice. On other moves, white likely follows up with the natural centralizing Nf3-d4. There is an ICC maniac who insists on playing 8…c5? here giving himself a huge hole on e6 but we can’t go that far afield.

9. dxe6 e.p. Bxe6 10. b3 Ne4?! The move 10…Na6! is much more reliable and leaves white with a small plus. Dutch IM Helmut Cardon held a draw vs me in a tournament in Eeklo, Belgium in the 1985 with this slow but solid enough way of playing. The text has been known to be dubious for some time.

11. Nxe4 fxe4! (11…Bxa1? is far too risky although it has been seen in a handful of games in practice. White has won model games after both 12. Qxd6, with monstrous ending compensation, and also 12. Nxd6, with monstrous middlegame compensation. The only weak move after 11…Bxa1 is the optically strong but totally ineffective 12. Neg5? – strange but true). I wrote an entire article on this subline which subscribers can access. You will need a subscriber user and password to access this specialized article.

12. Nd4 Bf5 Well, black’s position isn’t so bad here. She avoided the weak material grab and is playing for solidity.

13. Bf4 White makes up his mind to pressure the weak d6 pawn. I am not sure how great this move is, because the black d-pawn can move!

13…d5 14. cxd5 Qxd5! White had not really reckoned on this method of play. Black retains excellent defensive chances.

15. Nxf5 gxf5 16. Qxd5 cxd5 As you might guess, white has achieved very little by giving black a very nice pawn formation with his last few ineffective moves. The combination of white’s 15th and 16th should be awarded a collective “?!” symbol.

17. Rad1 d4 The truth dawns that black has fully equalized. This doesn’t mean the end of the game though – both sides have resources and the position is sharp with “mutual chances” as they say in wise textbooks.


18. g4 When in doubt, do something to break up a pawn formation. 18…Nc6! The right reaction. It would be naive to hope for the weak 18…fxg4? 19. Bxe4 hitting b7 thus giving black no time to take the loose bishop on f4.

19. e3 Waiting. 19…Rae8! Protecting the soon to be weak pawn on e4.

20. gxf5 Rxf5 Now it’s time for white to do something mysterious to confuse the issue. In his heyday, GM Sammy Reshevsky was a great maestro of the pseudo-constructive move – the opponent often simply misconstrued his (non-) intentions and promptly went wrong. White’s next move is a good example of a pseudo-constructive move that gives black some possible noose.

21. Kh1! There it is! This move, threatening absolutely nothing, gives black the option of potentially going wrong.

21…Nb4(?!) This move isn’t bad by itself, but it was not necessary. White really wasn’t doing much.

22. Bh3 Rxf4?! The variation 22…Rf7 23. Bg4! (idea of Bg4-h5) is annoying for black but should be considered. The text, creating what looks like an unstoppable passed pawn that is barreling ahead to a touchdown, is dealt with by some suprising long-range bishop maneuvers.

23. exf4 e3 24. fxe3 dxe3 25. Bd7! I am fairly sure black overlooked this in her calculations when she decided on her 22nd move.

25…Re7 What else? 26. Bb5! This switchback is suddenly decisive. 26…e2 fails to 27. Rd8+ so white remains solid material up. Nevertheless, the ending conversion requires careful technique.

26…Nxa2 Black might as well grab a pawn for her troubles.

27. Bc4+ Kf8 28. Rd8+! When material up, it’s always good to simplify to reduce the opoonent’s counterchances.

28…Re8 29. Rxe8+ Kxe8


30. Kg2 The king should always be used in the ending particularly when an enemy passed pawn needs to be held at bay. After the king is centralized, white can proceed on the kingside.

30…Nc3 31. Kf3 Bd4 Black’s knight and bishop form an effective team. Time to formulate an effective plan for white that takes into account black’s easy to fathom counterplay involving rushing the a- and b- pawns up.

32. Bd3 Getting out of the way of …b7-b5 and hitting the pawn on h7. 32…b5! Excellent play. Black must not hesitate to mobilize the queenside pawns. White doesn’t really have time to take on h7 (yet) and so activates the rook first.

33. Rg1! Kd7! The best chance. Black’s king rushes to assist the mobile queenside pawn duo. 34. Rg5! This is the winning idea. Using the rook laterally not only helps to hold up black, it also helps to usher the f-pawn ahead. 34…Kc6 35. Rh5! a5


36. f5 White figured out that he is a little faster in this race thanks to a tactical trick.

36… a4 37. bxa4 bxa4 38. f6! Kd6 Clearly, 38…Bxf6 39. Rh6 Nd5 40. Be4, winning a piece via the multiple pins, is not playable for black. This is the tactical motif that forces black’s king to run back, but it’s met by a completely bone-crushing move.

39. Rf5! Not super difficult but instructive. Placing the rook behind the passed pawn wins a piece and the game. White’s play in this phase was very accurate, not giving black any chances at all. 39…a3 40. f7 Bg7 41. f8=Q Bxf8 Black could have resigned here.

42. Rxf8 Kc5 43. Bxh7 Now is the time to capture on h7, since on g8 the bishop fulfills key defensive duties and the white h-pawn is ready to run.

43…e2 44. Kf2 Kc4 45. Ra8 Rooks behind passed pawns. 45…Kb3 46. Bg8+ Kc2 47. Ke1 Not letting black’s king close to the e-pawn. 47…Kb2 48. h4


Nothing can stop the h-pawn so black resigned. 1-0

A Misadventure with the Kan

June 12, 2007

National Open, Las Vegas, NV 2007. Round 5.

IM J. Friedel – IM M. Ginsburg

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Nc3


5…Qc7 There is a school of thought that argues for the risky and provocative 5…b5!? here.

6. Bd3! By far the most dangerous line. 6. g3 Bb4 leads to a much quieter game. White’s idea is very simple: to castle, play in some order f2-f4, Bc1-d2, Qe2, Rae1, and aim for the space gaining and aggressive attacking try e4-e5. Knowing that this is fact is one of white’s ONLY ideas in this setup, black should devise a plan that defuses e4-e5.

6…Nf6 7. O-O Bc5!? Not a bad idea to drive the centralized knight away. However, keeping it there can help black in defusing the e4-e5 break! The reason being, when white plays Bc1-d2 (not guarding the N/d4), black in later positions can put a rook on the d-file. This effectively rules out e4-e5 until white repositions the knight with, e.g., Nd4-f3, but this isn’t convincing.

8. Nb3 Ba7? But this is wrong. Clearly correct is 8…Be7! helping to defend the king. This was played in the last round of the same tournament, Becerra-Serper, and black won! That game continued 9. f4 d6 10. Qf3 Nbd7 11. Bd2 b5 12. a4 (still theory) 12…b4 13. Na2 a5 14. Nd4 Bb7 15. Nb5 Qb8 and black was OK.

9. Bg5! d6 10. Bxf6! Very simple. White gets his pieces out very fast now and keeps the black king under pressure. Black has totally failed in his experiment already.

10…gxf6 11. Qg4! (Menacing 12. Qg7). 11…Ke7? A sorry move. Since it wasn’t forced, it is a blunder. Black would be better off sacking the h-pawn (assuming white wants to take it) in order to castle long and seek chances in a position with kings on opposite sides). Now it’s a one-sided game.

12. Qh4 Nc6 13. Kh1 h5 14. f4 Bd7 Black is really asking for it by his pointless play. White wastes no time in the punishment.

15. e5! dxe5 16. Ne4 Rh6 17. fxe5 Qxe5 18. Rae1 White’s play is straightforward and reminiscent of a one-sided simul game. Black has one last trick though.
18…Qxb2 I don’t see any other move.

19. c3 Rg8! This is the only thing left to try. Otherwise, white wins with a direct attack.

20. Re2 Rg4 21. Qxg4 hxg4 22. Rxb2 White probably thought he was just up a rook. However, black has some strange positional compensation with his advanced pawns, control of the a7-g1 diagonal and further creeping moves like Ne5, g3, or Bb8. And he even has two extra pawns here!

All of this was played very quickly. See the diagram for the scenario. Now black for no reason played his next quickly as well pretending everything is under control. A ridiculous decision! In a position like this, there are often hidden chances. It is time to take a big think!


What would you play as black?

22….f5? Wrong! This gives white a critical tempo to threaten a winning simplification. It is much trickier and better to invert the moves with 22…Ne5! hitting the white bishop and keeping f6-f5 in reserve. Black has several attacking ideas here and the game is not over yet. Black can make trouble with the bishop pair and especially the uncontested black-square bishop and the semi-cornered white king. One of the ideas later on is a pawn wedge with g3 and a follow-up of Ne5-g4. If white decides to put his knight on g3, then it is susceptible to Bb8 in many lines. Many a swiss system game has been rescued by a player staying alert to his chances. After the text, white keeps control by a key tempo and it really is all over.

23. Nec5 Of course. Only now did black realize that his intended 23…Ne5 is met by the obvious 24. Bxf5! giving back some material but depriving black of the all-important bishop pair. Continuing, 24. Bxf5 gxf5 25. Re2! with Nxd7 to follow wins very easily. Given this, black is properly mortified to realize he has no chances. 23…Be8 24. Re2 Bb8 25. Bxf5 Black can resign already. 25…Ne5 26. Rfe1 Kf6 27. Be4 g3 28. h3 Bb5 29. Re3 Ng4 I have no idea why I was still playing here. 30. Rf3+ Kg7 31. Bxb7 and black finally, mercifully, resigned.


A sad end to black’s attacking dreams. In a later installment, we’ll look at much more solid structures to deal with white’s attacking setup (Nc3, Bd3).

Attacking the Hedgehog

June 11, 2007

Playing against the Hedgehog requires forthright planning – grabbing space and then doing something with it.

Let’s take a look.

National Open, Las Vegas, 2007. Round 1.

M. Ginsburg – S. Chiang

1. Nf3 c5 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 d6?! This passive and unnatural move leads to an overly passive Hedgehog formation. 3…e6 is the usual way to reach a Hedgehog which we will deal with in a separate installment. Black also has 3…Nc6 and 3…d5 leading to entirely different types of positions.

4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 e6 6. e4 Be7 7. Be2 O-O 8. O-O By roundabout means, white has reached a favorable Maroczy Bind structure that would normally arise from 1. e4. 8…a6 9. Be3!

In this particular position, the white queen bishop is better on e3 than b2. The b-pawn can go to b4 in one move.

9….Qc7 10. f4 Nbd7 11. Rc1 b6

Now it’s important to find a direct plan that challenges black’s slow setup.

12. b4! Bb7 I learned this simple and strong method (f2-f4 and b2-b4 together) from GM Jaan Ehlvest, who used it with great strength vs me in a 2005 World Open G/30 encounter, where I was lucky to draw. Can you guess white’s next move?

13. f5!

This is the key move. By forcing the e-pawn to give way, white gains d5 for his knight and gains an overwhelming superiority.

13…exf5 14. Nd5! Everything with gain of time! 14… Nxd5 15. cxd5 Qd8 16. Nxf5 Re8 17. Bd4! f6?! (17…Ne5 was tougher but white still retains a big plus.)

And now we reach another important moment. White has an obvious edge with much better piece placement. In addition, he has already clearly forced some weaknesses but must keep momentum. Can you see the way to go forward? The right move leads to a quick win!

18. Bh5!

A very surprising motif that I remember the great Estonian GM Paul Keres used in Sicilians. The move really has the point of opening the march of the white queen from d1 to g4. Black must now succumb to further weaknesses and this spells disaster.

18….Rf8 (18…g6 19. Qg4 is clearly hopeless as the decisive sacrifice on g6 is unstoppable or a simple win via 19…g6 20. Nxe7+ and f6 falls.) 19. Qg4! Black could resign already but allows a nice finish.


Can you see the finish?

20. Qxg5+! Of course white could have won with 20. Nh6+ Kg7 (or Kh8) 21. Qxg5 exploiting the pin on the f6-pawn, but the text is more pleasing and mates faster.

20…fxg5 21. Nh6 mate.

This is not a pure mate, where every flight square is covered once and only once. Nonetheless, it’s nice.