Archive for the ‘The Felt Box’ Category

The Fabulous 70s: Trying to Make the Early Bishop Move Work

January 5, 2008

In the 1970s, I spent a lot of time (with some help from future IM Steve Odendahl) trying to make this work:

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Bb4!?

bish2.png

Position after 5…Bb4!? – the so-called “Pin Variation”.

I was particularly interested in 6. e5 Nd5 7. Qg4 g5!? with bizarre complications. Unfortunately the computer shows this is not very good (details shortly). Interestingly, the computer (Rybka in this case; sometimes I use Fritz) does have a good answer for the response advocated by theory: 6. e5 Nd5 7. Bd2. After 7…Nxc3 8. bxc3 Be7 9. Qg4, the computer plays 9….g6 (not 9…O-O?! 10. Bh6 and black has insufficient compensation for the exchange) and has some cleverness in store – see below. The situation is very sharp with white hoping to prove attacking chances outweigh the damaged structure. ICC tests are ongoing.

In the meantime let’s see some analysis.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Bb4

Variation “Zero” (an early ‘digression’ sideline): 6. Nb5!? Note I don’t write 6. Ndb5 because the c-knight is pinned!

pin_early_nb5.png

Position after 6. Nb5!? – an early digression.

Before we get into the main move, 6. e5, first we have to look at 6. Nb5!? – an interesting try. Very safe but rather static for black then is 6…O-O 7. a3 Bxc3+ 8. Nxc3 d5 9. Bd3 (or 9. exd5 exd5 10. Bd3 Re8+ 11. Ne2 Nc6 with equality) 9…d4 10. Ne2 Nc6 11. O-O e5 with an equal game. For more dynamism, my ICC blitz reaction move, 7…Ba5!? is riskier but playable and better to play for a win. It just looks nicer to keep this bishop. For example, 8. b4 Bb6 9. e5 Ne8 and it’s not clear what white has, since 10. Bd3? a6! 11. Nd6 Nxd6 12. exd6 Qf6! is good for black (although white won a minor league game, S. Schubert-T. Geissler, Bochum 1992, after some bad blunders by black later).

Black can also immediately grab but it’s risky: 6…Nxe4?! 7. Qg4! Nxc3 8. bxc3 Bf8 9. Qg3! and white has more than enough compensation.

Conclusion: on 6. Nb5!? black should play 6…O-O and then on 7. a3 he can decide to go simple with 7…Bxc3+ or go complex with 7…Ba5. In both cases, he is fine.

Variation Zero-2: An Even Rarer Early Digression Sideline. 6. Bd3. White is not hoping for anything special; he just wants to avoid black’s preparation after 6. e5. IM Bobby83 likes to play this on ICC. More on this move later.

Let’s go ahead now and look at the main move, 6. e5.

6. e5 Nd5 A preliminary comment. This position does not look so bad for black. Therefore, I predict a revisiting of black’s chances in over the board play as, inevitably, strong players resuscitate forgotten lines with computers. White has some major tries now.

The first thing to notice is that

A. 7. a3 gives nothing: 8…Bxc3+ 8. bxc3 Qc7 9. Nb5 Qxe5+ 10. Qe2 Qxe2+ (note that 10..Qf6 is playable too) and black has no problems; in fact agreed drawn at this point in 1/2-1/2 Alzate,D (2419)-Pazos,P (2363)/Medellin 2000. A possible humorous and realistic continuation is 11. Bxe2 a6 12. c4 axb5 13. cxd5 exd5 with a fantastic rare pawn formation and of course… equality since black’s ruined formation gives him no real chances despite the pawns to the plus.

pin_funny_pawns.png

Position after 13…exd5. The rare “Expanded Pawn Square” formation. It’s equal!

B. Let’s try 7. Qg4. The best reply is 7…g6 -there is insufficient compensation after 7…O-O?! 8. Bh6 g6 9. Bxf8, as has been shown many times, although some points were scored from the black side in early (For example, Julian Hodgson) due to surprise value. And, unfortunately, my 70’s funkiness of 7…g5?!! (TN) is met by 8. Ndb5! and black has a bad game after 8…Nc6 9. Qxg5! Qxg5 10. Bxg5 O-O 11. Bd2 and white keeps an edge.

Let’s go back to 7. Qg4 g6. White has three common responses; the first one being the least important.

B0. 8. a3 – slow. Black’s best reponse is 8…Bxc3+ 9. bxc3 Qc7! 10. Qg3 (what else?) and now black can play 10…Nxc3 11. Bd2 Ne4! or 11. Bd3 Nc6! in both cases with an OK game. For example, 11. Bd3 Nc6 12. Nxc6 Qxc6 13. Bh6 b6! 14. O-O Bb7 with equal chances. Previously, the weak 10…a6? (Czerniak-Van Scheltinga, Helsinki 1952, 1-0 was played). Black also has the somewhat weaker 10…Qxc3+?! 11. Qxc3 Nxc3 12. Bd2 and now 12…Ne4! is correct with a very small white edge and not 12…Nd5? 13. Nb5 and white was on top and won convincingly in Toth-Blasko Fuzesabony 1994.

B1. 8. Qg3 which looks and is slow – but not quite as slow as 8. a3, since it does guard e5.

B2. 8. Bd2 – more logical.

Let’s go through each of these in turn.

Variation B1, 8. Qg3

pin_after_qg3.png

Position after 8. Qg3.

B1. 8. Qg3 Nc6! This is correct and not 8…Nxc3? 9. bxc3 Be7 10. Bh6 and white has an edge. If 9. Ndb5?! O-O 10. Bh6 a6! 11. Bxf8 Qxf8 and black is getting huge compensation, for example 12. Nd6 f6! 13. Nxc8 Rxc8 14. exf6? Nd4! and black is way on top.

So white should play the more sensible 9. Nxc6 and we reach an important position. 9….dxc6 is OK, but kind of boring, after 10. Bd2 Qa5 11. Be2 Nxc3 12. bxc3 Be7 13. O-O O-O. More dynamic is 9…bxc6!?, for example 10. Bc4 Qa5 11. Bd2 Ba6! with balanced play. Or, 10. Bh6? Qa5! and black is just better: 11. Bd2 (crawling retreat) 11…O-O with an edge, or 11. Kd2? craziness, refuted by 11…Qc5! and the threat of 12…Nxc3 coupled by 13…Qd4+ next will win for black.

Conclusion in Variation B1: 8. Qg3 is harmless and is defused by 8….Nc6!

Variation B2, 8. Bd2

pin_after_g6.png

Position after 8. Bd2.

Let’s look at Variation B2, 8. Bd2. Black should play 8…O-O and now there is a large branch. Let’s see some lines.

B20. 9. Qg3 Nc6! transposes to variation B1 and black is happy.

B21. 9. a3?! Bxc3+ 10. bxc3 f5! gives white a bad structure.

The crazy looking but not bad

B22. 9. h4!? is met by the calm 9…d6! 10. h5 dxe5 11. hxg6 fxg6 12. Nf3 Bxc3 13. bxc3 Nc6 14. Bd3 Qf6 and black has sufficient defensive chances. Black also has an alternate defense: 9. h4 Nc6!? 10. Nxc6 dxc6 11. h5 Qc7!? to guard laterally.

On the developing move

B23. 9. Bd3!?, black is advised to play 9…d6! 10. exd6 (or the slow 10. Nf3 Nc6 with equal chances) and then play 10…e5! – looks fine. For example, 11. Nf5 Bxf5 12. Bxf5 Bxc3 13. bxc3 Qxd6 and white has nothing. Chigorin would enjoy his knights here.

A trap to avoid: On 9. Bd3, not 9…Qa5 10. O-O Nxc3 11. a3!! Nxe2+ 12. Qxe2 Bxd2 13. Nb3 and white has an edge! – a fantastic tactical shot.

Another possibility: the weird

B24. 9. Bc4?! is met by the simple two-step 9…d6 10. Nde2 Nxc3 11. Nxc3 d5! – for example, 12. Be2 Nc6 13. f4 f6! and black is doing well. Similarly, 12. Bb3 Nc6 13. O-O-O Qc7 14. f4 Nd4! and black is again fine. On the other hand, the frisky 10…dxe5 11. O-O-O Nc6 12. Bh6 f5 13. Qg3! is dangerous. It’s important to leave white with a bad structure and very few attacking chances.

Finally, we have to consider the primitive capture that displaces white’s own king to weaken only temporarily black’s pawns.

B25. 9. Nxd5?! Bxd2+ 10. Kxd2 exd5. As you might imagine, black has no problems. For example, 11. Qf4 Nc6 = or 11. Bd3 d6 12. Qf4 dxe5 13. Qxe5 Nd7 =.

Conclusion: in variation B2, 8. Bd2 O-O, black has to be very alert because there are numerous attacking tries, each with specific defensive responses. No easy day at the office, but black has enough resources.

In the next post, I will look at Variation C, the main line, which is 7. Bd2.

My original 1970’s notes on 6. e5 Nd5 7. Qg4 g5?! are on tiny pieces of Hotel Lombard (New York City) stationery! This is a good illustration of pre-computer work, very disheveled.

The only organized pre-computer person I saw was backgammon and poker-player IM Elliott Winslow. His notes were in micro-small handwriting with a fine-tip pen – incredibly precise and legible even in tiny (I would say 6 pt. font) writing. He would put incredible margin notes into ECO’s and Informants. What a diligent worker! I wonder how many important TNs came from his writings (one cannot say ‘scribblings’).

Similarly, others have tried another audacious early bishop maneuver to get active on the c5-f2 diagonal and dispense with the “Kan” preventative …a7-a6:

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Bc5!?

bish1.png

Position after the cheeky 4…Bc5!? – The Basman-Sale Variation

We’ll have to discuss this one too because the two tries are thematically linked.

Watch this space for the discussion. For now, simply notice that forcing variations are great in blitz. The chances are high that a rare variation will catch the opposition by surprise, even if they are dubious. Which of the two lines above is ‘superior’ objectively? Hard to say. It might turn out to be the Pin Variation. That’s one of the things we will figure out as the discussion grows. Does this (4…Bc5) have a name? News bulletin as of January 12, 2008: according to chessmanitoba, this is called the Basman-Sale variation (see comments).
Readers: send in any games that are interesting with the Pin Variation or the Early Bc5 Bishop Sortie lines.

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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.

slavna6_start.png

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!

slavna6_nb4.png

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.

slav_start.png

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.

slav_del.png

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

Continuing,

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!

slav_del2.png

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!

slav_del3.png

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

fil_final.png

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.

1/2-1/2

 

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.