Posts Tagged ‘English Opening’

3 Decades of a Variation

October 1, 2007

I have always been interested in sidelines, particularly in Gruenfeld structures. Here are two games spanning 27 years on the same theme.

Let’s start with the happier, and more recent, game.

IM M. Ginsburg – NM Ralph Zimmer

North American Open, Las Vegas, NV 12/28/05

1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 g6 (?!) Purists believe this move order is slightly inaccurate. However, it might not be true – see the Ibragimov game mentioned in the note to the 8th move and if you believe in black’s position, try it out. The text gets ?! in some books, but it may not be necessarily so.

4. e3! Nf6 The text is correct, preparing a Gruenfeld-like d7-d5 advance. A further inaccuracy, which is important to mention because it occurs frequently, is 4….Bg7?!. White then plays the simple 5. d4 cxd4 6. exd4 d6 7. d5! and stands seriously better. For example, 7…Ne5 8. Nxe5 Bxe5 9. Bd3 Bd7 10. O-O Nf6 11. h3 O-O 12. Be3 a6 13. Rc1 Bd7 14. Na4! b5 15. Nb6 Rb8 16. Nxd7 Nxd7 17. cxb5 axb5 18. b4! with a nice bind, M. Ginsburg-Gilruth, Harry Nelson Pillsbury Open New England, 1987. White duly won in 46 moves.

5. d4 cxd4 5…d6 6. d5! with a small white edge is playable.


In 1989 I faced Senior Master S.C. Sahu (2417) at the Manhattan Chess Club and had a pleasant experience: 6. d5 Ne5 (6…Ng8 just admits opening failure) 7. Nxe5 Bxe5 8. e4 Nf6 9. Bd3 Ng4? The Rybka-approved line, 9…Bd7 10. O-O Qb6!? 11. h3 O-O, looks highly unnatural but the text is simply bad. 10. h3 Nf6 11. Bh6 Rg8 12. Qd2 Qa5 13. f4 Bd4 14. Nb5! Bf2+ 15. Ke2 Qxd2+ 16. Kxd2 Kd8 17. e5 Ne8 18. Rhf1 a6 19. Nxd6! White wins easily. 19…Nxd6 20. Rxf2 Nf5 21. Bg5 h6 22. Bxf5 gxf5 23. Bxh6 f6 24. d6 Be6 25. dxe7+ Kxe7 26. exf6+ Kf7 27. Bg5 Rad8+ 28. Kc3 Rd4 29. b3 Rgd8 30. Re1 b5 31. Rfe2 R8d6 32. g4 bxc4 33. gxf5 Rd3+ 34. Kb2 c3+ 35. Ka3 Bxf5 36. Re7+ Kg6 37. Rg7+ Kh5 38. f7 Rd8 39. Bxd8 Rxd8 40. Rg8 1-0


6. exd4 d5 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. Bc4 Nxc3? It is this move that is seriously wrong. Here, 8…Nb6 is the only correct move in my opinion. Play might proceed 9. Bb3 Bg7 10. Be3!? (10. d5 Na5 is nothing) 10…O-O 11. O-O Na5 12. Bc2 Nac4 13. Bg5!? with murky play, Ibragimov-Kedrov, Moscow 1996. Black lost this game, but he’s OK here and only lost via blunders in the middlegame.

9. Qb3!


The first important moment. The zwischenzug text is accurate, because 9…Ne4? 10. Bxf7+ Kd7 11. Qe6+ and 12. Qxe4 is clearly out of the question. I had this game in a 1993 USATE playoff and won easily. The position is very good for white.

9…e6 10. bxc3 Na5 10…Bd7 11. Bb5! (or 11. Bd3 right away, for example 11…Qb6 12. O-O Qxb3 13. axb3 Bg7 14. Ba3 and white is much better, and won, in Charbonneau-Tan, Oropesa del Mar 2001) 11…a6 12. Be2 Na5 13. Qc2 b5 14. O-O is very good for white. In the next game, we will see the semi-insane “gambit” 10….Bd7 11. d5??! (THEORETICAL LEMON, TL) Na5 12. dxe6 relying on the fact that the queen is immune for the time being. However, as we shall see, 12…fxe6 is basically the refutation of this “junior” attack. See the second game for more on this crazy line.

Black can also try 10…Bg7. But after 11. Ba3, stopping castling, white is better. For example, 11…Bf8 (what else?) 12. Bxf8! Kxf8 13. O-O and white is much better. Note for historical purposes the American future GM Ken Rogoff played the fine 12. Bb5!? here and stood better, but lost due to a later blunder vs. the Frenchman Huguet in Malaga 1970. 12. Bb5 was also seen in a drawn Botvinnik-Petrosian game, Moscow 1983. Another good move is 12. O-O! and white also stands better here.

11. Bb5+ Bd7 12. Qa4 Nc6 13. d5! 13. O-O is good for white, and the well motivated attacking text aims for even more. Clearance sacrifices, exposing the enemy king, are always extremely difficult to meet in practical play.


13…exd5 14. O-O Be7 15. Bh6 f6? A much better try is 15… Qa5 16. Qb3 O-O-O 17. c4 d4 18. Ng5 Bf8 19. Bxf8 Rhxf8 20. c5 Qc7 and black stays afloat. The text weakens e6 severely and could have had fatal consequences in the near-term.

16. Rfe1 Kf7


17. Qf4? The text looks and is absurd. The best move is extremely simple-minded 17. Rad1!. This position is a good test of attacking abilities. Those with a quick eye will recognize that 17…Be6 is smashed (note in passing that 17…a6 18. Bc4!! dxc4 19. Qxc4+ Ke8 20. Bg7 Rf8 21. Qh4 Rf7 22. Qxh7 Rxg7 23. Qxg7 wins, for example 23…Ne5 24. Qg8+ Bf8 25. Qxg6+ Ke7 26. Nxe5 Be6 27. Qf7+ Bxf7 28. Ng6 mate which is especially gruesome) by 18. Rxe6!! which is completely crushing. Once the white squares fall, the black king is cornered. 18…Kxe6 19. Bc4 and white wins shortly.

17… Bf5 18. Rad1 Bd6 19. Qd2 Ne7 19… Be7 20. Qb2 threatening c4 is very good for white.

20. Nd4 Bg4 21. Rb1 Curiously, 21. Qe3! is strong here.

21…a6 22. Be2 Bc8 23. Bd1 Re8 24. Bb3 Bc5 25. h3?! Here, 25. c4! Bxd4 is met by the surprising zwischenzug 26. cxd5! (26. Qxd4 is also good, but this is stronger) and white is much better.

25… Bxd4 26. Qxd4 Be6?? A bad blunder. Necessary is 26…b5! 27. Rbd1 with a white edge but nothing decisive yet. Now we have yet another tactical exercise with the same solution!


27. g4?? A blunder in return. 27. Rxe6!!, a thematic blow we’ve already seen above, wins nicely. For example, 27…Kxe6 28. Qe4+ Kf7 29. Rd1! is a very pleasing double pin and black is paralyzed and loses shortly. For example, 29…f5 (equally bad is 29… g5 30. Rxd5 Nxd5 31. Bxd5+ Qxd5 32. Qxd5+ Kg6 33. Bxg5 fxg5 34. Qxb7 and wins) 30. Rxd5! fxe4 31. Rf5 double checkmate is a nice geometric spectacle.

27…Nc6 28. Qf4 Qb8 Now black is right back in the game. Also acceptable is 28… Kg8 29. Re3 g5 30. Qg3 Bf7 31. Rxe8+ Qxe8 32. f4 d4.

29. Qd2 Qd6 The position is about level.

30. Bf4 Qd7? 30…Ne5! is rock solid for equality.

31. Re3 Now, 31. Rxe6! Kxe6 is still a good try: 32. Bg3 Ne5 33. Bxe5 fxe5 34. Bxd5+ Qxd5 35. Rb6+ Qc6 36. Rxc6+ bxc6 37. f4 exf4 38. Qxf4 Re7 39. g5! with some winning chances for white. It stands to reason that white is still blind to this possibility.

31… Kg7 32. Bh6+ 32. Rbe1 Bf7 33. Bh6+ is a small edge to white.

32… Kh8 33. Qe2 Ne5 This is fine. Also fine is 33… Bf7.

34. Re1 Bf7 35. g5 Nc4?! Solid is 35… Kg8 36. gxf6 Nc4 37. Bxc4 Rxe3 38. Qxe3 dxc4 and black is fine.

36. Bxc4? Very weak. 36. Re7! poses some problems for black.

36…Rxe3 37. Qxe3 dxc4?! Another inaccuracy. But black had no time and cannot be criticized. In fact, at this moment, black forfeited on time still a few moves shy of the time control at move 40. A good defense was 37… Re8 38. Qd2 Rxe1+ 39. Qxe1 dxc4 40. gxf6 Qe6 and it’s completely drawn.


After the weak text, white could find 38. Qb6 Qc6 39. Qxc6 bxc6 40. Re7 Kg8 41. gxf6 a5 42. a4 with a rather unpleasant ending for black.


Now let’s go back to my 1978 game in the ECI Youth tournament, Sas Van Gent, Holland. This is the tournament where I met the personable British youth player Suzzane Wood! Note her first name is not misspelled.

M. Ginsburg – NM Erik Pedersen (DEN)

ECI Sas Van Gent, Holland August 1978

1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 g6 4. e3 Nf6 5. d4 cxd4 6. exd4 d5 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. Bc4 Nxc3 9. Qb3! So far, as above.

9…e6 10. bxc3 Bd7!? Pedersen’s specialty, he played it another European tournament – Groningen 1978 (perhaps later, I’m not sure about that). However, the position is good for white!

11. d5??! THEORETICAL LEMON, TL. 11. Bb5, 11. Be2, and 11. Bd3 are all very good for white. 11. Be2 Na5 12. Qc2 Qc7 13. Ne5! (13. O-O is also good for white) Rc8 14. Bd2? (14. Rb1! or even the simple 14. Nxd7 Qxd7 15. O-O and white is better) 14…Bg7 15. f4? (15. Qe4!) and white even lost with this bad structural weakening, Grinberg-Pederson, Groningen 1978. See the first game for other examples of white doing well here.

12…Na5 12. dxe6 My “amazing point.”


12…fxe6! Oh. He had that? I had “expected” 12…Nxb3?? 13. exf7+ Ke7 14. Bg5+ Kd6 15. Rd1+ Nd4 16. Bxd8 Rxd8 17. Nxd4 and I win easily. A very naive “junior” assessment. The text is the start of a very cold shower.

13. Qd1 What else? This is my “secondary point” – that 13….Nxc4 14. Qd4 “wins the piece back”.

Time for another tactical quiz. What’s black’s best move?


13…Bg7? Wrong. The text is winning (and black did win the rather long, drawn-out ending after 14. Be2 Bxc3+), however black had better: (quiz solution:) 13…Nxc4 14. Qd4 Ba4!! A very unusual and crushing shot! Black can safely leave a couple of pieces hanging. 15. Qxh8 Qd1 mate is unplayable and so is 15. Qxc4 Qd1 mate, so black remains a piece up!

At any rate, black had no problem converting the pawn up ending in about 50 moves (he correctly didn’t accept the exchange sac on a1 and just played an ending with one pawn more).





The Fabulous 70s: Almost Beating Yasser Part 1

September 20, 2007

Preamble: The US Junior Open 1974

The first time I met Yasser Seirawan it was August 1974 at the Franklin & Marshall College in rural Lancaster, Pennsylvania, site of the 1974 US Junior Open. This tourney, full of nascent stars such as Michael Rohde and John Fedorowicz (and yes, Steve Odendahl) was won by obscure New Mexico master Spencer Lucas whose specialty, as I recall, was the Alekhine’s Defense. This was my first chess trip out of town (I hailed from Bethesda, MD) and Greyhound Bus Lines lost my luggage for the duration of the event.

MG Addendum 5/14/08:  Dana MacKenzie writes that Yasser was “the top-rated player […] a 14-year-old with a rating of 2315. […]  I never got within a mile of playing on the top boards, but I still remember this player’s calm, unflappable demeanor. He had curly hair and an angelic face that looked rather girlish, but I doubt that anybody teased him about it in this crowd, because nobody teases the #1 guy in the tournament.

I don’t think Yasser’s rating was that high in Lancaster.  Readers will need to check this.  Yasser was a very peppy kid, on the small side, but I don’t think he was the pre-event favorite.  In fact, I remember Spencer Lucas, a low master, as having a stratospheric rating.

Oddities from the 1974 Junior Open Tournament

In one bizarre turn of events, Fedorowicz lost to a kid dressed in a burlap sack (because John forgot where he was going to move after a long break brought on by President Nixon resigning; TD Leroy Dubeck ordered everyone’s clocks stopped for quite a while!). In another oddity, young Phil (Flippy) Goulding from Maryland castled queenside illegally vs Michael Rohde (a black knight on b2(!) covered the d1 square!), said “J’adoube” very audibly, uncastled, then moved his King to a random square, remaining two pawns down as white and dead lost in an Alekhine’s. Flippy drew that game after the shocking un-castle (and almost won it).

Yasser was a small yet energetic kid with a big afro who would jump up and exclaim “Hi-yer, I’m Yass-er!” Flash forward 4 years and we find ourselves in a much more serious event.

Flash Forward 4 Years to 1978

It’s now August 1978 and US Junior Championship Invitational in Memphis, TN. One of the big Kahunas was the unflappable and dapper (and much more grown-up!) Yasser Seirawan from Seattle. With a towering 2452 rating, he was indeed the one to beat. When the game started, we were both at “plus one” and needed to move up.


Yasser is third from left; I am second from right. Click to enlarge.

Mark Ginsburg (2339) – Yasser Seirawan (2452)

US Junior Invitational 1978, Round 4 40/150 then adjournment

English Opening

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. e4!? d5 3…c5 4. e5 Ng8 is a whole different story. In any event, it’s good psychology to make a player face his own favorite opening – Yasser has scored numerous impressive wins with the English.

4. e5 d4 5. exf6 dxc3 6. bxc3 Qxf6 7. d4 The inversion 7. Nf3! with the idea of e.g. 7…c5 Bd3!? 9. O-O Bd6 10. Be4! with an edge, as in Ginsburg-Somogyi Las Vegas 2005, was not known yet. Also see 7. Nf3 e5 8. Bd3! and white won a nice quick game in Nakamura-Zarnicki, Minneapolis 2005.

7…b6 8. Nf3 In some game from Yasser’s early career, I believe he was successful playing white with the offbeat 8. Nh3!?

7…Bb7 9. Be2 Bd6 10. Qa4+ Bc6 11. Qc2 (0:37) Qg6!


Yasser defuses my harmless 10th and 11th moves and gets the queens off.

12. Qxg6 hxg6 13. Be3 Nd7 14. O-O-O Bb7 (0:29) 15. h3 The position is about equal.

15…c5!? (0:41) A risky strategic commitment. White gladly advances with d4-d5 and black has no chance to bother white’s shielded c-pawns. In addition, white will gain a lot of space on the kingside. 15…O-O or 15…a6 are safe.

16. d5 e5 Perfectly playable is 16…exd5 17. cxd5 Nf6 18. Bb5+ Kf8 19. c4 Rc8. The text is fine too; it just leads to a more blocked position.

17. Ng5 f5? (1:04) Correct is 17…Nf6 and it’s about level.

18. f3 Very strong is 18. g4! right away. 18…f4 19. Bd2 b5 20. Rhe1 and white is better. The slow text is still a bit better for white.

18…Nf8 19. Bd3 Bc8 20. Rde1 Ke7 21. h4 Bd7 22. Re2 Again, 22. g4 is strong.

22…Nh7! 23. Nxh7 Rxh7 24. Bg5+ Kf7 Black is all right again.

25. g4 (1:34) Rhh8 Perfectly reasonable is 25… Rf8 26. Rg2 Be7 and black holds.

26. h5 Rae8?! More accurate is 26… Raf8 27. Rg2 gxh5 28. gxh5 Rh7. Also, 26…gxh5 is fine for black.

27. Rg2 Kf8? Relatively best is 27… gxh5 28. gxf5! with a small white advantage.

28. h6! Kf7? Black must have been totally confused by white’s unusual space gaining ‘pawn storm’. More challenging is 28… gxh6 29. Bxh6+ or 29. Rxh6, in both cases with a white edge but nothing decisive yet.

29. h7! (1:56) Now white has a winning bind! It’s quite unusual for a master strategist such as Yasser to fall behind strategically, but that is what happened. Only white can ruin his own game now – I have a free rein on all sides of the board.


29…Be7 30. Bxe7 Rxe7 31. Bc2 Kf6 32. Kd2 The immediate 32. g5+ Kf7 33. Kd2 Ree8 34. Re2 b5 35. Bb3 a6 36. Kd3 bxc4+ 37. Bxc4 Bb5 38. a4 Bxa4 39. Bxa6 is quite winning.

32… f4 33. g5+ Kf7 34. Re2 Be8 (2:15) 35. Kc1 Kf8 36. Kb2 Kf7 There is nothing for black to do but sit and wait for the axe to fall. Seirawan himself has won many games tying his opponent up hand and foot.

37. Ka3 Bd7 38. Ba4 Ke8 39. Rhe1 Rxh7 40. Rxe5 Rxe5 41. Rxe5+ Kd8 42. Bxd7 Kxd7 (2:35) The sealed move. Yes, we had dinner-break adjournments in the 1970s. Black’s position is completely hopeless.

43. Re4! (2:29) More accurate than 43. Re6 Rh3.

43… Rh4 44. Ka4 a6


45. Re6 Winning is the fairly obvious 45. a3 and black has no move left (zugzwang). For example, 45…Rh5 46. Rxf4 Rxg5 47. Rf7+ Kc8 48. Rxg7 Rg3 49. Kb3 g5 50. a4 Kb8 51. a5 bxa5 52. Ka4 Rxf3 53. Kxa5 Rf6 54. Rxg5 Kc8 55. Rg7 Kb8 56. Re7 Rf3 57. Kxa6 Rxc3 58. Kb6 and wins. The text is winning too. It’s very hard to see how white could not win this.

45… Rh3 46. Rxb6 46. Rxg6 is also winning: Rxf3 47. Rxg7+ Kd6 48. Rg6+ Kc7 49. Rf6 Rg3 50. g6 f3 51. kb3 f2 52. Rxf2 Rxg6 53. Rf7+ Kb8 (53…Kd6 54. Ra7 wins) 54. a4 threatening a5.

46…Rxf3 47. Rxa6 Re3 47… Rxc3 48. Ra7+ Ke8 49. d6 Rd3 50. Re7+ Kf8 51. Re4 Rd4 52. d7 Rxd7 53. Rxf4+ Ke7 54. Kb5 wins. When this game was played, I believed the text 47…Re3 to be some kind of ingenious resource and I started to get nervous, which is ridiculous of course.

48. Ra7+! White doesn’t fall for the trick 48. Rxg6 Re7! and the f-pawn is a major nuisance. It should be all over now.

48…Ke8 Black, as a Harvard freshman once wrote in a political science essay, “is at the very brink of Agamemnon.”


49. Ra8+?? This is one of those moments where I look at the old scoresheet and cannot believe what I am reading. One of the “issues” was that I went out with Fedorowicz during the adjournment break and Yasser stayed inside, “working”. But of course there’s nothing to work on. In any event, if I had even briefly looked at the adjournment, I would have not gone up this blind alley and played the obvious 49. Rxg7 f3 50. Rxg6 and black can resign, for example 50…Rxc3 51. Kxb5 and the game is over. Believe it or not, I had not calculated the capture on move 50, believing my opponent’s f-pawn would be a problem in this variation. Since it is not, (pawn g5 guards Rf6 to stop the enemy pawn), white just wins with the numerous extra pawns. The text draws!

49… Ke7 What a gruesome turn of events. Now black’s f-pawn really is a problem! The rest of the game is simply white flailing around trying to win an unwinnable game. What an incredible botch!

50. Ra7+ Ke8 51. Rb7 f3 52. Rb1 Kd7 53. Kb3 f2 54. Rf1 Re2 55. a4 Kc7 56. a5 Rd2 57. Ka4 Rb2 58. Rd1 Re2 59. Rf1 Rb2 60. Ka3 Rd2 61. Kb3 Kb7 62. Ka4 Ka6 63. d6 Ra2+ 64. Kb3 Rd2 65. d7 Rxd7 66. Rxf2 Kxa5 67. Re2 Rb7+ 68. Kc2 Rb6 69. Re7 Rc6 70. Rxg7 Re6 71. Kd3 Ka4 72. Rd7 Kb3 73. Rb7+ Ka3 74. Rd7 Kb3 75. Rd5 Rc6 76. Rd8 Re6 77. Rb8+ Ka3 78. Kc2 Re2+ 79. Kd3 1/2-1/2

It was very ignominious to have to face the rest of the players the next day and offer fumbling explanations regarding the half point on the crosstable.

In Part II, we’ll examine another “bring Yasser back from the precipice”, World Open 1984, where my position was just as winning. D’oh!