Posts Tagged ‘Friedel’

The Fabulous 10’s: Channeling A Vague Memory of a Friedel Game

February 10, 2011

A Familiar Schliemann

An ICC Blitz game in which I had to recall a miniature victory by White  where Josh Friedel beat Ray Kaufman convincingly in a Schliemann.   All I “knew” was that I had seen it via the USCL web page.  But, clearly, I had not (see below).

I tried to follow it!

IM Aries 2- GM Mandragoro  Schliemann

Before we start, a little about GM Mandragoro:

1: Account of GM Gerhard Schebler.Greetings from Duisburg Germany to everyone
2: No Takebacks please,i will never ask you too.
3: I am a chessteacher now for about 19 years and new students are always
wellcome :o)
4: I am still looking for a chessclub in France,Austria and maybe in your
country too.
5: Since i saw the film “Money as debt” i got interested in the biggest secret
called “capitalism”
6: No mass media is mentioning the biggest problem of our times.”exponential
7: “We can change”Obama said but can we change the system without seeing
another war?
8: Fur kleinere Einsichten :o)besucht bitte :Liebeangelamerkel de.Es lonht
9: There is much more truth inside of chess than in real life but maybe “we
can change”
10: When the nature strikes back we shouldnt ask why.Development doesnt always
mean progress !G.S.

Postscript Feb. 22, 2011 – curious about some reader comments, I ran Rybka 4 on this game and inserted some Rybka 4 evaluations.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 f5 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. Qe2 fxe4 6. Nxe4 d5 7. Nxf6+
gxf6 8. d4 Bg7 9. dxe5 O-O 10. e6 Ne5 11. Bf4 c6 12. Nxe5!  (?! – Rybka 4)

A Good Idea!

This was the key idea I got from Friedel-R. Kaufman.  White hangs the bishop on b5 (ignoring the threat of Qa5+).  I do not see any reasonable continuation for black.  What has gone wrong?

Rybka 4 is not so optimistic.  It gives 12. Bd3! as the best move, +=, and this sacrifice leading to equality.  The unaesthetic variations backing up 12. Bd3! are not pleasing at all, whereas the enterprising text is great especially in blitz.  Caissic injustice?   So in conclusion this “key idea” I remembered from a prior game is only sufficient for a draw, if black is prepared.


13. Bxe5 cxb5 (!)  It turns out (see below) that Ray Kaufman captured on e5 here with the bishop, but black lost quickly in that game.  Clearly unplayable of course is 13…Qa5? 14. c3 Qxb5 15. Qg4! and wins.

Rybka 4 likes the text move 13…cxb5 and says black is equal here.

14. Bxg7 Kxg7 15. e7 Qa5+ 16. c3 Re8 17. O-O-O

Black’s king is just too exposed.  Something like this happened in the Friedel game. And after checking — indeed it did; the last (winning) move in the Friedel game was a rook lift!

Rybka 4 disagrees with all this.  It says both 17…Qc7 and 17…Qxa2 now are sufficient for equality!   Actually, it’s pretty clear that 17…Qc7! is a good move, since 18. Rhe1 (what else?) is met by 18…Qf4+ and now if 19. Kb1 Qe4+! gets the queens off and all danger disappears!

Qxa2 18. Qe5+ Kf7 19. Rhe1 b4 ? – Rybka 4

As a reader pointed out (see the Comments section), the ingenious 19..Qa1+! 20. Kc2 Qa4+ 21. Kb1 Qg4!! saves black (gives equal chances).  This is a very tough line for a human to find in blitz.

20. Rd4 (?!) {Black resigns} 1-0 As a curiosity, Rybka 4 gives 20. Rd3! as much stronger, although 20. Rd4 does win (takes longer).

I know a rook lift was employed too in the Friedel game.  OK enough vague memories, now I actually look up the Friedel game…

… … …

And … ta-dah!! Found it.  OK it wasn’t the USCL.  It was Foxwoods 2008!

[Event “Foxwoods Open”]
[Site “Connecticut”]
[Date “2008.03.21”]
[EventDate “2008.??.??”]
[Round “5”]
[Result “1-0”]
[White “Joshua E Friedel”]
[Black “Raymond S Kaufman”]
[ECO “C63”]
[WhiteElo “2531”]
[BlackElo “2369”]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 f5 4. Nc3 fxe4 5. Nxe4 Nf6 6. Qe2
d5 7. Nxf6+ gxf6 8. d4 Bg7 9. dxe5 O-O 10. e6 Ne5 11. Bf4 c6
12. Nxe5 fxe5 13. Bxe5 Bxe5 14. Qxe5 Qa5+ 15. c3 Qxb5 16. Qg5+
Kh8 17. e7 Re8 18. O-O-O Qc4 19. Qf6+ Kg8 20. Rhe1 Qxa2
21. Re5 1-0

This pair of games leaves me wondering about the Schliemann, it can’t be this bad for black, can it?

The Fabulous 10s: The Case of the “Forgotten” Move in the 2 Knights

April 5, 2010

Black Can Play Better in the 2 Knights!

Recently some games have appeared in the 2 Knights – they all share the same characteristic that a principal move for black is not mentioned!

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5!? The venerable, if somewhat time-wasting and primitive, attack on f7.

4….d5 5. exd5 Na5! The only good move.  Friedel has had some good results with the crazy Ulvestad lunge 5….b5?! but that looks unsound.

5....b5? Ulvestad's move just doesn't work!

6. Bb5+ c6 7. dxc6 bxc6 8. Bd3!?

Obviously self-blocking but white does have an extra pawn.  This is how Nakamura suprised Friedel in the competitively important last round of the US Championship last year.

8…Ng4! The best move!  Not played or MENTIONED in any of the recent games that have graced the virtual pages of Chess Life Online!

8...Ng4!, without a doubt the best move and unfairly ignored in recent press!

Why is it systematically ignored by:  Nakamura (in his notes to the Friedel game), Friedel (in HIS notes to the Nakamura game) and Molner and others in the Molner-Mitkov NAO 10 game? The move 8….Ng4! has history on its side.  It was tried out by none other than…. OK readers look it up!  Friedel played some slow Be7 and O-O and just lost due to white’s extra pawn.  Mitkov played 8….h6 and ….Nd5 and gained some activity but in the end Molner had, well, superior activity and the extra pawn.  I am baffled why it went without passing in ANY of the recent games’ annotations.

Stay tuned, I will post here further analysis on 8…Ng4!.  It has the distinct advantage of forcing white into passive situations, often with a compromised pawn structure.

The Fabulous 00s: Death of the Main-Line Ulvestad

December 31, 2009

Ulvestad – What is This?!

Some analysis of recent Friedel games caused me to double-check analysis of what looks to me to be a highly dubious opening: the Ulvestad!

In particular, Michael Goeller’s notes to MacKinnon – Friedel Edmonton 2009.

Here is what I consider the bust of the “Main Line” Ulvestad.  Goeller pointed me to some analysis from a book by “Pinski” but I think white can overcome it, as follows:

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 3…Bc5 according to Karpov. There is something to be said for posting the bishop on the c5-f2 diagonal!

4. Ng5 d5 5. exd5 b5 Putting a dangling pawn out on b5 is cute, 1800’s Romanticism and all that, but doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

6. Bf1 Nd4 The cold-shower computer hates, and I think quite rightly, the move 6…h6?! as in Zierk-Friedel, Las Vegas 2009, but we’ll consider that bust separately. There now follows a series of moves that results in black’s king going to d8.  Technicians are laughing.

7. c3 Nxd5 8. cxd4 Qxg5 9. Bxb5+ Kd8

K on d8, what the heck is this??

I am not a big “two knights guy” but the king on d8 makes for a very unhealthy impression.  If white can castle (and he can), then it should be lights out.  If I was guaranteed before the game black would wheel out this [insert perjorative], I would become a huge fan of 3. Bc4 – but there is the answer 3…Bc5!

10. Qf3 Bb7 11. O-O Rb8

The best try but black is hanging together by the proverbial thread. In a fast time limit USCL game, black (who didn’t have doughnuts, coffee, and/or both) played the immediately losing 11… e4? and white was most happy to reply 12. Qh3! winning.  That nasty reply threatens mate on d7. 12…Bc8  (this forced undevelopment is taking the already ridiculous Ulvestad to new lows) 13. d3! Qf6 (13… Nf4 14. Bxf4 Qxf4 15. Qe3 wins) 14. Qh5 Qxd4 15. dxe4 and white won quickly, Charbonneau – Schneider, USCL 2009.  To illustrate what a complete short-circuit 11…e4? was, the simple 12. Qxe4 also wins (and is the materialistic computer’s preferred choice) as black has no follow-up.

12. dxe5! Friedel escaped this crummy situation and even won after 12. d3? Qg6! in the MacKinnon game referenced at the start of this article. As Goeller points out, 12. d3? is “a known error since at least Leonhardt – Englund, Stockholm 1908.”

12…Ne3 The plausible 12…Nb4 13. d4! wins for white. The nasty point is 13…Qxc1 14. Qxf7! blammo.

13. Qh3! Threatening mate on d7 and forcing black’s reply. Already I think white is completely winning.  Take that, Ulvestad fans.

White wins. Oh, the Soviet boredom.

The matter is now up to plain old Soviet-style technique.  And it’s not difficult.  Black is now in the iron grip of a Smyslov or a Botvinnik or a Petrosian.

13…Qxg2+ 14. Qxg2 Nxg2

An elementary blunder is 14..Bxg2? 15. fxe3 and wins since B/b5 guards f1.

15. d4 Nh4 Alternatives are no better.  For example, 15… Be7 16. Be2 Nh4 17. Rd1 Nf3+ 18. Bxf3 Bxf3 19. Rd3 Be4 20. Rg3 and white should gather the point.

Note: I draw readers’ attention to a comment I just received:

“A possible improvement for Black could be 15…f6 as played in Chemeris(2265)-Petkov(2484) in 2008, where Black obtained some nice play after 16.Nc3, Nh4: 17.Be2, Nf3+; 18.Bxf3, Bxf3: 19.Re1, Rb4: 20. Re3, Bb7: 21. Ne2, fxe5: 22.dxe5, Bc5 with clear compensation.”

However,  15…f6 16. Be2! followed by f2-f4 wins easily for white.  Once f3 is under control, black’s compensation disappears and it’s smooth sailing for white.

16. Bg5+ Be7 17. Bxh4 Bxh4 18. Nc3 Bf3 19. Rab1! Goeller told me that Pinski gives 19. b3 here, following up for black with a similar …Rg6+ sac idea.  In any event, it looks like this position is a simple win for white – the Rg6+ idea does not work. Here is why:

19…Rb6 20. Bd3 Rg6+(?) Not good at all, but what else? – I consider this move only to bust Pinski; other moves that don’t lose material are stronger but white is left with a big plus and should convert.

21. Bxg6 hxg6 22. Rfe1! A simple defense, preparing Ne4.  I think black is totally lost.

White wins

22…Bg5 22… Rh5 23. Ne4! just wins.  23… Rf5 24. Ng3 Rf4 25. Re3 and wins.

23. Rbd1!! The star defensive concept which any technician would find immediately.  The timely return of some material is always the receipe to break a premature “attack”.  Worse still for black, the Pinski  …Rg6 “adventure” just resulted in mass simplification making white’s ending task easier.

23…Bf4 Depressing for black is 23… Bxd1 24. Rxd1 Bf4 25. Ne2! and wins.

24. Rd3!  Bxh2+ 25. Kf1 Bb7 26. Ne2 and wins!  Note how Nc3-e2 is so strong defensively in these lines.

Conclusion: the main line Ulvestad is hopelessly unsound.

Readers, any improvements?   I think we should go back to Karpov’s 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5! 🙂


GM Yozhik – IM Aries2   Ruy Lopez Cozio Madness

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nge7 4. Nc3 Ng6 5. h4 Nf4 6. d4 exd4 7. Nd5 Ne6


8. Ng5 h6 9. Qh5 Wow! This surprising move actually forces a draw in a bizarre way.

9…g6 10. Qf3 hxg5 11. Nf6+ Ke7 12. Nd5+ Ke8 13. Nf6+ Ke7 14. Nd5+ Ke8 15. Nf6+ Ke7 {Game drawn by repetition} 1/2-1/2

After the game I was in for another shocker: white told me he planned to continue with b2-b3!

Absolutely classic! When have you seen Ng8-e7-g6-f4-e6 before in the opening? 

An Indecent Proposal from China

I think the term “supper league” was the first signal all was not well in this email I received recently.

The CHONGQING LIFAN FOOTBALL CLUB intends to invite experienced coaches/players/expatriate capable of rendering expertise services the chinese national team and there clubs in the chinese supper league divison.their enthusiasm fed by huge media coverage.

To coach and provide leadership instruction to the chinese national team.
*Development of team strategies; analyze performance of football team and adjust strategies as needed.
*Coordinate team travel arrangements.
*Scouting and recruiting more players into the national team.
*Coordinate coaches clinic; supervise dress code for staff and team members.

Education and Experience:
Bachelor’s degree in relevant field,
SALARY: US$29,000.00, Monthly, can be transferred to any Bank or Country of your choice and all transfers must be made in conformity with the existing tax situation in China.
CONTRACT DURATION: 48 months (Liable for upward review depending on your commitment and expertise)
The Management hereby inform that you are to INCUR all expenses associated with the processing of your relevant papers for commencement of work.
The chinese football association will disburse Six (6) months Upfront salaries and relocation expenses on confirmation of your required documentation (including immigration papers) from the relevant authorities here in China

We hereby inform that if this Offer is acceptable to you, you are requested to send us an acceptance letter with your passport photograph via email, and your C.V/RESUME to enable us proceed with relevant processing.
We await your response in this regard.
Mr Cho Ti

Captain Christopher Pike before he was Pike


And in News from Denmark

Le roi est mort. Vive le roi.

The Fabulous 00s: The Resurgence of the 1890s

June 24, 2009

Behold, Once Again, the Two Knights

GM Nakamura scored a key win over GM Friedel in the last round of the US Championship 2009 with a two knights sideline opening fresh from the 1890s.  Curiously, GM Friedel in his notes in Chess Life Online did not mention the most active way to play.  He played a “safe” “solid” way but that way was passive, white kept an extra pawn, and won easily. Maybe he hasn’t looked it up yet!  Postscript Sunday June 28: I am not sure what’s in the water, but now the game has appeared in print annotated by both parties, and in neither case black’s best 8th move was mentioned.  Presumably the annotators have had time to reflect and present the readers with the right move, so I don’t know what’s going on.

Here is how the key game started.

Nakamura-Friedel US Championship 2009

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 There is a school of thought that, for safety’s sake, or even more precisely, for logic’s sake,  follow what Karpov does.  GM Short told me that if GM Karpov plays 3…Bc5 here, it is likely to be best.  Logical!  Logic in the opening by proxy!  But when Karpov starts dancing with his king on f8 in Caro’s, well, watch out.

4. Ng5 d5 5. exd5 Na5 Known to be bad is 5…Nxd5? 6. d4!.  Not so clear is the schoolboy favorite, 6. Nxf7, the Fried Liver Attack.  I think d4! first then taking on f7 is the way theory recommends.

6. Bb5+ c6 7. dxc6 bxc6 Black has a sidelined knight on a5 and a pawn minus, but a lead in development and prospects for gaining more time by hitting the knight on g5. This position has been seen a lot, and white’s next is no novelty at all.

8. Bd3 Not new at all. In fact, quite old.  And also played in a major league game in 2008.  Both old and new!   A double-headed monster that needs to be … well….. looked at.  GM Short told me that he faced this in blitz vs GM Morozevich, “reaching a good game but then losing.”  In a curious “double”, Nakamura once scored easily with 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. e4 d5 4. e5 d4 5. exf6 dxc3 6. bxc3 Qxf6 7. Bd3!? vs an Argentinian GM and ex-world junior champion Pablo Zarnicki, HB Global Challenge Minnesota 2005. At this point Friedel writes in CLO, “I vaguely recalled it, but of course had no clue what to do.  I  decided to go  “solid” again with Be7 and 0-0.  Better might have been an earlier h6 followed by Nd5 and f5-e4 with counterplay.”  Needless to say, 8…Be7? was a huge lemon and Nakamura had no trouble whatsoever scoring the full point in short order.  Although on ICC there were some funny moments when GM Kraai (perhaps inebriated, that would be my guess) started scream/kibitzing after Friedel’s unsound sac on d3 that “the panda’s junk was all over the board”  – it took quite a bit of deduction to figure out he was referring to Friedel as the Panda.  Nevertheless, the junk (I think) stayed back in its package as Nakamura just pocketed the material and then trapped the queen. The most ‘objectionable’ thing is that Chess Life Online readers come away with nothing at this key juncture.  But it’s more or less free… the peanuts and monkeys syndrome?

Instead of solid, we need fast!  More precisely, there’s a faster way for black to ‘get there’ in Friedel’s counterplay notion.  Better is what Emanuel Lasker found in 1892 versus Henry Bird!  (And repeated in recent memory by Erwin L’Ami).  The right move is 8…Ng4! When facing something strange, do something “strange” – but the move is really quite logical!

Postscript Sunday June 28: I received New in Chess magazine 2009/4 in the mail (late, I know; I go with the chessplayer’s stingy surface mail option) – and I was very surprised to see Nakamura annotate this game and pass by 8…Be7 without comment. His secrets after 8…Ng4 go unmentioned. On purpose?  The readers come away with absolutely no information.

This is the way to get the Panda's Junk on the Board

This is the way to get the Panda's Junk on the Board

Bird-Lasker Newcastle-on-Tyne 1892 (have you heard of that event??!) saw 8…Ng4 9. Nf3 f5! The correct followup. After 10. h3 e4! we had true chaos on board, and Lasker outplayed Bird subsequently. But let’s not trust a game from 1892.  We need to look at this try more carefully. The most interesting recent game, between two young Dutch lions, saw in

Stellwagen-L’Ami, Maastricht 2008, 8…Ng4! 9. Ne4!? f5! Always this!  Black needs this.  10. Be2 h5! with absolute chaos once again! 11. h3 fxe4 12. hxg4 Bc5! with madness and a definite black initiative.  The kind one is supposed to get with the …Na5 gambit! I am pretty sure Friedel might have looked this up by now.  Or maybe not?  Anyway it looks like 8…Ng4 is the way to go, and I look forward to Nakamura being challenged with this!  (but maybe he’ll switch away now that the surprise is gone).  In the meantime, can readers switch on their collective Rybkas and give me best play and evaluation after this?  Merci et adieu.

A Weird “Double”

From the Copper State International, Altounian-Barcenilla (copied from Chess Life Online, annotations by GM Alex Yermolinsky unless italicized by MG)

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5

This old line, known as the Fried Liver Attack, is making an unexpected comeback these days. I faced it against David Pruess in 2007, and there was a recent Nakamura-Friedel U.S. Championship game. I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, modern computer analysis can re-evaluate some positions from the defensive point of view. On the other hand, it’s hard to believe that generations of chess players were wrong in their assessment of resulting positions as good for Black

4…d5 5.exd5 Nd4

Altounian was quite surprised by this little known sideline. 5…Na5 6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc6 bxc6 and the old move 8.Be2 is being superseded by(8.Qf3 Pruess; or 8.Bd3 Nakamura.)

6.c3 b5 7.Bd3!? Shadows of Hikaru… 7.Bf1 Nxd5 transposes to well-known theoretical lines, such as 8.Ne4 Ne6 9.Bxb5+ Bd7 10.Bxd7+ Qxd7; Another chapter is 7.cxd4 bxc4 and now either 8.Qa4+ (or 8.dxe5 Qxd5 9.exf6 Qxg5 10.Qf3 Rb8) 8…Qd7 9.Qxc4 Qxd5 In both cases, the computer gives White a big plus for whatever that’s worth.

7…Nxd5 The alternative 7…Bf5 was seen in Morozevich-Timman, 1996 where after 8.Bxf5 Nxf5 9.Qf3 Nh4 (9…g6!?) 10.Qh3 Ng6? the young Alexander missed the crushing shot (better was 10…Nxd5 11.Qxh4 Be7 12.d4 Nf4 13.Bxf4 exf4 with some play for a pawn; but not 10…Qxd5 11.Qxh4 Qxg2 12.Rf1 h6 13.d3 and White keeps the extra piece.) 11.Nxf7 and instead went on to lose the game.

8.Nxf7 8.cxd4 Qxg5 9.Bxb5+ Kd8 10.Qf3 is another transposition to the 7.Bf1 theoretical line.

8…Kxf7 9.cxd4 Nf4 Should further analysis prove White’s advantage in the way the game went, it might be worth looking at the crazy line 9…Nf6 10.Bxb5 exd4!? (I don’t think Black has anything going after 10…Qxd4 11.Nc3 Bc5 12.Qe2 Be6 13.d3) 11.Bc4+ Kg6 12.0-0 Bd6 13.Qc2+ Bf5 14.Bd3 Qd7 and the hyperactive black king may turn out to be a real asset in the endgame. 10.Be4after10.be4barcalt.jpg


Barcenilla must get credit for energetic play. Weaker was 10…Rb8 11.dxe5 Nd3+ 12.Kf1 and Black cannot maintain the knight on d3 because of the exposed position of his own king (checks from b3, f3 or h5 are coming).

11.d3 White was not advised to take the gift, 11.Bxa8? Nd3+ 12.Ke2 Bg4+ 13.Bf3 (13.f3 Nf4+ 14.Ke1 Nxg2+ 15.Ke2 Nf4+ 16.Ke1 Be7 bringing more pieces into the fray.) 13…Nf4+ 14.Kf1 Bxf3 15.Qxf3 Qc4+ 16.Ke1 Qxc1+ 17.Qd1 Nxg2+ 18.Ke2 Nf4+ 19.Ke1 Nd3+ 20.Ke2 Qc4 and Black’s attack just doesn’t seem to let up.; A more reasonable possibility, along with the text move, was 11.Nc3 Nd3+ 12.Bxd3 Qxd3 13.Qb3+ Be6 14.Qxb5 although the black bishop pair would provide ample compensation even after the queens are swapped.

11…Bb4+ 12.Nc3 Bxc3+ 13.bxc3 Qxc3+ 14.Bd2 Nxd3+ 15.Kf1

15.Ke2 Nf4+ 16.Bxf4 exf4 17.Bxa8 Be6 clearly favors Black.

15…Qc4 16.Qe2? A serious mistake. White had to play 16.Qb3 to get the queens off. There are various ways for Black to proceed, but I can’t see a fully satisfactory continuation.

In fact White should win after 16. Qb3!.  This was the key moment.  If Altounian had won the game, he would have been in great shape to make a GM norm.  As it happened, the victor in this game did make a norm!  Such is chess.

16…Rd8!! after16...rd8.jpg Absolutely brilliant!

17.Bxa8 Bf5 18.Bb7 18.Bf3 e4 19.Bg4 Bxg4 20.Qxg4 Ne5+ 21.Qe2 Rxd2 wins for Black.

18…Qd4 19.Rd1 Nb2!? 19…Nf4 20.Qe3 Qc4+ 21.Kg1 Ne2+ 22.Kf1 Nf4+ was enough for a draw, but Rogelio was after the jackpot.

20.Qh5+ Ke6 21.Ke1?? Levon could keep on fighting after 21.Rc1 Qxd2 22.Rc6+ Rd6 23.h3

21…Nd3+ White gets mated on the next move.

0-1 A very sad finish for Levon.  This was a tough tournament with a fast time control and many strong opponents.

The Fabulous 00s: The Opening Will Be the Modern Steinitz

May 15, 2009

Robert Hess’s self-declared weapon of choice is the Modern Steinitz as he stated in a recent Chess Life Online interview, “I’m not afraid to play that line (the Steinitz Deferred) against anyone..” It’s a curious preferred variation for a junior, but we have to remember that Kenny Regan used to like Bird’s Defense (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nd4).

Josh Friedel’s weapon of choice is 1. e4 although in recent times he’s tried a few other moves, following in Anand’s footsteps.  Let’s see what happened when they met at the US Championship.  The game in fact propelled Hess into a 4-way tie for the lead with 5/7.

GM Josh Friedel – IM (GM-elect) Robert Hess  US Championship Round 7, Modern Steinitz Varation, Ruy Lopez

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 d6 5. O-O Bd7 6. d4!?

Decision Point

Decision Point

Already notable. 6. c3 is seen far more often by a factor of almost 3 to 1.  From Hess’s practice, we have  Krivenstov-Hess, Las Vegas 2006 with white simplifying and exchanging on e5 shortly:  6.c3 Nge7 7.d4 Ng6 8.Re1 Be7  9.Nbd2 h6 10.Nf1 Bg5 11.Ne3 Bxe3 12.Bxe3 0-0 13.dxe5  1/2.  Not very illuminating when white gives up trying after a few moves.  6. c3 does look to be the most principled and really shouldn’t lead to a quick draw.   However we have to assume that Friedel’s choice was based on significant human and computer prep time since Hess telegraphs this one, narrow, variation.

In a more recent Hess example with c2-c3, Yap chose the main alternate plan and closed the center quickly but came to a bad end, Yap-Hess World Open 2007:   6. c3 Nge7 7.d4 Ng6 8.d5 Nb8  9.Bxd7+ Nxd7 10.c4 Be7 11.Nc3 h6 12.Be3 Bg5 13.Qd2 Bxe3 14.Qxe3 Nf4 15.Ne2 Nxe2+ 16.Qxe2 0-0  17.b4 f5 18.exf5 Rxf5 19.Rac1 a5 20.a3 axb4 21.axb4 Ra3 22.Nd2 Qh4 23.g3 Qd4 24.Ne4 Nf6 25.Nxf6+ Rxf6 26.Rfd1 Qb6 27.Qb2 Qa6 28.Rd2 Rff3 29.Qb1 Rab3 30.Qg6 Qa3 31.Rdc2 Qxb4 32.c5 Rf7 33.cxd6 Qxd6 34.Qe6 Rb6 35.Qc8+ Kh7 36.Rxc7 Qxd5 37.Rxf7 Qxf7 38.Qg4 Qg6 39.Qe2 Rb1 40.Rxb1 Qxb1+ 41.Kg2 b5 42.Qxe5 b4 43.f4 Qc2+ 44.Kh3 Qc8+ 45.f5 b3 46.Qb5 Qc2 47.Qd5 b2 48.Qe6 Qc5 49.Qg6+ Kg8 50.Qe8+ Qf8 51.Qb5 Qf6 52.Kg2 Kh7 53.Kh3 Qd4 54.Qe8 Qb6 0-1.

Let’s return to the 6. c3 plan after we get through the Friedel game.

6…Nxd4!? Changing from Robson-Hess, SPICE Cup 2009, where black played 6…Nge7 7. d5 Nb8 8. Bxd7 Nxd7 9. c4 thus white not losing a tempo with c2-c3.  That game continued  9…Ng6 10. Nc3 Be7 11. Be3 h6 12. b4 Bg5 and now Robson came up lame with 13. Qd2?! Bxe3 14. fxe3?! Nh4 and white had nothing – the game was quickly drawn.   Instead, white should play the fairly evident 13. Nxg5! hxg5 and now decide between 14. c5!? and 14. g3!?.  In both cases, white has good chances for an opening edge. It is not suprising Hess seeks a different way in the current game. It is a natural assumption Friedel spent some time improving on Robson-Hess elaborating on 13. Nxg5!, so it’s very good that black deviated here.

7. Bxd7+ Qxd7 8. Nxd4 exd4 9. Qxd4 Ne7 Yes, white can claim a small edge here.

10. Nc3 Nc6 11. Qd3 Be7 12. Nd5 O-O 13. Bd2 Rae8 14. Bc3 Bd8

This is the first critical moment of the game.

Key Moment - What Rook goes where?

Key Moment - What Rook goes where?

15. Rfe1?! The question of which rook goes where is always difficult.  It’s likely white missed a chance here with the indicated 15. f4! f5 (what else?) 16. e5! (not 16.  Rae1? fxe4 = with the f4 pawn just sticking out) and this position offers white some initiative.  For example, 16…Re6 17. Rae1! Qf7 18. Qc4! Rfe8 19. Qb3! – an excellent sequence to keep a little something.  This line gives Friedel’s choice of 6. d4 support.

15…Ne5 16. Qg3 Ng6 17. Rad1 f6 18. h4?! Correct is just waiting and reshuffling with something like 18. Qd3 or 18. Bb4.

18…f5 19. exf5 Black is very happy after 19. h5 f4!

19…Qxf5 But now it’s just initiative for free for black, hitting white’s weak pawns.

20. Rxe8 Rxe8 21. Ne3 Qf7 21…Qh5 is also strong.

22. Rd4 h5 23. a4 Re6 24. a5 Bf6 24…c6! is good too.

25. Ra4?! 25. Rb4 c5! isn’t fun for white.  But he should have tried it as 26. Rc4! Rxe3 27. fxe3 Qxc4 28. Qxg6 holds.  The text leads to a very serious pawn structure weakening.

25…Bxc3 26. bxc3 Rf6 27. f3 A chance was 27. Rb4 c6 and try to confuse with 28. Qg5 (28…Rxf2 29. Rxb7) although 28…Nf4 keeps an edge.

27…Nf4 28. Kf2 Ne6?! 28…c6, idea ….d5, keeping N on f4, seems more accurate.

29. Rb4 Nc5 30. Qh3? The losing moment.  30. Qg5! held the position.

30…Qa2?! Strong, but computer likes 30…c6! even more since white is helpless to undertake anything at all after 31. Qc8+ Kh7.  For example, 32. Ke2 Qe7 with the idea of Qe5.

31. Kg3? It was no fun but white had to try the ending after 31. Qc8+ Kh7 32. Qxc7 Nd3+ 33. Ke2 Nxb4 34. cxb4 Qf7 35. Qxf7 Rxf7.  There are some faint hopes of survival.

31…Qa1 Too many threats.

32. Qc8+ Rf8 33. Qxc7 Qxc3 34. Rxb7 Qe1+ 35. Kh2 Nxb7 36. Qxb7 0-1