Posts Tagged ‘Marc Esserman’

The Fabulous 00s: USCL Week 8 and Strange Hate Blog

October 16, 2008

Scorpions Problems Persist

The Scorpions lost in Week 8 (again!, sigh) to Seattle 1.5-2.5.

M. Ginsburg – S. Mikhailuk (2437), Gruenfeld Exchange

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Nf3 c5 8. Rb1

The key move popularized by Gelfand and Khailfman to reduce g7-a1 pressure. In many lines later on Bc1-b2 trading bishops and weakening black’s dark squares occurs.

8…O-O 9. Be2 cxd4 10. cxd4 Qa5+ At present, the main line.

11. Bd2 Qxa2 12. O-O a5 12… b6 and 12…Bg4 are big alternatives.

13. Qc1!?
White has other moves here too but the text is very interesting.

13…Qe6 Black has to evacuate his queen.

14. Bc4!? 14. Re1 is possible too. An amusing variation is 14…Qxe4 15. Bc4 Qg4 (15…Qc6 is weaker) 16. Bh6 Qd7 17. Ne5 Qd8 (Black’s queen wanders and makes a strange impression, but nothing for white can be seen here except:) 18. Bg5 Bf6 19. Bh6 with a repetition draw!   In retrospect, there is another interesting move I did not see here – it is 14. e5!? Nc6 15. Qc5! establishing a bind!  If 15…Rd8 16. Rb5! keeps pressure!   Black’s …a7-a5 has a drawback of increasing white’s pressure on the b-file and this line needs further investigation.

Position after 14. Bc4

14…Qxe4 Black might as well do this.  14…Qd7 15. Bf4 Nc6 16. Bb5 Qd8 17. d5 Nd4 18. Bc7! is a funny queen trap variation showing the dangers of not taking on e4. Now the game is very sharp.

15. Bxf7+ Rxf7! The best defense. 16. Qxc8+ Rf8 17. Qc4+ Nothing is offered by 17. Qxb7 Qxb7 18. Rxb7 a4 with an equal game after the thematic 19. Rxe7 a3.

17…e6 18. Ng5!? Possible is 18. Ne5 but black holds after 18…Qd5 or 18…Ra6.

18…Qd5

Position after 18…Qd5

19. Qd3?! Not very impressive.   Just because an opening starts out attacking doesn’t mean white is committed to always attack! The right team-choice at this point is safety with 19. Rfc1! and white will regain the pawn with an equal game.   An example is 19. Rfc1! Ra6  (19…Bxd4?? 20. Nxe6 Qxc4 21. Rxc4 Bxf2+ 22. Kf1! (but not 22. Kh1?? Re8! 23. Rxb7 Ra7! and black is doing more than simply escaping) and white wins) 20. Qxd5 exd5 21. Rxb7 Bxd4 22. Be3! Bxe3 23. fxe3 Rc6 24. Ra1 and white is too active for black to try anything.  Not very good, on the other hand, is the immediate 19. Qxd5?! exd5 20. Rxb7 Nc6 21. Rc1 Nxd4 22. Rcc7. At first glance this looks scary but after the simple 22…Be5 23. Rxh7 a4! black is asserting himself.

19… Rf5

Insane in Space?  No thanks, I’ll do it at the chessboard.

20. Rfc1?? This is the last straw.  White had the simple 20. Qe2 hitting e6 with an OK game. In black’s time trouble, white becomes totally irrational.

20…Nd7 To show the ineptitude of white’s play, 20…Nc6 was also very strong: 21. Rc5 Qxd4!.

21. Rc7 Bxd4 The rest is a massacre.

22. Qh3 Bxf2+ 23. Kh1 h5 24. Qc3 Bd4 25. Qc4 Raf8 26. h4 Qxc4 27. Rxc4 Rf1+ 0-1

And when IM Altounian emerged out of his secret alcove to announce that he, too, lost, I knew the Scorpions unpleasant losing streak was likely to continue (although good game by the resurgent Warren Harper on board 4).

Bizarre post from Hikaru Nakamura.

Nakamura flames on his blog, “Another note which I’d like to comment on is that I recently noticed GM Wolff annotated the game Esserman-Lian and said the Smith-Morra is a bad opening. I do not believe someone like Wolff who has been retired from chess for so many years and would rather make money at a hedge fund than play chess has any right to comment on the current state of chess theory. I would also straight up say that in a 10 game match in the Smith-Morra, Wolff would lose to Esserman if he played black.”

Why the hating on Wolff?  Wolff helped Anand in the World Championship cycle.  It wasn’t in the 1800’s. That work, I would hazard to guess, involved some openings. The Smith-Morra isn’t very good, as Hikaru knows, (soon Chess.FM audiences will know too), so why this bluster?  And why would he posit that Esserman can beat Wolff in a match?  I would hazard to guess that Wolff can improve on Esserman’s (not very highly rated) opponents quite sub-standard defenses. A very bizarre hate-burst on Naka’s part.   Is it because he hates Wolff’s hedge fund?  Or some other behind the scenes reason?  Is it the bad memory of the unnecessary Bhat defeat spraying poop mist on his soul and causing an unprovoked torrent of bluster?  He should apologize (not that this ever happens).

This is one of the strangest chess blogs I’ve seen in a long time, leaping from unsubstantiated to hostile and winding up in ludicrous (the laughable “match prediction”).     It’s hardly worth the time for Wolff or Esserman to comment, it’s so silly and spiteful.

The Fabulous 00s: USCL Week 7

October 8, 2008

USCL Week 7:  Sicilian Kan Excitement

Matthew Herman (NY) – Ilya Krasik (BOS)  USCL Week 7  Sicilian Kan

My favorite opening!  Black got a good game…

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Nc3 Qc7 6. g3 Bb4 7. Bd2 I think 7. Ne2 is stronger with a later slow advance h3, g4, and Ng3.  Kudrin played this way against me in a Bar Point International in the 1980s and a hard-fought draw resulted.

7…Nc6 8. a3 Be7 9. Be3 Nf6 10. Bg2

Some hidden ICC knowledge here.

10…Ne5 On ICC a certain Israeli GM who always shouts “ooh la la chess” has demonstrated to me in blitz that the surprising but logical 10… h5! is strong here.  For example, 11. h3 h4 12. g4 and now 12…Ne5 13. O-O Nc4 14. Bc1 O-O 15. b3 Ne5 16. Bb2 Ng6! and through craftiness, eyeing f4, black is fine.  Play could continue 17. Re1 d6 18. Nce2 Bd7 19. f4 d5! with excellent chances.

11. O-O Nc4 12. Bc1 O-O 13. b3 Na5 14. Bb2 Nc6 15. Kh1 d6 16. f4 Bd7 17. g4?! Hyper-aggressive – quite Bulgarian.  But white’s name does not sound Bulgarian….

17…Nxd4 18. g5 The “point” of the 17th move.  But this doesn’t really work.  I guess you could say it’s a high class bluff.

18…Nc6 In a Boylston blog entry, Marc Esserman points out 18…Nxe4! is a very good alternative here.  For example, 19. Qxd4 Nxc3 20. Bxc3 f6! 21. f5 e5 22. Qd5+ Kh8 and white is out of steam.  Or, 19. Nxe4 Nf5!  20. c4 Bc6 with insufficient compensation for white’s pawn minus. The text is also fine.

19. gxf6 Bxf6 Marc Esserman mentions 19…gxf6!? – after 20. Qh5 Kh8 21. Ne2!? Qa5!? chances are equal.  But after 21. Rf3?! Rg8 22. Qxf7 Rg7 black is a little better.

20. e5 dxe5(!) 20…Be7 21. Ne4 leads to unclear complications after both 21…d5 22. Nf6+!? and 21…dxe5 22. fxe5.  The text looks risky, but due to black’s improvement on move 21 I think it is good.

21. Ne4 White is certainly making menacing moves.  But his king is also open.  This is the key moment.

21…Be7? A reflexive retreat but this piece jams up black’s defenses. Also not good is 21… Bh4? 22. Qh5 Be7 23. fxe5 g6 24. Qh6 Nxe5 25. Ng5 Bxg5 26.Qxg5 and black collapses.  Nevertheless there is a great resource here.  It is 21… Kh8!! 22. Nxf6 (22. Qh5? g6 followed by Bg7 and black wins) 22…gxf6.

Now if 23. Qf3 Nd4! 24. Qxb7 Qxb7 25. Bxb7 Rab8 leaves black on top.  Let’s say white plays the more aggressive 23. Qh5. Doesn’t this look scary for black?  No!  23…Rg8! and ignore what white is doing!  White can never play Bg2xc6 because Bd7xc6 is CHECK.  This is black’s secret weapon – the naked white king. Note in passing 23…f5? is weak due to 24. Rae1 f6 25. fxe5 Nxe5 26. Rxe5! fxe5 27. Re1 and white has exploited a tactical hole.

After 23…Rg8!, if 24. Rad1 Rg6 25. fxe5 Na5! is a subtle and good answer, similar to the next line, which is 24. fxe5.  On 24. fxe5, play might continue 24… Na5! — a very powerful shot to clear c6 for the bishop and hit c2.  These are hard moves to find. If 25. Rf2 Bc6 26. Rg1 f5! and black has eliminated problems on the b2-h8 diagonal.  27. Qh4 Rg6! and he’s on his way to victory since he has completely taken over the initiative.  This defensive motif deserves a picture.

Position after 27…Rg6! (analysis).  Black takes over the attack.

Black’s game mistake of 21…Be7? is easy to understand. It’s very hard though to accept Ne4xf6 and the ruining of the pawns around the king, and the scary looking dark square holes with white’s bishop sitting on b2.  In most Sicilians, black preserves at all cost the dark square bishop.  This case was a big exception.   In the game, black got into a logjam and after further inaccuracies white quickly broke through.

22. fxe5 Kh8! 22… Rfd8 23. Qh5 Rf8 24. Nf6+ is crushing.

As Matthew Herman points out in the comments, black is already lost.

23. Qh5 g6? A fatal misstep in a tough position.  23…h6!? 24. Rxf7 Rxf7 25. Qxf7 Rf8 is good for black.  But white can improve with 24. Nf6! Bc5 25. Rad1 Rad8? 26. Bc1! intending Bxh6.  Black in turn can improve here with 25…Be8 and if 26. Bc1 Qxe5 and he fights on, although it’s good for white after 27. Qh3.   Best seems the cold-blooded 23…Rad8! and if 24. Nf6 h6 25. Rad1 Nb8!! (very difficult to spot, defending and counter-attacking)  26. Bc1 Qxc2 27. Bxh6 Qg6! deals with white’s mating plans!

As Matthew Herman points out in the comments, 23….Rad8 24. Rf6! wins for white. as does 23…h6 24. Rf6!  A nice interference theme with the same winning move as the famous debacle Fischer-Benko US Championship 1963. Amusingly, Benko blamed this loss in his autobiography on too much partying with the ladies the evening prior.

24. Qh6 Nd8 25. Nf6 1-0

And for Something Different: Bellwether

On the financial news today, I heard the phrase “IBM is the bellwether of technology stocks.”   I knew the term meant “an indicator” – as it goes, so do the tech stocks.  I thought the word was “belleweather” as is “good weather” but that doesn’t make sense.  I was wrong, it’s spelled “bellwether”.  Where does this word with its strange spelling come from?   I looked it up and I was surprised to see “castrated male sheep” was part of the word’s origins (www.dictionary.com).   Ow!  See below.

And ‘bell’ may well  indeed be from ‘belle’ (French, old English for ‘pretty’) – note the female connotations in the definition for ‘belle’ below applied then to the castrated male sheep in the compound word ‘bellwether’.  What a fascinating word!  Bellwether!    Queens is the bellwether of the USCL East.   A counter-argument can be made that ‘bell’ is just a bell so the Bellwether is the male castrated sheep with a bell around its neck (an “indicator” of the herd’s travels).  We might have to time-travel back to Hastings, 1622, to learn the truth.

Belle  –noun

1. a woman or girl admired for her beauty and charm.
2. the most beautiful, charming, or engaging woman or girl among a number: the belle of the ball.

Main Entry: bellwether1
Part of Speech: n
Definition: an indication of a trend
Etymology: Middle English belle ‘bell’ + wether ‘castrated male sheep’

This website is the bellwether of posts about bellwether. Ron Young is the bellwether of USCL Predictors.

To prove the topicality of this apparent dribble, this just in on October 10th, 2008:

“On Friday, General Electric (GE, Fortune 500) reported third-quarter financial results that were in line with estimates. The company posted a 10% drop in earnings from continuing operations and an 11% gain in revenue, meeting analyst expectations.

The company is considered a stock market bellwether, so its financial results are closely watched. The company had previously lowered its guidance, citing the financial crisis. GE reaffirmed that outlook and also said its financial services arm, which has been hard hit by the crisis, reported a 30% drop in profit that met forecasts. GE shares rose 1% Friday morning.”

And there’s even a bellwether town in Ohio. High-pitched baa!

And on the Chess Teaching Front:

From: Precious Garcia

Hello,I am Precious Garcia,My son is coming for an holiday in your area,His name is Andre,14 years.I want him to be busy in the day. I have decided to let him attend your lesson for 1 hours in a day in the morning or time that you will be chance. i want you to calculate the cost of 1 hours each day for Mon, Wed & Fri for the whole 1 Month and send me the total cost,i will be paying you with Certified check ,so get back to me with your cost.I have someone that will always drive him down to your house or lesson venue.Kindly get back to me with.1.YOUR CHARGE FOR 1 HOUR. 2.TOTAL CHARGES FOR 1 MONTH THAT HE WILL BE TAUGHT 3 TIMES PER WEEK.3. FULL NAME AND ADDRESS WITH ZIP CODE.4.YOUR PHONE NUMBER.Don’t hesitate to e-mail with your total charges.Thanks and looking to hearing from you soon. With Best Regards.Precious Garcia

I gave the usual response of converting in Pounds Sterling and awakening the Caissic Intermediates.  Waiting for Andre.

Comic Interlude

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping
trip. After a good meal and a bottle of wine, they
were exhausted and went to sleep.

Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his
faithful friend. “Watson, look up at the sky and tell
me what you see.” Watson replied, “I see millions and
millions of stars.”

“What does that tell you?”

Watson pondered for a minute. “Astronomically, it
tells me that there are millions of galaxies and
potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I
observe that Saturn is in Leo. Time wise, I deduce
that the time is approximately a quarter past three.
Theologically, I can see that the Lord is all
powerful and that we are small and insignificant.
Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a
beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you?”

Holmes was silent for a minute, then spoke.

“Watson, you idiot, someone has stolen our tent.”

Editor’s note:  depending on your audience, substituting ‘asshole’ for ‘idiot’ in the punchline may generate more laughs.

The Fabulous 00s: The 2007 Miami International Open

October 5, 2007

When my good Word Press blog buddy FM Marcel Martinez (we cross-link, you see [wink wink]) told me about the First International Miami Chess Open, how could I resist? This event, organized by IM Blas Lugo, drew a host of good players: Mikhalevski, Becerra, Izoria, Shabalov, Nakamura, G. Hernandez, A. Zapata, and more.

The actual venue was a convention center next to the Sheraton hotel, itself close to the Miami airport. The venue had some quirks. First of all, cell phones went off all the time, and the people answering (usually kibitizers or players strolling around from lower sections) chose to answer in normal voices, not whispers! Secondly, sometimes the occasional mambo or Star Spangled Banner would erupt from an adjacent ballroom, and this happened in one amusing instance when Becerra and I had under 30 seconds in the not-for-the-faint-of-heart time control of G/90 + 30 second increment per move.

The games themselves were very interesting, and some were of high quality despite the constant rushing brought by the “gambling” time control. I gather this is a ‘normal’ time control now in FIDE events. It’s nuts! It ruins all complicated endings. And for what, to save a little time to go to Starbucks or the hotel bar?

Here are some of my efforts and I will also add some special games that I witnessed. By the way, you can find most of the games online at the Monroi site (but not the quicker schedule early games; only after the merge).

Snubbed by the Monroi Lady

The Monroi lady was busy running around taking pictures, but when I visited that weird site (replete with world clocks and electronic license tickets) I was surprised to see my games piloted by a faceless (photoless) individual whereas my opponent always had an actual, real, photo. I feel so left out and so anonymous, Monroi lady! I’m sorry I didn’t use your little box to record my games! Can we start again? Take my picture, Monroi lady (sniffle). Don’t leave me faceless, Monroi lady!

Let’s start with two smooth victories as White. In the first, I defuse a sharp junior by taking him out of his comfort zone – I steer the game into a Kramnikian bishop-pair torture structure.

IM M. Ginsburg – NM Corey Acor

G/90 + 30 sec increment per move

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. c4 e6 4. g3(!) My opponent astounded me after the game by relating that he was already improvising now. So the exclamation point for this fortuitous turn of events. Apparently he was most ready for 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5!? – I’m usually a 1. c4 player and I wouldn’t enjoy seeing a Budapest on the board. Someone like IM Finegold, booked to gills versus the Budapest, would enjoy it very much.

4….c5 5. cxd5 Nxd5?! 5…..exd5, reaching a Tarrasch, is more reliable.

6. Bg2 Nc6 7. O-O Nf6 It is already difficult to suggest solid black continuations.

8. dxc5! White has no objection at all to reach a superior queenless middelgame.

8…Qxd1 9. Rxd1 Bxc5 10. a3 e5? Much too loose. White will be able to snipe at the center pawns effectively with the bishops. Black has to stay compact and hunker down.

acor1.png

11. Nc3 (0:18) Be6 (0:59) 12. b4 Bb6 13. e3! Extremely strong. White takes away key squares and resumes the harrassment of black’s center next.

13…Rc8 This optically good mechanical move (rook to semi open file) turns out to not help black at all so he might have wanted to castle here instead.

14. Bb2 O-O 15. Na4! (0:44) As simple as that, the position is now winning for white. A black ….Be6-b3 turns out to be a pseudo-threat. Black’s center is under intolerable pressure.

15…Bb3 Nothing else to do, but the text is insufficient. 15…Bc7 16. Nc5 is crushing – see a similar knight maneuver motif in my Glenn Bady game that immediately follows this one.

16. Nxb6 axb6 16…Bxd1 17. Nxc8 simply results in black losing a center pawn after the mass exchanges 17…Bxf3 18. Bxf3 Rxc8 19. Bxc6 – white wins easily.

17. Rdc1 (0:51) Nd7 (1:28) 18. Nd2! This maneuver is exceedingly strong. The knight travels to d6 via e4 and black is totally paralyzed. To make matters worse, he has virtually no time left. Not a pleasant situation.

18….Be6 19. Ne4 Rb8 (1:29) 20. Nd6 Nd8 21. Rc7 f6 As black, I might have given up here. In fact, yeah, I would have given up. It’s just no fun.

22. Rd1 f5 23. Bd5 Nf6 The rest is just black blitzing and white scooping up material as it is left en prise.

24. Bxe6 Nxe6 25. Re7 Ng5 26. Nxf5 Rf7 27. h4 Black had no time to think anymore.

acor2.png

27…Nh3+ 28. Kg2 Ng4 An amusing blitz tactic, but white has time left to figure out that 29. Kxh3?? is met by 29…Nxf2+. The knights get into an incredible tangle now, but the situation was mucho hopeless (do you like my Spanish?) of course.

29. Rxf7 Kxf7 30. f3 Ngf2 31. Rd2 g6 32. Nd6+ Ke6 33. Ne4 Once one pair of knights goes off, the other black knight is lost. Black recognized his plight and immediately resigned although he had built up a small bank of reserve time due to the 30 second per move increment.

1-0

Here’s a related effort versus Expert Glenn Bady (2137) from an earlier round. Readers will notice some common motifs.

IM Mark Ginsburg – Glenn Bady Miami Open 2007

1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 Bc5 5.d3 d5? Highly suspect in conjunction with black’s previous move. 5…d6 is stronger, but the bishop is still exposed out on c5.
6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.Bg2 Nde7 White will be able to take advantage of this passive placement.

8.O-O O-O 9.Bd2 a6 10.Rc1 Ba7 11.a3 h6 12.b4 Bg4 13.Na4 The strange-looking 13. Be3!? is a try here and is a bit of a positional trap. If black takes on e3 (the wrong choice, strengthening white’s center), 13…Bxe3?! 14. fxe3 Nf5 15. Qd2 white can hope for some edge. Better is not taking and playing 13…Qd7 14. Bxa7 Rxa7 15. Na4 b6! keeping the knight out of c5. Play could continue 16. Re1 Bxf3! 17. Bxf3 a5! with excellent chances for full equality. Since most players would play to double white’s pawns with 13. Be3 Bxe3?!, this move is well worth considering.

13…Re8 14.Nc5 Qc8 15.a4 (?!) Things are looking very good, at least optically, for white. He is making progress on his agenda. However at this exact moment black has an interesting and hidden defense; therefore the careful 15. Re1 should have been considered nullifying the positional threat of Bg4-h3.

bady1.png

15…Rb8? A human move and a natural instinct to defend b7 without giving up the “lurking” bishop so carefully nestled away on a7. The computer finds an ingenious and dispassionate resource 15…Bxc5! 16. Rxc5 b6! 17. Rc4 Be6! driving the rook back. Then, after 18. Rc1 Bh3! 19. Qc2 Bxg2 20. Kxg2 b5! black can use the b7-g2 diagonal and he is close to equality. A really fantastic, anti-positional, counter-intuitive, and amazing computer variation to give black positional advantages of his own starting from a point where it looked like white was calling all the shots.

16.Re1! Getting back on the right course. This avoids the simplification threat ….Bg4-h3 and waits.

16…Ng6? I didn’t have long to wait. The text blunders a pawn. However, a move like 16…Qf5 leaves white on top as well. There simply isn’t anything meaningful to organize on the kingside and white is too active.

17.Nxa6! bxa6 18.Rxc6 Re6 19.Rc4 Rf6 20.Qc2 c6 21.Rc1 Bd7 Black’s position is a structural ruin.

bady2.png

22.Be1! I thought for a while and found this excellent regrouping which really winds the game up efficiently. This is important in crazy time controls like the one in Miami. White prepares Nf3-d2-e4 and black is helpless due to his numerous structural weaknesses. This unstoppable and very strong knight maneuver is very similar to the Acor game above (white moves 18 through 20). I only found this move after some cogitation; my original plan was 22. Be3?! but rushing to simplify, at the cost of some pawn structure disfigurement (although the pawns can be straightened, maybe, with a later d3-d4) is definitely second-best.

22… Qe8 23.Nd2 Ne7 24.Ne4 Rg6 25.Nc5 Bxc5 Once this bishop goes off the board, it’s smooth sailing for white.

26.Rxc5 Nd5? Makes it easier but of course black was losing anyway.

27.b5! axb5 28.axb5 Nf4 29.bxc6 Bg4 30.c7! Rc8 Forced. There’s no time to take a pawn: 30…Nxe2+ 31. Qxe2! Bxe2 32. cxb8=Q Qxb8 33. Rc8+ and white is up a piece.

31.f3 Bd7 32.gxf4 Bh3 33.Bg3! Bxg2 34.Rxe5! An effective zwischenzug. White remains a piece up.

1-0

Now here’s an interesting draw vs NM Marc Esserman – he was White in a topical Smith-Morra gambit.

NM Marc Esserman – IM Mark Ginsburg

Smith-Morra Gambit, Sicilian Defense

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.c3 dxc3 5.Nxc3 Nc6 6.Bc4 d6 7.O-O Nf6 8.Qe2 Be7 9.Rd1 e5

I don’t normally play this defense but it suddenly occurred to me to maybe use the d4 square later for my N on c6. I usually get the variation 1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 Nc6 5. Bc4 d6 6. Nf3 a6!? and play that way. This is something new for me.  Philosophically, black has just handed over the d5 square but the f-rook is not ideally placed for white on d1. Black should be OK on the theory he hasn’t done anything really stupid yet.  “Book” lines bear this out.

10.Be3 O-O 11.Rac1  I am unable to determine how stupid or conversely playable 11. Bc5 is. In some minor games 11. Bc5 a6(!) occurred.

11…a6  Maybe this move is not so great. The immediate 11…Be6 looks sound.

12.b4!? An interesting space gaining move. Black is getting squeezed a little.  The obvious try 12. Nd5 can be met by 12…Nxd5 13. Bxd5 Bg4 or 13…Nb4 in both cases with a reasonable game.  Historical note: GM Nemet played the blunder 12. Nd5 Nxd5 13. Bxd5 Be6?? here which loses to 14. Bxc6 bxc6 15. Nxe5!; however his amateur opponent played 14. Rd2?? instead and lost, Caldelari-Nemet, Baden 1997. Again the odd move 12. Bc5 is possible; 12. Bc5 b6!? 13. Ba3 Rc8 with approximate equality.

A entirely different line is 12. a3!? – in a historical footnote, 12. a3 Bd7 13. b4 Rc8 14. Rd2 Ng4 15. Nd5 Nxe3 16. Qxe3 b5 17. Bb3 Bg4?? 18. Rdc2 and white won, Robert Shean-Peter Winston, US Open 1972.  Black missed the ingenious zwischenzug 17….Nd4!! 18. Rxc8 Nxf3 CHECK 19. Qxf3 Bxc8 with full equality. A rare early Peter Winston game score that I found by blind chance in ChessBase. 

12…Bg4  Consistent; reducing the defenders on d4.  12…Be6 is oddly playable though: 13. Bxe6 fxe6 14. Ng5 Qd7 15. Na4 looks scary aiming for the hole on b6, but black has 15…Nd4! 16. Bxd4 Qxa4 17. Bc3 Rfc8! (stopping Qc4) 18. Nxe6 a5! with the point that 19. bxa5 is met by 19….Qxe4 and black is OK.  A good example of strange “long-distance” piece coordination. 

13.a3 Rc8 14.Bb3 h6 Playable is 14…Qe8 getting out of the way.  I was already planning my strange and not very good concept introduced by my 16th move.

15.h3

 esser1.png

An important moment.

15…Bxf3?!  Not the best.   For no particularly good reason, I shied away from 15…Be6!? 16. Bxe6 fxe6 17. Qa2! because this move looked fearsome during the game. However, after the simple 17…Kf7! (not 17…Qd7? 18. Na4!) the try 18. Nh4 is met by the surprising 18…Ng4! – for example 19. Nf5 Nxe3 20. fxe3 Qd7 and black is somewhat better. Or, 19. Ng6!? Kxg6 20. hxg4 Kf7! and again black has some edge.  Another white move, 18. Na4, is met by the simple 18…Qe8 19. Nb6 Rd8 and nothing is apparent for white. Since black did not see this, he opts for the safer but weaker surrender of the two bishops and keeps working to try to gain control of d4. An interesting but flawed “secondary” defensive concept.  Another possibility, 15…Bh5!?, looked risky to me (in fact, it is risky to put the bishop offside after 16. g4 but let’s see….) After 16. g4 Bg6 the situation is murky. For example, the tactical white trick 17. Nh4 Bxe4 18. Nxe4 Nxe4 19. Ng6 gives black a chance to sacrifice: 19…Ng5! 20. Nxf8 Qxf8 (or 20…Bxf8) 21. Kg2 (21. Bxg5? Bxg5 with Nd4 coming; black edge) 21…Ne6 with a complex game where white might be a little better but there’s still a whole game ahead. 

16.Qxf3 Nh7?! With some ideas of Bg5, trading off a key piece.  However it “ignores the obvious.”

17.Rc2!? Logical; preventing the trade.  However white had the primitive 17. Nd5! Bg5 18. Bb6! Qd7 19. Rc3! with huge pressure. It’s not losing after 19…Nf6 20. Rcd3 Nxd5 21. Rxd5 Be7 22. a4!, but it’s no fun at all. (22….Nxb4 23. Rxe5 with a big edge).

17…Kh8?  Here I had the stronger 17…Bg5! and if 18. Bc5 dxc5! 19. Rxd8 Rcxd8 and white has to go through contortions to deal with Nd4. Black has good compensation for the queen.  An example variation is 20. Ne2 (20. Qg3 might be better; 20. Qg3 Nd4 21. Rb2 cxb4 22. axb4 Bf4 23. Qh4 Nxb3 24. Rxb3 Nf6 with approximate equality) 20…cxb4 21. Bd5? (21. axb4! Nf6! with a solid game; not 21…Nxb4? 22. Rc7 Nf6 23. Bxf7+! with an edge) 21…a5 22. Qb3 Nf6 23. Bxc6 bxc6 24. Rxc6 bxa3 and black is completely OK.  More importantly, I have good chances of getting the initiative in that position (25. Qxa3? Rd1+ 26. Kh2 Nxe4 is just bad; 25. Rc4 Rd2! is not that great either). It is very important when defending against a speculative gambit to seek an opportunity to counter-sacrifice and get aggressive.

18.Ne2 Qd7 19.Ng3 Nd4 Now this is the “panic” button, because white is amassing a fearsome attack. But it’s already bad for black; I missed a big chance on move 17.

20.Bxd4 Rxc2?  This is a blunder but 20…exd4 21. Qf5! is also horrible for black. For example, 21…Nf6 22. Rxc8 Qxc8 23. Qxc8 Rxc8 24. Bxf7 and white wins easily. I noticed the text move was a gross tactical oversight the moment I took the rook – a common phenomenon.

21.Bxc2?  White thinks for a little bit and then plays this lemon. Both sides miss the obvious tactic 21. Bxe5! and white has a big edge. The variations are clear: 21…Rc6 22. Nf5 f6 (disgusting) 23.Qg3 Ng5 24. Bd4! and black,  a rook up, does not have the faintest hope of surviving. Moves like Bd5 and h4 are coming up.  Or, 21. Bxe5 f6 22. Bxd6! (the simple 22. Bc3 Rxc3 23. Qxc3 also wins for white) Bxd6 23. Bxc2 Ng5 24. Qd3 Rd8 25. Nf5 Nf7 26. e5! and white wins.  Or the tragicomic 21. Bxe5 Rc7 22. Nh5 f6 23. Nf4! Qe8 24. Bd4 Ng5 25. Qg4 and black has no hope of surviving.

21..exd4 22.Rxd4 Bf6 23.Rd3  Be5  White still has uncomfortable pressure (as would be the case with 23…Ng5).  

24.Qe3 Qc7  The disgusting 24…Bxg3, going into total passivity, was relatively speaking one of the better moves.

25.Bb3 Rc8 I thought that this held up f2-f4, believing that 26. f4 Qc1+ won the pawn on f4.  Once again I make an elementary tactical oversight – maybe too much mambo in the next room over?

26.Ne2?  My thinking was flawed but once again white believes me.  26. f4! is very strong: 26…Qc1+ 27. Qxc1 Rxc1+ 28. Kf2! and since 28…Bxf4? 29. Ne2! wins for white, black has a terrible game.  For example, 28…Bb2 29. Rxd6 and wins. Another losing line is 26. f4! Bb2 27. Nf5! Qc1+ 28. Qxc1 Rxc1+ 29. Kf2 Bxa3 30. Nxd6 and wins.

26…Nf6 27.g3? These pawn moves in front of white’s king are a concession.  27. Rd2 with the idea of 27. Rc2 was much stronger. For example, 27. Rd2 d5?! 28. Rc2 Qd7 29. Rxc8+ Qxc8 30. f4 with a big edge.

27… Bb2 28.a4 Qe7! 29.f3 d5! This active defensive sequence saves the day.

30.exd5 Qxb4 31.Qd2  It appeared that white was reaching for 31. d6?? but of course then 31…Qe1+ 32. Kg2 Re8! would just win. White retracted his hand and played the sensible move.

31…Qxd2 32.Rxd2 Be5 33.Kg2 Kg8 34.Rd3 Kf8 35.f4 Bd6 36.Kf3 g6? If black hurries with his N to c5, he can even play for a win in this drawish ending, given the crazy time control. For example, 36…Nd7 37. Nd4 Nc5 38. Re3 g6 and black can keep playing although objectively of course it is still level.

37. Nc3  With this knight arriving soon on e4, there is nothing left to play for.

1/2-1/2

A very interesting Smith-Morra theory game.  Further analysis is required on 15…Be6!? or 15…Bh5!?.