Posts Tagged ‘Nakamura’

The Fabulous 10’s: King’s Gambit Mystery

November 7, 2010

King’s Gambit Mystery

In the finals of Cap d’Agde Rapid, 2010, we had Vassily Ivanchuk playing white against Hikaru Nakamura.  Actually, in the other rapid game with colors reversed, it was also a King’s Gambit! But let’s focus on this one.

The game featured a King’s Gambit mystery:

1. e4 e5 2. f4 Nc6 3. Nf3 f5?!

This?

Pablo Zarnicki experimented with this in the past a few times, but I remember Khalifman writing white is better.  Doesn’t it look like black is trying for too much, too soon?  At any rate, Ivanchuk in this game quite surprisingly produced 4. d3 (?) to “avoid preparation”, I guess.  Although the game after 4. d3 (?) is dead equal.  The mystery is what does black do after the simple 4. exf5! – I don’t see an equalizer.

Sample lines:

4. exf5! exf4 5. d4 d5 6. Bd3! guarding f5 6…Bd6 7. Nc3! (idea Nb5) Nf6 8. Qe2+! Qe7 9. Nb5! and white has the desired edge.

Or,

4…e4 5. Ne5 Nxe5 6. fxe5 Qe7 7. d4! (previously the weak 7. Qh5+? Kd8 was seen, giving black a free tempo on white’s queen after a later Ng8-f6; GM Hammer as black defeated GM Fier in a 2009 ICC rapid encounter.)  7…exd3 8. Bxd3 Qxe5+ 9. Qe2 Qxe2+ 10. Kxe2 d5 11. Re1 c6 12. Bf4 Nf6 (the computer likes the strange looking 12…h5 here) 13. Nd2 and white is happy.

Also, crazy lines occur after 4….e4 5. Ne5 Nf6 6. Nc3 Bd6 7. Ng4! Bxf4 8. Nxf6+ Qxf6 9. Qh5+ Kd8 10. Nd5! but white always retains some edge.

All in all, 4. exf5 must promise more than 4. d3 so I am wondering about that.  Will we see 4. exf5 when the line is tested again at a high level?

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The Fabulous 10s: The Thing from Two Centuries Ago

May 18, 2010

Vienna Space Oddity

Hikaru Nakamura laid down what apparently was a fantastic bluff vs Alexander Onischuk in Round 4 of the US Chess Championship in St. Louis.   A bluff in the sense that Onischuk could have forced a favorable ending as black!  Let’s see how.

[Event “US Chess Championship”]
[Site “St. Louis”]
[Date “2010.05.17”]
[Round “4”]
[White “GM_Nakamura”]
[Black “GM_Onischuk”]
[Result “1/2-1/2”]
[WhiteElo “2733”]
[BlackElo “2687”]
[Opening “Vienna gambit”]
[ECO “C29”]
[NIC “VG.03”]

1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. f4 d5 4. exd5(?) Wow!  This just looks bad after black’s response.  In the past, white has tried 4. fxe5 Nxe4 5. Qf3!? which looks pretty silly but actually contains some venom.  There is no reason to suspect Onischuk would not be prepared for that try, though.  However, it’s a legitimate try while this… is not. 🙂

4. exd5 - Revolting!

4…Nxd5 5. fxe5 Having said “A” white must say this “B” since 5. Nxd5, although played by many old-timers in European pastry cafes, is just horrible.

5…Nxc3 6. bxc3 Qh4+ This is a “winning attempt” for white?

7. Ke2 Bg4+! The cowardly 7…Qe4+? to regain the pawn is inferior.  Most players, even not particularly aggressive ones, will prefer the text which is quite a bit stronger.

8. Nf3 Nc6 9. Qe1! White is too smart to play the weak 9. d4? as occurred in Hamppe-Steinitz, 1859!   Black castled long in that game and won.  He could also play Be7 and castle short.  In either event, f7-f6 will pry open roads to the white king!

9…Qh5 ! Playable is the strange switch 9…Bxf3+!? 10. gxf3 Qa4! but black goes the more natural attacking route.

10. Kd1 Good for a laugh.  This was occurring on the top board of the US Championship!

Black to play and get the better side of a draw

10…Nxe5? A very strange black stumble.  The reason we won’t see this line anymore is 10…Bxf3+ 11. gxf3 Qxf3+ 12. Be2 Qd5! and 13. d4?? is unplayable due to the elementary 13…Nxd4.  But if d4 is not playable, white has problems!  Black retains a comfortable plus.  Let’s go a little further.   12…Qd5! 13. Rf1 (best) O-O-O! 14. Bf3 Qxe5 15. Bxc6 (what else?) Qxe1+ 16. Kxe1 bxc6 17. Rxf7 Bd6 and it’s not easy for white.  His pieces except for the lone rook intruder are totally undeveloped.  Black is better in that ending.   I think any of the old masters would have played this way without hesitation (choose from Emanuel Lasker, Botvinnik, Capablanca, Alekhine, Rubenstein).  Onischuk’s game move is bizarre and not good.

11. Be2! Suddenly white is completely OK  even with chances to get an edge if black is not careful!

11…O-O-O?! 11…Bd6 was playable and a bit stronger also but black is no better than equal in any line.

12. Nxe5 Bxe2+ 13. Qxe2 Qxe2+ 14. Kxe2 Re8 15. d4 f6 16. Be3 fxe5 17. d5! Apparently IM Shirazi won a game like this in the past with white… if Shirazi played it, it’s unsound!  (see note to black’s 10th move).

17…Bd6 18. c4 b6 19. a4 Rhf8 20. a5 Kd7 21. Kd3(?!) To play for a win, white had to try 21. Reb1 with the idea of 21…e4 22. axb6 axb6 23. Ra7!.

21…Rf6 22. Rhf1 e4+ 23. Ke2 Bxh2 24. Rxf6 gxf6 25. Rh1 Bd6 26. Rxh7+ Re7 27. Rh8 Rg7 28. Kf1 Bc5 29. axb6 axb6 30. Bxc5 {Game drawn} 1/2-1/2

Well, what can we say?  Onischuk played aggressively then switched to less aggressively and made a draw.  If he had played the best way on move 10 it would be white struggling.  A successful bluff to gain a half-point with even chances for more (see note to white 21st move)!

The Fabulous 10s: Weirdness in St Louis (US Championship Round 2)

May 15, 2010

Round 2 Jitters

The official St Louis chess club web page says (in a caption of a photo of Kraai wearing an old-timey hat),

“GM Jesse Kraai played the higher-rated GM Varuzhan Akobian to a draw in round two.”  As a good citizen, I wrote it so they could correct it.

Weirdly, Kraai missed a good chance to resist at the very end!

Check it out:

[Event “2010 U.S. Championship”]
[Site “Saint Louis”]
[Round “2”]
[White “Akobian, Varuzhan”]
[Black “Kraai, Jesse”]
[Result “1-0”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c5 Why on earth would Kraai play a Benoni, an opening antithetical to his style?  Just a rhetorical question.  Look at the problems Akobian had with solid Slav’s in the World Team! However, it worked out well for black up to a point given white’s bizarre moves… let’s see it….

4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. Nc3 g6 7. g3 Bg7 8. Bg2 O-O 9. O-O Re8 10. Nd2 a6 11. a4 Nbd7 12. Nc4 Ne5 13. Na3 Bd7 14. Bf4 Nh5 15. Bxe5?! Chess is not so easy.  This should offer nothing.

15…Bxe5 16. Nc4 b5 16…Nf6 is fine for black.  Nothing wrong with the text move.

17. Nxe5 Rxe5 18. e4 Re8 19. Re1 Nf6 I think most routine Benoni players would immediately go for 19…b4! 20. Nb1 f5! 21. Nd2 Nf6! which is completely fine for black.   We should ask Vugar Gashimov what he’d do.

20. Qd2 Qb6?! 20…Ng4! is strong.  After 21. f4 Qb6! black is in no way worse.  However, both players keep playing second-rate moves and a strange roller-coaster ensues.

21. a5 Qd8 22. f4 b4 23. Nd1 Qb8 24. Nf2 Ra7 25. h3? Too slow.  25. Re3!

25…Bc8 26. Re3 26. Nd3!

26…Rae7 27. Rae1 Bb7 27…Nd7!

28. b3 Qd8 29. Kh2 29. e5! and take back on e5 with a rook is quite good for white.

29…Qa8 30. Qb2? 30. e5! is crushing.  It’s very unusual for Akobian to make so many second-rate moves in one game.

30….Nxd5! 31. Ng4 Nxe3???

31…Nc3! and quite amazingly white is held to a small plus after 32. Nf6+ Kf8 33. Nxe8 Qxe8.  For example, 34. Qd2 Qd8 35. e5 Bxg2 36. exd6 Rxe3 37. Qxe3 Qxd6! (37….Bc6?? 38. Qxc5!) and white will have to work hard.

To account for this blunder, Black said he was bothered by his premature draw in round 1.  It’s a long tournament!

32. Nh6+ 1-0

Deathly Hex Hat - must burn it

The hat looks like a Greg Shahade Porkpie special. It’s gotta go. 🙂   I suggest the Lucky Pen (Fedorowicz won the NY Open once with a Lucky Pen!) instead.  It will get Kraai on a lengthy winning streak.

One More Game from Round 2

Further chaos on a higher board…

[Event “2010 U.S. Championship”]
[Site “Saint Louis”]
[Round “2.1”]

[White “Nakamura, Hikaru”]
[Black “Hess, Robert L”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A17”]

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 c5 5. a3 Bxc3 6. Qxc3 O-O 7. b4 d6 8. Bb2
b6 9. g3 Bb7 10. Bg2 Nbd7 11. O-O Rc8 12. d3 Rc7?!
Gearing up to a faulty idea.

Example better line: 12… h6 13. e4 Qe7 14. Rfe1 Rfe8 15. b5 Ra8 16. a4 a5! and it’s OK for black.

13. e4 Qa8 14. Qd2 Rfc8 15. Nh4 b5? This doesn’t work at all.   American juniors almost always have a very tough thing doing nothing in particular.   And, among modern GMs, active Walter Browne lost a lot of games lashing out like this.

16. cxb5 c4 17. dxc4 Bxe4 18. f3 Bb7 19. Rfc1(?!) Easily winning was 19. Qxd6 Rxc4 20. Rf2 Bd5 21. Rd1 and white dominates.
19… Rxc4 20. Rxc4 Rxc4 21. Bf1 Rc8 22. Qxd6 h6
22… Bxf3 looks like a better try.  Now white is totally winning again, but the game is not free of further adventures – see the weird reciprocal blunder on move 33.

23. Rc1 Rxc1 24. Bxc1 g5 25. Ng2 Bxf3 26. Be3 Nb6 27. Bd4 Qd5 28. Qxd5 Nfxd5 29. Ne1 Bd1 30. Nd3 f6 31. Nb2 Bb3 32. Bg2 Kf7 33. Kf2? A serious lapse that is answered by a blunder in return.  Crushing was 33. Bxd5! with the study-like point:  33… exd5 34. a4! Nxa4 35. Bxa7! and wins, very nice!

33… e5?? A really bad blunder.  33… Nc8!  and black can hope for a draw.  For example, 34. a4 Nxb4 35. Bb7 Nd6 36. Bf3 Nc8 37. Bh5+ Kg7 38. a5 Nd5 39. Be8 Nc7 40. Bd7 Nd6 41. Bxa7 Ndxb5 42. Bb8 Bd5 and white has a tiny edge.

34. Bxd5+ Bxd5 35. Bxb6 axb6 36. Na4 f5 37. Nxb6 Ke6 38. a4 If you are curious, yes, 38. Nxd5 wins too.

38…f4 39. a5 Bh1 40. Kg1 Bf3 41. a6 e4 42. Nc4 e3 43. b6 1-0

Let’s See One More

Moving back to a lower board, more jitters!

[Event “2010 U.S. Championship”]
[Site “Saint Louis”]
[Round “2.8”]

[White “Bhat, Vinay S”]
[Black “Kudrin, Sergey”]

[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “D89”]

This game featured some incredible and very difficult to find missed opportunities for white behind the scenes.
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Bc4 c5 8.
Ne2 O-O 9. O-O Nc6 10. Be3 Bg4 11. f3 Na5 12. Bd3 cxd4 13. cxd4 Be6 14. d5 Bxa1
15. Qxa1 f6 16. Bh6 Re8 17. Qd4 Bd7 18. e5
Not a very impressive line, white is soon put in the position of having to find only moves to equalize.

Qb6 19. Qxb6 axb6 20. e6 Ba4 21. Nc3
b5 22. Nxb5?
The first miss.  The brilliant 22. d6!! exd6 23. Re1!  establishes enough domination to hold the balance.  For example, 22…Nc6 (23… Nc4 24. Nd5 f5 25. f4 Kh8 26. Nf6 Nb2 27. Bf1 Rec8 28. a3 b4 29. axb4 Nc4 30. Bd3 Bb5 31. e7 d5 32. Nxd5 Be8) 24. Nd5 f5 25. Bf4 Ne5 26. Bxe5 dxe5 27. Rxe5 Kg7 28. Nc7 and draws.  The maximum coordination established by 22. d6!! is truly remarkable.

22… Red8 23. Nc3 Bc6 24. Be4 Be8 25. Rb1 Rac8 26. Bd2 Nc4 27. Be1 f5? A serious blunder!

27…Nd6 leaves black better.   I can only guess black didn’t see white’s possible reaction.

A Missed Miracle

28. Bd3? Oh no!  White misses a truly incredible shot.   But it takes deep calculation and a keen sense of adventure to take the plunge on it…. do you see it?

It’s 28. Rxb7!! fxe4 29. fxe4 and feast your eyes on this domination!   White is a full rook down… well he has some pawns…. but here’s the kicker – he’s not worse!

First of all, the lame 29…Kf8? loses to  the nice “carom billiards shot” 30. Bh4.
Secondly, 29… g5 30. Rxe7 Bg6 31. Bf2 Re8 32. Rd7 Ne5 33. Bd4 Rxc3 34. Bxe5 is fine for white too. In no line is white worse.  But it was hard to see! The connected pawns set up a mighty force giving plenty of compensation for the oodles of lost material.  It’s really unusual to see how helpless black’s forces are.

28… Ne3! And white loses prosaically.  Too bad!

29. Rxb7 Nxd5 30. Nxd5 Rxd5 31. Be2 Re5 32. Kf1 Rxe6 33. Rb4 Bf7 34. a4 Rc2 35. Bd3 Rc1 36. Be2 Re5 37. Rd4 Be6 38. Kf2 Rc2 39. Rd2 Rxd2 40. Bxd2 Rd5 41. Be3 Kf8 42. Bb6 Rd2 43. Ke1 Rc2 44. f4 Bc4 45. Bf3 e6 46. g3 Rxh2 47. Bf2 Bd5 48. Bd1 Ke7 49. a5 Bb7 50. Kf1 Bg2+ 51. Ke2 Rh1 52. Kd2 Bb7 53. Bb6 h6 54. Be2 Ra1 55. Ke3 Ra3+ 56. Kd4 Rxg3 57. a6 Bxa6 58. Bxa6 h5 59. Ke5 h4 60. Bf2 Rh3 61. Bc4 Rh2 62. Bg1 Rg2 63. Bc5+ Kf7 64. Bxe6+ Kg7 65. Be7 Re2+ 66. Kd6 Rxe6+ 0-1

OK One More

[Event “2010 U.S. Championship”]
[Site “Saint Louis”]
[Round “2.7”]
[White “Shabalov, Alexander”]
[Black “Finegold, Benjamin”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “D10”]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e3 a6 5. b3 Bf5 6. Nf3 e6 7. Be2 Bb4 8. Bd2 Ba3
9. Nh4 Be4 10. Nxe4 Nxe4 11. Nf3 Nd7 12. O-O O-O 13. Be1 a5 14. Qc2 Qe7 15. Nd2
f5 16. Nb1 Bd6 17. f3 Nef6 18. Nc3 Kh8 19. Bf2 Rac8 20. Rad1 Qf7 21. Bd3 Qh5
22. Bg3 Bxg3 23. hxg3 Qg5 24. Qf2 Nh5(?!)

Very strong is the powerful and aesthetic central shot 24… Ne4!!.  White can only grovel to equalize after that move.  25. Nxe4 (I cannot resist showing a mating line after 25. Bxe4 fxe4 26. f4? Qf5 27. Ne2 Nf6 28. Qe1 Ng4 29. Qd2 Qh5 30. Rfe1 Qh2+ 31. Kf1 c5 32. Rc1 cxd4 33. exd4 e3 34. Qc3 g5! 35. Rc2 gxf4 36. gxf4 dxc4 37. bxc4 e5!! 38. dxe5 Qh1+ and already the computer sees a long forced mate, here it is for enjoyment:  39. Ng1 Rxf4+ 40. Ke2 Rd8 41. e6+ Kg8 42. Qd3 Qxg2+ 43. Kd1 Rxd3+ 44. Kc1 Qd2+ 45. Rxd2 exd2+ 46. Kd1 Nf2+ 47. Kc2 Rxc4+ 48. Kb2 Rb4+ 49. Kc2 dxe1=N+ 50. Kc1 Rd1mate!)   Returning to the better 25. Nxe4, 25… dxe4 26. Be2 Nf6 27. f4 Qg6 28. c5 equal.

The game move is actually not bad and white immediately blunders.

25. g4? What’s this? Shabba goes a little bonkers, losing a pawn for nothing.  25. Ne2 was necessary.

25…fxg4 26. f4 Qf6?
Any computer will tell you the “carom shot” 26… Qe7 27. g3 Qb4! is very strong with a distinct edge to black.

27. g3 c5? 28. cxd5 cxd4 29. Ne4! And black has self-destructed.  Too bad!
dxe3 30. Qxe3 Qh6 31. Nd6 exd5 32. Nxc8 Rxc8 33. Bf5 Qd6 34. Qe6 Qc5+ 35. Kh2
Nhf6 36. Rc1 Qf8 37. Rxc8 Qxc8 38. Qe7 h5 39. Re1 h4 40. Bxd7 hxg3+ 41. Kxg3
Qc3+ 42. Re3 Qc2 43. Bxg4 Qb1 44. Re1 Qd3+ 45. Qe3 Ne4+ 46. Kg2 1-0

The Fabulous 10s: The US Championship Begins!

May 14, 2010

The US Championship is underway in St. Louis!

Rex Sinquefield’s gala event has started at the new USA Chess Mecca, St. Louis!

Let’s first take a look at the Ben Finegold of yesteryear (Belgium, 1989).

Ben Finegold and Marc Geenen, Belgium, 1989

Let’s kick things off with two cagey veterans battling:

[Event “US Champ 2010”]
[Site “St Louis”]
[Date “2010.05.14”]
[Round “1”]
[White “Christiansen, Larry”]
[Black “Gurevich, Dmitry”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “B60”]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 Dmitry remains true to his Classical Sicilian.

6. Bg5 Larry also has lots of experience with the Sozin 6. Bc4.

6…Qb6 7. Nb3 e6 8. Qe2!? Unusual.  I think GM Lanka used to teach people like Shirov to put queens on e2 in Sicilians.

8…a6(?!)

Black misses a very cute potential tactic.  Stronger is 8…Be7! hoping for 9. O-O-O O-O 10. g4 – plausible, right?

This would seem to be the idea of 8. Qe2, since it occurred in the game too. Take a look at this for a second.

Position after 10. g4 - analysis.

Now black has the amazing shot 10…Nd5!! and I don’t think I’ve ever seen that move in this type of position.  It at least equalizes in all lines!  Rybka points out here the ingenious 10…Nd5!!  11. Nxd5 Bxg5+ 12. f4 exd5 13. fxg5 and now guess the right move that leads to a small edge for black!  Hint: it’s not obvious.  Also note the nice positional line 10…Nd5!! 11. Bd2 Nxc3 12. Bxc3 e5! with …Bc8-e6 coming and black is very happy.  Finally, 10…Nd5!! 11. Bxe7? Nxc3 is terrible for white.

9. O-O-O Be7 10. g4 Qc7 11. Be3 b5 12. f4 b4 13. Na4 Rb8 14. Bg2 Na5 15. g5 Nd7 16. Nxa5 Qxa5 17. b3 Bb7 18. Kb1 Bc6?! A little dubious.  18…Qb5 is better.

19. Nb2 Bb5 20. Qf2 Qc7 21. h4 Rc8 22. Rd2 a5 23. h5 a4 24. bxa4 Ba6 25. Bf1 Bxf1 26. Qxf1 Qb7 27. Qg2 Nc5 28. Bxc5 Rxc5 29. Rf1 O-O 30. f5 Re8 31. Qg4?

It was very unLarry-like to miss 31. f6!! Bf8 (31… Bd8 32. Rxd6 wins prosaically) 32. g6!! (Very aesthetic!) and wins.  This position deserves a diagram.

Position after 32. g6!! - analysis. White wins.

That would have been a real cruncher!  The bone crushing conclusion would likely have won white the round’s brilliancy prize (I am saying this not knowing if there is one):  32. g6!! hxg6 33. hxg6 gxf6 (what else) 34. gxf7++ Kxf7 35. Rxf6+! (Of course!) 35…Kxf6 (35…Ke7 36. Rdf2 wins) 36. e5+! and wins the black queen – clearance motif!  I will leave it as an exercise to the readers to work out the win after 32. g6!! Rc7.

31… exf5 32. exf5 Bf8 33. g6 Re4? Now black is lost again. The centralizing 33… Qe4! puts up a good fight and the issue is not yet resolved.  If white trades queens or avoids it he’s only working with a small edge.

34. Qg2 hxg6 35. hxg6 fxg6 36. fxg6 Rf5 37. Qh3 Rxf1+ 38. Rd1 1-0

In Other Round 1 Action

GM Stripunsky uncorked a howler on move 2 vs Nakamura:

Stripunsky-Nakamura

1. e4 e6 2. f4?? White crumbles on move 2, losing a tempo. Memo to Nakamura’s future opponents;  see what winning chances he can generate after 2. d4! d5 3. Nd2!.  If the goal in the Championship is to maximize points, the 3. Nd2! variation fits the bill.    Play it for white, it’s not scary!  The goal is not to make an ugly pawn move right out of the gate!  Naturally, Nakamura went on to win this game.  I’ve noticed quite often that players deviate vs. high rated opposition.  But as Yermo teaches us, the main lines are the best lines!    This lesson was also learned the hard way by Joel Benjamin who avoided Closed Ruy main lines for no reason against Onischuk, choosing a deferred exchange sideline which might be good in blitz but is not good to maximize result expectation in a serious game.  Joel got nothing and went on to lose later.  Play into the main Closed Ruys!  They are not scary!

And for Something Different

Twilight: New Moon

I got this photo from ChessBase covering the Corus “C” group in 2010.  It’s Nils Grandelius from Sweden; wouldn’t he fit into the Twilight series?

Room for some Comedy Here?

Philosophy Comedy

Click several times to enlarge until the riotous comedy emerges.   Source article.

Search Engine Terms

Readers used these search terms to reach my site.  Note, as always, the immense popularity of Russian supermodel Anne V.    Some of the more mysterious phrases include “model boxing” and “levon altounian lightning.”

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The Fabulous 10s: Accidental Brilliancies born of blitz

April 9, 2010

9. Nd2 King’s Indian Confuzzlement

Sometimes blitz games create confusion and in the cauldron of confusion bubble forth novelties and “brilliancies.”  Here is a case in point.

IM Aries2 – GM Fier  ICC 5 minute blitz

According to Fier’s finger notes, he is 22 years old, from Brazil, and has a 2581 FIDE rating.  What does one do against a high rating?  Just play directly!

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. d4 g6 3. c4 Bg7 4. Nc3 O-O 5. e4 d6 6. Be2 e5 7. O-O Nc6 8. d5 Ne7 9. Nd2! Somehow the most logical looking move.  I recently made notes to Beliavsky-Nakamura, indicating where white could have played more strongly (Al reached a great game as white then went wrong in the complications).

9…Nd7 Kasparov’s “old” 9…a5 might be better.

10. b4 f5 11…a5 would transpose to a game I won vs GM Peter Biyiasis in Philadelphia 1982 after 12. bxa5 Rxa5 13. a4.  White stands better there.

11. c5 Nf6 11…dxc5 12. bxc5 Nxc5 13. Ba3 offers white great play for the pawn.

12. f3 f4 13. Nc4 g5 14. a4

The course of the game suggests white might be able to do better dispensing with this move and playing 14. Ba3 straightaway.

14…h5 15. Ba3 Ne8 16. Nb5! a6

Pull the trigger!

17. Nxc7! The accidental blitz brilliancy!  This doesn’t regain the piece back right away, but it does set black difficult problems.

Qxc7 18. b5 In blitz, this is almost impossible to solve as black!

18…dxc5 The problem is that a normal defensive move, 18…Rf6, (trying to get white’s dark square bishop off the board), is met by 19. cxd6 Nxd6 20. Nxd6 Rxd6 21. Rc1 Qb8 22. b6! establishing a crushing bind!  A very aesthetic line – white disdains material and keeps his queen bishop.  Feast your eyes on some more moves here: 22…Bf8 23. Qb3 Ng6 24. Rc7! Rd7 25. d6+ Kg7 26. Rfc1! and wins!

19. d6 Nxd6 20. Qxd6 Qxd6 21. Nxd6 b6 22. a5?! Too fancy.  White had “chess memory” of Ginsburg-Christiansen, US Championship 2006, (see position after move 37W) where pawns opposed each other like this with great force for white (also, curiously, Ginsburg-Kriventsov, US Ch. 2006 – after move 23W).  The correct line was the simple mundane 22. Nxc6 Rfxc8 23. bxa6 and white is completely winning.

22…axb5 23. axb6 b4 24. Bc4+ Kh7 25. Bb2 Rb8 26. b7?? Another huge lemon and this one more serious.  The obvious 26. Ra7! won.  The reason being 26…Rxb6 27. Rxe7 Rxd6 28. Bxe5! and wins.

26…Bxb7 27. Ra7 Rfd8? 27…Nc8! would have turned the tables and black would get good winning chances!

28. Rxb7 Rxb7 29. Nxb7 Rd2 30. Rb1 g4 31. Be6 Interesting technical note: the computer points out here 31. fxg4! hxg4 32. Bf1! not giving black ideas against the f3-pawn that happened in the game.

31…gxf3 32. gxf3 c4? Panicky.  32…Ng6 was tougher.

33. Bxc4 Ng6 34. Kf1? 34. Bf7! ended it because 34…Nh4 35. Bxh5 protects f3!  At this point, white didn’t have much time left.

Nh4 35. Be2 Bf8 36. Na5? 36. Bxe5 won but white was just trying not to lose on time.

Ng6 37. Nc4 Rc2 38. Bxe5 Rxc4 39. Bxc4 Nxe5 40. Be2 Bc5 41. Rc1 Bd4 42. Rc7+ Kg6 43. Rb7 Bc3 44. h4 Kf6 45. Bd1 Ng6 46. Rb5 Nxh4 47. Rxh5 Ng6 48. Rb5 White should play 48. Rf5+ then run the king up.

48…Ne5 49. Ke2 Kg5 50. Bb3 Kh4 51. Rb8 Kg3 52. Rg8+ Kh3 53. Be6+ Kh2 54. Rf8 Kg3 55. Rg8+ Kh2 56. Rf8 Kg3 57. Rg8+ {Game drawn by mutual agreement}
1/2-1/2

A good blitz fight, don’t you think.  And some possible theoretical importance in the Nd2 King’s Indian!

From The Archives of Chess Today

Try this study!  (Golubev,  1984).

White to play and win.


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: Beliavsky and Gelfand Hopelessly Confused by Nakamura’s King’s Indian

January 9, 2010

The Sharpest King’s Indian

At the World Team today GM Nakamura scored a key victory leading the USA over Israel, 2.5 – 1.5  Last year, Nakamura also confounded GM Beliavsky in the same variation at the “Rising Stars vs Experience” match in Holland.  Let’s see this perplexing King’s Indian.

[Event “Rising Stars vs Experience”]
[Site “Netherlands”]

[Date “2009.??.??”]
[White “Beliavsky, Alexander”]
[Black “Nakamura, Hikaru”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “E97”]

For a certain time, Beliavsky played very strongly in this sharp line.
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. O-O Nc6 8. d5
Ne7 9. Nd2

Starting Point

9…Ne8 Old school logic didn’t like this move; it doesn’t control c5. In Kasparov’s heyday, it was thought black needed  Nf6-d7 and…a7-a5 in some order to hold white up.  We might see a resurgence of ….a5 if white’s resources pointed out in this article hold up.

10. b4 f5 11. c5 Nf6 12. f3 f4 13. Nc4 g5 14. a4 Ng6 15. Ba3 Rf7

Toddlin' down the main line road

Doesn’t it look like white is faster and therefore better?  It looks that way to me.  That means we should be trying very hard to figure out what Beliavsky and Gelfand did wrong, since it’s counter-intuitive!

16. a5(!)

(In today’s Gelfand-Nakamura game, very strange things happened after black blitzed out the refreshingly barbaric pawn storm  16. b5 dxc5 17. Bxc5 h5 18. a5 g4 19. b6 g3 20. Kh1 Bf8 21. d6 axb6 22. Bg1 Nh4!

Black plays to bother the white king and threatens a standard sac.  Gelfand’s response is suprisingly weak for this veteran 2700-plus player playing white.  Do you think part of the reason was that black was playing instantly?  Sometimes that leads the other player to overlook key resources and become rattled.

Puzzle for Boris

23. Re1? (White has to recognize the danger and play the non-standard 23. hxg3! fxg3 24. Be3! after which black’s knight on h4 just blocks.  For example, 24… Bh3 25. Rg1! Bxg2+ 26. Rxg2 Nxg2 27. Kxg2 Bxd6 28. Nxd6 Qxd6 29. Qxd6 cxd6 30. Bc4 and white is on the better side of a draw.  On other black moves, white proceeds in the center and the queenside.  Bg5 is also threatened in some lines and at least, white is not getting mated!

23… Nxg2! Since black was blitzing, it was probably all prep.  Still, it is amazing that despite the oceans of time white consumed, he seems to have missed the tactical detail of the “forever” mate on g2 stopping his intended capture of black pieces.
24. dxc7? Another mistake.  He has to try 24. Kxg2 Rg7 25. dxc7 gxh2+ 26. Kh1 hxg1=Q+ 27. Rxg1 and white appears safe.  Can black improve?

24… Nxe1! Now it’s all over; white has embarrassingly lost.

25. Qxe1  g2+ 26. Kxg2 Rg7+ 27. Kh1 Bh3 28. Bf1 Qd3! Oops.  That g2 mate again.  What a debacle!

29. Nxe5 Bxf1 30. Qxf1 Qxc3 31. Rc1 Qxe5 32. c8=Q Rxc8 33. Rxc8 Qe6 and white gave up, 0-1 Gelfand-Nakamura World Team 2010.

Going back to Big Al Beliavsky, where white has good chances (at this point!),

16… h5 17. b5 dxc5 18. b6! I like Beliavsky’s way of NOT taking on c5 yet with the bishop as in the Gelfand-Nakamura game .

18…g4 19. bxc7 Rxc7 20. Nb5! (20. Qb3 g3 21. Nb5 Nxe4 22. fxe4 (22. h3 Qh4 23. d6 Bxh3 is black’s main idea, and it works!) 22…Qh4 and black crashes through.  Alexander’s move looks highly logical)

20… g3 This is black’s only move.  Still doesn’t it look like black’s position is hanging by a thread?

The obvious threat is Nxe4 and Qh4.  I think white’s next move is not the best.  This is the critical moment that I bet Al wishes he could do over.  Up to now, I find white’s play to be fantastically logical and he’s made inroads on the queenside and the center.  He has to deal with black’s (only) play against his King involving a N/f6 sacrifice and then Q to h4 with an intended mating attack.   This unidimensional idea, though, is hard to stop and explains the appeal of the line from black’s point of view.  Looking at the next diagram, how to finesse it so that black’s attack is stopped (if the attack is stopped, white’s positional trumps should win)?

Puzzle for Big Al

21. Nxc7? This allows the threat.  Better, I think, is 21. Qc2!! disallowing black’s intended tricks.  For example, none of black’s standard knight sacs work now. 21… Nxe4? (21… Nxd5? 22. exd5 Qh4 23. h3 Bxh3 24. gxh3 Qxh3 25. Bd3! (Don’t you like how the subtle 21. Qc2!! guards the h2 square laterally, I do!) 25… Nh4 26. Be4 g2 27. Rfe1 and white wins) 22. Qxe4 Qh4 23. hxg3! Exploiting the pin; black cannot organize the standard mate now.  23…Qxg3 24. Nxc7 Nh4 25. Rf2 Bh3 26. Bd3!  and it turns out that white is one that wins by attack on black’s king, a refreshing change (from white’s point of view).  Continuing, 26… Bxg2 27. Qh7+ Kf7 28. Nxe5+ Ke7 29. Bxc5+ Kd8 30. Ne6+ and mates.

In the game, white missed some more tactical details and lost, but I think we should focus on the 21. Qc2! improvement.

For completeness, 21. Qc2! Ne8? also fails.  22. Nxc7 Qh4 23. h3 Bxh3 24. gxh3 Qxh3 25. Bd3! (always this resource to use the white queen in defense!) 25…Nxc7 and now white beats black back with an aesthetic defense: 26. Qg2 Qd7 27. Qh1!! h4 28. Kg2! and wins.  Wow!

And if black moves the rook from c7 admitting the attack is over, it is hopeless: 21. Qc2! Rf7 22. Bxc5 and 22. Ncd6 are both crushing.   21. Qc2! Rd7 22. Bxc5 is similarly winning.

21… Nxe4 22. Ne6 Bxe6 23. dxe6 gxh2+ 24. Kxh2 Qh4+ 25. Kg1
Ng3 26. Bxc5 e4 27. Ra4 Rc8 28. Bxa7 b5 29. Rb4 bxc4 30. Bxc4 Qh1+ 31. Kf2 e3+ 32. Bxe3 fxe3+ 33. Kxe3 Nxf1+ 34. Bxf1 Qg1+ 0-1

Conclusion:  I think white should be able to play accurately and maintain an edge in this extremely sharp variation.  However, he has to be fully awake and as tactically alert as black!

Why So Serious?

It’s good to break up theory with some blitz.

[Event “ICC 5 0”]
[Site “Internet Chess Club”]
[Date “2010.01.10”]
[White “aries2”]
[Black “FredyMatsuura”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ICCResult “Black resigns”]
[WhiteElo “2404”]
[BlackElo “2212”]
[Opening “French: Winawer, Alekhine (Maróczy) gambit”]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Ne2 Nf6?! 5. e5 Nfd7 6. a3 Be7?! 7. f4 b6?! 8. f5! exf5?! 9. Nxd5 Bb7 10. Nef4 O-O 11. Bc4 c5? 12. e6! Nf6 13. exf7+ Kh8 14. Nxf6 Bxf6 15. Qh5! {Black resigns} 1-0

The Fabulous 00s: Scorpions Continue Winning Ways

October 29, 2009

Week 9 USCL Action: Arizona 3 Seattle 1

Going into the match, I was not hopeful at all about our chances.   HA81 said we would lose by the distance between two raindrops.  We were not sure what a “raindrop” is, but weather-wise we had woes: Tucson had encountered a cold snap and temperatures had dropped from the 80s to the 60s.  Our team was besides itself looking in closets for emergency general-use hoodies.  And, one of our team assistants came into the room having previously suffered from a combination of Swine Flu, Mono, and Regular Flu.  It was a potent and potentially lethal combination of virii.  Did you enjoy that plural of the word ‘virus’?  I know I did.  Virii!  In college, I took Virology (a Graduate-level course) from Dr. Jane Flint at Princeton.  I was a junior and full of hubris.  Having failed the first midterm with a 47 out of 200, (I was told this was more like a “K” or an “L” than an “F”),  I learned fortuitously I still had a day left to “Drop Class” option.  And Drop Class I did.  I’m going to have to blame the Student Union here.  They served beer to anyone (NJ was an “18” drinking age state at that time). But I remember that word, virii!  In summary, if elected, I pledge to bring back “18” drinking age states!

Here is a photo of our fourth board, Amanda Mateer, going over some opening possibilities with our first board, Alejandro Ramirez at the playing site (Agricultural Resource Economics Center, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ).  You know what they say about prep, the substantial majority of the time is spent on stuff that did not occur.

prep

Prep Time

Soon it was time to start and the games got into full swing.  I went to our commentary room down the hall and monitored the progress from there.

The first board, Nakamura-Ramirez, turned into a very interesting strategical affair in an Alekhine’s.

Board 1. GM Nakamura – GM Ramirez  Alekhine’s Defense

1.e4 Insta-moved (after Naka was 20 minutes late to the board)

1…Nf6 Insta-moved.

2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.c4 4. Nf3 is a whole different story.

3…Nb6 5.exd6! 5. f4 had its heyday in the 1970s and never came back. Ljubo defended some wild games on the black side.

5…exd6 6.Bd3 Be7 7.Ne2 0-0 8.0-0 Nc6 9.Nbc3 Re8 10.Be3 Nb4 11.b3 Nxd3 12.Qxd3 Bf6 13.Rad1

alek000

Tough Road Ahead

A nice setup for white. Although black nominally has won the bishop pair, he must still work hard to equalize from this start position.

13…g6

Interesting.  Yermo was kibitzing and liked 13…Bg4 but it appears 14. Rde1! with the idea of Ne2-f4, defusing black’s plan of Bg4-h5-g6, leaves white with a plus.

14.a4 A good idea for white here would be 14. Ng3! controlling f5 and preventing black’s equalizing plan.

14…d5 15.c5 Bf5 16.Qd2 Nc8 17.Bh6 Ne7 18.h3 Be6 19.g4 Bh8 This bishop has to get out of the way to prepare …f7-f5 later, which will be a necessary space-gaining defensive mechanism.

20.Qf4 Nc6 21.Qg3 Qd7 22.Bf4 Rac8 23.Rd2 a6 24.Rb1 b6 25.b4 bxc5 26.bxc5 Na5

Typical of the Alekhine’s, the horse finds a nice spot on c4.  Black is fine.

27.Kh2 f5 28.g5 Bf7(?!)

28…Nc4!? 29. Rdd1 c6 is a very solid way to play.

29.Rdd1 Qc6

The queen looks a little strange here.

30.Ng1! Nc4 31.Nf3 Bg7 32.Re1 Suddenly black has problems!  White can choose when to occupy e5 especially with a bishop.  If black is not careful, the wrong pieces will come off the board and white will have a crushing grip on the dark squares.

alek001

Problems Surface!

32…Re4!? A radical Petrosian-style attempt to upset things, and it surprisingly works!  It’s often the case that “disorienting” moves work well.  However, in this particular position, white could have found his way clear to a plus.

33.Nxe4 dxe4 34.Ne5 Bxe5

alek002

Key Moment

35.Bxe5? After 35. dxe5 white is better.  For example,  35…Qxc5 36. Rec1! (an important move) 36… Qe7 37. Qb3! Nxe5 38. Qb7!.   Also, enjoy the geometric 36…Rd8 37. Qe3!! – imagine that occurring in a USCL game, the spectators would go nuts! This sort of tactical play is normally Nakamura’s forte.  He may have overlooked black’s response in the game.

35…Nd2!

A nice fully equalizing shot! Most ICC kibitzers were simply calling for black’s demise here, focusing on the ratings of the players, not the board.  I reminded them to look at the board and general confusion started to take over.  Then the kibitzers switched to the “black is mated on the dark squares” theory but that just isn’t happening here.

36.Qc3 Nf3+ 37.Kg3 Nxe1 38.Qxe1 Qxa4 39.Qc3 39. Rb7 is equal.  The text actually gives black something to work with.

39…Bd5 40.c6 Qxc6 41.Qxc6 Bxc6 42.Rc1 Bd5 43.Ra1

alek003

Quiz Time

43…Bc4 44.Rc1 Bd5 45.Ra1    1/2-1/2

A draw was a good result for us, but actually now, in the calm of the next day, the position is good for black.  As a test for yourself, can you identify a 43rd move for black that keeps very good winning chances?   Nobody noticed it while the game was in progress; it’s a hard quiz.

Stay tuned: I will post the other games in this spot.

Board 2.  Altounian-Mihaliuk

Good prep by Levon.

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qh4 Nxc3 7.dxc3 Nc6 8.Bf4 f6 9.Bh6 This two-step with the bishop is all Greek to me, but apparently it was Levon’s comfort zone as he was playing rapidly.

9…e5 10.Bxf8 Kxf8 11.Qh6+ Kf7 12.e4 Be6 13.Bb5 g5?

Black should play 13…Qe7.

14.h4 g4 15.Nh2 Qe8 16.Be2 To show how positions can be approached differently, I would play here castles short, and (with perhaps Qe3 thrown in), then play f2-f4 with numerous very nasty threats to pry open black’s king like a sardine can.  Levon plays a completely different plan.

16…Qg8 17.0-0-0 Qg6 18.Nxg4 Qxh6+ 19.Nxh6+ Kg6 20.Ng4 And so white is just a pawn up with a big time edge.  Levon converts easily.

20…Rad8 21.b3 a5 22.Ne3 Ne7 23.g3 a4 24.Kb2 Rxd1 25.Rxd1 Ra8 26.Bc4 Bxc4 27.Nxc4 b5 28.Ne3 axb3 29.axb3 Re8 30.Rd7 c6 31.g4 h5 32.f3 Black resigns 1-0

Board 3   Milat – Adamson Benko Gambit

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 g6 6.Nc3 Bxa6 7.g3 d6 8.Bg2 Bg7 9.Nf3 Nbd7 10.Rb1 Nb6 11.b3 Bc8 12.Nh4 h6 13.Qc2 Qd7 14.Bb2 g5 I guess this is all topical theory, but black’s position is very precarious.

15.Nf3 Bb7 16.Rd1 0-0 17.0-0 Ra7 18.e4 Rc8 19.Rfe1 Ng4 20.h4 Ne5 21.Nxe5 Bxe5 22.hxg5 hxg5 23.Qe2 g4 It looks like black has to do this, but it’s very sharp and black had little time left.

24.Qe3 Kh7 25.f4 gxf3 26.Qxf3 Rg8 27.Qh5+ Kg7 28.Bh3 Qe8 But now white spends most of his time and accepts a draw offer!   Kg7 to f8 is not THAT scary.

Given the match situation, white must play on.  Boo. Game drawn by mutual agreement 1/2-1/2

Board 4.  Mateer-Sinanan  Nimzo-Indian

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0-0 5.e4 d5 6.e5 Ne4 7.Bd3 c5 8.cxd5 exd5 9.Nge2 Nc6 I don’t know theory, but black does not seem to be doing well here.  In addition, he was spending a lot of time.

10.0-0 Bxc3 11.bxc3 cxd4 12.Ba3 Interesting.  I expected 12. cxd Nb4 13. Qb1 Nxd3 14. Qxd3 with a definite plus.

12…Re8 13.cxd4 Qa5 14.Bxe4 dxe4 15.Bd6 Bg4 16.Ng3 Qd5 17.h3 Nxd4 18.Qb2 Bf3! A clever way to confuse.

19.gxf3 Nxf3+ 20.Kg2? It worked!  20. Kh1! is correct. Then black can play 20…Qe6 to set up the game drawing mechanism.

20…Nh4+? 20…e3! 21. fxe3 Nxe5+ and the bishop on d6 falls.

21.Kh1 Qe6 22.Kh2 Nf3+ 23.Kg2 White offered a draw and indeed this is just a draw.  Black should take it because first of all he’s a piece down; secondly every half point matters in USCL play and his game move was patently hopeless.  The real problem in this match was Milat not fighting on in the board 3 struggle enjoying a substantial time advantage and a plus pawn.

23…Ng5 24.Rh1 Qg6 25.Qe2 f5 26.Qh5 f4 27.Qxg6 hxg6 28.Nf1? Note here 28. h4! just ends the game in white’s favor.

28…Nf3 29.h4 Rac8 30.Rb1 b6 31.e6! Rxe6 32.Bxf4 Once again white is just winning.

32…Rc2 33.a3 Ra2 34.Rb3 Rc6 35.Ng3 Nd4 36.Rb4 Ne6 37.Be3 Rxa3 38.Nxe4 Rc2 39.Kf3 Rd3 40.Ra1 Rd7 41.Rba4 Rcc7 42.Ng5 Nd8 43.Bf4 Rb7 44.Re1 Re7 45.Rae4 Nc6 46.Bd6! A nice way to finish up.

46…Nd4+ 47.Kg2 Black resigns 1-0

When all was said and done, we had won the match 3-1!  Quite an upset!  And nobody was happier than Amanda Mateer, who found a nice Bd6! move to finish her game!  To his credit, her opponent NM Sinanan refused a draw in a drawn position (forced repetition) to battle on for his team a piece down. Some would just call it foolhardy, but it did give Amanda the much-coveted t-shirt.

Here’s a photo of the happy team.

team

The Happy Squad

From left to right:  Levon Altounian, Robby Adamson, Amanda Mateer, and Alejandro Ramirez.

We attracted quite a few fans in the commentary room.  There was even a dork wearing a strange T-Shirt (much inferior to the one Amanada Mateer won from Endgame Clothing!).

yale

Dorky Spectator

Yale Wing Chun Kung-Fu at a Scorpions-Seattle match?!

The Fabulous 00s: Drunken Madness at NH Rising Stars Tournament

August 27, 2009

Madness, I tell you, Madness (or Sickness)

In Nakamura-Ljuobjevic  NH Rising Stars Tournament (in progress, Amsterdam, Holland), white fell into a move order trap that I have committed while drunk in ICC blitz.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 g6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Bg7 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Be3 Nf6 7. Bc4 Qa5 8. Nb3? Excitable GM Ljubojevic must have fallen off his chair as white falls into a dusty, old, move-order trap.  Note that Ljubojevic was my personal chess hero in the 1970s for his crazy openings and extreme tactics.  Play over, for example, two Ljubo demolitions of GM Lev Alburt.   Alekhine’s Defense Demolition #1 (Malta Olympiad, 1980) and  Alekhine’s Defense Demolition #2, even nicer, NY Open 1985.

Correct is 8. O-O and if 8…Ng4?! (8… d6 9. h3 O-O 10. Bb3 Bd7  is normal with such players as Tal drawing the black side)  9. Qxg4 Nxd4 10. Nd5! guarantees white an edge, and white went on to win, in Ciric,D-Ilievski,D/Novi Sad 1965.  And 8. O-O has the added benefit of being able to keep a complicated game!

8… Qb4! I have had the same sinking feeling as white in ICC blitz.

No Way Out

No Way Out

9. Bd3 Note here there is the interesting gambit which I did not spot at all, 9. Nd2!? Qxb2 10. Nb5 which in no way is worse than the game move.   For example, GM Zapata drew A. Hoffman at Santos 2001. Objectively, the gambit isn’t good but it offers more complexity.

9… Nxe4 10. Bxe4 Bxc3+ 11. bxc3 Qxe4 Now white is just down a center pawn and the position is simplified.  In the chess.fm radio blog interview, Nakamura tried to pass this off as prep.  I would do the same, white’s 8th move is a nice cupcake for black. Admittedly, Ljubo does make some mistakes coming up, but this position is just not good for white (and not too many chances to complicate, either).

12. O-O d6 After 12… O-O black is comfortably better.  For example, 13. Re1 Qh4 (13… Qc4! 14. Nd4 d6 and yes, White is worse:  aries2-totalfish, icc 5 0 blitz, 7/8/08.  White duly lost.  One of my drunken blitz disasters.

13. Re1 Qg4?! In these lines, 13… Qc4 is always the strongest keeping maximum eye on the important center light squares.

14. f3 Qh5?! Again, the queen should like to nest on c4!

15. Qd2 Be6 16. Nd4 Nxd4 17. Bxd4 Rg8?! Much simpler and stronger was 17… O-O with an instructive sample line 18. a4 a6! 19. Rab1 b5! 20. axb5 axb5 21. Qd3 Bc4 22. Qe4 e5 and black is developing a big initiative.

18. a4! Naka finds his chance and the game is equal!

18…g5 19. Rab1 b6 20. h3 Qg6 21. a5 h5 22. axb6 axb6 23. Rxb6 g4 24. fxg4 hxg4 25. h4 Qh5 25…g3! is a good move after which it’s equal but easy to play for black.

26. Qe2 Rc8 The nice trap here was 26… Qxh4?? 27. Qb5+ Kf8 28. Rb8+ Bc8 29. Rxa8 Qxe1+ 30. Qf1 Qe6 31. Qe2! Qf5 32. Qa6! and white wins.  Very geometric.

27. Reb1 Qxh4 28. Rb8 g3 29. Qb5+? The key moment.  29. Rxc8+ leads to a drawn game.

29… Kf8 30. Qc6 Qg4 31. Rxc8+ Bxc8 32. Rf1 Rg6 33. Rf4 Qd7 34. Qe4 Kg8 Here, black misses the incisive 34… f5 !35. Qd5 e6 36. Qc4 e5 37. Rh4 Kg7 38. Bb6 f4!

35. Be3 e5 36. Rf1 f5 37. Qc4+ Qe6 38. Qc7 f4 39. Qd8+ Kg7? More accurate was 39… Kh7! 40. Bb6 Bb7! 41. c4 f3 42. Qh4+ Rh6 43. Qxg3 fxg2 and black wins.

40. Ra1 Rf6 41. Bb6 Bb7 42. Ra7 Qd5 43. Qd7+ Kh6 44. Qh3+ Kg5 45. Ra1 Rf8 46. Be3 Kg6?! This will win eventually, but a real bone-crushing blow here was 46… Qxg2+! 47. Qxg2 Bxg2 48. Kxg2 fxe3 49. Kxg3 e4 50. Re1 Rf3+ 51. Kg2 Kf4 52. Re2 Rg3+ 53. Kf1 Kf3 and white must resign!

Black could also greedily grab, 46… fxe3 47. Qxg3+ Kh6 48. Qh3+ Kg7 49. Qg4+ Kf6 50. Rf1+ Ke7 51. Qg5+ Ke8 52. Qg6+ Rf7 53.
Qg8+ Ke7 54. Rxf7+ Qxf7 55. Qg5+ Kd7 56. Qxe3 Qd5 57. Qf2 Qxg2+ 58. Qxg2 Bxg2 and he will win.  But 46…Qxg2+! was by far the most aesthetic and convincing win.

47. c4 (47. Qg4+ Kf7 48. Qh5+ Ke7 49. Qh7+ Rf7 50. Qh4+ Ke8 51. Qh8+ Kd7) 47… Qe4 48. Bb6 Kg5 0-1

The Never Ending Tactical Amusement of ICC Blitz

Now let’s see some blitz tactics.

vcs (2343) – aries2  King’s Indian Defense

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 O-O 5. h3 d6 6. Bg5 Nc6 7. d5 Ne5 8. f4?! A little too soon.
Ned7 9. Nf3 c6 10. Bd3 Qb6 11. Qd2 Nc5 12. Bc2
Black to play and amazingly enough from this normal-looking position, win!

Black to play and Win

Black to play and Win

12…cxd5? Wrong!   The harsh computer points out 12….Nxd5!! winning!

13. cxd5 Qxb2 14. O-O Qb4? (14…Qb6) 15. Rab1 Qa5 16. e5 dxe5 17. fxe5 Nfd7 18. Rb5 and now white is just better.  Oh well.

18…Qa3 19. Bxe7 Re8 20. Bd6 a6 21. Nb1 Qxa2 22. Rxc5 Nxc5 23. Bxc5 Bxe5 24. Nxe5 Rxe5 25. Bxg6 Qxd2 26.
Bxf7+ Kg7 27. Nxd2 Rf5 28. Rxf5 Bxf5 29. Bh5 a5 30. Nc4 a4 31. Nb6 Ra6 32. Be2 Ra5 33. Bd4+ Kf7 34. d6 a3 35. Bc4+ Ke8 36. Ba2 Rb5 37. g4 Bd7 38. Kf2
Rb4 39. Ke3 h5 40. gxh5 Bxh3 41. h6 Rb5 42. h7 Rh5 43. h8=Q+ Rxh8 44. Bxh8 Kd8 45. Bf7 {Black resigns} 1-0

And yet another fantastic blitz tactical set of puzzles:

IM Aries2 – IM Porkchopstamer  ICC Blitz 5/0    Modern Defense

1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 a6 4. h4 d5!? Very frisky!

5. exd5 Nf6 6. Bg5 Nxd5 7. h5 Well, I’m happy.  Black now eggs me on to a piece sac, and we clearly have different ideas about it.

7…h6 Precipitating the crisis.

Sacking against the Pork

Sacking against the Pork

8 . hxg6! hxg5 9. gxf7+ Kf8 10. Rxh8+ Bxh8 11. Qh5 Bg7 12. Nf3 g4 So here we are.  White to play, what’s the best move?  What’s the correct result?

White's gotta be precise here

White's gotta be precise here

13. Ng5? This natural move is wrong!  I am so focused on the possibility of Nh7+ later, I miss the right move.

The crushing move as Rybka rudely mentions is 13. Ne5!! and it never entered my sphere of attention!   Take a look:  13…Nxc3 (13… Bxe5 14. dxe5 Nxc3 (14… Nc6 15. Qg6 e6 16. Qg8+ Ke7 17. Nxd5+ exd5 18. Qg7 Qf8 19. Qf6+ Kd7 20. O-O-O Ne7 21. Be2 wins beautifully by complete paralysis) 15. Qh7 and wins prosaically) 14. Qh7 e6 15. Qg8+ Ke7 16. Qxg7 and wins)

13… Nf6 14. Qg6 Nc6 15. Bc4? Again, I miss a nice shot. 15. Nce4!! Nxd4 16. Nxf6 exf6 17. Nh7+ Ke7 18. O-O-O Bf8 19. Qxf6+ Kd7 20. Nxf8+ Qxf8 21. Rxd4+ Qd6 22.
f8=Q and wins)

15… e6 16. Bxe6 Ne7 17. Qd3 Bh6 18. Nh7+ (18. Nce4 Kg7 (18… Nxe4? 19. Nh7+ Kg7 20. f8=Q+ Qxf8 21. Nxf8 wins) 19. Bxc8 Bxg5 20. Bxb7 Nxe4 21. Qxe4 Rb8
22. Qxg4 Ng6 23. Bxa6 Rxb2 24. Bd3 Nf4 25. Be4)

18… Nxh7 19. Qxh7 Bxe6? And now it’s black’s turn to miss an absolutely beautiful shot.  19…Bd2+!!  would have won the day for him! Continuing, 20. Kxd2 Qxd4+ 21. Ke1 Bxe6 22. Rd1 Qe5+ 23. Kf1 Bxf7 and it’s all over – an incredible defense!

20. Qxh6+ Kxf7 21. Ne4 Bf5 22. Ng5+ Kg8 23. O-O-O?! (23. Ne6! Bxe6 24. Qxe6+ Kg7 25. Qe5+ Kf7 26. Qf4+ Kg7 27. Qe5+ Kf7 28. Qf4+ and I salvage a draw.

23… Qd6! Black finds the right moves, but don’t pay attention to the rest, it’s just a crazy blitz scramble now.

24. Qh4 Qg6 25. Rh1 Kf8 26. Qh8+ Ng8 27. f4 Re8 28. Nh7+ Ke7 29. Qe5+ Kd8 30. Qc5 Kc8 31. Ng5 Nf6 32. Rd1 Ne4 33. Nxe4 Bxe4 34. Qg5 Qe6 35. d5 Kb8 36. dxe6 Bxg2 37. Qg6 Bd5 38. Qxe8+ Ka7 39. Qe7 Bc6 40. f5 Be8 41. f6 Bh5 42. Qf8 g3 43. f7 g2 44. Qg7 g1=Q 45. Qxg1+ 1-0

Award for the Wealthiest Strongest Player I’ve Never Heard Of

A bizarre CNN money article on Chris Flowers.

In high school Flowers was a math whiz and a chess champion.”

“Sure, he enjoys outdoor activities: He likes to sail near his vacation home in North Haven, Maine, and he recently returned from a sailing trip off the coast of Croatia. But it seems no accident that he prefers chess — a contemplative, intense mind teaser of a pastime — to the social staples of banking, golf and tennis.”   Yes, the social staple of “banking” is quite the social hobby (huh, who is writing this stuff??).

Maybe it’s this guy (from uschess.org rating list):

14051263 (FL) 2009-11-30   975P  1077P  FLOWERS, CHRISTOPHER M 

The Fabulous 00s: Almost a Curious Double Manufactured at Biel 2009

July 29, 2009

Game One

In our first game, we get one hot off the Presses at Biel 2009:

[Event “Biel 2009”]
[Date “2009.07.28”]
[White “Alexander Morozevich”]
[Black “Maxime Vachier-Lagrave”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “B80”]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. f3 e6 7. Be3 b5 8. Qd2 Nbd7 9. g4 h6 10. O-O-O b4 11. Nce2 Qc7 12. h4 d5 13. Nf4 e5 14. Nfe6!

This is not the first time Vachier-Lagrave has stepped on a land mine opponent preparation.  Nakamura demolished him spectacularly with homework in the Benko Gambit at Cap D’Agde, 2009.  Having sharp, narrow repetoires makes it fairly easy for nasty accidents to occur.

14… fxe6 15. Nxe6 Qa5 16. exd5 Qxa2 17. Qd3 Kf7 18. g5 Nxd5 19. Bh3 Nxe3 20. Nd8+ Ke7 21. Nc6+ Kf7 22. g6+?

This was the first golden chance to put away the young French player who so far, had just been carried along by the tide.

22. Be6+!!

This would have been one of the best games of 2009

This would have been one of the best games of 2009

Position after 22. Be6+!! (analysis)

It’s a chessic shame that Moro missed this amazing, deep shot.

22…Kxe6 (clearly 22…Qxe6 23. Nd8+ wins)  23. Qg6+ Nf6 24. gxf6 gxf6 25. Qe8+ Kf5 26.  Nd4+!! Kf4 27. Ne2+ Kf5 28. Ng3+ Kf4 29. Nh5+!

This is a fantastic pendulum!

Pendulum .... Guillotine

Pendulum .... Guillotine

29…Kxf3 (29… Kf5 30. Rd4 Qa1+ 31. Kd2 wins) 30. Qc6+ e4 31. Qxf6+ Bf5 32. Rh3+ Kg2 33. Rh2+ Kf3 34. Rf1+ Nxf1 35. Qxf5+ Ke3 36. Qf2 mate!   This would have been a fitting end to the game.  Of course, it’s a Caissic horror that Moro goes on to miss a more banal and crude win on move 26.  Pauvre Moro.

22… Kg8 23. Qxe3 Bc5 24. Qe4 Nf8 25. Rd8 Bb7 26. Rxa8? Another big miscue.   White had the rather crude 26. Rxf8+! Rxf8 (26… Kxf8 27. Qf5+ Ke8 28. Qxe5+ wins; 26…Bxf8 27. Qxe5 hits c5 and threatens Be6+, this wins too.   If 27. Qxe5 Bc8, 28. Qe8! mates!  Let’s play over the rest of the sickness without comment because I want you to compare the positions arising from 22. Be6+!! to Game 2!

26… Bxa8 27. h5 Rh7 28. Re1 (28. gxh7!+ Kh8 29. Kd2) 28… Bxc6 29. Qxc6 Bd4 30. Kd2 Qxb2 31. Qc4+ Kh8 32. Kd3 a5 33. Qc8 Qa3+ 34. Ke4 b3 35. cxb3
a4 36. Rb1 Qb4 37. Qc4 Qb7+ 38. Qd5 Qb4 39. Qc4 Qd2 40. Bg4 a3 41. Qf7 Qc2+ 42. Kd5 Qc5+ 43. Ke4 a2 44. Rc1 a1=Q 45. Rxc5 Bxc5 46. Qd5 Qe1+ 47. Kd3 Qd1+ 48.
Kc4 Qxd5+ 49. Kxd5 Ba3 50. Bf5 Kg8 51. Kxe5 Rh8 52. Kd5 Nh7 53. gxh7+ Kf7 54. Bg6+ Kf6 55. f4 Bc1 56. f5 Bd2 57. Kd6 Be1 58. Kd7 Bb4 59. Kc7 Ke5 60. Kd7 Ba3
61. Kc6 Kd4 62. Kc7 Kc3 63. Kd7 Kb4 64. Kd6 Kxb3+ 65. Kd5 Bb2 66. Kd6 Bf6 67. Kc5 Kc3 68. Kd6 Kd4 69. Kc6 Rd8 70. Kb6 Kd5 71. Kc7 Kc5 72. Bf7 g5 73. fxg6 Rd6
74. Be8 Be5 75. Kb7 Rb6+ 76. Kc8 Kd6 0-1

Game 2

Here’s the Doppelganger, note the very curious positions of the Kings.

IM Ginsburg – NM Jack Young, New England 199?

Dutch Defense, Sjödin Gambit


1. d4 e6 2. Nf3 f5 3. e4 fxe4 4. Ng5!?

The strange Sjödin Gambit (so named, as explained to me by GM Ferdinand Hellers, after a Swedish amateur player). Sjödin is a tough word to pronounce! It’s something like “Shuhhh-DEEN.” Joel Benjamin tried this move versus a Russian 2400+ and was successful, although his game was not without chances for black.

4…Nf6 5. f3

young1.png

5…exf3

Black must seriously consider 5…h6 6. Nh3, one of the main alternatives to drive the menacing WN offside. In addition, I think Joel’s opponent played 5…c5!? to challenge the dark squares and got a good game; the trick is 6. fxe4 cxd4 7. e5?? Qa5+! picking up the e5-pawn.

6. Qxf3 Nc6 7. Bd3?

7. c3 was circumspect. The wild text move is unsound. But if it had not been played, we wouldn’t have the following (possibly unique? – see below) crazy game. Them’s the breaks.

7…Nxd4 Of course. If your opponent hangs center pawns, take them.

8. Qh3 d5! Refuting white’s coffeehouse antics.

9. Nxh7 Nxh7 10. Bxh7 Nxc2+ 11. Ke2 Kd7!

young2.png

Very convincing. White has very few resources left.

12. Rf1 Nxa1 13. Rf7+ Kc6?! A fairly easy win is 13…Be7 14. Bg5 Re8 15. Qc3 b6 and white runs out of steam. Black is still winning after the text, but he’ll need to find a tough move shortly.

14. Qc3+ Kb6 15. Be3+ c5 16. b4 At least white is making a little trouble now. The game is starting to take on very strange overtones. Watch the black king double back now and head into the center!

young3.png

16…d4?

Finally black goes wrong. The difficult deflection, using a ‘doomed piece’, 16…Nb3!! still wins. For example, 17. axb3 d4! and white doesn’t have the b2 queen check as in the game. Or, 17. Qxb3 Bd7 18. bxc5++ Kc7 and black wins as well.

17. bxc5+ Bxc5 18. Qb2+ Kc6 19. Nc3? Too fancy, I was carried away. Correct is 19. Be4+! Kd6 20. Bxd4 and white wins.

19…Qb6? 19…dxc3 loses simply to 20. Be4+ Kd6 21. Bxc5+ Kxc5 22. Qxc3+ Kb6 23. Qb4+ Ka6 24. Rxb7 and mates. Black needed to play 19…a6! to take b5 away from white. For example, 20. Be4+ Kd6 21. Bf4+ e5 and there’s nothing more white can do. Now white is back on track again.

20. Be4+ Kd6 21. Nb5+ Ke5 22. Bf3!

young4.png

Black’s king finds himself in a really bizarre mating net. His attempts to avoid it just lead the game into more and more surrealistic situations without changing the verdict: black’s king is trapped and cannot wriggle free. Enjoy this sideline: 22. Kd3! Rh4 23. Bf2 Rf4 24. Bg3 g5 25. Bxf4+ gxf4 26. Bc6!! (protecting the N on b5 temporarily is an important point)

young_analysis.png

Position after 26. Bc6!! (Analysis)

26…Qxc6 27. Qe2+ Kd5 28. Qe4 mate!

Or this, even more amusing: 22. Kd3! Rh4 23. Bf2 Rxe4 24. Kc4!!! and mate is forced in 10 moves! It’s really strange to have both kings participating in the center in the middlegame, with one king sealing the mating net on the other. Perhaps it’s unique in the history of chess!?? (readers??) Can you imagine this game played in the 19th century and some bearded fellow such as Steinitz announcing Mate in 10 in a grovelly voice?

young_anal2.png

Position after 24. Kc4!!! (Analysis) – Unique Tableau?

Here’s one of the shorter mates from this position: 24…g5 25. Bg3+ Rf4 26. Qe2 mate.

22…Rh4 23. g4! Caveman chess, brutally effective. White doesn’t need his queen anymore.

23…g5 24. Bxg5 Rxh2+ 25. Kd1 Rxb2 26. Bf4 mate

Not quite a pure mate; the N on b5 is not needed (guarding d6 twice).

young_final.png

It’s always nice to end a game with a queen sacrifice. This game was really way out there in deep orbit. It doesn’t stand up to serious analysis, but it did produce some unique situations.

1-0

If Moro had found 22. Be6+, there would have been a whole set of weird similarities between the two games!  Alas, Vachier-Lagrave (the modern day Dus-Chortimirski, bad openings and resourceful fighting in middlegame) went on to carry the day.


Some More Blitz

Let’s take our mind off the previous absurdities with two absurd blitz games.

Aries2(IM) – Smallville(GM) ICC 5 minute game, March 2009.   ‘Smallville” is Nakamura’s ICC alias.

1. e4 a6 2. d4 h6 Don’t worry, the game returns to normal channels soon.

3. Nc3 e6 4. Nf3 b5 A truly hypermodern opening.  White hits upon a good blitz plan of getting a minor piece near black’s king.

5. a4 b4 6. Ne2 Bb7 7. Ng3! One exclamation point covering moves 5 to 7.  When playing a stronger player, it is incumbent to try to mate!

7…d5 8. Bd3 Nf6 9. Qe2 Nbd7?! 9…dxe4 is correct with a fully acceptable game. At this point,  after black’s actual 9th move 10. e5! is obviously strong and I can’t explain why I didn’t do it.

10. O-O?! c5! Now the game is double-edged.

11. exd5 Bxd5 12. Re1 Qc8 13. b3 cxd4 14. Nxd4 Bc5 15. Ndf5 O-O White to play.  Is the sacrifice on g7 correct?

Sacrifice?  Yes, it is time.

Sacrifice? Yes, it is time.

16. Nxg7! Answer:  yes it is correct, because black’s king doesn’t have very many defenders at the moment.  But this is a good tactical quiz position, because some of the follow-up lines are not totally straightforward.

16…Kxg7 17. Bxh6+? The wrong way to do it.  As a GM kibitzer told me immediately after the game, 17. Nh5+! is right.   Black cannot take that knight due to forced checkmate.  17. Nh5+! Nxh5? and now 18. Bxh6+! (a clever move inversion from the game) forces mate.  So on 17. Nh5+, the black king must move.  17…Kh8?! 18. Nxf6 Nxf6 19. Bb2 looks insanely risky, so that leaves 17…Kg8.   In that case, the computer thinks black holds on after 18. Bxh6 Qd8! 17.  Rad1 Kh8! but it’s really necessary in blitz to make black find all these moves.

17…Kh8 18. Nh5?? This is an even worse lemon.  18. Bxf8 Qxf8 19. Be4 and both sides have chances.  Now black assumes the attack and white is lost.

Rg8 19. Nf4 Qc6 {White resigns} C’est la vie.
0-1

Curtains(IM)-aries2(IM)

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Be7 4. c3 Nf6 5. d3 O-O 6. O-O d6 7. Bb3 Be6 8. Re1 8. Bxe6 fxe6 9. Qb3 Qc8 is all right for black.

8…Bxb3 9. Qxb3 Rb8 10. d4 Nd7?! 10…Qd7 and 10…a6 are less clumsy.

11. Na3 Bf6 12. Be3 a6 13. d5 Ne7 14. Ba7 Nc5 If I was white, I’d just take that horse and get a structural edge.

Snap the Horse

Snap the Horse

15. Qd1(?! but white gets another chance next move) Rc8 16. b4 Same comment; I’d snap off the horse on c5 and be happy.

16…Nd7 17. Be3 Ng6 18. c4 Nh4? Weak.  18…Be7 is solid and fine.  Black can get counterplay on the queenside with a later c6 and/or a5.

19. c5 Nxf3+ 20. Qxf3 Bg5 21. Nc4 Bxe3 22. Qxe3 Qe7 23. c6 bxc6 24. dxc6 Nf6 25. a4 Rb8 26. Rab1 Qe6 27. Qd3 Nxe4? Not good, but exciting and leading us to the fabulous quiz position after black’s 31st.  Just the normal 27…Rfd8 to keep going.

28. Qxe4 d5 29. Qxe5 dxc4 30. Qxc7 Rxb4 31. Rbd1 Qf6 This is a great tactical quiz position, pretty much impossible for humans to solve in blitz.

Quiz Time

Quiz Time

32. Rd6?? Correct is the rather difficult 32. Qd7! Rc2 33. Qd4! getting a winning ending.  The deep point (hard to work out in blitz) is that 33…c3 34. Qxf6 gxf6 35. Rc1 Rb3 36. Re3! uses all pieces to maximum effect breaking black’s resistance.

Another variation that pulls up lame but hard to fully see in blitz is 32. Rc1? c3 33. Qd7 (too late!) Rc4! 34. c7 Qf4! and the pawn on c7 is lost!

The text gives black an unexpected loophole.  So unexpected that I blitz out a weak reply not exploiting my chance.

32…Qc3?? When presented with a gift horse… well, find out about the gift!   32…Qe5!! leads to a black edge after 33. Rf1 c3; 33. Red1?? just loses to 33…c3.  33. Red1?? c3 34. Qc8 is a typical last-ditch attempt, but it’s rudely met by 34…Qxd6! using white’s back rank yet again.  Positions with mutually weak bank ranks and mutually threatening passed pawns are the sharpest in the pantheon of heavy piece middlegames!  Now all is silence.

33. Qe7 g6 34. c7 {Black resigns} 1-0

Postscript – US Car History

Some curious stuff I learned about the Ford Edsel. The more diverse factoids a chess player knows, the better he or she is off?!?!

Quoting from the Time.Com “50 Worst Cars of All Time” story,

“That’s why we’re all here, right? To celebrate E Day, the date 50 years ago when Ford took one of the autodom’s most hilarious pratfalls. But why? It really wasn’t that bad a car. True, the car was kind of homely, fuel thirsty and too expensive, particularly at the outset of the late ’50s recession. But what else? It was the first victim of Madison Avenue hyper-hype. Ford’s marketing mavens had led the public to expect some plutonium-powered, pancake-making wondercar; what they got was a Mercury. Cultural critics speculated that the car was a flop because the vertical grill looked like a vagina. Maybe. America in the ’50s was certainly phobic about the female business. How did the Edsel come to be synonymous with failure? All of the above, consolidated into an irrational groupthink and pressurized by a joyously catty media. Interestingly, it was Ford President Robert McNamara who convinced the board to bail out of the Edsel project; a decade later, it was McNamara, then Secretary of Defense, who couldn’t bring himself to quit the disaster of Vietnam, even though he knew a lemon when he saw one.”

Change of Pace Poll