Posts Tagged ‘Pirc Defense’

The Fabulous 00s: The NY International 2008 Part Deux

July 1, 2008

More Games, More Drama

Here’s a barnburner I played in Round 3 vs. GM Michael Rohde.

IM M. Ginsburg – GM M. Rohde  Round 3, Hedgehog

1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 e6 4.g3 b6 5.Bg2 Bb7 6.O-O a6 7.Re1 Be7 8.e4 d6 9.d4 cxd4 10.Nxd4 Qc7 Of course the c4 pawn is not really hanging yet.  Black is just setting up a regular hedgehog piece placement.

11.Be3 Nbd7 12.f4 h5!? It’s a little unusual to do this at this exact juncture.  Some players like to go ….Rc8 and …Qb8 to attack the c-pawn “for real”.

13.Rc1!? 13. h3 is the most positionally careful but on this day I felt like throwing a knight into the middle (see move 14).

13…Ng4 14.Nd5! Maybe a TN!  It leads to what I think is a significant white edge.

Position after 14. Nd5!? – Maybe a TN!

14…exd5 15.cxd5 Qd8 16.Nc6 This is the point.  The pawn appearing on c6 will cause coordination problems for black.

16…Bxc6 17.dxc6 Nc5 18.c7?! Rather weak.  Correct is 18. Bd4! with excellent positional compensation.  This position merits careful examination to determine the ultimate worth of 14. Nd5.

18…Qxc7 19.b4 O-O 20.h3 Nxe3 21.Rxe3 h4!? If I were black, I would be more inclined to 21…g6!? but the text is positionally well motivated to gain more dark squares.

Position after 21…h4!? – the most aggressive choice.

22.bxc5 dxc5 23.Qg4 c4! Strong.

24.Kh1 b5 25.e5 Qb6 26.Re4! This is the only move to give black any problems.  Objectively black is better but it’s not easy with limited time to reach move 40.

26…Rad8 27.f5 Qh6 28.Rf1

Position after 28. Rf1.  Decision time.

28…Rfe8? In severe time trouble, black selects a nearly losing move. Correct is 28…f6! and black is much better.  The queenside majority is mobile.

29.f6 Bf8 30.e6! Naturally.

30…Rxe6 31.Rxe6 fxe6 32.Qxe6+ Kh8 33.Bd5! Rxd5 Pretty much necessary but now white has chances to win.

34.Qxd5 The position is now dangerous for black.

Position after 34. Qxd5.

34…hxg3?! 34…gxf6 looks better.  35. Rf5 could be met by 35…Qc1+.

35.Kg2? White gives away a pawn for no reason. Why on earth not first the natural 35. fxg7+ completely baring black’s king?  The queen and rook can then ‘bother” much more effectively and white has good chances to score the full point.

35…gxf6 Black’s king is now safe enough to draw.  Now both sides have very little time left and a set of fairly random moves appear on the board to get to move 40.

36.Rf5 Qg6 37.Rf4 Bh6 38.Qa8+ Kh7 39.Rg4 Qc2+ 40.Kxg3 Qd3+ 41.Kg2 Bg5 42.h4 Qe2+ 43.Kh3 A perpetual check is inevitable.

1/2-1/2 A tough struggle!

Last Round Thriller

IM Alfonse Almeida (2502, MEX) – IM M. Ginsburg  Round 9. Modern/Pirc

1.d4 g6 2.e4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.Bc4 In Round 1 IM Ron Burnett was successful with 4. Be3 c6!? 5. Qd2 b5!? playing black against IM Eli Vovsha.  The text move, the “Holmov Attack”, has been well studied by theory and is fairly harmless.

4…Nf6 5.Nge2 On the main move 5. Qe2, black has been doing well with the sharp 5…O-O!? 6. e5 Ne8, and the older 5…Nc6 6. e5 Nxd4 7. exf6 Nxe2 8. fxg7 Rg8 is not refuted either.  The text should yield zero.

5…O-O The simplest way is 5…Nxe4!, but I was somehow probably unjustifiably worried about 6. Bxf7+ Kxf7 7. Nxe4 with some nebulous ideas of Ng5+ and Nf4 targeting e6.  After the game, my opponent gave his intention as 6. Nxe4 but then 6…d5 7. Bd3 dxe4 8. Bxe4 and black is completely fine with white’s odd knight placement on e2.   After the text move, the game becomes very sharp.

6.f3 c6 7.a4 d5 8.Bb3 dxe4 9.fxe4 e5! The usual reaction in the center, reminiscent of the Fantasy Variation of the Caro-Kann (1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. f3!? dxe4 4. fxe4 e5!?)  meets with a very nice response from white.  When I played 9…e5, I had no idea what white was up to and I thought he was just worse.  This isn’t the case.


Position after 9. Bg5! – I did not expect this move.

10…exd4 11.Qxd4 Necessary and interesting.

11…Qxd4 12.Nxd4 Nbd7 13.Rf1! The only move to keep pressure.

13…h6 14.Bh4

Now I had a bit of a think.  If I accept the pawn gambit I come under heavy pressure.  I opted for something else…

14…Ng4? This move, anticipating 15. O-O-O?? Ne3! winning, would be great if it were not for white’s next!

Position after 14…Ng4? – White has a shot.

15.Ne6! The opportunistic Almeida would not miss this.  As a testament to “how good” my opening was, I can play on with some pressure even after this brutal shot.

15…fxe6 16.Bxe6 Kh7 17.Bxg4 Rxf1 18.Kxf1 Nc5 19.Bf3 Be6 20.Bf2 b6 Black is doing the best he can, but his compensation is insufficient.

21.a5 Re8 22.axb6 axb6 23.Ra7? A huge misstep!  White had the simple 23. Rd1 with the idea of Rd6; white should convert that position to victory.  It is OK if he loses the a-pawn at some juncture if that means black’s dark-squared bishop leaves the board. After the text, white’s rook proves to be out of play as black generates unexpected counterplay against white’s king!

23…Kg8 24.Rc7 Bc4+ 25.Kg1 Ra8! Suddenly Bxc3 and Ra1+ are threatened!  White has to self-tangle.

26.Nd1 From this point on, the gamescore makes no sense.  Here are the right moves.

26…Bb5! A nice defensive motif. White’s rook is in serious danger of being trapped with Bg7-e5!  He has to resort to extreme measures and black is now off the hook.

Position after 26…Bb5!  Black wriggles out.

27. Bg4 What else? 27…Be5 28. Rc8+ Rxc8 29. Bxc8 Be2! 30. Nc3 This position is drawn.  Black just has to be a little careful.  The two bishops never become a factor.

30…Bxc3 31. bxc3 Nxe4 32. Bxb6 Nxc3 33. Bd4 Ne4 34. Bd7 Bb5 Black’s bishop and knight coordinate well.  White’s king cannot approach to do damage.

35. Be6+ Kf8 36. Bg4 Kf7 37. h4 h5 38. Bf3 Nd2! 39. Kf3 White offers a draw in light of 39…Nxf3.  For some reason on the site, the game continues to move 60 and rooks reappear on the board rather magically. Even worse for me, white is recorded as winning..  In fact, the game ended here peacefully.


Round 3 Sickness

Just for the sick blunderfest fans among us (I know you’re one), here is Ehlvest-Liu from the 3rd round.

GM Jaan Ehlvest – NM Elliot Liu  King’s Indian Defense, Round 3.

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Bg5 Bg7 4.e3 O-O 5.Be2 d6 6.c4 c5 7.Nc3 Soviet-style safety (SSS).   The chances are very high an American junior won’t know what to do.

7…h6 8.Bh4 g5 Here, the non-obvious 8…Qb6!? 9. Qd2 g5 10. Bg3 Bf5 is interesting on the grounds white would rather have his queen on c2, not d2.

9.Bg3 Nh5  The unusual 9…Qb6!? is interesting here too. 10. Qc2 Nc6 11. O-O-O Bd7 12. a3 Rfc8 with counterplay.

10.d5 f5 And here 10…Qa5 11. Nd2 Nxg3 12. hxg3 Bf5! offers an interesting game; black does not mind white weakening the dark squares considering his unopposed king bishop in the event of e3-e4.

11.Nd2 Nxg3 12.hxg3 Nd7 Offbeat but not ridiculous is 12…Na6!? 13. a3 Bd7!? 

13.Qc2 Nf6 14.f4 e6 15.fxg5 hxg5 16.dxe6 Bxe6 17.O-O-O Now, as if by magic, white has a strong initiative.  We have to credit white’s unusual system because the non-obvious variations above are all difficult to spot. After making some hackneyed KID moves (hunting down white’s QB and playing f5 to expose his own king) Black is in a very difficult situation.  GM Lein used to torture US Juniors in this line.  It must be a Soviet specialty. I did something like this as black against Lein Lone Pine ’80 (play rote moves and get a bad game) and also in my game I missed a win later when white overpressed.  Weird!

17…a6 18.g4! Qd7?! Since 18…fxg4 19. Bd3 is so bad for black, it’s hard to call it an improvement.  Nevertheless, the text puts the BQ on a very unfortunate square.

19.Rdf1 Now white is well on the road to victory with a huge edge.  I left the playing hall at this point having observed this dismal tableau for black.  But look what happens!  In fact, this phase might be characterized as a “hustle”  – Jaan starts missing win after win in the moves that follow; perhaps in the ‘anything wins’ mode?

19…fxg4 20.Bd3 The simple 20. Nd5! gets rid of black’s light square bishop and then the black king is fairly well toasted.  For example, 20…Bxd5 21. cxd5 b5 22. Bd3 is horrific for black.  For those who like tactics, here is a pleasing one:  21. cxd5 c4 22. Nxc4! Rac8 23. Kb1 b5 24. Bd3!! Rf7 25. Bh7+ Kf8 26. Nb6! splat!  The text move also gives white a big edge.

Position after 20. Bd3 — Something has gone very wrong from black’s point of view.

One of the things that makes Grandmasters strong is their vast experience with all kinds of opening systems.  Take for example the one Ehlvest played in this game (an old favorite of safety-first ex-World Champ Vassily Smyslov).  Liu played what so far seem to be quasi-normal moves and the diagram above looks like a simul crush.  I won’t embarrass either participant further with more diagrams, since the game degenerates now into an insane blunderfest.

20…Kf7 21. Run away!  But this shouldn’t have helped.

21.Nde4?! Ehlvest’s first (of many) failures to end the game in his favor quickly. 21. Bf5! is completely crushing.  Here’s a disgusting variation: 21. Bf5! Ke7 22. Bxe6 Qxe6 23. Qg6 Rf7 24. Rh7!  and black must resign in view of 24…Nxh7 25. Nd5+.  For sadists, examine the punching bag nature of 21. Bf5! Bxf5 22. Rxf5 Ke7 (what else?) 23. Rhf1 Qe6 24. Qd3 with total paralysis. 24…Rae8 25. Rxg5 Bh8 26. Rg6 Kd7 27. Nd5 Rf7 28. Rf4! Ref8 29. Re4! Nxe4 30. Nb6+!  (That devilish knight!) 30…Ke7 31. Rxe6+ and wins.

21…Ke7 22.Nxg5 Kd8 Necessary.

23.Bf5! Better late than never.

23…Bxf5 24.Rxf5 Kc7 25.Rd1? Extremely careless. 25. Rhf1 is overski:  25…Qe8 26. Qd3 Kc6 27. Nd5 and wins.  Black is paralyzed.

25…b6 26.Kb1 Rae8 White has bungled and almost his entire edge is gone.

27.e4 Qc6? Quite weak.  27…Kb8 is correct.

28.Rdf1?! Not the right timing.  28. Qf2! is right with a big edge after 28…Kb7 29. Qf4 or 28…Kb8 29. Qf4.

28…Kb7 29.a4?! 29. Nd5! is correct.

29…Nd7 30.Nd5 Rxf5? 30…Bd4 is much tougher.  The text allows a nice white win.

31.exf5 Nf6 32.Ne6?? White finishes it with 32. Nxf6 Bxf6 33. Nh7! – an elegant conclusion.  Black can limp on with 33…d5 (forced, any bishop move is crushed by f5-f6) 34. cxd5 Qd6 35. Nxf6 Qxf6 36. Qd3 and white should convert easily.  Was Ehlvest simply underestimating his young opponent after encountering very little resistance in the opening?

Bh8 33.Qd1? White is still winning after 33. Nec7 Rc8 (33…Re5 34. Nxf6 Bxf6 35. Nd5! also loses) 34. Rh1 Qd7 35. Nxf6 Bxf6 36. Nd5 Be5 37. e6! and wins.

33… b5 34.axb5? 34. Qb3! keeps a serious edge.

34…axb5 35.Qb3 35. Ndc7! is also strong here.  The weird thing is white is still better after the prior missed opportunities, but watch!

35…b4 36.Rh1?? A real lu-lu.  36.  Qd3! Nxd5 37. cxd5 Qa4 38. f6 b3 39. Qh7+!  Kb6 40. Qc7+ Ka6 41. Qxd6+ wins for white.  36…Kc8 is relatively best but white is still well on top. Clearly Ehlvest visualized something like this in his mind but his timing in the game is all vershimmelt.  36. Qd3 Kb8 is relatively best for black, but once again after 37. Ndc7! white is much better.

36..Nxd5 37.cxd5 Qd7 For the first time, black is back in it.  And here, 37…Qa6! was quite good with the idea of Ra8 and black is on the offense.

38.Qc4 Rc8? Time trouble?   38…Ra8! 39. Qxg4 Qb5!! 40. Qe4 Kb6!! and black has a huge attack!  But wait:  38….Ra8! 39. Rh7!! Qxh7 40. Qb5+ and a sudden perpetual check draw!   It would, of course, be difficult for white to reconcile himself to a draw after black’s opening butcheries.

39.Rh6 Ra8?! 39…Qa4! and white has to press the panic button with 40. Rh1 Ra8 41. Nxc5+! with a perpetual check, or 40…Kb6! (again this nice move) with a continued attack and no immediate draw.

40.Qe4?? White must have been in time trouble too.  40. f6!  is met by the nice bail-out sacrifice 40…Bxf6! 41. Rxf6 Qh7+ 42. Kc1 Qh1+ 43. Kc2 Qh1+ 44. Kb3 Qh3+ and this is a very pleasing perpetual check draw.

40…Qa4?? I am convinced, both sides were in serious time trouble.  Here, black had 40…Ra1+ 41. Kxa1 Qa4+ 42. Kb1 Qd1+ 43. Ka2 b3+ mating, or 41. Kc2 Qa4+ 42. Kd2 Bc3+! and now we’re in junior tactic land and black wins white’s queen for starters.

41.Nxc5+ Some good fortune for Ehlvest.  41…dxc5 42. Qe7+ is curtains. Lucky!  1-0

The moral of the story is, it’s not good to miss win after win.  One of them must be played!


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The Fabulous 00s: Some Interesting Modern/Pirc Games

October 23, 2007

The Modern Defense with an early a6!? is a tricky beast. I first tried it versus William Costigan (one of the Costigan brothers) in the 1970’s. I next had success versus Patrick Wolff in the 1980’s (although that game transposed into a strange Pirc, because black after some delay placed his KN on f6). It’s always had pleasant memories.

In this installment, first off we have a battle from Copenhagen, Denmark (Politiken Cup, 2000). The opening choice proves perfect against an impatient and over-aggressive handler of the white pieces.

NM Jorgen Hvenekilde – IM Mark Ginsburg

Politiken Cup 2000, Round 5 Modern Defense

1. d4 g6 2. e4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. Be3 a6!? This move is approved in GM Tiger Hillarp-Person’s “Tiger’s Modern” treatise on the Modern Defense.

Here is Tiger pictured at the Rilton Cup, January 1994 (cover of Swedish Schacknytt chess magazine). I apologize for the Photo Editor effects that I applied.



After this psychedelic tidbit, let’s get back to the merits of the opening. I like the snake-like pawn structure. It is challenged in modern times by a quick f2-f4 and e4-e5, but even that treatment is probably not the final word. This sytem for black, as ex-CIS chess commentators like to say, “has the right to exist”.



5. Qd2 b5 6. O-O-O Bb7 7. f3 The wing thrust 7. h4!? is interesting.

7…Nd7 8. g4?! The developing 8. Nh3!? comes into consideration. I don’t like these early, non-developing, pawn moves.

8…c5 9. Nge2 Rc8 10. h4 b4! Clearly white has played inaccurately because already black is more comfortable.

11. Nb1 Ngf6!? The cat and mouse maneuver 11…Qa5!? 12. a3 Qc7!? is interesting. The text prepares a speculative sacrifice.

12. h5


12…Nxe4! Having said “A”, black has to say “B”. The situation is quite unclear but in practical play black’s chances must be rated more highly.

13. fxe4 Bxe4 14. Rh2 Bxc2! 15. Re1?? A gross blunder. White must play 15. Qxc2 cxd4 16. Nxd4 Rxc2+ 17. Rxc2 with counter-chances.

15…Be4?? A blunder in reply. Black wins with the obvious 15…cxd4 16. Nxd4 Ba4+ 17. Nc3 bxc3 18. bxc3 Qa5. I must have overlooked something very simple at this stage.

16. d5! Of course. White prevents the opening of the c-file and should turn the tables.

16…Qa5 17. Ng3 Bf3 18. Bh6? 18. Bf4! is correct with a big plus.

18…Be5 19. Rxe5! dxe5 White’s counter-sacrifice clarifies the situation and it’s about equal.

20. Be2? Yet another blunder. 20. d6! is OK for white and so is 20. hxg6 hxg6 21. Bg5.

20…Bxe2 21.Rxe2 Qxa2 Now black is simply winning.

22. Ne4 Qc4+ 23. Kd1 If 23. Qc2 Qxc2+ 24. Kxc2, black has the crushing 24…Rg8! and wins.

23… f5! 24. gxf5 gxf5 25. Ng5 Rg8! A perfect square. White has no moves left.

26. Rf2 Nf6 27. Qe2 Qxd5+ 28. Nd2 c4 29. Rxf5 c3 30. bxc3 bxc3


Moving ahead a few years, here’s an exciting Modern Defense Game from the North American Open, December 2003, Las Vegas. This game was featured in the online games collection as a “Game of the Week” and drew a lot of commentary.

J. Shahade- M. Ginsburg Las Vegas 2003

1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. Nf3 a6!? 5. a4?! White has fallen into an opening trap with this reflexive reaction. Correct is to ignore black with 5. Be2.

5…Bg4 Now black has no problems at all.

6. Be3 Nc6 7. Be2 e5 8. d5 Ben Finegold played 8. dxe5 and got nothing vs me in Belgium, 1989, and a draw was quickly agreed. It’s really handy that the move pair …a6 and a2-a4 are in for black, because the important b5 square is denied to white’s minor pieces. This is a very important point.

8…Bxf3 9. Bxf3 Nce7 In Svidler-Manion, NY 1995, black played 8….Nce7 and on 9. h3 he played 9…Bd7?! (he could have played 9….Bxf3(!)). Svidler won that game. My 8th move gets rid of the WN immediately. Often times, when black breaks with f7-f5, he has to worry about a knight leap Nf3-g5 so there is definitely something to be said for getting rid of the horse.

10. Be2 f5 11. f3 Bh6! Positionally well motivated to get this bishop onto an active diagonal.

12. Bf2 Nf6 13. O-O O-O 14. a5 Nh5 15. Re1 Kh8 16. b4 Ng8 17. Rb1 Nf4 18. Bf1 Nf6 19. Be3 White’s play looks slow but it has purpose. The game is very double-edged.

19…fxe4 20. g3 g5!? Speculative. But otherwise the white bishop arrives unimpeded on h3 and black will be suffering.


21. fxe4 Qd7 22. gxf4! It is correct to accept this sacrifice.

22…gxf4 23. Bf2? But now white goes wrong. Correct is 23. Bc1! and the impassive computer rates black’s compensation as insufficient. I had missed this retreat during the game.


This is exactly the variation I expected; the pawn wedge really ties white up since 23. Qxf3? Ng4 is impossible. Black can calmly bring pieces over and the attack is too strong. So white’s 23rd was really the big turning point. This game is a good example of how a human can drastically over-rate chances.

24. Kh1 Qg4 25. Qd3 Qh5 26. Nd1 Ng4 27. h3 Rf7 28. c4 Rg8 With every piece participating, black piles on for a mating attack.

29. Rb2 Nxf2+ 30. Rxf2 Rfg7 31. Rxf3 Rg1+ 32. Kh2 Qg6 White resigned.



There is no stopping one of the dual mate threats, for example the primitive 33…Qg2+ 34. Bxg2 R8xg2 mate or the clearance 33…Rh1+ 34. Kxh1 Qg1 mate.

View PGN

The next game is along the same lines, except I don’t need a speculative piece sacrifice – instead I make a pseudo-sacrifice of the exchange in a situation where I have all the positional trumps. It shows exactly why this system is a perplexing good weapon — if white just drifts along, black can achieve his strategic aims and expand all over the board.

K. Stancil – M. Ginsburg World Open 2004

1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. Be3 a6 5. Be2 b5 6. Qd2 Bb7 7. f3 Nd7!?

Preparing …c7-c5. Again, I refer readers to GM Tiger Hillarp-Persson’s interesting book “Tiger’s Modern” for more details on this provocative treatment. It’s ideal in situations where only a win will do as black.

8. Nh3 c5 9. Nd1?! Clearly, once a move like this occurs black has no problems. But it’s another thing entirely to win a chess game – further progress is needed.


9…cxd4 10. Bxd4 Ngf6 11. O-O O-O 12. a4 Bc6 13. a5 Qc7 14. Bd3 Rfe8 15. Kh1 Qb7 16. Ndf2 e5! Exactly right. Black achieves the lion’s share of the center.

17. Be3 Rad8 18. Bg5 Nc5 19. Ng4 White forces black to play a good move.


19…Nxg4! An obvious “sacrifice” to increase my advantage. White plays to give back the exchange; personally I would have tried to hold onto it just to put up some kind of fight.

20. Bxd8 Nxh2?! Stronger is 20…Rxd8 21. fxg4 d5! with initiative.

21. Bb6? Very bad. White had to play 21. Kxh2 Rxd8 22. Qe3 and hunker down.

21…Nxf1 22. Bxf1 Na4 23. Be3 Nxb2 24. Rb1 Na4 25. Qxd6 Qd7 26. Qb4 Bf8 27. Qe1 Nc5 28. Rd1 Qc7 29. Qf2 Ne6 30. Qh4? White should have kept the a5 pawn with 30. Bb6 but it was a very bad position after 30..Qb7.

30…Qxa5 White is material down with a worse position as well.

31. Nf2 h5! 32. g4 Qc3 33. Rd3 Qe1


White could have given up here. It’s horrific. Look at the f4 square beckoning to black’s knight.

34. Qh3 Nf4 35. Bxf4 exf4 36. Qg2 Bc5 With both sides in time trouble, black’s moves come very easily and he develops a crushing initiative.

37. Nh3 hxg4 38. Nxf4 gxf3 39. Qh3 Qxe4 In time trouble, black misses the mating move 39..Qf2! and finis.

40. Nxg6 Qxg6 With the time control made, white resigned.

View PGN

Finally here is a World Open 2005 game vs Felix Movilla.

Felix Movilla (2301) – IM Mark Ginsburg World Open 2005

1. d4 g6 2. e4 Bg7 3. h3?! c5 4. c3 cxd4 5. cxd4 Qb6 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. e5 d6 Possible is 7… f6 8. Nc3 (8. exf6 Nxf6 9. Nc3 d5 10. Be2 Ne4 11. O-O Be6) 8…fxe5 9. dxe5 Nxe5 10. Be2 e6 11. O-O Ne7 and black stands well. Also possible is 7… Nh6!? 8. Na3 O-O 9. Nc4 Qc7 10. Bf4 d5 11. exd6 exd6 12. Bxd6 Re8+ 13. Be2 Qd8 with interesting play.

8. Nc3 dxe5 9. dxe5 Nxe5 10. Nxe5 White can also play 10. Bb5+ Bd7 11. Bxd7+ Nxd7 12. O-O Bxc3 13. bxc3 Ngf6 14. Ba3 Ne4 15. Rb1 Qc6 16. Re1 Nec5 and black is holding.

10… Bxe5 11. Bb5+ Kf8 12. Qe2 Bxc3+ Black can try to keep this bishop with 12… Qc7 13. O-O Kg7 14. Be3 (14. Nd5 Qd6 15. Rd1 Nf6 leads nowhere for white) 14… Nf6 and black is OK.

13. bxc3 Be6 14. Be3 Qc7 15. O-O h5 16. Bd4 Nf6 17. Bd3 h4 18. f4? More sensible is 18. Qe3 Nd5 (18… Rh5 19. Bxg6 Nd5 20.Qe4 Rh6 21. Bf5 Bxf5 22. Qxf5 Qc6 23. Rfe1) 19. Qf3 Rh5 20. Bxg6 Rg5 21. Be4 Rd8 with a sharp game.

18… Rd8 19. Rab1?! 19. Rad1 looks more to the point.

19… b6 20. Rb5 Rxd4! A very nice positional exchange sacrifice. Black can also play 20… Rh5 21. Re5 Bc8 22. a4 but the text poses a lot of problems.

21. cxd4 Qc3


22. f5 It’s already hard to give advice. 22. Rd1 Qxd4+ 23. Qf2 Qxf2+ 24. Kxf2 Kg7 25. Bb1 Rc8 26. Re5 Rc4 is very good for black.

22… gxf5 23. Re5 Qxd4+ 24. Rf2?? Losing – the proverbial ‘sacrificial shock’. However 24. Qe3 Qxe3+ 25. Rxe3 Rh5 26. Ref3 Rg5 27. Bxf5 Bxa2 28. Ra1 Bd5 29. Rf2 a5 30. Rb1 a4 31. Rxb6 a3 32. Ra6 a2 is complete torture as well and black should convert this position.

24… Ne4! 25. Rxe4 fxe4 26. Bxe4 Rg8 27. Kh1 Rg5 28. Bd3 Re5 29. Qf1 Re3 30. Bg6 f6 31. Qc1 Qe5 32. Rf1 Bxh3?! It’s not often that there is the luxury of two winning captures. Here Black had 32… Rxh3+! 33. gxh3 Bd5+ mating , but the more prosaic and weaker text wins as well.



If you are wondering about my enjoyment of Modern structures, it all harkens back to the “Pawn Diamond” game I had against future GM Patrick Wolff way back in 1983. It bears a quick look:


Patrick Wolff – IM Mark Ginsburg NY Open 1983

1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. f4 Nc6 5. Be3 Nf6

Well, with the black knight committed to f6, it’s really a Pirc now. Still, the game gets really crazy.


6. Be2 O-O 7. Nf3 a6 8. Qd2 b5 9. a3 Bb7 10. f5 b4 11. axb4 Nxb4 12. fxg6
hxg6 13. Ng5 e5!
It’s always correct to act in the center when the opponent is acting on the wings.  White’s structure is very loose now.


14. d5 c6 15. Na4 a5 16. c3 cxd5 17. Bb6 Qe7
18. cxb4 Bh6! 
White gets into a very nasty pin and it turns out black gets overwhelming compensation for the lost piece.  The problem in the opening basically is that white played too much on the wings and black stayed central.

19. h4 Nxe4 20. Qd3 axb4 21. Nxe4 dxe4 22. Qh3
Kg7 23. O-O f5
The very rare ‘pawn diamond’ starts to be formed.  There is very little to do constructively that white can undertake, especially in practical play where advancing pawn phalanxes take on a life of their own.


24. h5 Rac8 25. hxg6 Qg5 26. Qh5 Qxg6 27. Rad1
Rf6 28. Qxg6+ Kxg6 29. Bb5 e3 30. Rfe1 f4 31. b3 Bg5! 
Every piece gains maximum activity This is reminiscent of the J. Shahade game, above.

32. Bc4 Bh4 33. Re2 d5!  The d-pawn is immune because white has a back-rank problem.

34. Bb5 d4  And there it is.  The stuff of legends.  The pawn diamond.  Does anyone have access to a structural search; in how many other games has this occurred?  White, of course, is dead – the diamond is worth at least 2 minor pieces.


35. Bc5 f3  It’s craven to break up the diamond and cash in, but at some point the game does have to be won.

36. gxf3 Bxf3 37. Rf1 Kh5!  It’s pleasing to have the king help out too.

38. Ra2 Rg8+ 39. Kh2 Bg3+ 40. Kh3 Bf2 0-1