Posts Tagged ‘Shankland’

The Fabulous 00s: The Blumenfeld is not Good (This is Not News)

July 8, 2010

Decline the Blumenfeld!

I have seen quite a few Blumenfelds recently and some of them worked quite well (Molner’s win as black vs Shankland, actually winning a brilliancy prize game at the Copper State International, Mesa, 2010) but I must conclude that white does very well DECLINING this particular gambit.  ACCEPTING gives black a central preponderance with some not-so-vague attacking chances (see Alekhine’s famous win over Tarrasch, Bad Pistyan 1922) and DECLINING, in most cases, just gives black an ugly structure and white easy development, to boot!  An easy call!  I am surprised people accept these days because declining is so good.  I will be the first to admit that black SHOULD have insufficient compensation for the pawn if white accepts, but practically speaking I enjoy the structures that come out the recommended declining lines we see in this article.

Let’s see the powerful DECLINING. 🙂

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c5 4. d5 b5?! If chess were this simple…. 🙂

5. Bg5! The ueber-powerful DECLINING. 🙂  Now we follow, for a while, the very convincing treatment of GM Kaidanov vs. GM Ray Robson, US Championship, St. Louis, 2010. Perplexingly, Kaidanov went wrong at the very moment of victory and only drew.  A lucky escape for young Robson.

Decline to Win!

This position is already bad for black. I first suspected this fact when a Blumenfeld theme tournament was run in Holland (alluded to in a GM Hans Ree’s article in New in Chess) and black encountered very heavy weather in the complex of variations following 5. Bg5!.

Declining in order to win the game is not only a clever psychological ploy; it also follows the French proverb, “Reculer pour mieux avancer!” (retreat for a better attack!).  Conversely, declining gives black ZERO attacking chances and white EXCELLENT chances for a major positional pull.  Enough said!

5…Qa5+ This move is tricky, but no more than that.  Black’s choices are limited, though.  I probably don’t need to convince you too much that 5…h6? is outright weak and 5….d6 also leads to a white advantage.  Let me know if you don’t know why.  Do you have any other black moves you would like to try?  It won’t help, white is convincingly better in all lines.  The text move should get black in a lot of trouble.

See the comments section for the turgid try (has the practical effect of limiting white’s advantage, though) 5…b4.

6. Nc3! Very strong, and a move unjustly ignored by most theoretical works.  Other interposition moves are weaker.  Now white has a clear edge in all lines.  Very surprisingly, though, Kaidanov goes wrong ON THE VERY NEXT MOVE ruining his powerful 6th.

6…Ne4? Yuck.  Robson played this lemon violating the well-known precept against moving pieces twice in the opening.  Doubly bad because this horse is really the only minor piece out there so far.  6…b4 is objectively stronger, but I don’t need to try too hard to convince you that black’s position is not good after the obvious 7. Bxf6 gxf6 8. Ne4.  Let me know if you think black is all right there and I will give you a few more lines.

This position is terrible for black!

7. Bd2? No!!!!   Arghhh!   GM Kaidanov plays a shocking lemon in return ruining, for the most part, his fantastic position.

The bust to 6…Ne4? is the easy (and worse, known from theory) 7. cxb5!

Black is much worse in all lines.  I would expect any GM to win handily.  The variations are clear:

7. cxb5!  Nxg5 (very instructive is the bust to even weaker 7… Bb7? which is 8. dxe6 fxe6 9. Bd2 Nxd2 10. Nxd2 d5 11. e4! and it’s totally lost for black as in Borovikov,V (2472)-Sharapov,E (2387)/Sevastopol 2000) 8. Nxg5 Be7 9. Qd2 and white has a big plus.

Or, 7. cxb5! Nxc3 8. bxc3 Qxc3+ 9. Bd2 Qf6 10. e4 and white, again, has a big plus and should win. I will let the reader work out the powerful reply to the lame Benko-like move 7. cxb5 a6?! here.   Warning: in a prior game, white went wrong after 7. cxb5 a6 but as a clue, white has a big, big improvement right away (if you find that prior game, which might put you off course a little bit).

Here is the prior game: 7. cxb5! a6?! 8. Bd2! (only now!) Nxd2 (forced) 9. Nxd2! axb5 (nothing better) and now… what’s the right move?

White to play and get a big edge

In the prior game, the careless 10. e4? was played.  Unfortunately after 10. e4? c4! black has equal chances.  Replace the tenth move lemon with something stronger, readers.  Do you see it?  It results in a big white edge.  This is the final link in the chain proving 5. Bg5! is strong!

The Divergence 5. Bg5! d6!?

White, of course, can play 6. dxe6 and look forward to an edge.  However, also interesting is 6. cxb5!?.

A good answer to 5...d6

There might follow 6…Qa5+ (What else? 6…exd5? 7. Bxf6 is terrible for black; 6…h6 7. Bxf6 Qxf6 8. Nc3 is a solid white edge, and the lame “Benko move” 6…a6? is outright weak due to 7. e4! Be7 8. Nc3 with a big white plus) 7. Bd2 Qxb5 8. Nc3 (with white gaining so much time on black’s queen he must be better) 8…Qb7 (relatively speaking the best placement for black’s queen which is not a good advertisement for his position; of course 8…Qxb2?? fails to 9. Rb1 followed by Nb5 and white wins) 9. e4 exd5 10. exd5 Be7 (note that 10…Nxd5? 11. Qa4+ Nd7 12. Nxd5 Qxd5 13. Bb5+ loses for black. 11. Bb5+ Bd7 12. Bc4 and white is better.

For reader enjoyment, let me take one of these lines further:

5…d6 6. cxb5! a6? 7. e4! Be7 8. Nc3 exd5 9. Bxf6! (hyper-accurate!) 9…Bxf6 10. Qxd5 Ra7 11. e5! (a surprising unusual breakthrough!) 11…dxe5 (11…Be6 12. Qxd6 wins for white) 12. Qxc5 Rc7 (12…Rd7 13. Be2 wins) 13. Qe3 (or 13. Qb4 which is also quite good) 13…O-O 14. Rd1 and black is in very bad shape.

Dark days for the Blumenfeld, indeed!

Reader comments welcome.


The Fabulous 10s: The Fine Art of Chess Nihilism

April 13, 2010

The Fine Art of Trying for Nothing At All

IM Levon Altounian recently qualified for the 2010 US Championship by winning an online State Champions qualifier on the ICC.  I have had experience in this event, winning a West qualifier (a bunch of 3 0 games) a few years ago only to stumble in a playoff vs. Connecticut master Ted McHugh.  Indeed, online ICC games of any importance are very nervy affairs.

Altounian’s toughest match was the semi-final vs the Northern California champion, IM Sam Shankland.  Two games were contested at the time control of Game in 25 minutes with a 3 second increment.

In this two-game mini-match, Altounian showed how “doing nothing” (chess nihilism) is actually a dangerous weapon, especially in faster time controls. If the opponent doesn’t react well to “nothing”, then technique takes over.

I think the times on ICC are accurate so I will use them in this story.

Game 1.

L. Altounian (Arizona)  –  S Shankland ( NoCal )   G/25 + 3 sec increment

1. e4!?

A surprise!   Levon doesn’t play his usual Catalan!  I can imagine that before this game Altounian worked out riskless sidelines to respond to any black move.


A surprise from Shankland!  I would have expected 1…c5 then some riskless move from white such as 2. c3 and a probable draw.   Black’s surprise move results in a good game for him!

2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. Nc3 This knight does not look happy here!

What a strange move!  An excellent example of nihilism.  White simply says “I’m trying for nothing, let’s just make some more moves.”

5…f6 This move is perfectly good.

Also fine is the active 5… Bc5!? 6. Nxe5 (6. d3 Qe7 7. Be3 Bxe3 8. fxe3 Nf6 9. O-O O-O =) 6… Qg5 7. d4 Qxg2 8. Qf3 (8. Rf1? Bh3 wins)  Qxf3 9. Nxf3 Bb4 =.

6. d4 exd4 7. Nxd4 c5! Why not?  White gets a very awkward formation.

8. Nde2 Qxd1+ 9. Nxd1

This is playing for a win?! No.. it’s playing for a non-loss!

Playing for a non-loss!

However I will be bold here and say white could, in fact, lose this!  This just means chess is not an easy game and white can’t force a draw so easily.

9…Bd7 I would definitely prefer 9…Be6 to keep the d-file open after castles long.  Then, if as in the game 10. Bf4 O-O-O 11. Ne3 Ne7 12. f3 g5! 13. Bg3 Bg7!  and black is very happy with the latent power of the bishop pair.  All of black’s pieces are very active.  If we were to talk about “winning chances for black” in an exchange Ruy Lopez, this would be it.  In the game, transferring the bishop from d7 to c6 is also good and gives black nice tactical motifs shortly.

10. Bf4 O-O-O 11. Ne3 Bc6 12. f3

To ...g7-g5 or not to ...g7-g5?

I can imagine black was very confident here.  He also had, as in the previous note, the immediate 12… g5! 13. Bg3 Ne7 14. h4 (on other moves, black is doing well) 14…g4! 15. Nxg4 f5! with fantastic compensation.   14…Bg7 was also fine for black in this line.

12…Ne7 13. Kf2 g6 Black may have been reluctant to weaken squares, but the space grabbing 13… g5 was still good.    At this point, black had 18 minutes left and white had 22 minutes left.  This means that white may have been better off playing 13. h4! before Kf2.

14. Rad1 Bg7 15. h4 h6 Black could play nihilistically here with 15…Rxd1 16. Rxd1 Re8 (doing nothing) and be all right.  The problem for white is if the game opens, the bishop pair comes into their own.

16. g4 f5 Sharpening the play.  Black has 15 minutes left and white has 20 minutes left.  Objectively, black is still fine but it’s not easy in a fast game.

17. gxf5

Key Moment

17…Bxb2? The position is tricky. Correct is simply 17…gxf5. If 18. exf5? Rdf8! is very good for black due to 19. Ng3 Bxb2 with a black edge.   If 18.  Rxd8+ Rxd8 19. exf5 Rf8! again is correct. Black is OK in this line after, for example, 20. Rg1 Bf6! hitting h4.  Since the position has just become unexpectedly sharp, this miscue has severe consequences.

18. Rxd8+ Rxd8 Essentially forced. 18…Kxd8 runs into 19. Nc4 Bf6 20. Be5! with a big edge.

19. c3? Winning is the brute force 19. fxg6 Nxg6 20. Bxh6, for example 20…Rh8 21. Bg5 and the pawns roll.  It is natural for a human in a fast time control to go for the “piece trap” but this should have squandered much of the edge.

19… gxf5 20. Rb1 fxe4 21. fxe4 Ba3?! Here it’s important to get rid of white’s h-pawn.  Thus 21… Ng6! 22. Rxb2 (22. h5?? Nxf4 wins for black due to Rd2+ next) 22… Nxh4 23. Bxh6 Bxe4 and black can fight on and with reduced pawns retain decent chances of the draw.

22. Rb3 Bxe4 22….Ng6 again with the aim of eliminating white’s dangerous h-pawn.

23. Rxa3 Ng6 24. h5 Since white’s h-pawn lives, the battle is concluded.  A very tough loss for black after such a nice opening.

24…Nxf4 25. Nxf4 Rf8 26. Kg3 Rg8+ 27. Kh4 Rf8 28. Ng6 Rf6 29. Ng4  Rb6 30. Ne7+ Kd8 31. Ng8 Bf3 32. N8xh6 Kc8 33. Ra5 Rb2 34. Rxc5 Rxa2 35. Rf5 Bd1 36. Rf1 Be2 37. Rf2 Rc2 38. Nf5 Bd3 39. Rxc2 Bxc2 40. Kg5 1-0

The next game was conducted shortly after this one, and it’s very tough to reorient and bounce back at full strength.  In the second game, playing black, Altounian showed, well, an ingenious opening preparation for these conditions.

Game 2

S. Shankland – L. Altounian  QGA Strange Sideline

1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. e3 Be6 This had to be a surprise.  An unusual sideline!


4. Nf3 In an action game my first thought would be to get the c-pawn rounded up with 4. Na3!? for example 4… Nc6 5. Nxc4 Qd5 6. Nf3. Not sure how much it offers, but it’s safe and no time spent on the clock.   The knight on c4 participates usefully.

4… Nf6 5. Nbd2 c5 6. Ng5 Bd5 7. e4 h6 I would hazard a guess that this was “main preparation” for Levon within this rare QGA sideline. As it turns out, the R/h8 finds useful work on its original file!

8. exd5 hxg5 9. Bxc4 cxd4 10. Nf3 g4 11. Ne5 Previously seen was 11. Nxd4 Rh5 12. Qb3 and it was about equal (but white went on to win in   1-0 Hansen,C-Zagema,W/Hinnerup 1979.

11… Nbd7 12. Qxd4 Nxe5 13. Qxe5 a6 14. O-O e6! The fact that this move is possible means black solved his problems effectively.

15. Bf4 Rh5! 16. Qe2 Bd6 It all goes like clockwork.

17. Bg3 Bxg3 18. fxg3 18. hxg3 Qe7 19. dxe6 O-O-O 20. exf7 Rdh8 is a typical mating pattern that white, of course, avoids.

18… Qb6+ 19. Rf2 e5 20. Re1 O-O-O 21. Qe3  Qxe3 22. Rxe3 e4 23. Bb3 Rdh8 24. Rc2+ Kd7 25. Rec3 Kd6? The most accurate here is 25… Ne8.
26. Rc7 e3 27. Rxb7 Nxd5 28. h4?
Last chance for white (remember he has to win to level the match) is 28. Rxf7! Rxh2 29. Kf1! averting mate.  Then for example, 29…g6 30. Bxd5 Kxd5 31. Rd7+ Ke5 32. Re7+ Kd4 33. Rc3 and white can fight on perhaps gaining a full point if black miscues.

28… gxh3 Now black wins with no problems. 29. Ra7 (29. Rxf7 hxg2 30. Kxg2 Rh2+ 31. Kf1 Rxc2 32. Bxc2 Rh1+ 33. Ke2 Rh2+ 34. Kd1 Rd2+ 35. Kc1 Nb4 36. Bb1 Rxb2 wins) 29… hxg2 30. Rxa6+ Ke5 31. Kxg2 (31. Ra5 Rh1+ 32. Kxg2 R8h2+ 33. Kf3 Rf1+ 34. Kg4 Rxc2 wins) 31… Rh2+ 32. Kf3 Rxc2 33. Bxc2 Rh2 0-1

The rare sideline worked out very well for black!  In the finals, Levon faced NM Damir Studen from Georgia (no, not Soviet Georgia) and won fairly easily, so this Western battle was definitely his toughest test.

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The Fabulous 00s: The Scrappy Western Chess Congress 2009

March 9, 2009

Nostalgia in Concord

It was quite enjoyable play in a Bill Goichberg event in Concord, CA.  There was a lot of nostalgia.  For example, I saw IM Walter Shipman battling on the black side of a stodgy Cozio in the last round vs NM Yulia Cardona and the position looked like a stodgy game where I played Walter in the 1989 Manhattan CC Championship!  (I failed to win, narrowly, and missed tying for first in that ’89 event).   By the time I left, it looked like Yulia too would not breach Walter’s tough defensive line.  I also saw Dmitry Zilberstein.  The last time I played Dmitry (not counting an Az – Ca CoC online US Champ. qualifier matchup that he won), it was the 2000 “Universe Open” in San Francisco and we were busy dropping “powerbombs” on each other in a wildly inaccurate King’s Indian.  Many “name” players didn’t do well and dropped out before the end:  Donaldson, Mezentsev, Shankland.  Strugatsky also had big problems and didn’t wind up with a prize.

In the notes that follow, “The Computer” stands for Rybka 3.1.

Big Kid and Little Kid

The event was won by Daniel “Kid” Naroditsky with 4 out of 5.  It is my fault, I squandered a white against him in Round 4 in a misfired attempt to “surprise” and could only produce an anemic draw.   Naroditsky did produce a nice win earlier, soundly defeating Shankland’s mishandled Scheveningen (I have no doubts we will see that game annotated elsewhere).

I also saw an even younger and littler kid (yes, this is possible) David Adelberg, rated only 2095, who produced a big score of 3.5 out 5 (same as me; we tied for 2nd along with Tate, Zilberstein, and De Guzman).   In my last round encounter, I frustratingly mixed up the middlegame move order in a not terribly tricky position and all my winning chances disappeared vs NM Zierk.

Here is a funny Adelberg game from the last round. I might have the introductory move order wrong but at any rate take a look at the crazy position that resulted right out of the opening:

Yanayt had 2.5 out of 4 going into this and Adelberg had 3.  There was a big class prize for Adelberg on the line!

NM Eugene Yanayt (2298) – David Adelberg (2095)  King’s Indian Western Chess Congress, Round 5.  40/2, SD/1

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 d6 3. Nc3 Nbd7 4. e4 e5 5. Nf3 c6 6. Be2 g6 7. O-O Bg7 8. Qc2  O-O Maxim Dlugy used to pay rent by squeezing hapless opposition after 9. d5.  Maxim loved static space advantages.

9. Rd1 cxd4 10. Nxd4 Qc7?! This is a very dubious and passive spot for the queen.

11. Be3 Nc5?! 12. b4 Ne6

Black’s treatment, omitting the “necessary” a7-a5,  looks highly dubious.  Thus far he looks like a victim on the wrong side of a simul. Yanayt goes for what looks like a quick kill.  If he had played 13. Nb3, he could have established a huge edge positionally.

13. Nxe6 Bxe6 14. Bf4 Rfd8 15. c5 Ne8 16. cxd6 Nxd6  17. Nb5

A nice (even if obvious) double pin.  Game over?

Is the Kid Dead Meat?

Is the Kid Dead Meat?

17…Qe7! Game not over!  The kid has a funny “kid” habit of banging out blitz type moves like this very emphatically; shades of a young Jay Whitehead.

18. Bxd6 Rxd6 19. Nxd6 Bxa1

Last chance for Yanayt to continue the fight with a small edge.

20. Nxf7?

Wrong.    I will leave the right plan as an exercise to the reader. After the text move, black had no problems drawing in short order after 20…Bxf7.

The right choice to continue the battle was the difficult 20. f4! Bg7 21. e5.  By leaving the N on d6, white poses practical problems. For example, 21…a5?! 22. b5! +=. Or, 21…Rd8 22. Bc4! Bxc4 23. Qxc4 Qe6 24. Qxe6 fxe6 25. Kf2 +=. The right reaction for black is 21…g5! but this is hard to decide on in a position where it looks like there are safe alternatives. After 21…g5 22. g3 gxf4 23. gxf4 Qh4! 24. Rf1 a5! black has enough counterplay.  This is not an obvious line and deviations give white the edge.

Stay tuned, I will present some interesting games I played vs Gutman, IM De Guzman, FM Naroditsky, Yanayt, and Zieck.

And now my own games.

Josh Gutman (2190) – M. Ginsburg, Round 1.
Sicilian Kan

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. Nc3 a6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Qc7 6. Bd3 Nf6 7. Qe2 Nc6(!) It’s really a Taimanov now, but one where it looks like black has solved his problems.

8.  Nb3 This decentralizing move cannot offer anything.  On the other hand, after 8. Nxc6 bxc6 9. e5 Nd5 10. O-O Be7 11. h3 O-O 12. Qe4 g6 13. Bh6 Re8 black is OK too.

8…Be7 9. f4

Could try something strange now

Could try something strange now

9…d6 It’s noteworth that  the computer likes the surprising 9… h5!? that I never considered.  If 10. h3 (10. e5!? Ng4 11. h3?! (11. O-O b5 (11… Nb4?! 12. Be4 d6 13. a3) 12. h3 Qa7+ 13. Kh1 Bb7 14. a4 b4 15. Ne4 f5 16. Nd6+ Bxd6 17. exd6 Kf7 18. c3 Kg6 with a strange game) 11… Bh4+! 12. Kf1 Nf2 13. Rg1 Nxd3 14. cxd3 d6 and black is very happy) 10…d6 11. Be3 b5 12. O-O Bb7 and black is all right.

10. Be3 b5 Hunting down the B/d3 with 10… Nb4?! 11. O-O O-O 12. a3 Nxd3 13. cxd3 Bd7 14. Rac1 Bc6 15. Nd4 gives white an easy position to play.

11. a4 This plan is slow and black equalizes with no problems.

11…b4 12. Nb1 12. Nd1 e5 13. O-O O-O 14. Nf2 d5 15. f5 Rd8 16. a5 d4 17. Bd2 Bb7 is fine for black.  Basically, once the N/c3 has left, black has a lot of say in the center.

12… O-O 13. O-O Bb7 The immediate 13… e5! is nice.  I did not consider it.  Black can make do without the fianchetto on b7. For example, 14. N1d2 exf4 15. Bxf4 Ng4 16. h3 Nge5 17. Nc4 Be6 with equal chances.

14. N1d2 e5 Someone like Ulf Andersson would play 14… Rfe8! which is more psychologically clever – delaying e5, and hoping  white misplaces his pieces. For example, 15. a5 e5 16. f5 d5 17. Bb6 Qb8.  The text is OK, it just reduces the possibilities.

15. Nc4  d5 Here black had the evident 15… exf4 which is good enough for equality. 16. Bxf4 (16. Rxf4 Ne5 17. Bb6 Qd7 18. Nba5 Nxc4 19. Bxc4 d5 is interesting but not forced) 16… Rfe8 17. a5 Ne5 18. Nb6 Rad8 and black is comfortable.

16. Nb6? A bad tactical miscue.  One good move was 16. Bb6! forcing the black queen back first.  Then, 16…Qb8 17. exd5 Nxd5 18. Bxh7+ Kxh7 19. Qd3+ Kg8 20. Qxd5 exf4 21. Qe4 f3!? with bizarre complications.  White also had the simple capture 16. exd5 Nxd5 17. fxe5 (Not now 17. Bxh7+? Kxh7 18. Qd3+ Kg8 19. Qxd5 Nd4! and witness the following powerful sequence: 20. Qxe5 Qc6!  21. Rf2 Bh4!! 22. Rd2 (22. Raf1 Bxf2+ 23. Rxf2 Rfe8 24. Qxd4 Rad8 25. Nba5 Rxd4 26. Nxc6 Rd1+ 27. Rf1 Rxf1+ 28. Kxf1 Bxc6 29. b3 Bd5 30. Bd2 Bxc4+ 31. bxc4 a5) 22… Nf3+!!  23. gxf3 Qxf3 and wins! – a very nice sideline) 17… Nxe5 18. Nxe5 Qxe5 19. Bd4 Qc7! and it’s about even in the middlegame.  On the other hand, the queen trade 19… Qxe2? is very bad; 20. Bxe2  is a good ending for white.

16… dxe4! Now white quickly goes down the drain.

17. Bc4 White has to play this depressing move; the point is that 17. Nxa8 exd3! 18. Nxc7 dxe2! wins since the N on c7 gets trapped.  For example,  19. Rfe1 Bd6 20. Bc5 (20. Nb5 axb5 21. axb5 Nd4 22. Bxd4 exd4 23. Rxe2 Bxf4 24. Nxd4 Ng4 25. Nf3 Be3+ 26. Kf1 (26. Kh1 Bc5) 26… Bb6 wins) 20… Bxc7 21. Bxf8 Kxf8 22. Rxe2 exf4 and wins.  White played his 16th move too quickly not seeing the N/c7 cannot get back.

17… Rad8 Now, with …Nd4 threatened and a solid extra center pawn for black, white is just lost.

18. fxe5 Black wins after 18. a5 Nd4 19. Nxd4 exd4 20. Bf2 Rfe8 21. Kh1 Bc5.

18… Nxe5 19. Bxa6

Nothing helps.  If 19. h3 Rd6 20. a5 Rc6!  is a self-blocking, computer-style move that… wins.

19… Neg4! A typical Kan overloading.  White must lose heavy material.

20. Rxf6 Qxh2+ 21. Kf1 Nxe3+ 0-1

Round 2. I continue my winning ways briefly before going on a drawing rampage in rounds 3 through 5.

IM M. Ginsburg – NM E. Yanayt   King’s Indian, Saemisch, 6. Bg5

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 g6 3. e4 d6 4. d4 Bg7 5. f3 O-O 6. Bg5 My old favorite from the 1980s; I defeated IM Israel Zilber in Canada in a sharp game and Marcel Piket in Holland (GM Jeroen Piket’s brother).

6…c5 I faced 6…Nc6!? vs. Danny Edelman OTB and versus Naroditsky in ICC blitz.  White should probably not react hyper-aggressively as I did with 7. d5 Ne5 8. f4 as I did in those games.

7. d5 e6 8. Qd2 exd5 9. cxd5 a6 10. a4 h6 11. Be3

White might get a small edge after 11. Bxh6 Nxe4 12. Nxe4 Qh4+
13. g3 Qxh6 14. Qxh6 Bxh6 15. Nxd6 Nd7.

11… Nbd7 12. Nh3 Kh7 Some prior games have featured h5, Nh7, and f5 with a wild game.

13. Nf2 Rb8 14. Be2 Qc7 15. O-O c4?

This is an over-ambitious idea, donating d4 to white.   Black can hang tough with 15… b6 16. b3 Re8.

Vacuum on d4

Vacuum on d4

16. Bd4! Filling the vacuum. 16. a5  is also a good move but the move in the game might be stronger.  The computer gives the nice regrouping 16. a5  b5 17. axb6 Nxb6 18. Bd4 Re8 19. Rfc1 h5 20. Ncd1! Bh6 21. Ne3 Nfd7 22. Qa5 with a big edge.

16… Nc5? On 16… b5 17. axb5 axb5 18. Ra7! Qd8 19. b4!? (or 19. Rfa1) white is much better.   Still he should try this as the text just drops material.

17. Bxc4 Nxa4 18. Nxa4 Qxc4?! This loses quickly.  Relatively best was 18… b5 19. Be2 (The computer’s choice – also 19. Bxb5 axb5 20. Rfc1 Qb7 21. Nb6 is great for white) 19… bxa4 20. Rxa4 Nh5 21. Rc1 Qd7 22. Bxg7 Kxg7 23. Qd4+ Kh7 24. Nd3 Bb7 25. f4 Ng7 26. Rb4 Rfe8 27. Bf3 will win; this line is just more complicated than 19. Bxb5.

19. Ba7 Bd7 20. Rfc1 Qb5 21. Nc3 Qc4 22. Ne2! The queen is caught with Ne2-d4 coming up.


Round 3. The start of my drawing “reign of terror.”

IM De Guzman (2396) – IM Ginsburg  Modern Defense

1. d4 g6 2. Nf3 Bg7 3. c3 d6 4. e4 Nf6 5. Bd3 O-O 6. O-O Nc6! A long time ago in the 1970s I tried this as white versus IM Sal Matera and got nothing.

7. Bg5 Nd7 8. Nbd2 Qe8 9. Re1 e5 10. Nb3! Excellent play.  I had only anticipated exchanging on e5 with a level game.

Position after 10. Nb3!

Position after 10. Nb3!

10… h6 11. Bh4 b6?! Not a good reaction but I was feeling uncomfortable.    I spent a lot of time and came up with this awkward move.  Better was the accurate 11… exd4 12. cxd4 a5! 13. a4 (13. Rc1 a4 14. Nbd2 a3 15. b3 g5 with sharp play) 13…Nb4 14. Rc1 c6! neutralizing the c-file and black has ‘tidied up’ nicely.

12. Bb5 Bb7 13. Qd3!? Very interesting.  White operates with Qc4 threats.

13…exd4 I didn’t understand that 13… a6!? was playable after all –  14. Bxc6 Bxc6 15. Qc4 Nf6 16. d5 Bb5 17. Qxc7 Qb8 18. Qxb8 Raxb8 19. Bxf6 Bxf6 with quite decent compensation.

14. cxd4 Rc8 15. Rac1 Ncb8 16. a4 a6 17. Bc4 Nc6 18. Qd2 Nd8 19. Qe2 Ne6!? I am just flipping pieces around and now make this semi- bluff.  I am just waiting for my chances.  I didn’t like the looks of 19… a5 20. h3 Ne6 21. Qd2 and black is suffering.

20. Bg3? The only clear error by White in this game.  He believes black’s semi-bluff and moves his bishop onto a bad square.  Correct was the grab  20. Bxa6! Bxa6 21. Qxa6 g5?! (21… Nf6 22. Qc4 Ra8 23. Ra1 Qd7 24. Bxf6 Bxf6 25. e5 d5 26. Qb5 c6 27. Qd3 Be7 28. Nbd2 Nf4 29. Qc3) 22. Bg3 g4 23. Nh4 Nxd4 24. Nxd4 Bxd4 25. Qe2 h5 26. Nf5 Bf6 27. h3 and white is better.  If he had played 20. Bxa6, I would not have played the committal g6-g5-g4 idea; rather, I would have kept pressure on the queenside pawns and hoped for some kind of compensation.

20…Nf6! Now black is very much OK.

21. d5 Ng5!? The computer likes 21… Nc5 22. Nxc5 bxc5 23. b3 Rb8.    The text is also quite good.  Black has excellent dynamic play.

22. Nxg5 hxg5 23. Ra1 If 23. Bxa6 Bxa6 24. Qxa6 Nh5 (24… Ra8 25. Qd3 Rxa4 26. Rxc7 Rxe4 27. Rf1 Qd8 28. Rc6 Rfe8 29. Rxd6 Nd7 30. Qb5) 25. a5 Bxb2 26. Rc2 Nxg3 27. hxg3 Be5 28. axb6 Ra8 29. Qb7 cxb6 30. Rc6 g4 31. Qxb6 Qb8)

23… Nh5! Black offered a draw and white accepted.  I could have played on since after  24. Bxa6 Nxg3 25. hxg3 Bxa6 26. Qxa6 Bxb2 although chances are equal black has the easier game to handle with the strong unopposed bishop.


Round 4.

Ginsburg – Naroditsky  King’s Indian Defense   “Smyslov Bg5”

The kid was ‘en fuego’ fresh off a convincing win over Shankland.  My job was to calm him down.

1.. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. c4 Bg7 4. Nc3 O-O 5. Bg5 Unfortunately this sideline is harmless as black demonstrates quickly in the game.

5…d6 6. e3 c5 7. d5

What happens if White avoids 7. d5?  Here’s a cautionary tale between an ex-WC and a fellow who once tied Botvinnik in a WC match: 7. Be2 Nc6 8. O-O Bf5 9. dxc5 dxc5 10. Qxd8 Rfxd8 11. Rad1 Ne4 12. Nxe4 Bxe4 13. b3 h6 14. Bf4 Nb4! 15. a3 Na2! 16. Rxd8+ Rxd8 17. Rd1 Rxd1+ 18. Bxd1 Nc3 19. Nd2 Bd3! and white resigned due to 20. Bf3 e5! winning a piece, Smyslov-D. Bronstein, Teeside 1975. Elegant geometry by Bronstein. White also had zero after 7. Be2 cxd4 8. exd4 h6 9. Bf4 Bf5 and black won eventually, Smyslov-Epishin Rostov 1993. We start to get the sense that 7. d5 is the only “test” but it’s not much of a test.

A very well motivated and computer-looking move to avoid the g5-d8 pin.

Position after 7...Qb6!

Position after 7...Qb6!

It was too much to hope for junior crudity with  7…h6 8. Bh4 g5? and white got a crushing advantage on the light squares in Ehlvest-Liu, Marshall CC Summer International 2008 (although Ehlvest blew numerous wins then gave Liu a forced mate which he missed; talk about adventure).

8. Qc2(?!) Ehlvest elected 8. Rb1 and this might be a little more challenging. After 8. Rb1 Na6 9. Nd2 h6 10. Bh4 g5 11. Bg3 Bf5 12. e4 black should have retreated with 12…Bg6 keeping good chances, but he went for 12…Nxe4?! and lost in Ehlvest-Garcia Luque, San Roque 1996.

8…e5 Black is also OK after 8… Na6 9. a3 Bf5 10. Bd3 (10. e4 Bd7) 10… Bxd3 11. Qxd3 Qxb2 12. O-O Qb6 13. Rab1 Qc7)

9. dxe6 9. Be2 Na6 is zero.

9… Bxe6 10. Rd1 Nc6! 11. a3 Weirdly the computer indicates 11. Rxd6(?) Nd4! 12. Rxd4 cxd4 13. Nxd4 Rae8 14. Nxe6 Rxe6 as being all right for white but what human would like that?

11… Rad8 Black is also doing well after 11… Na5.

12. Bd3 I hated my game here so i offered a draw.

I was afraid of 12…Na5! and black is starting to build a nice initiative.  After this, if 13. Nd5 I’d definitely rather be black. Naroditsky was focusing more on the rather inferior 12…h6 so he accepted.
Next time I will try a main line with Nd2 or Ne1!


Round 5. It all come down to this.  Since on other boards De Guzman was drawing Naroditsky and Tate was drawing Zilberstein, I needed to win.  And at a certain moment I had my chances…

NM S. Zierk – M. Ginsburg   Sicilian Kan

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Bd3 Qb6 6. Nb3 Qc7 7. Nc3 Nf6 8. O-O b5!? 9. f4 Bb7 10. e5 Nd5 I was modeling my play after some vague recollection of DeFirmian-Charbonneau, where black won a nice positional game  (World Open, I think, a few years ago).

11. Nxd5 Bxd5 12. Qe2 Nc6 13. c3 d6 Black is fully OK – so the opening is a success.  Conversely, from white’s point of view, he has not played in the most challenging way.

14. exd6 Bxd6 15. Be3 O-O 16. Nd2 Na5 17. Ne4 Be7 18. f5 exf5 19. Rxf5 Bc4 The computer indicates the fearless 19… Rad8 20. Rd1 Nc4.  The text is very safe.

20. Rh5? Very weak.  Now I have real chances to win the tournament.  Once upon a time I put a piece offside vs GM Jan Smejkal and he just smirked and won by technique.  Let’s see my technique…
White would do better with e.g. 20. Bd4 Bxd3 21. Qxd3 and it’s equal.

20… g6 Since this move helps black, white’s last move was pointless.
21. Rh3 Really *the* moment of the tournament for me.


Position after 21. Rh3.

21…Rad8? What a frustrating inaccuracy this will turn out to be!  The obvious 21… Bxd3 22. Qxd3 Nc4 23. Bd4 f5!  gives initiative and a great structure.  For example,  24. Nf2 Bc5 25. b3 Bxd4 26. Qxd4 Rad8.   The nature of black’s edge is fantastic piece coordination along with the nice h7,g6,f5 pawn structure.

22. Bd4 f5 23. Nd2 Bf6 Black has no winning chances anymore after this lame move.  The tactical blackout I had on move 21 was 23… Bxd3?? 24. Qe6+ Rf7 25. Qxg6+ ! and white wins.  I made the offside rook on the h-file make sense!  So I am *not* getting off the d3 bishop with no problems anymore.   A tournament winner needs to be alert!  The last chance by the way to keep the game going here was 23….Bd5.

24. Bxf6 Rxf6 25. Bxc4+ Now the game is dead . Boo!  First place was $1200 and second place was $900.  A whole slew of not terribly alert players tied for second (Tate missed an easy win vs Zilberstein).
If I had won, i would have tied for first with Naroditsky.

25…Nxc4 26. Nxc4 bxc4 27. Re1 Rfd6 28. Rh4 Rd2 29. Qxc4+ Qxc4 30. Rxc4 R8d7! Cute, but it’s still a draw.

31. Kf1 Rxb2 32. Re2 Rd1+ 33. Kf2 Rdd2 34. Rxd2 Rxd2+ 35. Kf3 Rxa2 36. Rc7 Black has won a pawn and according to the well known rule of rook endings, it is still hopelessly drawn.

36…Rc2 37. h4 a5 38. g4 fxg4+ 39. Kxg4 a4 40. Ra7 Rxc3 41. Rxa4 White offers a draw and black out of inertia “tries” a few more moves.

41…h5+ 42. Kg5 Rg3+ 43. Kh6 Kf7 44. Ra6 Rg4 45. Rb6 Rxh4 46. Rxg6 Rh1 47. Ra6 h4 48. Kh5 Draw agreed.  The five
players with 3.5 out of 5 (MG, Zierk, Tate, Zilberstein, De Guzman) each win
the paltry sum of $340.  Chess doesn’t pay well to the unalert ones.