Posts Tagged ‘Sicilian Kan’

The Fabulous 00s: Week 2 USCL Opening of the Week (OOTW)

September 12, 2009


In a GM matchup from round 2, we have Pascal Charbonneau (NY) tangling with GM Gregory Serper (SEA) in my favorite variation, the Sicilian Kan.  Surprisingly, Serper goes wrong early and Charbonneau won convincingly.  This sharp Sicilian Kan is this week’s Opening of the Week (OOTW) and we can learn a lot about move orders, nuances, and getting past the opening for black!

The raw game score:

Charbonneau (NY)-Serper (SEA)   Sicilian Kan

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Bd3 Nf6 6.0-0 d6 7.c4 Be7 8.Nc3 0-0 9.Qe2 Re8?! 10.Kh1 b6 11.f4 Bb7 12.Bd2
This rather primitive set-up is the favorite set-up across all rating ranges when I play ICC blitz. Therefore, black should be ready for it.

12…Qc7? Oops!  An unfortunate choice that sends black down the drain.

Just to show that the Kan poses problems in quick play, here is a quick digression M. Ginsburg – D. Gurevich, G/30 Champs., Milwaukee, WI, 2002.
1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 b6 3. Nc3 Bb7 4. e4 d6 5. d4 cxd4 6. Nxd4 Nf6 7. Bd3 e6 8. O-O Nbd7 9. Qe2 a6 10. b3 Be7 11. Bb2 O-O 12. Rad1 Re8 13. f4 Bf8? 14. e5!

Oops! Black has forgotten about this possibility in a turn of events eerily similar to the current game we are analyzing.

14…dxe5 15. fxe5 Bc5 16. Na4!

White is winning.
16… Nxe5 17. Qxe5 Bd6 18. Qe2 Qc7 19. Rxf6 Bxh2+ 20. Kh1 Qg3 21. Rxf7!  The easiest. 21… Kxf7 22. Qh5+ Ke7 23. Qxh2 Qxh2+ 24. Kxh2 1-0 Dmitry didn’t have a chance after his miscue on move 13.

In another digression, just to show the Kan can create the pre-conditions for an upset, here is the great GM Dzindzihashvili taking too many chances and fumbling the ball against a young, inexperienced player in Chicago 1979.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Bd3 Nf6 6. O-O d6 7. c4 g6?! 8. Nc3 Bg7 9. Bg5 Nbd7 10. Kh1 b6 11. f4 Qc7 12. f5 gxf5 13. exf5 e5 14. Ne6! fxe6 15. fxe6 O-O 16. e7! Bb7 17. exf8=Q+ and white went on to win, M. Ginsburg – R. Dzindzihashvili, Chicago Masters/Experts 1979.

A final digression showing the dangers, with apologies to Viktor Korchnoi who clearly wasn’t fully awake that day,

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Bd3 Bc5 6. Nb3 Ba7 7. c4 Nc6 8. O-O Qh4? 9. N1d2 Nge7 10. c5!  Yuck! 10…Ne5 11. Be2 b6 12. f4 N5c6 13. Nc4 bxc5 14. g3 Qh6 15. f5 Qf6 16. fxe6 Qxe6 17. Nd6+ Kf8 18. Bc4 1-0 Calvo-Korchnoi, Havana Olympiad 1966.

But fear not, Kan supporters.  This cagey opening can, and should, live!
Returning to Charbonneau-Serper, white strikes with the obvious but pleasing

13.e5! Nfd7 14.f5! … and White is completely winning already.  A very depressing opening tableau for black.

14…Nxe5 15.fxe6 Bf6 16.Nd5 Bxd5 17.cxd5 Nxd3 18.Qxd3 fxe6 19.Nxe6 Qf7 20.Qg3 Ra7 21.Bc3 Nd7 22.Qxd6 Qe7 23.Qg3 Bxc3 24.bxc3 Nc5 25.Rae1 Nxe6 26.Rxe6 Qd8 27.Qe3 Rae7 28.Qxb6 Qxb6 29.Rxb6 Rc7 30.d6 Rf7 31.Kg1 a5 32.c4 Rxf1+ 33.Kxf1 Kf7 34.c5 Ke6 35.Rb7 Kd5 36.Rc7 Black resigns 1-0

So what happened?  Serper didn’t react properly to Charbonneau’s common club-player plan of Bd2 and e5 (often with Rae1 thrown in).  The trick is that Bd2 tangles white’s minor pieces up on the d-file and black has to be ready to find tactical chances to exploit that tangle.

Let’s explore this a little bit more.   First, we take as already on the board black’s 9th move which looks a little fancy (delaying queenside development), but is OK.  White has just played 12. Bc1-d2 with obvious intentions.

Position after White's 12th move in Charbonneau-Serper

Position after White's 12th move in Charbonneau-Serper

Here, as we know, Serper played 12…Qc7? which loses for tactical reasons.

To exploit the tangle on the d-file after e4-e5, there are two black methods – placing a rook on d8 (after Qc7), or using the queen herself from d8.  Black can’t do the first method here, since he’s already played the slow 9…Re8.  So he needs to let the queen sit on d8 a little while longer to hold up e5.  After looking at this second method, we’ll return to the game a bit earlier and indicate how black can use the first method with a more crafty move order.

Let’s see it. 12…Nbd7! The first point is after the natural build-up 13. Rae1, black has the surprising 13…Nf8! and white’s e5 is definitely not playable. So white has to resort to slow methods and black has time to mobilize his whole army – the dream of the Hedgehog player who seeks to punch later in the middlegame.   But what about the immediate 13. e5!? which certainly looks dangerous? This is critical, but black can hold.

12…Nbd7! 13. e5!?  dxe5 14. fxe5 Nc5! There is no time for half-measures.  This is a solid defense.  Interestingly, there is another sharp defense here, 14…Bc5!? — after the plausible 14…Bc5!? 15. exf6?! Bxd4 16. fxg7 f5! black is all right.  However, after the accurate 15. Nf3! black has problems.

15. exf6 Bxf6 16. Rxf6! I think it’s very plausible to think that aggressive Charbonneau would steer for this apparently devastating attack.   Besides, on any other white move, black simply regains the piece with a very good game.  However, black has resources here.

Which way to take back?

Which way to take back?

Position after 16. Rxf6! – Analysis

The key for black is psychological – don’t lose your head when it appears your king is getting ripped apart!  Objectively black is all right.  The correct recapture is 16…Qxf6!.  No points for 16…gxf6? 17. Qg4+ Kh8 18. Bxh7!! and the king IS getting ripped apart; white wins elegantly after 18…Kxh7 19. Rf1!! f5 20. Nxf5! – what a pleasure it is for white to play all these moves! – and black has no defense.

So we have on the analysis board 16…Qxf6!

After this, black can look forward to what former WC Boris Spassky valued most highly; piece activity.  His coordinated activity saves him after, for example, 17. Nf3 Nxd3 18. Qxd3 Rac8 or 17. Nb3 Nxd3 18. Qxd3 e5!.  In many variations, this mobile e-pawn generates plenty of play.  Overall, chances are balanced in this sharp fight of two minors against the rook.

Let’s see a nice sample variation on the analysis board.

16…Qxf6! 17. Nf3 Nxd3 18. Qxd3 Rac8 19. Rf1 Qf5! – a very pretty defensive resource.

Nice defense!

Nice defense!

After 20. Qe2 Qc2! black is hassling white big-time, and after 20. Qxf5 exf5 21. b3 Rcd8 you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to observe all black’s pieces are running on all cylinders with level chances.

Conclusion:  Serper’s slow 9…Re8 is indeed playable but he needed to be alert after white’s 12th and find this narrow road.

Let’s go back and try to set up black’s other method to deal with e4-e5, by placing a rook on d8.  How to arrange this before white blows up the center?   Here’s how to do it for all you Kan explorers in the audience:

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Bd3 Nf6 6.0-0 d6 7.c4 Be7 8.Nc3 b6 (no castles just yet) 9. f4 Bb7 10. Bd2 Nbd7 11. Qe2 Qc7 12. Rae1 and we reach a key moment.

Black has to be careful

Black has to be careful

As any good beginner’s book will tell you, be extra-careful when your king is not yet castled.  Thus the principle idea of Ra8-d8, while good strategically here, is bad tactically.  12…Rad8? 13. Nd5! (the punishment) 13…exd5 14. exd5 Nc5 15. Bc2! and white is totally winning.  Black wants to play Rd8, to hold up the e5 advance, but has to get the move order right.  Thus correct here is the apparently dangerous 12…O-O! first.  Let’s see it.  The testing line to calculate, of course, is the e4-e5 push.  With white’s king on g1, and not yet on h1, black has additional tactical possibilities.  And this, in fact, is what justifies 12…O-O!.

12…O-O! 13. e5?! dxe5 14. fxe5 Bc5! Threatening d4 WITH CHECK  and this is the saving nuance. 15. Rf4 What else? No going back now. White is already hoisted by his own petard.

15…Nxe5! A common tactical trick when there’s a d-file tangle.  Kan players must always keep this trick in mind. 16. Qxe5 Qxe5 17. Rxe5 Rad8! and white is caught in a set of lethal pins, since 18. Rxc5 bxc5 does not help!  Seattle wins the game and the match!

Going back, 12…O-O 13. Kh1 allows black to realize his principle idea with 13…Rad8! and the game is level!

Conclusion:  black can achieve the R to d8 “method” to hold up e4-e5 in this white setup but must be wary of move-order tricks and traps.

Overall conclusion:  the Sicilian Kan lives!

The Fabulous 00s: USCL Week 7

October 8, 2008

USCL Week 7:  Sicilian Kan Excitement

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

My favorite opening!  Black got a good game…

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

7…Nc6 8. a3 Be7 9. Be3 Nf6 10. Bg2

Some hidden ICC knowledge here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24. Qh6 Nd8 25. Nf6 1-0

And for Something Different: Bellwether

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

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

Belle  –noun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And on the Chess Teaching Front:

From: Precious Garcia

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

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

Comic Interlude

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

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

“What does that tell you?”

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

Holmes was silent for a minute, then spoke.

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

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

An Important Game from 1979

September 24, 2007

In March 1979 Michael Rohde took a big step toward U.S. Chess stardom – he made his first GM result at the Marshall Chess Club!  The tourney was also notable for Eugene Meyer’s 2nd IM norm and Larry Kaufman’s 1st IM norm.

Here is the NY Times article (by GM Robert Byrne). Click to enlarge.

The game itself seemed to go in a predictable path:

Plaskett was over-aggressive, Rohde picked up a few pawns, and won by taking advantage of Plaskett’s over-exposed King.

But behind the scenes, another player on an adjacent board (who was finished with his game) was analyzing and moving the pieces around, generally being distracting, during this featured NY Times game. Rohde asked him to stop, and the 3rd party took offense. Words were exchanged, the situation became ultra-tense, and it almost came to an all-out fight. The TD was summoned and this tense game’s clocks were stopped. Future GM Jim Plaskett was shocked (being British, does this happen in the UK?) and when things got underway again he offered no meaningful resistance and lost quickly.

Viva USA!  Barroom brawls do have a place in our chess culture.  Note in the NY Times article Byrne committed the common typo of Rhode (like Rhode Island).

Plaskett (UK) – Rohde (USA)  Sicilian Kan

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. Nc3 a6 4. d4 cd 5. N:d4 Qc7 6. Bd3 Nf6 7. f4 d6 8. Be3 Be7 9. O-O Nbd7 10. Qf3 Nc5 11. Rae1 O-O 12. Qg3 b5 13. e5 dxe5 14. dxe5 Ne8 Forced. If 14…Nfd7?? 15. Bh6 wins.

I am not sure when the near-fisticuffs broke out but I do know it was before Plaskett was dead lost.

15. Ne4 15. Be4!? Nxe4 16. Nxe4 Bb7 17. Bg5 Rd8 and black defends.

15…Nxd3 16. cxd3 Bb7 17. Rc1 Qd8 18. Nc6? Correct is 18. Nc5 and white is slightly better after e.g. 18…Bd5 19. b3.

18…Bxc6 19. Rxc6 Qd5! 20. Rfc1?! The simplest way was 20. Bc5! Qxc6 21. Bxe7 Nc7 and chances are balanced.  If 20…Bxc5+?! 21. Rxc5 Qxa2?! white gets the edge after 22. Nf6+! Kg8 (22…Nxf6? 23. exf6 g6 24. Qe3 Kh8 25. Qh6 Rg8 26. Rf3 just wins for white as 26..Qb1+ is met by the simple 27. Rc1) 23. Nd7! Rg8 24. Qf2!

20…Qxa2 21. Rc7? This ridiculous combination is unsound and loses quickly.  Even at this late juncture, White had the interesting resource 21. Nc5! threatening 22. Nd7 trapping the rook.  Then if 21…Rd8 22. b4! Qb2 23. Qf4 the entire game lies ahead.

21…Nxc7 22. Rxc7 Qb1+ 23. Kf2 Q:d3 Black is completely winning by the simplest of means; simply capturing things while at the same time centralizing his pieces.

24. Qf4 f6! The computer has black up by 5.82 “points” now.  Ouch.  Its not often you see the defensive side switch entirely over to the attack in one half-move.

25. exf6 A pleasing side-variation: if 25. Rc3 Qd5 26. Kg3 g5! 27. Qf3 fxe5 28. Qg4 Rf4!! 29. Bxf4 exf4+ 30. Kf3 Qd1+ and wins white’s queen!

25…B:f6 26. Kg3 Bh4+! and white resigns.  Now the margin is 14.06 “points”, reminiscent of a football game.


Hopefully the reader gets a sense for how quickly Plaskett dried up and blew away.