Sunday, September 27, 2009

Barcza vs Haag, Tallinn 1969

Last time we looked at one of Grandmaster Barcza's rook endings. Here is another less-complicated one (see the first diagram).

Most endings of rook and pawn vs rook and pawn are drawn with best play from both sides. The exceptions occur when one of the pawns is much closer to its queening square. If the inferior side cannot set up a blockade, the correct defensive strategy is to give up the rook for the pawn (or new queen) and then try to promote one's own pawn. The superior side will of course try to prevent this, and the game becomes a race in which the outcome can depend on a single tempo.

In the starting position White has the advantage but with correct play it will not be enough to force a win.

51.g6 Rh3+ 52.Kg4 Rh1 53.Rf7+ Kd6 54.g7 Rg1+ 55.Kh5

(second diagram)


It isn't necessary to calculate variations to see that this move must be wrong. White is queening by force, so Black has to be ready to advance his own pawn as quickly as possible. After the self-blockade, Black will have to spend another move getting his king out of the way, which in this case is enough to turn a draw into a loss.

Correct was 55...Kd5! 56.Kh6 (after 56.Rd7+ Black can safely change plans with 56... Ke5 because his king gets to f6, where it interferes with White's king: 57.Kh6 Kf6 58.Kh7 e5 59.Kh8 (definitely not 59.g8Q? Rh1#) 59...e4 60.g8Q Rxg8+ 61.Kxg8 Ke5 and Black draws easily) 56...Rh1+ 57.Kg6 Rg1+ 58.Kh7 e5 59.g8Q (or 59.Rf6 e4 60.Rg6 Rh1+ 61.Kg8 Rf1 and White cannot make progress) 59...Rxg8 60.Kxg8 e4 61.Re7 Kd4 and White will have to give up his own rook in order to stop Black's pawn.

56.Kh6 Rh1+ 57.Kg6 Rg1+ 58.Kh7 Rh1+ 59.Kg8 Rg1

(third diagram)


This is a rather serious error at the grandmaster level. Instead of taking two moves to win Black's rook, White takes three moves to do the same thing. In this way he returns the tempo that Black wasted earlier, which is enough turn the game back into a draw.

The winning line is 60.Kf8! Kd4 61.Rd7+! (an important technical device that gains a tempo for White) 61...Kc4 (Black also concedes a tempo if the king moves in front of the pawn) 62.g8Q Rxg8+ 63.Kxg8 e5 64.Re7! Kd4 65.Kf7 e4 66.Kf6 Kd3 67.Kf5 e3 68.Kf4 e2 69.Kf3 and White successfully captures the pawn.

60...Kd4 61.Rd8+

Or 61.Kf7 e5 62.g8Q Rxg8 63.Rxg8 e4 and the e-pawn will cost White his rook.

61...Ke4 62.Kf7 e5 63.g8Q Rxg8 64.Rxg8 Kf3 65.Ke6 e4 66.Rf8+ Kg2 67.Kd5 e3 68.Re8 Kf2 ½–½

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Barcza vs Rossolimo, Vrsac 1969

This ending appeared in Informant 8 with analysis by the winner, GM Gedeon Barcza of Hungary. White has just exchanged minor pieces on c6 and is ready to take over the b-file. Having the move is usually a valuable asset when both sides have pawn weaknesses, and that is certainly the case here.

36.Rb3 Ke7 37.Rb5 e4

Black could play 37...Ra6 with the idea that a passed c-pawn is less dangerous than a passed a-pawn, but that would give his rook less mobility than in the game. With the text move he is trying to prevent White's king from joining the action.

38.Rxa5 Ke6 39.e3 h5

If 39...f5 40.Ra7 Kf6 41.a5 (Barcza) and White is threatening Ra7-b7-b6.

40.Ra8 Rb6 41.Re8+

Worth consideration was 41.a5!?, for example: 41...Rb4 42.Re8+ Kf5 43.Re7 Kf6 44.Rxe4 Ra4 45.f4 Rxa5 46.Re5 g6 47.Kf3 and the simple plan of attacking the c-pawn will put Black in serious trouble.

41...Kd6 42.Rxe4 Ra6 43.Kh3 g5 44.f4 f6

(second diagram)


Rossolimo must have breathed a big sigh of relief after this move, a serious error giving away most if not all of White's advantage. The game is going to turn into a pawn race, and in these situations the race is usually to the swift. Much stronger was the immediate 45.g4! If Black continues 45...h4 as in the game, then White plays 46.f5!, fixing a weak pawn on f6. A likely continuation then is 46...Rxa4 47.Re6+ Kd7 48.Rxf6 Rxc4 49.Rg6 Re4 50.Rxg5 Rxe3+ 51.Kxh4 c4 52.f6!, when it is clear that White is winning easily. Black fares no better after 45...hxg4+ 46.Kxg4 gxf4 47.Rxf4 Ke5 48.Rf5+ Ke4 (or 48...Ke6 49.Rxc5 Rxa4 50.h4 Kd6 51.Rd5+ Ke6 52.Rd4) 49.Rxc5 Rxa4 50.Rf5 Kxe3 51.Rf3+! Kd2 (51...Ke4 52.Rxf6 and Black cannot capture the c-pawn) 52.Rf4 and White's h-pawn is the decisive factor. It is strange that a player of Barcza's calibre did not see these ideas when analysing the game.

45...fxg5 46.g4 h4 47.Re8 Rxa4 48.Rg8 Rxc4 49.Rxg5 Re4 50.Rf5 c4 51.Rf1 c3 52.g5

Barcza gave the line 52.Kxh4 Rxe3 53.g5 Kg5 c2 54.h4 Re2 55.h5 Rd2 56.Rc1 Ke7 57.Kh6 Kf8 58.g5 Kg8! and Black draws. If 59.g6 Kh8 60.Ra1 then 60...Rd8! and White cannot make progress.

52...c2 53.g6 Rxe3+ 54.Kxh4 Re2 55.h3 Ke6?

Black can draw easily with 55...Rd2 56.Rc1 Ke7 57.Kg5 Kf8 as given by Barcza, or in much trickier fashion with the immediate 55...Ke7!?, for example, 56.Kh5 Rd2 57.g7!? Rd5+!! (the point of this check is to drive White's king to one of a number of awkward squares) 58.Kg6 (other moves are no better, as the reader can verify) 58...Rd1! 59.g8Q Rxf1! 60.Qg7+ Ke6! and White must repeat moves after 61.Qg8+ Ke7! since 62.Qh7+? loses after 62...Kd6!

56.Kh5 Rd2

Black could try 56...Rf2!? but after 57.g7 Rxf1 58.g8Q+, he will inevitably lose either his rook or his pawn.

57.g7 Rg2

There is no time left for 57...Rd1 because White will simply queen with check.

58.Kh6 Ke5 59.h4 Kd4 60.h5 1–0

An endgame concealing some interesting subtleties.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Seven Brutalities 6

I was looking for some revenge here because my opponent had won our only previous encounter. When an opportunity arose for an interesting knight sacrifice, it didn't take me long to make the big decision. Because Black could have resigned on move 25 I have decided to call this game a miniature, even though it went slightly over the limit!

Scoones,D - Neufahrt,G

Labour Day Open, Victoria 1989

English Opening A10

1.c4 g6 2.Nc3 Bg7 3.g3 c6 4.Bg2 d6 5.d4 Nd7 6.e3 f5?!

This is not the best reaction to White's restrained system of development. It is unlikely that Black will successfully challenge White on the central light squares and there are even fewer prospects of getting in an effective break with ...f5-f4. Preferable was 6...Ngf6.

7.Nge2 e5 8.b3 Ne7 9.a4?!

An unnecessary precaution. Today I would play an immediate 9.Ba3 and now: a) 9...exd4 10.exd4 Nf6 11.0-0 0-0 12.Re1; or b) 9...Nf6 10.dxe5 dxe5 11.Qxd8+ Kxd8 12.Rd1+ Ke8 13.Bd6; with advantage to White in both cases.


Rather ambitious since White is well-placed to attack Black's pawn centre. It was better to castle first and decide on a plan later.

10.f3 d5

Black meets the attack on his advanced e-pawn by building up his pawn centre. There were two other approaches: a) ignoring the attack and seeking active play with 10...0–0 11.fxe4 fxe4 12.Nxe4 d5, but after 13.Nf2 there might not be enough compensation for the pawn; b) exchanging on f3 and giving White a backward e-pawn with 10...exf3 11.Bxf3 Nf6, but this allows White to retain an edge after 12.0–0 0–0 13.Qd3 Qc7 14.Ba3 Bd7 15.b4. The move in the game is best, if only because it is the most consistent.

11.cxd5 cxd5 12.Ba3 Nf6 13.Nf4!?

With this move White threatens to win the d-pawn with 14.Bxe7 – unless Black is willing to displace his king. Neufahrt decides to call White's bluff. But who is bluffing whom?

13...g5!? (diagram)


After 14.Bxe7 Kxe7! 15.Nfe2 Kf7 Black's king position is a minor inconvenience that is more than compensated by his strong pawn centre. But White's true intention was the move in the game, offering the sacrifice of a piece for interesting play.


Black is not forced to accept the offer. Playable is 14...fxe4 15.Nh5 0-0 16.0-0 Be6, although White can perhaps maintain some initiative with 17.Nb5. In view of what happens in the game, this was what Black should have played. But Neufahrt is never one to back down from a challenge!

In making this sacrifice I did not calculate all of the variations to the end. It was enough to see that in the major lines White must have sufficient compensation for the piece. Add to this the multitude of threats and the practical difficulties imposed by the clock and it was clear that Black's defensive task would be a difficult one.

15.e5 Ne4?!

This would be the best move if Black had already castled. In that case the exchange on e4 would not be a good idea for White because of the weakened light squares around his king. It was better to play 15...Ng4, when there are two main variations: a) 16.exf4 Ne3 (stronger than 16...Be6 17.Qd3 0–0 18.h3 Nh6 19.Bxe7 Qxe7 20.Bxd5 etc.) 17.Qh5+ Ng6 18.Kf2 Nxg2 19.Kxg2 a6 20.Rac1; b) 16.Bxe7 Qxe7 17.Nxd5 Qf7 18.exf4 Be6 19.Qd3 0–0 20.Nc3 Bxb3 21.h3 Nh6 22.Rb1 Bc4 23.Qe3 Rab8 24.Kf2. In both cases White has good compensation for the sacrificed piece.

16.Bxe4 fxe4 17.Qh5+ Ng6

Exchanging queens with 17...Kf8 18.gxf4 Qe8 19.Qxe8+ Kxe8 does not bring Black any happiness after 20.Bxe7 Kxe7 21.Nxd5+ Kd8 22.Rc1 Bf5 23.Rg1 Bf8 24.Rg5.

18.exf4 Qd7

If 18...Qa5 19.Rc1 Bd7 20.0–0 Bc6 then 21.Bc5 Bf8 22.b4 Qd8 23.Bxf8 Rxf8 24.f5 with a winning position for White.

19.Nb5 Bf8?!

Black is ahead in material and under some pressure so it's very natural to want to exchange pieces. But a defender's tactical operations must be accurate and this one is nothing of the kind. A better try was 19...Qg4 20.Nd6+ Kd8 21.Qxg4 Bxg4 and now White can keep the advantage with 22.h3! (stronger than 22.Nxb7+) 22...Bf3 23.Rh2!


Black must have overlooked this retort. The pawn cannot be captured because of Nb5-c7+, winning the queen.

20...Qd8 21.Bxf8 Kxf8

No better was 21...Rxf8 22.f5 and along with his other advantages White recovers the sacrificed piece.

22.f5 a6 23.fxg6 axb5 24.0–0+ Kg8

Or 24...Ke7 25.Rf7+ Kd6 26.Rc1, slamming all the doors on the Black king.

25.g7! Kxg7 26.Rf7+ 1–0

This loss must have dented my opponent's morale because I won all the rest of our encounters. As Larsen once wrote, some games bring more than one point!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Alekhine on New York 1927

Alexander Alekhine's book of the New York 1927 international tournament is an acknowledged classic in European countries but is almost unknown in North America. The reason is simple: the book was published in German, and a proper translation has never been made available in English. Today we are going to remedy that situation to a small degree by presenting Alekhine's annotations to one of the more interesting games of the tournament: the first-round encounter between Frank Marshall and Aron Nimzowitsch.

Before this game, Marshall's lifetime score against Nimzowitsch stood at 2 wins, 3 losses, and 4 draws. He had won their last encounter (at Marienbad 1925) and was probably eager to level the scores, especially since he had the White pieces here. His choice of the Exchange Variation of the French Defence was a strange one for this purpose, although he gave it a typically aggressive interpretation. Nimzowitsch handled Marshall's attacking ideas in his own deeply positional style, and the result was an impressive victory, at least on the surface...

The commentary in standard font is by Alekhine from his book Das New Yorker Schachturnier 1927, while the commentary in italics is by Nimzowitsch from his book Chess Praxis. There are some interesting points of disagreement!

Marshall -- Nimzowitsch
New York 1927 (1)
French Defence C01

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.exd5 exd5 5.Nf3

With this move White voluntarily gives up any pretensions to an opening advantage; moreover, by exchanging on c3 at a convenient moment, Black obtains chances of creating an enduring weakness in White's position in the form of doubled pawns. The immediate 5.Bd3 is therefore played more often.

5...Ne7 6.Bd3 Nbc6 7.h3

If 7.0-0 immediately, then 7...Bg4 would not be very pleasant for White. The asymmetrical development of the king's knights has not turned out in White's favour.


Nimzowitsch is emboldened by his opponent's unsuccessful handling of the opening and he therefore avoids the natural exchanging manoeuvre 7...Bf5 in favour of a plan that is complicated and interesting, but also not completely correct.

8.O-O Qd7 9.Bf4

Simpler was 9.Ne2 with approximately equal play. However, the move in the game is also not to be criticised – it actually gives good practical results because it provokes the opponent into some risky experimentation.


Over the past few years, play against weak doubled pawns has become one of Nimzowitsch's favourite strategic motifs; and he plays such positions, which he knows how to obtain in the most varied openings, with particular virtuosity. However, in the present case he is not on the right track because the insecure position of his own king is bound to interfere with the exploitation of his opponent's weak points. Of course, with the move 9...Bd6 he could have easily equalised the game.

10.bxc3 f6

In order to safeguard the bishop against a possible Nf3-g5 – the prophylactic meaning of 7...Be6 is thus clear. White now tried an attack on the open b-file, but it is not surprising that it failed, on account of the dynamic weakness of the double complex.

A necessary consequence of his previous move. Because the king bishop has disappeared from the board, the dark squares must be defended as far as possible by pawns – but now the square e6 has been weakened.

11.Rb1 g5 12.Bg3 O-O-O (first diagram)

Looks risky, but is part of the plan initiated on the 9th move.

The king takes on the defence of the pawns on b7 and c7.

Generally speaking, the role of the king in defence has been seriously underestimated for a long time, particularly after the sad fiasco suffered by the efforts of the older Steinitz to use the king – with many other pieces still on the board – as an inducement for his opponents to attack. It is only the period since the Great War that has brought changes in this regard; see, for example, the games of the match in Buenos Aires, where even in the middlegame the kings often served to protect certain squares where a breakthrough was threatened; in other words, they played an active role well before the endgame.

Of course, Black's last few moves – by their directness and, in a certain sense, their strategic novelty – make a very favourable impression on anyone who believes in the evolution of chess strategy and its extension to new depths. Therefore it is almost vexatious to discover – after a very close examination of the position – that this plan is not only not the best, but that the correct response by the opponent – and not a difficult one to find at that – would actually put Black in a highly unenviable situation.

In view of all this it was better to forgo 11...g5 and play instead the more modest 11...Nd8 followed by 0-0, etc.


Marshall's equilibrium has been disturbed by his opponent's boldness, and he commits – both here, and later on – a series of inaccuracies that are difficult to remedy. For example, instead of the queen move – which carries only the crude and easily-parried threat of 14.Ba6 – a less-stereotyped plan of attack was appropriate: 13.Nd2! If, say, 13...Nb8; then 14.Nb3 b6 15.Qe2 – this time with really unpleasant threats. It would therefore be better for Black to reply to 13.Nd2 with 13...Na5 with the aim of exchanging off the enemy knight on its way to c5. However, notwithstanding that this exchange would restore White's pawn position on the queenside and would therefore demonstrate the insufficiency of the plan begun by the move 9...Bxc3, White would in any case be under no obligation to play the immediate 14.Nb3; very strong instead would be Qd1-c1 (followed by Qc1-a3 when appropriate) and only then the move of the knight. It is not difficult to convince oneself that by adopting such a plan of play White would obtain an enduring initiative. Now, on the other hand, he gradually runs into difficulties.


Not 13...Rdg8 because a flank attack is best undermined by a concentration in the centre and not by a counter-attack on a wing.

Defence (by clearing the square d8 for the king) and counterattack at the same time.


If 14.Ba6 then 14...bxa6 15.Qxa6+ Kd8 16.Rb7 Nf5! 17.Rxc7 Qxc7 18.Bxc7+ Kxc7 with an easy win.

14...Nf5 15.Bxf5(?)

The move 15.Ba6 proves insufficient after 15...bxa6.

It is only through the absence of this bishop that White's queenside pawns become really weak – and this promises White a difficult endgame. In spite of the obvious danger, more chances were offered by 15.Bh2.

15...Bxf5 16.Qb5 Nd8 17.Qc5?

The decisive mistake, giving Black an opportunity to set up – with tempo – a solid defensive position on the queenside. By playing 17.Qa5! Marshall could have prevented this, since if 17...Kb8 then 18.c4! and the resulting complications are not unfavourable for White.

17...b6 18.Qa3 Kb7 19.Qb3

The beginning of a tragedy: the square c2 can hardly be defended otherwise.


Already a blockader makes for c4 where it will demonstrate the weakness of the doubled pawn.


On the 13th move this would have been the start of a very promising attack, but now it is just a modest defence against the threat of a knight invasion on c4. The storm clouds are gathering.

20...Na5 21.Qb2 Rxe1+ 22.Rxe1 Re8

The double exchange of rooks is connected with a purely tactical idea (to say nothing of the fact that Black does not need these pieces in order to realise his advantage): Black eliminates the threat of Nb3-c5+ (after Nd2-b3) and at the same time he avoids the exchange of knights, which would otherwise be forced.

23.Rxe8 Qxe8 24.Qb1

What else could White do? If 24.Kf1, for example, then 24...Qa4 would be very strong.


Here 24...Qe2 was also good.

Time pressure, obviously; otherwise one cannot understand why Black did not play 24...Qe2! Then after 25.Qc1 White would be practically stalemated, while in case of 25.Nb3 Nc4 26.Nc5+ Kc8 27.Nd3 Nd2! Black would win material and also retain the attack.

25.Qd1 Qe6

Also strong was 25...Qc6.

26.Nb3 Nc4 27.Nd2 Na3 28.Nf1 Nxc2

Now Black has an ending with a pawn plus but bishops of opposite colours, and many of the onlookers prognosticated a draw.

Because of the presence of opposite-coloured bishops, White could perhaps reconcile himself to the loss of this pawn, if not for the structural weaknesses on his queenside. But now he can only wait while his opponent prepares the fatal blow.

29.Qh5 Bd3 30.Qd1 Qe4

Not 30...Qe2 at once because of 31.Qxe2 and 32.Ne3.


If 31.f3 then 31...Qe2 is sound.

31...Qe2 32.Qxe2

After 32.Qc1 Ne1! White would gradually perish from suffocation.

32...Bxe2 33.f4 Na3 34.fxg5 fxg5 35.Kf2

Otherwise Black plays 35...Nb5 followed by Be2-d3, etc.

35...Bh5 36.Be5 g4 37.hxg4

Black can only welcome pawn exchanges because on the other wing he has enough material for a win. Therefore from the practical point of view it was better to play 37.h4.

37...Bxg4 38.Ke3 Bf5 39.Bg7 (second diagram) 39...Be6!

Threatening to win a pawn with 40...Nb5, which if played immediately would be premature on account of the possible reply c3-c4. White, being obviously in time pressure (the 40th move!) does not notice the threats, and after this the endgame does not present his opponent any difficulties whatsoever. However, Black would also win after 40.Kd3!, for example: 40...Kd7 41.Bf8 Bf5+ 42.Ke3 Nc2+ 43.Kf4 Bg6 44.Ke5 Ne3, etc.

40.Bf8? Nb5 41.Nb1 a5

Here 41...Bf5 was also playable: 42.a4 Bxb1 43.axb5 Ba2 44.Kf4 Bc4 45.Ke5 Kd7 46.Bb4 c6 47.bxc6+ Kxc6 and the king migrates to b3.

Also possible was 41...Bf5, since if 42.a4 Bxb1 43.axb5, after which the simplest way for Black is Kc8-d7 followed by c7-c6 (in case of Ke3-f4-e5). After the exchange of pawns his king gets to c4.


A winning line, not unlike that shown in the preceding note would be: 42.Kf4 Bf7 43.a4 Bg6 44.axb5 Bxb1 45.Ke5 Ba7 46.Ke6 Bc4 with 47...Kb7 and 48...c6, etc.

42...Bf5 43.Na3 Nxa3 44.Bxa3 Bb1 45.Bf8 Bxa2

Marshall could have quietly spared himself the following 15 moves.

46.Bg7 Bc4 47.Ke3 Kb7 48.Bf6 Ka6 49.Kd2

If 49.Bd8, Black has a win, the king penetrating to b3, e.g., 49.Bd8 Kb5 50.Bxc7 Kc4 51.Bxb6 a4, with 52...Kb3, and wins as the a-pawn cannot be stopped. This variation shows the enduring weakness of the dead and gone double complex. For in the passed a-pawn is mirrored the weakness of the defunct White a-pawn, and in the blocked long diagonal f6-a1 is manifested, in memoriam, the obstructive effect of the pawn formation c3 and d4. White might have resigned here.

49...Bf1 50.g3 Kb5 51.Kc1 Kc4 52.Kb2 c5 53.Be5 cxd4 54.Bxd4 b5 55.Bb6 a4 56.Ba5 d4 57.cxd4 b4 58.Bb6 a3+ 59.Ka2 Kb5 60.Bc5 Ka4 White resigned. 0-1

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Culture shock

I was impressed by Black's play in this game. He unleashed a new move in the opening, seizing the initiative and making White the one to look for equality. A few moves later he offered a sharp exchange sacrifice. White unwisely accepted the offer, and his king was soon stranded in the middle of the board, perilously short of safe squares. The battle was decided long before White could get his extra material into action.

Khouseinov,R (2330) - Magomedov,M (2600) Dushanbe, 1999 [D36]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Be7 5.cxd5

The Exchange Variation is recommended by many authors as a simple and safe way for White to handle the Queen's Gambit Declined. The reality is that it does not promise White a simple and safe advantage -- IF Black knows what he is doing. Many years of practice have shown that the lines with an early Nf3 are not the most incisive. To achieve an edge, White's priority moves are Bg5, Qc2, e3, and Bd3, taking control of an important diagonal and denying Black a safe equalising manoeuvre with ...Bf5 (sometimes assisted by ...g6). Depending on Black's specific reaction White can then try a setup with Nge2, or revert to lines with Nf3. But in this game White has already committed himself to the move Nf3.

5...exd5 6.Bg5 c6 7.Qc2 Na6!?

Interfering with White's intended setup in the most direct way. If White had played e3 instead of Nf3 he could simply capture this knight, at the same time spoiling Black's queenside pawn structure.


Some players have tried 8.e3 Nb4 9.Qd1 Bf5 10.Rc1 intending 11.a3, but Black can keep his queenside demonstration going with 10...Qa5!?

8...g6 9.e4?!

There are many positions in the Exchange Variation where this central break gives White a space advantage and pressure on Black's weak points. This is not one of those positions. White's play has been slower than usual, so the advance has fewer chances of success.

The game Portisch-Jussupow, Rotterdam 1989 saw the more restrained 9.e3 Bf5 10.Bd3 Bxd3 11.Qxd3 Nc7 and Black had few problems, the game eventually ending in a draw.

9...Nxe4! 10.Nxe4 (first diagram) 10...Nc7!!

A new move which had been suggested by Lubomir Ftacnik but not actually played until this game. Because of a later inaccuracy by Magomedov I suspect that he was not following home analysis and may even have been unaware of Ftacnik's suggestion.


The best reply. Black cannot play 11...Bxc5 because 12.Bxd8 wins a piece, so White manages to get his queen to an active position. Ftacnik's analysis ended after 11.h4 dxe4 12.Qxe4 Bf5, but after the further moves 13.Qe5 Kd7!, it is clear that the upcoming exchanges will be favourable for Black.

11...dxe4 12.Qe5 Rf8 13.Qxe4 Bf5 14.Qe3

White avoids 14.Qxe7+ Qxe7+ 15.Bxe7 Kxe7, when his isolated d-pawn is the central feature of a much-simplified position.

14...Nd5 15.Qd2 Be4!

White is being driven back on all fronts and this move adds to his difficulties. The upcoming exchange on f3 will seriously compromise White's defences, and for specific tactical reasons it cannot be easily prevented. For example, 16.Be2 Bxf3 17.Bxe7 Qxe7 18.gxf3 and Black has the advantage after 18...Qf6. White finds the only sensible reply to 15...Bd4 – a counterattack on Black's rook – but there is another surprise waiting for him.

16.Bh6 (second diagram) 16...Bxf3!

Far more energetic than 16...Rg8. Recapturing on f8 will clear the e-file for Black's remaining rook, adding to the pressure on White's king. It might be said that the exchange sacrifice is based less on exact calculation and more on what Kasparov famously described as “chess culture.”


White should not accept the offer, although he is still in difficulties after 17.gxf3 Rg8 18.Bd3 Qd6! 19.h4 Bf8 20.Be3 f5 (Magomedov).


A strange decision because the simple 17...Kxf8 18.gxf3 Bg5 19.Qc2 would transpose to the game. This might be described as Magomedov's only slip in an otherwise-impressive attacking display.


Much stronger was 18.Qd3. In his analysis Magomedov gave 18... Kxf8! 19.gxf3 Qa5+ 20.Kd1 Re8! 21.Kc2 without further comment, but there are some blank spots here. To start with, in the position after 21.Kc2 Black wins easily with 21...Nb4+ 22.axb4 Qxa1. More critically, what happens if White preserves his pawn structure with 19.Qxf3? The best line for both sides seems to be 19...Qb6 20.Bc4 Bd2+! 21.Kf1! Qxb2 22.Rd1 Qxd4 23.Qd3 Qxd3 24.Bxd3 Bc3 25.g3 when Black has two pawns for the exchange but one can hardly speak of an advantage for him.

Instead of 21.Kc2 White can try 21.Rb1 but after 21...Re1+ 22.Kc2 Qa4+! 23.b3 Qxa3 24.Rxe1 Black has a mating attack: 24...Qa2+ 25.Kd1 Qa1+! 26.Ke2 ( 26.Kc2 Nb4#) 26...Qb2+ 27.Kd1 Qc1+ 28.Ke2 Nf4#) These lines were given by Magomedov.

18...Kxf8! 19.gxf3 Qa5+ 20.Kd1 Rd8!

In Magomedov's line given above, this rook went to e8 in order to get at White's king. The switch to d8 is a pleasing variant on this idea. White's king is just as vulnerable on the d-file, the isolated pawn being a minor obstruction that will soon be swept away.


Black mates after 21.Qc5+ Qxc5 22.dxc5 Nb4+! 23.Ke2 Rd2+ 24.Ke1 Nc2#.


The editors of Informant 76 pointed out that 21...Nb4 wins more quickly, but the text does not spoil anything.

22.Qc3 Qe5! 23.Qe3

Or 23.Re1 Rxd4+ 24.Kc2 Nxe2, etc.

23...Rxd4+ 24.Kc2 Qf5+ 25.Kb3 Qd5+ 26.Kc3 Nxe2+ 27.Qxe2 Rd2 28.Qe4 Bf6+ 0–1

Powerful stuff!

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Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada
National master (Canada) since 1984. B.C. Champion 1977 and 1984. Runner-up 1991 and 2002. B.C. Open Champion 1972 and 1982. B.C. U/14 Champion 1964-65-66. Mikhail Botvinnik once wrote that publishing your analytical work forces you to be accurate because it exposes you to criticism. Hence this blog.