Sunday, February 21, 2010

Temporary initiative

Whenever you can make a series of attacking moves and force your opponent to retreat or play defensively, it's tempting to think that you must have some advantage. But that isn't always true. It's important to pay close attention to the “shape” that remains when the forcing sequence is over. If you haven't landed a real blow, you might find yourself suddenly on the defensive.

This is what happened to Gyula Sax of Hungary in his game with Dragoljub Velimirovic of Yugoslavia in the Tungsram international tournament held at Budapest in 1973. In the early middlegame Sax went in for a forcing sequence, failed to achieve anything significant, and then could only sit and watch as Velimirovic's forces came to life. Sax was forced into a pawn-down endgame and he eventually succumbed to Velimirovic's technique.

G.Sax – D.Velimirovic, Budapest 1973 Sicilian Dragon B76

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4 Bd7 7.Bb3 g6 8.Be3 Bg7 9.f3 0-0 10.Qe2 Na5 11.0-0-0 a6 12.Qd3 b5 13.Bg5 Nxb3+ 14.Nxb3 b4 15.Bxf6 Bxf6 16.Nd5 Bg7 17.Qe3 Rb8 18.e5 Be6 19.f4 Rb5 (diagram) 20.Qf3 Bxd5 21.Rxd5 Rxd5 22.Qxd5 dxe5 23.Qxd8 Rxd8 24.fxe5 Bxe5 25.g3 Rd5 26.Re1 a5 27.Nd2 Bxb2+ 28.Kxb2 Rxd2 29.h4 Rg2 30.Re3 f5 31.Rxe7 Rxg3 32.h5 gxh5 33.Re5 Rg5 34.Rxa5 h4 35.Rd5 h3 36.Rd1 Rg3 0-1

The position after 9...0-0 is well known to theory but in place of the standard 10.Qd2, Sax tried the unusual 10.Qe2!? It's hard to know what to make of this move but in any case Velimirovic didn't hesitate to force off his opponent's dangerous bishop with 10...Na5!

Instead of castling queenside, Sax should have recognized that his attacking chances were already behind schedule on account of the slow move 10.Qe2. It was probably better to castle kingside, centralize his pieces, and maintain a solid position.

After 12...b5 Sax did not realize how quickly the tide was turning against him; otherwise he might have tried the centralizing 13.Nd5!?, aiming to neutralize Black's queenside initiative. With the aggressive 13.Bg5?!, Sax started on an adventure that was bound to end badly for him. The idea was to capture on f6, then attack Black's bishop with Nd5, and then play e4-e5. But if Sax had looked closely he would have seen that although this manoeuvre pushes Black around, it doesn't break his position in any way.

If Sax had captured Black's b-pawn with 17.Nxb4, then after 17...a5 he would have been exposed to strong counterplay. But after 17.Qe3 Rb8! Velimirovic was starting to take over, and after 19...Rb5! things became critical for Sax. He could not bail out with 20.exd6 (intending the forking move 21.dxe7 if Black captured on d5) 20...exd6 21.Qf3 because Velimirovic would have the powerful manoeuvre 21...Bxd5 22.Rxd5 Rxd5 23.Qxd5 Qf6! and White cannot defend the square b2.

Sax was now seriously lamenting the exchange of his dark-squared bishop. He tried 20.Qf3 but after the multiple exchanges on d5 Velimirovic played his trump move 22...dxe5. Because his queen was unprotected, Sax was forced to acquiesce to a pawn-down endgame. With the extra advantage of bishop versus knight Velimirovic had no difficulty scoring the full point.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Lalic vs Spraggett, Sevilla 2010

Four players tied for first in the recent Sevilla Open, each scoring 7 points from 9 games. Three of them were on 6.5 points and achieved the leading score by making a draw in the last round. But one of them – Kevin Spraggett of Canada – started the last round on 6 points and had to win his final game against Bogdan Lalic in order to join the leaders. This was a particularly impressive result for Spraggett because he had the Black pieces.

How does one win to order against a strong grandmaster? It helps if he or she also needs to win, and that was the case here. Bogdan Lalic also started the last round with 6 points and was clearly determined to join the leaders. The first result was the appearance of a very sharp opening system – the Modern Benoni.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c5 4.d5 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.Nc3 g6 7.h3 Bg7 8.e4 0-0 9.Bd3 a6 10.a4 Nh5!?

"Knight to the rim” can be dodgy but Black must prevent 11.Bf4, which would give White a very unpleasant bind. In fact White can force it through but that comes at a price as we shall see.

11.0-0 Nd7 12.Re1 Re8 (diagram)


White rises to the challenge, but the weakening of his kingside will soon have negative consequences. Stronger was 13.Bg5 and if 13...Bf6 then 14.Be3.

13...Nhf6 14.Bf4 h5 15.g5

If 15.gxh5 Nxh5 16.Bxd6 Ne5 17.Bxe5 Bxe5 with a kingside initiative for Black.

15...Nh7 16.h4 Ne5

Black could also consider 16...Qe7!?

17.Nxe5 dxe5 18.Be3 f6 19.Qf3

Stronger was 19.Qd2!? After the move in the game White starts on a negative trend from which he does not recover.

19...fxg5 20.hxg5 Nxg5 21.Qg3 Nh3+ 22.Kh1 Qf6 23.Bf1 Nf4 24.Bxc5 Bd7 25.a5 Rac8 26.Ba3 Bh6

This turns out well, but 26...g5 27.f3 Bf8 was perhaps even better.

27.Rac1 h4 28.Qh2?

It was better to sacrifice a pawn with 28.Qe3 Bg5 29.Qf3 Nxd5 30.Qxf6 Nxf6 31.Rcd1, trading off the queens and getting some free play for White's pieces.

28...Bg4! 29.Re3 Nh5

With this "echo" move Black wins the exchange in simple fashion and it is now rather difficult to suggest any improvements for White.

30.Rce1 Bxe3 31.Rxe3 Ng3+ 32.Kg1 Nxf1 33.Kxf1 Rc4 34.f3 Rec8 35.Ke1 Bd7 36.d6 Kg7 37.Rd3 h3 38.Rd5 Re8 39.Qg3 Rh8 40.Rd2 Rh5! 41.Rf2 Qd8 42.f4 Qh4 0-1

A powerful display by the Canadian grandmaster!

About Me

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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.