Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Two bishop moves

Here is a nice game won by the future grandmaster Peter Leko when he was only 12 years old. Keep an eye on White's light-squared bishop!

Leko,P (2460) - Ruzele,D (2340)
Debrecen 1992
French Defence C11

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Bc5 9.Qd2 Bxd4 10.Bxd4 Nxd4 11.Qxd4 Qb6

This plan involving massive exchanges on d4 was introduced by Gideon Stahlberg in 1960. Over the years it has attracted sporadic attention, notably from Mikhail Gurevich and Viktor Korchnoi. At the grandmaster level it is a fairly safe way to play for a draw with the Black pieces, but anyone at a lower level is not going to have an enjoyable time. By the way, Stahlberg lost that first game -- to Mikhail Tal.

12.0–0–0 Qxd4 13.Rxd4 Ke7 14.h4!

A nice, thematic move. If unopposed, White will set up his pawns on e5, f4 g4, and h5, and threaten a breakthrough at an appropriate moment. Black's next move opposes this plan but it has the disadvantage of fixing his kingside pawns on light squares.


Leko mentioned 14...f6 in Informant 56, but this lets White get a clear advantage after 15.exf6+ gxf6 16.f5! Nb6 17.fxe6 Bxe6 18.Bd3.

15.Be2 Nb8 16.Rd2 Bd7 17.Rhd1 g6

This must be played sooner or later; otherwise Black will be unable to move his rook from h8.

18.b3! Bc6!?

And not 18...Nc6 on account of 19.Ne4! with advantage to White, for example, 19...Rhd8 20.Nd6 b6 21.c4! and Black is in difficulties.

19.Bf3 Nd7 20.Ne2 Rhc8

Pressure along the c-file is Black's only active plan. Almost everything else will create weaknesses. But with White's king on hand to defend the queenside it is unlikely that Black will achieve anything concrete.

21.Nd4 Rc7 22.Kb2 Nb6 23.Rd3!

Not 23.a4? Bxa4! 24.bxa4 Nc4+ followed by 24...Nxd2 with decent play for Black.

23...Bd7 24.a4! a5 25.Be2

White has taken control of the key square b5 and now has possibilities on both wings.

25...Rac8 26.Rh3 Bc6 27.Rg1 Rh8

It was probably better to recycle the knight with 27...Nd7.


Threatening to attack the pawn on a5.

28...Nd7 29.Rh1 Rcc8 30.Rhh3 Rhg8

By alternating play on both wings, White has brought all his pieces to active positions while Black has been forced into passivity. It is now time to strike.


A nice combination of tactics and strategy, opening up the position and exposing Black to further attack. "A weakness of the dark squares is also a weakness of the light squares," wrote David Bronstein.


Black is losing a pawn, so he tries to gain some activity. If 31...Nb8 then 32.Nxc6+ Rxc6 33.Bxb7 Rxc3 34.Rxc3 Kd7 35.Ka3 with the idea of 36.b4 with a winning position for White.

32.exf6+ Nxf6 33.Nxc6+

Now that e6 has been weakened, it was also possible to play 33.Rce3 Ne4 34.Bd3 Nc5 35.Rhg3 with continuing pressure for White.

33...Rxc6 34.Bxb7 Rb6 35.Rc7+ Kd6 36.Rhc3 Ne4

In Informant Leko gave the line 36...Rb8 37.Rf7 Ne4 38.Rcc7 as winning for White, but there is a huge flaw in this: 38...Nc5! 39.Bc8 Nxa4+ 40.Kc1 Nc5 and Black is suddenly much better.

After 36...Rb8 the right idea is 37.Bc8! d4 38.R3c4 Kd5 39.Re7, when Black is more or less in zugzwang; for example, 39...Ke4 (or 39...Ne4 40.Kc1 Nc5 41.Rc7 Ne4 42.Bd7) 40.Rxe6+ Rxe6 41.Bxe6 Kxf4 42.Bf7 Rd8 43.Bxg6 Kg3 44.Rc5 Kxh4 45.Rf5 Nd5 46.Bxh5 Ne3 47.Rxa5 Nxg2 48.Be2 and White must be winning.

37.R3c6+ Rxc6 38.Rxc6+ Kd7 39.Ra6! Kc7

Leko gave 39...Nc5 40.Rb6! and wins. One should also mention 39...Rf8, on which there could follow 40.Bc6+ Kc7 41.Bb5 Rxf4 42.Rxe6 Rg4 43.Be8 Rxg2 44.Rc6+ Kb8 45.Rxg6 Rh2 46.Ra6 Rxh4 47.Rxa5 Nf6 48.Bf7 d4 49.b4 Rh3 50.Rf5 and wins.

40.Ba8! Rf8 41.c4! Rxf4 42.cxd5 e5 43.Rxa5

Another way forward was 43.Rxg6 Rxh4 44.Re6 Nf2 45.Kc2, etc.


If 43...Rf2+ 44.Ka3 Rxg2 then 45.d6+.

44.d6+! Nxd6

Or 44...Kxd6 45.Ra6+ Kc7 46.Rxg6 Nd6 47.Rg5.

45.Rxe5 Kb8

If 45...Rxa4 then 46.Rc5+, etc.

46.Bd5 Rg4 47.a5 Rd4 48.Bf3 Nf5 49.Kc3 Rf4 50.Re4 Rh4 51.Rxh4 Nxh4 52.Be4 1–0

In many ways a typical game from the modern era. Strategically, White's play was not too complicated, but the key to success was the exploitation of Black's weaknesses with exactly calculated tactical play. White got his attack in first and Black's counterplay was just too slow. Bobby Fischer won a lot of games this way!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Geller vs Suetin, Moscow Team Ch. 1981

Today we present a little-known but pleasing attacking game by the Ukrainian grandmaster Efim Geller, a perennial world championship candidate but arguably never a serious contender for the title. His opponent, the second-tier Russian grandmaster Alexei Suetin, famously had his face slapped by Mrs Rona Petrosian after failing to match the depth and accuracy of Bobby Fischer's adjournament analysis during the 1971 Candidates Final in Buenos Aires. However, Suetin's book A Contemporary Approach to the Middlegame is an acknowledged classic, so we'll cut him some slack and thank him for his unintended role in Fischer's ascent to the throne in 1972.

A personal view: when forced to defend against 1.e4, the Sicilian Defence is best deployed against the relatively weak or the very strong. Anyone possessing a modicum of chessic common sense knows that playing 1...c5 demands a good theoretical knowledge base, a storehouse of experience, and a willingness to take calculated risks. All fine if you have those things, but otherwise you're just asking for trouble. If proper preparation prevents poor performance, then mutatis mutandis insufficient investigation involves inevitable inadequacy.

Despite his reputation as something of an also-ran, Efim Geller made a number of contributions to opening theory, one of which is seen in our game today. Most Black warriors are pleasantly surprised by the appearance of the move c2-c3 in the Sicilian Defence because it takes away the natural square from White's queen knight, thereby diminishing the first player's control over the squares e4 and d5. It also signals that White is perhaps a denizen of the lower chess classes. Of course Black will usually try to punish this lacklustre approach with a well-timed d7-d5, but in today's game there is something about his previous moves ...a6 and ...Bc5 that doesn't quite square with this simplistic program. Geller had already taken note of this back in 1969 when he successfully introduced 6.c3 against Mark Taimanov in that year's Soviet Championship. So... 12 years on and time for another outing...

Geller – Suetin
Moscow Team Championship 1981
Sicilian Defence B42

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Bd3 Bc5 6.c3

White can play for an edge with 6.Nb3 Be7 7.Qg4!? g6 8.Qe2 d6 9.0-0 Nd7 and now 10.Na3!? is interesting.

6...Ne7 7.0-0 Nbc6 8.Be3 Qb6?

When Black wants to punish or at least annoy White in the opening, he often forgets about castling and reaches for his queen. This particular expedition cannot end happily. Normal would be 8...d6 9.Nd2 0-0 and Black seems to be OK.


I like a game with interesting moments. One guy makes a threat, the other guy makes a move that allows the threat, and then the first guy realises that the threat doesn't work. Have a look:
A. 9...Qxb2? 10.Nc4! Qxc3 11.Rc1 Qb4 12.a3 and wins;
B. 9...Nxd4? 10.cxd4 Bxd4 11.Nc4 Qa7 12.Nd6+ Kf8 13.Qh5 and wins.


A freeing move? Not really – Black's king is still in the centre.

10.N2b3! Bxd4 11.cxd4 dxe4

Black should castle and hope for the best.

12.Bxe4 Qd8?!

If 12...Nd5 then 13.Qg4! Kf8 (13...0-0? 14.Bh6 winning the exchange) 14.Qf3 and Black will find it very difficult to untangle himself.

13.Qh5! Nd5 14.Bg5 Nce7 15.Rfe1 h6 16.Rad1 Qd6

In Informant 32 Minic and Sindik gave the cryptic 16...0-0 17.Bxh6! without further comment. White has very good compensation for the piece after 17...gxh6 18.Qxh6 f5 19.Bxd5 Nxd5 20.Rd3 Qf6 21.Rg3+ Kf7 22.Qh7+ Ke8 23.Nc5, but it's not clear that he's actually winning.

After 16...0-0, Black is not in fact threatening to capture the bishop, so White should take the opportunity to bring another piece into action. After 17.Rd3! there are two main variations:
A. 17...f5 18.Bxd5 hxg5 19.Rxe6 Qxd5 20.Rxe7 f4 21.Qg6 Rf7 22.Re5 Qd8 23.Rxg5 and White is winning;
B. 17...Qe8 18.Bxh6 f5 19.Qg5 Rf7 20.Bxd5 Nxd5 21.Rg3 Qe7 22.Qg6 f4 23.Rg4 Qf6 24.Qh5 f3 25.Re5 fxg2 26.f4! and the assault on g7 spells doom for Black.

After the text move 16...Qd6 we are at another interesting moment. Geller knows what to do.

17.Bxe7! Nxe7 18.d5! exd5

Or 18...e5 19.Bb1, etc.

19.Bxd5 Qf6

The alternative 19...Qg6 does not help in view of 20.Bxf7+! Kxf7 21.Rxe7+ and wins.


Seeing that 20...Qxf7 loses immediately to 21.Rd8+, Black threw in the towel here.

Wonderful play from Geller to down a lower-ranked colleague. Unfortunately for him, his higher-ranked colleagues Korchnoi, Spassky, and Tal did not allow such things to happen.

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.