I went over some opening highlights from Round 1 games around the league (not Arizona games, I’m leaving that up to Levon and Alejandro).
Zaremba (QNS)-Esserman (BOS) Dutch Defense Anti-Curdo
1.d4 f5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bg5 d5 4.Bxf6 exf6 5.e3 Be6 6.Bd3 An old Anti-Curdo weapon from the 1980s; I managed to beat John in a lengthy game in some New England Swiss. Across the ocean, Winants and Jadoul in Belgium enjoyed this system too. In fact, Winants even beat Judit Polgar once on the black side of it. Objectively, it is good for a safe if tiny edge. White has to watch out for black’s “shattered” pawns becoming mobile in the middlegame and advancing. See this blog entry’s Comments section for a link to an amazing win by Walter Browne over Robert Byrne in this line!
6… Qd7 7.Nge2 Nc6 8.a3 Ne7 This self-blocking move is probably not the strongest, although it has been played by GM Arteshes Minasian. GM Spraggett played more strongly vs Huss (2380) in Zaragoza 1996 with 8…O-O-O! 9. Na4?! (white is probably advised not to do this and play instead 9. Nf4) 9…Kb8! (note how black doesn’t give white any easy attacking toe-holds on the queenside) 10. b4 Qe8! and with careful play Spraggett has equalized and went on to win.
9.b3?! Stronger is 9. Nf4 Bf7 10. h4. White is preparing Na4 to attack the black king once it goes queenside, but the crux of the matter is that it shouldn’t go there in these changed circumstances.
9…Bf7 Black could play the interesting 9…a6!?and then 10…Ng6 covering c5 versus knight leaps and preparing kingside play.
10.Na4 0-0-0? This is the major strategical miscue. After 10…b6! keeping the knight out black is all right. There might follow 11. c4 g6! preparing Bg7 and castles short with good counter-chances. In the game, white built up a decisive attack against the very lonely black king.
11.c4 Kb8 12.Qc2 g6 13.0-0 h5 14.c5 and white scored a crushing attacking victory.
Perelshteyn (BOS) – Vovsha (QNS) Modern Defense
1.d4 d6 2.Nf3 Bg4 3.c4 Bxf3 4.exf3 Nd7 5.Nc3 g6 Not a bad setup.
6.Be3 c6 7.Qd2 Bg7 8.Be2 It is more aggressive and possibly more promising to put this bishop on d3 since in the game black achieves equal chances soon.
8…Nb6 9.d5 Nf6 10.dxc6 bxc6 11.0-0 0-0 12.Rac1 d5! Black is fine.
13.b3 e5? Asking too much. Black had the equalizing 13…dxc4!. If 14. bxc4 Qxd2 15. Bxd2 Rfd8 16. Be3 Ne8! holds up Rfd1 and prepares Rab8 and Nc7 with equality. If 14. Qxd8 Rfxd8 it simply transposes. The game is equal.
14.cxd5 cxd5 15.Bc5! and white went on to win.
Ludwig (DAL) – Lopez (MIA) King’s Indian Saemisch
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 0-0 6.Nge2 Nbd7 7.Be3 c5 8.Qd2 Qa5 9.d5 a6 10.Nc1 A common knight regrouping in Benonis but it’s not clear how much it offers.
10…Rb8 (?!) This move may not be necessary. Black has the surprising 10…Ne5!? with the idea 11. Be2 Bd7 12. f4 Neg4 13. Nb3 Qc7 14. Bg1 (not keeping this bishop automatically gives black a good game) 14…b5! (just in time!) 15. h3 b4! and by hitting the e-pawn black has a good game.
11.Nb3 Qb4 12.Qc2 Ne5 13.a3 Qb6 14.Be2 e6 15.0-0 exd5 16.cxd5 Qc7 17.a4 Bd7 If 17…Nh5 then 18. g4! Nhf6 19. h3! is a good answer.
18.h3?! 18. a5 looks good.
18….b5 19.Nd2 Rfe8 19…b4 20. Nd1 is similar to the game.
20.Rfe1 b4 21.Nd1 Bc8 22.Rc1 Ned7? The typical Benoni device 22…b3! gives black good counterplay here. Look at this nice shot: 22…b3! 23. Nxb3? Nxd5!! 24. exd5 Bf5! and white must play 25. Qd2 Rxb3 and black is better. And after 23. Qb1 Rb4! black is obviously not complaining either. Black is all right after the game move, but 22…b3! was stronger.
Here is the rest of the chaotic game in which Lopez “slimed” his opponent out of a winning position.
Friedel (SF) – Serper (SEA) French Defense
1.e4 e6 A surprising departure from Serper’s favorite Kan. Although he lost to Friedel last year in the USCL with this, he also defeated GM Becerra in a nice game.
2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Be7 Shades of Bareev. I’ve been encountering this a lot on the ICC so it must be the new rage.
5.Nf3 Nf6 6.Bd3 Nxe4 7.Bxe4 c5 8.0-0 Nd7 9.c3 0-0 10.Bc2 Qc7 11.Re1 Rd8 12.Qd3 Nf8 13.Qe4 cxd4? After 13…Bd7! 2360-rated R. Bertholee playing black had equality and held a draw vs GM Lev Psakhis, Amsterdam 1990.
14.Nxd4 White has a plus now.
Bd7 15.a4 a6 16.a5 Be8 17.h4 Rd5 18.Bb3 Rxa5?? Black can’t do that! A very bad blunder from Serper. He has to go back to d7 or d8 with a bad game.
19.Rxa5? Not Friedel’s day. 19. Bf4 won for white. 19. Bf4 Qc5 20. Rxa5 Qxa5 21. Qxb7 Qd8 22. Rd1! wins as black’s queen is aesthetically caught in a crossfire. White still has a big plus after the game move.
19…Qxa5 20.Qxb7 Qd8 21.h5 Bf6 22.Bf4 h6 23.Bc2 The paralyzing 23. Bd6! was strong.
23…a5 24.Qe4 24. Nc6! Qc8 25. Ne7+! is terrible for black. Here is the rest of the game where Serper refuted an unsound sacrifice. The noteworthy thing about the opening is the improvement mentioned for black on move 13.
Bryan Smith (PHI) – Peter Bereolos (TEN) Ruy Lopez
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Na5 10.Bc2 c5 11.d4 Nd7 12.Nbd2 exd4 13.cxd4 Nc6 14.d5 Nce5 15.a4 Rb8 16.axb5 axb5 17.Nh2
So far, so good from black’s point of view.
This move should have been total suicide. From an equal game this horrible weakening? There was no danger here. For example, 17…Re8 18. f4 Ng6 with equality. 17…Bb7 is also fine with similar play. Black was acting as if f2-f4 had to prevented at all costs but this certainly is not the case.
18.Ndf1 18. Qh5! is very strong. When black makes the ugly move f6, white can go back later to e2 or d1 with his queen and carry on. After 18…Qe8 19. Ndf1 he’ll have to play f6 and suffer. The game move is fine too.
18…Kh8 19.Ng3 Rg8 20.Ng4? Black’s position is revolting after the obvious 20. Nf5. After, e.g. 20…c4 21. Be3 or 20..Bf8 21. Bd2 white should win in short order.
20…Nxg4 21.hxg4 Bf6 22.Nf5 Ne5 23.Ra3 Bxf5 and black held a draw in a game Philly really needed.
Kudrin (PHI) – Shabalov (TEN) Sicilian Dragon
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.0-0-0 Rb8 When I first saw the “Chinese Dragon” in the pages of New in Ches, GM Gallagher heaped scorn on it. Yet he only drew GM Chris Ward. Since Kudrin plays the Dragon a lot, this is a funny opening choice.
11.Bb3 Na5 12.Bh6 Bxh6 13.Qxh6 b5 14.Nd5! GM Emmanuel Berg got nowhere with 14. h4 e5! with equality, Berg-P. Carlsson Halstahammar 2003.
14…e6 15.Nxf6+ Qxf6 16.h4 Qg7 17.Qg5!
One big exclam to cover all of white’s prior moves; he has a safe edge now. Black is not helped now by 17…Nxb3+ 18. Nxb3! Rb6 19. h5! with a plus.
17… Qe5 18.Ne2! Give yourself tactical skill points if you noticed white could have played the unusual 18. Qxe5 dxe5 19. Nf5!? here and give yourself positional skill points if you notice black is OK in the resulting position.
18…Bc6 19.Rd2?! The bizarre 19. Nf4! is very strong, threatening to trade queens and play Nd3!
19…Rfd8 20.Rhd1 Nb7 21.Nf4! Still a good idea. 21…a5 22.a3 Re8? 22…a4! is stronger with only a small white edge.
23.Nd3? White would have a huge plus after 23. Qxe5! dxe5 24. Nd3! f6 (forced) 25. g4! and he controls the board. With the game move he only has a small edge, and unfortunately for Philadelphia Black went on to score a lengthy, dramatic victory in a tough ending.