2000 – 1900, Kolty Merope 2011 [A00a]
1.d4 d5 2.e4 e6
1900 said: “Instead of playing into a Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, I chose to transform the structure into a French Defense, with which I have more experience.”
Harding calls this the Alapin-Diemer Gambit.
1900 said: “After 3.Be3, I didn’t know of any other option but to take the pawn.”
1900 said: “White makes Black play …Nf6 before pushing f3 so as to block the Black queen’s access to h4 for any potential checks.”
I think you might be placing too many reasons and thoughts into your opponent’s head. The fact is, 4.f3 is totally innocuous due to 4…e5! (actually, Black has several good moves after 4.f3. Watson recommends 4…Nh6 threatening ..Nf5), as the example below shows:
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Be3 dxe4 4.f3 e5 5.dxe5 Qxd1+ 6.Kxd1 exf3 7.gxf3 Nc6 8.f4 Bf5 9.Nf3 0-0-0+ 10.Nbd2 Nb4 11.Ne1 Nd5 12.Ng2 Nh6 13.c4 Nxe3+ 14.Nxe3 Bb4, 0-1, Rafael Pita Romero Rodriguez (2112) – Humberto Pecorelli Garcia (2441), Poio 2003 [C01].
1900 said: “Here I took on f3 without much thought – White can’t be allowed to establish a double pawn center. Now I wonder whether I should’ve considered alternatives such as …Bb4 or ...Nd5.”
5.f3 is considered a mistake by Watson (he feels 5.c3 is more critical, though White will be struggling to equalize).
1900 said: “After 5...Nd5 6.Qe2 (6.Bf2) 6...Nxe3 7.Qxe3 exf3 8.Ngxf3 and though Black has the 2Bs and an extra pawn, I can’t help but intuit that White's lead in development gives the advantage to the first player.”
Quite an overreaction to white’s chances. On the other hand, I would have had an overreaction in the opposite direction: After 5…Nd5! I (as Black) would be quite sure that the game was already mine! For example: 5…Nd5 6.Qe2 (what else? 6.Bf2?? e3 ends the game immediately) and now both 6…c5 (instant central counterplay) and 6…Nc6! are just good for Black. And why shouldn’t it be good for Black? White’s Queen is far from happy on e2, the Bishop sucks on e3, and the Knight on d2 is hardly a world-beater. Black on the other hand has an extra pawn, will soon get the two Bishops, has a solid position that’s devoid of weaknesses, and is exerting serious pressure against d4.
In other words, this whole line is just horrible for White. Here’s what happens when a great/legendary player like Lilienthal faces this line:
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Be3 dxe4 4.Nd2 Nf6 5.f3 Nd5 6.Qe2 Nc6! (6…c5 7.dxc5 Nxe3 8.Qxe3 Qa5 9.c3 Bxc5 10.Qxe4 Be7 11.Ne2 Nd7 12.Nd4 a6 13.0-0-0 Nf6 14.Qe1 Qxa2 15.Bc4 Qa1+ 16.Kc2 Qa5 17.g4 Bd7 18.Kb1 Rc8 19.Bb3 0-0 20.Nc4 Qc7 21.Ne5 Be8 22.g5 Nd7 23.f4 Nxe5 24.fxe5 Bxg5 25.Rg1 Bf4 26.Nxe6 fxe6 27.Bxe6+ Kh8 28.Bxc8 Qxc8 29.e6 g5 30.Rxg5 Bxg5 31.Qe5+ Bf6 32.e7 Bg6+, 0-1, B. Go (2180) – Jop Delemarre (2457) [C01] Vlissingen 2007.) 7.c3 exf3 8.Ngxf3 Be7 9.Qf2 0-0 10.Bd3 e5 11.0-0 Nxe3 12.Qxe3 exd4 13.cxd4 Bf6 14.Nb3 Re8 15.Qf4 Qd6 16.Rae1 Bd7 17.Qd2 Rxe1 18.Rxe1 Re8 19.Rxe8+ Bxe8 20.Qe3 Qe7 21.Qxe7 Bxe7 22.a3 Bf6 23.Kf2 Kf8 24.Ke3 Ne7 25.Be4 b6 26.g4 g6 27.g5 Bg7 28.Nc1 f6 29.gxf6 Bh6+ 30.Kd3 Bxc1 31.fxe7+ Kxe7 32.Kc3 Bf4 33.Kd3 Kf6 34.h4 h6 35.b3 g5 36.hxg5+ hxg5 37.Ne1 Bb5+ 38.Kc3 g4 39.Ng2 Kg5 40.a4 Be2 41.Kc2 a6 42.Kc3 Bd1 43.Bd3 g3 44.Be4 Kg4 45.Bd5 Bf3 46.Be6+ Kg5 47.Bh3 Bg4 48.Bxg4 Kxg4 49.Ne1 Kh3 50.Kd3 g2 51.Nf3 Bh2, 0-1, K.B. Kullberg – Andor Lilienthal [C01], Folkestone ol (Men) 1933.
Sadly, this is just what White wanted. Why rush into white’s dream (even if it’s fine for Black) if you can dictate a completely different kind of game (5…Nd5) that promises Black a material plus and quick central counterplay, while white’s “attack” will prove to be nothing more than a fantasy?
1900 said: “The most flexible move that I could come up with. Nonetheless, seeing what later happened in the game, I should have considered playing perhaps ...g7-g6 followed by …Bg7, making the kingside perhaps more resolute. I also thought about posting the Bishop to d6 but was afraid that Nc4 or Ne4 could disturb this piece later on.”
Black’s misgivings are based on emotion created by the result of this game, and not on an honest appraisal of the position. His 6…Be7 is a perfectly reasonable move.
1900 said: “Only now …b6. Since the Bd3 has already been played, Bb5 would take an extra tempo - not that it’s that dangerous. Strangely enough, I’ve never considered 7...Nc6, since after 8.c3, the Knight hits granite, but apparently that’s the computer’s choice.”
Your move seems very logical, but placing the Bishop on b7 allows White some nasty tactical possibilities against e6 (which the Bishop was keeping an eye on). I would have looked long and hard at 7…Nd5 (again!) 8.Qe2 (8.Bf2 Nf4) 8…Nxe3 (there wasn’t a rush to do this, though 8…c5 would likely transpose to 8…Nxe3) 9.Qxe3 c5 (perhaps 9…0-0 is better) 10.0-0-0 (10.dxc5 Qa5 11.0-0-0 Qxc5 is very comfortable for Black) 10…cxd4 11.Nxd4 0-0 12.Kb1 Nd7 and Black’s extra pawn and Bishop pair (vs. white’s lead in development and more active pieces) should lead to balanced play.
Of course, 7…0-0 is also good, 7…Nc6 is a computer move and (good or bad) should be avoided if creatures made of flesh and blood can’t fully wrap their minds around it (okay, 7…Nc6 is, like most computer moves, based on tactics: 8.0-0 Nb4 is annoying, and 8.c3 e5 is possible), and 7…Ng4 is based on some tactics. For example: 7…Ng4 8.Bf4 (8.Qe2 Nxe3 transposes into 7…Nd5 8.Qe2 Nxe3) 8…Nc6 9.c3 e5!, etc.
The Bishop looks great here, but its placement on b7 creates a potential tactical problem: if White manages to sacrifice something on f7, the e6-pawn (no longer defended by the light-squared Bishop) might also fall and, as a result, allow white’s pieces to stream into the enemy position with deadly effect. This scenario doesn’t have to happen, of course, but Black needs to be aware of it.
9.O-O Nbd7 10.Nc4 Nd5
1900 said: “As always, I couldn’t resist posting my Knight on d5. I was of the impression that exchanging pieces would be to my advantage, since I’m up a pawn and this exchange specifically gives me the Bishop pair.”
1900 said: “A decision that surprised me. I wasn’t expecting my opponent to give up the bishop pair like this. In retrospect, my Knight is probably better than his ‘bad’ (i.e. same color as central pawns) bishop and this move also allows his Q to more readily eye the kingside.”
You’re right, it is a surprise. In my view, he had two ways to handle the position: 11.Bd2 (slow, but it retains the attacking Bishop) or the far more aggressive and tactically acute (and therefore better, since white’s opening is all about aggression) 11.Nce5! 0-0 (and not 11…Nxe3??:)
Back to 11...0-0 (instead of the badly mistaken 11...Nxe3??): 12.Nxd7 Qxd7 13.Ne5 Qc8?? (13…Qe8! is the way to go, when 14.Bd2 gives White a picturesque attacking position, but whether or not that’s sufficient for the sacrificed pawn after 14…c5 is another matter)
1900 said: “11...c5 was perhaps worth considering.”
1900 said: “I’m also not so sure about this move. I thought …Bb7 and …Nf6 were combining well to exert control over the light squares. Nonetheless, this move gives up the control of e5 and also allows Ng5. Without …Nf6, Ng5 could be chopped by …Bxg5.”
You should have castled, after which you would have enjoyed a very comfortable position. Here’s a simple way to make the decision between your 12…Nf6 and castling: Are you 100% sure that …Nf6 is necessary, or will even be necessary later? No. Are you 100% sure that you don’t want your King in the middle? Yes. Thus, play the move you KNOW you need to play, and not a move that you’re not completely sure is necessary (and it’s most certainly not necessary right away!).
Your 12…Nf6 indicates that you fear a possible sacrifice against h7 if you castle, but there aren’t any sacrifices that would work for White (after 12…0-0). Before defending against something, make sure it’s worth defending against. You will find, in many instances, that the “threat” was nothing more than a self-created phantasm.
As you correctly pointed out, your 12…Nf6 gave up control of both e5 and g5 – it hurt you rather than helped you.
1900 said: “Here White threatens Bb5+. I should have probably played …a6 - still keeping the King in the center. I chose to castle Kside instead - not being able to calculate the oncoming attack. I was aware of the danger of castling kingside, but I didn’t see specific lines.”
This is unfortunate, because there wasn’t any danger to kingside castling until you played 12…Nf6, giving white’s pieces those huge attacking squares on e5 and g5.
This turns out badly (due to the reasons given above), and your 13…a6? gives White a fearsome attack:
Black main hope here is 13…Nd5! when, if White’s Queen moves, Black can once again safely castle since white’s Ng5 is no longer possible. However, White will meet 13…Nd5 with 14.Bb5+. Is that the end of the story? No, of course not! Black has 14…c6! 15.Bxc6+ (and not 15.Nxc6?? Nxe3 16.Nxd8+ Kxd8 and Black wins; 15.Qf2 transposes into our main variation after 15…Qc7 16.Bxc6+) 15…Bxc6 16.Qf2! Qc7 17.Nxc6 (17.Nxf7?? fails horribly to 17…0-0!) 17…Bd6 18.Nfe5 0-0 and black’s beaten back white’s assault and is okay (equal chances)!
14.Ng5 Qd5 15.Rf3?
No doubt overwhelmed by all the tempting possibilities, White picks the wrong one. Very tempting is 15.Qh3 h6 16.Ngxf7 Rxf7 17.Bc4 when it seems White is kicking Black around. However, it’s not so simple: 17…Qd6 18.Qxe6 (18.Bxe6?? Bd5) 18…Qxe6 19.Bxe6 Raf8 (19…Bd5 now fails to 20.Bxd5 Nxd5 21.Rxf7) 20.Rae1 Bd6 21.Nxf7 Rxf7 22.c4 Kf8 23.Bxf7 Kxf7 with White having two Rooks and a pawn vs. black’s three minor pieces.
It’s good for White, but it’s still a very tough slog for both players.
Perhaps better (after 15.Qh3 h6) is 16.Rxf6!? gxf6 17.Bh7+! Kg7 18.Be4 fxe5! (not 18…Qb5 19.Nexf7 Rxf7 20.Nxe6+ Kg8 21.Bxb7 Rb8 22.Qg4+ Kh8 23.Qg6 and black’s dead) 19.Bxd5 Bxd5 20.Nf3 exd4 21.Nxd4
Though Black “only” has a Rook, Bishop and pawn for his Queen, those two Bishops are very, very annoying.
These “no forced win” setbacks lead me to believe that 15.Qg3! is the way to go: 15…h6 16.Ngxf7 Rxf7 17.Qg6! (Much better than 17.Bc4 Qd6 [17…Qxg2+? 18.Qxg2 Bxg2 19.Kxg2 Rff8 20.Bxe6+ Kh7 21.Bf5+ Kg8 22.Ng6 Rfe8 23.Be6+ Kh7 24.Bf7 Bd6 25.Bxe8 Rxe8 26.Ne5 Bxe5 27.dxe5 Rxe5 28.Rae1 and white’s up an Exchange for a pawn] 18.Qg6 Rff8 19.Bd3 Be4 20.Bxe4 Nxe4 21.Qxe4 and though white’s obviously better, Black can still play) 17…Qxg2+! (17…Rff8 18.Rxf6!) 18.Qxg2 Bxg2 19.Kxg2 Rff8 20.Ng6 Rf7 (20…Rfe8? 21.Bb5) 21.Rfe1 Bd6 22.Rxe6 Rd8 (22…Rd7 23.Bb5 Rdd8 24.Rae1 c5 25.d5 leaves Black in a horrible bind) 23.Bc4! c6 24.Rae1 and black’s toast.
15...c5 16.Bc4 Qd6 17.Nexf7
1900 said: “Here the game got into a tactical mess. My mind felt foggy and tired. I couldn’t calculate pretty much anything, despite thinking for so long. Thus, I quickly fell without any resistance.”
17...Rxf7 18.Bxe6 Bxf3??
1900 said: “The losing move. I was deciding between this one and …Bd5.”
Yes, a pity. After the forced 18…Bd5 19.Bxf7+ Bxf7 20.Nxf7 Kxf7 White would be the one trying to survive – white’s attack is suddenly over, and black’s two minor pieces are superior to white’s Rook and pawn.
~ Lessons From This Game ~
* Are you 100% sure that …Nf6 is necessary, or will even be necessary later? No. Are you 100% sure that you don’t want your King in the middle? Yes. Thus, play the move you KNOW you need to play, and not a move that you’re not completely sure is necessary (and it’s most certainly not necessary right away!).
* Before defending against something, make sure it’s worth defending against. You will find, in many instances, that the “threat” was nothing more than a self-created phantasm.
* You were extremely pessimistic throughout the game, and always thought White had really good attacking chances. This attitude would exhaust anyone. Instead, you should be high on your chances! Even if you’re wrong, there isn’t anyone else to defend your side – it’s you or nobody. Thus, always be positive and you’ll be shocked how your attitude will affect your opponent (who will lose faith in his position), while injecting you with some very uplifting energy.