A Squid Plays Chess

A Squid Plays Chess

IM Silman
Feb 25, 2016, 12:00 AM |
26 | Other

Chess.com member Squid22 wrote:

I played 5.Nb5 to be obnoxious. It wouldn’t be hard to make this knight move harmless (5...d6, and then I’ve just wasted a move). However, my opponent played 5...a6. That moves looks natural, but the problem with it is that d6 is a hole and my knight can jump right into it. Even worse, it’s a hole that can’t be easily covered by a black knight. I noticed this when I was playing. The only minor piece in Black’s army that can reach d6 easily is the dark-squared bishop. I knew that if I could get that bishop, I would own that square for a long time.”

Answer: I like that you notice the importance of holes in the enemy camp, but your view that 5.Nb5 was “harmless” and a mere waste of time if Black had played the proper 5...d6 is incorrect.  Actually your 5.Nb5 is a very popular move. After 5...d6 White can change the pawn structure in two very different ways.

The first is 6.Bf4 (Threatening d6 three times!) 6...e5 (forced, but now the d6-pawn is backward and there’s a huge hole on d5) 7.Be3. However, this structure isn’t as bad for Black as one might think, as constantly demonstrated by the Sveshnikov Variation (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6). Why is this playable for Black? Because he will often gain the two bishops (after White plays Bc1-g5xf6) and White’s offside b5-knight will find itself demanding time to get back in the game after 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 (as you can see, the a3-knight isn’t happy) 9.Bxf6 gxf6 10.Nd5 f5 when we reach a position that’s proven to be sharp and interesting. You need some serious tactical/dynamic chops if you want to successfully play this line.

Check out these two positions:

As you can see, the line 5.Nb5 d6 6.Bf4 e5 7.Be3 Nf6 8.Bg5 is very similar to the Sveshnikov Variation. By the way, this position (after 5.Nb5 d6 6.Bf4) was reached twice in Fischer’s obscene 6-0 match destruction against Mark Taimanov in 1971.

For those that are interested, here’s a famous interview done by Joel Lautier with Mr. Taimanov:

“Until the match with Fischer in 1971, everything went smoothly in my chess career. This dramatic match changed my life into hell. As Fischer himself admitted at the time, the final score did not reflect the true balance of strength. The terrible feeling that I was playing against a machine which never made any mistake shattered my resistance. Fischer would never concede any weakening of his position, he was an incredibly tough defender. The third game proved to be the turning point of the match. After a pretty tactical sequence, I had managed to set my opponent serious problems. In a position that I considered to be winning, I could not find a way to break through his defenses. For every promising idea, I found an answer for Fischer, I engrossed myself in a very deep think which did not produce any positive result. Frustrated and exhausted, I avoided the critical line in the end and lost the thread of the game, which lead to my defeat eventually. Ten years later, I found at last how I should have won that fatal game, but unfortunately, it didn’t matter anymore! I have written a book about this match, entitled How I Became Fischer's Victim, it represents an essay on the American player and describes how I perceived his style and personality, once the match was over.

“The sanctions from the Soviet government were severe. I was deprived of my civil rights, my salary was taken away from me, I was prohibited from travelling abroad and censored in the press. It was unthinkable for the authorities that a Soviet grandmaster could lose in such a way to an American, without a political explanation. I therefore became the object of slander and was accused, among other things, of secretly reading books of Solzhenitsin. I was banned from society for two years, it was also the time when I separated from my first wife, Lyubov Bruk.”

Here are two modern games (and one game fragment) between grandmasters that illustrate some of Black’s possibilities (6.Bf4 often leads to sharp positions):

Returning to 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nb5 d6, White’s other idea behind 5.Nb5 is the space gaining 6.c4 (which often leads to positional, maneuvering positions), creating a form of Maroczy Bind. 

Since I made use of grandmaster Joel Lautier’s interview, let’s demonstrate how Joel played the Black side of this variation:

Squid22 said a lot more about his game, and I’ll give his comments and my answers/views in the game notes:

I was impressed by White’s zeal about the d6-square and the overall dark squares. If he learns to tighten his position and not go for glory when he hasn’t yet castled and made sure his whole army is safe and sound, then his rating will skyrocket. The final mate must have given him a lot of pleasure. Well done!

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