Not All Draws Are Boring

Not All Draws Are Boring

| 14 | Middlegame

Before playing in the Montreal International this fall, I spent a good amount of time studying strong GM games (usually Kasparov games) and middlegames, but I also spent some time reviewing some technical endgames and my openings.

For such a strong event, I felt like I needed to make sure I could get out of the opening with a playable position against everybody. It never feels good to lose, but for me, losing a game without ever having had a chance is an extremely bad feeling.

With that in mind, one of the openings that I had to focus on was the 5.b3 Semi-Slav - it normally arises after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 e6 4.e3 Nf6 5.b3. This is a line advocated by Avrukh in his excellent book: Grandmaster Repertoire, Vol 1. I had faced it a couple times previously against 2630 opposition and had lost both games (the previous time being against Vescovi - you can read my comments on that game here: As most of my opponents could play (or only played) 1.d4, there was a good chance this line would come up and I felt I was pretty well prepared.

However, I didn't get a single 5.b3 Semi-Slav in the entire tournament! In my 9th round game against Mark, I had a feeling he'd go for that line, but my guess was quite wrong. As he mentioned to me after the game, because I had lost twice to that line before, he figured that I had done some real work on it and would be well prepared to face it. Maybe that's what the other guys were thinking as well.

The opening surprise he did get in was quite unpleasant to face, and while the game ended in a draw, it was certainly not a boring one!

Question 1: What would you play for White after 9...Bc3?

Question 2: What would you play for Black after 10.Ba3?

Question 3: What would you play for Black after 13.Rxc6?

Question 4: What would you play for White after 16...Qc3?

And here's the entire game in one viewer:

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