Tiptoe Through the Tulips
Who would have thought it, but Tiny Tim (who is no longer with us) has somehow infiltrated chess. For those younger folks, Google Tiny Tim or watch this video, and all will be explained:
But, in the meantime, here are the lyrics to a song that will have a major impact on this week’s game:
Tiptoe through the window
By the window, that is where I’ll be
Come tiptoe through the tulips with me
Oh, tiptoe from the garden
By the garden of the willow tree
And tiptoe through the tulips with me
Knee deep in flowers we’ll stray
We’ll keep the showers away
And if I kiss you in the garden, in the moonlight
Will you pardon me?
And tiptoe through the tulips with me
John Chernoff (2140) – Graeme Buckley (2383), Gatwick 2011 [B57]
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bc4
Chernoff: “Perhaps 6.Bg5 is more common here, but ah, whatever.”
The Sozin Variation was Fischer’s favorite weapon, but eventually the Richter Rauzer (6.Bg5) swamped it in popularity.
Chernoff: “OK, this I didn’t expect. Where does the Kt go? The normal Sveshnikovian route is out: 7.Nb5, but 7.Nxc6 and 7.Nf3 both seem very playable. Alas, I get a weird third idea and can’t resist trying it out...”
Black has lots of interesting responses to 6.Bc4, the most popular being 6…e6 (by far the most common move), 6…Qb6 (Benko’s system, which was always my choice), 6…Bd7, 6…Na5, and even 6…g6 trying to steer the game into Dragon territory, though Black must be ready for the dangerous 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5 Ng4 (obviously, 8…dxe5?? fails to 9.Bxf7+ winning black’s Queen) 9.e6 f5.
R. Fischer – P. Dely, Skopje 1967
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bc4 e6 7.Bb3 a6 8.f4 Qa5 9.0-0 Nxd4 10.Qxd4 d5 11.Be3 Nxe4 12.Nxe4 dxe4 13.f5 Qb4 14.fxe6 Bxe6 15.Bxe6 fxe6 16.Rxf8+! Qxf8 17.Qa4+! b5 18.Qxe4 Rd8 19.Qc6+ Rd7 20.Rd1 Qe7 21.Bb6, 1-0.
The “odd” 6…e5 breaks old rules that tell us to avoid creating holes in your own camp. In this case, the d5-square has instantly become compromised. However, the enormous popularity of the Sveshnikov Variation (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5) has taught us that things are not quite so simple.
Looking through my database for games with 6…e5, I noted that it first appeared in 1950. However, my eyes soon focused on R. Fischer – A. Saidy, West Orange 1957 (it ended in a draw), which was the first game where 7.Nf5 was tried. I wasn’t previously aware of this game, so I immediately called Mr. Saidy and asked him about it. He said:
“I think that was the 60-minute tournament where both he and I missed immediate wins -and only I had the excuse of zeitnot. I won the tournament – the last time I was his superior. In a few months he was U.S. Champion!”
Chernoff: “The idea here is simple but effective: rule the light squares! If now 7...g6, 8.Ne3! with an incredible grip on d5.”
There’s no doubt that 7.Nf5 is a good move. However, 7.Nde2 and 7.Nf3 are more popular, but no less a player than Ivanchuk (and Fischer before him!) also chose 7.Nf5, so you’re in excellent company.
Chernoff: “Black’s light square weaknesses are also underscored by this trade.”
Black’s most dependable move is 7…Be6, and he’s scored rather well with it. However, 8.Bb3 leads to some lines where Black is balancing on a razor’s edge (meaning that some serious midnight oil needs to be applied before Black tries this stuff in a serious game):
8…g6 (see the game B. Macieja – R. Wojtaszek):
8…Bxf5 (7…Be6 followed by 8…Bxf5 doesn’t really make much sense).
8…Nxe4!? (see the game N. Doghri – Essam El Gindy):
8…Qd7 (see the game V. Ivanchuk – Essam El Gindy):
Black’s critical replies to 7.Nf5 Be6 8.Bb3 appear to be 8…g6!? and 8…Nxe4!?
Chernoff: “Using the queen to plug the gap. I now spent almost 45 minutes on my next move, which is of course far too long, but I was torn (and still am torn) between two totally different routes: a complex mess with g4, or sacrificing the f5-pawn to create an opposite colored bishop middlegame where I have, at least for the moment, the initiative.”
Black’s most popular move, and the choice of 6…e5 aficionado El Gindy, is 8…Be7:
Chernoff: “In retrospect, this is just too brazen. 9.Bg5! Qxf5 10.Bxf6 gives White reasonable play for the pawn.”
Yes, it seems as if this advance of the g-pawn is too weakening at this stage of the game. Sacrificing the f5-pawn is indeed a better option:
Chernoff: “OK, to be honest, I just overlooked that, after 10.g5, 10...Qc6! hits my Rook. As you can imagine, it was demoralizing spending 45 minutes on my previous move only to miss something so simple – I was mostly analyzing 9.Bg5, and played 9.g4 without much thought after deciding I couldn’t quite ‘see’ my way through the pawn sack.”
Another very tempting move for Black is 9…d5!?, which gives Black a powerful initiative after 10.Nxd5 (Better is 10.Bxd5 0-0-0 11.Bg2 Qxd1+ 12.Nxd1 Nxg4 when black’s superior pawn structure gives him a slight plus) 10…0-0-0 11.Bg5 Nb4 12.Nxf6 Qc6 13.Bd5 Nxd5.
Chernoff: “Amazingly enough, it’s actually possible for White to castle here, but I seriously doubt many (if any) players would ever try it OTB. 10.O-O Qc6 11.Be2 d5 12.Be3 Nxe2+ 13.Qxe2 Be7 14.f4 Bc5! 15.fxe5 Nxg4! 16.Nxd5!? Nxe3 17.Nxe3 O-O-O.”
Why not? Black will play …d6-d5 when trouble will be brewing in the center. If that’s the case, White really doesn’t want his King residing there. So White has to castle. Your 10.Rg1 pretty much loses, so 10.0-0 gets the King out of Dodge when Black has all sorts of tempting choices: 10…d5 (10…Qc6 11.Bb3! Nf3+ 12.Kh1 when Black can take a draw with 12…Nd4+ 13.Kg1 Nf3+ or court further complications with 12…0-0-0) 11.Bb3 Nxb3 12.axb3 d4 13.g5 dxc3 14.gxf6 Qc6 15.fxg7 Rg8 16.Ra4! when …Rxg7+ can be answered by Rg4. Of course, these few lines are just the tip of the iceberg.
10...d5 11.Bb3 Bb4
Chernoff: “Well, this is just depressing. I decide to try and make the best of it by ‘half-castling’ and hoping that I can undermine Black’s center somehow.”
Chernoff: “This unpinning, though awkward, creates threats on both sides of the board: 13.g5, and, oddly enough, 13.Ba4 b5 14.Nxb5! Nxb5 15.c4!”
Other moves (like 12…h6, 12…h5, and 12…Nxb3 are also tempting (and fun to analyze), but 12…0-0-0, which gets the King out of the center and also brings the a8-Rook into play, is almost certainly best.
A bit more about 12…h6: 12...h6 13.Ba4! b5 14.Nxb5 Nxb5 15.c4 a6 16.Qb3 Rc8! 17.cxb5 axb5 18.Qxb4 bxa4 19.b3 (which creates possibilities of Bb2 and Ba3) and though Black is better, White is still fighting.
Chernoff: “Yikes! Black decides, understandably, that his opponent is a complete patzer and resolves, after a rather long think, upon the following dangerous looking piece sacrifice. However, it turns out to be a serious error of hubris that might have cost him the game. Simply 13…Ne8 and White’s position is an unmanageable wreck.”
14.gxf6 Qh3+ 15.Rg2
Chernoff: “If 15...Bxc3 first, White has the amusing zwischenzug 16.Qg4+! There could follow: 16…Qxg4 17.Rxg4 Ba5 18.fxg7 Rhg8 19.Bg5 Rde8 20.Be3 f5 21.Rxd4! exd4 22.Bxd4 Rd8 23.Rd1 and black is helpless.”
Actually, this isn’t completely clear. After 15…Bxc3 16.Qg4+ Qxg4 17.Rxg4 Black should try 17…Nxb3 (instead of Mr. Chernoff’s 17…Ba5) 18.axb3 Bd4 19.fxg7 Rhg8 20.c3 Bb6 21.Ke2 (21.Be3!? d4 [21…Kd7 22.Bxb6 axb6 23.h4 h5 24.Rg2 Ke6 25.Ke2 f6 is also fine] 22.cxd4 f5! 23.Rg5 f4 24.Bd2 Bxd4 25.Bc3 Rd7, =; 21.Rg2 Rd6 22.Ra4 Rg6 23.Rxg6 fxg6! [23…hxg6?? 24.Rh4! Rxg7 25.Rh8+ Kd7 26.Bh6] 24.Bh6 a6 25.Ke2 Bd8 26.f4 Bf6, =) 21…Rd6 22.h4 Rg6 23.Rxg6 hxg6 24.Bh6 Kd7 and I think black’s fine!
Chernoff: “A bad mistake, probably as a result of having to change ‘course’ after missing Qg4+. Instead, 16...Nxh2+ leads to a draw: 17.Kg1 Rxd5 18.Nxd5 (18.Qxd5?? Nf3+ 19.Qxf3 [19.Kf1 Qh1+ 20.Ke2 Nd4+ 21.Kd2 Qf1!!] 19...Qxf3 20.fxg7 Rg8 21.Rg3 Qc6) 18...Nf3+ 19.Qxf3! Qxf3 20.fxg7 Qd1+ 21.Kh2 Qh5+ 22.Kg1 Qd1+, =.”
While 16…Nxh2+ 17.Kg1 does indeed lead to a draw, 16…Nxh2+ 17.Ke1! leaves Black struggling: 17…gxf6 18.Qd3 (18.Be3!?) 18…Qxd3 19.cxd3 Rxd5 20.Rxh2 Bxc3+ 21.bxc3 Rxd3 22.Rh6! and black’s in trouble.
If my analysis to black’s 17th move is correct (and the position is extremely complicated, so I might be completely wrong!), 16…e4 is the best move in the position, while 16…Nxh2+ isn’t pleasant for Black at all.
Chernoff: “White is now winning, but time pressure is about to affect both sides in tragic-comic ways.”
As my note to black’s 17th move shows, I’m not sure that white’s even better, let alone winning.
This does lose! But Mr. Chernoff said that White was winning after 17.Bf4, and I don’t think that’s the case since 17…g5! puts up a terrific fight: 18.Bg3 Bxc3 19.bxc3 Qd7 (19…Qf5!? is also interesting: 20.c4 h5 21.Rb1 b6 22.c3 Rxd5! 23.cxd5 h4 24.Bd6 Rd8 25.Bb4 Qh3 when …Nxh2+ will lead to the usual draw) 20.c4 h5 21.Rb1 b6 22.Qe2 h4 23.Be5 Rhe8 24.Bc3 Qh3 25.Bxe4 g4 26.c5 Rxe4 27.Qxe4 Nxh2+ 28.Kg1 (28.Ke2?? Qf3+ 29.Qxf3+ gxf3+ and Black wins) 28…Nf3+ 29.Kf1 Nh2+ is a draw, and not 29…Qh1+?? 30.Ke2 Qxb1 31.Rxg4 and White wins.
Since 18.Bg3 doesn’t seem to get the job done, White should try 18.Nxe4 gxf4 19.Qxf3 Qxf3 20.Nd6+ Rxd6 21.Bxf3 when White can play for a long time (thanks to his better pawn structure), but (with good defense) the Bishops of opposite colors should eventually assure Black a draw.
Chernoff: “White manages a zwischenzug here after all!”
Chernoff: “Black, rather brilliantly, offered a draw here, with roughly three minutes on my clock and a completely winning position (for White). While I don’t think I should have accepted, a draw was a sufficiently distracting possibility (he’s an IM, after all) that I completely missed the many ‘nonviolent’ winning continuations here.”
That WAS brilliant! In fact, it’s a perfectly timed strategic draw offer. IM Buckley knows that part of you wants a draw, but he also knows you probably won’t accept since he’s getting wiped out. By offering the draw, he understands very well at least one of two good things will happen:
1) You’ll use up quite a bit of your precious remaining time agonizing whether or not to accept or decline.
2) You might accept the draw, thus saving him from an embarrassing defeat.
Titled players tend to be masters of the strategic draw offer. In fact, I might be thrown out of the IM/GM club just for telling you about it!
Chernoff: “A typical ‘no draw!’ move, but not a good one. Just 19.Bxe4 or 19.Bxe5 would win without much hassle.”
Yes, this lets Black off the hook. 19.Bxe4 doesn’t look that deadly, but after 19…Bxf4 20.Bxf3 white’s threats are overwhelming. The first is 21.Bg4+. If Black defends against this with 20…Kb8 then 21.Qe4 threatens both 22.Qxb7 mate and 22.Qxf4+. Black has to resign. Finally, if Black tries 20…Qh6, then the not-very-subtle 21.Qe4 Rd7 22.fxg7 Rg8 23.Bg4 is lights out.
The other knockout blow is 19.Bxe5. Since 19…Rxd5 20.Qc4+ is the end of all things, Black has to try 19…Nxe5 when 20.fxg7 Rhg8 21.Qxe4 leaves White a couple pawns up. But it’s far worse than that since both Bxb7+ and Qxe5 are threatened, which means that Black will lose even more material. For example, 21…Qd7 22.Bxb7+ Qxb7 23.Qxe5 and black’s cause is hopeless.
19…Kxb7 20.Qxe4+ Kb6
Chernoff: “In my horror I notice, with about two minutes on my clock, that my planned 21.Bxe5 runs into 21...Nd2+. OK, don’t panic... just start checking!”
21.Qb4+ Kc6 22.Qc4+
White also doesn’t seem to get much by 22.Bxe5 Nxe5 23.Qe4+ Rd5 24.fxg7 Rg8 (This same position can be reached by 22.Qa4+ Kb6 23.Bxe5 Nxe5 24.Qb4+ Kc6 25.fxg7 Rhg8 26.Qe4+ Rd5) 25.Rd1 (25.c4 Qd3+; 25.Re1 Nf3) 25...Qf3.
Chernoff: “Playing with fire, but there’s still got to be a win here, right?!”
Alas, a draw now seems to be the proper result.
Chernoff: “An amazingly brave decision with both of us in severe time pressure. White should still be winning, but it’s surprisingly hard to find the right checks here.”
Why “should White still be winning”? Looks like a draw now, since the Queen can’t kill black’s King by herself, and I don’t see any other white pieces (other than white’s Bishop and pawns) that can join with the Queen for a King-hunt. As long as Black doesn’t get too close to white’s pawns (and a pawn check), he should be okay. By the way, the part about not letting white’s pawn get into the attack is critical, as can be seen in the notes to white’s 27th move!
Chernoff: “Probably the best try.”
This loses. Instead, 24...Kc6! draws: 25.fxg7 (25.Bxe5 Nd2+ 26.Kg1 Qxe3 27 fxe3 Nf3+) 25...Rhg8 (25…Rhe8!?) 26.Qe4+ Kc5 27.Qe3+ (27.Be3+? Rd4!) 27…Kc6, =.
25.Qe7+ Kc6 26.Qc7+ Kd5
Chernoff: “Continuing to tiptoe through the tulips.”
I can only wonder if Black, when he made this move, thought, “Hey, my King is Tiny Tim! My King is Tiny Tim!” Somehow I seriously doubt it. On the other hand, Graeme Buckley is English, so one can never really be sure about such things.
Chernoff: “I thought this was crushing, since 27...Qe6 is met by 28.c4+!, and 27...Kc6 28.Qc4+ seems to weave a mating net.”
I’m not sold on 27…Kc6 28.Qc4+ weaving a mating net: 28…Kb7 29.Qc7+ Ka6 30.b4 Qc8 31.b5+ Kxb5 32.Rb1+ Ka4 and black’s still alive and kicking. Instead, 28.a4!! (allows an eventual Ra1-a3 if the need arises, takes away the b5-square from black’s King, and allows for a safe Qb5 landing for White in some lines) 28…Bxf6 (28…Nh4? 29.Qc7+ Kd5 30.Qb7+ forces mate in several more moves. Here’s an example, highlighting the usefulness of a2-a4: 30…Ke6 31.Re1+ Be3 32.Rxe3+ Qxe3 33.Qe7+ Kd5 34.fxe3 gxf6 35.Rg5+ fxg5 36.Qe5+ Kc6 37.Qb5 mate.) 29.Qc4+ Kd7 30.Ra3! seems to do the trick (30…Qe6 31.Rd3+ Ke7 32.Qb4+ Kf7 33.Qb7+ Qe7 34.Qxe7+ Kxe7 35.Rxf3 and white’s winning since 35…Bxb2? hastens black’s demise after 36.c3 when White has an extra pawn and a host of nasty threats.
You could have cracked him with 27.Qb7+! Ke6 and now White has a forced win:
Chernoff: “Cripes! This is possible?! Where’s the mate?? Yikes, under a minute for both sides now...”
28.fxg7 Rhg8 29.Rd1??
Chernoff: “...and I blunder horribly.”
Chernoff: “Splat. Black simply mops up now.”
30.Rxd4+ Rxd4 31.Qe8+
Chernoff: “I belatedly realize that 31.Qxg7 runs into 31...Rd1+ 32.Ke2 Re1 mate.”
31...Kxf4 32.Qf8+ Ke4 33.Qa8+ Rd5 34.c4 Qxg2+ 35.Ke2
35…Nd4+, 0-1. A heartbreaking loss.
~ Lessons From This Game ~
* The strategic draw offer is a major part of the armory of most titled players. It’s not secret that the lower rated player wants a draw, so if the titled player is losing (but his opponent is low on time) he’ll offer the draw knowing that his opponent might accept out of fear, or if he does refuse, he’ll use up quite of bit of his remaining time making that decision.
* I hereby announce that a King rushing around the center of the board in a middlegame be referred to as a “Tiny Tim.” Thus, the following conversation might occur:
“Hey Charlie, I understand your opponent pulled a bit of a Tiny Tim on you today.” “That’s right, Freddie, we looked at it after the game in the hutch and found out that I was clearly winning.”
[For those not in the know, in the U.S. we refer to the room that players go to analyze a game during a tournament as the “skittles room” or the “analysis room”. However, in England, where weak players are referred to as Rabbits, the analysis room (which is usually frequented by the lower rated players) is known as “the hutch”.]
Note: If you would like IM Silman to look at one of your games in his column, please submit it along with your questions or comments by email to firstname.lastname@example.org