In Week 8, we had an interesting old-school Semi-Slav Meran (think Larsen, Uhlmann, and other giants of 1960s Candidate Matches!) with lots of twists and turns.
Quick Chess History Preamble
Before proceeding, you must, must play over these titanic Uhlmann-Larsen Semi-Slav games. You’ll be glad you did. Larsen in his heyday really uncorked some nice tactics and had a nice positional flow as well. And Uhlmann was no weakie, scoring quite a few wins over Larsen in his career.
From 1968. Larsen finds a back-rank weakness to conclude the game, demonstrating the power of a Q&N versus weak pawns.
From the 1971 Candidates Match. Computers showed this to be a swindle where black should have lost but it was still a nice king-hunt.
And my personal favorite, also from the 1971 Candidates Match, Larsen ends the game with a spectacular bishop move that overloads white’s forces.
OK, now that this necessary historical detour is out of the way, on with the USCL action.
USCL Week 8 Meran Action
Vinay Bhat (SF) – Alexander Stripunsky (QNS) USCL Week 8, Semi-Slav Meran
1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5
I want to draw the readers’ attention to the interesting try popularized by Larsen and Korchnoi in the 1960s, 8. Bb3!?. After, for example, 8…b4 9. Ne2 Ba6 10. O-O Be7 11. Re1 O-O 12. Nf4 Nd5? (12… c5 13. e4 c4 14. Bc2 is very complex) 13. e4 Nxf4 14. Bxf4 white was simply better in and won in the ending,1-0 Kortschnoj,V-Ciric,D/Leningrad 1964. And 8. Be2 is a totally different story, too. The text is by far the most popular, but an argument can be made not to block up the d-file.
8… Bd6 9. O-O O-O 10. Qc2 Bb7 11. a3 a5!?
Here, 11… Qe7 was met by the surprising gambit 12. Ng5!? Bxh2+ 13. Kxh2 Ng4+ 14. Kg1 Qxg5 15. f3 and black could not hold the position in the long run, 1-0 Vyzmanavin,A (2580)-Shirov,A (2710)/Tilburg 1992.
12. e4!? Slovenian GM Alexander Beliavsky is a connoisseur of slow build-ups. Here, he preferred 12. Bd2!? Qe7 13. h3 b4 14. axb4 axb4 15. Ne4 Nxe4 16. Bxe4 Nf6 17. Bd3 c5 18. dxc5 Bxc5 19. Rxa8 Rxa8 20. Rc1 Bd6 21. e4 Nd7 22. Bg5 f6 23. Be3 Rc8 24. Bc4 Ne5 (24… Bc5!) 25. Nxe5 Bxe5 26. Qb3 Kf8 27. f3 Rc6 28. Rd1 Bxb2?? (28…h6 +=) 29. Bb5 Rc3 30. Qxb2 Rxe3 31. Qd4! 1-0 Beliavsky,A (2545)-Platonov,I/Kiev 1978. A very nice piece win tactic at the end. With the game move, white asserts in the center. However, observe the note to black’s 15th and also black’s suggested improvement on move 16. These seem to suggest black is OK here. We might want to focus on 12. Bd2!? again as unassuming as that looks.
12… e5 13. dxe5 Nxe5 14. Nxe5 Bxe5 15. h3 Re8!?
Dubious looks 15… c5?! 16. Bxb5! (The other capture, 16. Nxb5 is met by the perplexing 16…c4! 17. Bxc4 Nxe4 with some activity) 16… Bxc3 17. bxc3 Bxe4 18. Qe2 and white was definitely better. However, black hung on and drew later, 1/2-1/2 Epishin,V (2615)-Dokhoian,Y (2545)/Moscow 1991/URS-ch
But very interesting and logical here is 15… Nh5!? 16. Ne2 Re8? (16…Qd6! 17. f4 Rad8!, a key Meran tactic to remember, and it’s fully equal!) and white won, 1-0 Maric,A (2443)-Tkeshelashvili,S (2286)/New Delhi 2000. It’s always thematic in Merans to work on the dark squares.
16…Qe7? Black misses the nice resource 16… Bd4! with level chances.
17. Ne2! Now black has problems with his sleeping Bishop on b7 and strange queenside pawns.
17…Bc7 Nothing is solved by 17… Rad8 18. Rad1.
18. Bc5! Bd6 19. Bxd6 Qxd6 20. f4? Up to this point, white had a clear and pleasant advantage, with the passive B/b7. However now he’s too impulsive and lets that fellow out of the box. After the simple 20. Rad1! black is suffering. For example, (20… Qc7 21. Bxb5 Nxe4 22. Nd4 and white maintains a plus.
20… c5! We’re out of the opening now, and black opportunistically has created a good game. I will just draw attention at the end to one very USCL-style double blunder that occurred.
21. e5 Qb6 22. Rf2 c4 23. Bf5 Nd5 24. Re1 Ne3 25. Qb1 Nxg2 26. Rd1 Rad8 27. Bd7 Re7 28. Rd6 Qc5 29. Qd1 Ne3?? Time pressure? Very nice was 29… Nxf4!! 30. Nxf4 Qxe5 31. Ng2 Qg3 32. Kf1 Be4 33. Nf4 Bd3+ 34. Nxd3 Qxd6 and wins.
30. Bc6? Maybe also time trouble? White misses the escape 30. Bxb5! Rf8 31. Qd4 Qxb5 32. Nc3 Qe8 33. Qxe3 Re6 and it’s equal!
30… Rxd6 31. Qxd6 Qxc6 32. Qxc6 Bxc6 33. Nd4 Bd7 0-1