The 2010 Season Kicks Off – Openings Roundup for Round 1
By IM Mark Ginsburg
My role this season will be The Openings Guide.
I will round up interesting openings from each week. Since the games are played at such a fast time control, it’s often the case that dubious openings (bluffs or semi-bluffs) work out. Those are particularly interesting to me. I am checking things with Rybka 4 and Fritz 12 reference database 2010.
The first game of interest was an East Coast match-up, IM Bryan Smith (PHI) – GM Joel Benjamin (NJ).
Caro-Kann, Advance Variation
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5
A shocker on the third move! This is supposed to be a bad move; black opens up the game after losing a full tempo! Cagey veteran Benjamin shows things are not that simple. 3…Bf5 is much more common. The text is a great choice at this faster USCL time control.
4.dxc5 Nc6 5.Nf3
The most popular statistically is 5. Bb5 but the text move scores better (58% to 54%). Khalifman and Karpov have both defended successfully after 5. Bb5.
5…Bg4 6.Bb5 Qa5+ 7.Nc3 e6
We’re back in 5. Bb5 paths anyway. For students of the game seeking improvements on white’s play due to the dismal outcome, I recommend the extremely venomous and rarely played move 8. Bd2! here! The best surprise weapons are always the one that have tactical points and are little researched.
To show you how strong the idea in my previous note here was, the computer likes 9. Bd2! here (although white played 8. Be3) the best!
To illustrate the dynamics of black’s game (although clearly he has sacrificed a pawn) the computer awards equal chances to black in all lines now.
10.Bxc6 Nxc6 11.b4 Bxf3
11…Qa6 is good too.
12. Qxf3?? Nxb4! Now white’s position is a structural mess. Benjamin has scored many points in his career exploiting such things.
13. b5? Qa5 14. Bd4 Nxe5! 15. Bxe5 d4! is a big edge to black.
13…Qc4 14.Ne2 g5!
Instructive! Black keeps white’s pawns split.
15.Rg1 Rg8 16.Qd2 Bg7
Quiz time. White has done the best he could and even at this stage can keep equal chances. But his best move is hidden. Do you see it? His next move is a gross blunder, losing. The fact that white can keep equal chances in this visually poor position reinforces GM Miguel Najdorf’s adage, “Chess not easy game.”
I would suspect time pressure and a general depression about his structure caused this lemon. See prior note; white had a surprisingly strong move to retain equal chances.
I also suspect this move did not take long to execute. A very nice shot that wraps up the point.
18. Qxd4 loses to the same motif of 18…Qxd4 19. Nxd4 Bxe5! and wins.
18…Bxe5 19.Rxg8 Rxg8 20.0-0-0 Qa2 21.c3 Qxa3+ 22.Kb1 a5 23.Rc1 Kd7
23….Bxd4 right away was also crushing. Everything wins.
24.Qd3 Bxd4 25.Qxd4 Qb3+ 26.Ka1 axb4 27.c6+ bxc6 28.Qa7+ Kd6 29.cxb4 Qxb4 30.Qa6 Qd4+ 31.Ka2 Qxf2+ White resigns 0-1
Our next interesting struggle was our very own Scorpion Danny Rensch taking on Eric Rodriguez. Danny scored a key victory for Arizona and let’s see how.
Catalan Gambit Line
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2 b5?!
An unusual and extremely risky line, good for USCL surprise, but objectively white should like seeing this move. Avrukh calls it ‘quite dangerous for Black’.
We will see where white went wrong (and it’s soon). This is the key virtue of USCL surprise: a fast time limit can result in bad decisions, early.
Given an exclam in Boris Avrukh’s comprehensive 1. d4 Volume One book.
Avrukh mainly analyses 7. axb5!? cxb5 (7…Bb4+? 8. Bd2 Bxd2 9. Nfxd2! with a big edge to white) 8. Ne5 Nd5 9. Nc3 but points out the interesting 9….f6!? here with chances for black to hold.
The text move, curiously, is not covered by Avrukh but has been a big favorite with GM Khalifman. I don’t know why 7. O-O is not covered because it is clearly one of the critical moves. In Avrukh’s lines without white castling, white has to constantly worry on every turn about black’s Bb4+ resource.
Following a few stylish Khalifman wins.
In “Khalifman’s Life and Games” by Gennady Nesis, this position is extolled as fantastic compensation for white. Indeed, Khalifman scored a great win over GM Evgeny Sveshnikov (Elista 1996) featured in that book As the reader might tell, I really like that book!
The key source of the compensation according to former FIDE World Champ Khalifman is that he has craftily delayed his queen’s knight (where it’s exposed on the usual square c3) so white can later pry black open with a timely b3.
One way to defend. Khalifman roundly defeated Sveshnikov in the cited game after Svehsnikov tried 8…Qb6(!) and white went ahead with the planned 9. b3! with full compensation.
We now reach a critical moment.
In this altered picture, the b2-b3 lever is mistimed! Black’s last move demands the white reaction 9. e4!. Readers can work out the ramifications of further harassed black knight jumps on their own; in particular, the knight jump to b4 generates beautiful variations. It’s fairly safe to say Sveshnikov was afraid of precisely this (9. e4!) when he chose to avoid 8…Nd5 and went with 8…Qb6 instead. In Sveshnikov’s defense, the situation after 8…Qb6(!) 9. b3 was not altogether clear and he only went wrong later.
9…cxb3 10.Qxb3 b4 11.a5 Be7 12.Bd2 Ba6 13.Re1 0-0
Due to white’s failure to play e2-e4 at the right moment, black is fine here. Of course, white manages to play it on the next turn – better late than never.
14.e4 Nf6 15.Bxb4 Qxd4 16.Bxe7 Qxa1 17.Bxf8 Qxe5 18.Qa3 Nbd7 19.Bd6 Qd4 20.Nc3??
A gigantic lemon overlooking black’s retort. 20. h3 kept good fighting chances with automatic compensation from the bishop pair and the outcome would be up in the air.
Black has full control now. In fast time controls, the initiative is all-important.
22.h3 Nc4 23.Qc3 Qxd6 24.hxg4 e5 25.Bf1 Qd4 26.Bxc4 Bxc4 27.Qb4 Bb5 28.Qb1 Rd8 29.Ne3 Bd3 30.Qc1 g6 31.Qxc6 Bxe4 32.Qc7 Rd7 33.Qc8+ Kg7 34.g5 Bb7 35.Qc2 Qb4 36.Ra1 Rd2 37.Qb1 Rb2 38.Qf1 Qe4 39.Qh3 Rxf2 40.Rd1 h5 41.gxh6+ Kh7 42.Rf1 Rxf1+ 43.Nxf1 Qd4+ White resigns 0-1
If readers see another game from Week 1 they are curious about (from the openings standpoint), send in a comment.