USCL Openings

USCL Openings

Sep 26, 2010, 5:56 PM |

By IM Mark Ginsburg

Round 2 Action

GM Sergey Erenburg (Baltimore) – GM Alex Stripunsky (Manhattan)

Sicilian Kan

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Bd3 Nf6 6.0-0 Qc7 7.Qe2 d6 8.c4 g6?!

This setup is considered very risky for the obvious reason that d6 is a target already.

9.Nc3 Bg7

Kan with early provocative ...g6


This retreat does not look like the best.  GM Ljubojevic showed the merits of the venomous and direct 10. Rd1! O-O 11. Bc2! already ganging up on d6, not seeing a need to move the knight on d4. The game Ljubojevic-Hulak Wijk aan Zee 1987 continued 11. Bc2! Nbd7 12. Nf3 b6 13. Bf4 Ne5 14. Nxe5 dxe5 15. Be3 and white was comfortably better and went on to win in 29 moves.  11. Bc2 Nc6 12. Nxc6 bxc6 also leaves white a bit better.

Interestingly this retreat was also chosen in the recent game Shirov-Wang Hao, Shanghai Masters 2010, and Shirov in that game did play the “Ljubo manoeuver” Bd3-c2 two moves later.  Still, Nd4-f3 does not seem necessary.

10…Nc6 11.h3 Nd7 12.Rd1 0-0 13.Be3 Bxc3!?

A concession, of course, but the move is well motivated to take some dynamics out of white’s game.

14.bxc3 f6 15.Rab1 Nd8?

15…Nc5! is much stronger and keeps black fully in the game.

16.Nd4 e5 17.Nc2 Nc5 18.Nb4 Be6 19.Nd5 Bxd5 20.cxd5 b5 21.c4?!

Correct was 21. Bc2! preparing this c3-c4 move and white is significantly better.

21…Nxd3 22.Qxd3 bxc4 23.Rdc1?!  Rc8?

A pair of miscues.  White should have played 23. Qc2! to keep the hopes of an edge, and Black misses a golden opportunity to play 23…cxd3 !(of course!) 24. Rxc7 f5! with equal chances!  For example, 25. Rb3 fxe4 26. Rc4 Nf7 27. Rxe4 Rab8 28. Rd3 Rb5! and black is very solid.  Black will wind up regretting not getting rid of the queens!

24.Qa3 Nf7 25.Rb6!

Now black is completely passive and succumbs to the pressure.

Qd7 26.Qxa6 f5 27.Rb7 Qd8 28.Rxc4 Rxc4 29.Qxc4 Qh4 30.Ba7 f4 31.f3 Qe1+ 32.Qf1 Qa5 33.Qf2 Ra8 34.Kh2 g5 35.Rb8+ Rxb8 36.Bxb8 h5 37.g4 fxg3+ 38.Kxg3 Kg7 39.Ba7 Qa3 40.Be3 Kf6 41.h4 gxh4+ 42.Kxh4 Qa8 43.Qg2 Qe8 44.Bg5+ Kg6 45.Qh3 Kg7 46.Qf5 Nh8 47.Bf6+ Kg8 48.Bxh8 Black resigns 1-0

Another game that caught my attention featured a nihilist, do-nothing approach as black… that worked!

Nihilist Nimzo-Indian

Denis Shmelov (Boston) – Tom Bartell (Philadelphia)

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.f3 0-0!?

Black refrains from known moves such as 4…c5 (just tested in Shirov-Kramnik, Shanghai Masters 2010) and 4…d5 that Kramnik has also tried.  His play is flexible, not committing pawns in the center.


Purists may argue with this choice.  White spends a tempo and doesn’t develop.  It weakens b3 (a black knight is likely to arrive later on a5).  What about e2-e4 right away?

5…Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne8!?

This strange retreat in lieu of 6…c5.  In fact, black never plays ….c5!

7.e4 b6

What a weird position!  Can we say black is ahead in development because his rook on f8 is “developed”?

Black ahead?

8.Bd3 Ba6 9.f4(?!)

Not impressive.  I would lean toward some combination of Nh3 and e5 threatening black’s kingside.  Now black gets the simple play against white’s front c-pawn.  Note the knight touring from c6 to a5 also threatens the pesky leap into b3 in many lines.

9…Nc6 10.e5 Na5 11.Qe2 d5!

Things just happened too fast for white.

12.Nf3 Bxc4 13.Ng5 g6 14.h4 h6 15.Bxc4 Nxc4 16.Nf3 h5 17.g4 Ng7!

White just doesn’t have enough guys out to attack properly.

18.gxh5 Nxh5 19.Rg1 Kg7 20.Ng5 Rh8 21.f5 exf5 22.e6 Qe7 23.Nxf7 Qxh4+ 24.Kd1 Qe4 25.Nxh8 Rxh8 26.Ra2 Nf6 27.Qxe4 dxe4 28.Rag2 Ng4 29.Rxg4 fxg4 30.Rxg4 Kf6 31.Rxe4 c6 32.e7 Re8 33.a4 Nd6 34.Re2 Nf5 35.Ba3 Nxe7 36.c4 Kf7 37.a5 Nf5 38.axb6 axb6 39.Rf2 Re4 40.Bb2 Ke6 41.Kd2 Rg4 42.Kd3 Rg3+ 43.Kd2 Nd6 44.Re2+ Kd7 45.c5 Nc4+ 46.Kc2 b5 47.Bc3 Ne3+ 48.Kd2 Nd5 49.Bb2 Nf4 50.Rh2 Rg2+ 51.Rxg2 Nxg2 52.Kd3 Ke6 53.Ke4 Nh4 54.Bc3 Nf5 55.Bd2 Ne7 56.Bc1 Nd5 57.Bd2 Nf6+ 58.Kf4 Kd5 59.Bc1 Ne4 60.Ba3 Kxd4 61.Bb2+ Kd5 62.Ba3 Nxc5 63.Kg5 Nd3 White resigns 0-1

Round 1 Revisited – Dancing Some More with the Tango

I was pointed to a very interesting game in the 2 Knights Tango by IM Dave Vigorito where he scored a win as black for his new expansion team, the No’easters, vs. WGM Sabina Foiser (playing for the Baltimore Kingfishers in Round 1 USCL Action).  Hopefully readers will find the combination of both our notes interesting.

In a strange coincidence, Joel Benjamin annotated Shulman-Khachiyan on ICC as a “Game of the Week” in this same opening.

He analyzes it at Chess Cafe.

Foisor, Sabina (2367) – Vigorito, David (2524)
U.S. Chess League (1), 25.08.2010
2 Knights Tango
Notes by David Vigorito

Additional Notes by Mark Ginsburg

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 Nc6!?

The “Tango” is not a common sight, but it is not such a bad opening. It suffers from the same problem as the Benko Gambit – it is only good against one move order (1.d4 and 2.c4). Had my opponent played 2.Nf3, however, there is no Samisch and I could happily enter into the King’s Indian.

I’ve tried the Tango but, frankly speaking it does not set white serious problems (despite IM Georgi Orlov’s best efforts in a Tango pamphlet).


I had seen a couple of games where my opponent went for 3.Nc3 e5 4.d5 Ne7, but after studying Richard Palliser’s Tango book, I felt that Black could get adequate play in these positions.

Here, white can lunge ahead with 3. d5!? Ne5 4. e4!? taking advantage of 4…Nxe4 5. Qd4!.   The line is dangerous. This occurred in IM Pruess-GM Nakamura and white scored an impressive win. After 4. e4 d6? 5. f4! Ng6 6. Nc3! black is seriously short of space! I was very surprised that this had happened already a while before Pruess-Nakamura – in Jelen-Mestrovic, Ljubjana 1997 and one other game between lesser known players white also went on to win.  That makes 3-0!

Vigorito points out that black should play 4…e6!, not 4…d6?  – that is definitely the correct reaction to this aggressive line.


Promising! Position after 6. Nc3! (analysis)

This good position for white is only reached if black badly reacts with 4…d6?.

3…e6 4.a3

This is considered critical, as Black’s dark-squared bishop cannot develop on the a3-f8 diagonal. I was more concerned with 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Qc2! when White has conveniently transposed to a 4.Qc2 Nimzo-Indian. This position would normally come about after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 Nc6 (playable, but hardly Black’s best line) 5.Nf3. Despite the fact that I had written a book on this opening (for White!) Challenging the Nimzo-Indian, I was hoping to avoid this line, because 4.Qc2 was indeed part of my opponent repertoire. She was either unaware of this transposition or decided to go for more with the critical 4.a3.

Yes, 4. a3! is clearly a strong move.  But it should be coupled with a quick d4-d5! – read on!   As Joel Benjamin points out in the ICC lecture, 4. a3! was Kasparov’s choice in Kasparov-Yermolinsky where white won.   4. g3 Bb4+ is a Bogo-Indian as seen in Shulman-Khachiyan.  Actually after 5. Bd2 a5 6. Bg2 d5!? it actually became some sort of Catalan!


Black must switch plans.

For adventurers, I recommend 4…g6! 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. e4 d5! with crazy complications!  This move I have tested in the crucible of ICC 5-minute blitz and gotten some pretty decent Gruenfeld positions out of it!  Black’s queen often goes to d7 to observe light squares later on.

5.Nc3 g6 6.e4

At this exact moment, the time seems good for 6. d5!.  This move, I think, gives white a comfortable edge and it occurred in M. Ginsburg – S. Higgins, North American Open 2009. After 6…Ne7 (what else?) 7. e4, black doesn’t have good choices.  In the game he went 7…e5  and now the computer likes best of all Bd3 and h3, solid Benoni style.  I chose 8. c5!? opening up possibilities of Bb5+ (shades of Jimmy Sherwin vs me, US Open 1976) and white was better there too.

Bg7 7.Be2 0–0 8.0–0    Again, white can go 8. d5! first before cackling. White is definitely better.

Chess Diagram


The normal Tango move would be 8…Re8!?. The idea is that after 9.Be3 e5 10.d5, Black can play 10…Nd4 11.Nxd4 exd4 12.Bxd4 Nxe4 with comfortable equality. I was well aware of this, but White can also play 9.d5! with unclear play. I decided to go for the text move. The position after 8…e5 is identical to the King’s Indian Classical Variation that arises after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0–0 6.Be2 e5 7.0–0 Nc6. In the game White has the extra move a2-a3. This should be useful, but I believe that Black can minimize the value of this move if he chooses his defences carefully. The psychological point is that I have lured White into less familiar territory, and Foisor immediately makes a concession.

White waited too long in the center and missed several early chances for d5!.

Black is OK here already and Vigorito went on to win; I refer the reader to the Chess Cafe article for the rest of his notes.