Why not Qxg2? Onischuk and the poisoned pawn
In my last post, I posted a game between Pavel Eljanov, seed 3 in the Chess.com IOM Tournament and Alexander Onischuk. In move 13, Onischuk, playing black, has his Queen on g4, and instead of taking the opportunity presented to capture Qxg2, he retreats his Queen. I promised a deeper look into this, and here it is.
For the last 2 moves, Black has thretened to take the ‘posioned’ pawn on g2, and White doesn’t seem to give a damn. HE has just played 13. Ne5!!, an intermediate move that wins an important tempo and prevents Black from opening up the centre. In this position, Onischuk decides to play 13… Qh5 instead of 13…Qxg2. Let us discuss this decision.
Conceptually, White is up in development, has his pieces focused on the kingside, and threatens to bring all his pieces into the attack and launch something deadly. So, it is not the best of ideas to harvest pawns in such a situation. This hands over important tempi to White, who will take fullest advantage to bring in his final pieces and begin attack.
But in Black’s defense, he really has nothing to play for. Playing a defensive more rather than Qxg2 will only lengthen the game, postponing the inevitable. So why not enjoy the moment and stack up some sweet points oustide the board?
Concretely, there are many variations for White to pursue after 13… Qxg2, but most if not all in White’s favour with energetic play. One such exciting variation is:
Therefore,13… Qh5 allows Black to not fall prey for such immediate embarrasment, and lengthen the game from 22 moves to 44.
If Black wanted to continue his quest for pawns, he could have also played 15… Qxf2. But White has a tactic up his sleeve that can have bad, bad consequences. See if you can figure out this simple puzzle.