The two types who play the Exchange Slav: neither of them is fun

From a Slav player’s perspective nothing is more annoying than the Exchange Slav.

There are two types of opponents who will go 3.cxd5: The very good player who doesn’t mind maintaining a microscopic edge for a long time and aims to grind us down slowly, and the poor player who goes for something symmetrical in order to get away with a draw. Games against both types are no fun.

However, chess is a rich game, and even symmetrical positions may suddenly explode. In this game the fun starts with an instructive mistake by Black who drives his queen deep into the opponent’s camp where instead of harassing the enemy’s army it found itself cut off without anything to do. But after a counter mistake by the white player the game resulted in an exciting two-way king hunt.

Villain (2.468) – Hero (2.208), Rapid game, 2016

Slav Defense, Exchange Variation

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. cxd5 cxd5 5. Bf4


5… a6

(5… Nc6 6. Nf3 Bf5 7. e3 e6 8. Bb5 (8. Qb3 Bb4 9. Ne5 is the main battleground in the Exchange Slav nowadays.) 8… Nd7 The classical main line which is not supposed to give White much. 8…Nd7 is the crucial move to know for Black.)

6. Nf3

(6. e3 Nc6 7. Bd3 Bg4 8. Nge2 is more common in order to avoid a lasting pin on the d1-h5 diagonal.)

6… Nc6 7. e3 Bg4 


The idea of delaying the development of the Bc8 and inserting the useful …a6 first: Black gets his bishop to g4 once White has played e3. This setup is Black’s main alternative to everything starting with 5…Nc6.

8. Qb3

(8. Be2 e6 9. O-O is without any ambition. The position is as equal as it’s symmetrical.)

8… Bxf3 9. gxf3

(9. Qxb7? Na5 loses material.)

9… Na5 10. Qa4+ Nc6 11. Rc1 e6 12. Rg1


12… Bd6?

Terrible move, exchanging g7 for h2, weakening the black squares around the king and driving the queen far away from the action.

(12… Be7 I was amused to find that a former clubmate of mine had this position on the board 30 years ago in the German 2nd division. 13. Qb3 (13. Rxg7? Greedy, this will be punished. 13… Nh5 14. Rg4 Only move if White doesn’t want tripled f pawns. 14… Nxf4 15. Rxf4 h5! The rook is trapped in the middle of the board, and Black can pick it up at his convenience.) 13… Na5 14. Qc2 Nh5 15. Be5 f6 16. Bg3 O-O 17. Bd3 f5 and despite two knights on the rim and the opponent having the pair of bishops Black was doing fine in Rosen – Pieper-Emden, 2. Bundesliga West, 1988.)

13. Bxd6 Qxd6 14. Rxg7 Qxh2 15. f4!


Good move! Cuts off the Black queen from defending his majesty. White is better now.

15… Kf8 16. Rg2 Qh4 17. Qa3+ Ne7 18. Ne2


The Rc1 is ready to invade.

18… Ne4

Desperately searching for counterplay.

19. Rc7 Re8

(19… Rg8? 20. Qxe7+ Qxe7 21. Rxg8+ +-)

20. Ng1?

Spoils the game. Now the situation is very much unclear with both kings under fire.

(20. Ng3 and Black has no counterplay while facing a forceful attack.)

20… Rg8 21. Nf3 Qh1 22. Rxe7


22… Rxg2!?

Invites White to hunt the Black king all over the board. A bold (suicidal?) attempt to go for more than a draw.

(22… Rxe7 was the easy and much quieter solution. 23. Rxg8+ Kxg8 24. Qxe7 Qxf3 25. Qh4 = It will be hard for Black to make progress, but he’s the only who can play for a win.)

23. Rxe6+ Kg7 24. Rxe8 Rxf2 25. Qf8+ Kf6 26. Qh8+ Kf5


27. Ng1

(27. Qe5+ Kg4! No checkmate around while f3 and f1 are en pris. 28. Ng1! Only move. Now White threatens checkmate via Qg7+, Qxh7+ etc. 28… Rxf1+! 29. Kxf1 Ng3+ 30. Kf2 Qh2+ 31. Ke1 Qxg1+ 32. Kd2 Ne4+ and Black won’t lose.)

27… Qh4??

The king hunt and repeatedly making sure I don’t get mated had cost me all the time I had. At this point I was living off the increment and failed horribly.

(27… Rxf1+ 28. Kxf1 Ng3+ 29. Ke1 Qxg1+ 30. Kd2 Qf2+ with perpetual check)

28. Bh3+

All that’s left to do for Black is give White the pleasure of mating him.

28… Kg6 29. Rg8+ Kh6 30. Qg7+ Kh5 31. Qxh7# 



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