A French aha moment

The deeper you delve into the mysteries of your game, the rarer the aha moments become. Here’s one I enjoyed some time ago.

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Being an exchange down in a theoretical position from the Tarrasch System of the French Defense it seemed to me that Black should avoid exchanges. That’s what we do in general when material down, right? I very much wanted to play 18…Db6 in order to keep it as complex as possible.

Why my database gave 18…Bc5 as the main move (with good results for Black) seemed puzzling to me. Shouldn’t we use our queen to create play while his queen is offside in the corner, doing nothing? But the database also showed the poor results of 18…Qb6 when it had been played by respectable chess masters (never by top players, though).

At that point a chess coach would have come in handy, but none was available. So I studied annotated games in this line (1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. Bd3 c5 6. c3 Nc6 7. Ne2 cxd4 8. cxd4 f6 9. Nf4 Nxd4 10. Qh5+ Ke7 11. exf6+ Nxf6 12. Ng6+ hxg6 13. Qxh8 Kf7 14. O-O e5 15. Nb3 Nxb3 16. axb3 Bf5 17. Bxf5 gxf5 18. Bg5) in order to solve the mystery myself. After a while it sunk in eventually.

18…Bc5 is the much better move indeed.

Black actually wants the queens to be exchanged!

Let me encourage you to figure out why for yourself before you continue reading.

 


 

Once you’ve been told it’s simple.

AHA-MOMENT-Marina-cooper-878x583-300x199

A trade of queens will make the black king a powerful piece in the resulting endgame. The already centralized king can then be used to support Black’s central pawns that compensate for the exchange.

With queens still on the black king can’t do anything, it will always be harrassed by the white queen. With queens exchanged Black gains a powerful helper for the endgame.


Some quick remarks on the opening:

With the Tarrasch move 3.Nd2 White denies himself pressure on the center (d5). My chess understanding tells me that 3…c5 exploits the downside of Nd2 and must be the best response in order to equalize. I do, however, only play the French against weaker opponents in order to create winning chances with Black. While the positions after 3…c5 are often somewhat bloodless and drawish, the more risky 3…Nf6 guarantees a rich game.

9.Nf4 is a sideline that is said to be not overly dangerous for Black. White wins an exchange, but Black’s pawn center should give him sufficient compensation (especially if you understand when to trade queens and when not!).

Play until move 18 represents the mainline, the position has been reached dozens of times in (grand)master level OTB play. There are alternatives along the way, but I don’t know this stuff well enough to assess them. For instance White has tried 15.Nf3 instead of Nb3, and at move 16 Black may want to consider 16…Be6 and 16…e4 instead of 16…Bf5.

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Machines like it concretely

The areas in which human intellect outwits the machines‘ calculation power become smaller and smaller. But they are still there. Machines don’t understand fortresses for instance, often misevaluate opposite coloured bishops or have trouble grasping long term concepts in general.

When German U18 champion Roven Vogel crushed Indian wunderkind Karthik Thrish in Bamberg recently, he created an exemplary win that machines are not yet able to reproduce. Neither Stockfish nor other engines find Vogel’s 20.Ne6, cutting off the opponent’s queen from the kingside defense and setting up the decisive attack at the same time. The white concept is too abstract, machines like it concretely.

But they’re getting better. The correspondence game below has been annotated two years ago. While the general remarks and concepts still stand, today’s Stockfish 9 handles some of the crucial spots much better than its predecessor Stockfish 6 that we refer to whenever the annotation says „Stockfish“. For instance at move 11 in 2016 we needed to overrule the machine in order to play 11.Nxb3. Stockfish 9 likes the move.

To win the won position at move 23 the abstract concept of „creating a second front“ is required. In order to follow it White needs to refrain from winning back his sacrificed material immediately. Stockfish 6 couldn’t do it at all, Stockfish 9 at least smells that there are alternatives to pawngrabbing (which would most likely lead to an endgame a pawn up that is drawn nevertheless).

Hero (2.219) – Villain (2.060)
Correspondence game, Lechenicher Schachserver 2016

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 e6 4. g3

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Opening choice and opening analysis are two of the keys to correspondence chess. The chosen opening must reflect the fact that calm positional play won’t work. The classical Catalan for instance, a decent OTB opening, may lead to slightly pleasant positions and some pressure for White. But the black player and his engine will not get tired and collapse like in an OTB game. Instead he will just hold.

If you want to beat a centaur you need to create imbalances and dynamics and understand their implications better than the opponent. The barely explored Catalan setups that include a pawn sacrifice on c4 are a good choice as long as Black accepts the sacrifice. If he doesn’t White will have a hard time getting something substantial out of a regular Catalan.

4… dxc4 5. Bg2 b5 6. O-O Bb7 7. a4 Nf6 8. Ne5 Qc8 9. b3 cxb3

catalan2.jpg

I wanted to point out positions where the engine struggles and needs to be guided, but here it was the other way around: The engine guided and overruled me. This position has been reached a few times in 2500+ GM play, and in each of these games except one White went with the obvious and seemingly natural 10.Qxb3 – which Stockfish hates. I couldn’t see what’s wrong with the GM move Qxb3, but Stockfish prefers Nd2 by almost 0.5 pawns for no clear reason, so what to do?

To make sure I took a timeout in order to study some annotated GM games where the players outlined concepts and principles White should follow in these kind of positions. But Stockfish hated many of the lines given by grandmasters as well, and in no case could I prove it wrong. In the end I came to the conclusion that the engine understands this structure better than humans and went with Nd2.

10. Nd2

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In fact the great Alexander Khalifman ist the only human who has ever played this instead of 10.Qxb3. Not the worst guy to follow. White points out that the c5 square and Black’s backward pawn on c6 are part of his immediate plans.

(Akobian, Varuzhan – Schneider, Dmitry, USA-ch 2004 (1-0, 33) went 10. Qxb3 b4 11. Bb2 Nbd7 12. Nxd7 Qxd7 13. Rc1 and now the machine claims that after 13… a5 the white compensation is not sufficient.)

10… Nfd7 11. Nxb3

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This isn’t among the top choices of the engine which doesn’t think that the structure change after …Nxe5 dxe5 favours White. Stockfish even prefers 11.Nf3 over 11.Nxb3, while a human with some OTB Catalan experience likes the e5 pawn cramping the black position, the e3-a7 diagonal for his bishop pressuring the queenside and potentially the open d file and the d6 square. The machine was probably right with insisting on 10.Nd2, but now it is time to overrule it.

11… Nxe5 12. dxe5 b4 13. Na5 Qc7 14. Nxb7 Qxb7 15. a5 Be7 16. Qa4 O-O 17. Be3 Qa6 18. Ra2 Rc8 19. Rc1 Qb7 20. a6 Qc7 21. f4 Qd8 22. Rd2 Qc7 23. Bf3 g6

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Black is paralyzed, can’t develop his queenside, White is winning. But despite its 3.300 Elo an engine on its own would not be able to find a winning plan. No matter how long you let it calculate, the engine will go for the b4 and c6 pawn, free Black’s pieces in the process and end up with an unwinnable endgame 5 vs 4 pawns on one wing.

For a human the winning idea is easy to come up with: Open a second front. With Black being tied down on the queenside opening the kingside should be decisive. And White has all the time in the world to execute this. Black can’t do anything.

24. Kg2 Kg7? 

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This even invites g3-g4 followed by f4-f5 since …Qxe5 defenses are now out of the picture due to Bd4 pinning the queen. However, Stockfish at depth 30 refuses to go for the winning blow and insists on playing 25.Rb2?.

25. g4! Rd8 26. Rxd8 Qxd8 27. f5

catalan6.jpg

Black resigned.

A rook and a knight down effectively he is now facing an attack that will be crushing. Being led to this point the engine has no trouble to quickly realize that Black is lost.

1-0

The Bodensee Counter Gambit in action

The White player isn’t too serious about the game. He enjoys fun openings, then lets his engine take over after the first few moves. This approach can lead to cool games, but also to desasters like this one. White plays machine moves until he is lost.

Black on the other hand uses his powerful helper better, gladly taking its advice to manage the tactis, but refusing it at key points in order to have the attack go into the right direction. Already when analyzing the consequences of 7…Ng4 I had the position after 18…Re3 on the board.

It was one of the cases where the engine’s 0,00 means that it has no clue what’s going on and asks for guidance to be able to see more deeply. And what a sight it was!

Villain (1.956) – Hero (2.218)

Correspondence game, Lechenicher Schachserver 2016

1. f4 d5 2. c4 

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No opening is absurd enough to remain anonymous. I was surprised to find out that even this has a name: The „Sturm Gambit“.

2… e5

Black can choose between a variety of solid moves and be fine. 2…e5 is the most aggressive and the most original approach – and not yet a pawn sacrifice.

(2… c6 has been played by grandmasters twice, but I don’t like it. 2…c6 is too timid and no way to punish White for starting the game with two suboptimal moves. If not 2…e5 then I would very much prefer 2…d4 and ask White how he intends to set up his central pawn formation and develop his queenside without creating holes in his position.)

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3. fxe5 d4!

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Important inbetween move, asking White the questions mentioned in the former comment. The e5 pawn can always be retrieved via …Nc6 and …Ng8-e7-g6.

4. Nf3 Nc6 5. d3

Sturm4.jpg

5… f6

Voilá, the „Bodensee Counter Gambit“, opening files and diagonals towards the white king for the price of a pawn. 5…f6 is not the engine’s first choice, but given how this game went this may be the best way to go.

(The solid 5… Nge7 is perfectly fine. Black gets back his pawn and may even have a slight edge after 6. g3 Ng6 7. Bg2 Ncxe5 8. Nxe5 Nxe5 9. O-O)

6. exf6 Nxf6

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7. a3

If White allows …Bb4+ he will also have to allow the Nf6 to jump towards e3.

(7. g3 Bb4+ 8. Bd2 Ng4 and White is in trouble.)

7… Ng4!?

7…Bd6 or 7…Ng4? I couldn’t decide, both moves look fine, and often they will transpose into each other. In the end I played …Ng4 mainly for the reason that my opponent and I were in the business of being the more original than the other. So if there’s an opportunity to move a developed piece a second time in the opening, why not take it? Also while analyzing it I already had the winning position after 18…Re3 on the board and badly hoped I could steer the game towards it.

Sturm6.jpg

8. g3?!

At this point White would have needed to take a timeout of a few days and come up with a working defensive setup if he seriously wants to save the game. I doubt that he can ever survive g3, Bg2 and then castling into Black’s attack without his troops from the queenside being able to defend his majesty. There are just too many attacking patterns apparent already.

(8.h3 Creates another darksquared hole next to the white king, exactly what Black aimed to provoke with 7…Ng4, but maybe the move is not as stupid as it looks. When thinking hard outside the box White could have come up with a line like this: 8… Nge5 (8… Ne3) (8… Nf6) 9. Nbd2 Nxf3+ 10. Nxf3 Bd6 11. g4 with the idea of walking the King to c2, hiding it there and being a pawn up. In fact although I had provoked it I wasn’t sure how to react to 8.h3 since all three possible knight moves seemed to make sense.)

8… Bd6 9. Bg2 O-O 10. O-O Qe8 11. Qe1

Sturm8.jpg

Overprotecting g3 and directed against the natural 11…Qh5. After a sequence of logical moves Black now needs to look deeply into the position to find a good continuation and break through. Apparently Black’s position is already good enough to just play the slow 11…a5, stopping any White queenside expansion and making it difficult for White to come up with something sensible. 11…Ne7 intending a piece sacrifice is one of Stockfish’s suggestions, giving 0.00 and many variations of perpetual checks after 12.h3 Nf5. But delving deeper into the jungle of lines it turns out that the complications after 13.hxg4 are good for Black. Often when the engine says „0.00“ this means it has no clue first of all.

11… Ne7

Just enjoy the following sequence. I’ll keep the lines and alternatives to a minimum to keep it consumable.

(11… Qh5?! 12. h3 Nf6 13. g4 followed by Qh4 (one of the ideas of 11.Qe1) and White is alive with his kingside holding for now.)

(11… a5)

12. h3

(12. Nxd4 Looks incredibly dangerous, but may have put up more resistance. After 12…Rxf1+ 13. Bxf1 Nf5 14. Nxf5 Bxf5 Black has a pleasant combination of options and threats, …Bxd3, …Bc5+, …Qh5, …Rf8. Not sure if White survives, I hadn’t analyzed this properly, but I would have gladly gone for this.)

12… Nf5

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13. hxg4 Nxg3 14. Rf2 Bxg4 15. Nbd2 Qh5

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16. b4

(16. Nxd4 Bh3 -+)

16… Rae8

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Everybody needs to join the party!

17. c5

(17. Nxd4 Nxe2+ -+)

17… Bf4 18. Nf1 Re3!

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Total domination. Black has sacrificed a piece in order to let his whole army appear in front of the white king. White is lost, he has no way of transferring any defenders from the queen- to the kingside. If only there was a piece on e4 in order to form the perfect rectangle e1-e4-g4-g1 😉

19. Ra2 Nxf1 20. Rxf1 Rxf3

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21. Bxf4

(21. Rxf3 The huge blok of pieces in front of the White king dissolves, and in the end a lost pawn endgame appears on the board: 21…Qh2+ 22. Kf1 Bh3 23. e3 Bxg2+ 24. Rxg2 Qh1+ 25. Ke2 Qxg2+ 26. Qf2 Qxf2+ 27. Kxf2 Bxe3+ 28. Bxe3 dxe3+ 29. Kxe3 Rxf3+ 30. Kxf3 -+)

21… R3xf4 22. Rxf4 Rxf4

Sturm14.jpg

The dust has settled, and Black is a pawn up with a much better position. But White’s position is just not bad enough to resign, so he dragged it out until he was left with a hopeless queen ending.

23. e3 Qe5 24. Be4 Rxe4 25. dxe4 Qxe4 26. Qd2 Be6 27. Rb2 d3 28. Qf2 Bd5 29. Qg3 Qc4 30. Qe5 h6 31. Qd4 Qc1+ 32. Kf2 Kh8 33. a4 Be4 34. Qxe4 Qxb2+ 35. Kf1 Qf6+ 36. Ke1 Qa1+ 37. Kf2 Qxa4 38. Qxd3 Qc6 39. Qd8+ Kh7 40. Qd3+ Qg6 41. Qd7 h5 42. Qxc7 Qf5+ 43. Kg3 Qg4+ 44. Kf2 Qxb4 45. Qe5 Qh4+ 46. Kg2 Qg4+ 47. Kf2 h4 48. Qd5 Kh6 49. Qxb7 Qf5+ 50. Kg2 Qxc5 51. Qa6+ Qb6 52. Qa4 Qg6+

Sturm15.jpg

White resigned.

0-1

A beautiful destruction and a rare concept in the Caro Kann Two Knights

Once installed on an outpost in the center a knight can become an incredibly powerful piece to support our attack and interfere with the enemy’s forces.

Due to their long range impact the bishops usually stay behind. They can be equally powerful from a distance.

This game is differenct. For a long time a bishop installed in the center is the most powerful, crucial piece on the board. It tightens the black defense and decisively supports the counterattack. White would have loved to drive it away, but that turned out to be not that easy.

Villain – Hero

Correspondence game, Lechenicher Schachserver, 2016

1. e4 c6 2. Nf3 d5 3. Nc3

caro15.jpg

The Caro Kann Two Knights.

3… Bg4

The classical move.

(Lately 3…dxe4 and 3…Nf6 have been played a lot.)

4. h3 Bxf3

(4… Bh5 leads to deeply analyzed, forced variations in which Black may make a draw, but can never hope for more.)

5. Qxf3

caro16.jpg

The starting position of the Two Knights variation with 3…Bg4. White gets his pieces out quickly and remains flexible with the d pawn. He enjoys the two bishops and some prospects of a kingside attack which can quickly become dangerous if Black doesn’t react carefully. White scores well with this in tournament practice.

When fighting for the World Championship in 1960 the great Mikhail Tal tried 5.gxf3?!! once in order to confuse Mikhail Botvinik. Creating imbalances this way may have been a decent try (once, at least) against the pragmatic Russian chess professor, but the move itself is not so good.

5… Nf6 6. d3 e6 7. Bd2 Nbd7 8. g4

caro2.jpg

Immediately rushes towards the black king, asking Black: „Where are you going to castle?“ But where to put their kings is the major issue for both sides in this line. Black’s main tries against 8.g4 are either stopping g5 via 8…h6 (and even advancing on the kingside himself) or 8…Bb4.

8… b5!?

Answering White’s kingside attack with an immediate counterattack on the queenside. From now on both sides march on different wings with their kings still in the center. With 8…b5 Black enters unexplored territory. White scored 7:1 in OTB play against 8…b5 according to my database, but it had once been tried by strong British GM Matthew Sadler, so I took a closer look. While I couldn’t find anything wrong in the opening I loved the fact that Stockfish didn’t seem to understand the resulting positions, probably because of their castling and king safety implications.

(8… h6 9. Qg3 d4 10. Ne2 Qb6 11. Rb1 g5 12. Bg2 Be7 13. O-O h5 is how two 2.700+ GMs handled this in Morozevich, Alexander – Vitiugov, Nikita 1/2-1/2 (42 moves) RUS-ch 67th, 2014)

9. g5 b4

The race begins.

10. Nd1 Ng8 11. Ne3 Bd6 12. h4 Ne7

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13. h5

(13. Ng4 looks natural, has been played by 2.650 GM Ivan Saric against a lesser opponent. Black should answer 13…Ne5 in order to secure the crucial a1-h8 diagonal for his bishop, the crucial concept also in our game as well as in the Sadler game that had inspired me to try this.)

13… Rb8

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14. h6

Novelty.

(14. Qg2 Be5 The Be5 is the central piece around which Black’s play evolves. It protects the dark squares on Black’s kingside, pressures the White queenside (prevents White from 0-0-0 even) and hinders d3-d4 and f2-f4 advances. 15. Rb1 (Had White gone 15.0-0-0? his king would soon find himself in the eye of an irresistible storm.) 15…Qc7 16. Be2 a5 17. Rh4 Rb6 18. Qh3 Bc3!? with an unclear game in Hall-Sadler, 1-0 (60 moves), Bundesliga 2002.)

14… Be5

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It’s a rare concept that a bishop instead of a knight becomes installed on a central square on a full board. In this special case (like in the Sadler game) the dark squared bishop is the one piece that ties the black army together. It defends the dark squares on the kingside and pressures White’s queenside at the same time. In fact b2 is hanging right now. As long as Black can keep the bishop on its exposed outpost he will be fine. And it it is hard for White to chase it away.

15. O-O-O

Implies a draw offer already since Black can now force a perpetual check! Otherwise a dangerous choice. I doubt the White king will ever be safe after castling into the already running black queenside attack.

(15. c3 is what I expected, fighting the dominant e5 bishop. 15…bxc3 16. bxc3 d4 17. cxd4 Bxd4 with unclear consequences.)

15… Qa5

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16. Kb1

The only move.

(16. hxg7? invites a powerful rook sacrifice. After 16…Qxa2 17. gxh8=Q+ Bxh8 18. Be1 Bxb2+ 19. Kd2 Ne5 Black has more than enough compensation for the rook.)

(16.a3? not only looks dubious, it runs into the immediate 16…Lxb2+! and White will be mated.)

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16… g6

Closing the kingside, refusing the draw offer. For a human it seems logical and natural to close things down where White is attacking, but the engine disapproves. Stockfish prefers 16…gxh6, a move I didn’t seriously consider. After 16…g6 there are some dark squared wholes in Black’s camp, though, emphasizing the importance of the black squared bishop that needs to cover them for now.

caro8

(16… Bxb2 forces a draw. 17. Kxb2 Qa3+ 18. Kb1 b3 19. axb3 Rxb3+ 20. cxb3 Qxb3+ 21. Kc1 Qa3+ 22. Kb1 = (22. Kc2 If White tries to escape the perpetual check he gets mated in the middle of the board, and beautifully so: 22…Qa2+ 23. Kc3 (23. Kc1 Nc5 24. Re1 Nb3+ 25. Kd1 Qxd2#) 23… d4+ 24. Kxd4 Qb2+ 25. Kc4 Ne5+ 26. Kc5 Qb6+ 27. Kd6 c5+ 28. Kxe5 Ng6#, diagram))

(16… Rb6 Here and almost during the whole game …Rb8-b6-a6 is desirable, bringing another piece to the attack. Rook up and over? No, White can always parry the rook transfer with d3-d4 so that the f1 bishop controls a6. 17. d4! Bxd4 18. Bc1 and White is better. He can now tear things up around Black’s king while the black attack has come to a standstill. The Rb6 looks silly suddenly.)

17. Ng4

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17… Bc3

The bishop needs to stay on the long diagonal, doing his multipurpose offensive and defensive job. c3 is the perfect square from where it cannot be driven away.

(17… Bd4 Was a good, tempting alternative. On d4 the bishop is less stable than on c3, but it takes away the d3-d4 option from White and powerfully threatens …Rb8-b6-a6.)

caro10.jpg

18. Nf6+?

This feels very wrong, closing Black’s weak point f6.

(18. Bc1 White should buy himself some time, consolidate the queenside with 18.Bc1 and then look for something active.)

18… Nxf6 19. gxf6 Nc8

caro11.jpg

Black is in the driver’s seat now, White lacks active options.

20. Bc1?!

Too late for consolidation. White desperately needs counterplay, but now Black gets all his forces rolling towards the White king, and White has no measures of relief anywhere.

(20.exd5 was a better attempt to stirr things up. Black has the choice of playing it calmly with 20…cxd5 or enter messy complications after 20…Bxd2 21. dxe6)

20… Nd6 21. Qg3 Kd7

caro17.jpg

22. d4?!

Hard to criticize this since it was difficult to find a move.

(22. Bf4 may have been the last chance. 22…Nb5 23. d4 (23.Bxb8 Bxb2 and Black wins) 23… Na3+ 24. Kc1 Rb7 Black is much better, having the white monarch under fire, but there is nothing immediate and things remain somewhat unclear. White may have a final opportunity to look out for ideas on his own at this point.)

22… Nxe4

23. Qe3

caro18.jpg

23…Be1

looks spectacular, threatens …Nc3+ winning, but in the end this is just pawngrabbing on f2 after White has defended against …Nc3+.

(23… Bxb2 Stockfish likes this, but it seemed less clear to me. 24. Bxb2 Nc3+ 25. Kc1 Nxd1 26. Kxd1 Qxa2 27. Qb3 Qxb3 28. cxb3 A funny configuration: Black’s rooks are handicapped by their own forces. Because Black still has all eight pawns on the board the rooks have trouble finding open files. White might be able to set up some fortress and control all intrusion squares forever.)

24. Qb3

(24. Rxe1 Nc3+ 25. bxc3 bxc3+ 26. Ka1 Qb4 -+)

24… Bxf2 25. Ka1 Qc7 26. Rh3 Qb6 27. Qd3 Bg1 28. Be3

caro12.jpg

28… Bxe3

Goodbye and thank you, proud bishop! You did the most amazing job in this game.

29. Qxe3 a5 30. Bg2 Nd6 31. Qc1 Rhc8 32. Rg3 a4 33. Rg5

caro13.jpg

Pretending there might be Bxd5 business if Black goes 33…c5.

33… c5 34. dxc5 Rxc5 35. Bf1 b3 36. Rg2 a3 

caro14.jpg

A picture of utter and complete black triumph. Now White missed the most aesthetically pleasing spot to resign the game and made one more move (37.c3) instead. But since the winner gets to write the history I’d like to pretend that this is the final position of the game.

0-1

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

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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 

slav2.jpg

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

slav3.jpg

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!

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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

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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

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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

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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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In eigener Sache: „Perlen vom Bodensee“ becomes bilingual

The desire to spread chess education among those in need was the main motivation that drove us to start this site a few months ago. But there was more.

From other chess endeavours we had stockpiled dozens of essays on strategy, opening surveys and analyzed (correspondence) games, all of them in English. A place to dump publish them permanently was required.

The original idea was to start a German chess blog with a focus on fundamentals, then add an advanced section in English after some time. We didn’t quite stick to the fundamentals throughout all of our German content (in fact some of it is quite demanding), soon added a news section, but the original idea still stands.

“Perlen vom Bodensee” will remain a German chess blog for the main part. However, from today on we are bilingual.