Monday, January 9, 2017

The Exchange Variation of the Gruenfeld Defense

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 cxd5

I now prefer this move to my old favorite, 4 Bg5, the Stockholm variation. 4 cxd5 is preferred by 3-2 over 4 Nf3, the next most popular move.

4...Nxd5 5 e4 Nxc3

5...Nb6 6 Be3 Bg7 7 h3 0-0 8 Nf3 Nc6 9 Be2 f5 10 ef Bxf5 11 Qb3+ Kh8 12 Rd1 is fine for white.

6 bc Bg7 7 Bc4 c5 8 Ne2 0-0

8...Qa5 9 0-0 is good for white.

9 Be3 Nc6 10 0-0 Bg4 11 f3 Na5

11...Bd7 actually scores well for black, but 11...Na5 is preferred by 5-1. A sample game with 11...Bd7 ran 11.... Bd7 12. Rb1 Qc7 13. Qd2 Rad8 14. Rfc1 Bc8 15. Bh6 Bxh6 16. Qxh6 cxd4 17. cxd4 Qd6 18. e5 Qd7 19. Bb5 Qd5 20. Bc4 Qd7 21. Bb5 Qe6 22. Bc4 Qd7 23. Bb5 1/2-1/2

12  Bd3 cd 13 cd Be6

13...Bd7 seems to have the advantage over 13...Be6 by saving a tempo. However, white gets an advantage after each of the three responses. a) 14. Rb1 b6 15. Qd2 Rc8 16. Rfc1 Bc6 17. Ba6 Bb7 18. Bxb7 Nxb7 19. Rxc8 Qxc8 20. Rc1 Qd7 21. Qc2 h6 22. Qc7 Rd8 23. Kf2 e6 24. Qxd7 Rxd7 25. Rc8+ Nd8 26. Ke1 Kf8 27. Kd2 Ke7 28. Kc2 Rd6 29. Rc7+ Rd7 30. Rc8 Rb7 31. Bf4 Kd7 32. Rb8 Rxb8 33. Bxb8 Nc6 34. Bf4 Nxd4+ 35. Nxd4 Bxd4 36. Bxh6 b5 37. Kd3 Bb2 38. Be3 a5 39. Bb6 a4 40. Ba5 Kc6 41. Bb4 Be5 42. h3 Bc7 43. Kd4 1/2-1/2  b) 14. Rc1 Rc8 15. Qd2 a6 16. d5 b5 17. Rxc8 Bxc8 18. Rc1 Bb7 19. Nd4 Bxd4 20. Bxd4 e6 21. Qe3 f6 22. e5 exd5 23. exf6 Qe8 24. f7+ 1-0, or c)  14. Qd2 Rc8 15. Rac1 a6 , transposing into the last game. White gets an easy game in all these lines with simple, stock moves.

14 d5

Here is the main idea; white sacs the exchange for a King-side attack. 14 Rc1 is an alternative, but the complications after 14...Bxa7 are not very interesting or productive for white.

14...BxR 15 QxB f6

White cannot play 16 de due to 16...Qxd3, so black immediately shores up his dark square defenses.

16 Bh6 Re8 17 Kh1 (not 17 Bb5? Qb6+) Rc8 18 Nf4

Here and in the next few moves white proceeds very aggressively, in order to justify his sac of the exchange.

18...Bd7 (not 18...Bf7 19 Bb5) 19 e5 Nc4 20 e6 Ba4

20...Bb5 is also playable. One game continued:   21. Qe1 Nd6 22. Bxg6 hxg6 23. Qg3 Bd3 (23...g5 24. Bxg5 Nf5 25. Qg4 Ne3 26. Qh5 Bd3 27. Ng6 Bxg6 28. Qxg6+ Kh8 29. Qh5+ Kg8 30. Bh6 Nf5 31. Qxf5 Kh8 32. Qh5 1-0) 24. Nxd3 Kh7 25. Nf4 Rg8 26. Qh3 Rh8 27. Bf8+ Kg8 28. Bxe7 Qxe7 29. Qxh8+ Kxh8 30. Nxg6+ Kg7 31. Nxe7 Rc7 32. f4 Rxe7 (white has 3 pawns for a knight) 33. Rc1 f5 34. h3 Ne4 35. Kg1 Nf6 36. Rd1 Re8 37. d6 Rd8 38. g4 fxg4 39. hxg4 Kg6 40. g5 Kf5 41. e7 Rg8 42. d7 Nxd7 43. Rxd7 Re8 44. Kf2 b5 45. Kf3 a6 46. Rd6 1-0
21 Nxg6 hg 22 Bxg6 Ne5

Played 32 times, with white scoring 70%! 22... Kh8 was played only twice, but black won both of these games after long struggles, beginning with neutralizing white's king-side attack with 23. Qe1 Rg8 24. Be4 Be8 25. Qh4 Rg6 26. Qh5 Ne5 27. Bf4 .  The tempting 22...Qxd5 simply loses to 23 Qe1.

23 Be4 Bc2 24 BxB RxB 25 Qd1 Kh7

The only move which meets white's threat of 26 f4 followed by queen to g4 or h5. 25,,,Qc7 26 f4 Kh7 simply transposes.

26 f4 KxB 27 fe Qc7 28 ef Rf8

28...ef 29 Qd4 Kh7 30 30. Qh4+ Kg8 31. Qxf6 Ra8 32. e7 Kh7 33. Qf5+ Kh6 34. Qe6+ Kg5 35. Rf5+ Kg4 36. Qe4+ 1-0

 The idea of ganging up on the c-file doesn't work: 28...Rc8 29 f7 Rc1 30 f8(Q) RxQ 31 QxR/1+ and white is two pawns up.

29 f7 Qc4 30 d6 ed 31 Re1

Or  31. e7 Rxf7 32. Qxd6+ Kh7 33. Rxf7+ Qxf7 34. Qd3+ Kg7 35. Qd4+ Kg8 36. Qd8+ Kg7 37. Qd4+ drawn


Adroitly combining offense and defense.

32 h3 d5

An entertaining line is  32...Rc8 33 Qxd6 Rf1+ 34. Kh2 Kh7 35. e7 Rxf7 36. e8=Q Rxe8 37. Rxe8 Qxa2 38. Qd3+ Kh6 39. Qe3+ Kh7 40. Qe4+ Kh6 41. Rg8 Rg7 42. Qh4+ Kg6 43. Qg4+ Kf6 44. Qxg7+ 1-0

33 a4 d4 34 Kg1 R2xf7 

Black elects to give up his extra rook for white's extra two pawns. To be considered was 34...Qa2.

35 ef Rxf7 36 Re4 Rf5 

Trying to save the d-pawn with 36...Rd7 loses to 37 Rh4+ Kg7 38 Qg4+ and the rook falls.

37 Qd2+ Kg6 38 Rg4+ Kf7 39 Qxd4 Rf1+ 40 Kh2 Qc7+ 41 Rg3 Rf6 42 Qg4 Ke7 43 h4 a6 44 Kh3 Qc1 

Computer analysis suggests that this is where black goes wrong. The computer suggests 44...Qd7, although the resulting rook-and-pawn endgame should be easily won for white.

45 Qg7+ Ke6 46 Qg8+ Ke7 47 Rg7+ Kd6 48 Qd8+ Ke6 49 Qd7+ Ke5 50 Re7+  1-0

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Zaitsev Variation of the Benko Gambit

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 b5 4 cxb5 a6

I date back to the early days of the Benko Gambit in the early 1970's, so it is rather amazing to me that it has now grown in popularity to where it is now is the preferred choice of black players by 2-1 over 3...e6, reflecting the general consensus that the gambit has a strong positional basis.

5 Nc3

This initiates the Zeitsev Variation. Objectively it is not the best way for white to proceed, but its trappy play gives black many chances to go wrong. 5 Nc3 has only a 46% success rate, compared to 53% each for 4 bxa6 and 4 b6, 56% for 4...e3, and 54% for 4 f3.

5...axb5 6 e4 b4 7 Nb5 d6

The point of white's play is that 6...Nxe4 is out because of 7 Qe2 Nf6 8Nd6#. With 6...d6, black meets this threat and again threatens the P on e4.

8 Bf4

The main move, the alternative being 7 Bc4, after which the usual continuation is  8...Nbd7 9 Nf3 Nb6 10 Bd3 g6 11 b3 Bg7 12 Bb2 0-0 13 0-0 Ba6 14 Qe2 Qd7 15 a4 bxa3 16 Rxa3.


Easily the strongest move, causing discomfort to the white B on f4. The advantage of this line for white is that a black player not familiar with this opening is unlikely to find this odd-looking move.

Surprisingly, 8...Nxe4 is actually playable. 9 Qe2 led to a draw after 9. Qe2 g5 10. Qxe4 gxf4 11. Nf3 Qb6 12. Nd2 f5 13. Nc4 fxe4 14. Nxb6 Ra5 15. Nxc8 Bg7 16. Bc4 Bxb2 17. Rb1 Be5 18. Nca7 Kf7 19. Kd2 Kf6 20. Kc2 Nd7 21. Nc6 Raa8 22. Rhe1 Nb6 23. Nxe5 Kxe5 24. Bd3 1/2-1/2

Stronger for white is 9 Bd3 (instead of 9 Qe2); one continuation runs  g5 10. Be3 Nf6 11. Bxg5 Bg7 12. Ne2 Nbd7 13. Ng3 Ne5 14. O-O Qb6 15. a4 bxa3 16. Rxa3 Rxa3 17. bxa3  O-O 18. a4 c4 19. Bc2 Bg4 20. Qd2 Qc5 21. Nc3 Nd3 22. Bxd3 cxd3 23. Qxd3 Qa3 24. Qd2 Rc8 25. Nce4 Nxe4 26. Nxe4 f6 27. Bh6 Qxa4 28. Qf4 Qd7 29. Ng3 Bxh6 30. Qxh6 Qe8 31. h3 Bd7 32. Re1 Qf8 33. Qe3 Re8 34. Ra1 Qf7 35. Ra7 Bc8 36. Ne4 Qg6 37. Kh2 Kf8 38. f4 Kg8 39. Rc7 Kf8 40. Ng3 Bf5 41. Qd4 Rc8 42. Ra7 Kf7 43. Qe3 Re8 44. Qf3 Rg8 45. Qe3 Re8 1/2-1/2

9 Bxg5 Nxe4 10 Bf4 Nf6

Black's strongest move by far, giving him an enormous 87% success rate in practice! The most common moves, however, are either 10...Qa5 or 10...Bg7, after which the play can get quite messy. A sample game with the former ran 10...Qa5 11. Bc4 Bg7 12. Qe2 b3+ 13. Kf1 f5 14. f3 O-O 15. fxe4 fxe4 16. g3 Qxa2 17. Rxa2 bxa2 18. Bxa2 Rxa2 19. Qxe4 Ba6 20. Nh3 Rxb2 21. Ke1 Bxb5 22. Kd1 Nd7 23. Ng5 Nf6 24. Qe6+ Kh8 25. Re1 Ba4+ 26. Kc1 Rc2+ 27. Kd1 Rxh2+ 28. Kc1 Rc2+ 29. Kd1 Rh2+ 30. Kc1 1/2-1/2.

A game with 10...Bg7 ran 10...Bg7 11. Qe2 Nf6 12. Nxd6+ Kf8 13. Nxc8 Qxc8 14. d6 exd6 15. Bxd6+ Kg8 16. Nf3 Nbd7 17. Qc4 Nb6 18. Qxc5 Qe6+ 19. Be2 Nbd7 20. Qxb4 Nd5 21. Qb7 Re8 22. O-O Qxd6 23. Bc4 N5b6 24. Rad1 Qc5 25. Rxd7 Nxc4 26. Rxf7 Bxb2 27. Rc7 Qb6 28. Qd5+ 1-0

11. Bc4 Bg7 12. Nf3 O-O 13. O-O Nbd7 14. Qc1!

The only move which doesn't lose. White must insist on active counterplay here, as his embattled knight on b5 is a goner.

 Nb6 15. Bd3 Ba6 16. Bh6 c4

If black plays 16...Bxh6, white may be able to pursue a successful attack, e.g., 17 Qxh6 c4 18 Bb1 Bxb5 19 Ng5 and black cannot protect his P/h7. White has at least the draw in hand here with 20 Bxh7+ Kh8 etc., but 20 Nxh7! challenges black to find the key defensive move ...Nbd7, instead of the tempting ...Nbxd5. An amusing defensive try is 20...Ng8 21. Qh5 c3 22. Nf6+ Kg7 23. Qg5+ Kh8 24. Qh4+ Kg7 25. Nh5+ Kh6 26. Ng3+ Kg7 27. Nf5+ Kg6 28. Qg4+ Kh7 29. Qg7# 1-0. 

Another amusing line is 19...Nbxd5 20. Rd1 Bc6 21. Nxh7 Qb6 22. Rxd5 Nxd5 23. Nxf8 Nf6 24. Bh7+ Kh8 25. Bf5+ Kg8 26. Ne6 fxe6 27. Bxe6# 1-0. The white rook eliminates the key black defender, the knight on d5.

Best for black may be 16...Kh8, when it is not clear how white should proceed.

17. Qg5 Ne8 18. Bxg7 Nxg7 19. Bxh7+ Kxh7 20. Qh4+ Kg6 21. Qg5+ Kh7 22. Qh4+ Kg6 23. Qg4+ Kh6 24. Qh4+ Kg6 25. Qg5+ 1/2-1/2

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

December Toledo Swiss

Round 1, Charisee Woods(1531)-chessart(1800)

1 e4 c5 2 c3 d5

For my money the strongest move, though other moves score just as well or slightly better.

3 ed Qxd5 4 Nf3 Nf6 5 d3(?)

Normal is 5 d4.


This leaves the database.

6 Bf4 Bg7 7 Be2 0-0 8 Qd2 Nc6 9 Na3 Nh5 10 Bg3 NxB 11 hg Bf5 12 Nc2 Rfd8 13 Ne3 Qd7 14 Rd1 b5 15 NxB QxN 16 Ng5 h6 17 Ne4 b4 18 g4 Qe5 19 f4 Qd5 20 Bf3 Qxa2 21 Nxc5 bc 22 bc QxQ 23 RxQ Bxc3 24 BxN Rc8 25 Nb7 Rxd3 26 Be4 RxR 27 Kf1 Bd4 28 Ke1 Be3 29 Rxh6 Re1#

In round two I played a 12-year old Expert! After beating me he went on to beat a Master, and then in the 4th round lost to the other Master in the tournament.

Round 2, chessart(1800)-Justin Sun Liang(2057)

1 d4 d5 2 c4 c6 3 cd cd 4 Nc3 Nc6 5 Bf4 Nf6 6 e3 a6

The point here is to prevent white's Bb5, threatening to trade B for N and  leave black with a bad bishop. After 6...Bg4, an amusing miniature runs  1. d4   Nf6 2. c4   c6 3. Nc3  d5 4. cxd5 cxd5 5. Bf4  Nc6
6. e3   Bg4 7. Qb3  Qd7 8. h3   Na5 9. Qb5  Qxb5 10. Nxb5 Bh5 11. g4 1-0.

Another sample game, this time with 6...Bf5 rather than 6...Bg4, runs 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. cxd5 cxd5 4. Bf4 Nc6 5. e3 Nf6 6. Nc3 Bf5 7. Qb3 Na5 8. Qa4+ Bd7 9. Qc2 e6 10. Bd3 Rc8 11. Nf3 b5 12. a3 Be7 13. Ne5 Nc4 14. Qe2 O-O 15. O-O Nxa3 16. Nxd7 Qxd7 17. Nxb5 Nc4 18. Nxa7 Ra8 19. b3 Bd6 20. bxc4 Bxf4 21. Nb5 Rxa1 22. Rxa1 dxc4 23. Bxc4 Bb8 24. g3 Ne4 25. Bd3 Nd6 26. Nc3 g6 27. Na4 Qe7 28. Nc5 Rd8 29. Qb2 e5 30. Na6 Ba7 31. Nb4 Qb7 32. Rxa7 Qxa7 33. Nc6 Qa8 34. Nxd8 e4 35. Nb7 exd3 36. Nxd6 Qc6 1-0

 7 a3?

Normal is 7 Bd3, which leaves white with a healthy advantage. My move allows black to develop his bad bishop.

7...Bf5 8 Bd3 BxB 9 QxB Na5

Normal is 9...e6. Black's move is not in the database.

10 b4 Nc4 11 Nf3 e6 12 0-90   Bd6 13 BxB NxB 14 Rfc1 0-0 15 Nd2 Rc8 16 Na4 Nc4 17 NxN?

Getting too careless. I should have asked myself why he was letting me win a pawn. The computer likes 17 Nc5, after which I retain a small advantage.

17...dc 18 RxP? RxR 19 QxR b5 20 Qc6 ba 21 Qxa6 Qd7 22 Rc1 Nd5 23 b5 Rb8 24 Qxa4 h6 25 Rc5 Nc7 26 Qa7 Rxb5 27 h3 Rb1+ 28 Kh2 Qd6+ 29 g3 Ne8 30 Qa8 Rb8 31 Qa7 Qb6 32 Qa4 Nf6 33 Qc2 Qa6 34 a4 g6 35 a5 Kg7 36 Kg2 Rb5 37 RxR QxR 38 Qc5 QxQ 39 dc Nd5 40 a6 Kf6 41 Kf3! Ke5 41 a7 Nc7 0-1
Round 3, Alan Bui(1573)-chessart(1800)

1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 c5 3 c3 e6 4 Bf4 d5?

A serious mistake, as it lets white play the Colle-type attack which he seeks. All other reasonable moves give black a huge advantage. The strongest is 4...b6, which has black winning twice as often as white. A sample game runs 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. Bf4 c5 4. e3 b6 5. Nbd2 Be7 6. h3 Bb7 7. c3 O-O 8. Bd3 Nc6 9. O-O d6 10. Qe2 cxd4 11. exd4 Qd7 12. Rfe1 Rfe8 13. Ne4 Nxe4 14. Bxe4 g6 15. Rad1 Bf8 16. Qb5 d5 17. Bb1 Bg7 18. a4 Qc8 19. Qe2 Ba6 20. Qe3 Na5 21. Bh6 Nc4 22. Qc1 Bh8 23. Ne5 Nd6 24. Ng4 f6 25. h4 Qd7 26. Qf4 Nf5 27. Bxf5 exf5 28. Ne3 Re4 29. Qg3 Rae8 30. f3 R4e7 31. b3 Bg7 32. Bxg7 Kxg7 33. Nc2 Be2 34. Rd2 Qc8 35. Qf2 Ba6 36. Rxe7+ Rxe7 37. Nb4 Bb7 38. Rd3 f4 39. Qd2 a5 40. Nc2 Ba6 41. c4 dxc4 42. bxc4 Qxc4 0-1  The point is not that black got a great game out of the opening, but that he got a playable middlegame, which should always be black's goal.

f e3 Bd6 6 Bg3 0-0 7 Bd3 h6?

 Here again, 7...b6 yields good results.

8 Nbd2 Qc7 9 Ne5 Nfd7 10 f4 f6 11 Ng6 Re8 12 Qh5 and 1-0 in 20 moves

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Letter to The Blade's Ombudsman

I appreciate your lead topic in today's column.
Since returning to northwestern Ohio 8 months ago following a year and a half in Oregon, I have been continually amazed at the change in The Blade's editorial tone. It seems that the Blade goes out of its way to compliment Trump, and goes out of its way to criticize Clinton.
I could bring up numerous examples, but one that has stuck in my craw is a recent editorial entitled "Where is Hillary?". The idea that we as voters cannot decide who to vote for unless we see the candidate in person is ludicrous in this day and age. And the idea that Clinton must come to Toledo and offer solutions to all of Toledo's problems is also ludicrous. Toledo's problems are largely for state and local officials to deal with, not the president of the U.S.
The Blade's attitude is reflective of the selfish, "me-first" attitude which is so pervasive in today's culture. Every locale has its own set of problems. It is a president's job to be president of all the people, not a select few.
Another problem with the aforementioned editorial is its assumption that Ohio is still crucial to winning the election, hence candidates must concentrate on it. If you check out, you will see that Clinton currently has 334 electoral votes even without Ohio, way more that the 270 needed to win. In sum, a Republican cannot win the presidency without Ohio, but a Democrat can.
The Blade should not undertake to dictate to Clinton how she allocates her campaign's resources. Yet, it continues to do so. A headline in today's "Behind the News" section again talked about how many times the candidates have visited Ohio, something the Blade persists in harping on, the headline containing the phrase "but 1st time in Toledo was just last week" (emphasis added), referring to Clinton's campaign stop in Toledo. So, Clinton does as the Blade demands and visits Toledo, but your paper is still badmouthing her!
Yes, economic issues are important, as Mr. Block told you, but how does that translate into The Blade's pro-Trump approach? What possible reason does The Blade have for supposing that Trump would be anything but disaster for our beloved country?
Enough already.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Letter to "Chess Life"

Thank you for the excellent articles on Viktor Korchnoi, especially the great account from Yasser Seirawan about his days as a Korchnoi second.

While I commend your account as generally accurate, it still contains remnants of the Cold War. When Korchnoi defected, he abandoned his wife and son in favor of chess. He soon took up with Petra Leeuwerik, who the Western press, led by "Chess Life", insisted on calling his "dietician", even though she was obviously much more to him than a dietician. When Korchnoi's wife was allowed to leave the Soviet Union, he promptly divorced her and married Petra.

The quality of "Chess Life" is currently the highest it has been during my 50 years of reading it. However, I think your magazine still has some responsibility to correct the errors and excesses of the past, which were particularly outrageous during the period of 1984-1988, when you had an editor, Larry Parr, who was more interested in fighting the Cold War than in presenting factual information about the wonderful world of chess.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Letter to The Toledo Blade

Your "Where is Hillary" editorial was oddly disconcerting to me.

The idea that Toledoans should not vote for Clinton unless she comes to Toledo and hears their concerns is silly. Do you think people are unable to make up their minds without seeing the candidate in person? Besides, Toledo's "concerns" are primarily local and state issues, not issues which a president needs to be preoccupied with.

This gets to the problem with the way The Blade covers the campaign. You seem to think it is some big deal when a candidate comes into northwestern Ohio, hence all the front page headlines about Trump's campaign appearances, which you cover prominently whether or not Trump actually made any real news at a campaign stop. It would be far better to cover the campaign by highlighting the issues, something that would actually be of help to voters.

Also, Clinton does not need Ohio's electoral votes to win. The current map at shows Clinton with 302 votes to Trump's 236, even though Trump is ahead in Ohio. Trump, on the other hand, cannot win the election without Ohio. Is it any wonder Trump is giving so much attention to Ohio?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Letter to Commonweal Magazine

Your editorial on the value of the Hyde Amendment misses the mark in several respects. You criticize Hillary Clinton for her position in opposing this law, because it might cost her votes. What this means is that you are advocating that her campaign decisions be made on cold and cynical political calculation, rather than on principle and integrity. Has it even occurred to you that perhaps Clinton is simply trying to do the right thing, rather than the most politically useful thing?
Another problem with your editorial position is that in arguing against any publicly-funded abortions, what you are doing is advocating for a public policy that allows rich people to obtain abortions, but denies that same right to poor people. Don't poor people also have the right to medical care?
While it is true that many European countries place a 12-week limit on abortions, it is not fair to compare this to the U.S.  The reason is that European countries generally have free medical care available to all, in stark contrast to the U.S. What this means is that poor women in Europe are much more likely to see a doctor early in their pregnancies and then get good advice about their options going forward.
Finally, you throw in the loaded and misleading word "elective" near the end of your editorial. This is a blatant mischaracterization of the very painful and gut-wrenching decisions women are called upon to make concerning their reproductive options. It implies that the decision to have an abortion is something made lightly, similar to the decision of what to eat for supper. The use of the term "elective" is highly unfair to the women of this country.

10-3-16 update.  The first issue after I sent this letter did not publish it, but instead had one from a representative of the group Catholics for Choice, which zeroed in quite well on the issue of the discrimination against poor people that occurs under the Hyde Amendment. The second issue, dated October 7, 2016, did publish my letter, and the magazine had the class to send me a complimentary copy of the issue by first class mail, at a cost of $1.57. Kudos to Commonweal for that!