Saturday, December 27, 2014


After the Open of Leuven, Stefan Docx told me that he liked the positions which I obtained in the Dutch. However only my first move didn't appeal to him. It is therefore no coincidence that on chesspub the opening is categorized under the daring defences. Deliberately weakening f7 also called the Achilles of blacks position is obviously risky.

The achilles not only plays an important role in openings in which the f-pawn is pushed. Also in many other openings this weak spot is attacked. A few examples to illustrate this theme. I start with the feared Cochrane gambit.
[Event "XVI Ciudad de Linares 99"] [Site "Linares ESP"] [Date "1999.03.02"] [Round "8"] [White "Topalov, V."] [Black "Kramnik, V."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C42"] [WhiteElo "2700"] [BlackElo "2751"] [PlyCount "62"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nxf7 {(The Cochrane-gambit is a very rare bird in standard-chess and for sure at the top.)} Kxf7 5. Nc3 c5 6. Bc4 Be6 7. Bxe6 Kxe6 8. d4 Kf7 9. dxc5 Nc6 10. Qe2 (10. O-O dxc5 11. Qe2 Qe8 12. Re1 Nd4 13. Qd3 Qe6 14. e5 Nd7 15. Ne4 Be7 16. Bg5 Nxe5 17. Qc3 Qc4 18. Qg3 Ng6 19. Bxe7 Ne2 20. Rxe2 Qxe2 21. f3 Qe3 22. Kf1 Nxe7 23. Re1 Qd4 24. Nd6 Kg8 25. Rxe7 Qd1 26. Re1 Qxc2 27. Qe5 Qd3 28. Re2 Qd1 29. Re1 Qd3 30. Re2 Qd1 31. Re1 {(and draw in the correspondence-game Starke,Heiko - Hudak Dusan played in 2009)}) 10... Qd7 11. Be3 {(Here better is 0-0 as now black gets some chances.)} dxc5 12. f4 Re8 13. e5 Ng4 14. Rd1 Qf5 15. O-O h5 16. Bc1 Nd4 17. Qc4 Kg6 18. h3 Nh6 19. Nb5 a6 20. Nxd4 cxd4 21. Qxd4 Rc8 22. Qb6 Kh7 23. Qxb7 Rxc2 24. Be3 Qg6 25. Rc1 Rxc1 26. Rxc1 Nf5 27. Bf2 h4 28. Rc7 Ng3 29. Kh2 Nf1 30. Kg1 Qb1 31. Bxh4 Bc5 1/2-1/2
I never studied this seriously but it looks playable for white. In the second example we see again the same players at work but this time in a trendy variation: the anti-Moscow gambit which I already used in one of my first articles, see my novelty in Wijk aan Zee.
[Event "Corus A"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee NED"] [Date "2008.01.22"] [Round "9"] [White "Topalov, V."] [Black "Kramnik, V."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D43"] [WhiteElo "2780"] [BlackElo "2799"] [PlyCount "89"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bh4 dxc4 7. e4 g5 8. Bg3 b5 9. Be2 Bb7 10. O-O Nbd7 11. Ne5 Bg7 12. Nxf7 {(Kramnik was very surprised by this gambit although it was already known from correspondence-chess.)} Kxf7 13. e5 Nd5 14. Ne4 Ke7 15. Nd6 Qb6 16. Bg4 Raf8 17. Qc2 Qxd4 { (Immediately after the game Rhg8 was recommended and later several times tested in practice. Of course it is very difficult to find every time the right answer at the board against the prepared moves of the opponent.)} 18. Qg6 Qxg4 19. Qxg7 Kd8 20. Nxb7 Kc8 21. a4 b4 22. Rac1 c3 23. bxc3 b3 24. c4 Rfg8 25. Nd6 Kc7 26. Qf7 Rf8 27. cxd5 Rxf7 28. Rxc6 Kb8 29. Nxf7 Re8 30. Nd6 Rh8 31. Rc4 Qe2 32. dxe6 Nb6 33. Rb4 Ka8 34. e7 Nd5 35. Rxb3 Nxe7 36. Rfb1 Nd5 37. h3 h5 38. Nf7 Rc8 39. e6 a6 40. Nxg5 h4 41. Bd6 Rg8 42. R3b2 Qd3 43. e7 Nf6 44. Be5 Nd7 45. Ne6 1-0
The playground of this variation almost completely shifted from standard-chess to correspondence-chess probably because white scored terribly and the compensation isn't easy to find. From my own practice I can show a rare line which was in my repertoire till 2004. I only got it on the board in standard-chess once.
[Event "Open Avoine 4de ronde"] [Date "2002"] [White "Lemoine, F."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C70"] [WhiteElo "2128"] [BlackElo "2223"] [PlyCount "71"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 b5 5. Bb3 Na5 6. Bxf7 Kxf7 7. Nxe5 Ke7 8. d4 Nf6 $5 {(It has been long ago that I encountered this variation as in my personal database there are no games with this system. Nevertheless I am sure I once got it on the board. )} (8... d6 $5 {(During the game I spent a lot of time remembering what exactly is the most optimal continuation. New analyses show that both continuations are interesting.)} 9. Nd3 Kf7 $44) 9. b4 $2 $146 {(In practice were already tried 0-0, Bg5 and Qf3 but I only consider Nd3 as the proper continuation for getting sufficient compensation. Strange it seems nobody yet has tested this. After b4 black gets a clear advantage.)} (9. Nd3 $1 $146 Qe8 10. O-O Kd8 11. e5 $44) 9... Nb7 $2 {(This does not look nice and it is also not surprising that white gets again good compensation after this move. Much better is d6 which frees c4 for the knight with a big advantage for black.)} (9... d6 $1 10. Nd3 Nc4 11. e5 dxe5 12. dxe5 Ne4 13. O-O Bb7 14. Qh5 (14. Qf3 Qd5 15. Re1 $17) 14... Qd4 15. Na3 $17) 10. Bg5 $5 {(The pin is a logical reaction but a4 must also be considered with excellent compensation for the piece.)} Qe8 $5 {(Ke8 is the alternative but also in that case white has nice compensation for the piece.)} 11. Nc3 c6 12. f4 $2 {(This is nonsense as now black gets time to get active play. Much better is a4 and blacks pieces do not work together which permits white to obtain very nice compensation for the sacrificed piece.)} (12. a4 $5 d6 13. Nd3 bxa4 14. e5 Kf7 15. O-O dxe5 16. Nxe5 (16. dxe5 Nd5 17. Qh5 g6 $44) 16... Kg8 17. Qf3 Nd6 $11 ) 12... Kd8 13. Nd3 h6 $5 {(A5 is also possible with some advantage for black.)} 14. Bxf6 gxf6 15. a4 Qe6 16. d5 $6 {(A pawn-sacrifice which is pretty superficial. 0-0 is of course better although this leaves black the advantage.)} cxd5 17. e5 Qc6 18. Ne2 bxa4 19. O-O a5 20. c3 $5 {With the pawn-sacrifice b5 white could keep the a-file closed but that is not sufficient to save the game.)} axb4 21. cxb4 d6 $2 {(A big positional blunder as this weakens heavily the squares e6 and c6. Much better and simpler was Be7 followed up with Rg8 and white has not sufficient compensation for the piece so should lose eventually.)} (21... Be7 22. Kh1 Rg8 23. f5 Qc4 24. Rf4 Qc7 25. exf6 Bxf6 26. Rxa4 Rxa4 27. Qxa4 $19 ) 22. e6 $5 {(Ef6: seems also possible again with good compensation for the piece.)} Bxe6 23. f5 Bd7 $2 {(A difficult choice in time-trouble. Which squares should I defend first. Afterwards it became clear that I should defend first d5 so Bf7 is better with an unclear position.)} 24. Kh1 $2 {(A useful move but not the most accurate one as in some variations white can do without it. Nd4 gives white already good winning chances as the engines find it difficult to organize the defense.)} Rg8 $2 {(The weird Fritz move h5, connected with the queen-sacrifice on c4 seems to be the only way to continue. After the logical text-move it is probably already lost.)} (24... h5 $1 25. Nd4 Qc4 $1 26. Nf4 Bh6 $1 27. Rc1 Bxf4 $1 28. Rxc4 dxc4 29. Rxf4 a3 30. Nc2 $44) 25. Nd4 Qc4 26. Nf4 Be7 $5 {(Rc8 and Nc5 are recommended by Fritz and Shredder but none can save blacks position. After Be7 black gets annihilated.)} 27. Rc1 a3 28. Rxc4 dxc4 29. Nde6 Bxe6 30. Nxe6 Kd7 31. Qd5 Ra7 32. Qb5 Kc8 33. Qxc4 Kd7 34. Qb5 Kc8 35. Nd4 Bd8 36. Qc4 1-0
Not a well played game but again a nice example of how hard it is to defend against such sacrifices without preparation. For online blitz or bullet these gambits are very lethal.

Not only in the opening is f7 (or f2 for white) a weak spot. Also further in the game we notice that the achilles remains a headache which many players got into troubles. I found on the internet a nice collection of combinations in which the achilles plays a key role. It is difficult making a choice out of it but I like the combination of our reigning worldchampion Magnus Carlsen in his game of 2011 against the Chinese topgrandmaster Wang Hao.
[Event "73rd Tata Steel GMA"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee NED"] [Date "2011.01.29"] [Round "12"] [White "Carlsen, M."] [Black "Wang Hao"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B12"] [WhiteElo "2814"] [BlackElo "2731"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2r1k2r/2q2pp1/2n1p3/1p1pP1BB/n1pP4/2P3P1/1P3PK1/R2Q3R w k - 0 24"] [PlyCount "11"] 24. Bxf7 {(Not the only winning move but the fastest one.)} Kxf7 25. Qf3 Kg8 26. Rxh8 Kxh8 27. Rh1 Kg8 28. Qh5 Rf8 29. Bf6 1-0
Recently I got a golden opportunity to play a beautiful combination using the Achilles.
[Event "Interclub Deurne - Brasschaat"] [Date "2014"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Beukema, S."] [Result "*"] [ECO "C99"] [WhiteElo "2337"] [BlackElo "2311"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3rr1k1/1q1bbppp/2n2n2/1pB1p3/1P2P3/pB3N1P/P4PP1/2RQRNK1 w - - 0 24"] [PlyCount "27"] 24. Bxf7 $1 {(Missed as I played Qe2 in the game. I remember that I looked a few seconds at the brilliant Bxf7 but I did not realize this could actually work. Qe2 is sufficient for a small advantage which is probably the reason why I did not look for anything better.)} Kxf7 {(The engines play Kh8 but naturally no human would choose such move.)} 25. Qb3 {(Not first with the knight as otherwise white would have no answer after Kg6.)} Kg6 26. Nh4 Kh6 27. Ng3 Bxc5 (27... g6 28. Qf7 {(Another quiet move which closes in the king.)} Ng8 29. Be3 Bg5 30. Nhf5 gxf5 31. Bxg5 Kxg5 32. Qg7 Kh4 33. exf5 Bxf5 34. Nxf5 Kh5 35. g4#) (27... Nd4 28. Bxd4 exd4 29. Ngf5 Bxf5 30. Nxf5 Kg6 31. Qg3 Kf7 32. Qxg7 Ke6 33. e5 $18) 28. Ngf5 Bxf5 29. Nxf5 Kh5 30. Qf3 Kg6 31. Qg3 Kh5 32. Nxg7 Kh6 33. Nf5 Kh5 34. Qh4 Kg6 35. Qh6 Kf7 36. Qg7 Ke6 37. Qxb7 $18 *

I looked a few seconds at Bxf7 but never thought it could work against a tactician like Stefan (obtaining only a few days earlier an IM-norm in Le Touquet. It often strikes me that tacticians are very good in the attack but in the defense they regularly make mistakes. A missed opportunity or something we can consider as an oddity? In any case Steven Geirnaert believes that we shouldn't too easily minimize mistakes. We should look for ways how to avoid them and improve our play. Of course he has a valid point. On the other hand I am surely not the only one missing such tactics.

A few months earlier an example of such blindness between grandmasters was published in the great column of grandmaster Lubomovir Kavalek.
[Event "Budapest m"] [Site "Budapest"] [Date "1993"] [Round "10"] [White "Polgar, Judit"] [Black "Spassky, Boris V"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C95"] [WhiteElo "2595"] [BlackElo "2565"] [PlyCount "148"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. h3 Nb8 10. d4 Nbd7 11. Nbd2 Bb7 {(In reality Re8 was played but the organization preferred to hide the double-blunder and correct the move-order.)} (11... Re8 12. Bxf7 {(Judit played on automatic pilot Nf1 and missed hereby an immediate and obvious win.)} Kxf7 13. Ng5 Kg8 14. Ne6 (14. Qb3 $2 {(Playing too clever with Qb3 would jeopardize the win.)} d5 15. Ne6 Nc5 $14)) 12. Bc2 Re8 13. Nf1 Bf8 14. Ng3 g6 15. b3 Bg7 16. d5 Nb6 17. Be3 Rc8 18. Qe2 c6 19. c4 cxd5 20. cxd5 Nbxd5 21. exd5 Nxd5 22. b4 Nxb4 23. Bb3 Bd5 24. Red1 Bc4 25. Qd2 Nd3 26. Bh6 d5 27. Bc2 Nc5 28. Re1 Bh8 29. Rad1 Qb6 30. Qg5 e4 31. Qe3 Bxa2 32. Bb1 Bxb1 33. Rxb1 Na4 34. Qxb6 Nxb6 35. Be3 Na4 36. Nd4 Nc3 37. Rbc1 Rc4 38. Nge2 Nxe2 39. Nxe2 Rd8 40. g4 d4 41. Rcd1 d3 42. Ng3 Bc3 43. Bd2 Bxd2 44. Rxd2 Rdd4 45. f3 exf3 46. Kf2 b4 47. Kxf3 Rd8 48. Re7 Rb8 49. Rd7 b3 50. R7xd3 a5 51. Rb2 a4 52. Ne2 Kg7 53. Ke3 Ra8 54. Nc3 Rb4 55. Nxa4 Raxa4 56. Rbxb3 Rf4 57. Ke2 Kh6 58. Rf3 Kg5 59. Kf2 Rxf3 60. Kxf3 Kh4 61. Kg2 Ra2 62. Kg1 h5 63. gxh5 Kxh5 64. Rf3 f5 65. Rf4 Re2 66. Kh1 Re4 67. Rf2 Kh4 68. Kg2 Rb4 69. Kh2 Re4 70. Kg2 f4 71. Kf3 Re5 72. Rg2 g5 73. Rg4 Kxh3 74. Rg3 Kh4 0-1

If players from this caliber miss something much simpler then I can quicker accept my mistake. Of course one doesn't get many chances in his career to play such extraordinary combinations so it always will feel as a missed opportunity. 


Addendum 26 Augustus 2015
Despite playing 20 years of competition, only last couple of years I started to review and study the old grandmasters. Again and again I realize that I should have done this much earlier. I discovered a few days ago via the book "The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal" the game Mikhail Tal - Wolfgang Unzicker played in 1961: which includes some of the same motives Nh4/Ng5 as my missed combination against Beukema. We can only guess what if I had discovered Tals game just before my game against Beukema.

No comments:

Post a Comment