Thursday, March 13, 2008

Leningrad Investigations II

It's time for another look at the 6...c6 Leningrad which was the subject of two earlier entries. After the introductory moves 1.d4 f5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.0–0 0–0 6.c4 c6, we have so far only considered the natural 7.Nc3. Also 7.b3 is a natural move which may easily transpose if Black plays a quick ...d6. However one of the critical replies must be 7.b4!? (Dia) which to some extent discourages ...Na6.

The relatively recent encounter Savchenko-Firman, Dresden 2007 continued 7...Ne4!? which appears consistent. Alternatives are:

a) 7...d6 transposes to a relatively normal Leningrad variation which more frequently arises after 6...d6 7.b4!? c6. It should however be noted that although 7.b4 in that variation has been played by Shirov and Korchnoi among others, it's far less common than 7.Nc3. It's also worth noting that the most popular reaction to 7.b4 is 7...c6 (in tough competition with 7...e5 and 7...Qe8).

b) 7...d5 8.Nbd2 dxc4 9.Nxc4 Be6 10.Nfe5 Nbd7 11.Bb2 Nxe5 12.Nxe5 Bd5 13.Qc2 Bxg2 14.Kxg2 Qd5+ =+ Alexandrova-Chuprikov, Alushta 2002.

c) 7...a5 is a logical reaction: 8.b5 a4 (8...cxb5 9.cxb5 d6 10.Qb3+ e6 11.Nc3 b6 12.Ba3 Ra7 13.Ng5 Re8 14.e4 Nxe4 15.Ngxe4 fxe4 16.Nxe4 += Gabrielian-Savchenko, Sochi 2006) 9.Nc3 d6 (9...Ne4 10.Qc2 Nxc3 11.Qxc3 d6 12.Ba3 Kh8 13.Qe3 cxb5 14.cxb5 Nd7 15.Ng5 Nb6 16.Rac1 += Schandorff-Sahl, Taastrup 1998) 10.Rb1 Qa5 11.Bd2 Kh8 12.Qc2 Be6 13.bxc6 bxc6 14.Nd5 Qd8 15.Nf4 Bg8 16.Ng5 Qc8 17.Rfc1 e5 18.dxe5 dxe5 19.Nd3 Nbd7 20.Nb4 e4 21.f3 h6 22.Nh3 Re8 = Spassov-Movsziszian, Burgas 2001.

d) 7...Na6 is in my opinion the main alternative:

d1) 8.Qb3 Nc7 9.a4 a6 10.Bb2 Kh8 11.Na3 d6 12.b5 Bd7 13.b6 Ne6 14.a5 g5 15.d5 Nc5 16.Qa2 h6 17.Bd4 Nce4 18.Nd2 c5 19.Nxe4 fxe4 20.Bc3 += Rahman-Dzhumaev, Chennai 2004.

d2) 8.b5 must be the critical reply: 8...cxb5 9.cxb5 Nc7 10.Nc3 d6 11.a4 h6 (11...Rb8 12.Ba3 Kh8 13.Rc1 Ne4 14.Qc2 Nxc3 15.Qxc3 Ne6 16.Qc4 Bd7 17.d5 Rc8 18.Qd3 Nc5 19.Bxc5 dxc5 20.Qe3 += Kortschnoj-Jakubiec, Panormo 2001) 12.Qd3 Kh7 13.Ba3 Be6 14.Nd2 Ncd5 15.Nxd5 Bxd5 16.Rfc1 Bxg2 17.Kxg2 1/2–1/2 Jirovsky-Jakubiec, Czechia 2004.

8.Bb2 a5!?

This looks more challenging than 8...d5 which is quite lightly tested: 9.Nbd2 a5 (9...Be6 10.Rc1 a5 11.b5 cxb5 12.cxb5 a4 13.Ba3 Re8 14.e3 Qb6 15.Qe2 Nd7 16.Rc2 Rac8 = Matveeva-Bartel, Internet blitz 2004) 10.b5 Nd7 11.a4 Ndf6 12.Ne5 cxb5 13.cxb5 Be6 14.Nb3 Nd7 15.f3 Nxe5 16.dxe5 Ng5?! (16...Nd6 17.Nc5 Nc4 18.Nxe6 Qb6+ 19.Qd4 Qxe6 20.f4 Rfd8 =) 17.Nc5 Qb6 18.Rc1 Rac8 19.Qd4 += Lautier-E.Berg, Internet blitz 2004.

9.a3 (Dia)

In Ovsejevitsch-Lindestrom, Esbjerg 2007 White was successful with 9.b5 cxb5 10.cxb5 a4 11.Nc3 Qa5 12.Rc1 e6 13.Nxe4 fxe4 14.Ng5 a3 15.Bc3 Qxb5 16.Nxe4 when White was clearly better. However, 9...d5! seems to secure Black at least equality.


Now the game again will take on "Leningrad Stonewall" characteristics. It’s still not too late for 9...d6 with more typical Leningrad positions. Gavrilov - Lamprecht, Olomouc 2001 continued 10.Nbd2 Qe8 11.Qc2 Nxd2 12.Qxd2 e5 13.dxe5 dxe5 14.e4 with an edge to White.


In Postny-Kobalia, Moscow 2002 White preferred 10.cxd5 cxd5 11.Nc3 axb4 12.axb4 Rxa1 13.Bxa1 Nxc3 14.Bxc3 Bd7 15.Ne5 Bb5 16.Re1 e6 17.Qb3 Qd6 with equal chances.

10...Be6 11.Qc2 Nxd2 12.Nxd2 dxc4 13.Nxc4 axb4 14.axb4 Na6 (Dia)


White has gone slightly astray somewhere. Black has an edge also after 15.b5 cxb5 16.Ne5 Bd5 or 15.Qc3 Qxd4 16.Qxd4 Bxd4 17.Bxd4 Bxc4 18.Rfc1 Bb5.

15...Nxb4 16.Qb3 Rxa1 17.Bxa1 b5 18.Qxb4 Bxc4 19.Bxc6 Qd6 20.Qc5?

After 20.Qxd6 exd6 21.Bc3 Rc8 22.Bf3 Black is only a little more comfortable as he doesn’t achieve anything with 22...Bxe2 23.Bxe2 Rxc3 24.Bxb5 d5.

20...Qxc5 21.dxc5 Rc8 22.Bd5+ Bxd5 23.Bxg7 Bb3 24.Rb1 Kxg7 25.Rxb3 Rxc5 26.f4 Kf6 27.Kf2 Ke6 28.Ke3 Rd5 29.Ra3 Kd6 30.Ra6+ Kc5 31.Ra7 b4 32.Rxe7 b3 33.Rxh7?

This loses immediately but 33.Rb7 Kc4 only takes a little longer.

33...Kc6 0-1

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