Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Comfortable Stonewall

It's always nice to end a tournament with a win (and it makes it easier to resist the next opportunity to play). My opponent was another Norwegian. Actually I think he participated in the very first tournament I played outside my club, more than 30 years ago. He is considerably lower rated than me, so a win wouldn't improve my tournament result much - but a loss or even a draw would cost me dearly.

Haveland - Sv.Johnsen
Thailand Open 2009 (9)
1.d4 f5
I was quite happy when my opponent played 1.d4 as now the position is quite unbalanced already.
2.Nf3 e6 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 d5
The Stonewall. I considered a more flexible system, possibly increasing my winning chances but I know there are lots of winning potential even in rather stale looking Stonewall positions.
5.c4 c6 6.cxd5?!
This is not that bad a move but it's harmless in the extreme.
6...exd5 7.0–0 Bd6 8.Nc3 0–0 9.Rb1

White plans a minority attack with b4-b5. Two other moves with similar aims are 9.a3 and 9.Qc2.
9...Ne4 10.e3
White sensibly decides to stop ...f4 but weakens his light squares somewhat. There are not many games with this position played at an international level. In the following game at least Black is 2400+: 10.Nxe4 fxe4 11.Bg5 Qe8 12.Nd2 h6 13.Be3 Nd7 14.b4 Nf6 15.Qb3 Bf5 16.b5 Qh5 =+ Weng Tianlun-Wang Yue, Suzhou 2001.
10...Nd7 11.Qc2 Qe7 12.Nd2
This appears to be the first new move in the game. Hamrakulova-Ambrosi, Wch Girls U18 Chalkidiki 2003 was drawn after 12.a3 Nb6 13.Ne1 Be6 14.Nd3 Bf7 15.b4 Nc4 16.Re1 Ng5 17.Qd1 Rae8 18.Rf1 Qf6 19.Nc5 Qe7 20.Nd3 Qf6 21.Nc5 Qe7 22.Nd3 Qf6 23.Nc5.
12...Ndf6 13.Ndxe4 fxe4 14.Bd2 Bg4
I briefly considered 14...b6 but wasn't sure how well I would stand even if my opponent overlooked my threat, e.g. 15.f3 Ba6 16.fxe4 Bxf1 17.Rxf1 dxe4 18.Nxe4 and White may even be better.
15.f3 exf3 16.Bxf3 Rae8 17.Rbe1 Bh3 18.Bg2 Qd7 (D)
I have completed my development but was not sure how to go ahead. Fortunately my opponent now forces the play, saving me some difficult desicions.
As my opponent pointed out, 19.a3 would have been a very useful preparation for this central break - at least after my most natural replies, 19...a5 and 19...Re7 - simply because there then will be no pawn to pick up on a2.
19...Bxg2 20.Kxg2 dxe4 21.Nxe4 Nxe4 22.Rxf8+ Bxf8 23.Rxe4 Qd5 24.Kf3 (D)
This position arises more or less by force as a consequence of White's 19th move.
I looked carefully for a permanent bind/zugzwang but didn't see anything really convincing so I grabbed the pawn. When checking with Rybka it produced this line: 24...g5! 25.g4 (25.a3 g4+) 25...Bd6 26.h3 Kg7 27.a3 a5 28.a4 h6 29.Be1 b6 30.Ke3 Bf4+ 31.Kf3 Kg6 which looks quite promising (Rybka says '-+ -1.61'.) but it refuses to tell me how I actually convert it to a full point.
25.Qxe4 Qxa2 26.Bc3 Qf7+
Simpler and stronger is 26...Qd5 27.Ke3 Qxe4+ 28.Kxe4 Kf7 29.d5 c5.
27.Ke3 Bd6 28.Qg4 Kf8 29.Kd3 Qg6+
I assumed this must be a win despite my doubled pawns and White's active king.
30.Qxg6 hxg6 31.d5 c5 32.Kc4 a6 33.Ba5 b5+ 34.Kd3
Kf7 35.b3 (D)

35...Kf6 36.Ke4 Ke7 37.Bc3 Kf7 38.Ba5 Kf8 39.Kf3 Be7
Finally my two pieces have found positions from which I can make progress.
40.Bb6 Ke8 41.h3 Kd7 42.Ke4 Kd6 43.Ba5 Bf6 44.g4 g5?
This stupid advance creates a weakness and prolongs the game with at least 10 moves.
45.Be1 Be5 46.Bd2 Bf6 47.Be1 g6 48.Bg3+ Kd7 49.Kd3

49.Bf2 c4 50.bxc4 bxc4 51.Bb6 Kd6 doesn't make much difference.
49...a5 50.Be1 Bd8 51.Bc3 Kd6 52.Ke4 c4 53.bxc4 bxc4 54.Bb2 Kc5
54...Bb6 is equally good as 55.Ba3+ Bc5 56.Bxc5+ Kxc5 57.Ke5 c3 58.d6 c2 59.d7 c1Q 60.d8Q Qe3+ 61.Kf6 Qd4+ is winning.
55.Ba3+ Kb5 56.Kd4
56.d6 Ka4 57.Bc1 Kb3 58.Kd5 c3 doesn't change anything.
56...Bf6+ 57.Ke4 Ka4 58.Bc1 Kb3 59.d6 a4 60.Kd5 c3 61.Be3 c2 62.Ke6 Bd8 63.Kd7 Ba5 64.Bxg5 a3 0–1

The Scandinavian Variation

My 8th game was a painful loss against a young Singaporean boy:

Wee Che En - Sv. Johnsen

Thailand Open 2009 (8)

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0–0 9.h3 a5!?

This was what I had prepared against 1.e4 for this tournament. I like to call it the Scandinavian variation but may well be the only one to do so.

10.a4 b4 11.d4 bxc3 12.bxc3 exd4 13.cxd4 (D)


This is Black's idea in the 10.a4 line. Now it looks a little like a Open Ruy Lopez with Black controlling b4.

14.e5 Ne4 15.Nbd2

15.Re3 Nb4 16.Nc3 Bb7 17.Ne2 Kh8 18.Ba3 f6 19.Nf4 Ra6 20.Bxb4 axb4 21.Bxd5 Bxd5 22.Nxd5 Qxd5 23.Qd3 Nc5 24.dxc5 Qxd3 25.Rxd3 fxe5 = Castillo-Bolbochan, Mar del Plata 1950.

15...Bf5 16.Ba3!?

I didn't remember having ever seen this move and thought it looked a little funny. But when consulting my notes I had actually analyzed a GM game with it.


The game I had analysed went 16...Nb4 17.Nf1 c5 18.Ne3 Be6 19.Bxb4 axb4 20.dxc5 Bxc5 21.Qd3 Rc8 22.Rad1 Bb6 and Black was clearly better in Hellers-Kupreichik, Malmo 1987. The big question is whether these moves ever entered my mind or if they only appeared on my screen with Rybka doing the thinking. In earlier days I always played through my notes on a chess board (frequently a pocket set but a full size board if circumstances permitted me). It is too time consuming for my present life situation, but far better for memorization.

17.Rxa3 Nb4 18.Ra1 c6

I tried to calculate 18...Nd3 19.Re3 and now I looked at 19...Ndxf2 20.Qe2 Nxd2 21.Nxd2 Ne4 as well as 19...Nexf2 20.Qe2 and decided against the entire variation as I didn't find the resulting positions particularly clear. After the game I was pleased to see that Rybka agreed in this evaluation. That being said, the move I played probably reveals my lack of understanding for this kind of positions. It seems that Black in similar positions play a quick ...c5 with active piece play. Instead I tried to stabilize the queenside, hoping to create kingside chances with ...f6 at some point. This may be sufficient for equality but demands quite exact play.

19.Qe2 Rb8 20.Rec1 h6 21.Qe3 Kh8 22.Nxe4 Bxe4 23.Nd2 Bh7 24.Rc3 Qe7 25.Bd1 f6 26.f4 fxe5 27.fxe5 Rf7 28.Nf3 Rbf8 29.Qd2 Be4 30.Be2 Rf4 31.Rf1

For the last dozen of moves I as well as my opponent have played quite decent chess. My problem was that I didn't quite appreciate my opponent's play and felt that I should be looking for an advantage. Instead my small weaknesses on a5 and c6 were slowly beginning to be felt. So rather than accepting that I had to fight for equality, I played a somewhat desperate move:


It is tempting to add another question mark as this move isn't only weakening; it's also completely unprovoked.

32.Rc5 Qc7 33.Nh2!

This move I had completely missed.

33..Rxf1+ 34.Bxf1 Rf4 35.Ng4 Qd8

Probably 35...Kg7 36.Nf6 Bg6 is a somewhat better attempt to keep my position together.

36.Nf6 Bg6 37.Be2 Qb6 38.g3 Rf5 39.Qe3! Na2? (D)

Objectively this is a losing error but as my position is creaking in its seams anyway, I only give it one question mark. Actually I considered '?!' as it forces White to calculate a fairly long line.

40.Bd3 Qb3 41.Rxa5!

This wins as does 41.Rxc6.

41...Nb4 42.Ra8+ Kg7 43.Rg8+ Kf7 44.e6+ Kxf6

44...Ke7 45.Rg7+ Kxf6 46.Rxg6+ Ke7 47.Rg7+ comes to exactly the same.

45.Rxg6+ Ke7 46.Rg7+ Ke8 47.e7!

The move I overlooked when I played 39...Na2.

47...Qd1+ 48.Kg2 1–0

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Chinese Invasion

My opponent in round 7 was a young Chinese rated just below 2400. I have beaten higher rated players but this felt a bit like wasting a white game:

Sv. Johnsen - Ziyang Zhang
BCC Thailand Open (7)

1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 Nf6 3.e3 c6 4.Nf3 Bg4

Lines with ...c6 and an early development of Black's light-squared bishop are particularly challenging to London players as White has to play c4 in order to fight for an advantage. That's perfectly fine if your general chess understanding is well developed. But if you only feel comfortable with your pawns on c3, d4 and e3 your task is harder.

5.c4 Nbd7 6.Nbd2 e6

6...Nh5 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Bg3 e6 10.Qc2 Nxg3 11.hxg3 Bf5 12.Bd3 Bxd3 13.Qxd3 g4 14.Nh4 Qg5 unclear Gomez Esteban-Magem Badals, Linares 1995.


A challenging decision. My co-author of 'Win with the London System' showed common sense in V.Kovacevic-Bisguier, New York 1989: 7.Bd3 Nh5 8.Bg3 Nxg3 9.hxg3 Bd6 10.Qb3 Rb8 11.Nh2 Bh5 12.Nhf1 Nf6 13.f3 Bg6 14.Bxg6 fxg6 15.g4 0–0 16.0–0–0 with complicated play.


Black has also tried 7...Bxf3 8.gxf3 with these options:

a) 8...Qb6 9.c5 Qxb3 10.axb3 Nh5 11.Bc7 Rc8 12.Ba5 a6 13.f4 g6 14.Bd3 Ng7 = Dos Santos-Miranda, Curitiba 1999.

b) 8...Nh5 9.Bg3 Qb6 10.c5 Qxb3 11.axb3 a6 12.b4 Nxg3 13.hxg3 Rc8 14.f4 g6 15.g4 Bg7 16.Bd3 f5 17.Ke2 +=Schlindwein-Pieper Emden, Gladenbach 1996.

8.Bg5 Qa5! 9.0–0–0?!

I cannot remember the last time I castled queenside so early in the London. I certaily looked for sensible alternatives and noticed that 9.cxd5 exd5 (9...cxd5 10.Bb5 Bb4 11.Bxd7+ Kxd7 12.Ne5+ Ke8 13.0–0 is very good for White) 10.Qxb7 Rb8 11.Qxc6 might be possible but I didn't even try to calculate the consequences of 11...f6 12.Be2 Rxb2 (12...fxg5 13.Ne5) 13.Rd1 Bb4 14.Qa8+ Kf7 15.Qxh8. According to Rybka White is able to keep a small advantage in some very complicated lines.

9...Bb4 (D)


For some strange reason I didn’t consider 10.e4! at all. I seems to work quite well and at least ensure equality - something I wasn’t really close to achieveing in this game.

10...Nhf6 11.h3 Bxd2+ 12.Rxd2 Bf5 13.Bd3 Ne4 14.Bxe4

In a way this is the source of my coming problems as we now are left with bishops of opposite colours.

14...Bxe4 15.a3 0–0 16.Be7 Rfc8 17.Bb4 Qa6 18.cxd5 cxd5+ 19.Bc3 Rc6 (D)

At this point I think my position is objectively lost. Black’s attack may not seem immediately decisive but the opposite coloured bishops ensure that what he attacks I cannot defend. The positive thing to say about this game is that I now for the rest of the game defends quite well. When I in the following sequence add an exclamation mark to almost all my moves it's because I found the only moves to continue the game. It should be said that my opponent too found very strong moves but in general he had a few more tempting options to choose from.

20.Kd1! Rac8 21.Ke1! f6 22.Rd1! Rb6 23.Qa2 Bc2 24.Rc1 Qd3 25.Nd2! f5 26.h4! Nf6 27.Rh3! Ne4 28.Nxe4 fxe4 29.Qa1! Ba4 30.f4 (D)


If Black hadn’t found this attacking idea (or the 30...Bb5 31.Kf2 e5! version of the same idea) I might have saved the game. Now I am unable to defend because my kingside is undermanned.

31.dxe5 Bb5 32.Kf2 Qe2+ 33.Kg1 Rg6 34.Rh2 Qxe3+ 35.Kh1 Qxf4 36.Rd1 e3 37.b3 e2 38.Rg1 Bd3 39.e6 Rxe6 40.Bxg7 e1Q 41.Rxe1 Rxe1+ 42.Qxe1 Rc1 0–1

A Rook Gone Astray

My 6th game in Pattaya was another London System:

Sv.Johnsen - W.Chengjia
BCC Thailand Open (6)

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4

My opponent (a young Chineese girl) was rated a little above 2000 and I had no idea what to expect. Anyway I saw little reason to deviate from the opening with which I have the most experience.

2...e6 3.e3 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nd2 d5 6.Ngf3 cxd4 7.exd4 Bd6 8.Bg3

An old game in this line went 8.Bxd6 Qxd6 9.Bb5 0–0 10.0–0 Bd7 11.Re1 Qf4 12.Bxc6 Bxc6 13.Ne5 Nd7 14.Ndf3 and White probably was a little better in Blackburne-Chigorin, Berlin 1897.


Opening the h-file before White has castled is risky, e.g. 8...Bxg3 9.hxg3 Qd6 10.Bd3 Bd7 11.Qe2 Ng4 12.0–0–0 h6 13.Rh4 Nf6 14.Ne5 gave White a clear advantage in Knezevic-Asmundsson, Grindavik 1984.

9.Bd3 e5?!

This looks wrong. Black frees her position but accepts an isolated queen’s pawn while exchanging a few pieces in the process. An interesting an relatively recent game continued 9...Re8 10.Ne5 Qc7 11.f4 Rf8 12.0–0 Ne8 13.Bh4 f5 14.Rf3 Bxe5 15.fxe5 Qb6 16.Bf2 Qxb2 17.Rh3 g6 18.Nf3 Rf7 19.Rb1 Qxa2 20.Qc1 Rg7 21.Bh4 Qa5 22.Bf6 Rf7 23.Ng5 and White had compensation for his pawns in Gonzales-Halay, Manila 2007.

10.dxe5 Re8 11.0–0 Nxe5 12.Nxe5 Bxe5 13.Bxe5 Rxe5 14.Nf3 Rh5?! (D)

This move confirmed what I had started to suspect: My opponent probably had little classical chess education and was mainly relying on her calculating skills.

15.Re1 Qd6 16.Bf1 Bg4 17.h3 Bxf3 18.Qxf3

Except for the strangely placed black rook, this is a fairly typical IQP position. White must be a little better.

18...h6 19.Rad1 g6 20.Rd4

I was about to play 20.Qe3 when I noticed 20...Ng4!?. It’s not at all clear that 21.Qg3 Qxg3 22.fxg3 improves Black’s chances. But the resulting position looks a little strange and this might favour the better calculator, which I suspected wasn’t me.

20...Rf5 21.Qd3 Rf4

It seemed my opponent only now had noticed that her d-pawn might be in trouble.

22.g3 Rxd4 23.Qxd4 b6 24.Bg2 Rd8 25.Rd1 Re8 26.c4

The pawn has been doomed for some moves already.

26...Re2 27.cxd5 Nd7 28.Rc1 Qe5!

This is quite a good try to keep the game going.

29.Qxe5 Nxe5 30.Rc7 (D)


A better try would have been 30...Re1+ 31.Kh2 Re2 when e.g. 32.d6 Rd2 33.Re7 f6 34.Rxa7 still isn’t clearly winning.


This wins by force.

31...Nd3 32.d6 Nc5 33.d7 Nxd7 34.Rxd7 Rxa2 35.Bd5 Ra1+ 36.Kf2 a5 37.Bxf7+ Kg7 38.Rb7 Kf8

Black might have saved herself the last dozen of moves. It’s hard to imagine how White can go wrong.

39.Bxg6 Ra2+ 40.Kf3 Rb2 41.f5 Rb3+ 42.Kf4 Rb1 43.Ke5 Rc1 44.Rxb6 a4 45.Rb8+ Kg7 46.Rb7+ Kf8 47.f6 Re1+ 48.Be4 a3 49.Ra7 Re3 50.Kf4 Rc3 51.Bd5 1–0

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Confusing Names

With double rounds for the first three days, there is not much time for preparation against a specific opponent. But for the morning rounds (3 and 5) there is in principle possible to do a quite thorough check of your opponents games and try to guess what will be the battle ground. However, for this game I was very partially prepared for a quite peculiar reason: There are two Indian IMs of roughly the same strength, one named Roy Saptarshi and one named Roy Chowdhury Saptarshi. Both play BCC Thailand Open and I assumed they were brothers. The first player (without Chowdhury) has no games in Megabase 2009, the second has 219. I assumed that the two players had gotten merged into one by Chessbase staff and looked for a way to guess what games might have been played by my opponent. I found that there were quite a number of Veresov games and in lack of anything more useful assumed that my opponent (possibly the younger brother) was the one playing this rather rare opening. So my only preparation was for the continuation 1.d4 d5 2.Nc3 Bf5(!) 3.f3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Nbd7 5.Nxd5!?. Of course this proved quite useless.

Roy Saptarshi - Sv.Johnsen
BCC Thailand Open (5)

There went my preparation - wrong player?
This I have not played in a tournament game for 20 years, but I have an interesting line against the Advance variation.
2.d4 d5 3.f3!?
The Fantasy variation. It doesn’t look particularly threatening but can lead to quite complicated play.
Had I had any idea that this position might appear on the board I probably would have had a look at 3...e5?! which I enjoy playing in blitz (but probably is unsound) and 3...Qb6!? (which I think may be underestimated).
4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Bf4 Nf6 6.Qd3 Qa5!?
This more or less obliges me to give up my dark-squared bishop for a knight. Two more popular continuations are:
a) 6...b6 7.Nge2 Ba6 8.Qe3 0–0 9.0–0–0 Nbd7 10.g4 Rc8 11.Ng3 Bxf1 12.Rhxf1 b5 13.Kb1 Qb6 14.Nce2 Qb7 15.Bg5 Kh8 16.e5 Ng8 17.f4 += Prusikin-Brunner, Switzerland 2008.
b) 6...0–0 7.Nge2 (7.0–0–0 Bxc3 8.Qxc3 dxe4 9.fxe4 Nxe4 10.Qe1 f5 11.Nf3 Nd7 12.h3 a5 13.Bd3 Ndf6 14.Be5 a4 unclear Winants-Fridman, Netherlands 2005) 7...c5 8.0–0–0 c4 9.Qe3 b5 10.Bg5 Be7 11.e5 Ng4 12.fxg4 Bxg5 13.Nf4 f6 =+ Kurmann-Pavlovic, Biel 2006.
7.Bd2 b6 8.Qe3 dxe4 9.fxe4 e5 10.Nf3 exd4 11.Qxd4 Qc5 12.Qxc5 Bxc5 13.e5 was a little better for White in Gofshtein-Bruk, Israel 2002.
In an earlier my opponent (or his namesake) faced 7...c5 8.0–0–0 dxe4 9.fxe4 cxd4 10.Nxd4 0–0 and after 11.Nb3 Qb6 12.Nb5 Na6 13.Be3 Nc5 14.Qe2 Bd7 15.N5d4 Rac8 16.Qf3 Ncxe4 17.Bd3 Nc5 Black was clearly better in Roy Chowdhury-Al Sayed, Port Erin 2006.
Or 8.a3 Ba6 9.Qe3 0–0 (after 9...c5 10.0–0–0 Bxe2? 11.Nxe2 White was practically winning in S.Gabrielsen-T.Eriksen, Asker 2000) 10.g4 Be7 11.g5 Nfd7 12.exd5 cxd5 13.Kf2 Nc6 with unclear play in Boulard-Dumitrache, Sautron 2001.
8...Ba6 9.Qe3 dxe4 10.fxe4 0–0
It seems 10...e5 is too early: 11.0–0–0 Bc4 12.Kb1 exd4 13.Nxd4 Bxc3 14.Bxc3 Qxa2+ 15.Kc1 += Permuy Lorenzo-Miguel Lago, Mondariz 1995.
11.a3 c5
This seems better than 11...e5, e.g. 12.dxe5 Ng4 13.Qg3 Nxe5 14.Ra2! Bd6 15.b4 +- Carmeille-Bastian, Germany 2006.
12.0–0–0 (D)

I considered 12...Bxa3 but stopped my calculations after 13.bxa3 (13.e5 is critical too) 13...Qxa3+ 14.Kb1 Qb4+ 15.Ka1 Qa3+ (Rybka prefers 15...Nc6 with roughly equal chances) 16.Na2 which not only stops the checks but also threatens a queen exchange. However, Rybka quite likes Black's position after 16...Qa4 with 17.e5 Ng4 18.Qf4 Qxc2 as a kind of main line. 13.Nxd4 Bxc3 14.Bxc3 Qa4 15.Bd3 Bxd3 16.cxd3 Nbd7 17.Kb1 Rac8 18.Rc1 Rfd8 19.Rhf1 Ne5 20.h3
My opponent told me he had spent quite a lot of time calculating 20.Nxe6 Rxd3 21.Bxe5 (21.Qg5 fxe6 22.Qxe5 Qxe4 is nothing for White) 21...Rxe3 22.Rxc8+ Ne8 23.Nxg7 but stopped when he saw 23...Qxe4+ followed by 24...Qxe5.
20...Qa6 21.Rfd1 (D)
Now 21.Nxe6 fails to the simple 21...Rxc3 22.Rxc3 fxe6.
After 21...Qa4 a quite reasonable continuation is 22.Rf1 Qa6 23.Rfd1. My opponent almost certainly would not have played this and indicated in a brief post mortem that he had planned 22.g4, but then 22...Rxc3! 23.bxc3 Rxd4! 24.Qxd4 Qb3 is a perpetual.
22.Qxd3! Qxd3+ 23.Rxd3 e5
23...Nxe4 is a little better but completely hopeless.
24.Nf5! 1–0
I had missed the simple fork on e7. 24.Nc6! wins just as easily.

After the game a friendly Indian IM explained me a bit more about Indian names and about this particular name confusion. It turned out that the first names (Roy and Roy Chowdhury respectively) are the family names, and the last (Saptarshi) is the given name. The two players are not related but quite happy to be mixed up by Chessbase.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Practical Considerations

My forth game was against a Thai FM and quite complicated as long as it lasted:
Sv.Johnsen - Pitirotjirathon
BCC Thailand Open (4)
1.d4 g6!
This is one of the relatively few opening moves against which I don't play the London System.
2.e4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.Bg5!?
I was looking at this attacking system against the Pirc a few days ago. It probably is a little less motivated against the Modern.
Probably lines with an early ...c5 are more critical.
5.Qd2 Qa5 6.Nf3

A more popular move is 6.f4, e.g. 6...b5 7.Nf3 b4 8.Nd1 Nf6 9.Nf2 0–0 10.Bd3 c5 11.e5 Nd5 12.Be4 cxd4 13.Nxd4 e6 14.0–0 dxe5 15.fxe5 Ba6 16.Rfd1 Bb7 17.Ng4 with a clear advantage to White in Stojanovic-Nurkic, Sarajevo 2007.
6...Bg4 7.Bc4!?
This is a bit provokative. Safer is 7.Be2, when the miniature Yermolinsky-Adu, Las Vegas 2000 went: 7...Nd7 8.0–0 h6 9.Be3 g5 10.Rfe1 a6 11.Rad1 Rc8 12.a3 e6 13.Nb5! Qxd2 14.Nxd6+ +-.
White's point is that 7...b5 can be met by 8.Nxb5!? (here 8.Bxf7+ Kxf7 9.Qf4+ Nf6 10.Bxf6 also is possible) with the idea 8...Qxd2+ 9.Kxd2 cxb5? 10.Bd5 +-. A better try is 9...d5 when 10.Bb3 as well as 10.Nc7+ are possible (and quite unclear).
8.gxf3 Qb4!? (D)
This appears to be a new move.
a) 8...b5 can still be met by 9.Nxb5!?
b) 8...e6 9.Bb3 Nd7 10.h4 h6 11.Bf4 d5 12.0–0–0 0–0–0 13.exd5 cxd5 14.h5 g5 15.Bh2 Ne7 16.Qd3 a6 17.Rhe1 was unclear in Goossens-Safranska, Rhone 2008.
This is an extremely ugly move (in case you didn't notice!) but White is ahead in development and probably can afford to play so as he will follow up with a3 and b4 in most cases.

Still 9...b5 10.Nxb5!? is playable.
10.a3 Qa5 11.b4 Qc7 12.Rd1 Ngf6 13.Bb3 0–0 14.0–0 e6 15.Kh1 Nh5?!
I agree with my opponent's criticism of this move as it helps me bring an attacker to the kingside. But I don't like his suggestion 15...h5 any better. After 16.Rg1 Nh7 17.Bh6 White must be clearly better.
16.Ne2 Rfe8 17.Ng3 Nhf6
Probably 17...Nxg3+ 18.hxg3 f6 19.Bh6 Nf8 20.c4 is safer but White's bishop-pair and extra space ensures him of clearly better chances.
18.c4 h5?! 19.Rg1 Kh8 (D)
Here my somewhat higher rated offered a draw and I was a little ashamed to accept. From a purely chessic point of view this of course is a mistake as White must be clearly better. But more practical considerations applied. I was very tired and had difficulties calculating clearly.

After 6 rounds I have 3.5 points. I have not calculated my Elo performance but I believe it must be roughly as expected. I don't know how much Internet access I will have for the next three days and after that I may have to do with a very slow connection.

A Classical Stonewall

My third game was encouraging. Not because I played particularly well but because I felt I knew what was going on in a type of position I have studied a lot lately.

Juniel Hutapea - Sv.Johnsen
BCC Thailand Open (3)
1.d4 f5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3 d5 5.Bg2 c6 6.0–0 Bd6 (D)
The Modern Dutch Stonewall is on the board.
Until 15 years ago or so this move was considered inaccurate against the Stonewall as the knight is a long way from e5 and doesn’t support the bishop exchange on a3. Now it’s considered a quite dangerous weapon.
7...0–0 8.b3
White’s most powerful follow-up to his previous move is a quick queenside initiative with Qc2, Rb1 and b4.
This old-fashioned bishop manoeuvre has lately been less popular than the more dynamic plan involving ...b6 and ...Bb7.
9.Qc2 Ne4
This move shields the f-pawn so I can move my bishop to e8 and still recapture with my e-pawn should White exchange on d5.
Two other tries are:
a) 10.Bb2 Be8 11.Ne5 Nd7 12.f3 Bxe5 13.Nxe4 Bc7 14.Nf2 f4 15.gxf4 Bxf4 16.e4 Bg6 =+ Szeberenyi-Szabolcsi, Budapest 2000
b) 10.Bf4 Be8 11.Bxd6 Nxd6 12.c5 Ne4 13.e3 Nd7 14.b4 a6 15.Ne5 Nxe5 16.dxe5 Bg6 17.Ne2 a5 18.f3 Ng5 19.f4 Ne4 = Peyrou Olya-Moosavian, Iran 2000.
This seems more consistent than the unprovoked exchange 10...Nxc3 11.Qxc3 of Karayannis-Georgiakakis, Chania 1995. After 11...Be8 12.Nd3 Nd7 13.a4 g5 14.a5 a6 15.Bb2 Qf6 16.b4 Bh5 17.Rae1 chances were balanced.
11.f3 Nxc3
11...Nf6, keeping more pieces on board trying to take advantage of White’s weakened king’s position is a serious alternative. Sop-Bejatovic, Kemer 2007 went 12.Nd1 Nbd7 13.Bb2 Rc8 14.Nf2 c5 15.Nxd7 Qxd7 16.Qd3 Bg6 17.dxc5 f4 18.Qd2 fxg3 19.hxg3 Bxg3 and Black was a little better.
12.Qxc3 Nd7
Normally Black should meet f3 with a quick ...c5 but I was also tempted by ...f4 or even ...dxc4 followed by ...e5, so I continued developing.
13.Nd3 Qe7 14.Bb2 Bg6 15.Kh1 (D)
Possibly 15...Rac8 16.Qa5 a6 is a safer way to proceed.
16.Nxf4 Bxf4 17.gxf4 Rxf4 18.a4 Qh4 19.Bc1 Rf5 20.Be3 Rh5 21.Bg1
Maybe White assumed that his kingside fortress now was safe forever?
21...Rf8 22.a5
22.Qb4 Nf6 23.Qxb7 leads to play similar to the game after 23...Rh6 24.Qxc6 Nh5, e.g. 25.Bf2 Ng3+ 26.Bxg3 Qxg3 27.Qxe6+ Kh8 (27...Bf7? 28.Qxh6+-) 28.Kg1 Qxh2+ 29.Kf2 Qh4+ 30.Kg1 Bf5 and Black wins (31.Qxd5 Qh2+ 32.Kf2 Rg6 33.Rg1 Qg3+ 34.Ke3 (34.Kf1 Bh3–+) 34...Re8+ 35.Kd2 Qf4+ is a typical line).
22...Nf6 23.a6
White has found a way to pick up some pawns on the queenside. I could have delayed his progress but I saw that my kingside attack would be quick and I hoped the bait on the queenside would distract his queen from the defence.
23...b6 24.cxd5 Nxd5 25.Qxc6 Nf4 26.Rf2 Bf5 (D)

White is greedy. 27.e3! is the right way to defend. I thought that after 27...Nh3 28.Bxh3 Bxh3 I would have a very dangerous attack thanks to the opposite colored bishops but Rybka tells me that the best I have got is 29.Qc7 Rhf5 30.f4! (30.Qxa7 Rxf3 31.Rxf3 Rxf3 32.Qb7 Qg4 33.Qc8+ Kf7 34.Qc2 Ke7!! 35.a7 Rf2 36.Qc7+ Kf6 37.Qe5+ Kg6 38.Qxe6+ Qxe6 39.a8Q Re2 40.Ra6 Bf5 wins for Black) 30...R5f7 when I can try ...Kh8 and ...g5 but nothing is clear.
27...Rh6 28.Bf1
It’s too late for White to save the game. 28.e4 loses to 28...Nh5. The rest is more or less forced:
28...Nh5 29.Rg2 Bh3
It's a pity I never got around to playing ...Kh8!
30.Rf2 Bxf1 31.Rfxf1 Ng3+ 32.Kg2 Nxe2! 33.Be3 Qh3+ 34.Kh1 Ng3+ 35.Kg1 Qxh2
mate 0–1

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Whole Truth?

I have always made a point to have a post-mortem with my opponent after a game - simply because I enjoy it and find it useful. However, when going to a tournament with my wife and little son, that doesn't seem the right way to spend my time. So during this tournament I have not so far had a look at my games with my opponents but rather done some quick Rybka checks at a more convenient time. The computer generally shows me how well or badly I and my opponent calculated and frequently (but not always) provides a more accurate assessment of the positions than what I had during the game. What I miss is that little look into my opponent's mind that a post-mortem offers. I need to be reminded how a chessplayer thinks during a game.

Sv.Johnsen - Akharaboollasez
BCC Thailand Open 2009 (2)

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4

This occasionally leads to a more interesting game than 2.Nf3 followed by 3.Bf4 does.

2...e6 3.e3 c5 4.c3 Be7 5.Nd2 d5 6.Bd3 b6 7.Ngf3

This is the right moment to enter the more traditional London lines as 7...Nh5 now can be met by 8.Bxb8 and a check on b5, forcing Black to move his king and lose time with his misplaced knight.

7...Bb7 8.Ne5 0–0 9.Qf3 Nbd7 10.Qh3

This attacking formation is one of the main ideas behind the classical London System. But with his bishop on b7 and his knight on d7, Black's e4 control may just be sufficient for equality.

10...Re8 (D)


Probably 11.Ndf3 is better 11...Ne4 which I thought looked annoying is well met by 12.Nxd7 Qxd7 13.Ne5. If my memory had been better I might have remembered the continuation of Blackburne-Harmonist, Breslau 1889: 13...Qd8 14.f3 Nf6 15.Ng4 g6 16.Bb5 Nd7 17.Nh6+ Kg7 18.Nxf7 Bh4+ 19.Bg3 Kxf7 20.Bxh4 with a clear advantage to White. This is Illustrative Game 3 in ’Win with the London System’. The London is easy to learn superficially but exact knowledge takes a bit more as the many similar positions can easily be confused.


This is an important defensive resource.

12.Ndf3 Ne4 13.g5!?

I considered 13.Bb5 but found that 13...f6 14.Nc6 Qc8 15.Nxe7+ Rxe7 was a bit unclear. Doda-Kraidman, Siegen 1970 continued 16.g5 Ng6 17.gxf6 Nxf4 18.exf4 Nxf6 19.0–0–0 Ba6 20.Bxa6 Qxa6 21.Kb1 with a small advantage to White.

13...cxd4 14.exd4 Bxg5 (D)

I considered this too risky on general grounds but was not sure how Black could save himself. I thought that after 14...Ng6 15.Nxg6 hxg6 16.Rg1, Black was helpless against the plan Rg4-h4. Rybka, however has no problems finding 16...Qc8 17.Rg4 e5 18.Nxe5 Ba3! with quite difficult play.


A much stronger continuation is 15.Nxg5 Nxg5 16.Qh5 g6 17.Qxg5. What I missed was that 17...f6 18.Qh6 fxe5 19.Bxe5 gives White a deadly attack, e.g. 19...Qe7 20.Rg1 Rac8 21.Bxg6 Nxg6 22.Rxg6+ hxg6 23.Qh8+ Kf7 24.Qg7 mate.

15...Kxf7 16.Bxg5 Nxg5 17.Qh5+ g6 18.Nxg5+?

I wanted to play for mate but Black can defend quite easily. After 18.Qxg5 Qxg5 19.Nxg5+ Kg7 20.f4 White would have had a very nice positional plus.

18...Kg7 19.Qg4 e5 20.0–0–0 e4

After 20...h6 I considered 21.h4!? hxg5 22.hxg5 with a lot of possibilities but nothing that really works for White. One reasonable line is 22...e4 23.Bb5 and now 23...Re7 24.Qh3 Qd6 25.Qh8+ Kf7 26.Rh7+ Nxh7 27.Qxh7+ Kf8 28.Qh8+ leads to a drawing mechanism I noticed during the game. A better try for Black may be 23...Qd6 24.Bxe8 Rxe8 when he probably is a little better. Consequently White probably should play 21.Nh3 when 21...Bc8 must be a little better for Black than the game.

21.Bb5 Bc8! 22.Qf4 Re7

Rybka at first prefers 22...Bd7 but after a while finds that White wins after 23.Qf7+ Kh6 24.Rdg1 Bxb5 25.Rg4 Be2 26.Rh4+ Bh5 27.Rg1 Qe7 28.Qf4 Kg7 29.Rxh5 (but even then there are some long semi-forcing lines after 29...e3).

23.h4 Qc7 24.Qe3 h6 25.Nh3 Rf7 26.Be2 Nh7?!

This looks wrong. 26...Bxh3 27.Rxh3 Qf4 28.Qxf4 Rxf4 29.f3 e3 30.Re1 Re8 is roughly equal.

27.Rdg1 Bxh3 28.Rxh3 Qf4 29.Rhg3 Qxe3+ 30.fxe3 Rf6 31.Kd2 (D)

This looks like a very good reversed French for White. Black's central pawns are weak.


31...b5! 32.Bxb5 Rb8 is a much better chance.

32.R1g2 a5?!

This does nothing positive for Black's position.

33.Rg4 Rc8 34.a4 Rfc6 35.Bb5 Rf6 (D)


My lacking sense of danger strikes again! This is the wrong moment to act.


36...h5! 37.Rf4 Rxf4 38.exf4 dxc4 is only a little better for White.

37.Rxe4 Rc7 38.Kc3 Rf1 39.Re6 Nf6 40.Bc6 Rc1+ 41.Kd2 Rh1?

41...Rf1 42.e4 Rf4 43.e5 Ng4 is a little better but still probably winning for White. The rest is simple.

42.Rxg6+! Kxg6 43.Bxh1 Kf7 44.Rxb6 Re7 45.Bf3 h5 46.Rb5 Ng4 47.Rxh5 Nxe3? 48.Rh7+ 1–0

Attempting a Kick-Start

My preparations for BCC, Thailand Open didn't go as planned. I never got around to any problem solving or training games and my opening preparation is patchy. In my first game I tried to get into tournament mode by concentrating on calculation more than on general strategy. Unfortunately my brain didn't quite manage to adapt.

The time control was 90 minutes for the game and an additional 30 seconds for each move.

BCC Thailand Open 2009 (1)

1.d4 f5

I have heard that Japaneese players generally are good at calculating - possibly because many are experienced Shogi players. So maybe it wasn't a great idea starting the game by weakening my king's position. On the other hand this is the only opening against 1.d4 on which I have done any work lately.

2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.g3 Bb4!?

Entering the Stonewall with 4...d5!? would probably have been the most sensible choice as that's what I have been spending my time on recently.

5.Bg2 0–0 6.Nh3 Ne4

6...d5 of course is an option but with White’s knight committed to h3 so early it’s tempting to play for ...e5. Probably 6...d6 is the safest way to do so. Two possible continuations are:

a) 7.0–0 Bxc3 8.bxc3 Nc6 9.c5 Ne4 10.cxd6 cxd6 11.Qc2 d5 12.Ba3 Rf7 13.f3 Nd6 14.Rae1 b6 15.e4 += Poulsen-Jakab, Budapest 2004.

b) 7.Qb3 Bxc3+ 8.bxc3 Nc6 9.0–0 Qe8 10.Nf4 Rb8 11.Qa3 b6 12.Nd3 Bb7 = Oliwa-U.Krause, Germany 1995.

7.Bd2 Bxc3 8.Bxc3 d6 9.Nf4 Qe7 10.Qb3 Nd7 11.c5 Ndf6 12.cxd6 cxd6 13.Rc1 g5!? 14.Nd3 b6 15.Bb4 Nd5 16.Ne5 Bb7 17.Nc4 Nxb4 18.Qxb4 (D)

Here I spent a lot of time (probably close to 40 minutes) trying to find out whether there was anything for Black in the game continuation or after 18...Qg7 (or 18...Qf6 19.f3 Qxd4) 19.f3 Qxd4 20.fxe4 and now either 20...Rac8 or 20...fxe4.

The correct continuation proably is 18...Rac8 19.0–0 Bd5 20.Bxe4 fxe4 21.Qxd6 and now 21...Qf6! with excellent chances.


When I played this I had realized that it lost a pawn rather than winning one. But by now I was down to 13 minutes on my clock and I wanted to play something forcing in order to have something to show for my lengthy calculation.

19.Bxb7 Qxb7 20.Rg1 Ne4 21.f3 Nf6?

A better practical chance would have been 21...d5 22.Ne5 Rac8 23.Rxc8 Qxc8 24.fxe4 Qc1+ 25.Kf2 Qf4+ which I probably would have played if I had realized how bad the game continuation was.

22.Rxg5+ Kh8 23.Qxd6!

After 23.Nxd6 Qd7 I probably have sufficient compensation for the pawn.

23...Rad8!? 24.Qe5

I thought that after 24.Qxe6 the open files towards White’s king would be sufficient practical compensation. That probably was a misevaluation - Rybka doesn’t believe in Black’s chances at all.


A good practical try.

25.Kf2?? (D)

This is a terrible blunder. 25.a3 and quite a few other moves keeps the advantage.


This I played quite quickly. Not because I really was in time trouble but because I had a little more than five minutes left and wanted to get my time up somewhat by playing some ’obvious’moves quickly. Actually 25...Rd5! almost wins on the spot 26.Qf4 loses to 26...Ne4 and after 26.Qg3 or 26.Qe3, Black can choose between 26...Ne4+ and 26...f4.

26.Ne3 f4?

I am a pawn down for nothing but this turns the position into a forced loss.


This I only saw when I was waiting for my opponents move.

27...Qd7 28.Rc7!

This is not the only winning move but it’s the quickest.

28...Qd5 29.Nh6?!

Actually 29.Rg8+ Kxg8 30.Ne7+ is even stronger.

29...Qxe5 30.dxe5 Nd5 31.Rcg7!

This came as a small surprise. When the move appeared on the board it took me only a couple of seconds to see the idea but there’s nothing to do.

31...Rc8 32.Rg8+! 1–0