Monday, April 2, 2012

A crucial win by George Li from yesterday's Barber Qualifier

George Li – Spencer Lehmann 
Illinois Chess Association Barber Qualifier, Round 4
Skokie, April 1, 2012 
Catalan Opening [E04] 

This interesting game does credit to both young players!

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Nf3 dxc4 5.Bg2 a6!? 

 White to move
5...a6 creates the possibility of holding the gambit pawn

A couple critical anti-Catalan lines begin with this move.

6.a4 c5! 

With a pawn on a4, White doesn't have Qa4+.


Karpov played 7.0–0 here.

7...cxd4 8.Qxc4 Nc6 

Black has gotten the better of the opening so far...


Black to move
Can Black keep the extra pawn for good?


If Black can get away with this, White's in big trouble. I like Black after the modest 9...Be7.


White finds a very cool variation: the next few moves are virtually forced for both sides.

10...Qc7! 11.Bxc6+! bxc6 

 White to play
As we learned from White's previous move, 
the Qc7 is overloaded protecting f7 and c6, so....

12.Nxf7! Qxf7 13.Qxc6+ Qd7 14.Qxa8

Winning a boatload of material.

 Black to play
How to develop?


14...Bd6!? takes the b8 square away from White's queen. Black has some compensation after 15.Bg5 0–0 16.Qg2.


Houdini points out 15.Nd2! 0–0 16.Ne4! (threatening Nxc5, attacking the Qd7) 16...Be7 17.Nxf6+ Bxf6 18.Qe4.

Some famous master (forgive me for forgetting who: maybe it was a go master!) argued that whenever you have a piece stuck in enemy territory, retreating isn't always the best option. Instead, look for ways to do something useful on another part of the board. The Qa8 is a problem for White (how to extricate?), but it is also a problem for Black (how to complete development with an enemy queen in the camp?).


As White's queen can't be trapped, this may be oversophisticated. (I think Spencer wanted to deny the b3 square to White, and it's nice to dream of mate on h2 after ...Qh3 and ... Ng4.

I prefer 15...0–0 16.Qb3+ Kh8:

White to play (analysis diagram)
Black is OK!

Black is down an Exchange and a pawn, but Black's position is OK. (For what it's worth, the computer tentatively agrees: Houdini even gives Black a slight edge at 17 ply.)

  1. Black is ahead in development. 
  2. In many middlegames, a rook and two bishops are fully a match for two rooks and a bishop. 
  3. White had to give up his best minor piece, the Bg2, to win the Exchange. The Bc8 is unopposed, and has the pleasant choice between ...Bb7 and a future ...Bh3. 
  4. Black has an impressive pawn center. 
  5. The f2 square is a potential target: the Rf8, Bc5, and Nf6 are all ready to hit that square. 

Having said all that, the position is perfectly OK for White, too!

16.Qc7! Be7 

16...Qh3?? 17.Qxc5 Ng4 18.Qxc8+ Kf7 19.Qb7+ followed by Qg2 crushes the dream.

17.Bg5 Nd5 18.Qc1 

White had to foresee this move.

18...Bb7 19.f3! 0–0 20.Bxe7 Qxe7 

There go the beloved two bishops! But the e3 square is rather weak....


 Black to play
A question of move order


The natural move should be 21...Ne3 (Euwe's rule of thumb: a knight on the sixth supported by a pawn is worth the Exchange.) 22.Rf2 Rc8 23.Qb1 Bd5 and it's not clear how White untangles.

22.Qb1 Qg5

If Black plays 22...Ne3 White can now reply 23.Rc1 : move order matters!

White to play
Time to move some furniture

23.Ne4! Qe3+ 24.Rf2 Rc6 25.Qe1 Rc2

White to play
As a general policy, what is the best defense?


No fear!

26...Rc1+ 27.Rxc1 Qxc1+ 28.Rf1 Qe3+ 29.Nf2 

Black to play
Rearrangement almost complete: the rest is technique

29...Qg5 30.Qc5 Ne3 31.Rc1 Nf5 32.Qc4+ Kf8 33.Qb4+ Kg8 34.Qb3+ Kf8 35.Rc7 Nd6 36.Rxb7 Qc1+ 37.Kg2 Nc4 

Black understands that the piece-down ending is hopeless.

38.Rb8+ Ke7 39.Qb7+ Ke6 40.Re8+ Kf6 41.Ng4+ Kg6 42.Re6+ Kh5 43.Qf7+ g6 44.Qxh7+ Kg5 45.Qxg6# 1–0 

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