Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fo' shirazi my kamran

U.S. Women's Champion Irina Krush raps. I do not pretend to understand the meaning of everything to which I link.

Peace out, Chicago!

A weird queen trap

It's always amusing when you can trap your opponent's queen. A primitive example of this, which any 1.e4 player will eventually have the thrill of playing, is 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qc6?? 4.Bb5!, Rhine-Melko, Chicago 1972 (and countless thousands of other games). And who can forget the immortal 1.Nc3 d5 2.e3 e5 3.Qf3? (3.Qh5!? is actually a good move) e4 4.Qf4?? Bd6! trapping White's queen in the middle of the board?

A somewhat more sophisticated queen trap can arise in the Fajarowicz Variation of the Budapest Gambit. In that strange variation, Black sacrifices a pawn (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5), then plays the eccentric 3...Ne4!? (rather than the normal 3...Ng4), making no effort to regain the pawn and placing the knight in a vulnerable position. After 4.Nf3 (4.a3, 4.Nd2, and 4.Qc2 are also playable), Black can continue the provocation with the remarkable 4...b6!?, practically begging White to fork Black's rook and knight with 5.Qd5!? As the game below shows, there is a method to Black's madness. After 5...Bb7 (5...Bb4+!? is also possible) 6.Qxb7 Nc6!, White's queen is in trouble and threatened with capture after ...Nc5 or ...a6 and ...Ra7, although White could still get rook, bishop and pawn for it by taking Black's rook. Grandmaster Viktor Moskalenko suggests 7.Nd4!? Bb4+ (7...Nxd4? 8.Qxe4; 7...Nc5? 8.Nxc6) 8.Nc3 0-0!? (8...Nxc3 9.Nxc6) 9.a3! Nxc3 10.e3! "and good luck with the rest." The Fabulous Budapest Gambit, p. 216. He cautions that 4...b6 is advisable "only when playing blitz or on the Internet."

The natural 7.Qa6?? was a blunder. After 7...Bb4+! 8.Bd2 Nc5! 9.Qb5, White may have expected 9...a6?? 10.Qxb4, winning three pieces for the queen. Black dashed this hope by interpolating 9...Bxd2+! With just two pieces for the queen, White resigned two moves later. Another White misadventure in this line continued 7.Be3 a6 8.Nd4 Bb4+ 9.Kd1? Ra7! 10.Nxc6?? dxc6 CHECK! (woops) 11.Kc2 Rxb7 and White could have resigned in Heroiu-Otto, Hamburg 1997.

White can even aim for this trap with an extra tempo, e.g. 1.Nf3 d5 2.b3 c5 3.e4?! dxe4 4.Ne5, the Norfolk Gambit, which occurs 11 times in ChessBase's Big Database. It was advocated by the late Claude Bloodgood, who became one of the highest-rated players in the country while serving a life sentence for murdering his mother. He wrote books about three of his pet openings: the Norfolk Gambit, the Hartlaub Gambit (1.d4 e5? 2.dxe5 d6?), and Grob's Attack (1.g4).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Even I wouldn't go THAT far

Heh. Charming video clip and blog entry.

For future reference: if you must play for dollars at the pavilion, it's touch-move, baby.

A busted line

The move 3...f5?! in Owen's Defense (1.e4 b6 2.d4 Bb7 3.Bd3 f5?!) has been played and analyzed for almost 400 years. Greco-NN, Rome 1619 quickly concluded 4.exf5! Bxg2 (the point, trapping White's rook - if Black can survive White's attack) 5.Qh5+ g6 6.fxg6 Nf6?? 7.gxh7+! Nxh5 8.Bg6#. Staunton pointed out the improvement 6...Bg7! in The Chess-Player's Handbook (1847), page 379. He analyzed 7.gxh7+ Kf8 8.hxg8(Q)+ Kxg8 9.Qg4 Bxh1 10.h4 e6 11.h5, with advantage to White. Over 120 years later, 10...Bd5!? (Schmid-Vitolinsh, Latvia 1969) and 10...Qf8! 11.h5 Qf6 12.h6 Rxh6 (Hendler-Radchenko, Kiev 1970) were shown to be playable for Black. Similarly, in Lombardy-Regan, U.S. Open 1974, the 15-year-old Regan got the advantage after 10.Nc3 Qf8! 11.Be3 Qf6 12.h3 Qh4 12.Qg6 Nc6. (Lombardy demonstrated why he's a grandmaster and we're not, holding a draw in an ending two(!) exchanges down.)

Alas for Black, later analysts convincingly refuted 3...f5? in two different and surprising ways. Accordingly, the French GM Christian Bauer now calls the move "simply suicidal" (Play 1...b6, p. 5). In both lines, White disdains the immediate capture on g8 and instead attacks Black's king. It is important to learn at least one of these busts so that you can refute 3...f5? if someone plays it against you.

In the mid-1970s, F.A. Spinhoven of the Netherlands found 8.Nf3!! Nf6 (8...Bxf3? 9.Qxf3+ and 10.Qxa8; 8...Bxh1 9.Ne5! Bxe5 10.dxe5 Bd5 11.hxg8(Q)+ Kxg8 12.Qg6+ Kf8 13.Bh6+) 9.Qg6! and now (a) 9...Bxh1 10.Bh6! Rxh7 11.Ng5! Bxh6 12.Nxh7+ Nxh7 13.Qxh6+ with a crushing attack or (b) 9...Bxf3 10.Rg1! Rxh7 11.Qg3!! ("the soul" of 8.Nf3!! - Soltis) Be4 12.Bxe4 Nxe4 13.Qf3+ and now White is a pawn up, with a winning attack, after 13...Kg8 14.Qxe4, or an exchange up with an easily winning position after 13...Nf6 14.Qxa8 Rxh2 15.Bf4 Rh4 16.Qg2 Rg4 17.Qh2 (Boris Avrukh, 1.d4, Volume Two, p. 551).

In 1982, Guido den Broeder found an alternative refutation, the stunning 7.Qf5!! Nf6 8.Bh6!! Bxh6 9.gxh7 Bxh1 10.Qg6+ Kf8 11.Qxh6+ Kf7 12.Nh3! and Black was quickly annihilated in den Broeder-Wegener, corr. 1982. See Wikipedia for more details. John Watson writes that den Broeder's 7.Qf5!! and Spinhoven's 8.Nf3!! both win, but that the analysis of 7.Qf5 "is complicated," while 8.Nf3 "is clearer" (Mastering the Chess Openings, Volume 4, p. 96).

Here is an online game I played yesterday. Unfortunately for my opponent, I was able to remember Spinhoven's analysis. Black played the latter part of the game weakly, but had an objectively lost position in any event.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

"For Bobby Fischer, the Drama Won't Die"

New York Times chess columnist Dylan Loeb McClain introduces us to the strange story of Fischer's estate.  (Estate attorneys may wish to order reproductions by the thousand: great marketing material!)