Dennis M's Chess Site

This is a blog for chess fans by a chess fan. I enjoy winning as much as anyone else, and I've had a reasonable amount of success as a competitor, but what keeps me coming back to the game is its beauty. And that, primarily, is what this site will be about! All material copyrighted.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Maverick Chess?

Independent philosopher and blogger Bill Vallicella recently presented an interesting game on his website, complete with annotations. In the interest of truth and instruction too, let's take a look.

Vallicella,Bill (1170) - NN (1244) [B13]
ICC 5 0, 06.04.2004

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 Nc6

This is an inaccurate move order, and I'm surprised Bill didn't know how to exploit it, as he's a fan of the Smith-Morra gambit. [4...Nf6 is correct.] 5.Nf3 [5.cxd5! Qxd5 6.Nf3 transposes to a line of the 2.c3 Sicilian/Smith-Morra declined known to be favorable for White.; 5.Nc3 is the better move order from a pure Caro-Kann perspective. Now Black has to choose between the well-known endgame line with 5...Nf6 or play 5...e6, in circumstances much worse for Black than after 4...Nf6. 5...Nf6 6.Nf3 Bg4 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Qb3 Bxf3 9.gxf3 e6 10.Qxb7 Nxd4 11.Bb5+ Nxb5 12.Qc6+ Ke7 13.Qxb5 Qd7 14.Nxd5+ Qxd5 and now either 15.Qxd5 or (15.Bg5+ f6 16.Qxd5 exd5 17.Be3 with an interesting, well-studied ending. (Jacob Aagaard has a nice treament of this ending in his Everyman Press book on the Panov-Botvinnik variation of the Caro-Kann.)) ] 5...Nf6 6.c5 [6.Nc3 is the normal move, again inviting Black to play the endgame mentioned in the previous note, as 6...e6 7.c5 (and 7.cxd5 are both favorable for White.) ] White's plan in the Gunderam is to play Bb5xc6, thereby solidifying his c-pawn and control over the e5 square. White's position is very comfortable once that happens, so Black has to find some way to prevent the plan. 6...Bg4 This move gets the bishop outside the pawn chain and seems to take care of the problem of an eventual Ne5, but [6...Ne4! is better. This puts the knight on a good square and prevents an immediate Bb5, forcing White to waste a tempo with 7.a3 (7.Bb5 Qa5+ 8.Nc3 Nxc3 9.Bxc6+ bxc6 10.bxc3 (10.Qd2 is also possible, but Black retains an edge thanks to the bishop pair and a strong pawn center after 10...Ba6 11.Qxc3 Qxc3+ 12.bxc3 f6 13.Rb1 Kf7 14.Be3 g6 followed by ...Bg7 and ...e5.) 10...Qxc3+ 11.Bd2 Qd3 12.Qa4 Qa6-/+) And now Black attacks White's pawn chain at practically every point: 7...e5 8.b4 a5 9.Bb5 exd4 10.Bb2 Be7 11.Nxd4 Bd7 12.0-0 0-0 13.Bxc6 bxc6 14.Nc3 axb4 15.axb4 Rxa1 16.Bxa1 (16.Qxa1 Nd2 17.Re1 Nc4-/+) 16...Nxc3 17.Bxc3 Qc7=/+ White's lead pawn isn't "binding" anything anymore, so Black has a slight edge due to the bishop pair and the b4 pawn's slightly exposed status.] 7.Bb5

7...e6?! This is certainly a step in the wrong direction, though not yet a clear mistake - see the note to the next move. [7...Qa5+ 8.Nc3 Ne4 9.Qa4 Qxa4 10.Nxa4 Bxf3 11.gxf3 Nf6; 7...Bxf3 8.Qxf3 Qa5+ 9.Nc3 Ne4] 8.Qa4 Qc7? [8...Bxf3! 9.Bxc6+ bxc6 10.Qxc6+ Nd7 11.gxf3 Be7 leaves White with an extra pawn, but with plenty of weaknesses, too, while Black's position is fairly sound and his pieces ready for activity.] 9.Ne5 Now White, having achieved a Gunderam fantasy position, is winning. Even so, the rest of the game isn't quite the coronation it ought to have been (or rather, it is, but might not have been, had Black played slightly more accurately). 9...Rc8 10.Bf4 a6 11.Bxc6+ [11.Nxc6?? loses a piece after 11...axb5] 11...bxc6

12.Ng6 Bill punctuates this with two exclamation points (or "excited points", as Danny Olim is wont to say), but I think this is excessive for at least three reasons. First, while it's not a bad move and it's certainly enjoyable to play, it's also pretty obvious for a player of Bill's level, and obvious moves don't get multiple exclamation points unless something very special is going on. (For example, the obvious move has what seems to be an obvious refutation, but really isn't due to some later, unobvious rejoinder.) Second, 12.Ng6 was the point of 10.Bf4, so if there are exclams to be handed out, they belong on move 10. And third, 12.Ng6 isn't even the best move or even the second-best move. It's only #3 on the hit parade. [12.h3! Bf5 13.Qxa6 delays material gratification, but leaves Black bereft of counterplay and losing at least a second pawn with a bad position. 13...Qb8 14.Nxc6 Qa8 15.Qxa8 Rxa8 16.Nc3 and between his two extra pawns, space advantage, central bind and three connected passed pawns, it's an easy, worry-free win for White.; 12.Qxa6! Nh5 (Everything else loses pretty much instantly, as the panoply of knight discoveries leaves Black helpless to save all his loose pieces.) 13.Bd2 Nf6 14.h3 Bf5 15.Bf4 is an indirect way of reaching the position after 12.h3 Bf5 13.Qxa6.] 12...Qb7 13.Nxh8 Qxb2 14.0-0 Qxa1 15.Qxa6

[15.Qb4! This nasty move comes with two threats: 16.Qb7, forking c8 and f7, and 16.Nc3, trapping the Black queen. 15...e5! 16.Bxe5 Qxa2 17.Bxf6 gxf6 18.Qb7 Bd7 19.Re1+ Be7 20.Nxf7 Kxf7 21.Qxd7 Re8 22.Qxc6+- White is winning, but it's not nearly as easy to win as the position at the end of the line starting with 12.h3.] 15...Kd7?? [15...e5! looks obvious, and Bill mentions it. 16.dxe5 but here, instead of the decentralizing 16...Nh5?, why not (16.Bxe5 may be better - it certainly keeps the center under better control than 16.dxe5. But even here, it's not clear that White has an advantage. Black will make a few necessary moves (getting the queen out of the box, covering up the e-file), and White will be left with the problem of saving the Nh8. Warning to computer users: the tin can will claim that White has a decisive advantage here, but be patient. Chances are, if you carry the line through for a few moves, the evaluation will drift back to near-equality, as the Nh8 becomes increasingly imperiled. 16...Qb2 17.Qb6 Qc2 18.Qb7 Be7 19.f3 Be6 20.Re1 Kf8 with an unclear position.) 16...Ne4 17.Nd2 (17.f3?? Qd4+ 18.Kh1 Nf2+ 19.Rxf2 Qxf2 20.h3 Bxc5-+) 17...Qd4 finds White is up a pawn but without an attack, with three vulnerable pawns, and serious problems with the knight on h8. Further, if White tries to be clever with 18.Be3 Qxe5 19.f3? Nxd2 20.Bxd2 it will rebound against him: 20...Bxc5+ 21.Kh1 Be6 22.Re1 Qc7-+] 16.Qb7+ Kd8 17.Nxf7+ [17.Nxf7+ Ke8 18.Nd6+ Bxd6 19.Bxd6 wins, as Black can't stop 20.Qe7# without losing the rook (and then getting mated anyway just a few moves later).] 1-0


  • At 6:46 PM, Blogger Bill Vallicella said…

    Thanks, Dennis. I really liked your comments about the misplaced exclamation points. Chalk them up to excitement -- or vanity.

    You are an excellent writer by the way. It takes one to know one.

    In my defense I will say -- it was blitz game!


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