Thursday, 22 February 2007

Chess Reviews: 22

Beating Unusual Chess Openings
By IM Richard Palliser

‘Dealing with the English, Reti, King’s Indian Attack and other annoying systems’ says the cover blurb and I’m absolutely certain that most club players would agree that the named openings are indeed very annoying to play against.
One problem is that such openings are very transpositional and slippery; White players can often get away with lots of relatively sub-standard moves and still not suffer too many consequences. A Black player armed to the teeth with anti- 1 e4 and 1 d4 systems can often go astray against the alternatives.

IM Palliser’s latest book aims to provide Black players with a very reliable repertoire to send into battle against all the sensible options to the two most popular opening moves.
The English is the first opening to be covered and it rightly takes a larger share of the book than any of the others; 99 of the 223 pages. Some authors are tempted into taking a bit of a short cut and supplying a system that can be (just about) used against virtually all White options. For example, it is possible to adopt a solid, Slav-based repertoire and recommend meeting The English with 1 …c6 and 2 …d5. However, anyone who has seen any of IM Palliser’s impressive tomes would never expect such a plot device.
Here he takes the bull by the horns from the very start by advocating one of the main lines - the Symmetrical English. This requires a twist to enable Black to pursue the full point and it duly appears on the fifth move…

1 c4 c5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 g3 g6 4 Bg2 Bg7 5 Nf3 e5

Yes - a Botvinnik System for Black! A confident player will be happy with this slightly pushy option, but for those who prefer something different two other options are offered later in the chapter; namely 5 …d6 and 5 …a6. The former, remarkably, is followed up by the unlikely looking 6 …Qd7. You’ll have to buy the book to discover the ideas behind that early Queen move, but I can tell you it all looks to be very sensible stuff.

Three more chapters on The English provide full - and extremely interesting - coverage of all the options to the main line, including two lines of play against a Botvinnik set-up by White and what to do if White plays for a very early d2-d4.

There’s some fascinating Larsen-esque stuff along the way, such as:
1 c4 c5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 g3 g6 4 Bg2 Bg7 5 e3

5…Bxc3!? And just like in some Nimzo-Indian lines, c4 might become a juicy target later on.

Part 2 of the book covers a collection of odd-ball first moves, which are often easy to deride but never quite so easy to combat in the cold, hard world over the board. Openings such as the Nimzo-Larsen Attack and Bird receive excellent coverage and room is also found for rarer birds, such as The Grob. I was especially pleased with the coverage of the audacious g-pawn lunge … see UNCUT! 57 for more details!

1 Nf3 is covered in the third and final part. I think the majority of players would even rate this as the most annoying of all. The author clearly has some sympathy with this view and takes a few pages to mull over why such a modest move presents such difficulties. Imagine you like playing The Dutch against 1 d4; l suddenly it’s not so easy, as after 1 Nf3 f5 2 d3! has been scoring very well. So after 1 Nf3 you may plump for 1 …c5, hoping to transpose to the earlier English lines, but your opponent knows you are not at home in a Sicilian and slyly plays 2 e4! and then gives you a little Sozin to think about.

The author makes life easier by providing good lines for the reader after 1 …c5, 1 …d5 and 1 …Nf6, so everybody should be happy!

With more than 20 items listed in the bibliography, it is perfectly clear that the author has worked very hard to produce the finest possible coverage of all the annoying openings. Every player will find something of interest here. The section on the English is worth the cover price alone and as a whole I’d say that for coverage of all the non-e4/d4 openings this is the best single-volume work available. A very useful addition to anyone’s chess library and -given that theory will develop very slowly in the majority of cases - it’s a book that should have a long shelf-life for the competitive player.

The Philidor Files
By GM Christian Bauer

Shh! Keep it to yourself, but it’s one of the best-kept secrets that Philidor’s Defence is actually rather good and currently enjoys a cult following that is slowly - but surely - growing. The late David Bronstein once famously wrote: ‘…There can be no doubt that many of you will come to like Philidor’s Defence, perhaps forever.’ This was written a long time ago in ‘200 Open Games’ but people have generally been slow to catch on. After all, many are still swayed by the apparently forced advantageous lines given by Keene and Levy in ‘An Opening Repertoire for the Attacking Club Player‘, or some knowledge of the crazy ….f5 lines which everyone knows are unsound (but probably few could actually prove if it came to the crunch). The best-case scenario for Black - according to folk-lore - is to get a very passive position with a Bishop stuck on e7 (just like so many lines in the Ruy Lopez…?).

So…can it be that there are enough promising lines for Black to fill an entire book - and one running to no less than 304 pages?

The introduction sets the scene with a quick look at various typical pawn structures and an inspiring game by Philidor himself.

The book is then divided into three main parts, with a roughly equal page count.
Part 1 looks at the unusual and generally poor lines (the ones which often end up in the ‘White to play and win’ repertoire books) and also considers the Larsen and Antoshin variations, in which Black plays 3 ..exd4 and follows up …Bg7 and …Be7 respectively. The author is somewhat suspicious of these lines but nevertheless provides very good coverage, with clear advice on the best lines to try.

Things get more sophisticated from part 2 onwards. Here, the current popularity with the cult is revealed. Ever since it was discovered that Black could aim for the sounder Philidor lines with the move order 1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Nc3 and only then 3 …e5 (or even 3 …Nbd7 and 4 …e5), that has been the most popular route. Indeed, an earlier book, ‘The Lion’ by dealt exclusively with variations from such move orders and should be essential reading for anyone interested.
Part 2 takes a good look at the deviations from the main line, analysing 3 f3, 3 Bd3, the ending after 3 …e5 4 dxe5 and the trendy 3 …Nbd7 and then 4 g4 or 4 f4. There’s some very tricky stuff here. After 3 f3 Black might slip into a Saemisch KID, which might not be to his taste, but a plan involving …Be7 and ..Bg5 is recommended here, trying to swap the bad Bishop for White’s good one. Theory isn’t very well developed in these sorts of lines and there is much scope for creativity and over-the-board inspiration.

Part 3 gets down to the nitty-gritty, with full and detailed coverage of the Hanham Variation.
Black can have a lot of rebound fun if White takes the bait with 5 Bc4 Be7 6 Bxf7+?! and similar sacrificial ideas. GM Bauer guides the reader through everything Black needs to know to enter such lines with confidence.

The key position for GM Bauer’s suggested lines comes in the final chapter, when both sides have avoided the pitfalls and mines on the road.

‘Black believes in his ability to ‘hold’ the centre and repel an eventual Kingside attack from White, while preparing counter play on the Queenside by means of …a6 and …b5.’
The book now considers five different options for White, with a plethora of possible pawn structures and plans to follow. There’s always lots of tension and therefore good chances to play for the win.

The explanations of the various plans are well presented throughout the book - this by no means a database dump. There is an index of variations, but not of games and despite a few minor references to other books in the text there is no bibliography. It’s possible that the increased page count led to them being squeezed out but they would have been useful.

There’s lots of new analysis and interesting ideas in this impressive book. Careful study of the lines presented here could provide the deodorant your stale opening repertoire badly needs. Maybe you will even end up agreeing with the great Bronstein and he will have been proved, as so many times before, to have been ahead of his time!

And finally…
Just time to tell you to watch out for the brand new magazine series featuring Harry Potter…for further details see this month’s Junior Newsletter **link to Junior Newsletter here**

For details of Everyman chess books and CDs, please visit:

Archive: UNCUT! 57

The Sean Marsh
Chess Column

*Column 57*
**February 2007* *

Daylight Grobbery!

Dear Readers,

While reviewing ‘Beating Unusual Chess Openings’ I was reminded of some analysis from what seems like a lifetime ago.

When I was at college in the early 1980s (yes folks, I really did go…) and then at Guisborough Chess Club a curious trend had taken hold of a number of players. It all started with Guisborough supremo Stuart Morgan. For someone who always seemed so dapper and correct, it came as a bit of a shock to see him spend several years essaying one of the wackiest of openings…The Grob!

Inspired by the chess audio tapes of Mike ‘The Spike’ Basman and the small book ‘The Tactical Grob’ by Claude F. Bloodgood (serving life for matricide when he wrote it) Stuart adopted this strange beast for a few seasons, confounding those who were expecting his normal Scotch Game. He even took to playing it with Black, which marked quite a change in style form his habitual Petroff Defence.

The funny thing is, his results with the Grob weren’t bad at all and soon he was inspiring - or should that be contaminating - a lot of the college players. It is said that one should set trends rather than follow them, and Stuart was certainly a trailblazer at the time. I remember one confused opponent leaning over and asking him: ‘Is that the move you want to play?’ Such a comment was ahead of its time, as nobody played chess over the Internet in those days and ‘mouse-slips’ were definitely a thing of the distant future.

I even tried it once myself (..always desperate to get into the ‘in’ crowd, that’s me…) in a match between Prior Pursglove College and Guisborough B. It went a bit wrong and I lost a pawn but with a Queen and Rook left each I figured there was enough counter play to hold comfortably, so I offered a draw. Without a word in reply, Tom simply played a move. This frustrated me…how ignorant, I thought! I made another error and then even allowed the major pieces to be swapped off, leading to a lost King and pawn ending (I thought my advanced King would compensate for the missing pawn but alas it was not to be). Talking about the game afterwards, Tom said he thought it had been heading for a draw when the Queens and Rooks were still on. I asked him why he didn’t accept my offer and it turned out he was merely very deaf and hadn’t heard me say anything! So I learned a couple of valuable life-lessons that night, concerning not only judgement of people but also judgement of what one should or shouldn’t try and get away with over the board in openings and endings.

The defeat rather put me off playing The Grob but given its popularity at Guisborough I was always going to face it a few more times.

Like all openings, The Grob does have it tricks and traps and there are some paths to quick victories. For example, after 1 g4 d5 2 Bg2 Bxg4 3 c4 c6 4 cxd5 cxd5 5 Qb3 e6??

…White eschews the b-pawn in favour of the stronger 6 Qa4+! picking up the stray Bishop.
I witnessed a regular debate between two other Guisborough players who upheld different sides of the great Grob debate. Andrew Henderson played 1 g4 almost exclusively at the time and his permanent chess rival Tim Blake insisted it was poor. Tim devised a line - typical of his style - which offered some material in return for serious attacking chances. It is this very line which appears in IM Palliser’s new book, and which brought back so many memories.
1.g4 d5 2.Bg2 Bxg4 3.c4 dxc4 4.Bxb7 Nd7 5.Bxa8 Qxa8 6.f3

Well, who would you rather be here? Tim and Andrew consistently improved the resources for both sides but I can’t remember them ever coming to any definitive conclusion.
However, I do remember a particularly potent line against the Black Grob which KO’d a few Guisborough and college players in short order.

1.e4 g5 2.Bc4 h6 3.h4 gxh4 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Nxh4 d6

…and now it suddenly becomes apparent that the Knight wasn’t just capturing on h4 for fun but was getting into position to step into g6 at an appropriate moment…
6.Bxf7+ Grobbery with violence! 6 …Kxf7 7.Qh5+ …and Black would do well to last much longer. It was this line that finally convinced a lot of college students that the Black Grob sorely lacked the timbre to make A-level status.

To conclude this little grub around in the Grobbery, it’s time to grab a couple of games from the past, featuring the chief Grobber himself. They not be the most accurate and they may not the best games he ever played with 1 g4/…g5 but I have chosen them for a very good reason…they are the only two I’ve got…

Stuart Morgan - C. Proctor
Calderdale Major (6), 05.1986

1.g4 d6 2.h3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.d4 c6 5.c4

A sort of extended Fianchetto Variation of the King’s Indian Defence has arisen!
5 …Nd7 6.Nc3 e5 7.d5 c5 Blocking the centre was a mistake by Black, making White’s flank attack more potent.
8.Nf3 Nh6 9.Bg5 Qa5 10.Qd2 Ng8 11.Qc2 Ngf6 12.Bd2 h6 13.a3 a6 14.0–0 Qd8 15.b4 So…a spike on both sides of the board! And look how safe White’s King is…

15 …0–0 16.g5 hxg5 17.Bxg5 Qe8 18.Rab1 b6 19.bxc5 bxc5 20.Rb3 e4 21.Nd2 Ne5 22.Bxf6 Bxf6 23.Ncxe4 Be7 24.Qc3 f5

25.Nxc5! Bf6 26.Ne6 Bxe6 27.dxe6 Nc6 28.Qd3 Ne5 29.Qd5 Ra7 30.Rfb1 Re7 31.Qxd6 Rxe6 32.Bd5 (The Grob Bishop finally gets a piece of the action!) 32 …Kg7 33.Bxe6 1–0

George Jenkinson - Stuart Morgan
PPC v Elmwood C, 11.03.1988

1.d4 h6 (Of course, a modicum of care must be taken with the move order…) 2.c4 g5 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.g3 c5
(There is a school of thought that suggests the Grob is at is very best when White has rashly committed himself to an early c2-c4, principally because the bolstering c2-c3 is no longer available.)

5.Bg2 g4! (Sniping from the flank to ensure control of the centre - hypermodernism in action!) 6.Nh4 cxd4 7.0–0 Nc6 8.e3 d6 9.Nf5?? (An incautious use of the pre-move facility, way ahead of its time! But there is a serious point here; players who like things ‘by the book‘ can become confused very quickly when facing the unknown and this can easily lead to glaring errors.)
9...Bxf5 10.Re1 Bxb1 11.Rxb1 dxe3 12.Bxe3 Nf6 13.a3 Qd7 14.Qd2 Rd8 15.Rbd1 Ne5 16.Qc1 Nf3+ 17.Bxf3 gxf3

It’s been over - technically - for a while of course, but now it’s certain mate, so…0–1

And finally…

Just time to tell you to watch out for the brand new magazine series featuring Harry Potter…for further details see this month’s Junior Newsletter **link to archived Junior Newsletter to follow**

Sean Marsh
22nd February 2007


Monday, 5 February 2007

Chess Reviews: 21

Play The Ruy Lopez
By IM Andrew Greet
Everyman Chess

The author takes a repertoire approach rather than offering encyclopaedic coverage. Given the astonishing amount of theory attached to all openings - never mind something as old yet eternally popular as The Ruy Lopez - this is a very sensible approach.
First, there’s a good foreword by GM Nigel Short, who has very positive memories of the lines IM Greet recommends, as they were instrumental in his famous match victory over Anatoly Karpov back in 1992.

Every repertoire requires a solid backbone and the vertebra advocated comes in the shape of the Worrall Attack. 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 Qe2

The author explains that this is a mid-way house between the other two approaches: entering the main theoretical lines or hiding behind something more obscure and probably not particularly good.

One advantage of the Worrall is that a lot of Black’s exciting options are instantly removed, such as the tricky Open Variation and The Marshall Attack.

So what is the Queen doing on e2? Firstly - protecting the e4 pawn. It’s also more active there than on d1; for example, a lunge with a2-a4 will carry more force as a Black pawn on b5 will be under attack from the Queen too. The d1 square is free for occupation by a White Rook, which could cause the Black Queen some embarrassing moments down the d-file. In short - Black will have some fresh problems to solve, rather than being able to rattle out 15-20 moves from theory.

Coverage of the Worrall takes 132 pages and is thorough enough to give the reader an excellent grounding in what to expect over the board and how to proceed.

The troublesome Berlin Defence 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nf6 has been popular since Kramnik used it to blunt Kasparov’s attacking prowess in their World Championship match back in 2000 (although one can almost see the likes of Lasker and Tarrasch looking down from on high, muttering: ‘Bah! You lot didn’t invent it, you know!’). Ruy Lopez players must take it seriously as it is sure to come up in their games.

IM Greet recommends crossing a lot of Black’s plans with 4 Qe2. Black no longer has any funny stuff after …Nxe4 and White’s plans can be similar to those in the Worrall Attack, so it fits in nicely with the repertoire.

The famous meddlesome sidelines – such as the Bird Defence (3…Nd4) and the Schliemann (3 …f5) - are all dealt with sensibly and even the rarest of lines (3…g5, 3...Bb4 etc) receive some coverage. Of particular interest is the chapter on The Classical Defence (3…Bc5). The author makes a strong case for the unusual variation starting with 4 Nxe5.

This option has been largely neglected, despite a similar ‘fork trick’ being popular in other openings. Intriguing food for thought.

The book runs to a very impressive 376 pages and obviously provides excellent value for money

I hope there will be more books from IM Greet. His articles in CHESS Magazine are always very readable and instructive and he has carried such style over into his debut tome. A critical test of an opening book should be: Does it make me want to play the lines in question? In this case, the answer is an unequivocal ‘yes!’ He has clearly put a lot of work into his book and readers should benefit from his efforts.

Everyman Chess CDs

With more and more people preferring to study chess on their computers and laptops rather than good old fashioned dead trees, it was always going to be just a matter of time before the idea was put into practice and now it is here - the start of a whole series of Everyman chess books on CD!

The ‘Starting Out’ volumes on The King’s Indian, The Scotch Game, The Queen’s Gambit, The Sicilian Dragon, 1 e4!, Sicilian Najdorf and Chess Tactics and Checkmates are already available in this new format, as are the books Play 1 e4 e5! and The French Advance (2nd Edition).
Simply load up the CDs on your computer and you have a perfect copy of the book in question, with links to all the featured games for very easy reference. It will cut down the number of books serious players have to take to tournaments!

It will be interesting to see how popular these CDs prove to be and whether they go on to replace books completely in the fullness of time.

For details of Everyman chess books and CDs, please visit:

Happy reading!
February 2007

Thursday, 1 February 2007

Archive: UNCUT! 56

The Sean Marsh
Chess Column

*Column 56*
**February 2007* *

Dear Readers,

I was delighted to be invited to play in the Middlesbrough Christmas Quickplay event by organizer Ernie Lazenby. The format was six rounds of 10- minute chess. It’s not easy to adjust to a new time limit. Here one had to play a touch more sensibly than in 5-minute games whole still trying to play at a reasonably speedy pace.

Here are the basic details of what went on, supplied by Ernie himself…

‘6 Rounds played 10 minutes each on the clock.

1st place: Mike Closs 5½/6 (Drew with Sean) Mike was on very top form.

2nd place: Sean Marsh 5/6 (drew with Ernie & Mike) The draw with Ernie in the last round cost him 1st = (In fact I had been completely outplayed and was happy to scramble a draw!)

3rd place: Nathan Huntley 4½/6 (highest placed Middlesbrough player) (lost to Sean drew with David Smith)

4th= Ernie Lazenby, Chris Dale 4/6

6th= Tony Kiddle 3½/6 David Smith Ian Elcoate

9th= John Boyers 3/6 Richard Puttman Martin Walmsley

12th=- Ray Pallister 2½/6

13th= Ged Murphy 2/6 Hugo Polluk Peter McNally

16th = Bob Rowe 1/6 Bill Pritchard Geoff Garnett (Only played 2 rounds)

Winner of chess Quiz: Nathan Huntley with 5 /5 (who swotted up then?) (The clincher for Nathan was knowing or – guessing! Kramnik’s age, which the rest of us got wrong.)

Winner of ‘guess the players’ competition: John Boyers (Several got it right but John was drawn from the hat.)

Thanks to Mike Closs for taking his laptop and the two bishop mate competition (I failed miserably!) (Ian Elcoate won the book prize, kindly donated by Mike.) I think we will put this event on again next year because it was good fun and everyone entered into the right spirit.
Thanks to everyone who turned up to support a great fun evening.’

…And thank you too, Ernie, for a very memorable evening! I can’t figure out how you managed to organise such an event and play so well at the same time. There were lots of edible and drinkable prizes and most players ended up with something, even if it was just one or two of Santa’s special chocolate coins.

'The Mighty Mike Closs.Would you buy a second-handDanish Gambit from this man?'

The tournament in full swing

'Famous Game' competition.Well, go on then...who played this game?

The man himself - top organiser and player Ernie Lazenby

Nathan tries his luck with Two Bishops v King

The champ receives his prize from county champion David Smith

But wait...who was this, who paid his entry fee in chocolate gold coins and was unusually festive?

...perhaps we'll never know...!

Speaking of Mike Closs, I thought it would be a good idea to bring some of his forum annotations to a wider audience. Notes by players on their own games are particularly valuable and can be extremely instructive. Try it for yourself, dear readers – get annotating!

’I thought I would annotate my SME semi-final match games with David Wise and hope you will enjoy them. My only previous encounter in a match play environment was against Norman Stephenson in a play off for the County Championship over four games. I unfortunately lost that match 2½ : 1½ and sadly (for me anyway) that was my losing score in this event as well. David and Norman are both excellent players as you know and I, as with most people, have terrible records against them. I think that I have managed only two wins against Norman and three against David over the past 20 years. I can’t remember the exact amount of losses as I ran out of fingers !! I have always found it difficult to prepare against David as he never seems to consistently play the same opening variations against me.

This time I felt confident with White as I had a few tricks planned against his Sicilian and the Lopez. As usual neither came to fruition, especially in the final game when he ventured Alekhine’s Defence against me.

Game 1 – Elmwood Chess Club – 26/10/06

I decided that I would give myself a chance with black in this event and try the Sicilian defence. I had been crushed far too many times with Pirc/Modern setups against strong players and I thought it would be good to try out some new ideas that I had recently come across. Most of them were in the open variations and I was happy when David played Nf3 on move two.

Typically on move four I had to put my thinking head on as we were going on the non-stop roller coaster called the Morra Gambit (which was Tom Wise’s favourite line against the Sicilian if I am not mistaken). Anyway here’s the game.

David Wise – Mike Closs

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.c3 Here I had to decide whether to walk into some kind of preparation or play the boring 4 …d3. I had to consider whether he was aware that I only really knew one line in the main line and did he have something prepared. I decided in the end to take the pawn based on the assumption that after 4 …d3 then he would take and build up a Maroczy Bind giving him the type of position that is difficult to break down. 4…dxc3 5. Nxc3 Nc6 6.Bc4 Qc7 7. Qe2 Nf6
White now has to decide what to do. The main line is 8 0-0 but there are alternatives. The best one is 8. e5 which leads to sharp play where an unprepared player with the black pieces could easily become unstuck against a prepared opponent.

The ideas behind e5 are to misplace blacks knight on f6 and to create a weakness on d6. The pawn on e5 can then be bolstered by Bf4 leaving white to aim his rooks down the c and d files. The knight on c3 eyes up d6 after winning a tempo with Nb5. Black has various ways of sniping at the pawn on e5 and best not forget that he is a pawn up but I feel, at our level of play, that white has more than enough compensation. Play may go 8…Ng4 9.Bf4 and now a choice : 9…d5 10.exd6 Bxd6 11. Nb5 ! Bb4+ 12. Bd2 Qe7 (if 12…Qa5 then 13.Nd6 stirs things up and keeps black King in the centre.) The resulting position should give even chances due to white’s development. 9…f6 is the main branch, trying to prove that Bf4 was incorrect. This though allows white to play a typical move which fits in with the theme of the Morra namely 10.Nd5 ! Would you take the piece ?

Have you analysed this position to know that black can navigate the next few critical move ? I doubt if I would take up the offer as I would feel uncomfortable about the pin on the e file and the monster on f6. After 10…exd5 11.exf6+ Nce5 12.Nxe5 Nxe5 13.Qh5+ g6 14.f7+! then I prefer White but black still has some chances with the bishop pair. Black would have to make do with turning down the immediate offer with 10…Qa5+ 11.Bd2 Qd8 (Got to keep control of c7) 12.exf6 Nxf6 remaining the pawn up but with white having decent compensation again with the two bishops. With me not knowing any of the above at the time of the game then I am very pleased that the next move played was …

8. 0-0 Ng4!

The so-called Siberian Trap variation. It is well known but the theme is a nice one to remember. But it has worked at top level against an unsuspecting opponent. 9.h3? Nd4! 10.hxg4 Nxe2 + 11. Bxe2 a6 12. Rd1 b5 and Black won soon in the game Alekseev - Schipkov, Russia Burevestnik Championship, Krasnodar 1983. 9. g3 Nce5 (TN)
Nothing that sets the world alight but I am just aiming to swap pieces a.s.a.p. when hopefully my extra pawn will come to fruition. 10. Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Bb3 a6 I decided to play this move to allow me a subsequent b5 with the idea of a following Bb7. It also has the advantage of stopping his knight harassing my Queen by Nb5. With hindsight I should b3 wanting to get my King to safety a.s.a.p.

Therefore I should develop a piece, my bishop to c5 which also stops the immediate f4. 12. Be3 Bringing another piece into the fray and aiming for the weak square on b6. Now I started worrying about Na4. I felt that my next move was forced. 12…b5 13.Rac1 Qb8 I was now feeling very uncomfortable as f4 followed sometime by f5 is coming. White has more than enough compensation for the pawn. 14. f4 Nc6 15.f5 Maybe a bit too soon? 15.e5 was interesting as it gives white’s knight the e4 square from where it will choose where to pounce in the coming moves.

15…Ne5 I was very pleased with this move. The knight cannot be kicked from this post by a pawn now (a theme which arises in a lot of Sicilian games) and I would be very happy to trade it for whites dark squared bishop. It also defends certain vulnerable squares, namely f7. 16. Bf4 Be7 Finally I am one move away from castling. I was feeling that I had got over the worst of it and looking forward to fully activating my pieces. I didn’t think that white had anything positive to stop me from achieving my goal. This assessment was based on a feel for the position and not via concrete variations. 17. Nd5 !

When a move like this is played against you by one of the best players in the county then immediately you feel deflated. I assumed that there would be ‘something’ there that would crush me. The piece has to be taken. There are too many threats beginning with fxe6 and Qh5 aiming for f7 and e5 to contemplate. 17…exd5 18. Rxc8+ Qxc8 19. Bxe5

Now I was feeling very happy with myself. An exchange and a pawn up and with myself to move. I also had approximately 25 minutes left to David’s ten. Then after a few minutes’ analysis it dawned on me that things weren’t quite as rosy as I had first envisaged. White threatens two pawns and may have nasty threats along the e file. If my g pawn drops then where does my King go? If 19 …Bf6 then 20 Bd6 is very strong. I eventually decided that Qc5+ followed by Bf6 would give me the best chances but I had used more than 15 minutes to reach this conclusion. I still was very unsure about the resulting position and so I played 19…Qc5+

and offered a draw which was immediately accepted. I believed that the resulting exchange on f6 would give me sufficient cover in the ensuing white attack. David, Norman, Sean and myself analysed the final position and we found that Black has to be very careful to stave off the White attack. Amazing considering the material situation. I would prefer to have the white pieces as both sides still had 16 moves to make in under 10 minutes. At least I would have White in game 2.
To be continued…’

Sean Marsh
1st February 2007