22 August 2014

Failure in the French

Looking through my database, I found this abysmal failure in the classical French. I had begun the process of switching from the Sicilian to the French two or three years before this game, which was played in an online USCF rated tournament.

Bennett,Thomas G (1868) -- Stripes,James (1565) [C11]
GCS 10 5 USCF Quick #2 GCS, 19.01.2006

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3

Black to move


On Sunday, I played 7...cxd4. 7...a6 is slightly more popular than 7...cxd4.

8.a3 cxd4 9.Nxd4 Qxb2??

White to move

A stupid, game losing blunder.

9...Bc5 was the correct move. I have played 9...Nxd4 is a few blitz games, usually exchanging quickly into a hopeless endgame where I have a bad bishop against a strong knight.

10.Na4 Bb4+ 11.Kf2 1–0

21 August 2014

Attack and Counterattack

McDonnell -- La Bourdonnais 1834

In my series of blog posts on the matches between Alexander McDonnell (1798-1835) and Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais (1795-1840), we have reached the eighteenth game of the first match. The match was scheduled for twenty-one games, draws not counting. La Bourdonnais has won the match with eleven wins. McDonnell has two wins and there have been four draws. Nonetheless, they continue the match until completing twenty-one decisive games.

I am going through the games without benefit of engine analysis. There are likely appaling errors in some of my analysis. The series begins with "Three Fighting Draws" (June 2014) and I discuss game seventeen in "Mating Attack".

In game eighteen, McDonnell again adopts the King's Bishop's Gambit as he had in game eleven (see "Losing Takes a Toll"). This opening would develop a strong reputation over the next several decades, although it is rarely played today. Adolf Anderssen's "Immortal Game" began as a King's Bishop's Gambit.

McDonnell,Alexander -- De Labourdonnais,Louis Charles Mahe [C33]
London m1 London (18), 1834

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 g5 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.d4 Nc6

An unusual move. More common is6...Ne7. One notable game continued 7.g3 fxg3 8.Kg2 d6 9.hxg3 Qg4 10.Qxg4 Bxg4 11.Bxg5 Capablanca,J--Allies, Philadelphia 1910. It ended as a draw in 29 moves.
La Bourdonnais played 6...d6 in three other games in these matches.

White to move


McDonnell's move is unique in the ChessBase database. It removes f6 from the undeveloped Black knight, but opens f5 for the same. This move also has the consequence that Black's d-pawn cannot be captured on d5. This move opens e4 for a White knight, which McDonnell will use soon.

The immediate  7.Nf3 is probably a better move. Play might continue 7...Qh5 8.Nd5 Kd8 9.Be2 Qg6 10.Nxg5 Qxg5 11.Bxf4 Qg6 12.Bxc7+ Ke8 13.Bh5 Qe6 14.Bg3 Nagibin,G (2392)--Logashov,S (2325) Moscow 2009. White won in 43 moves.

7...Nge7 8.Nf3 Qh5 9.Ne4 h6

White to move


McDonnell might have prepared his attack with 10.Qe2 Nf5

Here I looked at two ways to proceed:
a) 11.Nf6+ Bxf6 12.exf6+ Kd8 13.c3

b) 11.Nd6+ Nxd6 12.exd6+ Kd8 13.d5 (13.dxc7+ Kxc7 14.c3) 13...Ne5 14.Nxe5 Qxe2+ 15.Bxe2 Bxe5 16.dxc7+

He also might have tried 10.c3 Nf5 11.Kf2.

I am not certain if any of these lines are better than McDonnell's play in the game.

10...Bxf6 11.exf6 d5 12.Bd3 Nf5 13.Qe1+

13.c3 is an interesting alternative, which La Bourdonnais could meet with the simple 13... 0–0 or the double-edged 13...Ng3+!? 14.Kg1 Nxh1 15.Qe2+ Be6 16.Bf5 0–0 17.Bxe6 fxe6 18.Qxe6+ Kh7 19.Qf5+ Kh8 20.Bxf4! Here White appears to have compensation for the sacrificed material.

Analysis diagram after 20.Bxf4
13...Kd8 14.Ne5

14.c3 Ng3+


14...Ng3+ 15.Kg1 Nxh1 16.Nxc6+ bxc6? 17.Qe7#.

15.c3 Nxe5 16.Qxe5 Nc6 17.Qxd5+ Ke8

White to move



McDonnell missed a simple pin, or he rejected it for the gain of material in the game.

18...Be6 19.Re1.

18...Be6 19.Bxc6+ Kf8 20.Qc5+ Kg8 21.Bf3 Qg6

White has more material on the board, but how will the rooks come into play? How will the dark-squared bishop participate in the battle?


The effort to defend the f-pawn proves costly. This move seems to me to be McDonnell's critical error.

22.Bd2 seems better to me with at least three ways for Black to proceed:

a) 22...Qxf6 23.Re1.

b) 22...b6 23.Qf2 Rd8 24.Rd1 g4 25.Bc6 Qxf6.

c) 22...Qd3+ 23.Ke1 Rd8 24.Qf2 g4 25.Bxb7.

White's chances seem to me better in each of these lines than they were in the game, although Black has seized the initiative in each case. White retains material superiority and may be able to defend against Black's counterattack.

22...c5 23.Qe5 Re8

White to move


Perhaps 24.Kf2 was necessary. Black's response might have been 24...Bd7 25.Qd5 Bc6 26.Qd2.

24...f3! 25.Kf2

25.Bxf3 Bc4+ 26.Kf2 Rxe5 and Black wins.

25...fxe2 26.Be3 b6 27.h4

27.Rhe1 Bd7 28.Qc7 Qf5+ 29.Kg1 Rxe3 and Black wins.

27...Bd7 28.Qd5 Qxf6+ 29.Kxe2 Bg4+ 30.Kd2 Rd8 0–1

White's attack fell short, although he recovered the pawn sacrificed in the opening. McDonnell showed that he could achieve material superiority through tactics, but he then faltered.

McDonnell's long sequences of losses, interrupted only by a single draw, would end with the next game. The contestants would alternate wins--always with the Black pieces--until La Bourdonnais would win with White in the final game of the first match.

18 August 2014

Sacrificial Breakthrough?

In the final round of the Spokane Falls Open, I was paired against an underrated child. Alex has been one of the strongest local scholastic players through the past two years, winning or finishing near the top of the K-12 section in nearly every event through third and fourth grade. This summer, he spent two weeks at a premier youth chess camp in California. It had a dramatic effect on his play! Now, he will be finishing near the top of our local open events. His rating going into the weekend's event was mid-1200s. (Edit: now that the event is rated, we know that he gained over 250 Elo, rising to 1515--still grossly underrated.)

I was strategically lost after a few moves, but my young opponent could not find the knockout blow. Rather, we reached a minor piece ending in which my two knights may have offered better chances than his knight and bishop. After I turned down his offer of a draw, he built a fortress.

Black to move

I spent about six minutes in this position contemplating 43...Nxa3. Would a sacrifice of a knight for two pawns destroy my opponent's fortress and give me the edge. I was not certain and opted for 43...Nb2 instead.

I let this knight become trapped in order to liquidate White's kingside pawns. After trading my other knight for his knight and removing his last pawn except for the useless a-pawn (the bishop operates on the wrong color squares), we agreed to a draw.

11 August 2014

Mating Attack

McDonnell -- La Bourdonnais 1834

In the seventeenth game of their first match, Alexander McDonnell overlooked the strength of his opponent's sacrificial attack. McDonnell (1798-1835) was born in Belfast, Ireland. He spent some time in the West Indies and then served as Secretary to a London group of merchants engaged in West Indies trade. He played chess in his spare time. By the early 1830s, he achieved recognition as the strongest player in England.

Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais (1795-1840), was the "undisputed champion of France" from 1822, according to David Hooper and Kenneth Whyld (The Oxford Companion to Chess [1996], 56). Hooper and Whyld note that France was the "home of the world's strongest chess players."

Prior to 1851, there were no international tournaments organized. Occasional matches took place between players with reputations as strong players, but most of their games were not recorded. Play at odds was common and most games were played for a stake. When La Bourdonnais crossed the English channel to visit London and contest a series of games against McDonnell, a new era in chess was born. Because their games were recorded and later published by William Greenwood Walker, they were studied by all top players through the next several decades.

Earlier this summer, I began working through all available games of McDonnell. Of his 110 games in the ChessBase database, 85 were against La Bourdonnais. I am slowly working through the games in their six matches, blogging each game. As I go through them, I am employing only minimal research into the opinions of other commentators on the games. I am wholly avoiding use of chess analysis engines to check my own calculations.

Studying these games in this manner should strengthen my positional and tactical skills, may develop my skills as an analyst, and offers my readers glimpses into my growing understanding of an important period in chess history. My series begins with "Three Fighting Draws". Following the links in each post permits the interested reader to go through the whole series in sequence. "Strong Knights," posted yesterday, concerns game 16 in the first match.

De Labourdonnais,Louis Charles Mahe -- McDonnell,Alexander [D20]
London m1 London (17), 1834

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e3 e5 4.Bxc4 exd4 5.exd4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Be7 7.Nf3 0–0 8.Be3

La Bourdonnais played this move only in this one game. Few others have tried it since. In other games, he tried 8.h3 and 8.0–0

Black to move


As in game 15, I prefer 8...Nbd7.

9.h3 Nbd7 10.Bb3

10.0–0 Nb6 11.Bb3 Nbd5 12.Bg5 Be6.

10...Nb6 11.0–0 Nfd5

11...Nbd5 seems better to me.

12.a4 a5 13.Ne5 Be6 14.Bc2

Black to move

White is bringing his forces to bear on Black's kingside. How should Black defend? I would pursue a plan centered on fianchettoing the dark-squared bishop.


 This move was made possible by  Black's 11th move, but looks to me like a weakening move. White's knight on e5 can no longer be dislodged except by Black's pieces. The bishops on the e-file could become targets.

McDonnell might have tried 14...Re8 with the idea of following with g6 and Be7-f6-g7. Play might continue 15.Ne4 (15.Qh5!? g6 16.Qf3 Bf6 17.Ne4 Bg7 18.Bg5) 15...g6 (15...Nb4 16.Bb1 N6d5) 16.Bh6 Nf6 17.Nxf6+ Bxf6 18.f4 Bg7 19.f5 Bd5 20.Bxg7 Kxg7 21.f6+ Kg8 22.Qd2 Qd6 23.Qh6 Qf8.

15.Qe2 f4 16.Bd2 Qe8

Where is the queen headed? All the light squares on Black's kingside are covered by White's pieces.

17.Rae1 Bf7 18.Qe4

Black to move


18...Nf6!? 19.Qf5 g6 20.Qxf4

19.Bxf4 Nxf4 20.Qxf4 Bc4 21.Qh6

All of White's pieces are positioned for an assault on the Black king.

Black to move


21...Nd5 22.Bxg6 hxg6 23.Nxg6 Kf7 24.Qh7+ Kf6 25.Ne4+ Ke6 26.Nc5+ Kd6 27.Re6+ Kc7 28.Nxf8 Qxf8 29.Rfe1 and White has an advantage, but some play remains.

22.Bxg6! hxg6 23.Nxg6 Nc8

23...Nd5 24.Nxd5 cxd5 25.Nxe7+ Qxe7 26.Rxe7 Rf7 27.Qg6+ Kh8 28.Rxf7

24.Qh8+ Kf7 25.Qh7+ Kf6

White to move

26.Nf4! Bd3

26...Qd7 27.Ne4#

27.Re6+ Kg5 28.Qh6+ Kf5 29.g4# 1–0

McDonnell misplayed his knights, which resulted in the necessity to move one or more of the pawns in front of his king. He then moved the wrong one. Finally, he grabbed material and fell to a mating attack.

The next game is discussed in "Attack and Counterattack".

10 August 2014

Strong Knights

McDonnell -- La Bourdonnais 1834
Match 1, Game 16

When a knight occupies an impregnable position on a weak square in the centre or in the opponent's camp, it becomes particularly strong.
Peter Romanovsky, Chess Middlegame Planning (1990), 38
In "That Pin of f7," I commented on game 15 of the first match between Alexander McDonnell (1798-1835) and Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais (1795-1840). There was no world championship in their day, but their matches had qualities that would be shared by those which followed. Throughout the matches, both players refined their opening repertoire while continuing to contest similar positions.

I am working through all of the games of these two players without employing my chess analysis engines. My series of posts on this match begins with "Three Fighting Draws". Each post in the series contains links to the prior and next games..

McDonnell contested many games against La Bourdonnais's French Defense. Although the first Black move was 1...c5, 2...e6 followed. The character of the game quickly developed into an Advance Variation French in which White pursues a faulty approach. Instead of squeezing the Black position, Black's counter-attack on the weak d4 pawn gave him the initiative.

McDonnell,Alexander -- De Labourdonnais,Louis Charles Mahe [B21]
London m1 London (16), 1834

1.e4 c5 2.f4 e6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.c3 d5 5.e5 f6 6.Na3 Nh6 7.Nc2 Qb6

7...Nf7 was played in game 9, and also in Glek -- Schenderowitsch, Gladenbach 2013. That game continued 8.d4 Qb6 9.Bd3 cxd4 10.cxd4 Nb4 11.Nxb4 Bxb4+ 12.Bd2 Bd7 13.Bxb4 Qxb4+ 14.Qd2 Qxd2+ 15.Kxd2 0–0 and White won in 94 moves.

7...fxe5 appears in four expert/master games since 2009.

8.d4 Bd7

8...cxd4 was played in game 13, and will be played again in the second match. One other game in the database contains this position: 9.Ncxd4 (McDonnell played 9.cxd4 ) 9...fxe5 10.fxe5 Nf7 11.Bb5 Bc5 12.b4 Bxd4 13.Bxc6+ Qxc6 14.Qxd4 0–0 15.0–0 Bd7 and Black won in 41 moves Komliakov,V (2463) -- Yagupov,I (2482) Moscow 2000.


This move was played in game 14 and the present one. It is an error in my opinion.

9...cxd4 10.cxd4 Bb4+ 11.Kf2 0–0 12.Kg3 fxe5 13.fxe5

Black to move


Deviating from game 14 where 13...Be8 was played.


14.b3 might have been worth considering 14...Rxf3+ 15.gxf3 Nxd4 16.Bb2 Ndf5+ 17.Nxf5 Nxf5+ 18.Kh3 (18.Kg2 Ne3+) 18...Qd8. White has some problems.


La Bourdonnais immediately sacrifices the exchange to win the d-pawn, rather than his slower approach in game 14. He could have made this sacrifice the previous move, however. Was he waiting for White's h2-h4?

15.gxf3 Nxd4 16.Bd3 Rf8

Threatening the pawn on f3

17.f4 Bc5

Black improves his piece coordination, preparing a knight outpost on f5

18.Rf1 Bb5

White's light-square bishop is defending f5.

19.Bxb5 Qxb5 20.Kh3 Ne2

The backwards pawn is a target.

White to move


21.Rf2 Nf5 22.Nxf5 Bxf2 23.Ne7+ Kh8 Black has regained the sacrificed material with interest.


In the French defense and some Sicilians, f5 is the knight's happy square. In this position, Black controls 2/3 of the the chessboard and all of his pieces are participating in the assault. White's a1 rook remains a spectator.

22.Kh2 Neg3 23.Rf3 Ne4

Both Black knights have excellent outposts.

24.Qf1 Qe8

The queen redeploys towards the kingside where she will exert enormous pressure.

White to move


McDonnell decides to shore up the third rank for defense.

I could not find an improvement for White. 25.Be3 Bxe3 (25...Nxe3 26.Nxe3 Qh5 27.Ng2) 26.Nxe3 Qh5 (26...Nxe3 27.Rxe3) 27.Nxf5 Rxf5 28.Qh3.


Black's bishop, too, takes up an outpost. Black's minor pieces dominate the position.

26.Rb1 Qh5 27.Rbb3

Bringing his least active piece into action.


Is this rook struggling to find his role in the battle? Has each move made credible threats?

28.Be3 Rc2

The rook penetrates and pins a knight.

White to move


Alternatives do not improve White's prospects.
29.Bxd4 Nxd4
29.Bg1 Nxh4 30.Rh3 Bxg1+ 31.Kxg1 Qg4


The eternal knight exchanges itself for a cleric.


30.Nxe3 Qg4+ 31.Kh1 Qxh4+ 32.Rh3 (32.Kg1 Qh2#) 32...Ng3+ 33.Kg1 Qg4 34.Qd3 (34.Qe1 Qxh3 35.Rd3 Qh2#) 34...Rc1+ 35.Kf2 Rf1+ 36.Kg2 Qf3+ 37.Kh2 Rh1#.

30...Nd2 31.Qd3 Rc1+ 32.Kh2 Nf1+ 33.Kh3

33.Qxf1 Rxf1 34.Red3 Bg1+ (34...Bb6 35.Ne3 Qe2+ 36.Kg3 Rf3+ 37.Kg4 Rxe3+ 38.Kg5 Bd8#) 35.Kh3 Qf5+ 36.Kg3

33...Nxe3 34.Nxe3 Qf3+ 35.Kh2 Rh1# 0–1

In the next game, McDonnell will falter once again with Black against the Queen's Gambit (see "Mating Attack").

05 August 2014

That Pin of f7

McDonnell -- La Bourdonnais 1834
Match 1, Game 15

Alexander McDonnell (1798-1835) lost a long string of games to Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais (1795-1840) during their first match. After fourteen games, La Bourdonnais led 8-2 (draws did not count).

After going through all of McDonnell's games against other opponents that are available in the ChessBase database, I have been working through his games with La Bourdonnais. As I work through these games, blogging them, I am keeping my research light and avoiding analysis engines. I intend to work through all 85 games of their six matches, and then to spend more time comparing my comments to published comments by stronger chess players.

I posted my comments on game 14 in "McDonnell -- La Bourdonnais 1834". My series on this match begins with "Three Fighting Draws". Each post in the series contains links fore and aft.

De Labourdonnais,Louis Charles Mahe -- McDonnell,Alexander [D20]
London m1 London (15), 1834

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e3 e5 4.Bxc4 exd4 5.exd4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Be7

For 6...Bd6 see "Weakened King" (game 12).

7.Nf3 0–0 8.h3

Black to move


I would be inclined to try 8...Nbd7 with the idea of Nd7-b6 then to d5. Blackade the IQP. Posting a knight on d5 also reduces the vulnerability of f7. It was not surprising to find that my idea is given as one of the main lines in the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings.

Of course, there was no well-developed theory concerning isolated queen pawns (IQP) in 1834. Rather, as Colin Crouch noted last week, "to far greater an extent than anyone else in modern chess history, they had to think everything by themselves" ("The Extraordinary Summer of 1834"). When McDonnell and La Bourdonnais contested their matches, opening theory was primitive, endgame theory limited, and chess writing concerned with middlegame play almost non-existent. No other matches between masters had been recorded for the edification of those who followed.

The beginnings of modern chess theory are built upon a foundation of the study of the games of these 1834 matches by Paul Morphy, Howard Staunton, and those who followed in their wake.

9.Be3 Bf5

This move invites trouble, as White's pawns come forward with tempo


First hit on the bishop.

10...Bg6 11.Ne5

Second hit on the bishop, taking advantage of the pin on f7. This pin seemed to be the decisive strategic element: continuous tactical pressure on Black's vulnerable king.

11...Nbd7 12.Nxg6

Wrecking Black's kingside pawns.

12...hxg6 13.h4

Another pawn comes forward. White's king sits on an open file, and cannot castle behind an intact pawn shield. Yet, Black's king is the one under attack.

13...Nb6 14.Bb3

Black to move


Black does manage to blockade the d-pawn, but perhaps too late. White seems to have the makings of a strong attack upon Black's castled position.

14...Nbd5 15.g5 Nh5 16.Qf3 and the d5 knight has only two defenders.

15.h5 Nxe3

McDonnell removes an attacker.

16.fxe3 Bh4+

Perhaps Black might have secured the kingside with 16...g5 17.Qf3 (17.h6 g6 18.h7+ Kh8) 17...Re8 (17...Nd5 18.Nxd5 cxd5 19.Bxd5) 18.Ne4.


It is interesting to compare the vulnerability of McDonnell's king on g3 and h3 when he has White, to the vulnerability of La Bourdonnais's king in this position. The difference seems to be better piece coordination for the French player.

17...gxh5 18.Qf3 Bg5 19.Raf1 Qxd4+

White to move

McDonnell recovered a pawn with a pin.


I am reminded of a recent tournament game--a Ponziani--in which my king might have found security here on c2 had I played better.

20...Qf6 21.Rxh5 Qg6+

21...Qxf3 appears to be the major alternative 22.Rxf3

Black to move
Analysis diagram
22...Bf6 (22...Be7 23.Rfh3) 23.g5 g6 24.Rh1 Bg7 (24...Bxg5 25.Rg3) 25.Ne4 and White should win.

22.e4 Nd5 23.Rfh1 Bh6 24.g5

Black to move

24...f5 25.Nxd5 cxd5 26.Bxd5+ Kh7

The pin of the f7 pawn is no longer a factor, but it contributed to White's decisive penetration along the h-file.

27.Rxh6+ gxh6 28.Rxh6+ Qxh6 29.gxh6 1–0

My comments on the next game can be found in "Strong Knights".

31 July 2014

McDonnell -- La Bourdonnais 1834

First Match, Game Fourteen

The ChessBase database contains 110 games of Alexander McDonnell (1798-1835). He was described shortly after his death as "the best English player," although he was born in Belfast (see image). Of these games, 85 were played against a single opponent, Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais (1795-1840). Their match, or rather series of six matches, was the first match between two masters in which the games were recorded and published.

Title Page from Walker (click on image to emlarge)
William Greenwood Walker, secretary to the Westminster Chess Club, recorded the games and published them in A Selection of Games at Chess (London: 1836), a book now widely available free through Google Books. Walker's text includes many games played at odds which are absent from the ChessBase database.

As near as I have verified so far, the games in the ChessBase database are sequenced in the same order as this book. However, game 14 is not in Walker's text. Rather, he offers, "The Fourteenth game is not preserved, it was not a good game" (155).

Chess Skills blog is following this historic match that took place 180 years ago. I am studying the games with some reference to databases, limited reference to the comments of other players, and no reference to engine evaluations. My analysis certainly contains errors. My principle goal is personal training in tactics, strategy, and analytic skill. This personal study journal, however, may be of interest to other chess enthusiasts. Indeed, comments posted on some of my previous posts confirms that it is.

There is a very good book on this historic match: Cary Utterberg, De la Bourdonnais versus McDonnell, 1834 (2005). Utterberg offers a narrative of the historical milieu, a compendium of comments on the games by other chess writers, and his own analysis. Of particular interest, perhaps, is Utterberg's summation of the state of opening theory when the match took place. Unfortunately, I do not have a copy of Utterberg's book, but base my understanding of its contents and merits upon Utterberg's website and reviews o which it links. Utterberg's own critique of certain errors in the text, which was published as a ChessCafe article ("Errata and Punishment") serves to convince me of his skills as an historian.

My post, "Morning Coffee," contains my analysis of game 13. My series on the match begins with "Three Fighting Draws." Each post on this match contains a link to the next in the series. At my current pace, it will require many months longer than I anticipated when I determined to work through all of McDonnell's game. I may well own a copy of Utterberg's book before I finish.

According to Walker, the first match consisted of 21 games. Draws did not count towards this total. There were four draws in the first match.

McDonnell,Alexander -- De Labourdonnais,Louis Charles Mahe [B21]*
London m1 London (14), 1834

1.e4 c5 2.f4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.e5 Nc6 5.c3 f6 6.Na3 Nh6 7.Nc2 Qb6 8.d4 Bd7

Bourdonnais makes small refinements to his opening play.

White to move


McDonnell continues to repeat errors that brought pain in previous games. This move weakens d4.

9.Bd3 0–0–0 10.0–0 Be8 11.Qe1 c4 12.Be2 Bg6 13.Ne3 Nf5 14.b3 cxb3 15.axb3 Qxb3 16.Bd1 Qb6 17.exf6 gxf6 18.Ng4 Bg7 19.Qxe6+ Kb8 20.Nxf6 Ncxd4 21.Nxd4 Bxf6 22.Qxb6 axb6 ½–½ Prosviriakov,V (2307)--Rozanov,P (2304) Moscow 2013

9...cxd4 10.cxd4 Bb4+ 11.Kf2

I commented on this king hike in "De La Bourdonnais Evens the Score."

11.Bd2 also leads to the loss of a pawn. 11...Nxd4 12.Nxd4 Qxd4 13.Bxb4 Qxb4+ 14.Qd2 Qxd2+ 15.Kxd2 0–0

11...0–0 12.Kg3 fxe5 13.fxe5

To McDonnell's credit, however, he is not yet down a pawn. Perhaps, he considered his own refinements an improvement.


The bishop aims at h5 and thence f3. Black increases the pressure on d4.

White to move


14.b3 seems worse 14...Bc3 15.Rb1 and d4 will fall.
14.a3 offers prospects of securing White's center 14...Be7 15.b4 Bh5 16.Bb2 Bxf3 17.gxf3

14...Bh5 15.g4 Bg6 16.Bg2 Be4

When the knight on f3 disappears, the d-pawn will fall.

17.g5 Nf5 18.Nxf5 Rxf5 19.Be3

The d4 pawn gains another protector.

19...Bxf3 20.Bxf3

Black to move


The knight was also protecting e5.


21.dxe5 Qxe3 22.Rf1 Raf8 23.Kg2 Rxg5+ 24.Kh1 Black's advantage seems clear.

21...Nxg4 22.Qxg4 Raf8 23.Rhg1 Bd6

White to move


24.Raf1 is worse 24...Rxf1 25.Qxe6+ Kh8 26.Rxf1 Rxf1
24.Rg3 seems to be Whiute's most stubborn reply 24...Bxg3 25.hxg3 Qxb2 26.Rg1

24...Rf3+ 25.Kh4 

25.Rg3 Bxg3 26.hxg3 Rf1

25...R8f4 0–1

McDonnell went on to lose the next four games before finally winning a long battle.

*In "Two Losses" I noted that C00 should be the ECO code. In fact, one of the games with this opening appears in the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings at that code. The B21 that appears is preserved as I find it in the ChessBase database.

27 July 2014

Faltering Against the Dutch

My game against Jeremy Krasin did not go as planned. I did not win. In the Spokane Contenders Tournament, I had White against Jeremy. I also had White in 2012, winning that game and the event. At the end of the 2012 Spokane Contenders, I reached my highest ever USCF rating of 1982.

Stripes,James (1917) -- Krasin,Jeremy (1882) [A90]
Spokane Contenders Spokane, 24.07.2014

1.d4 e6!

Krasin offers me the White side of the French. As everyone in Spokane knows, the French is my main Black weapon against 1.e4. It might be expected that I prefer to avoid playing the White side. In fact, I play the White side with some frequency as I play 1.e4 as often as I play 1.d4.

If Krasin intends to play the Dutch Defense, this move has the virtue of preventing me from Playing the Raphael Dutch and the Staunton Gambit. My experience with the Raphael is well known by those who have observed the Spokane scene the past few years, and Krasin has played against it in several blitz games. He also lost to the Staunton Gambit in the 2012 Spokane Contenders.

2.g3 f5

Indeed, the Dutch was his plan.

3.c4 Nf6 4.Nc3

4.Bg2 is more accurate.


White to move

Can White play 5.d5? I thought about it, and we looked at it after the game. I thought that 5...Bb4 would be Black's best response.


5.d5  was played by a master against an expert. That game continued 5...Bb4 6.Bg2 0–0 7.Bd2 e5 8.Nf3 Qe7 9.0–0 b6 10.a3 Bd6 11.e4 cxd5 12.exd5 e4 13.Nd4 Ne8 14.Qe2 Na6 15.b4 Be5 16.Be3 Qf6 17.Rad1 Bb7 18.Ncb5 Nd6 19.f4 exf3 20.Nxf3 1–0 Neubauer,M (2433)--Maia,J (2128) Rio de Janeiro 2011

5...d5 6.cxd5?!

My move scores poorly in the database. I played it to avoid the loss of the c-pawn--a beginner's error. If I'm unwilling to suffer the temporary loss of that pawn, I should not be playing the Queen's Gambit.

6.Nh3 appears to be most popular among strong players.
6.Nf3 is the most popular move in the database overall It has been played by Etienne Bacrot and Mihai Suba.
6.Bf4 has been played by Ivan Sokolov on more than one occasion.

6...exd5 7.Bg5

I would like to trade my dark-squared bishop for Black's knight or dark-squared bishop. But, I have some ambivalence concerning the trade for the knight.


I was feeling here that Black already had a slight advantage.

8.Nf3 0–0 9.Qc2

Black to move

9...Na6 10.a3

Preventing Nb4 is an exercise in chasing phantoms. But if a3 is a necessary part of my planned minority attack, then perhaps it is not a wasted move.

10...Nc7 11.0–0 Ne6 12.Bd2 Ne4

It is clear that Black has the iniative.

13.b4 Bf6 14.e3 g5

White to move

I spent a lot of time on this position and was not happy with any of my plans. I decided that I needed to secure f4 as a possible knight outpost, while also protecting my d-pawn.

I did consider 15.Nxe4 fxe4 16.Ne5 but thought that I would end up with a pawn on e5 that was hard to protect. As it turned out, I had such a pawn in any case, and I underestimated its dynamic potential.

15.Ne2 Bd7 16.a4 b6 17.Ne5 Bxe5 18.dxe5 Rc8 19.Bc1!

In retrospect, from the end of the game, this bishop proved to be valuable.

19...g4 20.a5

20.Rd1 should have been considered.

20...Qe8 21.Nf4 N6g5

White to move


22.axb6! axb6 23.Bb2 and White may gain the iniative. The pawn on e5 sticks in the middle of Black's forces, preventing many arrangements of his pieces that might be useful for exploiting the apparent weaknesses around the White king. My fears about Nf3+ and a Black pawn taking up residence on f3 in preparation for Black's queen penetrating along the h-file appear unfounded.

22...gxf3 23.Bxf3 Nxf3+ 24.Rxf3 Ng5 25.Rf2 Qxe5 26.Qb2

Black to move


During the game, I thought 26...Qe4 might continue to cause me grief. Krasin and I looked at a few lines following this move during the post-mortem.

27.Bxb2 b5 28.Kg2 Rce8 29.Bd4 a6 30.Rc1 Ne6 31.Nxe6

31.Nd3 is a move preferred by Stockfish.

31...Rxe6 32.Rf4 Re4 33.Rcf1 Kf7 

White to move

34.Rxe4 dxe4 35.Rd1 Ke8 36.Bc5 Rf6 37.Kf2 Rg6 38.Rd6 Rxd6 ½–½

It is clear that I need more weapons against the classical Dutch. The Raphael is insufficient.

After this game, my only chance to play in the City Championship was to win my last two games and also get help from David Dussome, who would need at least a draw against Michael Cambareri. Alas, I lost to Cambareri the next day, giving him clear first in the Contenders Tournament. Had he then beaten Dussome, his chances of going over 2000 with his rating was quite good. He lost to Dussome. Dussome thus beat the top two rated players in this event.

I have one game remaining in the event.