02 March 2012

Spanish Opening, Steinitz, Bronstein Variation C76

Despite more than 50,000 online blitz games, my first game in ECO code C76 was Sunday's round 5 game in the 20th Dave Collyer Memorial tournament. I opted for the Spanish Opening (Ruy Lopez) as White. My opponent, Expert Tim Moroney, played a deferred Steinitz Defense, Bronstein variation. I was on my own without any book knowledge on move 4, a fairly uncommon experience in the Spanish Opening. Nevertheless, the game's novelty came on my opponent's move 9.

We chose an unusual move order, but ended in an opening system played with success by David Bronstein as Black in the 1950s, employed by Boris Spassky in the 1980s also with success, and in the years 2006-2008 by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov but with a negative score, although he drew Viswanathan Anand in one game. In game 22 of the 1929 World Championship, Alexander Alekhine won with Black against Efim Bogoljubov using this system.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.c3 Bd7 6.d4 g6

White to move

My game Sunday reached this position via the move order 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6 4.c3 a6 5.Ba4 d6 6.d4 Bd7.

7.O-O is the most popular move and is the main line give in ECO.
7.Bg5 was my move, and is the other ECO line.

Bogoljubov played 7.Bg5.

That game continued 7...f6 8.Be3 Nh6

White to move

Here, Bogoljubov castled, 9.O-O. I played 9.dxe5, a move appearing in Big Database 2011 in five games.

My opponent's 9...Nxe5 rendered our game unique.

Bogoljubov -- Alekhine continued 9...Bg7 10.h3 Nf7 11.Nbd2 O-O 12.dxe5. Here Alekhine comments:
White--rightly--recognises that a further maintaining of the tension in the centre would be rather to Black's advantage and aims at simplification. The problem of the defence has been solved in this game in quite a satisfactory way.
Alekhine, My Best Games of Chess, 1924-1937 (1965), 63.
My opponent commented after our game that his opening choice must be deemed a success because he very easily achieved equality.

Had Moroney played 9...dxe5, our game would have transposed to a line with some history, including Bronstein -- Sakharov 1960, played in the 27th Soviet Championship. Bronstein -- Sakharov began with the move order 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.c3 Bd7 6.d4 g6 7.dxe5 dxe5 8.Bg5 f6 9.Be3 Nh6.

Black's opening choice does appear to offer good prospects for equality.

I was playing for a draw with White. In the late middlegame, my opponent and I repeated a position once. Instead of extending the draw offer that I invited by this repetition, my opponent broke open the game into an endgame that made a draw unlikely. Lucky for me, he incorrectly assessed the resulting pawn endgame and I won. See "Pawn Wars" for the endgame critical position.

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