26 June 2012

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

The secret [to creating theoretical novelties] is to look for bad moves.... I mean those moves that are obviously so bad that no one ever takes the time to prove their awfulness.
Andrew Soltis, Karl Marx Play Chess

Yesterday, I played a move in the opening that I am not likely to repeat. On the other hand, I could explore it further and make it part of my repertoire.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3 Be7 5.Bg2 O-O 6.O-O c6 7.Qc2 Nbd7 8.a3?!N

In truth, this move has been played before. ChessBase Online database has eight games that have reached this position. In two of these eight, both players were over 2000. In one game, White was over 2400 (Vladimir Okhotnik), but his opponent was 1733.

What is wrong with this move?

It abandons efforts to develop the initiative. It presents Black with no difficulties.

Franco Valencia (2176) -- Mercado (2066), Pereira 2011 continued:

8...b6 9.Rd1 Ba6 10.Nbd2 Rc8 11.b4 dxc4 12.Nxc4 c5 13.dxc5 bxc5 14.Nce5 cxb4 15.Nc6 b3 16.Nxe7+ Qxe7 17.Qxb3 Bxe2 18.Re1 Nc5

Black has the initiative, an extra pawn, and better piece coordination. Black went on to win.

Baldwin del Castillo (2045) -- Baigorri Navarro (2178), Collado Villalba 2008 continued:

8...b6 9.cxd5 cxd5 10.Bf4 Ba6 11.b4 Rc8 12.Qb2 b5 13.Nbd2 Nb6 14.Rfc1 Na4 15.Qb3 Bb7

White went on to win.

Stripes (1933) -- Moroney (2075), Spokane 2012 continued:

8...a5 9.Nbd2 b5

Here we reach the game's actual novelty.

Okhotnik (2447) -- Fournel (1733), Fouesnant 2009 continued:

9...Re8 10.e4 dxe4 11.Nxe4 Nxe4 12.Qxe4 Nf6 13.Qc2 Qd6

Black's queen rook never came into play, White directed event in the center, and his pieces penetrated the king's defenses.*

My game continued:

10.c5 Qc7 (we agreed after the game that 10...Bb7 is better) 11.Nb3 Bb7 12.Bf4 Qd8 13.Nc1 Re8 14.Nd3 Nf8

White's pieces seem well-placed, but if Black has any weaknesses, they are difficult to detect. We both struggled to find a plan. My opponent struggled harder and burned a lot of time off the clock. After some exchanges many moves later, Black was slightly better, and I opted to sacrifice a pawn to keep more of my pieces on the board during his time scramble. I was then two pawns down and objectively lost. Then, my opponent, with perhaps one minute left on the clock, missed an X-ray/discovery tactic and I won a bishop. I won back the pawns, plus another one.

I won, but my opening reveals some need for improvement. Parts of the game are not worth showing to the world.

*In the game score from ChessBase, Okhotnik's last move 31.Rxg5 is a howler that loses his queen. But, if he played 31.Rf5+ he was executing a forced checkmate in five. I suspect the latter is the actual move.

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