10 November 2015

Battle in the Benoni

Jim Maki Annotates

FIDE Master Jim Maki sent me this game for posting. His opponent is a rapidly improving high school student who is getting some coaching from Maki. I have played Travis Miller once. I lost. It is one of very few losses in the past ten years to underrated youth players.

Miller,Travis (1819) -- Maki,Jim (2318) [A70]
Spokane Rapid G/20 +3, 29.10.2015

Annotations by Jim Maki

17 year old Travis Miller, a recent arrival from Alaska to the Spokane area, has been making great progress since moving here as evidenced by his multiple 1st place finishes in Open events. This game was 3rd round of the Spokane Chess Club's Game/20 +3 tournament held recently.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c5 4.d5 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.Nc3 g6

White to move


I had recently shown Travis a line I was a bit worried about in the Benoni so I thought he might have come up with a surprise. Here is the line: 7.Nd2 Bg7 8.Nc4 0–0 9.Bf4 Ne8 10.e3 Bxc3+ 11.bxc3 b5 12.Nd2 g5 13.Bg3 f5 with a very complex and hard to play position from both sides.

7...a6 8.a4 Bg7 9.e4 0–0 10.Bd3 

Usually white plays Bd3 with h3 so I just thought Travis was mixing up systems. I had two chances to play Bg4 to equalize but decided it was too gutless. But sometimes gutless chess is good chess.

10...Qe7 11.0–0 Nh5 

Or the simple: 11...Bg4 12.h3 Bxf3 13.Qxf3 Nh5 14.Be3 Nd7=.

12.Bg5 Bf6 13.Be3

The first real suprise. I was expecting 13.Bh6


Here I really should have gone for 13...Bg4. Time to get into trouble.


Black to move


Very bad indeed. This comes from playing too much blitz. Better would be 14... Rb8 or: 14...Bd4 15.Bxd4 cxd4 16.Ne2 Nc5 17.Qc2 f5 and if 18.Nxd4 Nf4 19.Bc4 fxe4 and black has good activity.

15.Be2 Ng7 16.f4 Nd7 17.Nc4 Re8 18.Re1


18...Rb8 19.Bf3

Yikes! This is known as the "looks like I'm dead lost" variation of the Benoni. That white center is a tidal wave about to come ashore.

Black to move

19...Qf8 20.e5 dxe5 21.Ne4 exf4?

Now I'm just taking stuff hoping he doesn't find the hammer. Hanging by a thread is the move 21... Be7.

White to move


This looks so good at first sight. This is, after all, a 20 minute game and we are both getting into some nasty time trouble. Winning is: 22.Nxf6+ Nxf6 23.Bxf4 Rxe1+ 24.Qxe1

a) 24...Bg4 25.Bxb8 Qxb8 26.Bxg4 Nxg4 27.d6 b5 28.axb5 axb5 29.Qe4+- The 30. Ra8 threat is fatal.

b) 24...Ra8 25.Bd6 Qe8 26.Be7 Nfh5 (26...Nd7 27.Nd6) 27.Nb6 Ra7 28.Bxc5+- Material is even but black's pieces are so bad that random moves win for white.


The only move but good enough. Black has life again.

23.d6 Nxc5 24.Nxc5 Bf6 25.Rxe8 Nxe8 26.Bxb7?

Black to move

Hard to believe but black is now winning.


Much better is: 26...Rxb7 27.Nxb7 Bxb7 28.d7 Ng7–+.

27.Nd7 Qg7?

Now white is winning again.

27...Qh6 28.Nxb8 Qg5-/+.

28.Nxb8 Bd4+ 29.Kh1 f3

White to move

I thought I was winning here. Travis had less than 30 seconds on his clock but he finds:

30.Qxf3! Nxd6

Can't take the queen; 31.d7 wins instantly.




Every move a blunder but I have 30 seconds and Travis has 16. Winning is: 31...Ne4 32.Nd7 (32.Qxb7?? Ng3+ 33.hxg3 Qh6#) 32...Qh6 I saw this far but thought here white could play 33. h3 but completely missed: 33.h3

Black to move
Analysis after 33.h3


32.Nd7 Ba7 33.Rd1+-.

32...Qf6 33.Nd7 Bxg2+

The natural tendency in extreme time trouble is to play forcing moves like this where I know I can always bail out with a perpetual. But 33...Qd8 is better.

34.Kxg2 Qf2+ 35.Kh3 Qf5+ 36.Kg2 Qf2+ 37.Kh3 ½–½

Black to move

With flags hanging, Travis offers a draw so I take it. So what happens after 37...Qxe1?

38.Nxd6 This is why I took the draw. Black is a piece down, mate threats all over the place, and it seems black will be lucky to get a perpetual. But black is winning. 38...Qf1+ 39.Kh4 (39.Kg3 Bf2+ 40.Kg4 h5+ 41.Kg5 Bh4+ 42.Kxh4 Qf4+ 43.Kh3 Qg4#) 39...Bf2+ 40.Kg5 h6+ 41.Kf4 (41.Kxh6 Qc1+ and mate next move.)

Black to move
Analysis after 41.Kf4
41...Be3+!! 42.Ke5 (42.Kxe3 Qh3+) 42...Qf4+ 43.Kd5 Qf3+ 44.Kc4 Qc6+ 45.Kd3 Qxd6+ 46.Kxe3 Qxd7 and black is better but imagine playing this position on just the 3 second delay.

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