04 February 2016

A Dubious Line

A French Miniature

Blitz may serve as training for testing ideas that arise in the course of study. As noted yesterday, I have been going through all of the French Defense, Steinitz variation games ever published in Chess Informant. One line that caught my eye leads to an imbalance of three pawns for a knight. In a blitz game this afternoon. I gave it a go.

Unfortunately, my opponent missed the critical line. Instead of taking my knight and letting me have three pawns, he gave me a one pawn advantage. My pieces came to life and created concrete tactical problems for my opponent. I won a miniature instead of gaining the experience sought.

Internet Opponent (1805) -- Stripes,J (1799) [C11]
Online Blitz, 04.02.2016

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 Qb6?!

When I played this move over-the-board several years ago, I usually was made to suffer.

8.Na4 Qa5+ 9.c3 cxd4 10.b4

My opponent used 23 seconds on this move. That is a lot in a three minute blitz game.


White to move

Recently, I have looked at more than two dozen games in Chess Informant with this line. White scores better than average, but the positions are interesting and double-edged, so I thought I would try it in a blitz game. My move took nine seconds, but had been a plan in the back of my head when I played 7...Qb6.


Immediately. my opponent failed to find the correct reply.

11.cxb4 Bxb4+ 12.Bd2 Bxd2+ 13.Nxd2 b5 14.Nb2 Nc5 15.Bd3 0–0 16.0–0 Qb6 17.Rf3 Bb7 18.Kh1 f5 19.Nb3! Nxb3 20.axb3 Rac8 21.Qe2 a6 22.Rg1 Rc3 23.g4! fxg4 24.Rxg4 Rc1+ 25.Kg2 Bc8 1–0 Kortschnoj,V -- Gurgenidze,B, USSR 1967, Informant 4/224.

11.Nxd4 Nc6 and Black has the edge.


11...Nc6–+ is better. My move is the second choice of Stockfish 7. The rest of my moves match the computer's first choice--evidence that the lines are forcing and replete with elementary tactics.


12.cxb4 Bxb4+ 13.Kf2 Black has a better game.

12...Nc6–+ 13.Qb3

13.Rc1 Ba3 (13...Qxa2 14.Nd3)


13...Ba6 is Stockfish's top choice for the first half minute of analysis. My choice moves to the top when it reaches a search depth of 22 ply.

14.Nxd4 a6

I considered 14...Ba6.

15.Nc6 Qc7 16.Nb4

16.Nd4 seems a little better.

16...Nc5 17.Qc2 Ne4 

White to move


18.Rc1 After the game, in the effort to understand how matters collapsed for my opponent, I thought that Rc1 might hold. Then I found the nasty pin.

18.Rc1 is the engine's top choice. 18...Qxc3+ 19.Qxc3 Nxc3 20.N2d3 (20.Rxc3 is far worse 20...Bxb4–+ and this pin is too much for White.) 20...Ne4–+ White has nothing for the two pawns; Black has no problems.

18.a3 is worth considering.

18...Bxb4 White resigns 0–1

My opponent's novelty did not lose immediately, but it made his position vastly more difficult.

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