Sunday, June 11, 2006

The insane ravings of a class player which I post each Wednesday's game that I play, with my own (doubtless horrificly flawed) annotation, for all to laugh at/critique/offer improvements on.
This week, in my return to the SDCC after four long years away at college, I played against Allen Burke, who made an opening error on the White side of the French Advance and could not quite recover despite fiery attempts to get some counterplay.
Burke Vs. Anderson
  1. e4 e6
  2. d4 d5
  3. e5 c5
  4. c3 Nc6
  5. Bb5?

I’ve never been a very big fan of this move and am now prepared to call it refuted.  Black has a lot of excellent options when White chooses this very fleeting pin.  He can play 5…Bd7 which releases the pin, moves the bad bishop to a somewhat better square, and sets a clever little trap based on the knight releasing the pin, for instance 5. Bb5 Bd7 6. Nf3? (or some such) …Nxe5. 7. Nxe5 Bxb5 or 7. Bxd7+ Nxd7; in either case, White has lost an important pawn for nothing.


Still, petty traps aside, I think the best way to deal with this ghost threat is 5…Qb6, which comes right back at White by kicking the bishop and putting more pressure on d4.


5. …Qb6

  1. Bxc6+


Also not a very good move, but White has nothing better.  The only other real option is 6. Ba4?, which concedes a critical tempo to Black, which the second player will use to develop overwhelming force against d4 with moves like Ne7-f5.  In the long term, White will have to waste more time getting the bishop off the queenside, where Black will eventually start to eat up lots of space.  Still, the text is not that healthy either, as we see.


6. …bxc6


Now Black has a very strong game. The bad bishop can now rain the proverbial fire on the White kingside from a6, preventing White from castling Kingside, the former black b-pawn can eventually be used as another attacker on d4 after the elder c-pawn takes on d4 (fully replacing the attacking power of the knight), Black retains the two bishops and White loses them in a position increasingly likely to be forced open, and White has lost his light squared bishop, a critical piece in any White attack on Black’s Kingside, usually White’s best plan in the Advance.  This is about as good as Black can possibly be coming out of the Advance variation.


  1. Nf3 cxd4
  2. cxd4 Ba6


Black also contemplated an immediate center-crushing c5, but decided that it was best to keep White from castling first.


  1. b3?


White attempts to develop his bishop, but he plays right into Black’s strong Queenside.  White has a tactical idea to keep his opponent from castling as well, though, and that plays out as follows:


9. …c5

  1. Ba3 Be7


Now White cannot prevent Black from effectively isolating the d-pawn and wresting away control of the center (not to mention taking aim at the c-file).  Further, if White trades bishops, Black gains a tempo on the recapture by the knight; he wants to play this knight to either e7 or (as events develop), h6, both of which allow movement to a square that attacks the soon-to-be-weakened e5 pawn.


11. dxc5?!


White sees Black’s plan to add the knight as an attacker (either against d4, or against e5 if the d4 pawn is terminated) and decides to strike first.  10. Bb2, despite the admission of a wasted tempo, still seems better; White can gain a little more time to defend himself while Black brings out the knight, although it’s unclear how White will do this.  The best plan would probably involve Nd2 followed by Rc1 while Black plays Nh6, Nf5, and then initiates combat on d4.  Rc1 after whatever mayhem takes place on d4 would prevent Black from completely dominating the c-file, as he does in the text.    


  1. …Bxc5
  2. Bxc5 Qxc5
  3. Qd4 Qc8+
  4. Qd1 Qb2
  5.  Nbd2


If 15. Qd4??, then 15…Qe2 mate.  Such is the power of Black’s light-squared bishop, which has been transformed from a pathetic non-piece in most French advance lines into a terror that is killing a good deal of White's defensive possibilities.


15. …Rc8


Now Black owns the c-file. 


  1. Rb1 Qc3


Black, of course, doesn’t really win a pawn after 16. …Qxa2 17. Ra1, and White picks up the bishop.  Still, even if Black COULD win the pawn, it wouldn’t be as important as the absolute positional domination that Black now enjoys.  The material is still even at this point, but consider: the White King, Queen, and both White Knights are frozen in place, while the White Rooks can do nothing at all for the moment.  The d2 knight has just been pinned, the f3 knight has been unable to move since 14…Qb2 (because if Nd4, then the knight is dropped outright; any other move by the f3 knight is punished by …Qxe5+ Qe2 Qxe2 mate).  The White Queen can’t move either.  If it moves to c2 then it is lost; if it moves to e2 the Black bishop picks it up, and if it moves to c1, then Black’s control of the c-file wins via Qc1 Qxc1+ Rxc1 Rxc1 mate.  The White King has no legal moves thanks to the White bishop.  The two White rooks are confined to meaningless shifts between a1 and b1 for the Queenside rook, and h1 and g1 (or possibly f1; Black probably wouldn’t want to trade his fearful bishop for the imprisoned rook) for the Kingside rook.  White is stuck pretty badly here, and any plan to free himself will take considerable time.  Black will use this time to bring the knight into position to attack e5, against which White has no effective defense.  Once the knight captures the e5 pawn, it also threatens the f3 knight, and eventually Black will bring to fruition plans based on the ….Qe5+ Qe2 Qxe2 mate combination mentioned earlier.  Black can also choose a slower plan based on tripling on the c-file with his King’s rook, which can either aid direct operations on the c-file or free the Black queen to do business elsewhere.  It’s hard to find anything at all for White; no wonder that White used half an hour of his clock on the following move:


  1. h4!?


Even though it’s ultimately doomed to failure, White should get credit for going down swinging.  This move activates the only piece that can possibly be activated in the position, and also scares Black into wasting a bit of time. 


  1.  …h5?


Black was afraid of the White pawn moving to h5, and so decides to block it.  Black should not fear 18. h5, though.  Though the knight is prevented from executing the Ne7-Ng6 maneuver, Nh6-Ng4 works just as well for the purpose of threatening the e5 pawn now that no pawn can cover the g4 square.  Black also fails to see that White probably had no intention of ever playing h5.  White’s intention was probably to play Rh3 (which finally frees the f3 knight, since the White rook can now intercede on the e-file after the knight moves) as soon as possible; though Black saw that White wanted to play Rh3, he was a bit overly scared of h5.  Though 17…h5 is hardly fatal, an immediate Nh6 was much better; the text loses a tempo, and if White's coming attack had more sting to it, this would have been critical.


  1. Rh3 Nh6
  2. Ng5


White is valiantly trying for some play on the Kingside, and, as is soon made clear, is willing to give up significant material for any amount of freedom from the crushing immobility he has been suffering since move 14. 


19. …Qxe5+

  1.  Re3 Qh2

Threatening either mate or fatal loss of material, but White still has one last gasp.


  1. Rxe6!? fxe6
  2. Qxh5+ Ke7


This looks a little scary, but White has nothing.  The White Queen cannot penetrate further into Black’s defenses, and Qg6 is easily met by Rhg8.  White needs more force into this attack, and Black will have far too much time to attack the White King if White tries to bring anything else into position to attack the Black King (if indeed he can).  It’s now clear that White is doomed, and the end soon follows.


  1. Nf1 Bxf1
  2. Nf3 Qxg2
  3. Ne5??


Intending what?  This just makes it very easy for Black.


25. …Qe4+

  1.  Kxf1 Qxb1+
  2.  Kg2 Qe4+
  3.  Nf3


Retreating the King to the first rank loses immediately to …Rc8+, after which many a mate is possible.  Kh2 is also possible, though it works no better than the text does.


28. …Qg4+

29. Resigns, 0-1


At the very least, Black can trade Queens and simplify to an easily-won endgame, all the mating nets that Black probably missed aside.  Given how White’s game turned out, I think that playing 6. Ba4 instead of 6. Bxc4?! is better, despite the tempo it cedes to Black.  In either case, this game goes to show that 5. Bb5 is a very bad idea for White in the main line French Advance.