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Friday, January 29, 2021

Rubinstein at Scarborough 1930

     At their 23rd Annual Congress due to be held at Scarborough from June 23 to July 5, 1930 the British Chess Federation decided to substitute for their British Championship event an international tournament containing six foreign masters and six of the leading British players. Dr. Savielly Tartakower of Poland was invited but fell ill and his place was taken by Vera Menchik. 
     Scarborough is a town on the North Sea coast of eastern England. During the First World War the town was bombarded by German warships in an act which shocked the British. Read more...
     Big game tunny (Atlantic blue fin tuna) fishing off Scarborough started in 1930. Tunny fishing was a sport practiced by wealthy aristocrats and military officers mostly in the 1930s. In 1933 a gentlemen’s club, the British Tunny Club, was founded in 1933 and set up its headquarters in the town and Scarborough became a resort for high society. 
     After a poor season in 1931, in 1932 Harold Hardy battled a tunny about 16 feet long for over seven hours before his line snapped and the fish got away! Four visitors who described the struggle as the greatest fight they had ever seen in their lives. Eventually tuna disappeared and in 2000 a 76-year-old pensioner using a fishing rod landed the largest tuna caught off the British Isles for nearly 50 years. 
     On June 5, 1993, Scarborough made headlines when a landslide caused part of the Holbeck Hall Hotel, along with its gardens, to fall into the ocean. Read more...
     When thinking of Rubinstein, one usually thinks of the claim that he was one of the strongest players never to have won the World Championship, his positional play and endgame expertise, especially in Rook endings. Like all great players though, that was a matter of style because if need be he could also conduct a brilliant attack. Even so, the only person I have ever heard of who held Rubinstein to be his favorite player is GM Boris Gelfand. 
     In the following game Rubinstein, who played some really good games at Scarborough, defeats Edward G. Sergeant in a game where both sides made some tactical mistakes.. The British Chess News has a nice tribute to Sergeant HERE.

Edward G Sergeant - Akiba Rubinstein

Result: 0-1

Site: Scarborough

Date: 1930.06.25

Ruy Lopez: Modern Steinitz

[...] 1.e4 e5 2.♘f3 ♘c6 3.♗b5 a6 4.♗a4 d6 In the Modern Steinitz black plays 3...a6 before playing 4...d6 with the possibility of breaking the pin with a timely ...b5. This give black more latitude than in the Old Steinitz (3...d6) after which white can practically force black to give up the stronghold at e5, but in the Modern Steinitz, black is able to maintain control of the center. 5.O-O
5.c3 is equally popular with the main line being 5...♗d7 6.d4 and black has the option of playing 6...g6, 6... Nge7 and 6...Nf6, good moves all.
5.c3 f5 This is the sharp Siesta Variation. 6.exf5 ♗xf5 7.O-O ♗d3 8.♖e1 ♗e7 9.♗c2 ♗xc2 10.♕xc2 ♘f6 11.d4 e4
5...♗d7 6.c3 ♘ge7 7.d4 h6 This move shows Rubinstein's proficiency in the opening because even though it is rarely seen these days it produces much better results than the far more common 7...Ng6. 8.♘bd2 g5 Of course 7... Ng6 is more solid. By leaving his K in the center and playing this bold move black is taking a big risk. 9.dxe5
9.d5 ♘b8 10.♗c2 is worth considering. Black has lost time and has some problems getting his Q-side developed.
9...dxe5 10.♖e1 ♘g6 With his next move white invites black to push on with his K-side advance with the hope that it will prove premature. 11.♘f1
11.h3 ♕f6 12.♘f1 O-O-O leaves black with a promising position especially since white has weakened his K-side just a bit with 11.h3
11...g4 12.♘3d2 b5 13.♗b3 ♗c5 14.♗d5
14.♘e3 lead to good results for white after 14...♕f6 15.♘df1 ♖d8 16.♕c2 ♘ce7 17.♘g3 ♘h4 18.♘d5 ♘xd5 19.exd5 Ilyin Zhenevsky,A-Rabinovich,I/ Leningrad 1936
14...♕f6 Black has a mate threat 15.♘e3 h5 Technically the position is equal, but black has a very active position. 16.♘b3 This move, placing the N on a square where it's not especially active, seems suspect.
16.a4 Alekhine once made the observation that opening the a-file in the Ruy Lopez is always good for white. 16...♖d8 17.axb5 axb5 18.b4 ♗d6 19.♘b3 and the chances are about equal.
16...♗b6 17.♘f5 Placing the N on what appears to be a strong outpost, but in this case it is not a good idea. 17. a4 was still good. 17...♖d8
17...♗xf5 is not so good because after 18.♗xc6+ ♕xc6 19.exf5 white's a little better. Rather than retreating to e7 an interesting line is 19...♕f6 20.fxg6 ♗xf2+ 21.♔h1 ♗xe1 22.gxf7+ ♕xf7 23.♕xe1 ♕f5 but white is much better.
18.♗xc6 Yielding black the two Bs turns out to be a mistake he will regret. (18.♗e3 ♘ce7 19.♘xe7 ♔xe7 20.♘c5 ♗c8 21.♕c2 h4 with complications.) 18...♗xc6 Taking with the Q would have been somewhat better. (18...♕xc6 19.♕e2 f6 20.♗e3 ♗xf5 21.exf5 ♘h4 22.♕f1 ♘xf5) 19.♕c2 h4 Are white's defensive resources going to be sufficient? 20.♗e3 ♖h5 Rubinstein intends to sacrifice the the exchange, but he is barking up the wrong tree. White's position is defensible especially since Rubinstein has allowed the N to be planted on f5. Therefore 20...Ne7 was better.
20...♘e7 21.♗xb6 cxb6 22.♕e2 g3 (22...♘xf5 23.exf5 ♔f8 24.♕xe5) 23.fxg3 hxg3 24.♘xg3 ♕h4 25.♕f3 f5 with complications. (25...♕xh2+ 26.♔f2 black loses material)
21.♖ad1 was considerably better. After 21...♖xd1 22.♖xd1 ♗xe3 23.♘xe3 ♘f4 24.♘c5 and magically white's position has transformed into the better one.
21...cxb6 22.♖ad1 ♖xd1
22...♗d5 is cute but white is still better after 23.♘e3 ♗e6 24.♖xd8+ ♕xd8 25.♖d1
22...♘e7 driving out the pesky N was his best choice. After 23.♖xd8+ ♔xd8 24.♘e3 g3 25.fxg3 hxg3 26.h3 the position is nearly equal.
23.♖xd1 ♖xf5 While this may be somewhat questionable, practically speaking it's black's best chance. Now begins a series of less than optimal moves by both sides. 24.exf5 ♘f4 25.♘d2 This throws away a nice position.
25.♕d2 Keeps the advantage because white threatens the very strong Qd6 and there is no satisfactory reply. 25...♗d5 26.♘c1 ♕xf5 27.♘e2 ♘xe2+ 28.♕xe2 ♗xa2 29.♕e3 This ending is won for white.
25...♔f8 Missing his chance as after this white keeps the advantage.
25...♗xg2 was correct. 26.♖e1 ♔f8 27.c4 bxc4 28.♕xc4 ♕xf5 29.♕b4+ ♔g7 30.♕xb6 ♗d5 31.♕e3 (31.♕xa6 ♘h3+ mates next move.) 31...f6 and now the threat of ...g6 is unstoppable. White can avoid immediate disaster, but he ends up with a lost ending. 32.♖e2 g3 33.f3 ♕h3 (33...♘xe2+ 34.♕xe2 gxh2+ 35.♔xh2 ♕f4+ 36.♔g2 f5 with a winning ending.) 34.b3 ♔g6 35.♘f1 ♘xe2+ 36.♕xe2 gxh2+ 37.♘xh2 ♕g3+ 38.♔f1 ♗e6 39.♕f2 ♗h3+ 40.♔e1 ♔f5 41.♔e2 ♕xf2+ 42.♔xf2 ♔f4
26.f3 Another unfortunate move that relinquishes the win.
26.g3 would have given White the upper hand 26...hxg3 27.hxg3 ♘h3+ 28.♔f1 ♘g5 29.♕d3
26...gxf3 27.♘xf3 h3 28.♕d2 hxg2 29.♕e3
29.♔f2 aill eventually fail. 29...♗xf3 30.♔xf3 ♕xf5 31.♔e3 ♕h3+ 32.♔e4 ♘e6 33.♔d5 (33.♔xe5 ♕xh2+) 33...e4 34.♔c6 (34.♔xe4 ♘c5+ 35.♔f4 ♕xh2+) 34...♕xh2 35.♕d6+ ♕xd6+ 36.♔xd6 e3 37.♖e1 e2 38.♔e5 ♘g5 39.♔f4 g1=♕ 40.♖xg1 ♘h3+
29...♕xf5 30.♕xb6 No doubt hoping black will grab the N. 30...♘h3+ It's mate next move so Sergeant resigned.
30...♗xf3 would be disaterous. 31.♕h6+ ♔e8 32.♕h8+ ♔e7 33.♕d8+ ♔e6 34.♕d6#
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Thursday, January 28, 2021

Fake Draws vs. Real Draws

     The scourge of the GM draw where the players engage in a short, uncontested game and quickly agree to a draw is alive and well. For a long time organizers have been struggling with ways to combat these draws such as forbidding players from drawing before 30 moves have been played or declaring that the offer had to first be approved by a tournament referee. 
     Nothing has ever been very effective, but perhaps the 2020 US Championship (won by Wesley So with a score of 9.5-1.5, a half point ahead of Jeffery Xiong) had the answer. The tournament format was a round robin rapid event that was played from the players' homes under the supervision of arbiters. The time control was 25 minutes per game with a 5-second increment. 
     There were no egregious draws... the shortest was a 23-mover in the last round between Moradiabadi and Ramirez Alvarez. There were also a 119-mover between Liang and Lenderman and the Nakamura vs. Lenderman game was agreed drawn only after a 144 moves had been played! 
     Of course one of the greatest attackers of all time, Mikhail Tal (1936-1992), played his fair share of GM draws, but the following game against Lev Aronin wasn't one of them. 
     Lev Aronin (1920-1982) played in eight USSR Championships, which were the strongest tournaments in the world during his era and he placed as high as a tie for 2nd–4th places in 1950 at Moscow. He was the youngest of three brothers, with Gregory (1913–2007) being the eldest, and Efim (1915–1989) being the second. Gregory taught him chess at the age of 8, and he could recall that at the age of 14, Lev beat him and Efim simultaneously in blindfold games. Aronin, a meteorologist by profession, never played outside the Soviet Union. 
     The below game was played in the 24th Soviet Championship which took place in Moscow is 1957. It was the 20-year old Tal's debut and it brought him to international attention not just because he won it, but because of his attacking style. 

     Sidebar: When analyzing games I occasionally mention "Shootouts." You can read my post about them HERE.

Mikhail Tal - Lev Aronin

Result: 1/2-1/2

Site: USSR Championship, Moscow

Date: 1957

QGD: Semi-Tarrasch Defense

[...] 1.d4 While preparing for Tal, Aronin had counted on 1.e4 and so this came as a surprise. In considering his reply Aronin decided that he needed an active defense with plenty of active piece play. 1...d5 2.c4 e6 3.♘c3 c5 4.e3 The recommended move is 4.cxd5 followed by the development of the B at g2, but Tarrasch considered this move the only correct one. In spite of its tame appearance it is a good one if one is looking for a K-side attack. Also, Tal did not want to risk facing the Hennig-Schara Gambit.
4.cxd5 cxd4 The Henning-Schara Gambit. White has two moves: 5.Qxd4 or 5.Qa4+ The latter gives better results. 5.♕a4+ ♗d7
5...b5 This dramatic move is rarely played, but it's worth looking at. 6.♘xb5 (6.♕xd4 ♘c6 with interesting play.) 6...♗d7 There is little theory on this position.
6.♕xd4 exd5 7.♕xd5
4...♘f6 5.♘f3 ♘c6 6.a3 ♗d6 Maintaining symmetry with 6...a6 is the most popular but both 6...cxd4 or 6...Ne4 are often seen. With this move Aronin wanted white to exchange on c5, but in this game his idea didn't turn out too well for black. 7.dxc5 ♗xc5 8.b4 Played with a gain of time. 8...♗d6 As Aronin pointed out, with white's B developed at b2 the struggle is going to be for the e5-square and for that reason 8...Be7 was better. 9.♗b2 O-O 10.♕c2 Aronin thought Tal was getting ready to strengthen pressure on the d-file with Rd1 and didn't dream that he was really preparing to play O-O-O! 10...♘e5 It's all about squares! This move attacks the important squares c4 and f3. Now Tal plays his first surprise.
10...a5 This was recommended by Tal because it would make castling Q-side too dangerous even for him. 11.b5
11.bxa5 This was Tal's intended move which he claimed offered equal play, but it seems to slightly favor black after 11...♕xa5 12.♗e2 dxc4 13.♗xc4 ♗d7 14.O-O ♘e5
11...♘e5 12.♘xe5 ♗xe5 13.c5 ♗d7 14.♘a4 with equal chances. Rychagov,A (2537)-Khetsuriani,B (2415)/ Korinthos 2002
11.O-O-O This looks extremely risky, but in fact with this move white completes development and makes it clear that the players will be attacking on opposite flanks. If white casles K-side, black gains a slight advantage.
11.♗e2 ♘xc4 12.♗xc4 dxc4 13.O-O ♗d7 14.♖ad1 ♕c7 with a promising position.
11.c5 is the main move that comes under consideration. 11...♘xf3+ 12.gxf3 ♗b8 13.♖d1 ♕e7 14.♖g1 with about equal chances.
11...♕e7 To Aronin this seemed like a natural reply, but the immediate 11...a5 leading to sharp play was better. (11...a5 12.♘b5 ♘xf3 13.♘xd6 ♕xd6 14.gxf3 axb4 with a hard fight in view.) 12.♘b5 A good move that attacks both e5 and d6.
12.cxd5 is not good for white as after 12...exd5 13.♘xd5 ♘xd5 14.♖xd5 ♗e6 and white faces dangerous threats along the c-file.
12...♘ed7 Both Tal and Aronin agreed that capturing on f3 would result in black facing danger on the g-file. However, engines don't like 12...Ned7 at all.
12...♘xf3 13.gxf3 ♗b8!14.♖g1 and it seems that black's defense, while difficult, would be adequate. 14...♗d7 15.♘c3 g6 16.f4 a5 with a strong counterattack. Interestingly, 7 Shootouts using Stockfish at 13 to 25 plies resulted in 7 draws.
13.♘xd6 ♕xd6 14.♕c3 Aronin commented that not that his dark squared B is gone white has increased opportunities of generating threats on the long diagonal. Additionally, white threatens to advance his g-Pawn.
14.g4 could have been played immediately and if 14...♘xg4 15.♖g1 ♘gf6 16.c5 ♕e7 17.e4 dxe4 18.♘g5 e5 19.♘xe4 ♘xe4 20.♕xe4 white has some dangerous play on the K-side.
14...♖e8 Preparing the possible advance ...e5 and at the same time freeing f8 for the Q.
14...b6 was Tal's suggestion. 15.g4 ♗b7 16.g5 ♘e8 17.h4 ♕e7 18.h5 f6 offers black sufficient defensive resources.
14...a5 launching an immediate counterattack seems more to the point. 15.c5 ♕e7 16.g4 axb4 17.axb4 e5 18.♘xe5 ♘xe5 19.♕xe5 ♕xe5 20.♗xe5 ♘xg4 And it appears that white has the better chances. In Shootouts white scored +1 =0 =4
15.g4 ♕f8
15...e5 at once is bad. 16.g5 ♘e4 17.♕c2 threatening both 18. Rxd5 and 18.Qxe4
16.♗d3 Tal wanted to get e4 under his control before advancing his g-Pawn, but now black manages to carry out a counter-maneuver. (16.g5 ♘e4 followed by 17...a5 is good for black.)
16.c5 a5 17.♗d3 axb4 18.axb4 e5 19.g5 with a sharp, double-edged position was a better alternative. In Shootouts white scored +3 -0 =4
16...♘b6 Aronin sticks with his intended plan, but better was 16...dxc4.
16...dxc4 17.♕xc4 b6 18.♔b1 ♗b7 Here Aronin thought white has the better game because he has the two Bs which would give him the advantage in the ending. That seems a bit far fetched because there is a lot of play before the ending is reached. In fact, engines slightly prefer black.
16...e5 wass also plausible, but it does not appear quite satisfactory for black after 17.♖hg1 dxc4 18.♗c2 ♘b6 19.♘xe5 ♘fd5 20.♖xd5 ♘xd5 21.♕xc4 ♗e6 22.♕d3 g6 23.♘d7 ♗xd7 24.♕xd5 ♕e7 and white is better.
17.g5 ♘a4 18.♕c2 Here Tal examined here the sacrifice of his Q for 2 pieces, but wasn't sure of the consequences because calculating the at the board was hardly possible. In fact after
18.gxf6 ♘xc3 19.fxg7 ♕e7 20.♗xc3 Black is better, but after the further moves of 20...e5 21.♗c2 d4 22.exd4 ♗g4 23.♘xe5 ♗xd1 24.♖xd1 a5 Although the engines tell us that black is winning, the position wouldn't be so easy to play.
18...♘xb2 19.♔xb2 (19.gxf6 ♘xd3+ 20.♕xd3 dxc4 21.♕xc4 ♗d7 22.♔b2 is equal.) 19...dxc4 Aronin pointed out that this is a necessary move that removes the double attack on h7. Now, without thinking, Tal went for the sharp variation that causes black some difficult problems, but he managed to find a defense. Aronin added that from now on both players thought they had the advantage! Komodo 12 thinks white is slightly better. 20.gxf6
20.♗xc4 is the safe alternative. 20...♘d5 21.e4 ♘f4 22.♕d2 e5 23.♘xe5 ♖xe5 24.♕xf4 with a good game.
20...cxd3 21.♕xd3 e5
21...gxf6 loses. 22.♖hg1+ ♔h8 23.♕d4 e5 24.♕h4 ♕e7 25.♕h6 and wins.
22.♘g5 g6 23.h4 ♗f5 24.e4 This turns out to be a mistake.
24.♕b3 leads to a dead equal game. 24...a5 25.h5 axb4 26.axb4 ♗e6 27.♘xe6 fxe6 28.hxg6 hxg6
24...♗g4 After this black gains the upper hand. 25.h5 Somewhat better was the natural 25.f3
25.f3 ♗h5 This looks unnatural, but it prevents the advance of white's h-Pawn and keeps the P on f3 under observation. 26.♖hf1 h6 27.♘h3 a5 White's attack has been beaten back and black has launched his counterattack.
25...♖ad8 Aronin made this move after almost no thought and Tal made the observation that he now has a forced draw.
25...♖ed8 would have won. 26.♕xd8 ♖xd8 27.hxg6 fxg6 28.♖xh7 ♕xf6 (28...♖xd1 only draws 29.f7+ ♕xf7 30.♖xf7 ♖d7 31.♖xd7 ♗xd7) 29.♖xd8+ ♕xd8 30.♖h8+ ♔xh8 31.♘f7+ ♔g7 32.♘xd8 ♗c8 and black has a won game because the N is trapped.
25...♖ed8 cannot be met as in the game. 26.hxg6 ♖xd3 27.gxh7+ ♔h8 28.♖xd3 ♕e8 and black is winning.
26.♕xd8 fails after 26...♖xd8 27.hxg6 fxg6 28.♖xh7 ♕xf6 29.♖xd8+ ♕xd8 30.♖h8+ ♔xh8 31.♘f7+ ♔g7 32.♘xd8 ♗c8 and the N is trapped.
26...♖xd3 The only move. (26...♗xd1 loses. 27.♕h3 h5 28.♖xd1 fxg6 29.♖xd8 ♕xf6 30.♖xe8+)
26...hxg6 also loses after 27.♕xd8 ♖xd8 28.♖xd8 ♕xd8 29.♖h8+ ♔xh8 30.♘xf7+ ♔g8 31.♘xd8 b6 32.♔c3 ♗e2 33.f7+ ♔f8 34.♘c6 ♔xf7 35.♘xe5+
27.♖xd3 hxg6 28.♖h7 White now threatens 29.f3 28...♖c8
28...a6 This is a pass to demonstrate the threat. 29.f3 ♗h5 30.♖d7 winning easily.
29.f3 ♖c6 Tal must transpose to a R endgame which, at first sight, seems very dangerous for him, but which in fact proves to be drawn. (29...♗h5 30.♖d7 and as before white wins without difficulty.) 30.♖xf7 ♕xf7 31.♘xf7 ♔xf7 32.fxg4 ♔xf6 33.♖d7 .♖b6 34.♔c3 ♔g5 35.a4 a6 36.♔c4 ♔xg4 Agreed drawn in view of the inevitable repetition of moves. This was no GM draw!
36...♔xg4 37.♔c5 ♖c6+ 38.♔d5 ♖b6 39.♔c5 (39.♔xe5 ♖xb4 40.♔d5 b5 41.a5 g5 42.e5 also leads to a draw.) 39...♖c6+ 40.♔d5 ♖b6 41.♔c5 Draw by 3-fold repetition.
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