1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nf3 d6 4.Nc3 e5


Steve Stoyko - Michael Goeller [B00]

Kenilworth CC Ch Open/Kenilworth, NJ USA (5) 2006

1. d4 Nf6

The pairings for this round were changed at literally the last minute. Instead of having White against Minkov, for whom I had prepared (we had actually sat down across from each other and were about to start the clock based on the initial pairings for the evening), I was suddenly given Black against Stoyko, for whom I had expected at least a week more to plan my opening. Faced with the last minute switch, I decided to give the Panther a try but was not so sure how best to reach it against Steve.


I don't think I chose the best path, but he obviously decided to cooperate along the way. Steve used to reach the Panther by 1... Nc6 2. Nf3 d6 3. c4 (but I am a bit spooked by the complicated 3. d5! Ne5!? 4. Nxe5 dxe5 5. e4 e6!? 6. Bb5+ unclear) 3... Nf6 4. Nc3 e5 etc. The normal course of our five-minute games has been 1... Nc6 2. Nf3 d5 3. Bf4 with a London set-up for White against my Chigorin. I had actually begun preparing something special against this but decided to give the Panther a try instead.


2. Nf3 d6

Our game last year continued 2... g6 3. Nc3 d5 with a Barry Attack: 4. Bf4


3. c4

Steve usually plays 3. Nc3 against which I'd have tried 3... Nc6!? (3... g6 4. e4 would be a Pirc, which I have not played in many years) 4. e4 (4. d5!?) 4... Bg4 leading to familiar lines of the Nimzovich Defense.


3... Nc6 4. Nc3 e5

The Panther. As I played this move, I said, "If I have to lose, I may as well learn something...." That may sound defeatist, but it's an attitude that made me enjoy the game a bit more than I think I would have normally. I remember that my wife saw me preparing my openings one day and said, "Preparing to beat Stoyko? " I laughed and replied, "I think if I beat Stoyko I'd be a little disappointed." Then I added, "But, yeah, I am preparing for him...."


5. d5

White's chief alternatives are not as challenging in my view:

a) 5. dxe5 Nxe5 6. Nxe5 dxe5 7. Qxd8+ Kxd8=


b) 5. g3 Bf5!? (5... e4? 6. Ng5) (5... exd4 6. Nxd4 Bd7 7. Bg2 g6 8. O-O ) 6. d5 (6. Bg2!? ) 6... Ne7 7. Bg5 Ne4!? (7... Ng6 8. e4 Bd7 9. h4 h6 10. Bxf6 Qxf6 11. h5 Ne7 12. Nb5 Kd8 13. Bh3 Bxh3 14. Rxh3 Nc8 Hort - Kavalek, Bugojno 1980)

5... Ne7 6. e4 Ng6

A true Panther set-up. The standard 6... g6 (or first ...Nd7 to stop c5) heads toward Classical King's Indian positions, but this Knight move is the true Panther.


7. g3 Be7 8. h4!

The strongest positional plan against the Panther. The idea is to deprive the Knights of play while also trying to exchange off the light-squared Bishop, which is often critical to all Black counterplay in these positions. Black has actually had some success with the set-up I chose in the game following 8. Bg2 h5?! (8... c5 9. O-O h5 10. h4 Bg4 1/2-1/2, Hradeczky - Vadasz, Budapest 1972 (18)) 9. h4 Ng4 (9... Bg4 10. Qb3 Qc8 Leitao - Van Riemsdijk, Rio de Janeiro 1998) 10. Qc2 Bd7 11. Ng5 Qc8 12. f3 Nh6 13. Be3 a6 14. Rc1 (14. Bh3! Bxh3 15. Nxh3 ) 14... f6 15. Nh3 f5 16. exf5 Nxf5 17. Bf2 O-O 18. Ne4 c6 19. Qd2 c5 20. Nhg5 Nd4 21. O-O Bf5 22. Kh2 Qd7 23. Bxd4 exd4 24. f4 Rfe8 25. Rfe1 Nf8 26. Bh3 Bxh3 27. Nxh3 Nh7 28. Re2 Nf6 29. Nxf6+ Bxf6 30. Rce1 b5 31. b3 bxc4 32. bxc4 Rxe2+ 33. Qxe2 Qg4 34. Qxg4 hxg4 35. Nf2 Rb8 36. Nd3 Kf7 37. Kg2 a5 38. Kf2 a4 39. Ke2 (39. Re6) 39... Bd8 40. Kd1 Ba5 41. Re6 Rb1+ 42. Kc2 Rg1 43. Rxd6 Rg2+ 44. Kb1 Rxg3 45. Ne5+ Kg8! 46. Rg6 d3 47. Rxg4? d2!! 48. Kc2 Re3 0-1 Horowitz,I-Prins,L/Havana 1952 (48) That was about as far as my study of this variation had gone and I think it gave me some bad ideas. As Steve showed me after the game, Black has to control the dark squares and play ...h6 and almost never ...h5 (unless, I imagine, he can then force through an ...h4 advance, as in lines of the Czech Benoni).


8... Bg4?!

Steve thought that this move was very artificial. If the intent is to stop White from pushing Ph5, then it is quite misguided because I want him to do that and surrender the g5 square to me. The best response is now:

a) 8... h6! 9. Qc2 (9. Bh3 Bxh3 10. Rxh3 Qd7 11. Rh1 Qg4=) 9... Bd7 10. Be2 c6 11. a4 a5 12. Nh2 Qc8 13. Nf1 Bd8 14. Qb3 O-O 15. Ne3 Rb8 (15... Qc7!? 16. Bd2 Qb6=) 16. Bd2 Bc7 17. Rc1 Re8 18. Kf1 Nf8 19. Kg2 Qd8 20. Nc2 Bg4? A strategic blunder, after which Black's game falls apart. Best was to activate the dark-squared Bishop (with 20... Bb6! --when Black should even have the edge! ) 21. Bxg4 Nxg4 22. Ne3 Nxe3+ 23. Bxe3 Nd7 24. Rhd1 c5 25. Nb5! Nf6 26. Qd3 Qd7 27. f3 Bd8 28. Rh1 h5 29. Rcg1 Be7 30. Kf1 Bf8 31. Bg5 Nh7 32. Bd2 Ra8 33. g4 with a strong attack that crashed through, 1-0 Malich,B-Braun,G/Germany 1993 (64)


b) 8... Nf8!? 9. Bd2 c6 10. Be2 cxd5 11. cxd5 a6 12. Nh2 N8d7 13. b4 O-O 14. O-O Nb6 15. Re1 Bd7 16. Nf1 Rc8 17. Ne3 Rxc3 18. Bxc3 Nxe4 19. Bb2 f5 20. Bd3 Qe8 21. Nc4 Nxc4 22. Bxc4 Bd8 23. Qd3 Qg6 24. Kf1 Bb6 25. Re2 Qg4 26. Ke1 Qh3 27. Qf3 Qh2 28. Kd1 Ba4+ 29. Bb3 Bb5 30. Re1 Nxf2+ 0-1 Mansson,J-Hagesaether,H/Coventry ENG 2005 (30)


c) 8... O-O 9. h5 Nh8 10. Nh4 g6 11. Bh6 Re8 12. Be2 c6 13. Qd2 cxd5 14. cxd5 Ng4 15. Bxg4 Bxg4 1/2-1/2 did not look especially promising for Black in Golz,W-Clarke,P/Budapest 1960 (15)

9. Bh3!

The classic and much-cited game with this line was played by Kramnik in his youth: 9. Be2 h5?! 10. Ng5 a6 11. Be3 Bd7 12. f3 O-O 13. Qd2 Qb8 14. a3 c5 15. b4 b5 16. bxc5 dxc5 17. cxb5 axb5 18. Bxb5 Bxb5 19. Rb1 Rxa3 20. Nxb5 Ra4 21. d6 Bd8 22. O-O Rb4 23. Rxb4 cxb4 24. Qxb4 Bb6 25. Bxb6 Qxb6+ 26. Kg2 Rb8 27. Qc4 Rb7 28. Rb1 Qa6 29. Rb4 Nf8 30. Nc3 Qxc4 31. Rxc4 Rd7 32. Rc7 Rxd6 33. Nxf7 Rd2+ 34. Kf1 Ne6 35. Re7 Nd4 36. Nxe5 Rc2 37. Nd5 Ne2 38. Nxf6+ gxf6 39. Nd7 Nxg3+ 40. Ke1 Re2+ 41. Kd1 Rf2 42. Nxf6+ Kf8 43. Re5 Rxf3 44. Nxh5 Nxh5 45. Rxh5 Re3 46. Rf5+ Ke7 47. Rf4 Ke6 48. Kd2 Rh3 49. Ke2 Ke5 50. Rg4 Ra3 51. Kf2 Ra2+ 52. Kg3 Ra3+ 53. Kg2 Ra2+ 54. Kh3 Ra1 55. Rg2 Kf4 56. h5 Rh1+ 57. Rh2 Rg1 58. Rf2+ Kxe4 59. Kh4 Ke5 60. h6 Ke6 61. Kh5 Rh1+ 62. Kg6 Rg1+ 63. Kh7 Ke7 64. Kh8 1/2-1/2 Kramnik,V-Zukubiec,A/Mamaia / Guarapuava 1991 (64)


9... h5?

Simply a bad idea. As Steve pointed out after the game, this pawn should generally never advance to ...h5 but instead to ...h6. Better is the simple 9... Qd7 10. Bxg4 Qxg4 unclear.


10. Bxg4! Nxg4

10... hxg4? 11. Nh2 Qc8 12. Bg5 wins the pawn at g4.


11. Nh2!

White's plan is to simply get rid of the Knight with Pf3 and, if the Knight is not exchanged, to play Nf1-e3.


11... Qd7?!

I underestimated the problems I would have with the pawn at g4. Better 11... Nxh2 12. Rxh2 c6


12. Nxg4! hxg4

12... Qxg4?! 13. Qxg4 hxg4 14. Nd1! wins the pawn at g4 in short order.


13. Qd3 a6

Steve thought I should bite the bullet and castle queenside. I wanted to delay that decision, fearing something like 13... O-O-O 14. Be3 a6 (14... Kb8 15. Nb5 a6 16. Na7!?) 15. Ke2! Rh5 16. b4 Kb8 17. Rhb1! with an attack. I had also considered 13... Rh5!? 14. Be3 c5 or 13... c6!? -- either of which would likely be better than the text at slowing down White's queenside attack.


14. Be3 Nf8 15. b4 a5?

Simply a bad idea which does nothing to stop White's queenside attack or to get my pieces active. Better was 15... Nh7! 16. Ke2 (16. c5 Ng5! heading for f3) 16... c6 and it is still a bit unclear since Black can get counterplay with ...f5 and ...cxd5.


16. bxa5! Rxa5 17. a4 g6

17... Nh7!?


18. Nb5 b6?

This is the fatal strategic blunder. Now White's queenside attack has something to bite on. I foolishly thought that this would slow him down.


19. Bd2! Ra8 20. a5 bxa5 21. Bxa5 Bd8 22. Ke2! f5 23. Bxc7!! Rxa1 24. Rxa1

Black resigns. There is no hope in the face of Ra7.


Well, this was my trial by fire. I think it is Alex Yermolinsky who suggests that you need to play an opening in order to learn it -- and that you should begin playing it before you have even studied it fully since that will help guide your study and make it stick. This game gave me a lot to chew on, and did not shake my faith in the Panther. I just have to sharpen its claws a little....



Copyright 2006, by Michael Goeller

Game in PGN