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
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.
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.
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...."
White's chief alternatives are not as challenging in my view:
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)
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.
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.
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-O15. 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-O14. O-ONb6 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)
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
White's plan is to simply get rid of the Knight with Pf3 and, if the Knight is not exchanged, to play Nf1-e3.
thought I should bite the bullet and castle queenside. I wanted to delay
that decision, fearing something like 13...
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.
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.
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