Vinny Puri (2246) - Steve Stoyko (2293) [D57]
Las Vegas Masters/Las Vegas, NV USA (7) 2006
The following game from the recently completed Las Vegas Masters offers a good example of Lasker's Defense to the Queen's Gambit Declined. FM Steve Stoyko, who takes Black here, lectured on the subject at the Kenilworth Chess Club last year. The ending, where White's active Queen and Rook help hold a draw despite being a pawn down, is also worth some attention.
White can sidestep QGD transpositions several ways, including by 3. b3
Lasker used to play the Knight move immediately with 6... Ne4 possibly to avoid 6...h6 7.Bxf6 and White gains time in exchange for the Bishop pair.
The standard Lasker's Defense idea. Black seeks to exchange off pieces and reduce White's attacking force. He will then pursue a break by . ... c5 or ....e5 with equality.
Probably not White's best, though frequently played. Alternatives include:
a) 9. Rc1 is the most challenging move.
12... b6 13. Qe2 Bb7 14. e4 Nc6 15. Rad1 Rad8 16. Rd2 e5 17. d5 Na5 18. Bd3 Bc8 19. Ne1 Rfe8 20. Bb5 Bd7 21. Bxd7 Qxd7 22. Nf3 Nb7 23. Rb2 Nd6 24. c4 Rb8 25. Nd2 1/2-1/2 Cramling,P-Krogius,N/Genova 1989 (25)
To trade off the good Knight and make Ne5 possible.
White decides to surrender a pawn in order to get his Rook to the 7th. White will have lots of activity in the heavy piece ending that follows. Meanwhile, hanging onto the pawn is no fun:
Black plans a series of checks that force the exchange of minor pieces without disrupting his pawns by Nxc6 bxc6. But the resulting heavy piece ending will be difficult to win, especially since White's Rook remains on the seventh.
Black is up a straight pawn, with a wonderful connected passer pair on the queenside. It appears he should win, but White has lots of counterplay. White's Rook is much more active than Black's, his Queen is more active, and his d-pawn is faster and better supported than Black's two pawns.
It may be that Black's best chance at victory is to keep the Queen nearer to the passed pawns so that they can be pushed up together. For example: 29... Qb6 30. d5 a5 31. d6 (31. Rc6?! Qd4) 31... b4 32. d7 (32. e5 a4 33. Rc4 b3! 34. Rb4 Qc6 35. Rxa4? b2) 32... Qb8 (32... Qd4!?) 33. Qd6 Rd8 34. e5 b3
The Rook ending appears at first winnable for Black, but close analysis suggests that it is drawn with best play. Black must improve before this point. These heavy piece endings are certainly difficult.
"Too commital" said NM Scott Massey, who went over some lines with us at the Kenilworth Chess Club. But even trying to bring up the Black king more quickly did not result in real winning chances.
Game in PGN