Ray Robson Gets IM Norm at Age 13
By Michael Goeller
The first-place finish of 13-year-old Ray Robson at the recent 6th North American FIDE Invitational in Chicago has led to the first widespread recognition of the youngster's Fischer-like success. That recognition is well deserved. Robson played some great games, but none more impressive than his victory over his closest rival, IM David Vigorito. This was probably Robson's most flawless performance in the event and an important contribution to opening theory--suggesting that Black has a bit more work ahead of him in this critical line of the Loewenthal Sicilian.
Ray Robson - David Vigorito [B32]
6th North American FIDE Invitational/Chicago (8) 2007
The Loewenthal Variation appears to be experiencing a bit of a revival, thanks mostly to its use by GM Vallejo Pons. All of the lines with a Black ...e5 in the Sicilian -- including the Sveshnikov, Loewenthal, and Haberditz -- are looking quite solid as Stefan Bücker suggests in a piece at ChessCafe titled "The Comeback of the ...e5 Sicilians."
White can also play simple chess with slightly better chances by 11. exd5 Nexd5 (11...
Black's plan appears to be to delay the exchange at d3 until he can gain a tempo when White plays a3 to clarify the position. White quickly achieved a much superior position in another Stephen C. Ledger game by closing off the kingside and attacking on the queenside after 15... Nxd3 16. cxd3 Be6 (16... a5 is suggested by Palliser and Emms as the way to prevent White's queenside play, but I'm not convinced)
17. f4 f6 (maybe here 17...f5!? is an even more significant improvement than the one I suggest below) 18. b4 Rd8 19. f5 Bd7 20. a4! Na7!? 21. Rfc1 Bc6 22. Rc5
The question has to be whether Black can do anything with the tempo he has gained from White playing 17.a3. This move ends up giving back that tempo as Black eventually decides upon the failed strategy of bringing his King over to the queenside. There has to be some way of improving here:
Probably the best try, but Black is already worse. In another game that reached this same position, Black played 22... Kb8?! which left his King too exposed during the coming attack on the queenside: 23. b5 axb5 24. Rxb5 Ka7 25. Rfb1 Rhe8 26. f5 Bd7 27. Nc4 Bc8 28. Bc1 g6 29. fxg6 hxg6 30. Ba3 Re6 31. Bc5+ Ka8 32. a6 bxa6 33. Rb6 Rd7 34. Na5 Rc7 35. Nxc6 Bb7 36. Rxa6+ 1-0 Palac,M-Vokac,M/Montecatini Terme ITA 1997 (36).
Within just a few moves, White has blocked off the kingside and positioned himself beautifully for the winning queenside attack. Black's forces, meanwhile, are completely tied down.
(Threatening mate by Rd8.)
Now all of Black's pawns fall like sitting ducks, but there was really no better option. If 42... Rf7 43. Bd6! and Black will end up down a piece no matter what he does, e.g.: 43... Na7 44. Rc8+ Nxc8 45. Rxc8+ Kb7 46. Rxe8
Game in PGN
All of Robson's Games from Chicago
Annotations Copyright © 2007 by Michael Goeller