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

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 e5 5. Nb5 a6 6. Nd6+ Bxd6 7. Qxd6 Qf6

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."



8. Qc7 Nge7 9. Nc3 Nb4 10. Bd3 d5 11. O-O

White can also play simple chess with slightly better chances by 11. exd5 Nexd5 (11... O-O!? Soltis) 12. Nxd5 Nxd5 13. Qa5 Be6! ( in an earlier game against the same opponent, Ledger had tried 13... Qc6?! 14. c4 Ne7 15. Qxe5 Qxg2 16. Be4 Qg4 17. Be3 f6 18. Qf4! Qxf4 19. Bxf4 Nc6 (despite the early complications, White still achieves the superiortwo-Bishops ending) 20. O-O-O! Be6 21. Rhe1 Kf7 22. Bd5! Bxd5?! 23. cxd5 Nd8 24. Bd6! Rc8+ 25. Kd2! Re8 26. Rxe8 Kxe8 27. Re1+ Kd7 28. Ba3 Rc4 29. Kd3 Rg4 30. Re7+ Kc8 31. Bd6 1-0 Jackson,A-Ledger,S/London 1998 (31)) (13... Ne7?! 14. Bb5+ axb5 15. Qxa8 Qg6 16. O-O O-O 17. Qa3) 14. Bb5+! Kf8 15. O-O Qd8 16. Qa3+ Qe7 17. Qxe7+ Kxe7 18. Bd3 f5 (18... Nb4!?) 19. Bd2 e4 (19... Rhd8! preventing White's queenside expansion with c4 while planning ...Kf6 and ...g5 should yield equal chances according to Palliser and Emms in "Dangerous Weapons: The Sicilian.") 20. Be2 Rac8 21. c4! Nf6 22. b3 Rhd8 23. Rfd1 Kf7 24. g3 h6 25. Ba5 Rd7 26. Rxd7+ Nxd7 27. Rd1 Ne5 28. Bc3 Nc6 29. f3 exf3 30. Bxf3 Rd8 31. Rxd8 Nxd8 32. Kf2 g6 (White has achieved a textbook advantageous position for the two Bishops and conducts the remainder of the game in textbook fashion) 33. Ke3 Bd7 34. Kd4 Ne6+?! 35. Ke5 Nd8 36. Kd6 Ke8 37. Kc7 Bc6 38. Bxc6+ bxc6 39. Bf6 Ne6+ 40. Kxc6 g5 41. Kd6 Kf7 42. Bc3 f4 43. gxf4 gxf4 44. c5 f3 45. Be1 Kf6 46. c6 Kf5 47. c7 Nxc7 48. Kxc7 Ke4 49. Kb6 Kd3 50. Kxa6 Ke2 51. Bh4 f2 52. Bxf2 Kxf2 53. b4 1-0 Jackson,A-Ledger,S/West Bromwich 2004 (53).


11... d4 12. Na4!

12. Ne2 O-O 13. Bd2 Nxd3 14. cxd3 Bg4!? Palliser and Emms.


12... Qc6 13. Qxc6+ Nexc6 14. Nb6 Rb8 15. Bd2 Be6!

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 O-O 23. Kf2 Nc8 24. Nc4 Nd6 25. Nxd6 Rxd6 26. b5! axb5 27. axb5 Bd7 28. Bb4 Rb6 29. Rc7 1-0 Sowray,P-Ledger,S/Swansea 2006 (29).


16. f4 f6 17. a3 Nxd3 18. cxd3




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:

a) 18... Kd8?! 19. a4 a5?! 20. Rfc1 Kc7? 21. Bxa5 is definitely not it.


b) 18... f5! must be the right idea, preventing White from locking the Kingside where Black might be able to seek counterplay, e.g.: 19. fxe5 O-O! 20. Nd5 fxe4

19. b4! Kd6 20. a4 Kc7 21. a5 Rbd8 22. Rab1 Rhe8

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).


23. b5! axb5 24. Rxb5 h6

24... f5!?


25. Rfb1 Rb8 26. f5! Ba2 27. R1b2 Bf7 28. Na4 Rec8 29. Nc5 Nd8

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.



30. a6! b6 31. Na4 Be8 32. Rc2+ Nc6 33. Nxb6 Kd8

33... Rxb6 34. Ba5 beautifully demonstrates how effectively White has tied Black down.


34. Rd5+ Kc7 35. Nxc8 Kxc8 36. Ba5

(Threatening mate by Rd8.)


36... Rb1+ 37. Kf2 Kb8 38. Rdc5 Ra1 39. Bb4 Rxa6

39... Nxb4 40. Rb2


40. Rb5+ Ka8 41. Bf8! Ra7 42. Rbc5 Kb7

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


43. Bxg7 Ra3 44. Bxf6 Rxd3 45. Bxe5 Rb3 46. Rd2 d3 47. Rc3 Rb4 48. Bd6 Rxe4 49. Rcxd3 Na5 50. Re2 Rxe2+ 51. Kxe2 Bb5 52. f6 Bxd3+ 53. Kxd3 1-0

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All of Robson's Games from Chicago


Annotations Copyright © 2007 by Michael Goeller