Saemisch Surprise Revisited
By Michael Goeller
I wrote an article a while back on a "Saemisch Surprise" against the Alekhine Defense, where White plays 1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. Nc3 Nxc3 4. bxc3 d5 5. Ba3 in order to control the dark squares. This is still quite a rare line, so when I saw a game with it recently in the Eastern Open Championship in Washington, D.C., I knew I would have to annotate it -- especially since it features the tournament winner Alex Yermolinsky playing the Black side. As I discuss in the notes, Yermolinsky is among those who have played this rare line as White, and with success (see Yermolinsky,A-Bagirov,V/Krasnodar 1980). So it seems quite cheeky of Smith to have chosen it against the GM -- something that only adds to the game's interest.
Bryan G. Smith (2483) - Alex Yermolinsky (2572) [B02]
Eastern Open/Washington, DC (5) 2008
I flatter myself to assume that Smith must have read my article "A Saemisch Surprise vs. the Alekhine Defense," which offered an extensive analysis of this move. However, he may not have taken note of the fact that my article featured a game by Yermolinsky himself, who once took up the White side of 5.Ba3 in a game against the great Alekhine expert Bagirov. If he did, then it was rather cheeky to play it against Yermo!
This move always seems to be the way to meet White wing activity seeking to grab dark square dominance.
6... Qd7!? 7. f4 c5 8. c4 (8. dxc5!? e6 9. Qd4 Nc6 10. Qf2)
(8. Rb1!? Ba6=)
8... dxc4?! (8... Qa4! 9. Bc1 dxc4 10. dxc5)
9. Bxc4 cxd4 10. e6! fxe6 11. Qh5+!? (11. Qd3!)
11... g6 12. Qe5 Rg8 13. Rd1 Bg7 14. Qe2 Rf8 15. Nh3 Bh6?! (15... Nc6)
In my article, I had given this move a "?!" mark, which the result of the game would seem to re-inforce. But on closer examination it is not so clear. White gains a pawn in a very dynamic position, where he should be able to liquidate his doubled pawns with a quick c4. Black can hardly avoid the exchange of dark-squared Bishops at f8, after which his king is stuck in the center. But White's scattered pawns (including the advanced one at e5) present Black with a lot of targets. My current view is that this line might be playable for White. However, White alternatives still look more promising:
(9. Rb1!? temporarily prevents Qa4 and gives White time to get his own attack going: 9... Ba6 10. Bxa6 Nxa6 11.
b) 7. Bb5+ , to prevent the exchange of Bishops by a6, also interests me, with ideas like 7... Bd7 8. Be2!? (8. Bd3 Qc7!)
8... Qc7!? (8... e6 9. Nf3 Be7 10.
c) 7. Nf3 e6 8. Bb5+ Bd7 9. Bd3 Be7 10.
A cute intermezzo, winning a pawn, but it is really an insignificant material advantage given White's structural issues. Note that both White Bishops are immune due to the threat of b7 trapping Black's Rook.
Black focuses on piece placement and development to better exploit White's pawn weaknesses. This seems to be an improvement on capturing with the a-pawn:
9... axb6 10. Bxf8! Kxf8 (10... Bxb5?! 11. Bxg7 Rg8 12. Bf6 is too messy) 11. c4! (11. Bxd7 Nxd7 12. Nf3 Ra4! 13.
This seems the place where White could improve. Perhaps instead he should take the other Bishop:
10. Bxf8! Kxf8 (Black may as well give up the right to castle, because he is not castling anyway after 10... Bxb5 11. Bd6!)
11. Bd3! Qc7 12. Ne2 Qxe5 13.
This must have been the position that both sides were playing for, but Yermo's experience helped him to judge it a little better. White must surrender the c-pawn eventually, but Smith certainly felt he'd have genuine compensation in the passed a-pawn, control of the 7th rank, and safer King. But Yermo saw that his pieces would have much greater activity. One way of explaining Black's long-term advantage is to note that as White's a-pawn advances, his Queen will have fewer and fewer squares -- yet Black'ssuper-centr alized Queen will grow in stature as the Black Rooks gain activity. White now plays to activate his Rook by bringing it to the 7th.
It does not appear that simply pushing the a-pawn and keeping the Rooks connected behind it would have improved his chances, e.g.: 17. a4 g6 18. a5 Rxc2 19. a6 Kg7 20. Ra3!? d4 and I think I'd bet on Black here.
Simple chess! Black's Rook helps to stop the a-pawn while also creating potential back-rank tactics. White now surrenders his pawn at a6 in exchange for Black's passer at d5, hoping that having all the pawns on one side of the board will give him drawing chances. But Yermo shows that there is too much force on the board for that to be true.
After this, the f-pawn falls.
White's Queen is trapped unless he surrenders the pawn.
Perhaps White's flag fell here? One would think that Smith might play on, even though Black is still winning after 41.Rxf7 Rdg2! 42. Rf1 Re2 and, having reached the time control, there is little reason to make the GM prove it. In any event, this was a very interesting game in all its stages and a great victory by Yermo on his way to winning the tournament.0-1
Game in PGNCopyright © 2008 by Michael Goeller