GM Josh Friedel Plays the Ulvestad

GM Josh Friedel only finished seventh (out of 63) at the recent Unive Open in Hoogeveen, the Netherlands, but he played some excellent games, even winning the brilliancy prize. The following did not win any prizes, but it is an impressive game nonethless and an excellent illustration of Black's chances in one of the more "equal" lines of the Ulvestad Variation of the Two Knights Defense (1e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 b5! 6.Bxb5). The Ulvestad seems the defense of the moment in the Two Knights, over 50 years after Ulvestad himself started analyzing and playing it. I have included some of Ulvestad's games (found in John Donaldson's excellent Two Masters from Seattle) to show some of the interesting alternatives he considered in his explorations.

Game One

Henk Vedder (2364) - Josh Friedel (2555) [C57]

Unive Open/Hoogeveen NED (3) 2009


1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5 d5

Most databases give the game as continuing 4... b5? 5. Bxb5 d5?? 6. exd5 Qxd5 -- which is obviously mistaken.

 

5. exd5 b5!

Probably the best move.










The chief alternatives are:

a) 5... Nd4 is the Fritz move order, which typically continues 6. c3 (6. d6? Qxd6 7. Bxf7+ Ke7 8. c3 h6 9. cxd4 hxg5 10. Bb3 exd4) 6... b5 7. Bf1! (7. Bd3 Bf5!) 7... Nxd5 8. Ne4 (8. cxd4!? Qxg5 9. Bxb5+ Kd8 10. O-O Bb7 11. Qf3 Rb8!) and now Black's best is 8... Ne6! (8... Qh4!? 9. Ng3 Bb7!? (9... Bg4 10. f3 as in Estrin - Berliner has come into question and is hard to play over the board anyway) 10. cxd4 O-O-O is a speculative piece sac idea advocated by Dana Mackenzie) 9. Bxb5+ Bd7 10. Bxd7+ Qxd7 11. O-O Be7 (11... f5!? 12. Ng3 g6 13. d4) 12. d4 exd4 13. cxd4 O-O 14. Nbc3 Rfd8 Pinski.

 

b) 5... Na5 is the standard move but it worked poorly for Friedel in a recent game (which I have annotated elsewhere): 6. Bb5+ c6 7. dxc6 bxc6 8. Bd3! (Gunsberg's move is now all the rage) 8... Be7 (a more recent example of this line continued 8... Nd5 9. Nf3! Bd6 10. O-O O-O 11. Re1 Bg4 12. h3! Bh5 13. Bf5! Qf6 14. Bg4 Bxg4 15. hxg4 Qg6 16. Nh4 Qf6 17. Nf5 Bc5 18. Nc3 Nxc3 19. dxc3 Bb6 20. b3 Rfe8 21. Qf3 Qe6 22. Ba3 Rad8 23. Rad1 f6 24. Nd6 Re7 25. Rd3 Red7 26. Red1 Bc7 27. Ne4 Rxd3 28. Rxd3 Nb7 29. Qf5 Qxf5 30. gxf5 Kf7 31. g4 Rxd3 32. cxd3 g6 33. Kg2 gxf5 34. gxf5 Bd8 35. Kf3 Be7 36. Bxe7 Kxe7 37. Kg4 1-0 Navara,D (2692)-Beliavsky,A (2656)/Novi Sad SRB 2009) (8... Ng4! followed by f5 is probably best) 9. Nc3 O-O 10. O-O Rb8 11. h3 c5 12. b3 Rb4 13. Re1 Bb7 14. Ba3 Rf4 15. g3 Rd4 16. Nf3 Rxd3 17. cxd3 Qxd3 18. Nxe5 Qf5 19. g4 Qf4 20. d4 Rd8 21. Qe2 Rxd4?? 22. Bc1 1-0 Nakamura,H (2701)-Friedel,J (2516)/Saint Louis USA 2009.

 

6. Bxb5

Not White's most ambitious option, but probably the most common in amateur games. This line is considered equal for Black, but it is sometimes used at the master level to secure "an easy draw." Friedel does not oblige.

 

Best, if rarely seen among un-booked amateurs, is 6. Bf1! Nd4 (this transposition to the Fritz appears to be best, though many have tried the alternatives: 6... Qxd5? 7. Nc3; 6... Nxd5!? was tried by Ulvestad himself -- see notes to the next game; and 6... h6?! is a line Ulvestad analyzed, but theory now rejects this due to 7. Nxf7! Kxf7 8. dxc6 Bc5 (8... Qd5 9. Qf3) 9. Be2! Ne4 10. O-O Qf6 11. Qe1) 7. c3 Nxd5 transposes to the Fritz line discussed above. Theory therefore considers these two lines as naturally covergent, hence the typically hyphenated name "Fritz-Ulvestad."

 

6... Qxd5 7. Nc3

This is White's most viable option, returning the pawn to reach an even endgame. Trying to keep the material yields Black a strong initiative.

a) 7. Bxc6+ is illustrated by our next game.

b) 7. Be2 Bb7 8. d3 Nd4

c) 7. Qe2 Qxg2! 8. Qxe5+ Be7

 

7... Qxg2 8. Qf3! Qxf3 9. Nxf3 Bd7 10. d3

10. O-O Nb4!? 11. Nxe5 Nxc2 12. Nxd7 Nxd7 13. Rb1 O-O-O is unclear according to Pinski

 

10... O-O-O

10... Nd4!? 11. Bxd7+ Kxd7! 12. Nxd4 (12. Nxe5+? Ke6) 12... exd4 13. Ne2 Bc5 might be better for Black according to Pinski

 

11. Bg5

 










White should probably prefer 11. Be3 Ng4!? 12. Ng5!

 

11... h6! 12. Bxf6

Yielding the two Bishops in an open position in exchange for damaging Black's structure. The imbalance gives Friedel something with which to work, though there really is nothing better for White here: 12. Be3?! g5 13. Rg1 Bd6 gives Black extra space on the kingside and in the center.

 

12... gxf6 13. O-O-O Kb7

Freeing up the Bishop, which now threatens ...Bg4.

 

14. Nd2 Bg4!? 15. Bxc6+?!

Yielding the other Bishop makes no sense long term. Best 15. Rdg1! h5 16. h3 Bf5 (16... Be6 17. Bc4= (eliminating the Bishop pair)) 17. Bc4! Nd4 18. Nb3=.

 

15... Kxc6 16. Rde1 h5 17. f3 Be6 18. Re4 Bh6 19. Kd1 Rdg8! 20. Re2 Bh3 21. Nce4!? f5 22. Nf2 Bg2

White is trying to corner one of Black's Bishops, but Friedel improves his structure tremendously in the trade.

 

23. Rg1 Bf4! 24. Ng4

24. h4!? Bh2 25. Rge1 f6 26. d4 exd4 27. Re6+ Kd7 28. Rxf6 Bg3 29. Re2 Bxh4 30. Rxf5 Bxf2 31. Rf7+ Kc6 32. Rxf2 h4! is the sort of line that backfires on White due to the speedy h-pawn.

 

24... fxg4 25. Rexg2 f5

 










In exchange for one Bishop, Friedel gets a mobile and dangerous pawn majority. And he still has the better minor piece.

 

26. Nf1?! Rb8!

Unpinning the g-pawn with gain of time and forcing a favorable exchange of pawns on the kingside.

 

27. fxg4 hxg4

With the h-file open, White will be tied down to defending the weak h-pawn.

 

28. b3 Kd5 29. Ke2 Rh3!

Fixing the h-pawn in place.

 

30. Ng3 Ke6 31. Rf1 Kf6 32. c3 Kg5 33. b4 Rbh8

Achieving the ideal placement of his forces. Now Black either wins a pawn or gains connected passed pawns on the 5th rank. He has a winning advantage.

 

34. Rff2 Bxg3! 35. hxg3 f4! 36. Rg1

36. gxf4+ exf4 is no better.

 

36... Rxg3 37. Rxg3 fxg3 38. Rf7

38. Rg2 Rh2 39. Kf1 Kf4

 

38... Rh1 39. Rg7+ Kf5!

and White resigned as there is no way to stop Black from queening. A great game from Friedel who clearly believes in the Fritz-Ulvestad.

 

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Game Two

William N. Bragg - Olaf Ulvestad [C57]

US Open/Rochester (1) 1958


1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5 d5 5. exd5 b5

5... Ne7!? was an idea of Washington Expert Robert Edberg which Ulvestad discussed in his column in the Washington Chess Letter of 1955. 6. d6 (6. Bb5+ Bd7 7. Bxd7+ Qxd7 8. c4 c6) (6. Qe2 Nfxd5 Ulvestad 7. Nc3 (7. Qxe5!? f6 8. Bxd5! Qxd5 (8... fxe5 9. Bf7+ Kd7 10. Ne6) 9. Qxd5 Nxd5 10. Ne4 Nf4) 7... c6 8. O-O f6 9. Nge4 Nf4) 6... Ned5 7. dxc7 Qxc7 8. Bb5+ Bd7 9. Bxd7+ Qxd7.

 

6. Bxb5

6. Bf1 Nxd5!? is one of several interesting alternatives that Ulvestad tried out or analyzed -- also:

 

(a) 6... Bg4!? looks like something worth tossing out in a blitz game: 7. Be2?! (7. f3! Nxd5 8. Nxf7 Kxf7 9. fxg4) 7... Bxe2 8. Qxe2 Qxd5 9. O-O Nd4 10. Qd1 h6 11. Nh3 Bd6 (11... Bc5 12. c3 Ne6) 12. d3 g5 (12... O-O!) 13. Kh1 O-O-O (queenside castling seems a risky plan) 14. Nc3 Qc6 15. Be3 Bc5 16. Ng1 h5 17. a4 b4 18. Nb5 h4? (18... g4) 19. Nxd4 exd4 20. Bxg5 h3 21. Qf3 hxg2+ 22. Kxg2 Nd5? 23. Bxd8 Bd6 24. Rfe1 Rxh2+ 25. Kf1 Kxd8 26. Re2 f6 27. Rae1 Kc8 28. Re4 Be5 29. Rxe5 fxe5 30. Rxe5 b3 31. Rxd5 Qxa4 32. Qf5+ Kb7 33. Rb5+ Ka6 34. Rxb3 1-0 Paoli,E-Ulvestad,O/Reggio Emilia 1960 (34).

 

(b) 6... h6?! is mistakenly considered "the true Ulvestad," but while Ulvestad analyzed it there is no evidence he ever played it himself; and it cannot be recommended due to 7. Nxf7! Kxf7 8. dxc6.

 

7. Bxb5! Bb7 8. d3 (8. d4!?) 8... Qe7?! (8... Be7!? 9. Qh5 Bxg5 10. Bxg5 Qd6) 9. Nc3 Nf4 10. Bxf4 exf4+ 11. Qe2 Qxe2+ 12. Nxe2 Ke7?! (12... h6 13. Nf3 O-O-O) 13. Nxf4 Nd4 14. Ba4 h6 15. Ne4 g5 16. Ne2 Nxe2 17. Kxe2 f5 18. Ng3 Bxg2 19. Nxf5+ Kf6 20. Rhg1 Bh3 21. Ne3 Bd6 22. Rae1 Rab8 23. Bb3 c6 24. Kd1 Rb4 25. Nf1 Rf4 26. Ng3 Bg4+ 27. Kc1 Be5 28. h3 Bf3 29. c3 Rh4 30. Bd1 Bf4+ 31. Kc2 Bxd1+ 32. Kxd1 Rxh3 33. Ne4+ Kf5 34. Rh1 Rxh1 35. Rxh1 h5 36. Ke2 h4 37. f3 Rb8 38. b3 a5 39. Kf2 Re8 40. Rd1 Rc8 41. Rh1 c5 42. Kg2 Rc7 43. Rd1 Be5 44. Kf2 a4 Now the a-file is opened with telling effect. 45. Rb1 axb3 46. axb3? (46. Rxb3 still offered hope.) 46... Ra7 47. Rg1 Ra2+ 48. Kf1 Bf4 49. Rh1 Be3 50. Rh3 Rb2 51. Nd6+ Kf4 52. Ne4 Rxb3 53. Ke2 Rb2+ 54. Kd1 Rg2 55. Ke1 Rg3! If the Rook is taken, the g-pawn must queen. 56. Nxg5 Kxg5 Annotations by Viktors Pupols from his column "Vox Pupol" in the 1955 Washington Chess Letter. 0-1 Velias,R-Ulvestad, O/Seattle 1955.

 

6... Qxd5 7. Bxc6+?!

7. Nc3 Qxg2 is well-illustrated by Friedel's game above.

 

7... Qxc6

 










8. O-O

8. Qf3 e4! 9. Qb3 Bc5! 10. Qxf7+ Kd8 followed by Rf8 with excellent attacking chances for Black, though your computer won't see this right away.

 

8... Bb7

Threatening mate, of course.

 

9. Qf3

White's alternatives are less promising:

a) 9. Nf3 O-O-O

b) 9. f3 Bc5+ 10. Kh1 h6 11. Nh3 O-O-O 12. d3 g5

 

9... e4

Simply 9... Qxf3 10. Nxf3 e4 probably gives Black sufficient compensation for the pawn also, but there is no reason to reduce the attacking forces when Black has attacking chances.

 

10. Qc3

More common is 10. Qb3 O-O-O! 11. Qh3+ (11. Nxf7? e3 12. f3 e2 13. Re1 Bc5+ 14. Kh1 Ng4) 11... Kb8 12. Nc3 (12. Nxf7? Rd5 13. Nxh8 Rh5 14. Qc3 Bc5 15. Kh1 e3 16. f3 Qd6 forces mate) 12... Rd7 13. Re1 Bc5 see Pinski.

 

10... Bc5 11. d4

The alternative 11. b4 does not force the exchange of Queens: 11... e3! 12. Qe5+ Be7 13. f3 Nd5!

 

11... exd3! 12. Re1+ Kf8 13. Nf3 Ng4!

13... dxc2!?

 

14. Be3 Nxe3

14... Bxe3! 15. fxe3 dxc2 may be simplest.

 

15. fxe3 Re8 16. Qxd3 h5!

 










Black is still down a pawn but has a wonderful lead in development, the two Bishops and chances of attack on the White King.

 

17. Nbd2 Rh6!

17... h4!?

 

18. Nc4 Rg6! 19. Rf1 Ba6 20. Kh1 Rxe3! 21. Qxe3?

21. Qd8+ Re8 22. Qd3 Rg4

 

21... Bxe3 22. Nxe3 Bxf1 23. Rxf1 Qe4

and White resigned.

 

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