Bird Defense Fishing Pole
In Round 6 of the Kenilworth Chess Club summer tourney, I played young Praveen Balakrishnan, a student of Steve Stoyko and clear rising star. For the second week in a row, I found myself sacrificing material for a direct attack on my opponent's king. In this case, I employed what Brian Wall likes to call "the fishing pole" theme: dangling my Knight at g4 for capture in order to open the h-file. My young opponent, who obviously had never been hooked before, gobbled the Knight and went down to speedy defeat. At least it is very unlikely he will ever fall for that trap again.
Praveen Balakrishnan (1958) - Michael Goeller (2040) [C61]
KCC Summer Tourney/Kenilworth, NJ USA (6) 2011
This move is relatively rare but it has a point, preventing Black's liberating advance with d5, as in the line 6. d3 c6 7. Bc4 (the main line is now 7. Ba4! d6 8. f4 f5) 7... d5 8. exd5 cxd5 9. Bb5+ Kf8! with a position rich in possibilities, while also good is 9... Bd7 10. Re1+ Ne7 11. Bxd7+ Qxd7= with equal play.
A favorite of Henry Bird himself, as discussed by Glenn Flear in SOS #12. Black gains space on the kingside, prevents the annoying Qh5, and creates a future for the Rook at h8 in case Kf8 is necessary. The move seems especially appropriate in response to Re1, and I was already thinking about Nf6-g4 to hit the weakened f2 square.
More normal would be 6... c6 7. Bc4 d6 8. d3 Ne7 9. Nd2
Relatively best, but White is already in trouble:
Brian Wall likes to call this "the fishing pole" theme, as the Knight dangles like a worm on the h5 pawn's hook.
Going after the bait! Instead, 10. Re2 might be an ugly necessity.
Not bad but inaccurate. Instead, 10... dxc3! is much more precise: 11. hxg4 (no better is 11. d4 Qf6! 12. bxc3 (or 12. hxg4 Bxd4 13. Qc2 hxg4 14. Nxc3 b6) 12... Qxf2+ 13. Kh1 Be7) 11... Qh4 12. d4 hxg4 13. Kf1 and we arrive by force at the position reached in the game.
Gulp! "Opening the gates of hell," as Brian Wall would say. After the game, Praveen asked if it was a mistake to take the Knight. I replied, laughing, "it's always a mistake to take that Knight!" Throughout the game, I was not impressed by my opponent's work ethic. He had spent only about 5 minutes on the clock to my 20, and he never seemed to spend much time at critical junctures, as here where he could cause me a lot of trouble with 11. Re2 d6 (11... dxc3? 12. d4 cxb2 13. Bxb2) 12. Na3!.
After this, the rest is easy. My opponent went into what was for him a long think before this move -- about six minutes. But if he had found the critical reply, I likely would have ended up losing on time trying to sort out the complications that follow 14. Bb5 when I was planning 14... cxb5!? but would have also had to consider the following options:
Returning to 14.Bb5 cxb5!?:
15. dxc5 b4! (15... cxb2? 16. Bxb2 b4 17. Qd3 a5 18. Nd2 Ba6 19. Nc4)
16. Qd3 g3!! (I had planned 16... a5!? but things are very messy after 17. bxc3 Ba6 18. c4 Qf6 19. e5 Rh1+ 20. Ke2 Qxe5+ 21. Qe3 Bxc4+ 22. Kd2)
17. bxc3 gxf2 18. Rd1 Qf6! 19. Ke2 d5!! 20. Rf1 Bg4+ 21. Kd2
But the chances of me finding all these moves and finishing the attack correctly at Game-60 would probably be slim to none.
White is lost in any event, but I had not even considered this move.
A rare instance when I was not annoyed that my opponent insisted on playing to mate.
Game in PGN
Copyright © 2011 by Michael Goeller