Pozarek's Classic Approach to the Bird Defense from the 1970s

Todd Lunna - Steve Pozarek [C61]

Westfield CC Championship/Westfield, NJ USA 1975


By Michael Goeller

As readers of my blog know, I am a big fan of "flipping the Bird" at the Ruy Lopez. I can trace my fascination with this line to analysis published by former NJ champion Steve Pozarek in the Westfield Chess Club Newsletter circa 1979, where he discussed the classical approach to the Bird -- seen in the following game against longtime Westfield CC member and president LM Todd Lunna. This game is analyzed in Pozarek's co-authored 40 Years of Friendship, 100 Games of Chess (2014).

 

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nd4 4. Nxd4 exd4 5. O-O c6

In later games, Pozarek experimented with 5... Ne7 but he "eventually gave up this line because White gets strong play with an early f4-f5, sometimes in combination with Qh5" he notes.

 

6. Bc4

6. Ba4 Nf6 7. c3 (7. d3 d5 8. Bg5 dxe4=) 7... d3 8. Qf3 d5 9. e5 Ng4! (9... Ne4!? Benjamin - Soltis, San Francisco 1998.) 10. Qxd3 Nxh2 11. Bxc6+ bxc6 12. Kxh2 h5!? 13. Qf3 h4 14. d4 h3!

 

6... Nf6

 










7. c3?!

This is definitely not the best move, and about as good as 7.e5?! d5! which is also fine for Black. The two chief alternatives are:

 

a) 7. d3 d5 (This is what I have most often seen over the board with this line myself, and play is well illustrated by another game of Pozarek's) 8. exd5 Nxd5 9. c3 (9. Re1+) 9... Bc5 10. Re1+ Be6 11. Qb3?! O-O 12. Qxb7 dxc3?! (The right idea, but 12... Qh4! is more precise) 13. bxc3? (13. Nxc3! Qh4 14. Ne4 would spoil Black's fun) 13... Qh4 14. g3?

 










(Better 14. d4 Rae8 but White is still in danger, e.g.: 15. dxc5?? Bc8)

 

14... Bxf2+! 15. Kxf2

(15. Kg2 Qh3+ 16. Kxf2 (16. Kh1 Bg4!) 16... Qxh2+ is the same)

 

15... Qxh2+ 16. Kf3 h5! 17. Re4 Bg4+ 18. Rxg4 hxg4+ 19. Kxg4 Nf6+ 20. Kf3 Qh1+ 21. Ke2 Rae8+ 22. Kd2 Qg2+ 23. Kd1 Qe2# 0-1, Zweibel - Pozarek, North Jersey Chess League, 1975 (23). This game actually arose via 5...Ne7, but the more common move order is 5...c6 6.Bc4 Nf6.

 

b) 7. Re1! d6 8. c3 (8. d3 Ng4 9. h3 Ne5 10. c3 transposes) 8... Ng4 9. h3 Ne5 10. d3!

The positional "book" remedy and probably what should be considered the main line for White against Black's "classical Bird."

 

Correspondence games analyzed by Jonathan Tait (2005) in Correspondence Chess #159-160 (Winter 2004-2005) suggest that White is in real danger after the riskier alternative:

(10. Bf1 d3! 11. Re3

In an old issue of the Westfield CC Newsletter circa 1979, Pozarek had analyzed 11. f4?! Qb6+ 12. Kh1 (12. Kh2 h5 13. fxe5 Bg4 14. hxg4!? hxg4+ 15. Kg3 Qg1 16. Qxg4 dxe5 with the idea of Rh8-h6-g6+) 12... h5! 13. fxe5 (13. Re3 Nc4 14. Rxd3?! Nxb2) 13... Bg4 14. Qb3 Qf2 15. Qxb7 Rd8 16. Rd1 Bxd1 17. Qxc6+ Ke7 18. Qc7+? (18. Bxd3! Bf3 19. Qb7+ Rd7 20. exd6+ Kxd6 21. Qb8+!= draws apparently - ask Fritz) 18... Rd7 19. exd6+ Kf6 20. e5+ Kxe5 21. Qxd7 Qxf1+ 22. Kh2 Bxd6 23. c4 Qf4+ 24. Kh1 Kf6 0-1 Ujtumen,T-Lein,A/Sochi 1965.

 

11... g5! 12. Bxd3 g4 13. Be2

(13. hxg4? Nxg4 14. Rh3 Nxf2! 15. Kxf2 Bxh3 16. gxh3 Rg8!!)

 

13... gxh3 14. d4 hxg2! 15. Rg3

(15. dxe5 Qh4 16. Kxg2 Rg8+ 17. Rg3 Qh3+ 18. Kf3 Bg4+ 19. Ke3 Bh6+ 20. Kd3 Bxe2+ 21. Kxe2 Rxg3 22. fxg3 Qg4+ 23. Ke1 Qxg3+ 24. Kf1 Qh3+ 25. Ke1 Qh1+ 26. Ke2 Qxe4+ 27. Kf2 Qh4+ 28. Ke2 Qh2+ 29. Kd3 dxe5 30. Kc4 b5+ 31. Kb3 Qh4 32. a4 Qc4+ 33. Kc2 Qe4+ 34. Kb3 Rd8 35. Bd2 Rd5 36. Qe1! bxa4+ 37. Rxa4 Qxe1 38. Bxe1 Rd1 39. Bg3 Rxb1 40. Bxe5 Re1 41. Bd4 f5 42. Rxa7 Re7 43. Ra6 Kd7 44. Kc4 Bf4 45. Ra5 Ke6 46. Kc5 h5 47. Ra8 Rh7 48. Kxc6 h4 49. Re8+ Kf7 50. Re1 Bg3 51. Rh1 Ke6 52. b4 Rc7+ 53. Kb6 Rf7 54. b5 f4 55. Ka6 f3 56. b6 f2 57. Rf1 h3 58. b7 h2 59. Ba7 Rf8 60. c4 Kd7 61. Kb5 h1=Q 62. Rxh1 f1=Q 63. Rxf1 Rxf1 64. Bd4 Rb1+ 65. Kc5 Rxb7 0-1 Asquith,J-McLaughlin,K/corr 1997.)

 

15... Ng6 16. Bg4

(16. Rxg2!? Rg8 17. Nd2 Qh4 18. Nf3 Qxe4 19. Ng5 Qe7 20. Nxh7 Nf4 21. Rxg8 Nxe2+ 22. Kg2 Qe4+ 23. f3 Bh3+ 24. Kf2 Qxh7 25. Qxe2+ Kd7 26. Rg3 Re8 27. Qd1 Be6 28. Be3? (28. Bg5) 28... Be7 29. Qf1 Bh4 30. Bf4 Qf5 31. Qc1 Bc4 0-1 Goodman,G-Abram,G/corr 1985.)

 

16... Bxg4 17. Qxg4 h5 18. Qh3 Be7 19. f4? (19. Rxg2 d5 20. e5 Nh4 21. Rg3 Qd7) 19... Nh4! 20. Be3 d5 21. Nd2 Qd7 22. Re1 O-O-O 23. Bf2 Qxh3 24. Rxh3 Ng6 25. f5 Nf4 26. Rf3 Bg5 27. e5 Rdg8 28. Be3 Bh4 0-1 Anderson,J-McLaughlin,K/corr 1997.)

 

10... Nxc4 11. dxc4 dxc3 12. Nxc3 Be7 13. Bf4 O-O 14. Qd3 Be6

Theory now considers White as having a safe and solid advantage due to his pressure against the weak and backward d6 pawn and the potential threat of Nd5!? But the correspondence games of Keith McLaughlin suggest that Black still has some dynamic possibilities:

 

15. Rad1 Qa5! 16. Nd5!?

 










(Black is also ok after 16. a3 Rfe8! 17. Bxd6 Bxd6 18. Qxd6 Rad8 19. Qf4 Bxc4 20. e5 Bb3! (improving on the classic 20... Bd3?! 21. Re3 Bg6 22. Rd6 Re7? 23. Qa4! Qc7 24. Qxa7 h6 25. Qc5 1-0 Matanovic,A-Gliksman,D/Kraljevo 1967 (42).) 21. Rxd8 Rxd8 22. Re4 c5 23. Re2 Qb6 24. Qe3 Bc4 25. Rd2 Rd4! 26. b4 Rxd2 27. Qxd2 cxb4 28. Qd7 Kf8!? (28... h5! 29. Qc8+ Kh7 30. Qxc4 bxc3 31. Qxc3) 29. axb4 Be6 30. Qd2 h6 31. Na4 Qc7 32. Nc5 b6 33. Na6 Qd7 34. Qc3 Qd1+ 35. Kh2 Qa4 36. Nc7 Bf5? (36... Qd7=) 37. Nd5?! (37. Qf3!) 37... Qc2 38. Kg3 Qxc3+ 39. Nxc3 a5 40. bxa5 bxa5 41. Kf4 Bd7 42. Ke3 Ke7 43. Kd4 Ke6 44. f4 Bc6 45. g4 Bg2 46. f5+ Kd7 47. Nd5 Bxd5 48. Kxd5 a4 49. Kc4 Kc6 50. h4 a3 51. Kb3 Kd5 52. g5 hxg5 53. e6 fxe6 54. f6 gxf6 55. h5 g4 56. h6 g3 57. h7 g2 58. h8=Q g1=Q 59. Qxf6 Qe3+ 60. Ka2 e5 61. Qf7+ Ke4 62. Qh7+ Kf3 63. Qh3+ Ke2 64. Qg2+ Kd1 65. Qh1+ Kc2 66. Qc6+ Qc3 67. Qg6+ Qd3 68. Qc6+ Kd2 69. Qh6+ Qe3 70. Qd6+ Ke2 0-1 Micklethwaite,M-McLaughlin,K/corr UK 1996.)

 

16... Bh4! (16... cxd5? 17. exd5 Qxa2 18. b3!) 17. g3 cxd5 18. exd5 (18. cxd5 Bxh3 19. gxh4 Bg4 20. Ra1 f5 Tait) 18... Bxh3! 19. gxh4 Bg4 20. f3 (20. Ra1 Rfe8 Tait) 20... Qc5+ 21. Kg2 (21. Be3 Qc8 22. fxg4 Qxg4+=) 21... Bd7 22. b4 Qxb4 23. Rb1 Qc5 24. Rxb7 Bc8 25. Rb5 Qc7 26. Qb3 Qd8 27. Qc2 a5 28. Qc3 Qxh4 29. Bg3 Qd8 30. c5 Ba6 31. Rb6 dxc5 32. Rd6 Qg5 33. Re5 f5 34. Kf2 a4 35. Rd7 Qf6 36. d6 Rab8 37. Ra7 f4 38. Bxf4 h6 39. Kg2 Rb4 0-1 Anderson,J-McLaughlin,K/corr 2001.

 

There may be some more recent games in this line, but it looks like Black is doing surprisingly well. If Black can do well in correspondence, then this line should be totally fine for amateurs to try out over the board.

 

7... Nxe4 8. Re1 d5 9. d3 Be7

9... Be6 10. dxe4 dxc4 11. cxd4

 

10. dxe4 dxc4 11. cxd4 O-O 12. Be3?!

 










Better was 12. Nc3 b5 when the position is unclear.

 

12... f5! 13. f3 f4

13... fxe4 14. fxe4 Be6

 

14. Bf2 Bb4 15. Re2

15. Nc3 Qg5

 

15... Qg5 16. Be1 Bd6?!

"For some reason I wanted to provoke e5" writes Pozarek. Better 16... Be7 17. Nc3 Be6.

 

17. e5 Be7 18. Nd2 Be6 19. Rc1 b5 20. b3 cxb3 21. axb3 Bd5 22. Ne4 Qg6 23. Ra1 Qf7 24. Ra6?

"An error. White should not surrender the b-pawn" writes Pozarek.

 

24... Bxb3 25. Qa1 Qc4 26. Kf2 Qd3 27. Nd2

"When White gave up the b-pawn, he must have expected to win back Black's a- or c- pawn. But now because of the threat of 27...Bc4 he has time to take neither of them" notes Pozarek.

 

27... Bd5 28. Rxa7 c5

28... Rxa7! 29. Qxa7 Bb4

 

29. e6? Rfe8

29... Bf6! Pozarek

 

30. Kf1 cxd4 31. Qa6 Bc5 32. Rxa8 Rxa8 33. e7 Bxe7 34. Qb6 Re8 35. Qc7

 










35... Qxe2+!

Objectively better was 35... Bd8 notes Pozarek. But White now resigned as he is completely lost following 36.Kxe2 Bd6+ winning back the Queen and remaining a Rook ahead.

0-1

[Michael Goeller]

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Game in PGN

Bibliography

Conover, Wayne, Steve Pozarek, and Eugene Salomon (2014). 40 Years of Friendship - 100 Games of Chess, Robert Salomon at SmashWords.

Tait, Jonathan (2005). "William Mason BCCA Championship 2002/2003." Correspondence Chess #159-160 (Winter 2004-2005): 22-34.

I have also posted bibliographies on the Bird in 2008 and 2013.

Copyright © 2014 by Michael Goeller