A Black Fianchetto System in the Open Games

Part One: White Plays c3 and d4

By Michael Goeller

The dream of a universal Black fianchetto system against the open games deserves to be revived. Wilhelm Steinitz showed the way in the 1880s when he played a series of games using a Black fianchetto against the Ruy Lopez, the Three Knights, and the Scotch Game. And the system has been played with success by the likes of Alekhine, Keres, Geller, and many others of the "Russian School." It was probably Vasily Smyslov who is best known for developing the theory of the Spanish fianchetto defense (with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6), which is now widely regarded as one of Black's most solid choices. Why hasn't the fianchetto against other White lines developed as strong of a following? Mostly because there simply have not been enough successful games or usable theory to help players get a handle on the ideas that you need to make the Black fianchetto system succeed.

Black has had success with a fianchetto against many lines in the open games:

Where a fianchetto system is not so successful is against lines where White can play an early f4, such as the Vienna, the Bishop's Opening, and the King's Gambit (of course). But we will examine an alternative system against these lines based on developing the Bishop to b4 instead. So it is wrong to think of this as a "universal fianchetto system" -- but it comes close!

In this first of a planned seven-part series, we examine lines where White plays c3 followed by d4, striving to establish a classical center. This is one of the best places to begin because it helps us see the g6 system as a potential tabiya that can work across various opening lines that are typically treated quite separately in the opening manuals. In subsequent articles, we will look at:

In all of these articles, I will try to look at games across various openings so that we can better see the basic ideas that help to make this into a system.

Game One: Italian Game

Edmar Mednis - Viktor Korchnoi [C50]

Vienna IBM International/Vienna, Austria (2) 1986

GM Edmar Mednis became famous in America with his PBS television commentaries on the 1972 Fischer - Spassky match. He wrote many books before his death in 2002 at the age of 64 (the same uncanny age at which Fischer died). Probably his most popular book was How to Beat Bobby Fischer (1974), which examined every Fischer loss. But serious students of the game recognize his valuable contributions to the study of endgames with his numerous books on "practical" endgame play and his long-running series on engames in Chess Life. The following game, from the second round of the Vienna IBM International Tournament (a nine round invitational swiss with 48 players -- the size suggestive of an open) was the only loss for his opponent, world championship contender Victor Korchnoi, who went on to tie for first with Belyavsky. This may be endgame expert Mednis's quickest victory over a GM, but it is no fault of the opening. Until his blunder at move 19, Korchnoi had easy equality. But the game is one of many where a Black loss has reflected badly on the fianchetto system.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 g6 4. c3 d6 5. d4 Qe7

With White's pawn at c3, the Queen finds a good post here (safe from harrassmant by Nc3-d5), where it can help to secure the strong point at e5. The plan is now to encourage White to close the center, after which Black will generally secure good chances of a kingside attack in King's Indian fashion.


6. dxe5

This exchange, either immediately or after castling, is most challenging for Black in my experience. White does not have to commit to any action in the center just yet, of course, and there are many alternatives. White can put off a decision by castling or playing the often tricky Bg5!?:


a) 6. O-O Bg7 7. d5


In my view, this closing of the center is exactly what Black hopes for in playing this system. White can still delay central action or exchange:

a1) 7. Re1 Nf6 (7... Bg4!?) 8. h3 O-O 9. Nbd2 Nh5! (9... h6 10. Nf1 Nh5 11. Be3 Kh7 12. Qd2 f5 13. exf5 gxf5 14. dxe5 dxe5 15. Qc2 e4 16. Nd4 Ne5 1-0 calvinmaster (2090)-urusov (2140)/Owl21.com 2009 (39)) 10. Nf1 Nf4 11. Ne3 (11. Bxf4 exf4 12. Qd2 g5) 11... Nd8 12. a4 Nde6 13. h4 c6! 14. g3 exd4 15. cxd4 Nh3+!? 16. Kg2 Nc7 17. Bd3 Qd7 18. Nc4 b5 19. Na5 f5 20. exf5 gxf5 21. Qc2 (21. Kxh3! f4+ 22. g4 Qxg4+ 23. Kh2 Kh8 24. Bf1 Bf6) 21... f4 22. Qxc6 Qg4 23. Qxd6 (23. Nh2 f3+ 24. Nxf3 Nxf2 25. Kxf2 Bxd4+ 26. Be3 Bd7) 23... Nxf2! 24. Kxf2 Qxg3+ 25. Ke2 Bg4 26. Kd2 Qxf3 27. Ra3 Qf2+ 28. Be2 f3 29. Nc6 fxe2 30. Rg3 Qxe1+ 0-1 Yudasin,L-Vorotnikov,V/Leningrad 1984.


a2) 7. dxe5 Nxe5! 8. Nxe5 dxe5 9. Qe2 Nf6 10. f3 O-O 11. Be3 Be6 (11... Nh5!?) 12. Nd2 Rfd8 13. Nb3 b6 14. Nc1 a5 (14... Rd7 followed by Rad8 is at least equal.) 15. a4 Rd6 16. b3 Rad8 17. Ra2 Rc6 (17... Nh5) 18. Bxe6 Qxe6 19. Rd2 Rxd2 20. Qxd2 Rd6 21. Qc2 Qd7= 22. Kf2 Nh5! 23. g3 Bf8?! (23... f5!) 24. Ke2 Ng7 (24... Qh3!) 25. Nd3 f6= and White went on to win, but Black obviously missed many opportunities in Dave,D (1990)-Melekhina,A (2088)/Batumi GEO 2006 (56).


a3) 7. Bg5!? f6 (with the f6 advance, Black plans to develop his knight by Nh6-f7; perfectly playable, however, is 7... Nf6) 8. Be3 Nh6 9. dxe5 fxe5?! (it is usually most correct to take with the Knight to reduce forces and protect against dark square attacks: 9... Nxe5! 10. Nxe5 fxe5 11. f3 Nf7=; but not 9... dxe5?! when 10. b4! threatening Bc5 is very strong.) 10. Bg5! Qd7 11. Na3 Nf7 12. Qd2 h6 13. Be3 g5 14. b4 Qe7 15. Bd5 Ncd8! 16. Bb3 Ne6 and though Black recovered from the error in the opening, White went on to win in 1-0 Varga,Z-Zatonskih,V/Balatonbereny 1994 (48).


a4) 7. h3 Nf6 8. Re1 transposes to 7.Re1 considered above.


7... Nd8!

Recommended by Pinski, this retreat seems more precise than the alternative: 7... Nb8 8. Bb5+ c6 9. dxc6 bxc6 10. Ba4 Nf6 11. Re1 O-O 12. b3 Bb7?! (12... Qc7 13. Ba3 Rd8 14. c4 d5!? 15. cxd5 cxd5=) 13. Ba3 Rd8 14. Nbd2 Ne8 15. Nc4 Qc7 16. Qd2 Bf8 17. Rad1 1/2-1/2 Nielsen,U-Bentzen,E/Norresundby 1992 (43).


8. Bb3

Not 8. Bb5+?! c6 9. dxc6 bxc6 and the e6 square becomes useful for Black's Knight or Bishop.


8... h6

Of course, 8... f5!? is immediately possible since the Knight at d8 helps protect the potentially weak e6 square. But h6 is usually a useful move here anyway.


9. c4 f5!? 10. Nfd2!? Nf6 11. f3 O-O 12. Nc3 f4!

White has spent all of his energies protecting e4, so Black by-passes it to attack the base at f3.


13. Bc2 Nh5 14. Rf2 Bf6 15. Nf1 Bh4 16. Re2 g5 17. Bd2 g4! 18. Be1 g3!?

18... gxf3 19. gxf3 Kh8 20. Kh1 Rg8 is also strong, but I wanted to induce h3 so I could sac my bishop there as every King's Indian player likes to do!


19. h3 Nf7 20. Bd3 Ng5 21. Rc2 Bxh3 (also good is 21... Nxh3+! but the bishop sac is more instinctive!) 22. gxh3 Nxh3+ 23. Kg2 Nf2! 24. Bxf2? (24. Qd2 Qd7 25. Bxf2 gxf2 planning Qg7+ etc.) 24... gxf2 25. Nh2 Qg5+ 26. Ng4 Nf6 27. Rxf2 h5! 28. Be2 Bxf2 29. Kxf2 hxg4 30. fxg4 Kg7 (30... Qh4+!) 31. Bf3 Rh8 32. Qe2 Rh2+ 33. Bg2 f3! 34. Qxf3 Nxg4+ 35. Kg1 Rf8 36. Qg3 Rf2 (36... Rxg2+! 37. Qxg2 Qe3+ 38. Kh1 Rh8+) 37. Qxf2 Nxf2 38. Kxh2 Ng4+ 39. Kg1 Qe3+ 40. Kh1 Qg3 41. Kg1 Ne3 42. Kh1 Qxg2# Not a bad attack for blitz play!

0-1 papiro1 (2184)-urusov (2149)/Owl21.com 2009.


b) 6. Bg5 Nf6 (this is fine, but personally I prefer 6... f6! 7. Be3 Nh6=, which transposes to positions that will be examined in more detail below) 7. Nbd2 Bg7 8. Qc2 h6 9. Be3 O-O 10. dxe5 Nxe5 11. Nxe5 Qxe5 12. O-O-O Bd7 (12... Qa5!?) 13. f4 Qe7 14. Rde1 b5! 15. Be2 c5?! (15... Rfe8! 16. Bf3 c6 17. Bd4 a5) 16. Bf3 Rac8 17. f5! Rfe8 18. g4 Bc6 19. g5 hxg5 20. Bxg5 Qe5 21. Rhg1 d5 22. Bxf6 Qxf6 23. exd5 Rxe1+ 24. Rxe1 Bd7 25. fxg6 fxg6 26. Be4 Re8 27. Rf1 Qg5 28. h4 Qxh4 29. Bxg6 Re2 30. Qd3 Re1+ 31. Rxe1 Qxe1+ 32. Kc2 Bh6 33. Bh5 Bf5 34. Qxf5 Qxd2+ 35. Kb3 c4+ 36. Kb4 Qxb2+ 37. Kc5 Qa3+ 38. Kxb5 Qb2+ 39. Kc6 Qb6+ 40. Kd7 Qb7+ 41. Ke8 1/2-1/2 Greger,R-Bentzen,E/Denmark 1994.


6... Nxe5!

Reducing forces and freeing the c-pawn. Black is typically too exposed after 6... dxe5?! to a potential attack by Ba3 after either 7. b3!? or 7. b4 threatening b5 and Ba3.


7. Nxe5 dxe5!

The safest choice, maintaining parity in the center.


7... Qxe5 has been played more often and may also be adequate: 8. O-O Bg7 9. Qb3!

This move seems most challenging. Ludeck Pachman -- one of many older GMs who turned to this system as a way of using their experience and avoiding too much theory -- played two games that show how easy Black has it against alternatives:

a) 9. Nd2 Nf6 10. Nf3 Qe7 11. Re1 Bg4 12. h3 Bxf3 13. Qxf3 O-O 14. Bg5 h6 15. Bh4 a5 16. a4 Qe5 17. Rad1 Qh5 18. Qxh5 Nxh5 19. Be2 Nf4 20. Bg3 g5 21. Bg4 Be5 22. Bxf4 1/2-1/2 Velicka,P-Pachman,L/ Czechoslovakia 1993.


b) 9. Na3 Nf6 10. f3 O-O 11. Be3 Bd7 12. Qd2 Bc6 13. Nc2 a5 14. Nd4 Nd7 15. Rfe1 a4 16. Nxc6 bxc6 17. a3 Nb6 18. Bf1 Qe6 19. Bd4 Rab8 20. Rab1 c5 21. Bf2 f5 22. exf5 Qxf5 23. Bb5 Kh8 24. Qd1 Be5 25. Bg3 Bxg3 26. hxg3 Qg5 27. Kf2 d5 28. Qe2 d4 29. Rbd1 Rfd8 30. Qe4 Nd5 31. c4 Ne3 32. Rb1 Qf6 33. Rh1 c6 34. Bxa4 Nxc4 35. Bxc6 Nd2 0-1 Bastian,H-Pachman,L/Baden-Baden 1985.


9... Qe7 10. f4 (10. Bf4 Nf6 11. Nd2 O-O 12. Rae1 Nd7 1/2-1/2 Nun,J-Klaric,Z/Prague 1990) 10... c6 11. a4 Nf6 12. e5! Ne4!? (12... dxe5! 13. fxe5 Nd5 followed by Be6 and O-O looks viable, since 14. Bxd5 Qc5+ is good for Black.) 13. Nd2 Nc5 14. Qd1 dxe5 15. fxe5 O-O (Black seems fine after 15... Be6!=) 16. Nf3 Bg4 17. Bg5! Qc7 18. Qd6 Qxd6 19. exd6 and White's passed d-pawn caused real trouble for Black, though he managed to draw in 1/2-1/2 Schurade, M-Leiser,S/Landes-Einzelmeister 1993 (42).


8. O-O Nf6 9. Qf3 Be6

Black can also consider 9... h6!? or 9... Bg4!?


10. Bg5! Bg7 11. Nd2 h6

And here, there is nothing wrong with immediately castling 11... O-O-O!?


12. Bxf6 Bxf6 13. Bxe6 Qxe6

Mass liquidation has left a relatively equal position, where arguments can be made for the relative advantage of either minor piece left on the board. Black certainly should not be at risk of losing from this position.


14. Nc4 Bg5 15. b3 O-O-O 16. Rad1 c6 17. Rxd8+ Rxd8 18. Rd1 h5 19. Rxd8+ Bxd8??

Korchnoi clearly underestimated the position and allows a cute winning combination. Black is at least equal after simply 19... Kxd8 20. Qg3 Bf4 21. Qd3+ Ke7 22. g3 Bh6=.


20. Qxf7! Qxf7 21. Nd6+ Kc7 22. Nxf7 Bf6 23. Kf1

Korchnoi resigned, recognizing that endgame expert Mednis would find the remainder an easy task. The Knight cannot be trapped because 23...Kd7 24.h4! creates an escape route via g5, since 24...Bxh4 25.Nxe5+ is winning for White. It's games like this one, with its singular blunder at the end, that help to give g6 a bad reputation!


Game Two: Anti-Ponziani

Anita Gara (2339) - Kim Pilgaard (2426) [C44]

Budapest FS04 GM-B/Budapest (13) 2002

The experienced IM from Denmark chooses an unusual system against the Ponziani Opening of his lovely young Hungarian opponent, and we arrive eventually at a position very similar to those considered above.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. c3 Qe7

With White's pawn at c3, the Queen finds a good square at e7, safe from harrassment by Nb1-c3-d5. Black will play g6, d6, Bg7, Nf6, and O-O with a harmonious development of his forces. Though there are other good ways of playing against the Ponziani, this is one less likely to lead to positions your opponent has studied in depth. After all, why go along with what she wants? Make your opponent play in your territory.


4. Bc4

White need not commit the Bishop so soon: 4. d4!? d6 (4... exd4?! 5. Bd3!) 5. Bd3 g6 6. O-O Bg7 (The Bishop at d3 guards the e-pawn and leaves the c4 square potentially free for a Knight!) 7. Nbd2 Nf6 (7... exd4?! 8. cxd4 Bxd4?! 9. Nxd4 Nxd4 10. b4! followed by Bb2 yields more than sufficient compensation for the pawn.)) 8. Nc4! O-O 9. dxe5 dxe5 10. Bg5 h6 11. Bh4 Rd8 12. Qc2 g5 13. Bg3 Nh5 14. Ne3 Nf4?! (14... Be6=) 15. Rfd1 Be6 16. Bc4 a6 17. a4 Rab8 18. b4 Qe8 19. h4 g4 20. Nh2 h5 21. Nd5 Bxd5 22. exd5 Ne7 23. Qe4 Nc8 24. Ba2 Nd6= and though had equality, Black's game slowly went downhill. I present the remainder without commentary only because of its spectacular ending, which is worth seeing: 25. Qc2 b5?! 26. Nf1 Ng6 27. Ne3 Qd7 28. Bb1 Ra8 29. Qa2 Qe8 30. Bxg6 fxg6 31. c4 Qf7 32. axb5 Ne4 33. bxa6 Nc3 34. Qa3 Nxd1 35. Rxd1 Qf6 36. b5 g5 37. hxg5 Qxg5 38. d6 h4 39. Bxh4 Qxh4 40. dxc7 Rf8 41. g3 Qf6 42. Rd2 Kh8 43. Qd6 Qf3 44. Qd5 Qf6 45. f3 e4 46. Rh2+ Bh6 47. f4 Qa1+ 48. Qd1 Qc3 49. Qd2 Qxd2 50. Rxd2 Bg7 51. b6 Bc3 52. Rd7 Bb4 53. b7 Rae8 54. a7 Bc5 55. b8=Q Bxe3+ 56. Kf1 1-0 Dreev,A-Kamsky,G/Pavlodar 1987.


4... g6 5. O-O Bg7 6. d4 d6


The Tabiya of the Fianchetto System


7. h3 Nf6 8. Re1 O-O 9. a4 Kh8

9... h6 followed by Kh7 secures more squares around the Black King.


10. Nbd2 Bd7 11. Nf1 h6 12. Ne3 Rae8 13. Bd3 Qd8 14. Nc4 Nh5! 15. dxe5 dxe5 16. Be3 Qf6 17. Nh2 Rd8! 18. Qc2 Nf4

White is clearly under pressure, and Black threatens tactics on the Bishop at d3 and on the kingside.


19. Bf1 h5!?

Keeping the Knight out of g4, and preparing the idea of g5-g4. Black might also take a moment to slow up White's queenside counterplay with 19... a5.


20. Rad1 Be6 21. Kh1 Rde8!?

Black surrenders the d-file in order to keep pieces on the board for a potential attack on the kingside.


22. Qc1 g5

Providing additional support for the Knight at f4, since White threatened Nxe5.


23. b4! a6?!

Having chosen not to slow up White's queenside play, Black must now pursue his own chances as vigorously as possible by 23... g4! 24. hxg4 (24. Nxe5? Nxg2!) 24... hxg4 25. b5 Ne7 26. Bxa7 Nh5! (26... Ra8!?) 27. Qe3 Bh6 28. Qc5 g3


24. b5! axb5 25. axb5 Ne7

26. Nxe5! Bb3?

a) 26... Qxe5? 27. Bd4 traps the Queen in the center of the board!

b) 26... Nxg2! 27. Bxg2 Qxe5


27. Nd7! Qxc3 28. e5!? Qa5 29. Nxf8 Bxd1 30. Qxd1 Rxf8 31. g3 Ne6 32. Bd2

32. Qxh5+! Kg8 33. Nf3


32... Qa2 33. Bb4 Re8 34. Qxh5+ Kg8 35. Ng4 Nd5

36. Bc5?

White misses her chance to seal the win with 36. Nf6+!! Nxf6 37. exf6 Bxf6 38. Bd3!.


36... Nxc5! 37. Qxg5 Kf8

The tables have turned again and Black is back with a vengeance.


38. h4 Ne6 39. Qf5 Ne7 40. Qh5 Qd2 41. Ra1 Rd8 42. Bh3 Qd5+ 43. Bg2 Qxb5 44. f4 Qb2 45. Rg1 Qc2 46. Ne3 Qf2 47. f5 Qxe3 48. fxe6 fxe6 49. Rf1+ Nf5 50. g4 Qe2 51. Qg5 Rd1 52. Qf4 Rxf1+ 53. Bxf1 Qe4+! 54. Qxe4 Ng3+

Not a perfect game by any means, but a good illustration nonetheless of Black's chances with the set up I have recommended.


Game Three: Spanish Fianchetto with Bc4

Zsofia Polgar - Vasily Smyslov [C76]

Munich 2000

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. c3 a6!

Putting the question to the Bishop. This move is fairly critical here, as otherwise Black can come under pressure:

a) 4... d6 5. d4 Bd7 6. Qb3!

b) 4... Bg7!? 5. d4 Nge7 6. d5 a6 (with the idea of Na7) was Soltis's suggestion in "Beating the Ruy Lopez with the Fianchetto Variation," but I do not trust it.


5. Bc4

White has two alternatives, which lead to very different types of positions. We will examine these in greater depth below, but here are the basics.

a) 5. Bxc6 dxc6 6. d4 (of course, if 6. Nxe5 Black has two good choices for how to recover his pawn: 6... Qe7 (6... Qg5!? 7. d4 Qxg2 8. Qf3 Qxf3 9. Nxf3 Nf6!?=) 7. d4 f6 8. Nf3 Qxe4+ 9. Be3 Be6!? 10. O-O O-O-O 11. Nbd2 Qf5=) 6... exd4 7. cxd4 Bg4 8. Be3 Bg7 9. Nbd2 Nf6


b) 5. Ba4 d6 (Black has to support the e5 pawn and prepare to block the Bishop's pressure by Bd7. The text position could also arise via the Modern Steinitz Variation with 3...a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.c3 Bd7 6.d4 g6) 6. d4 Bd7 7. O-O Bg7 8. d5 (White's best -- forcing the exchange of light squared Bishops before placing his pawns on light squares. Black is left without his all-important attacking piece, reducing his chances of successfully breaking through on the kingside.) 8... Nce7 9. Bxd7+ Qxd7 10. c4 h6! (Without the light squared Bishop, it's essential to keep the White Knight out of e6. If immediately 10...f5? 11. Ng5-e6 causes Black a world of pain.) 11. Nc3 f5 12. Ne1 (12. Qb3!? b6=) 12... Nf6 13. f3 O-O 14. Nd3 c6! (Black has sufficient counterplay, reminiscent of the King's Indian Defense -- as we will return to below in another game between these opponents.


5... d6 6. d4 Qe7 7. O-O

7. Bg5 f6! 8. Be3 Bg7 (8... Nh6!) 9. Nbd2 Nh6 10. h3 Nf7 11. O-O Ncd8 12. b4 O-O 13. a4 Kh8 14. Re1 Ne6 15. Qb3 f5 16. dxe5 dxe5 17. exf5 gxf5 18. Rad1 e4 19. Nd4 Nxd4 20. Bxd4 Nd6 21. Bc5 Qf6 22. Re3 Nxc4 23. Bxf8 Nxe3 24. Bxg7+ Qxg7 25. fxe3 f4! 26. Qd5 Bxh3! 27. Qd4 Qxd4 28. cxd4 Rg8 29. Kh2 Bxg2 30. exf4 e3 31. Nc4 Bf3 32. Re1 e2 33. Ne5 Rg2+ 34. Kh3 Be4 35. Ng4 Kg7 36. f5 h5 37. Ne3 Rf2 38. Kh4 Bd3 39. Kxh5 Rf1 40. Ng2 Rxf5+ 41. Kg4 Rf1 42. Kh4 Kf6 43. Kg3 Ke7 44. Kg4 Kd6 45. Kg3 Bc4 0-1 Rozentalis,E-Balashov,Y/Voronezh 1987.


7... Bg7



We now have reached a position nearly identical to the opening tabiya seen in the above games, with the only difference being a pawn is at a6 for Black (which can only be advantageous).


8. dxe5

a) 8. Bg5 f6 9. Be3 Nh6 10. Bd5 Bd7 11. Qb3 Nd8 12. Qb4 c6 13. Bc4 b5 14. Bb3 a5 15. Qa3 Nhf7 as in the Rozentalis - Balashov game above.


b) 8. h3 h6 ( Black can also get right on with development here: 8... Nf6 9. Re1 (9. Bg5?! h6!) 9... O-O=) 9. Be3 Nf6 10. Nbd2 O-O 11. Re1 Kh8?! A rather mystifying move, especially since 11...Kh7 is more standard.(11... Nh5!) 12. a4 b6 (12... Nh5! 13. a5 Nf4) 13. Qc1 Bd7 14. Bf1 Ng8 15. dxe5 dxe5 16. Nc4 a5 17. b3 Be6 18. Qc2 Rad8 19. Bc1 Qd7 20. Ba3 Rfe8 21. Ne3 Qc8 22. Bb5 Bd7 23. Rad1 Nb8 24. Nc4 Kh7 (24... Qb7) 25. h4 Bf6 26. Qe2 Bxb5 27. axb5 Qe6 28. h5 gxh5 29. Nh2 h4 30. Qh5 a4 31. Ne3 axb3 32. Nd5 Rd7 33. Bc1 Bd8 34. Rd3 Qg6 35. Qd1 Bg5 36. Qxb3 Bxc1 37. Rxc1 Qxe4 38. Rcd1 Re6 39. Re3 Qg6 40. Nf3 h3 41. Nh4 Qg5 42. Rxh3 e4 43. c4 c6 44. bxc6 Nxc6 45. Qxb6 Nce7 46. Qb3 Nxd5 47. cxd5 Red6 48. f3 and in this complicated situation the players agreed a truce, 1/2-1/2 in Lanka,Z-Korchnoi,V/10th European Team Chess Championship, Debrecen 1992. Black is probably better after either 48...Rxd5 or 48...f5.


8... Nxe5!

8... dxe5!? 9. b3 (9. Qc2 Nf6 10. b3 Na5 11. Ba3 c5) 9... Be6 10. Ba3 Qf6 11. Bxe6 Qxe6 12. Qd5 Qf6= Flear.


9. Nxe5 dxe5!

Just as Korchnoi played in the game above. It is essential to first take with the Knight in order to liberate the c-pawn to block attacks by Ba3 (as in the game) -- and to reduce forces. But Black probably prefers a pawn on e5 eventually in order to maintain parity in the center.


10. b3!? Nf6 11. Ba3 c5

Black plans b5, hence White's next.


12. Bd5 O-O 13. b4?!

Better is 13. c4 Rb8 (13... Ra7!? Flear) 14. Nd2 (14. Nc3 b5) 14... b6 (better than 14... b5 15. Qc2 b4 16. Bb2 Nh5 17. a3 a5 18. axb4 axb4 19. g3 Kh8 20. Rfe1 f5?! 21. exf5 Bxf5 22. Qd1 Bh3 23. Qe2 Rbe8 24. Ne4 Nf6 25. Nxf6 Qxf6 26. f4 Qf5 27. Bxe5 Bxe5 28. fxe5 1-0 Bologan - Akopian, Moscow 2002 (58)) 15. Qc2 Nh5 16. g3 Kh8= Flear.


13... Rd8! 14. bxc5 Nxe4! 15. c4 Qc7 16. Re1 Bf5

16... Nxf2!? may already be playable (Flear says he "can't see anything wrong with it"), e. g.: 17. Kxf2 e4 18. Qd2 (18. Nd2 Bd4+ 19. Kf1 Qxh2) 18... Bxa1 19. Nc3 Re8 20. Nxe4 Bf5 21. Rxa1 Bxe4 and it's not clear whether White has sufficient compensation in his potential attack via the long diagonal with Bb2 and Qd4 etc.


17. g4

17... Nxf2! 18. Kxf2 e4

Now this is definitely very strong, combining attack on the Rook at a1 with a potential kingside attack.


19. Kg2

Black can pursue a king hunt after 19. gxf5? Qxh2+ 20. Ke3?! (20. Kf1 gxf5!) 20... Bh6+ 21. Kd4 Qg3 22. c6 Bg7+ 23. Kc5 bxc6


19... Be6

Now White cannot rescue the Exchange at a1, but Black has even stronger attacking ideas.


20. Nd2 Bxd5

Winning back material by 20... Qa5 is also good, but not 20... Bxa1? 21. Qxa1 and White's attack down the long diagonal looks nearly deadly.


21. cxd5 Rxd5! 22. Qe2 Bxa1 23. Rxa1 Re8 24. Nc4

After the game, Smyslov pointed out that White also loses with 24. Nxe4 Rde5! 25. Nf6+ Kh8 26. Qf3 Re2+ 27. Kf1 R8e3.


24... Rd3! 25. Rb1

25. Nd6 Re6 26. Bb2 Qc6.


25... Qc6 26. Kg1?

This blunder makes Black's task easier, but he is winning in any case due to White's exposed King: 26. Rb6 Qd5! 27. Ne3 Qg5 28. Rb3 Red8.


26... Rxa3! 27. Nxa3 Qxc5+ 28. Qf2 e3!

Another great Smyslov game with his g6 line vs one of the Polgar sisters! The series of "Veterans vs. Ladies" matches contributed a great deal to our knowledge of the black finachetto system in the open games.



Game Four: Spanish Fianchetto with Ba4 and d5

Zsofia Polgar - Vasily Smyslov [C76]

Match (Veterans vs. Ladies)/Vienna, Austria (7) 1993

The aging former champion here employs the anti-Spanish system that bears his name -- as he did a number of times against the Polgar sisters. In contests of youth vs. age, it makes sense for the older player to avoid theoretical battles and stick to the openings that he knows well through long experience. The Black fianchetto system is the perfect choice in such cases.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. O-O

Play will likely transpose after 4. c3 a6 5. Ba4 d6 6. d4 Bd7 but Black does well to develop differently in response to 7. Bg5 f6! 8. Be3 Nh6 (now the Knight heads for f7 but may threaten Ng4 as well) 9. O-O Bg7 10. h3 Nf7 (Black has too much of a lead now in development for White to benefit from exchanging by d5 and Bxd7) 11. Nbd2 O-O 12. Bc2 Qe7 13. Re1 Kh8 14. Qb1 Ncd8 15. b4 Ne6 16. a4 Bh6! (White missed his opportunity to unload his "bad" light-squared Bishop, and now Black unloads his bad dark-squared Bishop.) 17. a5 Bxe3 18. Rxe3 Nfg5 19. Nxg5 fxg5! (Creating a powerful outpost at f4.) 20. dxe5 dxe5 21. Qb2 Nf4! 22. Bd3 Rad8 23. Bf1 Qf6 24. Nb3 Bc8 25. Ree1 g4 26. hxg4 Bxg4 27. Re3 Qg5 28. g3 Nh3+ 29. Bxh3 Bxh3 30. c4 Be6 31. Qc3 Qf6 32. f3

32... Rd4! 33. Qe1 Rxc4 34. Rd1 Qg5 35. Nc5 Bc8 36. Kg2 Rxb4 37. Re2 Rc4 38. Nd7 Bxd7 39. Rxd7 Qf6 40. Rf2 Rf7 41. Rxf7 Qxf7 42. Rd2 c5 43. Qe3 Rd4 44. Rb2 Qe7 45. Rc2 c4 46. Rb2 Kg8 47. Qc3 Qc7 48. Rc2 Qc5 49. Rc1 Qb5 50. g4 Kf8 51. Kg3 Ke8 52. Rh1 Qb3 53. Qc1 Rd3 54. Qf1 Rd7 55. Qf2 Rf7 56. Rf1 Qd3 57. Kg2 Qd4 0-1 Beliavsky,A-Smyslov,V/Montpellier 1985.


4... Bg7 5. c3 a6 6. Ba4 d6 7. d4 Bd7 8. d5

This advance is likely White's best choice, leading to positions that resemble the King's Indian Defense but with White able to exchange off his bad Bishop for Black's good one. However, though White gains something from the exchange of Bishops, Black gains a little time (White loses tempi by c2-c3-c4 and Bb5-a4xd7) and some more room to maneuver his pieces thanks to the exchange.

8... Nce7

The alternative 8... Nb8!? poses different problems for White and seems to discourage the logical Bxd7+ because that hands Black a tempo for development by Nxd7. Yet White should definitely exchange anyway. Here's what can happen if he doesn't: 9. c4 (9. Bxd7+ Nxd7=) 9... Ne7! 10. Nc3 O-O 11. Bg5?! h6! (Bg5 is usually a wasted tempo since Black wants to get in h6 anyway.) 12. Bd2 (12. Be3 f5) 12... Bc8! (Preserving the all-important light square bishop, which any King's Indian player knows is essential to a successful kingside attack. White should have exchanged it when he had the chance.) 13. Ne1 Nd7 14. b4 f5! (Both sides get their attacks rolling, but Black's has the king as its target.) 15. Nd3 Nf6 16. f3 g5!? 17. c5 (17. exf5 Bxf5 18. Qe2 c6!? but maybe 17. Be3) 17... g4! 18. Bb3 Kh8 19. Nf2?! gxf3! 20. gxf3 Qe8 21. Kh1 Qh5 22. Rg1 f4 23. Qe2 Ng6 24. Raf1 Nh7 25. Ng4 Ng5 26. Be1 Nh3 27. Rg2 Bf6?! (27... Nh4!) 28. cxd6 cxd6 29. Nxf6! Rxf6 30. Qc4?! (White still has a chance: 30. Na4! Ng5 31. Nb6! gets rid of the Bishop and corrects his earlier error to save the game!) 30... Ng5 31. Rgf2 Bh3 32. Rg1 Rc8! 33. Qd3 Nh4 34. Bd1 Rg6! 35. Ne2 Rcg8 (35... Ngxf3!) 36. Nxf4 exf4 37. Rc2 Nf7 38. Rxg6 Qxg6 39. Qd4+ Ne5 40. Bxh4 Bg2+ 41. Kg1 Bxf3+ 42. Kf1 Bxd1 0-1 Stoyko, S-Levine,D/Philadelphia 1996 -- a fascinating contest between two well known New Jersey players of the 80s and 90s, which offers a good example of how dangerous Black's "King's Indian style" attack can be.


9. Bxd7+! Qxd7 10. c4

10. Qb3!? c6!


10... Nf6

Black can also consider pushing the f-pawn forward before developing the Knight -- but this does require first playing ...h6 to prevent Ng5-e6. For example: 10... h6 11. Nc3 f5 12. b4!? (12. Ne1 Nf6 13. f3 O-O 14. Nd3 g5!? 15. Bd2 Ng6 16. Nf2 f4 17. b4 Rf7 18. c5 Bf8 1/2-1/2 Khalifman - Short, Moscow match 2001 (48)) 12... Nf6 13. Nd2 a5!? 14. bxa5 Rxa5 15. a4 O-O 16. Ba3 b6 17. Bb4 Raa8 18. f3 h5 19. Nb5 Bh6 20. Qe2 Kh7 21. Ra3 Rf7 22. Rfa1 Raf8 23. a5 bxa5 24. Rxa5 fxe4 25. Nxe4 Nxe4 26. Qxe4 Rf4 27. Qe2 e4 28. fxe4 Rf2 29. Qxf2 Rxf2 30. Kxf2 Qg4 31. Re1 Qh4+ 32. Kg1 Bf4 33. h3 Qg3 34. Ra3 Qh2+ 35. Kf2 g5 (35... c5 36. Ba5) 36. Nd4 (36. Nxc7 h4) 36... g4 37. Ne6 Ng6 38. Rf1 (38. Rg1 Ne5) 38... Be5?! (38... g3+ 39. Ke1 Qxg2) 39. hxg4 Nh4 40. Rg1 hxg4 41. Kf1 Ng6 42. Bd2 Nf4 43. Bxf4 Bxf4 44. Kf2 Kg6 45. Rf1 Bh6 46. Re1 Bd2 47. Re2 Bc1 48. Rc3 Qh4+ 49. Rg3 Ba3 50. e5 Kf5 51. Nd4+ Kf4 52. Ne6+ Kf5 53. Nd4+ Kf4 54. Ne6+ Kf5 55. Ree3 Bb2 56. Re2 Ba3 57. Nd4+ Kf4 58. Ree3 Bb2 1/2-1/2 Kosintseva,T-Yussupov,A/Moscow Aeroflot open 2007.


11. Nc3 O-O 12. Rb1 b5 13. Qd3 b4 14. Ne2 c5! 15. dxc6 Qxc6 16. Bg5 Nc8 17. Bxf6

17. Nd2 Nd7! with the idea of Nc5 and f5 gives Black good counterplay.


17... Bxf6 18. Rfd1 Be7 19. Ng3 Nb6 20. Nd2 Nd7! 21. Ndf1 Nc5 22. Qd5 Qxd5 23. Rxd5 a5


Dark Square Domination


Despite his permanently backward pawn at d6, Black has the better game due to his total domination on the dark squares.


24. Ne3 Rfc8 25. Rdd1 Ra7 26. Nd5 Bg5!

The Bishop slows up White's potential counterplay by f4.


27. a3 bxa3 28. bxa3 Na4 29. f4? Bxf4!

White seems not to have done the basic math here, as Black ends up netting two pawns in the exchanges that follow. But White was slipping into passivity and must have felt she needed to strive for counterplay and exchanges, seeking some drawing chances in a rook ending perhaps.


30. Nxf4 exf4 31. Ne2 Rxc4 32. Rxd6 Rxe4 33. Nd4 Nc3 34. Rb8+ Kg7 35. Nf3 Rc7 36. Rdd8 Re2 37. Rg8+ Kh6 38. h4 Ne4!

Black is already creating mate threats by Rc8+ and Nf2! threatening Rh8#, or Ng6 and f5 trapping the King, hence White's offer to exchange Rooks next. But after that Exchange, White's hopeless situation in the endgame became more obvious and she resigned.


39. Rbc8 Rxc8


Game Five: Spanish Fianchetto with Ba4 and dxe5

Xie Jun (2528) - Vasily Smyslov (2485) [C76]

Flamenco Veterans vs Ladies/Marbella ESP (8) 1999

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. c3 a6! 5. Ba4 d6 6. d4 Bd7

Black now has a Deferred Steinitz by transposition. I have generally looked at games that reached this position via a Smyslov Variation move order with 3...g6, but there is a lot to learn from GM encounters that began 3...a6. Serious students of the game will want to collect games with both move orders for further study.


7. O-O

7. Bb3!? h6?! (Black takes away any tactical ideas White may have had with Ng5, but the loss of tempo seems a lot to pay 7... Bg7 8. O-O Nf6 9. Re1 O-O 10. Qd3 Qe7 11. Bg5 h6 12. Bh4 g5! 13. Bg3 Nh5) 8. O-O Bg7 9. dxe5 dxe5 (9... Nxe5? 10. Nxe5 dxe5 11. Qd5 Qf6 12. Qxb7) 10. Nbd2 Nge7 11. Nc4 Be6 12. Qe2 O-O 13. Be3 b6 (Keeping the Bishop out of the annoying c5 square) 14. Rad1 Qc8 15. Bc1 Kh7 16. h3 Bxc4?! (16... a5! 17. Ne3 f5 18. Bxe6 Qxe6 19. Nd5 fxe4 20. Qxe4 Nxd5 21. Rxd5 Ne7 22. Rd3 Qxa2 23. Nxe5 Qe6) 17. Bxc4 Na5 18. Bd3 c5 19. h4! c4 20. Bc2 Qc7 21. h5 Rad8 22. Nh2 Rxd1 23. Rxd1 Rd8 24. Ng4 Rxd1+ 25. Qxd1 Nb7 26. Qf3 Ng8 27. Ne3 Nf6 28. Nd5 Nxd5 29. exd5 b5 30. Qe4 Qd6 31. Be3 Qf6 32. Qg4 Nd6 33. Qd7 Kg8 34. Qc6 (34. Bc5! Bf8 35. hxg6 fxg6 36. Qc6) 34... gxh5 35. Qxa6 and White eventually won the ending, 1-0 Xie Jun-Vasily Smyslov/Munich GER 2000 (66).


7... Bg7 8. dxe5

8. d5 Nce7 9. Bxd7+ Qxd7 10. c4 Nf6 11. Nc3 O-O (Black already has a comfortable game with prospects of a kingside attack.) 12. Be3 b5!? (also good is 12... h6 13. h3 Ne8 with ideas like c5, c6, or f5 and Black has all the breaks) ( but not immediately 12... Ng4?! 13. Bd2 f5?! 14. Ng5! as White gains the e6 square) 13. Nd2 Ng4! 14. Bg5 f6 15. Bh4 b4 16. Na4 g5 17. Bg3 f5 18. exf5 Qxf5 (Smyslov often plays for dark-square domination). 19. Qe2 Ng6 20. c5 Nf4 21. Qe4 Rab8 22. Qxf5 Rxf5 23. cxd6 cxd6 24. Ne4 Bf8 25. Bxf4 exf4! (Black captures away from the center in order to target the isolated d-pawn) 26. h3 Nf6 27. Nxf6+ Rxf6 28. Rac1 Rf5 29. Rc6 Rxd5 30. Rxa6 Rd2 31. Nb6?! Rxb2 32. Nd7 Rb7 33. Nxf8 Kxf8 34. Rd1 (34. Rxd6? Rxa2 and the b-pawn will win the game) 34... Re7! (Black will double rooks on the 7th) 35. Ra5 h6 36. h4 Ree2 37. hxg5 Rxf2! 38. gxh6 Rxg2+ 39. Kh1 Rh2+ 40. Kg1 Rbg2+ 41. Kf1 f3! (Black uses back-rank mate tactics in order to pick up White's remaining pawns without surrendering any additional ones, after which the two pawn advantage is winning.) 42. Rf5+ Ke7 43. Rxf3 Rxa2 44. Kg1 Rag2+ 45. Kf1 Rb2 46. Kg1 Rxh6 47. Ra1 Rg6+ 48. Kh1 Rf6 49. Re3+ Kd7 50. Kg1 Rff2 51. Rg3 Rfd2 52. Rg7+ Kc6 0-1 Xie Jun-Vasily Smyslov/06, Foxtrot, London ENG 1996.


8... Nxe5

In Offbeat Spanish, Glenn Flear notes that "Simplest for Black is to capture on e5 with the knight, with no problems to equalize, but capturing with the pawn may be worth a try if you want to set your opponent more complex problems." In another game with Xie Jun, Smyslov tried just that:

8... dxe5!? 9. Be3 Nge7 10. Nbd2 O-O 11. Bc2 h6 12. a4 a5 13. Qb1?! b6!? (Smyslov always plays to secure the dark squares before attempting to wrest the initiative.) 14. Bb3 Kh8 15. Rd1 Qe8! 16. Ne1 f5! 17. exf5?! (17. f3 f4 18. Bf2 g5 leaves Black well positioned to attack with g4) 17... gxf5 18. f3 Rd8 19. Nc4 Qg6 20. Na3 Be6 21. Qa2 Bxb3 22. Qxb3 0-1 Xie Jun-Vasily Smyslov/04, Hostdans, Copenhagen DEN 1997, and now perhaps 22... e4!? (22... f4!?) 23. Nb5 f4 was Black's best.


9. Nxe5 dxe5 10. f4 Bxa4 11. Qxa4+ b5 12. Qb3 exf4 13. Bxf4 Nf6


14. a4

14. e5 Nd5


14... O-O 15. Bg5 Qd6 16. Bxf6 Bxf6 17. axb5 Be5! 18. Na3

18. h3? Qb6+ 19. Kh1 Qe3! and White has no good way to stop Qg3 with a powerful attack.


18... Bxh2+ 19. Kh1 Be5

19... g5!? with the idea of Qh6 and Bg3 looks strong.


20. Nc4 Qe6 21. Ra3?

21. bxa6 Rxa6 22. Rxa6 Qxa6


21... Bg3! 22. Nd2 Qg4 23. Nf3 Qh5+ 24. Kg1 axb5 25. Rxa8 Rxa8 26. e5 c6 27. e6 Rf8 28. Rd1

Not 28. e7?? Qc5+ snagging the pawn.


28... Qc5+ 29. Nd4 fxe6 30. Qxe6+ Kh8 31. Rf1??

Black should eventually consolidate and win in any event, but this blunder simplifies the task.


31... Bh2+! 32. Kxh2 Rxf1 33. Qe8+ Rf8 34. Qd7 Qe5+ 35. Kh3 Qh5+ 36. Kg3 Qg5+ 37. Kh3 Qd5 38. Qe7 Qf7 39. Qc5 Qf6 40. b4 Rf7 41. Qb6 Kg7 42. Nxc6 Qxc3+ 43. g3 Qc4


Game Six: Spanish Fianchetto with Bxc6

Andrei Volokitin (2652) - Hrvoje Stevic (2539) [C60]

TCh-SLO/Celje SLO (4) 2004

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. c3 a6 5. Bxc6

This is probably the least troubling of White's options, but the fact that he has three viable replies to 4...a6 highlights the flexibility of the Ruy Lopez compared to the other open games.


5... dxc6 6. d4

As usual in the Ruy Lopez, White gets less than nothing by 6. Nxe5 and Black can recover the pawn with advantage in two ways:


6... Qg5!?

I like this method since it leads to a more unblanced pawn structure. A simpler method of recovering the pawn is 6... Qe7 when Black's two Bishops can come to the fore, e.g.: 7. d4 f6 8. Nf3 Qxe4+ 9. Be3 Bd7 10. Nbd2 Qf5 11. Qb3 O-O-O 12. O-O-O Qb5 13. Rhe1 Qxb3 14. axb3 b6 15. h3 h5 16. Ne4 Rh7 17. c4 Re8 18. Nc3 g5 19. h4 g4 20. Ng1 Ne7 21. g3 Nf5 22. Re2 Nxe3 23. Rde1 f5 24. fxe3 Bd6 25. Rg2 Rhe7 26. Kd2 f4 27. gxf4 Bxf4 28. Rge2 Bg3 29. Rf1 Bxh4 30. e4 c5 31. d5 Bg3 32. Rf6 Be5 33. Rg6 h4 34. Nd1 h3 35. Rf2 h2 36. Rxh2 Bxh2 0-1 Della Morte,P-Diaz,N/Tres de Febrero 2003.


7. d4 Qxg2 8. Qf3 Qxf3 9. Nxf3 Nf6 10. Nbd2 Bh3!? 11. Rg1! c5 12. d5 Bg7 13. Rg3 Bc8! (13... Bd7 14. Ne5! Nxe4 15. Re3) 14. Ke2 O-O Black's greater king safety plays a role in the queenless middlegame that follows. 15. Kd3 Re8 16. b3 b5 (16... Bd7!?) 17. Ba3 Nxd5! 18. Bxc5 (18. exd5?? Bf5+) 18... Nf4+ 19. Kc2 Ne2! 20. Nd4 Nxg3 21. hxg3 Bb7 22. Kd3 Re5 23. b4 Rae8 24. f3 f5 25. exf5 Re1 26. Rxe1 Rxe1 27. Nc2 Rh1 28. fxg6 hxg6 29. Be3 Be5 30. g4 Bd5 31. f4 Bd6 32. a3 Be6 33. g5 Bf5+ 34. Ne4 Kf7 35. Bd2 Rd1 36. Ke2 Rxd2+ 37. Nxd2 Bxc2 38. Ke3 Ke6 39. Nf3 Kd5 40. Nd4 Bb1 41. Nb3 Bf8 42. Ke2 Bf5 0-1 Solomon,S-Myers,J/Brisbane 1995.


6... exd4 7. cxd4 Bg4

I am intrigued by 7... f5!? as Spassky plays in one of the games cited below: 8. Bg5 (Black also seems fine after 8. exf5 Qe7+ 9. Ne5 Bxf5 10. O-O O-O-O= or 8. e5 Be6 and Black can work against the backward d-pawn or trade with c5 to undermine the e-pawn) 8... Be7 9. Bxe7 Qxe7 10. e5 Be6 11. Nc3 O-O-O 12. O-O g5 with good play for Black.


8. O-O

8. Be3 Bg7 9. O-O?! (9. Nc3) 9... c5! 10. Nbd2?! cxd4 0-1 Jakubowski,K-Spicak,K/Polanczyk 2000 (18).


8... Bg7

8... Bxf3?! 9. Qxf3 Qxd4 10. Bd2! gives White too much compensation for the pawn.


9. Nc3 Ne7

9... Qe7 with the idea of O-O-O and Nf6 looks like a viable alternative.



10. Bf4

More solid is 10. Be3 O-O 11. h3 Bxf3 12. Qxf3 f5

Flear suggests what he calls the "cheeky" 12... Bxd4!? 13. Bxd4 (13. Rad1 c5) 13... Qxd4 14. Rad1 Qe5 15. Rd7 Rad8 which at least gives Black a material edge and therefore some chance to win, as in our main game.


13. Bg5 Qd7 14. Bxe7 Qxe7 15. e5 Rad8 16. Rad1 c5!?

Spassky's choice seems too drawish. Another idea is to blockade with 16... Qe6 followed by Rf7-d7 with some pressure against the backward d-pawn.


17. Nd5 Qf7 18. dxc5 Bxe5 19. Rfe1 Rde8 1/2-1/2 Chandler,M-Spassky,B/Vienna IBM open 1986.


10... O-O 11. h3 Bxf3 12. Qxf3 Bxd4!?

Taking the pawn is risky but certainly more interesting than the alternatives at this point. Now 12... f5 13. Be5 fxe4 14. Qxe4 Nd5 15. Rae1 Qd7 16. Bxg7 Kxg7 17. Qe5+ Kg8 18. Nxd5 cxd5 19. Qe7 Rf7= is merely defensible for Black and a likely draw.


13. Rad1 c5 14. b4! b6 15. bxc5 bxc5 16. Na4!

After this move, threatening Nxc5, it is clear that Black will not simply be able to hold onto the material.


16... Qe8!

Probably Black's best try. Not 16... Qb8?! 17. Bh6 Qb4 (17... Re8?? 18. Rxd4! cxd4 19. Qf6) 18. Bxf8 Kxf8 19. Qb3.


17. Qa3 Qc6

17... Nc6 18. Bh6


18. Rxd4!? cxd4 19. Qxe7 Rfe8 20. Qa3 Rxe4

Black seems to have judged this position well, since his passed d-pawn is bound to cause White trouble.


21. Rc1 Qe8! 22. Bxc7 d3! 23. Nb2 d2 24. Rc2

No better is 24. Rd1 Re1+ 25. Kh2 Qe2 26. Qb3 Qxf2


24... Rc8?!

I think Black can be forgiven for having overlooked the win to be had by 24... Rb4!! threatening Rxb2, and if 25. Qxb4 Qe1+ 26. Kh2 d1=Q!! is a highly unusual tactic that leaves Black with a winning material advantage no matter how White responds.


25. Kh2 Re1?!

Black has the right idea, but his specific execution allows for a surprising White resource.


More accurate is 25... Rxc7!! 26. Rxc7 Qe5+ 27. Qg3 Qxb2 and because the Rook is at e4, White does not have the saving Qf4 as in the game. Now to stop the pawn he must try 28. Rc8+ (28. Rd7 Rd4!) 28... Kg7 29. Rd8 Re1 30. Qf3


And now Black wins with a second Rook sac: 30... Rh1+!! 31. Kxh1 (31. Kg3 Qe5+) 31... Qc1+ 32. Kh2 Qc7+ 33. Kg1 Qxd8 34. Qd1 Qd4! with an easy win, e.g. 35. Kf1 Qc4+ 36. Kg1 Qc1


26. Qd3 Rxc7 27. Rxc7 Qe5+ 28. Qg3 Qxb2 29. Qf4! Qe5!

White's double attack on d2 and f7 saves the day. Now Black's only winning chances are in the pawn-up Rook ending he forces with this move. Certainly not 29... d1=Q?? 30. Qxf7+ Kh8 31. Qxh7#.


30. Qxe5 Rxe5 31. Rd7 Re2 32. Kg3 d1=Q 33. Rxd1 Rxa2

Though Black is up a pawn, the ending is theoretically drawn. That's not to say it is very easy for the defender! Those interested in this ending might compare Fedorowicz-Yermolinsky, US Championship 1997, and Lerner - Dorfman, Tashkent 1980, both of which are very well discussed in John Emms's handy Survival Guide to Rook Endings.


34. Rd6 g5?!

This unusual move seems to simplify White's task. Standard practice is to advance the King and the pawns until it might be possible, against weak defense, to make a run to the queenside to support the passer. Now White can force a favorable exchange of pawns.


35. f4! gxf4+ 36. Kxf4 a5

36... Rxg2 37. Rxa6 is a known draw.


37. Ra6 a4 38. g4 a3 39. Kg5! Kg7

39... Ra1? 40. Kh6 actually gives White winning chances!


40. h4 Ra1 41. Kh5 a2 42. g5!

Black is in zugzwang!


42... h6 43. gxh6+ Kh7 44. Ra7 Kh8! 45. Ra8+ Kh7 46. Ra7 Kh8

A most unfortunate draw for Stevic, who had all of the chances throughout the game.


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