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

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nd4 4. Nxd4 exd4 5. O-O  Bc5 6. Re1!?

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.


6... h5!?

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 O-O 10. Qh5 d5 11. Bb3 a5 12. a4 Be6 13. Nf3 f6 14. Bd2 Qd7 15. h3 Kh8 16. exd5 cxd5 17. g4? g5! (and the annoying Qh5 is trapped by Bf7 and Ng8 etc., forcing White to sac to escape) 18. Nxg5 fxg5 19. Bxg5 Ng6 20. f4 Bd6! 21. f5 Bxf5! 22. Bxd5 (22. gxf5 Rxf5 23. Qg4 Ne5! 24. Rxe5 (24. Qg2 Rxg5 25. Qxg5 Nf3+) 24... Bxe5) 22... Nf4 23. Bxf4 Bxf4 0-1 Kristiansen,J (2430)-Malaniuk,V (2560)/Kecskemet 1989.


7. c3?! c6 8. Ba4?! Nf6! 9. d3

Relatively best, but White is already in trouble:


a) 9. h3? d3! 10. Qf3 Ng4! 11. hxg4 hxg4 12. Qxg4 Qf6 and Black wins, e.g.: 13. Re3 d6 14. Qf3 Qh4 15. g4 Bxe3 16. dxe3 Qh2+ 17. Kf1 Qh1+ 18. Qxh1 Rxh1+ 19. Kg2 Rxc1.


b) 9. e5? Ng4 10. Qf3 d3! is a familiar motif in the Bird.


9... Ng4!


Brian Wall likes to call this "the fishing pole" theme, as the Knight dangles like a worm on the h5 pawn's hook.


10. h3?!

Going after the bait! Instead, 10. Re2 might be an ugly necessity.


10... Qh4?!

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.


11. hxg4?

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!.


11... hxg4

11... dxc3 12. d4 hxg4 simply transposes moves.


12. Kf1 dxc3 13. d4


No better is 13. Qc2 Qh1+ 14. Ke2 Qxg2 15. Kd1 Bxf2.


13... b6!

Without this critical move, Black has only a speculative attack and several pawns for the piece: 13... Qh1+ 14. Ke2 Qxg2 15. Rg1 Qxe4+ 16. Kf1 Qxd4 17. Qxd4 Bxd4 18. Nxc3.


14. Bc2?

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:

a) 14... Qh1+ 15. Ke2 Qxg2 16. Nxc3! (16. bxc3 g3!) 16... cxb5 17. dxc5 b4 18. Nb5 Qf3+ 19. Kd2 Qxf2+ 20. Qe2 Qxc5 21. Qc4 Rh2+ 22. Kd1 Qxc4 23. Nd6+ Kf8 24. Nxc4 Ba6.

b) 14... c2!? 15. Qxc2 Bxd4 16. Bd3! Qh1+ 17. Ke2 Qxg2 18. Rf1 Rh2.

c) 14... g3! 15. Nxc3 cxb5 16. Be3 (16. dxc5 b4 17. Qd3 bxc3) 16... Bb4


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 O-O!


But the chances of me finding all these moves and finishing the attack correctly at Game-60 would probably be slim to none.


14... Ba6+ 15. Bd3 Qh1+

My original intention had been 15... Bxd4! 16. Be3 Bxe3 17. Rxe3 cxb2 for example: 18. Nc3 Bxd3+ 19. Rxd3 bxa1=Q 20. Qxa1 Qh1+ picking up the Queen at a1. But the game line looked simpler.


16. Ke2 Qxg2 17. Ke3!?

White is lost in any event, but I had not even considered this move.

a) 17. Nd2! cxd2 18. Kxd2? Bb4+

b) 17. Bxa6 Qf3+ 18. Kf1 Rh1#

c) 17. Nxc3 Qf3+ 18. Kd2 Qxd3#


17... Rh3+ 18. Kf4 Rf3+ 19. Kg5 Be7+ 20. Kh5 Qh3#

A rare instance when I was not annoyed that my opponent insisted on playing to mate.



[Michael Goeller]

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Copyright © 2011 by Michael Goeller