Free Game Analysis:  Queen’s Gambit Declined

Today’s Free Game Analysis submission comes from Michael Chiflikyan, an up-and-coming Illinois native who has almost doubled his rating from 700 at the beginning of this year.  Although he lost this game against a player much higher rated than him, Michael was able to cross 1400 for the first time after this tournament, so congratulations to him on the milestone!

This game starts off with a Queen’s Gambit Declined through a transposition, a fairly popular line among players of all strengths.  Michael, who has the black pieces, played fairly solidly throughout the opening and middlegame, but a few inaccuracies in the endgame was all it took for his higher-rated opponent to pounce at the end.  Let’s take a look for ourselves.

Kalghatgi (2138) – Chiflikyan (1397), CCC 2017

I was pleasantly surprised when I received this game from Isaac for today’s article, as Michael’s opponent was someone that I had played in a tournament game a few years ago!  As aforementioned, this game starts with a Queen’s Gambit declined, which I have some experience playing with the black side, but probably not as much as others on Chess^Summit.  So, I will attempt to analyze the opening to the best of my ability, but from the middlegame onwards it should be smooth sailing.  You can use the game player provided (from the game title) to follow along or use the text and boards in the article itself.

  1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 d5

Completing the transposition to the 1. … d5 line that has been played maybe a billion times by now.  The Nimzo, with 3. … Bb4, is more popular in this specific position, but the sole explanation for that is because this move order is one of only two realistic move orders to reach the Nimzo, while the QGD position can be reached in many different ways and thus the games are spread out over the database.

  1. cxd5

The exchange variation, which leads to one of the most popular and recognizable positions among QGD players from both sides.  White gets a simple setup with a queen-bishop battery and aims his pieces towards Black’s kingside, while Black will attempt to counter in the center with a c5 push at some point.

  1. … exd5 5. Bg5 c6 6. Qc2
FGA1
Kalghatgi – Chiflikyan – position after 6. Qc2

White will indeed go for this setup.

  1. … Nbd7

This move, along with Be7, is interchangeable, as they will all eventually end up on these squares.  However, an interesting idea that has been tried more than a few times is the move Na6 in this position, which aims to swing the knight over to e6 via c7 and gain a tempo on the bishop.

  1. e3 Be7 8. Bd3 h6

This bishop kick can be helpful, but in my opinion, it’s probably too early for this.  The move isn’t running away, as White won’t move his dark-squared bishop unless he has to.  Notice that White’s g1-knight still has to be developed before White can castle kingside.  It would be better to castle and let White make the decision as to where he wants to go with his last undeveloped minor piece before committing to a move like h6, which can never be taken back.  The reasoning is that when White’s knight is on f3, the move h6 takes away the crucial g5 square from the knight; but, when White develops his knight to e2, this move permanently weakens the g6 square for black, which can become a problem when white plays an eventual move like Ne2-f4.  It also inhibits Black’s ability to clog the b1-h7 diagonal with a move like Ng6.

  1. Bh4 0-0 10. Nge2
FGA2
Kalghatgi – Chiflikyan – position after 10. Nge2

White chooses the correct square for the kingside knight.

  1. … b6

A step in the wrong direction for Black.  With immense pressure from both of White’s bishops, Black’s usual plan in this position is to stuff the b1-h7 diagonal while simultaneously trading pieces.  This is achieved by playing 10. … Re8, which is followed by 11. 0-0 Ne4 when the discovery tactic on White’s dark-squared bishop helps Black.  With a move like b6, Black commits to this path of development for the light-squared bishop, giving White time to build up a center.

  1. 0-0 Bb7 12. f3 c5 13. Bf2 Rc8 14. Rc1
FGA3
Kalghatgi – Chiflikyan – position after 14. Rac1

Up until now, all of the positions in this game have appeared in the database.  But after Black’s next move, the players officially go out of book.

  1. … Re8 15. Ng3 Bf8 16. Rfd1

From an objective standpoint, I don’t really like this move for White.  It’s unclear where the rook belongs right now, but it definitely doesn’t belong on the closed d-file, and it doesn’t seem like the file will be opened anytime soon, especially with Black’s queen still on it.  I would have preferred a move like Qd2, which would move White’s queen off of the semi-open c-file and give more breathing room to the light-squared bishop.  This would also keep the position flexible since it hasn’t become apparent where White should move his f1-rook.

  1. … a6 17. Qd2 Nb8?!

Here, Black should have seriously considered the move c4, temporarily locking the center and going for pawn play on the queenside.  Black can follow up with b5, b4, a5, and if White attempts to counterstrike in the center with e4, it would finally open the diagonal for Black’s light-squared bishop, which has thus far not seen any action.  Instead, Black opts for a knight maneuver that, frankly, doesn’t harmonize with the rest of the position.

  1. Bf5 Rc7
FGA4
Kalghatgi – Chiflikyan – position after 18. … Rc7

Black’s position is in a tangled mess, and White should have struck while the iron was hot with the immediate e4!  which would create further disorder within Black’s camp.  However, White fails to capitalize, leaving Black with an unattractive but surprisingly solid position.

  1. Na4 cxd4 20. cxd4 Rxc1 21. Rxc1 Bc6 22. Nc3 Bd7 23. Bb1 Nc6
FGA5
Kalghatgi – Chiflikyan – position after 23. … Nc6
  1. a3 Ne7?

Another somewhat puzzling move.  Black’s knight is positioned fine for now on c6.  It is, in fact, the f8-bishop that should be brought into the game at some point.  The text move suffocates the bishop and creates disharmony within the position.  A better plan would have been Bd6 followed by Qb8, taking control of the h2-b8 diagonal and eyeing the f4-square.

  1. Nce2?

Missing his chance.  White should have played the practical Qd3! which simultaneously attacks the undefended a6-pawn and threatens Nh5, a move that would create chaos on the kingside with sudden mate threats.

  1. … Qa8 26. Rc3 Rc8 27. Qc2 Rxc3 28. Qxc3 Qc6 29. Qxc6 Nxc6
FGA6
Kalghatgi – Chiflikyan – position after 29. … Nxc6

Let’s stop for a moment and take stock.  In a flurry, the remaining major pieces dropped off the board, and we are left with an endgame where all of the minor pieces are still left on the board, which is very rare.  The black knight has returned to c6, allowing the f8-bishop to finally see light again.  The pawn structure is virtually identical for both sides, with each side having 3 pawn islands, one of them being an isolated queen pawn.  If a couple pair of minor pieces were already off the board, this game would be very close to a draw already.  Yet, this is not the case, so there is still a game left.

  1. Nf4 Bd6 31. Nd3 Ne7

It shouldn’t make too much of a difference, but I do believe that it was important to prevent a piece from invading on e5.  This knight maneuver voluntarily takes a defender off of the e5 square, and just like last time, it is unclear where exactly this knight is going from here.

  1. Ne5 Bb5 33. Bc2 Nd7?!

It’s almost like a mirage about Black’s light-squared bishop.  It seems so wide open and that it controls a lot of space, but in reality, it only has one “safe” square other than the one it is occupying right now, and that is e8.  And, unfortunately, Black probably had to play a move like Be8 in order to safeguard the bishop.  Black must have played Nd7 believing that White had to do something about the e5-knight right then and there, but White capitalizes on this error cleanly.

  1. a4! Bc6 35. Nf5!
FGA7
Kalghatgi – Chiflikyan – position after 35. Nf5!

This is a funny looking position, not gonna lie.  Discussing the geometry of it would be pretty cool, but at that point, we would be going off on a tangent.  In all seriousness, Black is able to navigate the complications and find the best continuation, but White will emerge with the bishop pair in a positionally-superior position.

  1. … Nxf5

Another possible continuation would have been 35. … Nxe5 36. dxe5 Nxf5 37. exd6 Nxd6 38. Bxb6 where White is still slightly better.

  1. Nxc6 Ne7 37. Nxe7+ Bxe7 38. Bd3 a5 39. Bb5 Nf6 40. Bg3
FGA8
Kalghatgi – Chiflikyan – position after 40. Bg3

White is positionally dominating this position.  The bishops rake into Black’s position and there aren’t many useful squares for Black’s pieces.  While this position isn’t completely lost for Black yet, he is certainly losing the thread on the position, as a single misstep will prove costly.  It’s as if Black has to walk a tightrope for the rest of the game.

  1. … Bd8

Only move to avoid material loss.

  1. Kf2 Kf8

Maybe not the best plan, as the king still can’t progress very far.  Perhaps black could have thought about activating the king with g5 and Kg7, but it still doesn’t change much.  What’s unfortunate for Black is that he can’t even kick White’s dark-squared bishop off the h2-b8 diagonal with a move like Nh5 since the bishop can hide with Bb8 and absolutely nothing can touch it.

  1. Bd6+ Be7

This move loses a pawn, although it’s hard to criticize Black at this point.  Moving the king right back to g8 would have saved material, but it doesn’t get Black anywhere.  Even though this would have objectively been the better move, it’s no fun to sit around and wait for your opponent to walk his king over to the queenside and gobble up your pawns.

  1. Bc7 Bb4 44. Bxc7 Ne8 45. Ke3 g5 46. Bc5+
FGA9
Kalghatgi – Chiflikyan – position after 46. Bc5+

White trades into a pure bishop v. knight endgame where he has the superior minor piece and a pawn to the good.  Now, it is just a matter of technique.

  1. … Bxc5 47. dxc5 Nc7 48. Kd4 Ke7 49. Bd3 Ke6 50. g3 f5 51. h3 h5 52. g4
FGA10
Kalghatgi – Chiflikyan – position after 52. g4

Forcing open lines on the kingside and allowing the bishop to penetrate.  With the d5 pawn on a light square and no way for black to protect the d5 pawn and simultaneously drive the White king away from d4 quickly enough, it is only a few moves until White will win more material.

  1. … fxg4 53. fxg4 h4 54. Bh7 Kd7 55. Bg8 Kc6 56. Bf7
FGA11
Kalghatgi – Chiflikyan – position after 56. Bf7

Zugzwang.  White is clearly winning now, so the rest of the game will be provided without notes.

  1. … Na6 57. Bxd5+ Kd7 58. Be4 Nb4 59. Ke5 Nc6+ 60. Bxc6+ Kxc6 61. Kd4 Kc7 62. Kd5 Kd7 63. c6+ Kc8 64. Kd6 Kd8 65. c7+ Kc8 66. b3 1-0

An unfortunate but very instructive loss for Michael, who went on to play a very nice rest of the tournament and gain rating.  There were definitely a few key points that we can take away from today’s game.

  1. Endgames, endgames, endgames! It is perhaps the most important phase of the game, but it is also the least studied. Many games come down to the wire in the endgame, and one has to know as much as possible about the endgame in order to avoid making mistakes in textbook positions.  We saw in this game how one mistake was all it took to take a potential draw into a loss.
  2. Bishop pair – It has been said an innumerable number of times in the past, but the bishop pair has a lot of value to it. In a relatively open position with weaknesses, the two bishops can come to life and can even decide the game in some cases. We saw in today’s game how White’s two bishops together restricted both of Black’s minor pieces and even the king to an extent.
  3. Middlegame plans/ideas – When playing an opening, it is important to know the specific ideas, maneuvers, and plans associated with the opening in the middlegame. In today’s game, we discussed how a common idea is to trade off at least a pair of minor pieces early with the Re8, Ne4 idea. Instead, Black went with a fianchetto of the c8-bishop, which led to a somewhat awkward position later in the middlegame.

Hopefully, the topics we covered today will help you in your future games!  I wish Michael and everyone else good luck in their future games, and, as always, thanks for reading!  I’ll see you next time.

 

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Kostya & Isaac Finish Strong In Reykjavik

Well guys we did it, we finished the 2017 Reykjavik Open AND kept our promise to do a detailed post-mortem after each round. I ended up scoring the best performance of my career, finishing with 7.5/10 — good for Top U2400 and T-6th overall. Isaac stumbled in Round 8 but finished with two wins to close out his trip. I have to say I loved working on this project, it really made for a very engaging tournament experience. Full report coming soon (eventually). For now, here are our recaps from Round 8-10. (warning: only watch if you’re interested in getting better at chess).

In Round 9, unbeknownst to me, I ended up winning the brilliancy prize for a sterling piece of preparation in the King’s Indian. Isaac won a game that he was kind of ashamed of, but still pretty interesting. See for yourself:

In Round 10 I played White against an aggressive opponent and seized my chance to turn the game in my favor. Really nice rook endgame technique from me in this one, should raise your rook endgame ELO by at least 20-30 points! Isaac *accidentally* played 1.e4 and won in style.

That’s all from me for now! Please look forward to a full recap of the event coming as soon as I come to grips to my performance. A lot of things went well for me in this tournament, I should probably figure out what they were so that I can repeat the performance!

Kostya & Isaac in Reykjavik! Quick Tour and Round 6 Games

Hi everyone! Only a few days left here in Europe, but here is a quick tour of the Reykjavik Open tournament hall. We subtely snuck in a clip of Anish Giri in here…

The tournament is nearing its end, I’ve got a 3/7 score, while Kostya tallied a win in Round 7 to reach 5/7, just a half point behind the tournament’s top seed! Here is a quick recap from Round 6!

Kostya & Isaac: Reykjavik Open Rounds 2-4

Round 2 featured two wins by both Isaac and Kostya. First check out how Isaac dominates a Scotch opening while Kostya shows a masterclass on the f3-e4 structure in the Modern Benoni. Very instructive, you will learn about chess by watching this!

After our victories in Round 2, we were both humbled by our higher-rated opponents in Round 3. Isaac blew a promising position against IM Alina L’Ami, while Kostya gets ground down like a child by GM Joshua Friedel. Really instructive analysis on an important aspect of the game — the so-called ‘switch’!

In Round 4 we bounced back from the previous night’s disappointment to win both our games in style! Although, we both used different styles, as you’ll soon find out. Isaac had to outplay a draw-loving 1700 while Kostya had to retake the initiative after earning a lost position with White against a 2100. Enjoy!

Free Game Analysis: Taming the Benko Gambit

With Isaac still slugging it out in Austria, I’ll be doing the Free Game Analysis for the first time. As always, if you’d like your game(s) covered, drop us an email at chess.summit@gmail.com and we’ll be happy to cover your game in one of our future posts!

Today’s game is from Adam Collier, a 9th grader from Western Pennsylvania who just picked up an impressive 100 rating points from the Pennsylvania G/75 U1600 Championship to reach 1254, losing just one game. Overall, he played well against a much higher-rated opponent, focusing on a lot of the right things, but his opponent did well to create complications a pawn-down and turn the tables in some critical moments. Consolidating a material advantage is a very underemphasized part of chess, so there’s a lot for any player to learn from games like these.

Adam provided annotations, so I’ve included some of those below with my own comments. Enjoy!

Adam Collier (1153) – Evan Unmann (1498)

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-3-49-57-pm

Adam: I’ve never played against this before, but I know the ideas.

4. cxb5 a6

Adam: I don’t think taking the pawn here is that good.

Beilin: Taking the pawn is actually the main line of the Benko. Of course, Black has some open lines and development, but it’s not clear that it’s worth a pawn (for what it’s worth, the Benko is probably viewed somewhat skeptically at high level). If White is not that comfortable with the open Benko stuff, 4. Nf3 (instead of 4. cxb5) is a solid way to decline.

5. Nc3 d6

Beilin: After 5. Nc3?! axb5 6. Nxb5, White’s basically down a tempo on many of the 5. bxa6 positions, since Black can kick the knight with tempo with 6…Ba6 or 6…Qa5+; note White can’t play e4. Instead, the game move 5…d6? just allows 6. e4 with a big advantage for White.

6. e4

Adam: I thought about Qb3 or Qa4 here but when I play b6 after Qb3 my pawn is pretty weak, and after Qa4, Bd7 is really good, so I decided to play normal.

Beilin: “Normal” is a good mindset when up a pawn, e.g. play naturally, develop normally, cover weak points, etc. 6. e4 is simple and strong; Qb3 and Qa4 are risky and unnecessary.

6…g6 7. Nf3 Bg7 8. Be2 O-O 9. O-O axb5 10. Bxb5

Adam: considered Nxb5, but I think my Bishop is better there

Beilin: Even more importantly, Nxb5 just hangs the e4 pawn. Fortunately, White played the right move here, but a lot can change in one move – so it’s always important to pay attention to these basic things.

10…Ba6 11. Bxa6 Nxa6

Adam: considered a3, but the Knight on b4 doesn’t really have any good squares after that (good point -Beilin)

12. Bf4 Nh5

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-4-18-26-pm

Adam: he thought about that move for a pretty long time

13. Bg5 Qd7 14. Qd2 Rab8

Adam: completing development and wanting to play Bh6

15. Rab1

Adam: time situation here is 1:02-1:02

15…Rb7

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-4-25-35-pm

16. Nd1

Adam: considered Ne2, but the Knight on d1 has both more and better squares to go to than the Knight placed on e2, AND it protects the pawn again, however it disconnects the rooks, but it’s a small price to pay in my opinion

Beilin: I think White is starting to go wrong here. A lot of players have a tendency to overreact to threats with overly passive moves, without considering the actual benefits and consequences. Here, 16. Nd1 doesn’t actually help White, since it allows the Bg7 to attack b2, cancelling out the knight’s “defense” of b2. And if the knight is tied down, disconnecting the rooks could become a more permanent problem.

So White would have done well to ask himself why (or why not) he had to move the knight and what Black was truly threatening. Note that Black is not actually going to win b2 in the near future; even if White plays 16. h3 and Black plays 16…Rfb8, he’s still safe (and something like b2-b3 is probably on the cards; a2 is a little weak, but Black has to shuffle around quite a bit to attack it.

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-4-41-37-pm

after the hypothetical 16. h3 Rab8

16…Rab8 17. Bh6 Bh8 18. Ng5

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-4-43-46-pm

Adam: aggression is key: also I considered b3 here, but it’s kinda passive.

Beilin: Here, we’re seeing a bit of the opposite problem (playing aggressive for the sake of playing aggressive). White’s clearly intending f4, but this runs into …Bd4+ ideas (typical of many Benko/Benoni games) and more importantly, leaves the bishop stranded on h6.

18…Nc7

Adam: didn’t realize this move had a duel-purpose, I thought that he wanted to bring his Knight to e8-f6 or something, but it actually allows f6 here if he wants because he’s now defending the hole on e6 twice.

Beilin: Or (spoiler) …f5!

19. f4

Adam: again: aggression (time situation is 53-53)

19…f5

Adam: good move I think

Beilin: Major problems await White after …fxe4 (e.g. d5 is falling). This line could have used some calculation!

20. Re1 fxe4 21. Rxe4

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-5-12-17-pm

Adam: I considered Nxe4, but that seems kind of passive.

Beilin: Rxe4 is a big mistake, as 21…Nf6! threatens 22…Ng4 winning the trapped bishop on h6. Thus, White will have to cough up at least an Exchange (note 22. Re3 runs into 22…Bd4). After the (much) better 21. Nxe4, 21…Bd4+ followed by 22…Nxd5 wins a clear pawn with a dominating position.

21…Qf5

Adam: I missed this move, but somehow this move only truly attacks the d5 pawn (which I actually overlooked in game), I actually thought I could move the rook, but it’s pinned to the other rook (kinda funny, you don’t see that often)

Beilin: Missing 21…Nf6 as mentioned above, and White now gets out of the jam with a nice tactic.

22. Ne3 (! – Beilin) Bd4 23. Qxd4 exd4 24. Nxf5 gxf5

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-8-53-34-pm

25. Rxe7

Beilin: White is temporarily up two pawns – emphasis on “temporarily”, since almost every pawn on the board is on the verge of falling. 25. Rxe7 is the more ambitious of the two reasonable options (the other being 25. Rxd4) and as speed-checked with Stockfish, should work out – as long as White keeps the passed d-pawn under control. 25. Rxd4 peters out more simply, though both options should be calculated out in a real game (assuming reasonable time).

25…Nxd5 26. Rxb7 Rxb7

Adam: I considered a plethora of moves here including a4, Ne6, g3, and Rd1, but I went with [Re1].

Beilin: All 5 seem okay (for now), and would probably draw (assuming reasonable play by both sides).

27. Re1 Rb8 28. Nf3

Adam: This is too passive I think (I offered a draw here and he instantly declined).

Beilin: Remember it’s much more important to be correct than active/passive/etc. That said, going after the d-pawn is fine (as are several other moves).

28…d3

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-9-22-25-pm

29. g3

Adam: I don’t want him to take my f4 pawn (time situation is now 20-33)

Beilin: So I think White got a bit worried here because of the passed pawn, and because the a2, b2, and f4 pawns are falling. However, White is already up a pawn and is also on the way to winning the d-pawn(s).

The other possibility is that Black just takes on f4, but White will be able to round up the d-pawn (e.g. kick whichever knight defends d3 and possibly bring the king in) before Black is done taking his pawns. Specifically, after 29. Rd1, 29…Nhxf4 is at least met by 30. Bxf4 Nxf4 31. g3 (31. b3 might be even better) 31…Ne2+ 32. Kf2 Rxb2 33. Ke3 Rxa2 34. Rxd3 followed by picking up the d6 pawn.

29…Rxb2 30. Ng5

Adam: Threatening mate.

Beilin: Again, that shouldn’t be the primary concern here. Adam mentioned that he overlooked Black’s easy defenses of the mate threats, which of course mean White has basically wasted some tempi just to threaten mate while Black is carrying on his original threats. 30. Rd1 was probably best, but 30…Ne3 31. Rxd3 Rb1+ 32. Kf2 falls to 32…Ng4+ picking up a piece.

30…Nhf6 31. Rc1 Rc2 32. Rb1

 

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-9-41-30-pm

32…Nd7

Beilin: Given White’s upcoming tactical resource, one might wonder whether Black can stop the mate some other way and just promote the d-pawn. Indeed, after 32…Nc7! (blocking on e8 if necessary) White has to drop at least a piece (e.g. 33. Nf3 d2) to stop the d-pawn from queening.

33. Re1 N5f6 34. Re7 (!)

Adam: my last hope (also the time situation is now 9-27)

34…d2 35. Rg7+ Kf8 36. Rxd7+ Ke8 37. Rxd6 Rc1+ 38. Kg2 d1=Q 39. Rxd1 Rxd1

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-9-45-57-pm

Beilin: The last few moves have all been forced, and White basically did all he could to get a playable endgame. However, in a 2 vs. 3 situation on the kingside (or even 1 vs. 2) Black should be able to win with the extra Exchange, especially given White’s misplaced pieces.

40. Bg7 Ng4 41. a4

Beilin: I think the last chance for White to put up resistance was 41. Nf3; with the game move Black should pick up the h2 and g3 (and a4) pawns.

41…Rd2+ 42. Kf3 (?? – Beilin)

screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-9-56-04-pm

Beilin: Hopefully White and Black have seen it by now, but 42…Rf2 is mate!

42…Nxh2+ 43. Ke3 Ra2

White stopped notating here and lost in time trouble, but as I mentioned earlier, Black should also pick up the g3 pawn, likely via …Nf1+ and …Ra3 if necessary.


In this game, White started well with solid plans to punish some questionable opening choices by his opponent, and was resourceful to the end of the game. However, in diagnosing White’s problems during the game, one aspect stands out in both the moves and Adam’s commentary – the focus on playing aggressive or passive moves. This brings me back to a point I made earlier that is much easier to state than to apply – one should focus on playing good moves, regardless of how active or defensive they look. Most of us would like to play more active moves, but if you play an “active” move when the position doesn’t demand it, you may be disappointed!

Some of the more “aggressive” moves White played created long-term problems (e.g. misplaced pieces) or met strong responses from the opponent that he didn’t see. So before considering the aesthetics of a particular move, it is more important to realize how the basic tactics work out and what your opponent can do. Having the right priorities when looking for moves will create a stronger framework for game decisions, and make you a better player.

Free Game Analysis: Strategy in the Veresov

img_1397
Even with term finals coming up, I’ve snuck in a few blitz games! Here’s a fun position I got with White… Good luck finding a non-losing for Black!

Without any new tournament games to share with you all for my post today, I was delighted when I recieved a Free Game Analysis request from a strong player in the Pittsburgh area last week. As many of you know, Chess^Summit offers Free Game Analysis to all of our readers, and if you want to join the fun, you can send your game PGNs to chess.summit@gmail.com, along with any questions you may have about the game!

Today’s game was submitted by Pitt teammate Behnam Esymali. Behnam recently crossed 2000 at the Pennsylvania State Championships, and has since proven to be a cornerstone of the University of Pittsburgh Chess team in our local league matches. Off the chess board, Behnam is working on his PhD in mathematics, and writes regularly for the American Mathematical Society Graduate Student Blog (you can check out an article of his here!).

In his game today, Behnam chose the Veresov as White, an opening I discussed extensively for Black in my post about my World Open post last summer. While the Veresov doesn’t really promise any advantage for White, its rarity has made it a good surprise weapon. Even at the Grandmaster level, these 1. d4 d5 2. Nc3 openings have started to gain attention, particularly from Baadur Jobava, the star of the Baku Olympiad.

screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-17-40-00
The focus for today’s post. Does White have anything after the push 4. e3, or does Black get an easy equality? Even without the most accurate play Black got a respectable position.

What I like about this game is that it shows that even if you want to avoid main line openings, you still need to have some theoretical understanding to put together the best blueprint for the middlegame. In this opening, White erred as early as move four and was stuck with an equal position until the early middlegame when Black misunderstood the position and left his king exposed in exchange for a pawn. Moral of the story? Know your openings!