the current US Senior Champion, took a seat on the second board to face Cuban GM Elier Miranda Mesa,
born in 1993, in the seventh round of the XVI CAMPEONATO CONTINENTAL ABSOLUTO DE AJEDREZ DE LAS AMERICAS 2023. Next to him on first board sat the winner of the 2021 US Senior, Gregory Kaidanov, who squared off against GM Yago De Moura Santiago, of Brazil, born in 1992. Unfortunately for Kaidanov, the clock struck midnight and time ran out on the Senior when he lost.
Meanwhile, Shabba played the game of the tournament, maybe the year, decade, or possibly the century! GM Shabalov showed the young’uns, and even the old’uns, and everyone in between, how Chess should be played! If everyone played Chess like Shabba there would be no need to institute rules requiring a certain number of moves be made before a draw offer is allowed.
I was fortunate to be able watch the action and was riveted to the screen for many hours, most of which, after the Kaidanov game ended, was focused on the Shabba game. When it ended I felt drained. It was almost as if I had taken part in the game. This writer was fist pumpin’ while yelling, “YES!” or, “Take that, KID!” Then there were the “Oh no, Mr. Bill,” moments.
I will only give the game score, while STRONGLY URGING you to play over the game on a real board with pieces that can be held in your hand. Please replay the game with only your thoughts the first time, just to get a ‘feel’ for the game. Then replay it again while taking notes and writing down your thoughts. Only then should you input it into your particular Chess program, or replay it at lichess.org (https://lichess.org/broadcast/american-continental-chess-championship-2023/round-7/EGYlqWMt). You can thank me later…
The move 8…f6 was not to be found at 365Chess.com, but the Chessbase Database does contain five games in which the move was played.
KUDOS TO GRANDMASTER ALEXANDER SHABALOV! Obviously I have fallen into Shabalove…
GM Alexander Shabalov vs GM Elier Miranda Mesa American Continental Chess Championship 2023 Caro-Kann Defense: Advance Variation, Short Variation
The recent weather has seen dark and cloudy skies with periods of rain making it dark and dreary, which means perfect weather for watching Chess! Yesterday afternoon this writer/spectator sat glued to the screen watching two American Seniors, the Kentucky Lion, Gregory Kaidanov,
and Shabba Dabba Do, aka, Alexander Shabalov,
battle their opponents in the American Continental Chess Championship 2023. The game between Grandmasters Gregory Kaidanov and Alder Escobar Forero was the first to end. This was the final position after the players prematurely agreed to a draw:
It should be obvious white has an advantage. You know it, I know it, and Stockfish ‘knows’ it, too. It is incumbent upon the player of the white pieces to at least make an attempt to win the game, but, for whatever reason, Colombian GM Alder Escobar Forero decided to gift his opponent a Grandmaster draw. THIS IS WHAT IS WRONG WITH CHESS! These premature draw eruptions with a board full of pieces are killing the Royal Game. If only 1/4 point were awarded to each player for making a draw do you think this game would have been agreed drawn?
Oh well, at least my attention could be turned to the Shabba game, in which The US Senior Champ played The Najdorf. Regular readers know how much I love the venerable Najdorf variation even if it was left behind long ago. You never forget your first love… I will admit to living vicariously through Shabba yesterday because, as David Spinks, or Big Bird, as he was called by some habitués of the Atlanta Chess Center, aka, the House of Pain, was fond of saying, “You gotta pull for SOMEBODY, man!” (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2020/04/19/im-boris-kogan-versus-expert-david-spinks/) This spectator was living and dying in real time with Shabba. The analysis feature was not on as I sat their exercising my brain when deciding on the move I would make. Speaking of making something, my last cuppa Joe was percolated while spectating, so I was sippin’ the coffee while living vicariously.
GM Cristobal Henriquez Villagra (2616) vs GM Alexander Shabalov (2480) American Continental Chess Championship 2023 B90 Sicilian, Najdorf, Adams attack
There was no doubt that white came out of the opening with an advantage and was in the drivers seat after 12 Qh5.
I was actually pleased to see Shabba answer with 12…g6 because that was my choice. Unfortunately, later the Stockfish program disabused me of that notion, showing 12…0-0 as best. Now that is what you call “castling into it.” This is one of the reasons I was so fond of playing The Najdorf ‘back in the day’. Every game was like being on the knife’s edge.
15…Rg8 was not on my radar. Later it was learned two games, given below, had been contested with 15…Rf8. This spectator was contemplating 15…Qc7, with a view toward castling Queenside. Stockfish simply plays 15…Rc8. “Why did I not even consider the move?” I was asking myself later… I was expecting 17 f4, for obvious reasons, but the GM decided to move his Rook to d1, which was another move not on my radar…
When GM Forero played 18 Rh7 Stockfishy says the advantage was now with Shabba. SF says, “Inaccuracy. Bc1 was best.” If that’s the case, then why is there an arrow showing the best move being Rh4?! Inquiring minds wanna know. If you know, or if you know someone, anyone, who knows, then please leave a comment because this inquiring mind wants to know… Whatever… Shabba then sacked the exchange with 18…Rxc3, and the fight was ON! Yes, SF, too, woulda sacked the Rook…
I was expecting 19…Bxe4 and was flummoxed with Shabba’s choice of 19…Qc7. According to the Fish, the game was now even, Steven. In Chess one is either learning, or dead.
Once again GM Forero had a chance to move the pawn to f4, attacking the proud steed ensconced on e5, but chose to play 20 Bf4, yet another move not consider by this spectator… At this point this squirrel did actually consider the move given as best by the silicon monster, 20…Nc4, but rejected it in favor of the move made by Shabba, Bishop takes Pawn on e4.
GM Forero then sacrificed his Knight on b5 when playing 21 Nxb5, and there was then blood all over the board, and the pieces, while drippin’ over the sides of the board. This viewer was LOVIN’ Chess LIFE! This is the way Chess was meant to be PLAYED! The Fish would have simply played 21 a4…
With 33 Kb4 GM Forero let go of the rope with one hand…
When playing 35 Rh4?! the GM let go of the rope with the other hand… White was sooooooooooooo BUSTED! In addition, the General of the white army was low on time. ‘Back in the day’ one would have felt comfortable wagering his net worth on a win for the Black pieces. Unfortunately, those daze are gone…
With the ill chosen RED MOVE of 36…e3?? (“Blunder. Nd3 was best.” Stockfish) Shabba jettisoned much of his advantage. Then he stepped into it with the other foot by playing 37…Nd3?! (Inaccuracy. Rc8 was best.) The game ended with a repetition. Shabba let that fish offa the hook.
Continuing with the series on the Najdorf we now come to those much lesser played sixth moves. 365Chesss.com shows only 482 games having been contested with 6 Rg1, which has scored remarkably well, albeit in a very limited sample size. There is no pretense with 6 Rg1. White immediately signals his intention to ATTACK! White gives up castling on the kingside in order to thrust his g-pawn forward. It is ‘Cave man’ Chess at it’s finest.
MVL is todaze leading exponent of the Najdorf Sicilian. Since he is an inveterate 1 e4 player he must face his favorite opening, which was something I was loath to do, so I played the Closed variation of the Sicilian Defense.
During the recent US Chess Championships hosted by the St. Louis Chess Campus Grandmaster Yasser Seirawan
mentioned something about Alexander Shabalov
wanting him to consider playing for the US team at the World Senior Championship. Yasser said he did not want to spend the untold hours it would take studying openings, but that he would consider playing in a Fischer Random, aka Chess960, type tournament because a player must create his own theory. From the interviews of the young players participating in the US Chess Championships it was obvious they come prepared with computer program generated lines that extend into the middle game. There is no longer any human creativity in Chess. The human players simply copy what the strongest computer Chess programs create.
I never understood what is called “Fischer Random Chess.” The game begins with a position chosen by a COMPUTER. I would prefer “Armchair Warrior Random Chess.” The game would begin with two players facing each other behind a board with only pawns on the second rank of each side of the board. White would make the first move, the Black would answer with the next two moves. Then it would continue with White placing a piece, followed by Black placing a piece until all the pieces have been placed on the board. The best thing about AWRC is there is no need for a computer to determine the initial set-up of the pieces. Think about it…the power goes out and you can still play some kind of random Chess.
Hikaru Nakamura Wins 2022 Fisher Random World Championship
What, exactly, is Naka holding? The first thought after seeing the above picture was of something my friend, Ron “Lieutenant Shoulders” Sargent said about performing when the game is on the line and “that little lump of shit gets caught in your throat.” Whatever it is, a sculpture made of lava stone says the article, congratulations to Hikaru Nakamura on his deserved World Championship, because in many ways it is more meaningful than the actual World Chess Championship, at least according to GM Yasser Seirawan, and this writer.
In the last round of the recently completed Denker Invitational FM Jason Wang
faced IM Arthur Guo with a first place on the line. Arthur was a half point ahead of the contenders, one of whom was Jason Wang. After move forty it looked as though the game would end in a draw after the position was repeated, but Arthur eschewed the draw when playing 43…Nf6 in lieu of returning the knight to h5. FM Wang then blundered by playing 44 Kg1? This allowed Arthur to take a pawn with impunity while attacking the white Queen. I thought the game was over because the two passed pawns will devastate white in the long run. This is the position:
It was more than a little obvious Arthur would play 46…Rc7 because every Chess player knows that ROOKS BELONG BEHIND PASSED PAWNS. I had a heart palpation after seeing Arthur’s next move of 45…Bd6. The Stockfish program at Lichess.com gives the move not one, but two question marks. The move is so bad it defies comprehension. What could have caused such a budding star to make such a horrible move? I decided to put the game up to after white played 46 Qc2 into the analysis program at Lichess.com and this is best play by Stockfish after 45 Qc2:
Winning a won game is difficult, and like Ringo sang, “It don’t come easy.” Almost every day at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center one would frequently hear, “I blew a WON GAME.” or, “If only I had won more WON GAMES I would be a Master (or Expert, or class A, etc. player).”
After reading the following at ChessLifeOnline in an excellent article by JJLang, dated August 3, 2022, understanding was found:
Following the old tiebreak adage of ‘lose last, laugh last,’ tournament leader Georgia’s IM Arthur Guo drew his final game against Ohio’s FM Jason Wang to win first place on tiebreaks. By not losing any games, Guo had stronger pairings throughout the tournament than his rivals, meaning tiebreaks would likely come out in his favor were he to draw his final game. Indeed, after failing to find anything concrete on the attacking side of a sharp Ragozin, Guo took the draw and, fortunately for him, the math played out in his favor. https://new.uschess.org/news/day-4-rancho-mirage-invitationals-end-6-day-begins
Therein lies the problem. It is not as if there are not enough draws in Chess these daze. Now the pooh-bahs have made rules that only INCREASE the likelihood of a draw! Arthur needed only a DRAW to “WIN” the event. The fact is that Arthur did NOT win the tournament! He finished in a THREE WAY TIE for FIRST PLACE! The three players each scored the same number of points, five. Reading further in the aforementioned article one finds: “Northern Californian GM Andrew Hong and Arizonian FM Sandeep Sethuraman each won their final round games to finish second and third, respectively, on tiebreaks.” Simply put, that is a crock of excrement! As it stands now, tiebreaks are MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE RESULT OF THE GAME! What if there had been a three-way tie for first place? That would mean at least three times as much publicity for the Royal Game because the publicity director (USCF has a publicity director, does it not? If not, why not?!) could have articles on all three of them in local newspapers and on local TV news programs in three different cities. This ain’t the Highlander, where there can be only ONE!
The same could be said for the recently completed US Senior, where there was a FIVE-WAY TIE! Unfortunately, the brain trust at the USCF decided to have a souped-up heebe-jeeb speed tournament after the conclusion of almost TWO WEEKS of playing what now passes for classical Chess. The playoff was not the next day, but only a short time after the players had spent at least five hours playing over the board. We are talking about SENIORS here, ladies and gentlemen. Why does USCF FORCE Seniors to play nerve-wracking speed games but not force the JUNIORS to do the same? As a Senior I can tell you that a speed tournament to determine the “winner” was much more difficult on the Seniors than it would have been on the Juniors. My hat is off to GM Alexander Shabalov for winning the speed tournament, but he won more than TWICE AS MUCH MONEY as the other four for winning a SPEED TOURNAMENT! ‘Back in the day’ tournaments held five minute speed tournaments as an ancillary event, not the main event. The fact that there were tiebreaks irrevocably altered the Denker event, as it does every event in which it is used. Because of the plethora of draws Chess is unlike Go or Backgammon, where there is only ONE WINNER! Just sayin’…
It is the much needed rest day at the St. Louis Chess Campus which means time for the AW to put together a post. Much time has been spent the past five days watching the excellent coverage of the three ongoing tournaments. Having three Grandmasters use the Stockfish “engine” at Lichess.com does seem somewhat superfluous. I can access the SF program at Lichess.com without watching and listening to the GMs pontificate, but then I would miss the wonderful anecdotes, stories and tales related by Yasser Seirawan,
which are worth the price of admission. Still, I cannot help but wonder why Yaz does not play in the event?
It is difficult to comment on the play of the players because of the abnormality of playing during a pandemic. Some players have scraped off some the rust by playing recently while others are covered with the crusty brown stuff. In addition, it is apparent some of the players are not ready for prime time. An example would be that of International Master Igor Khmelnitsky
in the third round when facing GM Max Dlugy
in the seldom played D00 Queen’s pawn, Mason variation, Steinitz counter-gambit. After 1. d4 d5 2. Bf4 c5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e4 dxe4 5. dxc5 the IM played what the Stockfish program at Lichess.com call a “blunder” 5…Bg4?? The move appears to be a theoretical novelty, and not a good one. After playing the move Stockfish considers white to have a won game. It was no surprise when Igor went down…
IM Carissa Yip
is playing with the boys in the US Junior in lieu of playing in the US Girls Junior and it has not turned out well for the girl, who has drawn two games while losing three, and is in last place, one half point behind Pedro Espinosa,
to whom she lost yesterday. Pedro is the lowest rated competitor in the tournament, sporting a 2130 rating, almost three hundred points less than Carissa. One cannot help but wonder what she is doing playing with the back in town boys when there is a separate tournament for the girls.
The US Junior girls tournament is far weaker since at least one of the girls who took Carissa’s place in the event has shown she is not ready for prime time. The event would have been much more interesting had Carissa played with the girls. This begs the question of why there is a completely separate tournament for the girls? Chess would be much better if there were only tournaments in which everyone, if qualified, could play. Wait a minute, you say, that is the way it is currently. Chess tournaments are open to all, so why segregate female players? Segregation says women are inferior to men, which is the reason female tournaments are open only to women.
Consider the following position emanating from the third round game between Ellen Wang
and Jennifer Yu:
The question is whether Jennifer Yu should play 31…Rg3? Would YOU play the move? Would I play the move? In this kind of position it is virtually impossible for a human, even a Grandmaster, to calculate all the possibilities, which is where the computer program has a distinct advantage over we humans. This is the kind of position in which humans must use intuition to discover the best move. After 31 Rb2 Jennifer had eighteen minutes remaining to reach move 40. She used about half of her remaining time to make her move. For those of you who have not seen the game it can be found here, along with the answer to the question of how much Jennifer Yu trusted her Chess intuition (https://lichess.org/broadcast/us-girls-junior-championship-2022/round-3/EnME23UK)
In the first round GM Joel Benjamin had the white pieces versus GM Alexander Shabalov, who had recently competed in the World Open and must have been tired and it has shown in his tepid play. Shabba is, after all, a Senior, and Seniors require more rest than juniors, or even middle-aged players. The following position was reached early in the game:
In the last round of the recently concluded Carolinas Classic GM Daniel Naroditsky faced IM Dean Ippolito.
Both players had won three games and drawn one for a total of 3 1/2 points. They were in a must win situation because GM Elshan Moradiabadi had won his first four games and taken a half-point bye in the last round. Say what?! The dude was given a 1/2 point bye in THE LAST ROUND! Say what?! For those of you new to the Royal game, the half-point bye began many decades ago when three games, usually with a time control of 40 moves in two hours, would be taken in the third round, which was the third game to be played on Saturday. Some players would take a half-point bye in the first round, with others taking a half-point bye in the fourth round in order to attend church. As the Legendary Ironman of Georgia Chess so eloquently put it once, “When I’m sitting at the board on Sunday morning I am in my church.” The excretory awarding of a half-point bye for not playing the last round game is abhorrent and should never, ever have been allowed. The awarding of a free half-point bye in the last round blasphemes Caissa and should be abolished. If a player cannot, or will not play in the final round for any reason he should be given the result he deserves, a ZERO! The games are played earlier in the tournament to arrive at the final round. It is, obviously, the most important round of the event. The awarding of a half-point for not playing the last round should never have been allowed, and it being allowed speaks volumes about those in charge of Chess these daze…
GM Naroditsky defeated IM Dean Ippolito easily when the latter played like a complete beginner by bringing out his Queen early in the game, then later retreated the Lady for no reason, and it was all over but the shouting after that ill-fated move.
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 (Although Stockfish 14.1 plays this move, SF 15 will play the most often played move, 3 Nxe5) 3…Nxe4 4.Bd3 (The most often played move, and the choice of SF 14.1, @depth 55, but SF 150007 @depth 55 will play 4 Nxe5, expecting 4…d5 5 Bd3. Then again, at the same depth SF 150007, the James Bond of programs, also shows 4 Bd3 d5 5 Nxe5) 4…d5 5.Nxe5 Nd7 6.Nxd7 Bxd7 7.O-O Qh4 (SF 14 @depth 53 will play 7…Bd6, by far the most often played move, but SF 280322 will play 7…Be7, a move that has appeared in only 127 games while holding white to 62% versus 2462 opposition. In 817 games 7…Bd6 has held white to 57% against 2465 opposition. In 291 games against 2409 opposition the move played in the game, 7…Qh4 has allowed a theoretical opponent rated 2409 to score 70% in 291 games. This was the last round game and IM Dean Ippolito was rated 240 points below GM Naroditsky, rated 2695, so maybe the lower rated IM felt he needed to pull a rabbit out of his whatever, but how could any Chess player with any four digit rating advocate any player in his right mind play a move like 7…Qh4?
Imagine you were giving a young student a lesson when they suggested a move like 7…Qh4? How would you respond? That is exactly my point. I knew, you knew, and GM Naroditsky knew IM Ippolito was going down after bring out the Queen that early. What? You think you are going to trick a player about to enter the elite world of 2700 rated Grandmasters by playing a second rate Chess move? Dude shoulda played a solid, “seemple” move, as IM Boris Kogan was so fond of saying, like 7…Bd6, and maybe have a shot at drawing the game. The move is so ridiculous that a Chess teacher would excoriate a student unmercifully for playing such a poor move. I lost interest in the game after seeing this move, and you have probably lost interest in this post…and I do not blame you!) 8.c4 O-O-O 9.c5 g6 (The most often played move has been g5, with 151 games showing at the ChessBaseDataBase, against which white has scored 67%. In the 53 games with 9…g6 having been played white has scored 75%) 10.Nc3 Bg7 11.Bxe4 (The CBDB contains 23 games with 11 g3; 15 with 11 Ne2; 6 with 11 Be2; and only 2 with the move played in the game, 11 Bxe4, but it is the choice of SF 14.1. 365Chess does not contain the move considered best by Stockfish) 11…dxe4 12.Be3 f5 13.Qd2 (This is a TN. One game has been played with 13…h6 having been attempted. SF 14.1 will, given the chance, play a TN of its own with 13…Bc6) I usually stop here but let us continue a few moves further on up the road…the game continued with 14.a4 before IM Ippolito played a horrible move, retreating his Queen with 14…Qf6?
The game, for all intents and purposes, was over when Ippo removed his grip from the Queen. The comment at Lichess.org is, “Blunder. 14…a6 was best.” The it shows 14…a6 15.Nd5. But here’s the deal…There is an arrow in the position showing the Rook moving from h8 to f8, and a line beginning with 14…Rhf8 15 g3 Qh5, etc. So which is it, Lichess, 14…a6 or 14…Rhf8? Inquiring minds want to know the TRUTH, as it was known in those long ago days… Where have I heard that before?… https://lichess.org/broadcast/2022-carolinas-chess-classic–championship-section/round-5/E2tBybjJ
GM Alexander Shabalov and IM David Brodsky also finished in a tie for first place, with each winning $600. The plaque went to the dude who received a half point bye for not playing a game in the final round, GM Elshan Moradiabadi, aka, the ‘Hat Man’:
d4 e6 2. Nf3 f5 3. g3 (3 c4 was the choice in 1501 games at the ChessBaseDataBase, resulting in a 54% outcome for white. The 1239 games in which 3 g3 was played is the second most often played move, but the result has been better at 56% for white. Stockfish 14 @depth 49 and SF 220521 @depth 51 will play 3 Bf4, which has seen action in only 173 games. I kid you not…Even more astounding is that the result has been an incredible 62%!) 3…Nf6 4. Bg2 (SF and Komodo play 4 c4) 4…d5 5. O-O (SF goes with 5 c4) 5…Bd6 6. c4 c6 7. b3 (SF says Ne5) 7…Qe7 8. Ne5 (In almost one half of the games played  8 Bb2 has been the move played even though it has only scored 51%. Go figure… One Komodo program prefers 8 Nc3 [45 games; 57%], while another prefers 8 Qc2 [67 games; 57%]. Then there is Houdini…who would play 8 Ne5, as has been played in 253 games while scoring a fantastic 60% against the highest rated opposition!) 8…O-O (Komodo castles but SF prefers 8…Nbd7) 9. Bb2 (Fritz plays the game move but Komodo plays 9 Bf4) 9…Bd7 (SF 14 plays 9…b6. Deep Fritz plays 9…Nbd7) 10. Nd2 Be8 (Komodo and Deep Fritz 13 play this but SF 8 plays 10…Rd8) 11. Ndf3 (The most often played move and the choice of Komodo, but SF 14 plays 11 Nd3) 11…Bh5 (SF 12 @depth 38 plays 11…Bg6) 12. Nd3 (SF 8 plays the game move but SF 13 @depth 35 plays 12 Ne1 a NEW MOVE, and a TN if and when it is played over the board against a human opponent…) 12…Nbd7 13. Nfe5 g5 (Fritz likes 13…Bc7; SF 8 plays 13…Ba3, both of which will be a TN if and when…)
13…g5 was a surprising choice by Mr. Aaron and certainly must say something about the kind of player who would fire the g-pawn salvo at his esteemed Grandmaster opponent. A player does not make such a move in an attempt to draw. Things got interesting quickly after GM Shabba pushing his e-pawn only one square in lieu of two on move twenty. Then after 20…gxf4 Shabba should probably taken the pawn with his knight with 21 Nxf4. It was at this moment Deepak could have taken control of the game by playing 21…Nh5, but played the retrograde and limp-writsted 21…Ne8 giving the advantage to Shabba. Only a couple of moves later Shabba played a limp-wristed move himself when easing the Bishop back to f1. Deepak answered by taking the pawn on f4, which was the reddest move possible according to the Bomb; big advantage to Shabba. After the exchanges on f4 on move 24 the GM had a won game. With all the action taking place on the king side Shabba, for some reason, decided to move his Bishop to a3, tossing away his advantage. For the next several moves there was punching and counter punching with the game staying about even, Steven, until the GM played 32 h3, again a BRIGHT RED move, the kind of move GM Yasser Seriwan would call a “howler” and it was time to turn out the lights because the party was over…
Matthew Puckett is a National Master from the Great State of Alabama, where he is currently the highest rated player. Mr. Puckett is strong enough to have bested a Grandmaster, Sam Palatnik. The battle, featuring a Leningrad Dutch, was contested at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center. Not many, if any, GMs lost at the House of Pain.
Alexander Shabalov is enshrined in the US Chess Hall of Fame.
Matthew Puckett 2138 (USA) vs GM Alexander Shabalov 2496 (USA) U.S. Masters 2021 round 01 D30 Queen’s gambit declined
d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. g3 Bb4+ 5. Bd2 a5 6. Qc2 O-O 7. Bg2 c5 8. dxc5? (Players are taught it is usually better to capture toward the center. Although a small mistake, it would have been much better to play 8. cxd5)
8…d4 9. Bxb4 axb4 10. Nbd2 Nc6 11. O-O e5 12. Rfd1? (12 Ng5 must be played as it is the only move not causing disadvantage) 12… Qe7 13. Nb3 h6 14. Ne1 Bg4 15. Qd2 Rfd8 16. Nd3? (The game, for all intents and purposes is over after this egregious mistake. When deciding upon a move a player will ask himself before making the move, “With which move will my opponent reply?” In this case the answer is obvious, which means that after the expected 16…e4, Matthew planned to play 17 Nxb4, because what kind of player would move the Knight to d3 if he were intending on retreating immediately? Yet that is the move Mr. Puckett should have played, but by then he had completely lost his objectivity and carried on with his ill-fated plan…) 16…e4 17. Nxb4 Nxb4 18. Qxb4 d3 19. f3 dxe2 20. Rxd8+ Rxd8 21. fxg4 Rd1+ 22. Kf2 e1=Q+ 23. Qxe1 Nxg4+ 24. Kg1 Rxe1+ 25. Rxe1 f5 26. Bf1 Ne5 27. Be2 Qg5 28. Kf2 f4 0-1 https://www.chessbomb.com/arena/2021-us-masters/01-Puckett_Matthew-Shabalov_Alexander
This game was played, or maybe “battled” would be a better word, in the same round as the previous game, which meant following two games closely while keeping an eye on the other three. When the Bishop’s opening “truth” and a main line Leningrad Dutch appeared on the board my first thought was…
which was followed by, “Oh happy day!” something for which I was known to say by certain students when they would, like a blind squirrel, find an acorn move.
d4 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 g6 4. Nf3 Bg7 (According to 365Chess at this point we have the A81 Dutch defence) 5. c4 (After this move it becomes the A87 Dutch, Leningrad, main variation) 5…O-O 6. O-O d6 7. Nc3 c6 8. Rb1 (At the Chess baseDatabase one finds Komodo14 @depth 40 has a preference for this move, but Stockfish 220621 @depth 45 likes 8 Be3, a move found in only two games at the CBDB. Then there is Stockfish110521, going way down to @depth 55, playing 8 Qc2) 8…a5 (Komodo 10 likes 8…Ne4; Komodo 13 prefers 8…Na6, but Stockfish 13 going deeper than the two Dragons, would play the move chosen by Shabba Dabba Do, and so should YOU!) 9. b3 (Komodo 13.02 @depth 39 plays 9 Be3, as does Stockfish 13 @depth 55. After 9…Ng4 the Dragon would drop back with 10 Bd2; the Fish would advance into black territory with 10 Bg5, or at least that is what one sees at the CBDB. The thing is 9 Be3 has yet to be attempted in a game! There is not even one example of the move having been played in either the CBDB or 365Chess!) 9…Na6 (SF 151120 @depth 52 would play 9…Ne4. There is only one game in the CBDB with 9…Ne4:
Bb2 (SF 11 @depth 37 plays the move played in the game, but let it run longer and go deeper to depth 47 and it changes its way of ‘puting, switching to 10 d5. There are only four examples of the move at the CBDB. 10 Bb2 has been played 21 times. Komodo, not to be outdone, would play 10 Be3, a Theoretical Novelty) 10…Rb8 (The Fish & Dragon concur, 10…Qc7 is THE move. The game move is not found in the CBDB, but there are two examples found at 365Chess:
Branko Damljanovic (2471) vs Jan Lundin (2335) Event: Third Sat 116 GM 2019 Site: Novi Sad SRB Date: 07/07/2019 Round: 3.1 ECO: A88 Dutch, Leningrad, main variation with c6