Hans Niemann vs Awonder Liang C00 French, Chigorin Variation With 2 Qe2

Imagine the surprise, and elation, upon seeing the move 2 Qe2 played by Hans, My Man, Niemann on the board in the last round of the 2022 US Chess Championship!

GM Hans Niemann

vs GM Awonder Liang

2022 US Chess Championship
Last Round

  1. e4 e6 2. Qe2 c5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. g3 e5 5. Bg2 g6 6. O-O Bg7 7. c3 Nge7 8. Na3 O-O 9. Nc2 d5 10. d3 h6 11. a3 d4 12. c4 a5 13. Rb1 a4 14. Nd2 Be6 15. f4 Qd7 16. Ne1 Qc7 17. Ndf3 f6 18. Nh4 g5 19. Nf5 Nxf5 20. exf5 Bxf5 21. fxg5 fxg5 22. Bxg5 Bg6 23. Rxf8+ Rxf8 24. Bd2 Qe7 25. Nf3 e4 26. Nh4 Bh7 27. dxe4 Qe6 28. Qh5 Qf7 29. Qd5 Ne5 30. Bf4 Nxc4 31. Qxc5 b6 32. Qb5 Ne3 33. Re1 Qb3 34. Qxb3+ axb3 35. e5 Nxg2 36. Kxg2 Rc8 37. Re2 d3 38. Rd2 Rc2 39. Nf3 Be4 40. Kf2 Bxf3 41. Kxf3 Bxe5 42. Rxd3 Bxf4 43. Kxf4 Rxb2 44. h4 Rb1 45. Kg4 b2 46. Rb3 Ra1 47. Rxb2 Rxa3 48. Rxb6 h5+ 49. Kf4 Kg7 50. Re6 Ra4+ 51. Re4 Ra5 52. Re5 Ra4+ 53. Re4 Ra5 54. Re5 Ra4+ 55. Kg5 Rg4+ 56. Kxh5 Rxg3 57. Rg5+ Rxg5+ 58. hxg5 Kh7 59. g6+ Kg7 60. Kg5 Kg8 61. Kf6 Kf8 62. Kf5 Kg7 63. Kg5 Kg8 64. Kh6 Kh8 65. g7+ Kg8 66. Kg6 1/2-1/2
  1. e4 e6 2. Qe2 c5 (It is interesting learning the Stockfish 14 NNUE program used at Lichess will play 2…e5, moving the pawn again. According to the Big Database at 365Chess.com the move played in the game has been seen in 2196 games, dwarffing the 428 of second place 2…Be7. The move 2…Nc6 shows 231 games, with 2…b6 [206] and 2…e5 [205] virtually tied fourth place) 3. Nf3 (Although played most often [937] SF plays the second most often played move 3 g3 [693], which was the move invariably played played by this writer ‘back in the day’. And if you believe that, I have stock in Chess.com that I will sell you cheap!) 3…Nc6 4. g3 e5 (SF plays 4…g6, as have most humans (657) according to 365Chess.com, and so will Stockfish. Only 11 humans have played the move chosen by Awonder.) 5. Bg2 (SF says 5 d3) g6 6. O-O Bg7 7. c3 (SF 7 Na3) Nge7 8. Na3 O-O (SF 8…d6) 9. Nc2 (SF 9 d3) d5 10. d3 h6 11. a3 (11 Nh4) d4 (Be6) 12. c4 (12 dxc4 SF) a5 13. Rb1 (Nd2) a4 14. Nd2 Be6 (14…Ra6) 15. f4 Qd7 (15…Ra6) 16. Ne1 (SF says 16 b3) Qc7 (16…Rb8) 17. Ndf3 (17 b4) f6 18. Nh4 (18 b3) g5 (18 exf4) 19. Nf5 Nxf5 20. exf5 Bxf5 21. fxg5 fxg5 22. Bxg5 Bg6 23. Rxf8+ Rxf8 24. Bd2 Qe7 (24…Qb6)
Position after 24…Ne7. White to move

Nh4 Bh7 27. dxe4 (27 Bxd4) Qe6 (Qd7) 28. Qh5 Qf7 (28…d3) 29. Qd5 (29 Qxf7) Ne5 (Qxd5) 30. Bf4 (30 Nf5) Nxc4 (30…Qxd5) 31. Qxc5 b6 (31…d3) 32. Qb5 (32 Qc6) Ne3 33. Re1 Qb3 34. Qxb3+ axb3 35. e5 (35 Bf3) Nxg2 36. Kxg2 Rc8 37. Re2 (37 Kf3) d3 (37…Rc2) 38. Rd2 Rc2 (It shows an arrow from the bishop on h7 to the e4 square, which would be check, but in the annotations one finds, “Inaccuracy. Bf8 was best.”) 39. Nf3 Be4 40. Kf2 Bxf3 41. Kxf3 Bxe5 42. Rxd3 Bxf4 43. Kxf4 Rxb2 44. h4 Rb1 45. Kg4 b2 46. Rb3 Ra1 47. Rxb2 Rxa3 48. Rxb6 h5+ 49. Kf4 Kg7 50. Re6 Ra4+ 51. Re4 Ra5 52. Re5 Ra4+ 53. Re4 Ra5 54. Re5 Ra4+ 55. Kg5 Rg4+ 56. Kxh5 Rxg3 57. Rg5+ Rxg5+ 58. hxg5 Kh7 59. g6+ Kg7 60. Kg5 Kg8 61. Kf6 Kf8 62. Kf5 Kg7 63. Kg5 Kg8 64. Kh6 Kh8 65. g7+ Kg8 66. Kg6 1/2-1/2

Daniela Miteva vs Margarita Voiska (2345)
Event: BUL-chT (Women)
Site: Bankia Date: ??/??/1992
Round: ?
ECO: C00 French, Chigorin variation
1.e4 e6 2.Qe2 c5 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 e5 5.Bg2 g6 6.O-O Bg7 7.c3 Nge7 8.d3 O-O 9.Be3 b6 10.Ne1 d5 11.f4 Be6 12.Nf3 Qd7 13.fxe5 dxe4 14.dxe4 Bg4 15.Rd1 Qc8 16.Nbd2 Nxe5 17.Nc4 Qa6 18.b3 Nxc4 19.bxc4 Nc6 20.Rd5 Bxc3 21.Rc1 Bd4 22.h3 Bxf3 23.Bxf3 Qa3 24.Re1 Bxe3+ 25.Qxe3 Qxa2 26.Rh5 Qb2 27.Rd5 Nd4 28.Bg4 a5 29.Qh6 Qc3 30.Rf1 Ne6 31.Rd7 Qxg3+ 32.Kh1 Qe5 0-1

Curious about the move the Stockfish program at Lichess would, given the chance, play on the second move for Black I put it into the analysis program (Why do most people call it an “engine”? Why do commentators not inform we readers of the NAME of the “ENGINE” used? Just askin’…) at Lichess.com and the following were the best moves according to the PROGRAM NAMED STOCKFISH:

  1. e4 e6 2. Qe2 e5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. c3 Be7 5. d4 exd4 6. cxd4 d5 7. e5 f6 8. Nc3 fxe5 9. dxe5 d4 10. Bf4 dxc3 11. Rd1 Bd7 12. e6 cxb2 13. exd7+ Qxd7 14. Rxd7 b1=Q+ 15. Rd1 Qf5 16. g3 Rd8 17. Bg2 Rxd1+ 18. Qxd1 Bb4+ 19. Nd2 Qe6+ 20. Be3 Qc4 21. Qe2 Qc1+ 22. Qd1 Bxd2+ 23. Bxd2 Qxd1+ 24. Kxd1 Nf6 25. Be3 Kd7 26. Ke2 Re8 27. Rb1 Kc8 28. Kf1 a6 29. Bh3+ Kb8 30. Bg2 Kc8 31. Bh3+ Kb8 32. Bg3+ 1/2-1/2

Speed Kills

An article, Do We Still Need Classical Chess? by GM Gregory Serper, was published on Chess.com a few days ago. The Grandmaster begins with this statement: The classical format of our beloved game is under attack.

Fact is, the classical format has been under attack for many years. Consider this article published much earlier this decade, Slow Chess Should Die a Fast Death – Part 2
This was published November 5, 2015, by IM Greg Shahade on his blog (https://gregshahade.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/slow-chess-should-die-a-fast-death-part-2/).
Greg wrote, “Wow. Part 1 of this blog was by far the most controversial thing I’ve written. The blog received hundreds of comments on multiple websites, for instance reddit and chess.com.
There was lots of positive feedback and also lots of violently aggressive negative feedback. I can’t imagine that I’d get more hatred from some of these people than if I kidnapped their child. Multiple people even made it clear that I must have wrote the blog because I was so jaded due to some slow chess game that I lost in the past or that I had some deep, dark emotional problems that were finally manifesting themselves in my blog.
One person, a complete stranger, was seemingly so offended by the article, that at 4:17 AM they posted a tweet on my Twitter feed that simply said “@GregShahade Jackass”
What’s the truth? I love chess but I also live in the real world and realize that 5-6 hour chess games are an impractical use of resources and time.”

GM Serper writes: “People are complaining about boring games that lead to an abundance of draws in super-GM tournaments. They are trying to change everything: the scoring system (three points for a win, one point for a draw), the time control and even the traditional tournament format.
One of the latest attempts was made in the recent Norway Chess super-tournament in Stavanger. To put it mildly, the result failed to impress.
Not only were there a lot of draws; some of them were true “gems.” Look at this:

Alexander Grischuk (2775) vs. Wesley So (2754)
1/2-1/2 Norway Chess Stavanger NOR 5 Jun 2019 Round: 2.5 ECO: C67

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. dxe5 Nxb5 7. a4 Nbd4 8. Nxd4 d5 9. exd6 Nxd4 10. Qxd4 Qxd6 11. Qe4+ Qe6 12. Qd4 Qd6 13. Qe4+ Qe6 14. Qd4 Qd6 15. Qe4+ Qe6 ½-½

These triple repetition games can be stopped simply by adopting the Go rule, Ko, which prevents repeating the position endlessly. In the above game, for instance, Grischuk would have been unable to play 13 Qe4+ and would, therefore, have had to make a different move.

Serper poses the question, “Can we blame the players for a short draw that didn’t produce a single new move?”

YES, we can, and I will! The so-called “game” is BULLSHIT! No one other than the players are responsible for stinking up the tournament hall.

Serper follows up with, “They quickly figured out that rather than play for four hours, they can make a quick draw and decide the outcome in a fraction of that time. Some people would call it efficiency and some might call it cynicism.”

I call it blasphemy against Cassia.

The GM continues, “I’ve shared my opinion on the subject many times. I laugh when some people claim that classical chess is dead from “draw death.” Somehow, Magnus Carlsen’s opponents in the recent super-tournaments didn’t get the memo and that’s why they couldn’t hold the world champion to a draw frequently.”

Magnus Carlsen plays to WIN, which is why he is the human World Champion.

Serper continues, “Now let’s talk about boring chess vs. exciting chess.
The recent match between Benjamin Gledura and Awonder Liang was indeed very interesting to watch. Blunders are unavoidable in blitz and this is a major part of the entertainment.”

I derive absolutely no pleasure from watching the best human Chess players alive produce a festival of blunders. As I have written previously on this blog, Chess is NOT Backgammon! To play Chess well requires TIME to COGITATE! Backgammon can, and is played at a fast pace because it is a much simpler game than Chess.

The GM then shows a game after writing, “Nevertheless, when I watched the finish of the following game I could almost hear some people asking: “Are they really grandmasters?”

Exactly. Some people may enjoy watching Chess GMs play what GM Yasser Seirawan called, “Howlers,” followed by more howlers, but I am not one of them.

After presenting the ridiculous “game” Serper then writes, “This is precisely why blitz was strictly forbidden when I was a student of the famous Botvinnik-Kasparov school. The Patriarch believed that blitz hurt your chess. I even asked him if he ever played blitz himself. Botvinnik looked surprised by such a stupid question and paused for a moment. Indeed, what kind of a chess player would never play blitz?
“Of course I’ve played blitz,” he finally answered. “Once. On a train.”

GM Serper then compares the games Benjamin Gledura played with different time controls, before writing, “On one side we have a lot of excitement (and of course blunders!) in his blitz games. On the other side we have an extremely well-played and instructive game in a regular time control.
Many people will probably call this endgame boring. So, do we still need classical chess?

My reply is, Hell Yeah! Without classical there is no Chess.

The Shank is The CHAMPION!

Samuel L Shankland

v Awonder Liang

U.S. Championship 2018 round 11

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. Bd3 Nc6 5. c3 Nf6 6. Bf4 Bg4 7. Qb3 e5 8. h3 exf4 9. hxg4 Qe7+ 10. Kf1 O-O-O 11. Nd2 g6 12. Re1 Qc7 13. g5 Nh5 14. Be2 Ng7 15. Ngf3 Ne6 16. Bb5 Bg7 17. Qa4 Rd6 18. Nb3 b6 19. Nc1 Nb8 20. Nd3 Kb7 21. Nb4 Qd8 22. Ne5 Qc7 23. Qb3 Rhd8 24. Rxh7 a6 25. Bd3 Ka7 26. Qa4 a5 27. Bb5 Kb7 28. Nbd3 Rg8 29. Nf3 Rh8 30. Rxh8 Bxh8 31. a3 Nc6 32. Bxc6+ Rxc6 33. Nde5 Bxe5 34. Nxe5 Rd6 35. Qe8 Rd8 36. Qxf7 Nxg5 37. Qxc7+ Kxc7 38. Nxg6 f3 39. Nf4 Kc6 40. gxf3 Nxf3 41. Re6+ Kb5 42. Ke2 Ng1+ 43. Kd3 1-0

While watching this game I tuned it out to concentrate on the position after Awonder played 27…Kb7.

My initial thoughts concerning Sam playing 28 Nbc6, but after black plays 28…Rh8 it seemed there must be more to the position than offered by the move 28 Nbc6. I wanted to move the knight attacked by the pawn, but digging deeper I saw another line. 28 Nbc6 need not be played because of the devastating move, after 28 Nec6 axb4, of 29 Qa7+! Kc8 30 Ne7+, winning the Queen…

28 Nec6 is the most FORCING MOVE. Black MUST take the Knight. After 28…Nxc6 29 Bxc6+ Rxc6 30 Qxc6 Qxc6 31 Nxc6 Kxc6 32 Rxe6 fxe6 33 Rxg7 it’s “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.”

The move Sam played was good enough to win, but it is a shame Sam did not play the Knight to c6 variation in lieu of backing down at the critical moment. One can do that with a completely won game I suppose, but other completely won games in this championship were not won. Sam had worked on that c6 square and though it looked as though Awonder had it covered, he did not have it covered sufficiently. I am not criticizing the new United States Chess Champion as this is only a slight blemish on his overall splendid, and strong, play in this tournament. What seemed to concern Sam most was making the Olympiad squad. Now Sam makes the US “big three” the US “BIG FOUR!”

What makes this so amazing is that in his previous tournament, China vs The World, Sam had lost FIVE games, while winning only one, for a performance rating of only 2597. Do you think Sam had something to prove after that debacle? Prove it he did!

A gambling man could have obtained great odds wagering on Sam Shankland, who would, no doubt, be stuck with the moniker, “The Shank” with the gamblers. All, or at least most, of the “smart money” would have gone to the Big Three. Considering the fact that tournaments like this with an even number of players are unfair, because have the field must play with the black pieces an extra time, which is obviously inherently unfair. How many “smart” gamblers would wager on any of the unfortunate players at a serious disadvantage? Sam was given lemons, which he turned into lemonade. He won four games with the black pieces while drawing two, for a performance rating with black of an astounding 2927! This was higher than his PR with white of “only” 2849. His combined PR was 2892.

I intentionally eschewed watching the coverage provided by the usual suspects this year in order to “watch” the old fashioned way, using a real board with pieces while watching the games provided at TWIC, without computer aided analysis. Copious notes were taken, along with comments, which were later checked over at the ChessBomb. Until the last round…when I brought up Yaz, Maurice, and Jennifer, just in time to watch Sam give his now famous fist pump. Every picture tells a story, don’t it?

I have been involved with the Royal game since 1970 and this is the most remarkable performance I can recall. David Spinks was famous for saying, “You gotta PULL for SOMEBODY, man!” As the tournament progressed I could not help but “pull” for The Shank. Congratulations to Sam Shankland for a brilliant tournament performance, which was a thing of beauty. I recall a time when The Shank was in some kind of crisis, talking of giving up the Royal game. Fortunately for we Chess fans, Sam did not quit. I can think of no more deserving Champion than Sam Shankland. This was his tenth appearance at the US Chess Championship. Sam has paid his dues, in full. If lack of confidence has held The Shank back until now, it is no longer a factor in the equation. Samuel L. Shankland has earned his place on the podium along with all of the great former US Chess Champions of history! Long live the Champion!

Sometimes You Take a Lesson, Sometimes You Give a Lesson

Awonder Liang (2327) vs Sanjay Ghatti (2024)

USM Rd 1

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. dxc5 Nc6 5. a3 e6 6. Nf3 Bxc5 7. b4 Bb6 8. Bd3 a5 9. b5 Nxe5 10. Nxe5 Bd4 11. Nxf7 Kxf7 12. Bg6 hxg6 13. Qxd4 Qf6 14. Bb2 Qxd4 15. Bxd4 a4 16. Nd2 Bd7 17. Rb1 Nh6 18. Nf3 Nf5 19. Ne5 Ke8 20. c3 Rh4 21. g4 Nxd4 22. cxd4 Ra5 23. b6 g5 24. f3 Rh6 25. Kf2 Rf6 26. Rbc1 Rb5 27. Nxd7 1-0

Sanjay Ghatti (2024) vs Chuck Cadman (2220)

USM Rd 2

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. h4 h5 5. c4 e6 6. Nc3 Ne7 7. Nge2 Ng6 8. Ng3 dxc4 9. Nxf5 exf5 10. Bxc4 b5 11. Bb3 a5 12. Bg5 Be7 13. Qf3 Bxg5 14. hxg5 Qxg5 15. Nxb5 Nh4 16. Nd6 Kf8 17. Rxh4 Qxh4 18. Qxf5 Ra7 19. Qc8 Ke7 20. Nf5 1-0

Damir Studen (2264) vs Joshua Gutman (2134)

USM Rd 2

1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 c6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. e3 e6 7. Bxc4 Bb4 8. Qb3 Qe7 9. O-O O-O 10. Ne5 a5 11. f3 c5 12. e4 cxd4 13. Na2 Bg6 14. Nxb4 axb4 15. Bd2 Rc8 16. Rfc1 Nc6 17. Nxc6 Rxc6 18. Bb5 Rcc8 19. Bxb4 Qd8 20. a5 Ne8 21. Bd2 Nd6 22. Bd3 Qd7 23. Qb6 e5 24. Bb4 Rxc1 25. Rxc1 Rc8 26. Rc5 f6 27. Qxd6 1-0

Erik Santarius (2329) vs Reece Thompson (2007)

USM Rd 2

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Nc6 4. c3 e5 5. dxe5 dxe4 6. Nxe4 Qxd1 7. Kxd1 Nxe5 8. Bf4 Bg4 9. f3 O-O-O 10. Kc2 Ng6 11. Bg5 Re8 12. fxg4 Rxe4 13. Bd3 Re8 14. Bf5 Kb8 15. Bd7 Re5 16. Bd2 Nf6 17. Bf5 Bc5 18. b4 Bb6 19. c4 Bxg1 20. Rhxg1 Ne4 21. Bc1 Nf2 22. Bb2 Re2 23. Kb3 Re3 24. Ka4 Rhe8 25. Bxg7 Ne5 26. Rac1 a6 27. c5 b5 28. cxb6 cxb6 29. Bh6 b5 30. Ka5 Nc4 31. Rxc4 bxc4 32. Bxe3 Rxe3 33. Kxa6 Kc7 34. Kb5 c3 35. Kc4 Re2 36. Kxc3 Rxa2 37. h3 Kb6 38. Kd4 1-0

Roger Hodgson (Supertramp) – School. Bospop 2011