GM Ben Finegold Plays The Chigorin Defense

Having taken up Chess at the advanced age of twenty your writer did not have as much time to spend on the game as would a much younger person. Initially I did what many other American players did and followed Bobby Fisher, playing openings like the Najdorf and Gruenfeld, because those are the openings played by Bobby. Later I began playing openings that are now called “offbeat” openings, as regular readers know. One of those openings was the Chigorin, which I played before beginning a love affair with the Leningrad Dutch. In the first round of the ongoing Chicago Open Grandmaster Ben Finegold trotted out the Queen’s horse on the second move. Before sitting down to compose this post I went to, learning it contained 21 games in which Ben has played the Chigorin ( From the years spent researching the opening phase of the game with computer programs I have learned much of what humans thought about some openings was incorrect, if not downright wrong. The following game is a case in point.

Ethan Sheehan 2075 vs GM Benjamin Finegold 2424

31st Annual Chicago Open
D07 Queen’s Gambit Declined, Chigorin defence

  1. d4 d5 2. c4 Nc6 3. Nc3 e5 4. cxd5 Nxd4 5. e3 Nf5 6. Nf3 Bd6 7. Bb5+ Bd7 8. Bxd7+ Qxd7 9. e4 Nfe7 10. O-O Ng6 11. Qb3 b6 12. a4 a6 13. Be3 Nf6 14. h3 O-O 15. Rac1 h6 16. Rfd1 Nh5 17. Ne2 f5 18. exf5 Rxf5 19. Nd2 1/2-1/2!31st-annual-chicago-open-2022/2068768054

1.d4 d5 2. c4 Nc6 3. Nc3 (SF 15 @depth 55 plays 3 cxd5, but @depth 62 changes to 3 Nf3) 3…e5 (SF 14.1 @depth 48 will play 3…e6. SF 040522 @depth 49 plays 3…Nf6, which appears in 387 games at the ChessBaseDataBase. The CBDB contains only 75 games with 3…e6, but does contain 748 games in which the inferior 3…dxc4 has been played. The move played in the game has been seen in 92 games) 4. cxd5 Nxd4 (The CBDB contains 82 games with this move and only one with 4…exd4, the choice of Houdini at a lower level; SF 13 at a higher level, and SF 14.1 at a mid-level depth 43) 5. e3 Nf5 6. Nf3 (Until now this has been the preferred move, with 51 examples in the CBDB, but Houdini, Komodo, and Stockfish 14.1 all show 6 e4 as best in the 8 games in which it has been tried the move has scored 69% compared to the 63% scored by the move played in the game) 6…Bd6 7. Bb5+ (This move is the choice of Fritz 17, so you know it is suspect. Both Houdini and SF 14.1 play 7 e4, and so should you) 7…Bd7 (Fritz 13 SE will play 7…Kf8. I kid you not…) 8. Bxd7 (SF 14.1 and SF 221221 both play 8 e4, and so should you in the event you play badly enough to reach this position) 8…Qxd7 9. e4 Nfe7 10. O-O (The CBDB shows only 8 games having reached this position; 4 with Nf6; 3 with Ng6; and 1 with f6. Houdini, and SF 7 & 11 show 10…h6 as being the best move. The game move has been the most often played move according to the 365Chess Big Database) 10…Ng6 11. Qb3 (SF 14 will play 11 Be3. See Pohlers vs Maahs below) 11…b6 (See Farago vs Plat below)

Frank James Marshall

vs R. Guckemus
Event: Sylvan Beach
Site: Sylvan Beach Date: ??/??/1904
Round: 4
ECO: D07 Queen’s Gambit Declined, Chigorin defence
1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nc3 e5 4.cxd5 exd4 5.dxc6 dxc3 6.Qxd8+ Kxd8 7.cxb7 Bxb7 8.bxc3 Bd6 9.f3 Nf6 10.e4 Re8 11.Bb5 c6 12.Bc4 Ke7 13.Rb1 Rab8 14.Be3 Bc8 15.Rxb8 Bxb8 16.Bc5+ Bd6 17.Bxa7 Be6 18.Bxe6 Kxe6 19.Nh3 h6 20.Bd4 c5 21.Bxf6 gxf6 22.Kd2 Ra8 23.Ra1 Bxh2 24.f4 Rg8 25.Kd3 Rxg2 26.Kc4 Rg3 27.Nf2 f5 28.a4 Rf3 29.a5 Bxf4 30.a6 Bb8 31.Nd3 Ba7 32.exf5+ Kxf5 33.Rb1 Ke4 34.Rb7 1-0

Benjamin Leussen vs Aaron Nimzowitsch

Event: Barmen-B
Site: Barmen Date: ??/??/1905
Round: ?
ECO: D07 Queen’s Gambit Declined, Chigorin defence
1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nc3 e5 4.cxd5 exd4 5.dxc6 dxc3 6.Qxd8+ Kxd8 7.bxc3 Nf6 8.g3 bxc6 9.Bg2 Nd5 10.Bd2 Be7 11.Nf3 Bf6 12.Nd4 Bd7 13.e4 Nb4 14.cxb4 Bxd4 15.Rd1 Kc8 16.O-O c5 17.Bf4 Bb5 18.bxc5 Bc3 19.Bh3+ Kb7 20.Rb1 Kc6 21.Rfc1 Bd4 22.e5 1-0

Juergen Pohlers (2133) vs Erich Maahs (2200)
Event: Bad Woerishofen op 18th
Site: Bad Woerishofen Date: ??/??/2002
Round: 8
ECO: D07 Queen’s Gambit Declined, Chigorin defence
1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nc3 e5 4.cxd5 Nxd4 5.e3 Nf5 6.Nf3 Bd6 7.Bb5+ Bd7 8.Bxd7+ Qxd7 9.e4 Nfe7 10.O-O Ng6 11.Be3 Nf6 12.h3 O-O 13.Rc1 a6 14.Qd3 Nh5 15.Ne2 h6 16.g4 Nhf4 17.Nxf4 exf4 18.Bd4 Rae8 19.Rfe1 f6 20.Qb3 b6 21.Qc4 h5 22.Qc6 Qc8 23.Nh2 f3 24.Qxd6 cxd6 25.Rxc8 Rxc8 26.Nxf3 Nf4 27.gxh5 Rc2 28.Kh2 b5 29.h6 Ne2 30.hxg7 Kxg7 31.Be3 Rxb2 32.Nh4 Rd8 33.Kg2 Rxa2 34.Kf3 Nc3 35.Nf5+ Kh7 36.Bb6 Rd7 37.Bd4 b4 38.Bxf6 Rf7 39.Bxc3 bxc3 40.Rc1 Ra3 41.Ke2 Kg6 42.Rg1+ Kf6 43.Nxd6 Rc7 44.Ne8+ Ke5 45.Nxc7 Kd4 46.d6 Ra2+ 47.Kf3 Ke5 48.d7 Rd2 49.Nd5 c2 1-0

Ivan Farago (2340) vs Vojtech Plat (2556)
Event: FSGM May 2021
Site: Budapest HUN Date: 05/08/2021
Round: 7.4
ECO: D07 Queen’s Gambit Declined, Chigorin defence
1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nc3 e5 4.cxd5 Nxd4 5.e3 Nf5 6.Bb5+ Bd7 7.Bxd7+ Qxd7 8.Nf3 Bd6 9.e4 Nfe7 10.O-O Ng6 11.Qb3 b6 12.h3 Nf6 13.Bg5 Nh5 14.Qb5 Nhf4 15.Rfe1 h6 16.Bxf4 Nxf4 17.Kh2 a6 18.Qxd7+ Kxd7 19.Rad1 g5 20.g3 Ng6 21.Kg2 f6 22.Nh2 h5 23.Nf1 b5 24.Ne3 h4 25.Ng4 Raf8 26.Re3 Ne7 27.Rf3 b4 28.Nb1 f5 29.exf5 e4 30.Rb3 Nxf5 31.Nd2 e3 32.Nxe3 hxg3 33.Nxf5 Rxf5 34.Ne4 gxf2 35.Nxf2 a5 36.Ng4 Bc5 37.Rbd3 Re8 38.R3d2 Kd6 39.b3 Re4 40.Nh6 Rff4 41.Rc2 Bd4 42.Ng4 Bc3 43.Rd3 Bd4 44.Rc6+ Kxd5 45.Rxc7 Re2+ 46.Kg3 Ke4 0-1

Since the tournament is still ongoing Ben has not had time to produce his latest youtube apologia explaining why he could only draw versus a much lower rated player so here is a pertinent video: