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 365Chess.com, learning it contained 21 games in which Ben has played the Chigorin (https://www.365chess.com/search_result.php?wid=&bid=8072&wlname=&open=61&blname=Finegold%2C+Benjamin&eco=&nocolor=on&yeari=&yeare=&sply=1&ply=&res=&submit_search=1). 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 (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)
Click on “Females” and one discovers how the four female players have fared against their male counterparts. Segregating the “females” sets them apart, making it appear they are different and not part of the group. Is this good for the “females” or for Chess? Is it necessary to separate the women players because of their gender? Does this help or hurt their chances of being accepted as part of the group? Let me ask another question. What if there were enough players to have a similar tournament with four players with dark skin pigmentation and the word “Black” was used in lieu of “Female”? Would that be acceptable to people with darker skin pigmentation? Would that be acceptable to the people in charge of the St. Louis Chess Club? Would it be acceptable to the larger Chess community of the world? If the answer is “no” then why is it acceptable for the people at the St. Louis Chess Campus to segregate any one particular group?
After informing a National Master that I have been avidly following the two tournaments currently being held at the St. Louis Chess Campus he replied, “Why would you waste your time watching those chumpy-lumpies when you could be watching games from the Sharjah Masters? There are thirty of the best players in the world competing and they are fighting.” I said nothing while thinking about the proliferation of draws, most of them short, afflicting top level Chess these daze. Short draws have been anathema at the St. Louis Chess mecca. The options for a Chess fan these days are almost unlimited; this fan prefers watching games emanating from the Chess Capital of America no matter who is playing because short draws are not acceptable in St. Louis, or at least were not until seeing this insult to the St. Louis Chess Campus and Chess in general:
This game “wowed” the fans, or at least one of them, who left this at the “Chat” with the game:
Neverness Board 1: What a fighting game! 😀
Neverness Wow, just wow! 😀
Neither one of these “players”, and I use the word loosely, is a Grandmaster yet they felt compelled to make a “Grandmaster draw.” What are the odds either one of these losers will ever be invited to return to the St. Louis Chess Campus? Games like this appear with regularity at tournaments held at the Charlotte Chess Center, and in the Bay area at San Jose. (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2022/05/19/mission-360-bay-area-making-a-mockery-of-chess-tournament/). Never thought I would be writing about a three and a have move game from St. Louis…
On to the good stuff abounding from this tournament!
After four rounds FM Jennifer Yu
was +2 after two wins and two draws. In the fifth round she had the white pieces versus fellow FM Joshua Posthuma (2404).
After the latter made a weak ninth move and followed it up with what is called a “mistake” at LiChess, she was winning. The game was a real battle and could have ended in a draw, but Ms. Yu let go of the rope with her 39th move, a passive retreat when she could have continued checking, and the lights were turned out. The game must have taken something out of her because she played weakly in the opening in the following game and was lost before move ten…but fought back to an even game later before both players blundered with their thirtieth move and it was back to even, Steven, until Ms. Yu again let go of the rope with her thirty second move and it was all over but the shouting…In the next, seventh round, she had the black pieces against one of the three co-leaders, IM Aaron Grabinsky, who had won his first four games before drawing the next two games. Not many people who gamble would have wagered on Jennifer. This writer was hoping she would not fall apart completely and do the goose-egg shuffle on her way out of St. Louis. Many players would have lost their fighting spirit and consented to “making a draw,” and who could, or would, blame her if she did exactly that? Then, on move 24 her opponent made a vacillating move in retreating his Queen and Jennifer gained an advantage. Solid move followed solid move until IM Grabinsky again retreated his Queen on his 29th move. Unfortunately, Jennifer did not make the best move in reply, but still had an advantage, albeit small. Then her opponent blundered on his 31st move and Jennifer punished him for it, winning in 35 moves. What a fighter is Jennifer Yu! I urge you to replay the game, which can be found here> (https://lichess.org/broadcast/2022-saint-louis-norm-congress-im/round-7/Aq7DF3WV).
While watching the action in round six I put two games into the opening grinder and one of them was the game of the tournament. When young FM Alice Lee sat down to play IM Aaron Grabinsky in round six she had a total of 1 1/2 points, earned in the three previous rounds with draws after losing her first two games. Her opponent was leading the field with 4 1/2 points. Alice had the white pieces, but her opponent grabbed an positional advantage and began squeezing the life out of Ms. Lee, but she refused to let go of the rope, finding good move after good move for many moves. Several times IM Grabinsky achieved the maximum from his position, but refused to bring the hammer down and continued playing vacillating moves; he simply could not pull the trigger. After one hundred and eight moves (!) IM Grabinsky gave up the ghost and FM Alice Lee had scored a well earned and hard fought draw with the leader of the tournament!
1.d4 e6 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nf3 (111865 games with this move can be found in the ChessBaseDataBase, and it is the choice of SF 15 @depth 68 and and SF 040522 @depth 74, but SF 14.1 @depth 64 preferred 3 Nc3. In 80101 games it has scored 53%. 3 Nf3 has scored 55%) 3…Bb4+ (SF 14.1 @depth 66 plays 3…d5) 4.Bd2 (This has been the most often played move with 11966 games in the CBDB, and it is the choice of Fritz 16-you know what that means-both SF 14.1 and 15 will play 4 Nbd2) 4…Bxd2+ (SF 15 plays 4…Be7, a move with only 165 games that have shown a score of 60%. Here’s the deal, Fritz 16 also plays the move! Deep Fritz 13 likes 4…a5, in third place with 3096 games in the CBDB. 5538 players have chosen 4…Qe7 with a score 57%; 2247 players have tried 4…c5 resulting in 53%. The move played in the game has scored 58% in 1212 games) 5.Qxd2 d6 (There are only 92 examples of this move contained in the CBDB with a resulting 62%. Fritz 16 @depth 31 will play 5…Nc6. There is only one game with the move. Komodo @depth 30 will play 5…b6. The 93 games in which this move has been played have resulted in 65% for the players of the white pieces. SF 14.1 @depth 55 castles. With 493 games it has been the most often played move, resulting in a 59% score) 6.Nc3 (With this move the CBDB shows us the progression of the computin’ of SF 14.1. At depth 38 it favors 6 e3. There is only one game with this move in the CBDB… then comes 6 g3 @depth 39. It has scored 50% in 15 games. Then @depth 47 the program moves to the move made in the game, which has resulted in a strong 63% for white) 6…Nbd7 (This move has been played in 22 games, scoring 61%. SF 190322 @depth 27 will play 6…Qe7. In 20 games it has scored 65%. Then there is SF 14.1 @depth 40 which will, given the opportunity, play 6…d5, a NEW MOVE!) 7.e4 e5 8.Be2 (There is only one game with this move in the CBDB, and it is the move of Deep Fritz 13 @depth 17 [17? The Fritz limbo; how low can you go?] which ought to give you pause…Komodo 14 @depth 31 and SF 130222 @depth 27 both 0-0-0) The CBDB contains only two games here, one with 8 d5 and the other with 8 Be2. Don’t know about you but I’m sticking with Stockfish!)
FM Gabriela Antova,
from Bulgaria, got off to a good start in the first round by defeating FM Alice Lee with black. Then she lost three in a row before drawing in the fifth round. In the sixth round she faced IM Pedro Rivera Rodriguez,
from Cuba, who, although an International Master, is rated below Master level at 2199. How is that possible? What has happened to the rating system? 2199 is below Master level, as 2000-2199 is, or was considered Expert level.
Round 6 FM Antova, Gabriela 2282 vs IM Rodriguez Rivera, Pedro 2199 A53 Old Indian defence
d4 Nf6 2. c4 d6 3. Nf3 (Stockfish 14.1 @depth 56 will play 3 Nc3) 3…Nbd7 (Three different SF programs all going very deep will play 3…g6) 4. g3 (Two SF programs and one Komodo all play 4 Nc3) 4…e5 (Far and away the most often played move with 354 games, and advocated by Fritz 16 @depth 30, but SF 8 [8? Did SF 8 first appear last century?] @depth 27 will play the second most played move according to the ChessBaseDataBase, 4…c6, with 74 games showing. Stockfish 14.1 @depth 30 plays 3…g6, the third most popular move with only 51 moves contained in the CBDB) 5. Nc3 c6 (SF 7 @depth 29 will play this, the most often played move with 452 games in the database, but Fritz 16 @depth 35 AND Stockfish 14.1 @depth 44 both prefer 5…exd4. The CBDB contains on three games with pawn takes pawn) 6. Bg2 Be7 (With 432 games contained in the CBDB this has been the most frequently played move, and it is the choice of Houdini, but Fritz 16 @depth 28, and Stockfish 14.1 @depth 43 will play 6…e4, a move having been attempted in only 103 games) 7. O-O (The 495 games in which players have castled are more than double the 213 games in which 7 e4 has appeared. Both Houdini and Fritz castle, but SF 14.1 will play 7 Qc2, a move only seen in 51 games, although it has scored highest at an astounding 72%! Castling has scored 58% while 7 e4 has scored 63%) 7…0-0 (This move has been played in over one thousand games, 1033 to be exact, and has scored 58%, and it is the choice of Houdini, albeit at a low depth of only 24 fathoms. Yet Komodo and SF14.1 @depth 53 both will play 7…e4, a move having only been tried in 14 games) 8. Qc2 (The move of both Houdini and Fritz, but SF 14.1 will play the most often played move, 8 e4) 8…a6 (Komodo and Fritz play the most often played move, 8…Re8; SF 14.1 plays 8…Qc7) 9. Rd1 (SF 14.1 @depth 39 plays 9 h3. There is only one game containing the move found at the CBDB) 9…Qc7 10 dxe5 (This move cannot be located at either 365Chess or the CBDB, therefore FM Antova played a Theoretical Novelty)
1.d4 f5 2.Nf3 (Stockfish 14 @depth 52 plays the game move, but in a real SHOCKER one sees SF 15 will play 2 e3!
The exclam is for the shock value because the ChessBaseDataBase shows 2 e3 has only been attempted in 23 games. I kid you not… White has scored 63% against 2387 opposition, which is higher than any other move, although the sample size is rather limited. If you play the Dutch defense you simply MUST be prepared for the move 2 e3 because after this is posted every player and his brother will be playing the move, sister. The move played in the game, 2 Nf3, has scored 56% versus 2406 oppo. The most often played move has been 2 g3, with 8973 games which have scored 59% against a hypothetical player rated 2436) 2…g6 (SF 14.1 plays 2…Nf6) 3.g3 (SF 14.1 plays 3…Nc3) 3…Bg7 (SF 14.1 plays 3..Nf6) 4.Bg2 d6 (SF 14 plays the game move, but SF 14.1 will play 4…Nf6) 5.O-O (The latest version of Stockfish shown at the CBDB is the now antiquated SF 11. I kid you not…@depth 43 it plays either 5 Nc3 or 5 c4. Fritz 16 @depth 29 plays 5 c4) 5…Nf6 6.b3 (SF 14.1 @depth 44 plays 6 c4; SF 220422 will, given the chance, play the move made in the game) 6…O-O (In this position castles has been played in 1206 games, yet two different Stockfish programs, 14.1 @depth 45, and 220422 @depth 35 both play 6…a5, a move having been attempted in only 4 (FOUR!) games. In those games against opponents averaging 2513 ELO points it has held White to only 38%. The CBDB shows that six different moves have been played in only 18 (EIGHTEEN!) games) 7.Bb2 c6 (There are 626 examples of this move contained in the CBDB and it shows a 62% score; the second most often played move has been 7..Qe8 with 594 examples and 57%; next comes 7…Ne4 with 329 games and 59%. SF 081121 @depth 50 plays 7…e6; SF 220422 @depth 41 will play 7…a5; with SF 14.1 @depth 56 playing 7…Ne4) 8.c4 (SF 14.1 will play the game move, a departure from SF 14 which preferred the second most often played move of 8 Nbd2. Check this out, SF 061121, given the chance, will play 8 a3, which will, maybe, someday be a TN if and when it is played by a titled player) 8…Na6 (This has been the most often played move and it was the choice of SF 10 [TEN?!] resulting in a 60% result versus 2417 opposition. SF 14.1 plays 8…a5 @depth 46 and it has held White to only 51%) 9.Qc2 (SF 14 @depth 44 will play the second most often played move [154 games] 9 Nbd2) 9…Qe8 (SF 14.1 and Komodo both play 9…Qc7) 10.Nbd2 (The CBDB shows Deep Fritz @depth 21 will play the game move, but Houdini 6.02 @depth 25 will play 10 a3. There is only one game with the move contained in the CBDB) 10…h6 11.Rfe1 (11 Rae1 has been the most often played move with 20 games in the CBDB which have scored an astounding 78% versus 2474 oppo; the second most popular move, 11 a3 has been seen in 15 games, scoring 57%, and it is the choice of Fritz 15 @depth 16, which is pretty darn shallow, is it not? SF 14 @depth 33 would play 11 Nh4, and it woulda been a TN if’n it had ever been played…SF 14.1 @depth 24 will play 11 Bc3. In the 5 games at the CBDB is has only scored 40%, albeit against 2489 oppo) 11…Qf7 (SF 8 @depth 18 and Komodo 13.2 @depth 26 both play the move played in the game, but SF 14.1 @depth 17 will play 11…g5) 12.a3 (SF 8 @depth 17 will play 12 Bc3, as will the SF program at LiChess [https://lichess.org/broadcast/south-african-closed-championship-seniors/round-6/QxFUfJlF]. SF 160215 @depth 17 will play a new move, 12 Rec1. Deep Fritz, playing the CBDB “How low can you go?” limbo, @depth 15 will play 12 Bc3. Blind squirrel? Acorn?)
relocated from Music City to the Phoenix city, Atlanta, Georgia. It happened that by happenstance I was at Todd’s apartment after he moved in and again later as he was getting ready to return to Nashville, Tennessee. There was an obvious disparity between how the apartment looked on those two occasions, kind of like one of those ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures.
Todd was young, and strong, at that time, and was the “Big Dog” at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center, kickin’ ass and takin’ names. He was also an extremely personable and animated fellow. After being beaten by Todd one regular habitué of the House of Pain vociferously and demonstrably said to any and everyone within earshot, “That Todd has a BIG HEAD!” To which Bob Bassett replied, “Yeah, and if you ever get your rating up to 2400 you will have a big head.” Another wag added, “Fat chance.” The loser hit the door… The name stuck, although no one ever called Todd “Big Head” to his face. After yet another player had been battered and bloodied, metaphorically speaking, of course, over the Chess board by Todd, the loser would be asked about the result and the reply would invariably be, “Big Head got me.” About this time there was a popular music group, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, who were quite popular. Todd traveled to a music festival in another state and I considered asking if Big Head Todd and the Monsters were there, but refrained from so doing…
These days Todd is the man with the Big Head at the Nashville Chess Center:
FM Andrews drew with fellow FM James Canty in the opening round of the May 2022 GM/IM Norm Invitational at the Charlotte Chess Center and followed that with a victory over GM Alonso Zapata, now a citizen of Georgia living in the metro Atlanta area. A couple of losses set him back before he was paired with serial drawer IM Nikolay Andrianov,
“…who became the Soviet Junior Champion in 1980. He beat GM Gary Kasparov in their junior years and maintains a plus score against the world champion. After that, he chose to focus on chess training. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chess training from the Moscow Central Physical Culture and Sports Institute, considered the top chess school globally at the time. He has since then trained students, many of them becoming masters in Russia, Ukraine, Greece, Indonesia, the Philippines, and the United States. Currently, he teaches chess in Arizona and online with Ashburn Chess Club.” (https://ashburnchessclub.com/nikolay-andrianov)
These are the games produced by IM Nikolay Andrianov in the first four rounds:
IM NIKOLAY ANDRIANOV (2317) vs DONALD JOHNSON (2102)
What happened in the second round? It looks as though Tianqi Wang actually considered attempting to try and play for a win, but after making a very weak move that gave the advantage to his opponent changed his mind and offered a draw, which was accepted by the player with little fight left in him. It takes two to tango, and make a draw, so all the blame cannot go to IM Andrianov. Some of the blame must be taken by the pusillanimous pussies so ready to accept a draw offer from an old and weak IM. Todd Andrews came to play Chess and forced the ineffectual IM to play to the death. Unfortunately, it was Todd who lost, but he went down fighting, like a man, and my hat is off to FM Todd Andrews. In losing Todd Andrews comes away a winner from one of the Charlotte Drawing Tournaments.
GM ALONSO ZAPATA (2367)
vs FM TODD ANDREWS (2209)
Round 2 | 2022.05.05 | 0-1 ECO: C06 French, Tarrasch, closed variation, main line
e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 (Stockfish 14 and 15 both play 3 Nc3, as does Komodo) 3…Nf6 (According to the ChessBaseDataBase, Komodo, Houdini, and Deep Fritz prefer 3…c5) 4. e5 Nfd7 5. c3 (SF 8 @depth 46 plays the move played in the game, but SF 13 @depth 44 goes with the most often played move of 5 Bd3. SF 14.1 @depth 47 will play 5 f4) 5…c5 6. Ndf3 (SF 311221 plays 6 Bd3 which has been far and away the most often played move with 8421 games in the CBDB; SF 14.1 will play 6 f4, the second most often played move (1924). The move played in the game has only been attempted in 54 games) 6…Nc6 7. Bd3 cxd4 (This move has been played most often with 130 games in the CBDB, but SF 14.1 and Komodo will play 7…Qa5. The reason could be that 7…cxd4 has resulted in a 66% score for players of the White pieces as opposed to only 42% in 31 games for 7…Qa5) 8. cxd4 f6 9. exf6 Nxf6 (SF 12 plays this move, but SF 070222 will take the pawn with the Queen with 9…Qxf6. Houdini will fire a TN with 9…Bb4+. 9…Nxf6 has been played in 84 games; 9…Qxf6 in only 8. White has scored 64% versus the former, but only 38% against the latter move) 10. Ne2 Qc7 (SF 130121 @depth 59 plays 10…Bd6, as do two different Fritz programs) 11. O-O Bd6 12. Nc3 (Fritz 16 plays this move, but Deep Fritz will play will play 12 g3. SF 170821 prefers 12 h3) 12…a6 13. Bg5 O-O 14. Rc1 (SF 14.1 plays 14 Bh4 and so should you) 14…h6 (14…Bd7 has been played most often, and one of the “New Engines” @depth 42 likes it, but left running a little longer it changes its whatever @depth 43 to 14…Ng4, which is what Komodo will play @depth 26) 15. Bh4 Bf4 (There is only one prior game with the game move. Komodo 8 @depth 14 plays 15…Bd7, but SF 261120 will play 15…Nh5, as will Komodo 9)
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 a6 (Stockfish 8 @depth 47 plays this move, but SF 14.1 @depth 60 prefers 2…d6) 3.g3 (SF 14 and Deep Fritz both play 3 Nf3, which has been the most often played move. SF 14.1 plays the move played in the game) 3…b5 (This is the move of Komodo 14 & SF 15. There are over one thousand examples of it contained in the bowels of the ChessBaseDataBase. Fritz 16 plays 3…d6. There are 24 games with the move that can be found in the CBDB) 4.Bg2 Bb7 (SF 13 @depth 52 and SF 14.1 @depth 42 both play the game move, but Deep Ftitz 14 @depth 29 will play a NEW MOVE, 4…e5) 5.d3 (Three different SF programs, 14.1; 15; and 151121 all play 5 Nge2. In 300 games with 5 Nge2 White has scored 53%. In the 620 games in which 5 d3 has been played it has scored only 45%) 5…e6 6.f4 (Two different SF programs, 12 & 151121 both play 6 Nf3, as does Deep Fritz 14. Makes you wonder, does it not?) 6…b4 (Three different SF programs, 13, 14.1; and 190322 all play 6…Nc6. The CBDB contains only 14 games in which 6…Nc6 has been tried. 6…Nf6, with 83 games tops the list, followed by 6…b4 with 40 games, and 6…d6 with 28) 7.Nce2 (Although this move has been most frequently played, SF 13; 14.1; and Fritz 16 all play 7 Na4, which has only scored 10% in 5 games. In 27 games 7 Nce2 has scored 39%) 7…d5 8.e5 (Although Komodo and Deep Freeze, err, excuse me, Deep Fritz both play 8 exd5, SF 14.1 plays the move played in the game) 8…Nh6 (SF 190322 and SF 14.1 both play 8…Ne7. SF 220422 plays 8…g6) 9.Nf3 Nf5 (The three programs shown, SF 13; Komodo 13; and Houdini, all play 9…Be7. See Lyell vs Yao below) 10.g4 (The CBDB shows SF 14.1; SF 13; and Houdini, each play the move made by Mr. McCartney, which turns out to be a THEORETICAL NOVELTY! I kid you not…The CBDB contains 3 games in which 10 d4 was attempted, each game a loss for White, and one game with 10 c3, which was won by White)
Many people have asked why I do not annotate games. The answer is usually that there are many websites where games are annotated by Chess programs that are vastly superior to Grandmasters, so how can I compete? Granted, over half a century in Chess gives me a modicum of credence, but still… I usually dig out the dirt on the opening and leave the heavy lifting to the programs, but someone special asked me to share my thoughts, and it turned out to be the impetus needed to annotate a game for the blog. In addition, this was a relatively easy game to annotate because it features some of the same kind of mistakes I have made, and it is not every day a class player defeats a GM. And no, I do not know Tyrell Harriott. The Drueke travel set was brought out and a pen and paper were used, just like in the old “BC” daze. BTW, that’s “Before Computer.” It was a labor of love, as I enjoyed the game immensely, and hope you do, too.
Tyrell Harriott (1920) vs GM Benjamin Finegold (2446)
d4 Nf6 2. e3 (The two most often played moves are 2 c4, with 351454 examples in the ChessBaseDataBase, and 2 Nf3, with 121652 games. There are only 310 examples of the move played in the game, and it has not scored well, with White scoring only 36%. This is an excellent example of a vastly superior, rating wise, getting out of the book ASAP) 2…g6 (This move has been the most often played move at the ‘Big Database’ at 365Chess, with 1461 games, twice as many as the next most often played moves of 2…e6 and 2…d5. It is a different story over at the CBDB. Titled players have preferred 2…c5 in 340 games, scoring 47%, and 2…d5, scoring 48% in 271 games. The game move is third, and in 144 games it has held White to only 31%. Komodo 12 @depth 33 will play 2…d5; Stockfish 14.110 will play 2..b6. The CBDB contains only 18 examples of 2…b6, and it has only scored 25%) 3. f4 (At depth 35 Stockfish 14 will play 3 c4. In 14 games it has only scored 14%. At depth 44 it changes to 3 Nf3. Stockfish 290721 @depth 41 also plays 3 Nf3, by far the most often played move with 755 examples in the CBDB, though it has only scored 45%. The second most popular move has bee 3 Bd3, though it has only been seen in 39 games) 3…Bg7 (This has been the most often played move at both databases, but is it the best move? Stockfish 14 @depth 32 will play 3…c5, but SF 14.1 @depth 40, and SF 130122 @depth 47 both prefer 3…d5. There are 5 examples of 3…d5 and it has scored only 10%) 4. Nf3 (Fritz 15 @depth 41 will play the most often played move, 4 Nf3, but Houdini and SF 130122 @depth 49 both play 4 c4, a move not found at the CBDB) 4…0-0 (SF 14.1 @depth 34 plays 4…c5. SF 130112 @depth 47 plays the most often played move 4…d5) 5. Bd3 (The CBDB contains 23 games in which this move has been played and it has scored only 33%. SF 130112 @depth 46 plays 5 c4. There are only 6 games with the move at the CBDB. It seemed obvious that Big Ben played his Bishop to d3 in order to support the pawn moving to e4 on the next move) 5…d6 (The CBDB shows 63 games with 5…d5 and it has scored 46%. 5…d6 has been seen in 26 games, scoring 35%. The choice of Stockfish, 5…c5, has been utilized 15 times, scoring only 27%) 6. O-O (Well, you know, Big Ben is a GM and I am not, but still, I would have moved the d pawn one square. The second most often played move, scoring 35% in 24 games. The most often played move has been 6 Be2. I kid you not…In 40 games it has scored all of 31%. Stockfish 11 and Houdini at lower depths both play 6 e4, a move not contained in the CBDB) 6…c5 7. c3 (I must stop here because the CBDB contains the computing of only two old Fritz programs and one of Houdini, all at lower depths. I can tell you that after 8 Bc2 the move 8…Bf5 is not found at 365Chess, [https://www.365chess.com/opening.php?m=16&n=108623&ms=d4.Nf6.e3.g6.f4.Bg7.Nf3.O-O.Bd3.d6.O-O.c5.c3.Nc6.Bc2&ns=184.108.40.2064.2267.4196.2666.4197.8168.1346.1268.1347.1504.104501.108623] or at the CBDB. In addition, I am qualified to inform you that the move played by the Grandmaster, 8 Bc2, is weak, because it violates the rule of moving the same piece twice in the opening before completing development. This is one of the rules most often broken by players new to the game. I realize Ben is a GM, and GM, as a rule, make their own rules. Yet the title of a player matters not if he plays a bad move because no matter what title precedes a players name, a bad move is still a bad move, and 8 Bc2 stinks…) 8…Bf5 (8…cxd4 looks natural) 9. Nbd2 (I would take the prelate with 9 Bxf5) 9…Bxc2 10. Qxc2 Rc8 11. f5 (This has gotta be premature, but I will give Mr. Harriott credit for coming after the GM!) 9…b5 (Well, you know, the thing is that if I were going over the game with a student I would have to ask, “What piece has yet to be developed? 9…Qb6 looks natural, does it not?”) 12. fxg6 hxg6 13. Ne4 b4 14. Nxf6+ Bxf6 15. Qf2 (15 d5 looks interesting) 15…bxc3 16. bxc3 Qa5 17. Bd2 Qa6 18. Kh1 (I would be forced to excoriate a poor student unmercifully for this “nothing” move. This is the kind of move made when one has no idea what to do. Granted, the GM has an advantage. Still, 18 Qg3 is possible, as is 18 h4, but I am uncertain about playing the latter move, which although thematic, still weakens the Kingside pawn structure, but still may be best because White has a preponderance of material on the Kingside, so should give strong consideration to playing on that side of the board. How bad is the King move? I would venture it was so weak that Black now has a won game) 18…Rb8 (The legendary man from the High Planes, the only man to have been both Georgia Chess Champion and Georgia Senior Chess Champion, David Vest, was very fond of saying, “Chess is a battle for squares.” The GM’s last move garnered many squares) 19. e4 cxd4 (I would have to give this move a question mark. 19…Rb2 is STRONG!) 20. cxd4 Rb2 21. Qe3 Rxa2 22. Rae1 (Take a look at this position:
Although Black has won a pawn, his pieces languish on the Queenside while the White army is mustered on the Kingside, where the Black King resides. Black must be extremely careful in this position or else he will be overrun on the Kingside) 22…Qa3 (After reading the above you must certainly understand the motivation behind this move) 23. Bc3 (The IM of GM strength, Boris Kogan, about whom this writer has written so much, was fond of saying, “Chess is a simple game. You attack, he defend. He attack, you better defend!” Boris would have played 23 Rc1) 23…Rc2 24. Rc1 (WOW! Now the Bishop is REALLY pinned! It would probably have been better for White to simply drop the Bishop back to a1) 24…Rxc1 (Not my move…I would play 24…Nb4! The move played actually helps White…) 25. Rxc1 Rc8 26. Ra1 (26 Bd2 and the Knight is pinned, and if you have yet to hear, “Pin to WIN,” you will eventually hear it, if you stay with the Royal game) 26…Qb3 27. Nd2? (What happened to the preponderance of material on the Kingside? 27 Bd2 has got to be better. Black is winning here) 27…Qc2 (Here’s the deal…if Black simply brings the Queen back to b6 he will exert much pressure on the d-pawn) 28. Rf1 (f3 looks like a fine square for the Knight, does it not?) 28…Nd8 (Frankly, I was shocked by this retrograde move. How about 28…Ne5?!!) 29. Ba1 a5 30. e5? (This is not a good move. Remember what I said about a “preponderance of material” on the Kingside earlier? That should be an indication to play on the Kingside. Now would be the time to launch an attack on the Black King with 30 h5! I will be like the famous Cajun cook, Justin Wilson, who was fond of saying, “I will guaRONtee it!”)
30…dxe5 31. dxe5 Bg7 (Well, there goes White’s pawn structure. Now he has a weak, isolated pawn in the middle of the board and a lost game, positionally speaking) 32. Ne4 Qc4 33. Qf3 Qe6 (Why not 33…Nc6 to attack that aforementioned weak, isolated pawn on e5?) 34. Qg3 Rc4 35. Qd3 (Defending AND attacking. You gotta love it!) 35…Qc8 36. Bb2 Ne6 37. h3? (At the beginning of each and every game the pawns on f2 and f7 are weak because they are protected by only the King. A Chess teacher will hammer this point home as long as it takes so his student will not be mated on f7, or f2. White should play his Queen to f3 now to attack that vulnerable f7 pawn) 37…Qc6 (After this White is toast…) 38. Re1 Rc2? (This has got to be a mistake because every Russian cab driver knows that “Passed pawns must be pushed.” This move is bad because it allows White to play his next move, breaking the coordination between the Queen and Rook) 39. Bc3 (White is still lost, but not as ‘lost’ as he was earlier…) 39…Rxg2?? (I have no idea what the time was but I do have an idea about how bad was this move. GM Yasser Seriwan would call it a “howler.”
Playing a move like this, turning an obviously won game into a complete disaster has got to be devastating to the psyche of any Chess player. I mean, to turn a completely won game into a devastating loss by playing a move like this can potentially drive a player insane. What could GM Finegold have been thinking?) 40. Qf3 Ng5 41. Nf6+ (Is that a beautiful move, or what? How would you like to have a chance to play a move like that against a Grandmaster, even an aged, over the hill, Grandmaster?!) 41…Qxf6 42. Qa8+ 1-0
d4 f5 2. c4 (Stockfish 250022 @depth 54 plays the game move, but SF 14 @depth 52 will play 2 Nf3. Then there is SF 14.1, the latest and greatest…until 14.2, or whatever name will be chosen for the next incarnation, appears, which will play 2 Bg5(!?) Could that be the reason GM Titas Stremavicius, one of todaze leading exponents of the Leningrad, err, strike that… The dude recently essayed e6 in lieu of d6… [https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2022/03/12/the-saint-louis-spring-classic-tournaments/] …has had to face 2 Bg5 in sixteen games in the past few years? (https://www.365chess.com/search_result.php?submit_search=1&eco=A80&bid=211209) 2…Nf6 (SF 14 shows 2…e6 at the ChessBaseDataBase. It has been the most often played move with 5037 games in the CBDB and it has scored 58% for white against a composite player rated 2409. The second most popular move has been 2…Nf6 and in 3786 games it has held a mythical white player rated 2410 to a 56% score. Earlier on this blog I advocated black playing the move d6 in response to the d4 + c4 moves when they are played in the Leningrad Dutch. In only 51 games white has scored 58% against players rated on average 2416) 3. g3 (SF 290112 @depth 50 plays this move, as does Houdini, but SF 14 @depth 35 will play 3 Nc3) 3…g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 ((There are 2026 games in which Black has played the game move and in those games it has scored 56%. In 181 games versus a composite player rated 2419 the move 4…d6 has held White to scoring only 53%. Just sayin’..) 5. Nf3 (Three different SF programs each play 5 Nc3) 5…d6 6. Nc3 O-O 7. O-O c6 (SF 14.1 and 250112 each play this move, as does Komodo…) 8. d5 (The CBDB shows this move having been played more than any other move in this position. In addition, 365Chess also shows it as the most played move, but is it best? Stockfish 100221 @depth 47 will play 8 Qb3, a move having been attempted in 137 games, scoring 52% against 2444 opposition. SF 14 @depth 49 will play 8 Bg5. There are only 9 examples of the move contained in the CBDB and White has scored only 39% versus a composite player rated 2387. Then there is SF 14.1, which, given the chance, will play 8 Be3. There are only two examples in the CBDB) 8…Kh8 (This move is a Theoretical Novelty. 8 e5 has been the most often played move, by far, and it is the choice of SF 14 & Houdini) The game can be found in annotated form at various locations on the internet. I suggest the free website: (https://lichess.org/broadcast/2022-charlotte-chess-im-d-norm-invitational/round-4/96ZmD4uj)
Grandmaster Zapata recently won the Georgia Senior but no game scores can be found at the GCA website (http://georgiachess.org/), and that includes the “magazine”, and I use the word only because that is the name of the “Georgia Chess News,” (http://georgiachessnews.com/) which for many years has been nothing but a venue for book reviews by Davide Nastasio.
would call a “howler.” One of GM Zapata’s strengths has been his ability to play solid, consistent Chess while staying away from “howler” moves. The move was so bad I thought there had been some kind of transmission problem, as the move 25…Ne4 suggests itself as it moves the steed to the middle of the board. 25…Na4 proves the axiom, “A knight on the rim is grim.” Indeed, the knight placed on a4 sure ’nuff looked grim, and dim.
A remarkable thing happened in St. Louis the past couple of weeks during the playing of the 2022 Spring Classic at the St. Louis Chess Club.
There were two different Chess tournaments, the “A” and the “B”. In the top section there were twenty three (23) decisive games played out of the forty five (45) total games contested, which is over 50%. There were even more decisive games, twenty eight (28) in the “B” tournament! That means 62% of the games ended in a victory for one player! This is unheard of in todaze Chess world what with the plethora of drawn games dominating play. The “A” section saw white score twelve (12) wins, with the general of the black army winning eleven (11) games! In round three there were three (3) black wins to go with two draws. Round five (5) saw three (3) black wins with only one (1) win for the player of the white pieces. In the “second section” there were nineteen (19) victories scored by players of the white pieces, with nine (9) games won by the player in command of the black pieces. These two tournaments were truly “fighting” tournaments. This should not be Big News but is because of the unbelievably large number of drawn games in most tournaments these daze, such as tournaments held at the Charlotte Chess Club, where players go to draw. There is a reason for the great disparity between the two Chess havens. Simply put, if a player comes to St. Louis with a case of “shakeitus” he is not again invited. In Charlotte they “Follow the rules.” In St. Louis they make their own rules, which happen to engender fighting Chess. If a player comes to St. Louis with his hand extended, ready to accept a draw at any time, that player deservedly suffers opprobrium from the community.
The time spent watching the games from St. Louis was time well spent. What with the Russian monster killing machine laying waste to Ukraine time was needed for escapism, and nothing is a better escape outlet than the Royal Game, especially when the players come to the board with their knives unsheathed.
The first featured game involves one of my favorite players, GM Titas Stremavicius.
He must be the only Grandmaster who plays with the f-pawn, both f-pawns. Certainly Titas is the leading exponent of the Bird’s opening (1 f4), and after 1 d4 Sid Vicious, as I think of him, plays 1…f5 with regularity. Sid is an imaginative and interesting player who usually plays to win. Until this tournament Sid, given the chance, usually played the Leningrad Dutch. For some reason Titas decided to play differently in his round six game with GM Robert Hungaski.
After, 1. d4 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2, Stremavicius played the move 3…e6?! in lieu of 3…d6. Why, Sid, why? Sid tripped and fell all over his blade. Sid must have “booked up” on 3…e6 in order to surprise his opponents in this tournament because he played the same move against GM Elshan Moradiabadi
in round eight. Unfortunately, the vicious one was the player surprised. Sid came out of the opening with a decent position, but in the transition to the middle game Sid Vicious first put one foot in it before putting the other foot in it before falling face first into the slime pit. Those two losses with black were sandwiched between a loss with white to GM Arman Mikaelyan,
making it three losses in a row heading into the last round. Keep this in mind as you read on…
The following game was contested in the last round. GM Christopher Repka
started the tournament with four (4) straight wins, and after a couple of draws defeated Christopher Woojin Woo
won four (4) games in a row after a second round loss with black versus GM Cemil Can Ali Marandi.
After a draw in the antepenultimate round with GM Elshan Moradiabadi the two players, Mishra and Repka, were tied for first place and were to meet in the penultimate round. It was the game of the event as Mishra, in charge of the black army, handed Repka his first loss. In the last round Stremavicius, who had lost three games in a row, had white versus Repka, who now desperately needed a win…
Titas Stremavicius (2520) vs Christopher Repka (2508) Saint Louis Spring Classic “B” A21 English, Kramnik-Shirov counterattack
Stockfish 14 @depth 47 will take the Knight with 4…Bc3. The only other game with the same move order follows, which makes 5 g3 a Theoretical Novelty. There were several turning points and I suggest you surf on over to Lichess.com (https://lichess.org/broadcast/2022-spring-chess-classic/round-9/TYTT0kRI) and reply the game. The following position captured my attention:
I was expecting 17…Qg4 because there is no way I would trade Queens when my opponent had an ‘open air’ King!
9…b6 was a weak move for many reasons, foremost in that it blocked the Queen. 9…Qb6 was best. Mishra hald an advantage even after playing the weak 11 a3. At Lichess the move is given as 11 a3?!, with “Inaccuracy. Ne1 was best.” Then a few moves later Mishra played 13 Ne1? “Mistake. a4 was best.” after that move the game was even…until Yoo took the pawn with 14…gxf4. Stockfish preferred 14…g4. (https://lichess.org/broadcast/2022-spring-chess-classic/round-9/TYTT0kRI) The game was lost after Yoo played 17…f6? What would Ben Finegold say?
In the top section, “A”, GM Samuel Sevian and GM Illya Nyzhnyk tied for first place with each scoring six (6) points. Unfortunately, they were forced to play some kind of quick game that is inherently unfair to decide which player “won” the tournament. It is sad, really, when one thinks about it… Show the players some RESPECT!
GM Ray Robson (2676)
vs GM Illya Nyzhnyk
Saint Louis Spring Classic “A” C43 Petrov, modern attack, Symmetrical variation
Although a ridiculous, contrived tournament like this one is regrettable and forgettable, it does contain a nice website with many beautiful pictures, such as this:
A much better format would have been the top ranked male players versus the top ranked female players. The tournament could be a regular, yearly event. Sure, the females would be completely devastated, but Chess aficionados would be able to gauge the progress made by the women players over time as they were continually drubbed.
Nino Batsiashvili (GEO)
vs Gillan Bwalya (ZAM)
Gibraltar Chess Festival | Battle of the Sexes 2022 round 05 A80 Dutch
1.d4 f5 2. Bf4 (After having played the Dutch defense for decades I have never faced this move anywhere, at any time, in any Chess game. 365Chess.com shows over 400 games; the Chessbase database contains 287 games. Stockfish 14.1 @depth 53 considers 2 Bg5 the best move) 2…Nf6 (This, by a wide margin, has been the most often played move. The move of the Kings Knight has 271 examples in the CBDB. The second most popular move, 2…e6, shows 56 games in the CBDB. The move Stockfish considers best, 2…d6, shows only 13 games) 3. e3 (This move has been the most popular choice, with 263 games in the CBDB, and it is the choice of Deep Fritz. 3 Bg5 has been played in 217 games, while 3 Nf3, the choice of Rybka, has been seen in 185 games. There are 44 games in which 3 Nc3 has been attempted. There are three games with 3 h3; one with 3 c4. There are absolutely no games showing with the move Stockfish 14.1 considers best, 3 a3. Nor are there any games with 3 a3 at 365Chess.com. The AW has a feeling things will change after this salvo is fired…) 3…d6 (3…e6, the choice of Komodo and Fritz 17, has been the most often played move. Stockfish 14.1 @depth 42 plays the move played in the game) 4 Nc3 (Houdini would play 4 c3. The are two games with the move contained in the CBDB , both losses. Stockfish 13 @depth 50 would play the most often played move, 4 Nf3. SF 14.1 @depth 39 plays the second most often played move 4 Nc3) 4…e6 5. Nf3 (The CBDB contains only 2 examples of this move in action, but it is the choice of Fritz 17; SF 14, and SF 060720. 365Chess contains nary an example of 5 Nf3) 5…Nc6 (Three different Stockfish programs all play 5…Be7, and so should you. There are no examples of the move played in the game, which can mean only one thing: Theoretical Novelty! The only game found with the best move, 5…Be7, can be found below. The game can be located in the Chess Base Database))
e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. g3 (I should not have to inform you the programs all frown on the move g3 because it requires two moves to develop the Bishop in lieu of the one move it takes to place the prelate on a square like c4. When growing older I gravitated toward, shall we say, more “positional” type openings, and the Vienna was one of them. In addition, the Sicilian that had been “open” became “closed.” Here’s the deal…The move preferred by the programs, 3 Nf3 has scored 56% in the 3809 games in the Chessbase Database; in 1803 games the move 3 g3 has scored 55%) 3…Bc5 4 Bg2 d6 (Deep Fritz 13 @depth 35 plays this move, but StockFish 041221 @depth 52 and StockFish 151121 @depth 65 both castle) 5. h3 (Deep Fritz 13 @depth 31 plays the most often played move, 5 Nge2, which has scored at a high rate of 70%. Left crunching a little longer it changes its whatever to 5 Nf3 @depth 33. Stockfish 14 @depth 42 plays 5 Na4, moving the steed to the rim where it may be grim, but it also attacks the Bishop. In only ten games 5 h3 has also scored 70%) 5…a6 (Houdini @depth 25 plays the move played in the game; there are five examples contained in the CBDB. Komodo @depth 30 castles. There is only one example of 5…0-0. Stockfish 14 @depth 45 plays 5…Nc6, and so should you because it has scored 56% in the 16 games found in the CBDB) 6. Nge2 Nc6 7. d3 (Komodo prefers this move, the most often played move by far in 89 games, and it has scored 63% in battle. The next most frequently played move with 40 games showing, 7 0-0, has only scored 50%. Nevertheless, Stockfish 14 castles…) 7…h6 (Stockfish 14.1 @depth 38 plays 7…Be6) 8. O-O Be6 (Deep Fritz 13 castles, but Stockfish 13 @depth 36 would spring the Theoretical Novelty 8…b5 on the Chess world. The game move has been most frequently played) 9. Nd5 (Although the most often played move, given the chance Stockfish will play 9 Kh2) 9…Bxd5 10. exd5 Ne7 (This is the only move found at the CBDB, but Houdini and two different Stockfish programs would play 10…Nd4, and so should you…) 11. d4 exd4 12. Nxd4 O-O 13. c4 Re8 (This is a TN. The only move seen in the position is 13…Qd7, which happens to be the choice of Stockfish 14 and Komodo)