Saturday, October 21, 2017

October G/60 Action!

The Charlotte Chess Center's monthly G/60 Action Tournament allows players to play 4 rated games in a single day, a very popular event in addition to our Reverse Angle series.

38 players competed in the G/60 tournament on Saturday, October 21.  Each of the three sections (Top, Under 1700, and Under 1200) awards cash prizes.

The Top section included top seed NM Dominique "the Mayor" Myers (2114), Patrick "Bernie" McCartney (2106), and Vishnu "10:05am" Vanapalli in a section with 14 players.

Dominique Myers scored clear first (3.5/4) for $140, and Adharsh Ragagopal (1916) won second ($50) with 3/4..  Pradhyumna Kothapalli (1821), Luke Harris (1818), and Xiaodong Jin (1811) split the Under 1900 class prize, earning $10 each.

Under 1700
The U1700 section featured 12 players rated between 1100 and 1700, including reigning G/60 U1700 Champions Danny Cropper (1661) and Sam Fuerstman (1586).

Danny Cropper won the section with 3.5/4, winning $140.  Sam Fuerstman and Sanjit Pilli (1284) earned $40 each for their 3/4 scores.

Under 1200
12 players played in the U1200 section.  Elijah Estoll (unrated) from Virginia went 4-0 and won $140.  Michael Castellani (1025) and Smayan Ammasani (607) scored 3/4, good for $40 each.

UPSETS - 150 points or more
U1200, Round 4 - Dean Creech (541) def. Jay Bhatt (1086) - 545 points
U1200, Round 1 - Smayan Ammasani (607) def. Jay Bhatt (1086) - 479 points
U1700, Round 1 - Sanjit Pilli (1284) def. Ian Macnair (1603) - 319 points
U1700, Round 3 - Chase Siuta (1161) def. Paul Jones (1417) - 256 points
U1200, Round 3 - Smayan Ammasani (607) def. Siddharth Aravind (862) - 255 points
U1700, Round 4 - Gautam Kapur (1325) def. Rithvik Prakki (1490) - 165 points

Daniel Romm (unrated) defeated Xiaodong Jin (1811).
Elijah Estoll (unrated) defeated Michael Castellani (1025), Akshay Rajagopal (951), Siddharth Aravind (862), and Shreeshiva Raja (655).

Thursday, November 2 is the First Thursday Blitz tournament, followed by a Reverse Angle on Saturday, November 4.  See all of our events on the events calendar.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The road to National Master

I started playing chess at the age of 7 and my first rating was 245. I remember when I broke 1000, three and a half years later, it felt like an amazing achievement.  Unlike many of the young elite players, my path to national master was not a quick one. A lot of talented young players quit chess when they get to High School, or when they get stuck at a certain rating. I noticed this trend from a young age, so I made a point to stick with it- regardless of what may be going on in other aspects of my life. For all of you looking for the answer to "How do I get to National Master?", this is the simplest answer I can give: If you are consistently passionate about chess, you will improve.

There are many chess lessons that go beyond the board, and that is what I will focus on in this piece.

How to deal with losses

I remember a point in time when I lost it felt like the world was ending. I can remember countless times when I cried over tough losses when I was a kid. Being upset about losses can be helpful, but chess players (myself included) often take this to the extreme. This is not healthy for chess improvement, nor it is healthy for your life outside of chess. At some point, I came to this realization: What is the point of playing chess if the pain of the losses outweigh the joy of the victories? Make sure to always enjoy your wins, and if you are in a slump, focus on figuring out what you have been doing wrong and fixing it, not just the fact that your ELO has gone down. In late 2016, I was up to 2168 USCF, and by March 2017, I had gone down to 2077. Most of the games that I lost were because of blunders, so I purchased an ICC account and began doing studies (very difficult chess puzzles) to improve my calculation. I also recognized that these blunders were somewhat due to me being overconfident, and I made a point to take all of my opponents more seriously. Sure enough, 7 months later, I made it to 2200.  There will certainly be another slump in my chess career, and I will use this to improve, not sulk.

Learn from others

When I was 1700, I always thought my moves were correct. If somebody questioned my move in analysis, I would give my rationale and defend the move forever. It is very common for chess players to demonstrate this sort of ego, but I can guarantee you that this does not positively correlate to ELO. Be open to the fact that it is possible for a move which you thought about for thirty minutes to be absolutely incorrect. If another player makes a suggestion for a different move, analyze this move as if the position were new to your eyes, not with the intent of defending the way that you played the position. Additionally, I always take advantage of an opportunity to show my games to stronger players, and I listen to their suggestions with eagerness. This open-minded attitude is one which has led to me making master.

Simple Chess

The biggest difference between me and a 2000 rated player is that I very rarely (knowingly) make weaknesses for my opponent to take advantage of, and I actively seek out such opportunities to make these weaknesses for my opponent. A solidified piece on the third rank is almost always winning, and a solidified piece on the fourth rank is pretty darn close to winning. Isolated or doubled pawns are typically not "dynamic", usually they are just weak. Play on the side that your pawns point, and try not to move pawns on the other side. Queen trades are not boring, they are a useful simplification tool under the right circumstances. Follow these general guidelines, instead of always looking to swindle your opponent. Of course, when a tactical position presents itself, I take advantage of it, but this is almost always after 30 moves of putting my pieces on good squares and making weaknesses in my opponents pawn structure. Finally, try not to get into time trouble. In the words of FM Giannatos, "When someone gets into time trouble, they are not very good. So I don't get into time trouble". Of course this is easier said than done, but take your time only in critical positions. People often ask "how do I know when it is a critical position?". For me, such a position exists when I have to choose between whether or not to make a capture, or when I am in an intensely calculation based position. Otherwise, save yourself the pain of blundering away a winning position, and try your best to play quickly.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to posting again about some of my games!

NM Mark Biernacki

Monday, October 9, 2017

Opening Preparation: The French Defense - MacCutcheon Variation

The introduction article gave us an unusual sideline that leads to unclear play against the Advance Variation. That was followed up with three articles illustrating how to gain complete equality against the Exchange Variation, the Tarrasch Variation, and the King's Indian Attack. This is all well and good, but let's keep in mind that we are playing Black here, and if the French Defense gave Black complete equality in all variations, everyone would be playing the French Defense and you would never see White playing 1.e4 at the Grand Master level.

Well, we now come upon what is considered the most critical third move against the French Defense, and that is 3.Nc3. This move leads to lines that are very heavy in theory, so much so that I have split the coverage of this into two separate articles. Against 3.Nc3, I am going to recommend the move 3...Nf6, where the next article will cover the Steinitz Variation, 4.e5, which I find to be White's strongest response to 3...Nf6. This article will be covering everything else after 3...Nf6.

The purpose of 3...Nf6 is to continue to put pressure on the e4 pawn, forcing White to make a decision what to do about it. The first option is to advance the pawn, and as mentioned already, this will be covered in the next article. The second option is to pin the Knight with 4.Bg5, and realistically, this is White's only other option that gives him a shot at gaining the advantage. The vast majority of the article will cover this move. The only other options are to exchange the pawn or to try to guard the e-pawn again, and that is what we will be covering first.

Part 1: White's Alternatives to 4.Bg5 and 4.e5

In this section, we are going to talk briefly about White's two most critical secondary moves, 4.Bd3 and 4.exd5. Neither of these moves should pose Black any problems, and as long as you understand the basic concepts, including the rule differences in the Exchange with Nc3 versus the rules in the Exchange without Nc3 explained in the article on the Exchange French.

A) The first move that we are going to look at is 4.Bd3.

This adds another defender to the e4-pawn, but the move is clumsy in that it blocks the Queen from guarding d4, and if the d4-pawn is traded, it blocks the Queen from hitting the Black pawn on d5, and so, like the Tarrasch Variation, Black can attack the White center with 4...c5 despite the e-pawn not betting settled yet as to whether it will advance or exchange itself.

Now White has nothing better than to try to stick Black with an isolated pawn, but this proved to be no problem at all for Black in the game Sayber - Kacheishvili, Istanbul 2000, which went 5.exd5 exd5 6.dxc5 Bxc5 7.Nf3 O-O 8.O-O h6 9.h3 Nc6 10.Bf4 Be6 11.a3 Nh5 12.Bh2 Qf6 13.Na4 Be7 14.b4 Nf4 15.Nc5 a5 16.Nxe6 fxe6 17.b5 Nd8 18.Bxf4 Qxf4 19.Qe2 Bf6 20.g3 Qd6 21.Rad1 Bc3 22.Nh4 Rf6 23.Bh7+ Kh8 24.Qd3 Qxa3 25.Bg6 Qc5 26.Qe2 a4 27.g4 a3 28.g5 Rf4 29.Qh5 Qe7 30.Bd3 Qxg5+ 31.Qxg5 hxg5 32.Ng6+ Kg8 33.Nxf4 gxf4 34.Ra1 a2 35.Kg2 Kf7 36.Kf3 e5 37.Bf5 Kf6 38.Bd7 Nf7 39.h4 Ra3 40.Kg2 e4 0-1.

We see that once again, Black's play was fairly simple and that knowledge of general concepts is easily enough to get through this insipid line as Black kept himself to the one weakness on d5 which White was completely unable to pressure, and Black attacks the Queenside which is typical in the French Defense, achieves the passed pawn, and both allows White to gain the Bishop pair and even temporarily gives up an exchange in order to convert the isolated pawn into a central pawn mass which, combined with the passed a-pawn, becomes too hot for White to handle. You will rarely face this line, and after careful study of the above game, you should have no problems playing against this line.

B) The other move of importance is 4.exd5.

As you may recall in Part One on the Exchange Variation, it was mentioned that 4.Nc3 would be covered later on. The reason for that is the rules are different for lines with an early 4.Nc3 than those without. First of all, White is unable to move the c-pawn. This makes c3 harder to achieve. With a White Pawn on c3, a Knight on c6 would be misplaced, but here, the move ...Nc6 is frequently played with the idea of going to b4. Therefore, the move ...Nc6 is a natural reaction any time White plays the move Bd3. Another major difference is that the King's Knight does not play the mimic game. It always goes to f6. The last major difference is the development of the King's Bishop, where its best location is dependent upon the move order. For example, after 4...exd5 5.Bg5, the move 5...Be7 here is best, despite the fact that the move is more in line with the Classical than the MacCutcheon, but as we will see when we get to the 4.Bg5 line that this idea of 5...Bb4 doesn't work.

A good example of what to do in the early Exchange lines with Nc3 is the game Barczay - Dobosz, CSR-ch 1979. Given the repertoire presented here, this would happen in our case if moves 4 and 5 are switched. 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 2.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.exd5 exd5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.Nge2 Nb4 8.O-O O-O 9.Ng3 Nxd3 10.Qxd3 h6 11.Bf4 c6 12.Rae1 Re8 13.Re2 Be6 14.Rfe1 Bf8 15.h3 Qd7 16.Be5 Nh7 17.Nd1 Kh8 18.c3 Rac8 19.Bf4 b6 20.Qf3 Kg8 21.Nh5 Bf5 22.Rxe8 Rxe8 23.Rxe8 Qxe8 24.Nd3 Bg6 25.Ng3 Ng5 26.Qe2 Ne6 27.Nef5 c5 28.Qe5 Qa4 29.Qb8 Qxa2 30.Ne7+ Kh7 31.Nxg6 Kxg6 32.Qe5 Kh7 33.Be3 Kg8 34.Nf5 Qxb2 35.Qxd5 Qxc3 36.dxc5 Bxc5 37.Qa8+ Kh7 38.Qxa7 Bxe3 39.Nxe3 Qc1+ 40.Nf1 Qc7 41.Qa2 Qc5 42.Qa7 Kg6 43.Qb7 b5 44.Ng3 Qc4 45.Qf3 Nf4 46.Ne4 f5 47.Nd6 Qb4 48.Qd1 Qd4 49.Qxd4 Ne2+ 50.Kf1 Nxd4 41.Ke1 Kf6 42.Kd2 Ke5 54.Ne8 Ne6 54.Kc3 Kd5 0-1.

Part 2: White Plays 4.Bg5

The rest of this article will be covering the position after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5. (4.e5 will be covered in the next article.) The point behind White’s last move is that rather than advancing, exchanging, or protecting the threatened e-pawn, White pins the Knight to the Queen. Black realizes that the focus is still on the e-pawn and so this gives Black three options. Black can execute a trade and capture the pawn with 4…dxe4, known as the Burn Variation. Black’s second option is to play 4…Be7, known as the Classical Variation, which unpins the Knight, and re-threatens the e-pawn, where if White advances the e-pawn, Black can move the Knight out of the way with 5…Nfd7 and offer a trade of Bishops. Both of these lines are perfectly fine for Black, but I am going to cover Black’s third option, and that is to counter-pin the White Knight on c3 with 4…Bb4. This is known as the MacCutcheon Variation. The idea is to once again threaten the e-pawn. As we discussed earlier, these ideas with an early Bd3 to protect the e-pawn again don’t really work because Black can blast the center and after 5.Bd3 c5 6.e5 cxd4!, Black is slightly better. This leaves only two options for White. Exchange the pawn or advance the pawn. Now you might be saying to yourself “Doesn’t advancing the pawn win the Knight?” The answer is no. While advancing the pawn with 5.e5 is the main line, Black has 5…h6, counter-attacking the White Bishop.

Therefore, White has six options against the French MacCutcheon. The first one that we will cover is 5.exd5, once again exchanging the pawn, and that will be covered in the first game. The others are what White does after 5.e5 h6. White’s five options are 6.exf6, 6.Bh4, 6.Bc1, 6.Be3, and the main line, 6.Bd2. The first two should never cause Black a problem, and they will be covered briefly in the second game, which will focus on 6.Bc1. The third game will cover 6.Be3, and the firnal game will cover White’s main response, 6.Bd2.

Game 1: White Plays 5.exd5

We will start with a GM game played earlier this year.

W: Hou Yifan (2652)
B: Francisco Vallejo Pons (2710)
Moscow Grand Prix 2017

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Bb4 5.exd5

This is the only deviation from the main move, 5.e5, that makes any sense for White. Now you might recall when we talked earlier in this article about what Black should do if White exchanges either on move 4, or on move 3 and then follows that up with 4.Nc3, that playing 5...Bb4 wouldn't work. Well, now we have already played 4...Bb4, and if we now play 5...exd5, we transpose to the 5...Bb4 line that was mentioned earlier doesn't work. Well, the reason why it doesn't work is that White has the very strong move 6.Qf3! and now 6...Be7?? loses to 7.Bxf6 Bxf6 8.Nxd5 Bxd4 9.Qe4+, and so Black must play 6...Nbd7, blocking in his own Bishop. Now after 7.O-O-O, Black has two options, and neither are good. 7...Bxc3 8.Qe3+ Be7 9.Qxc3 gives White a very strong initiative while 7...Be7 8.Nge2 c6 9.Ng3 h6 10.Be3 Nb6 11.h3 gives White the advantage and a very pleasant game. Therefore, Black next move is virtually forced.


So despite White's choice to exchange pawns, we don't see the symmetrical pawn structure that we've seen in the other lines of the Exchange Variation. That said, this line ends up being vastly different. For starters, both sides are about to see their pawn structures wrecked.


The best move available to White. Instead, 6.Nf3 allows Black to equalize comfortably with 6...Ne4 and after 7.Bd2 Bxc3 8.bxc3 Nxd2 9.Qxd2 b6 10.Bd3 Bb7 11.Qf4 Qd6 12.Qg4 Nd7 13.O-O O-O, Black has equalized, Savon - Glek, USSR 1989.

6...Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 gxf6 8.Qd2

Other moves pose Black no problems:

A) 8.Qg4 Qa5 9.Ne2 Ke7 10.g3 and now:

A1) 10...Bd7 and in the game Bilel Bellahcene - Mishra Swayams, Paris 2017, White got a strong attack down the middle after 11.Bg2 Bc6 12.Bxc6 Nxc6 13.O-O Qg5 14.Qf3 Rdh8 15.Rfe1 Kf8 16.Rab1 Rab8 17.h4 Qg6 18.Nf4 Qh6 19.Nd3 Rd5 20.Nc5 Nd8 21.Rbd1 Kg7 22.c4 Rf5 23.Qc3 Nc6 24.Ne4 b6 25.Nd3 Na5 26.d5 exd5 27.cxd5 Rxd5 28.Qc7 Rf8 29.Rde1 f5 30.Re6 Qd2 R6e2 Qh6 32.Nf4 Rc5 33.Qd7 Kg8 34.Re8 Qc6 35.Qd8 1-0

A2) 10...Nc6 is stronger, and in Ray Robson - Rafael Vaganian, Aeroflot Open, Russia 2009, Black, rather than playing passively and letting White roll down the center as seen in the previous game, he ignores his own pawn structure and immediately attacks White's center and wins a pawn-up Rook ending that deserves thorough analysis. 11.Bg2 e5 12.Qf3 Nxd4 13.Nxd4 exd4 14.O-O Qxc3 15.Rfe1 Be6 16.Qxc3 dxc3 17.Bxb7 Rab8 18.Bd5 Rb5 19.Bxe6 fxe6 20.Re3 Rc5 21.Rb1 Rd8 22.Rb3 Rd2 23.Rbxc3 Rxc2 24.Rxc2 Rxc2 25.Ra3 Kd6 26.Rxa7 c5 27.Kg2 c4 28.Kf3 c3 29.Ke3 Rxf2 30.Ra6+ Kd7 31.Ra7+ Kc6 32.Ra3 Rc2 33.Kd4 e5+ 34.Kc4 Kd6 35.h4 Ke6 36.Rxc3 Rxa2 37.Rf3 Ra4+ 38.Kb3 Rg4 39.Kc3 e4 40.Re3 Ke5 41.Kd2 Rg7 42.Ra3 Kf5 43.Ke2 Kg4 44.Ra6 f5 45.Kf2 Rb7 46.Rh6 Rb2+ 47.Ke3 Rb3+ 48.Kf2 e3+ 49.Ke2 Kxg3 50.Rxh7 Kf4 51.Rf7 Rb2+ 52.Kf1 Ke4 53.h5 f4 54.h6 Kf3 55.Kg1 e2 56.Re7 Rb1+ 0-1

B) 8.Nf3 b6! 9.Be2 Bb7 10.O-O Rg8 11.c4 Qe4 12.d5 Nd7! gives Black a strong position, and in the game Martin(2433) - Knott(2378), Birmingham 2005, Black proved that White's pawn weaknesses were more critical than his own and won in short order after 13.Re1 O-O-O 14.Bf1 Qg4 15.Nd4 Ne5 16.Qxg4 Rxg4 17.c3 c5 18.dxc6 Nxc6 19.Nxc6 Bxc6 20.Rad1 Rxd1 21.Rxd1 Rg5 22.f4 Ra5 23.Rd2 Ra3 24.Bd3 f5 25.h3 Rxc3 26.g4 Be4 27.Bf1 fxg4 28.hxg4 Rg3+ 29.Kf2 Rf3+ 30.Ke2 Rxf4 31.g5 Bb4 32.Ke3 Rxf1 0-1

8...Qa5 9.Bd3

The game Kristina Mokhova - Tatiana Grabuzova, St Petersburg Open (Women), 2000 instead saw White play 9.Ne2 and like Martin - Knott, Black wins via outplaying White once again in a Rook and Pawn ending via 9...Bd7 10.Ng3 Bc6 11.f3 Nd7 12.Bc4 O-O-O 13.O-O Rhg8 14.a4 a6 15.Qe3 Nb6 16.Bb3 Nd5 17.Bxd5 Qxd5 18.Rf2 Rg6 19.Ne2 Qg5 20.Qxg5 Rxg5 21.Nf4 Ra5 22.Nd3 Rxa4 23.Rxa4 Bxa4 24.Nc5 Be8 25.Ne4 f5 26.Nf6 h6 27.Ng8 h5 28.Nf6 h4 29.Nxe8 Rxe8 30.c4 Kd7 31.c3 a5 32.Ra2 b6 33.Kf2 f4 34.Ke2 f5 35.Kd3 h3 36.gxh3 Rh8 37.Rf2 Rxh3 38.Kc2 c6 39.Kb2 Kd6 40.Ka3 b5 41.Kb3 e5 42.dxe5+ Kxe5 43.cxb5 cxb5 44.Kb2 Kd5 45.Kb3 Kc5 46.Re2 a4+ 47.Ka3 Rxf3 48.Re5 Kc4 49.Rxf5 Rxc3+ 50.Kb2 Rf3 51.h4 Rf2+ 52.Kb1 b4 0-1

9...Bd7 10.Ne2 Bc6 11.f3

11.Nf4 is White's main alternative. Typically, Black has responded with with 11...Nd7, and things have usually ended badly for Black. For example, A.Sokolov - Atalik, Bundesliga 2003, White ends up with the superior minor piece and goes on to win after 12.c4 Qxd2+ 13.Kxd2 e5 14.Nd5 Bxd5 15.cxd5 Ke7 16.Rab1 b6 17.Rb4 Rag8 18.g3 Rg4 19.Re1 Kd6 20.c3 exd4 21.cxd4 Nb8 22.Re3 Rg5 23.Be4 Re8 24.h4 Rg7 25.Kd3 f5 26.Bxf5 Rxe3+ 27.Kxe3 Kxd5 28.Be4+ Kd6 29.Rb5 Nd7 30.Rg5 Rxg5 31.hxg5 Nf8 32.f4 c5 33.dxc5 Kxc5 34.Bc2 Kd6 35.Bb3 Ke7 36.Ke4 Nd7 37.Kd5 f6 38.Bc2 fxg5 39.fxg5 Nf8 40.Bf5 b5 41.Kc5 a6 42.Kb6 Kd6 43.Kxa6 Kc5 44.Kb7 b4 45.Kc7 Kd5 46.Kb6 Ke5 47.Bc8 Kd4 48.Kb5 Kc3 49.Bf5 b3 50.axb3 Kxb3 51.Kc5 Kc3 52.Kd5 Kd2 53.Kd6 1-0. Notice that the Black Knight is dominated, and the g3 pawn actually plays a role in the victory as it covers f4 and combined with the Bishop, builds a wall strong enough to keep the Black King out for just the right amount of time. If Black had played on, White would win after 53...Ke3 54.Ke7 Kf3 55.Kxf8 Kxg3 56.Bxh7 Kf4 57.g6.

Instead of 11...Nd7, Black should try 11...e5 where play is very unclear after 12.Nh5 Nd7 13.Bf5 (13.Nxg7+ Kf8 gives Black the advantage) 13...O-O-O 14.Nxf6 exd4.

11...Nd7 12.c4 Qxd2+ 13.Kxd2 Nb6 14.h4 Rg8 15.Rhg1


Castling here makes little sense. After 15...O-O-O?!, the Black King is misplaced. The Queens and two sets of minor pieces are off the board. There are enough pawns on the board such that keeping the King in the center should not be a problem, and the Black King would be better placed being in the center should an endgame arise. Also, by going to e7 with the King, Black's King is tending to the slight weakness on f6, and if the f-pawn advances to f5, the Black King has a clear path to the center and Kingside as the Dark-Squared Bishops have been traded off.

16.Ke3 Ke7 17.g4 h6 18.Rab1 Nc8 19.Nc3 b6 20.a4 Nd6 21.Nb5 Ne8 22.a5

White can also try 22.Nxa7 as after 22...Bxa4 23.Ra1 Be7 24.Nb5, Black is forced to find a slightly counter-intuitive move. For example, trying to attack on the side where he has the pawn majority is a mistake here. 24...f5? 25.gxf5 Rxg1 26.Rxg1 exf5 27.Nc3 Ra8 28.Rg8 and Black starts feeling the effects of his pawn weaknesses, particularly the h-pawn.

Instead, Black must play 24...c5 (Not 24...c6 25.Nc3, forcing White to relocate his Knight to a better square) and after 25.dxc5 bxc5, White can maybe claim a slight edge, but no more.

22...Bxb5 23.Rxb5 f5

The correct timing to advance the f-pawn, while the g-pawn is in a pin and White can't wreck Black's pawns like he could in the note to White's 22nd move above.

24.axb6 axb6 25.c5 Nf6

Tactically defending the b6-pawn due to a Knight fork.

27.Be2 Nd5+ 28.Kd2 Nf4 29.c3


Once again, Black is using aggressive, tactical means to offset the attack on the weak b-pawn rather than passively trying to defend it. This is a very common theme in the French MacCutcheon.


Taking the b-pawn continues to be bad for White. 30.Rxb6? Rxc3 31.Rb7+ Kf6 32.Ra1 Nxe2 33.Kxe2 fxg4 gives Black a clear advantage.

30...h5 31.c4

If 31.g5, then Black switches gears and goes for the Queenside via 31...Rc6 32.Rb4 Ra8 33.Bc4 Ng6 34.d5 Rc5 35.Bb3 exd5 36.Rxb6 Rac8 37.Rb7+ Kf8 38.f4 Nxh4 39.Rg3 (39.Rh1? Nxf3+ 40.Ke2 Rxc3 and Black's better) 39...Ng6 and Black can claim a slight edge.

31...hxg4 32.fxg4 fxg4 33.Rxb6 f5 34.Ke3 Nh3 35.Bxh3 gxh3 36.Rxg8 Rxg8 37.Rb1 Rh8 38.d5!

Once again, like many of the games listed in the side notes, we have a Rook and Pawn ending. The difference here is that Black is saddled with a Bishop Pawn and a Rook Pawn on the same side of the board. White sees that Black is going to have to trade on d5 as the connected passers if Black were to advance his e-pawn would be too much for him. White also sees that her Pawns are weaker than Black's, and so by ridding Black of the e-pawn, White will strictly focus on achieving the theoreticcally drawn position from the Rook versus Rook, f-pawn, and h-pawn position.

38...exd5 39.cxd5 Rxh4 40.Kf2 Kd6 41.Kg3 Rh5 42.Kh2 Kxd5

So now we have the endgame that White was looking for when she played 38.d5. Black plays on and tries to win, but is unable to do so, as can be seen in the rest of the moves in the game. This is an opening article and not an endgame article, so I'm not going to go into heavy detail on this endgame, but it is one worth knowing in case you end up on either side of this.

43.Rb5+ Ke4 44.Rb4+ Ke5 45.Rb5+ Kf6 46.Rb1 Rh4 47.Rb3 Ke5 48.Rb5+ Kf4 49.Rb3 Rh8 50.Rb1 Ke3 51.Rb3+ Kd2 42.Rb2+ Kc3 53.Rb5 Rh5 54.Rd5

Permanently cutting the Black King off. The draw should now be simple for White to achieve.

54...Kc4 55.Rd8 Kc5 56.Rd7 Kb6 57.Rd3 Kc6 58.Rd8 Rh4 59.Rf8 f4 60.Rd8 Kc5 61.Rd7 Kc6 62.Rd3 Rh8 63.Rxh3 Rxh3+ 64.Kxh3 Kd5 65.Kg2 Ke4 66.Kf2 f3 67.Kf1 Ke3 68.Ke1 f2+ 69.Kf1 Kf3 1/2-1/2

So as we can see here, the Exchange line of the MacCutcheon is far more complicated than your typical run of the mill Exchange Variation of the French Defense.

Game 2: White plays 5.e5 and 6.Bc1

We now move on to the lines where White plays 5.e5. This game we'll be looking at the rarely played, though very dangerous move, 6.Bc1, along with a couple of sidelines for White that should pose no problems to Black.

W: Fabien Libiszewski (2543)
B: Michael Feygin (2468)
Belgium 2016

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Bb4 5.e5 h6 6.Bc1

This move is rarely played, but it actually has a lot of venom to it and Black has to be extremely careful, and the ball may actually be in Black's court.

White has a couple of alternatives that should pose no problems for Black.

A) 6.Bh4 g5 7.Bg3 Ne4 8.Ne2 f5 and now:

A1) In the game Matthias Dann (2452) - Matthias Bluebaum (2530), Bundesliga 2015, White played 9.f3, and Black did not have much trouble drawing the game after 9.Bxc3+ 10.Nxc3 Nxc3 11.bxc3 c5 12.dxc5 Qa5 13.Qd2 Qxc5 14.h4 Rg8 15.hxg5 hxg5 16.Rh7 Nc6 17.Rb1 Qa5 18.f4 Qxa2 19.Rb3 Qa1+ 20.Kf2 b6 21.Bb5 Bd7 22.c4 d4 23.fxg5 O-O-O 24.Bf4 Nb8 25.Qd3 Rh8 26.Ra3 Qb1 27.g6 Rxh7 28.gxh7 Rh8 29.Rxa7 Rxh7 30.Qxd4 Qxc2+ 31.Qd2 Qe4 32.Qe3 Qc2+ 33.Qd2 Qe4 34.Qe3 Qc2+ 1/2-1/2

A2) In the game Minu Nimi Onsander - Martin Zumsande, Canarias en Red prel 2004, White played 9.exf6, and after 9...Qxf6 10.a3 Bxc3+ 11.Nxc3 Nxg3 12.hxg3 Bd7 13.Be2 Nc6 14.Bh5+ Ke7 15.Ne2 Raf8 16.O-O Kd8 17.c4 Kc8 18.b4 dxc4 19.d5 exd5 20.Qxd5 Be6 21.Qc5 Qe5 22.Qxe5 Nxe5 23.Nd4 Bf5 24.f4 gxf4 25.gxf4 Rhg8 26.Rf2 Nd3 27.Rd2 Nxf4, Black was up two pawns for no compensation and proceeded to mate White on move 65.

B) 6.exf6 is a move commonly played by amateurs that have very little understanding of the position. After 6...hxg5 7.fxg7 Rg8, White has nothing. After 8.Qh5, the move I see most amateurs play, Black gets an excellent game after 8...Qf6 9.Nf3 Qxg7 10.O-O-O Bxc3 11.bxc3 Nd7. Instead, after the slight improvement with 8.h4, Black has a few options, and those wishing to explore and research should maybe check out 8...Nc6, but I am going to recommend simply taking the pawn as Black has easy equality after 8...gxh4. White has absolutely no way to stir up any trouble. In just about any line White plays, Black's going to play 9...Qf6 and round up the g-pawn with easy play.

6...Ne4 7.Qg4

This leads to a dilemma that Black faces a lot in the MacCutcheon. The g-pawn is threatened, and Black can't castle because 7...O-O?? 8.Bxh6 is already winning for White. This leaves Black with two options. He can advance his g-pawn, which weakens the h-pawn and creates yet another hook for White where he can advance his h-pawn in an attempt to rip open Black's Kingside. The other main option is to guard the g-pawn with his King via 7...Kf8. The downside to this is that Black surrenders all castling rights, and it might take him a while to get the Rook on h8 active. Both moves are completely sound. Two major advocates of the French MacCutcheon reacted to this in opposite manors. Igor Glek would typically advance the g-pawn to g6 in these lines while Viktor Korchnoi was a proponent of moving the King. I am going to suggest taking Korchnoi's route. I have actually played ...g6 more than I have played ...Kf8 in my own lifetime, but the move ...g6 actually leads to more problems than it's worth. Black may be able to play a more aggressive game not having the h8-Rook temporarily hemmed in, but White has numerous options to cause Black major headaches if White knows what he's doing, and it's simply of my opinion that it's not worth the hassle when first learning the French MacCutcheon.


Note that 7...Nxc3? is bad here. White has a huge advantage after 8.Qxg7 Rf8 9.Bd2!

8.Ne2 c5 9.a3 Ba5

Black ends up drawing this game, but I am afraid that it may be based merely on a blunder by White on move 25. If that proves to be the case, Black could maybe follow the game Mietek Bakalarz - Vladimir Iakemov, Rijeka 2010 and give 9...h5 a try. The game ends up being a huge mess more than anything else, but sometimes when the ball is in your court to find a better line, creating chaos in order to confuse the matter is the way to go. There are many spots in this game where alternatives can be researched to possibly find improvements for both sides, but in this game, Black won after 10.Qf4 Nxc3 11.axb4 Nxe2 12.Bxe2 cxd4 13.b5 Qb6 14.O-O Bd7 15.Qd2 Kg8 16.b3 a6 17.Bb2 d3 18.Bxd3 Bxb5 19.Qb4 Nc6 20.Qxb5 axb5 21.Rxa8+ Nd8 22.Rc8 d4 23.Ra1 f5 24.exf6 gxf6 25.Bxb5 Kg7 26.Bd3 Nf7 27.Rxh8 Nxh8 28.f4 Ng6 29.g3 e5 30.Re1 Qb4 31.Re2 exf4 32.Bxg6 Kxg6 33.gxf4 Kf5 34.Bc1 Qc6 35.Rf2 Qc3 36.Kg2 d3 37.cxd3 and White Resigned before Black made his move.


This is White's latest idea in this line. The older line is 10.b4, against which I am going to recommend the move 10...f5, and in the game Pierre Gengler - Fabien Libiszewski, Nice 2003, Black shows a nice display of how to win a pawn up opposite colored Bishop ending. 11.Qg6 Nxc3 12.Nxc3 cxd4 13.Nb5 Bc7 14.f4 Nc6 15.Bb2 Qh4+ 16.Qg3 Qxg3+ 17.hxg3 Bb6 18.O-O-O a5 19.bxa5 Rxa5 20.Nd6 Ke7 21.Bb5 Bc5 22.a4 Bxd6 23.exd6+ Kxd6 24.Bxc6 bxc6 25.Bxd4 Rg8 26.Be5+ Kd7 27.Kd2 Ba6 28.Ra1 Ra8 29.Bxg7 Bc4 30.Rxh6 Rxa4 31.Rhh1 Rxa1 32.Rxa1 Rxa1 33.Bxa1 Bf1 34.Ke3 Bxg2 35.Bd4 Kd6 36.c3 Be4 37.Ba7 c5 38.Bb8+ Kc6 39.Be5 Kb5 40.Bf6 Kc4 41.Be5 Kb3 42.Bf6 Kc2 43.Be5 Bg2 44.Bd6 d4+ 45.cxd4 c4 46.Ba3 Bd5 57.Ke2 c3 48.Ke1 Bc4 49.Kf2 Kd1 50.g4 fxg4 51.Kg3 Be2 52.d5 exd5 53.f5 d4 54.f6 Bc4 55.Kxg4 d3 56.Kf3 d2 0-1

10...Nd7 11.b4

White holds on to the Queenside Pawn majority and surrenders the e-pawn.

11...Nxe5 12.Qh5 Bc7 13.Nxe4 dxe4 14.Bb2 Qg5 15.Qxg5 hxg5 16.Nc3


A positional Pawn sacrifice based on the fact that if Black tries to hold onto the pawn with 16...f5, he ends up with too many weaknesses. After 17.Nb5 Bb8 18.O-O-O Nf7 19.Bc4 a6 20.Nc3, White is significantly better based on the weakness on e6 combined with Black's complete lack of coordination, and he is still going to have major problems connecting the Rooks.


White rejects the pawn offer, and wisely so. In Lazaro Bruzon Batista - Nigel Short - 45th Capablanca Memorial Elite, 2010, White took the offered pawn, but Black quickly regained it back, and with interest! After 17.fxe3 Ng4 18.Be2 Bg3+ 19.Kd2 Nf2 20.Rhg1 Rxh2 21.Raf1 f5 22.Kc1 Ke7 23.b5 g4 24.Bc4 Bh4 25.Kb1 g3 26.a4 Bf6 27.Be2 g5 28.Ka2 g4 29.Kb3 Bd7 30.Ba3 Kf7 31.a5 Be5 32.Bb4 Rc8 33.Bc4 Kf6 34.Re1 Bxc3 35.Bxc3+ e5 36.Rd1 Nxd1 37.Rxd1 Bxb5 38.Bxb5 Rxc5 39.Bf1 Rh1 40.Be2 Rxd1 41.Bxd1 Kg5 42.Be2 f4 43.a6 bxa6 44.Bb4 Rc7 45.exf4+ exf4 46.c4 f3 47.Bf1 Kf5 48.c5 a5 49.Ba3 Ke4, White Resigned as the pawns were too much for the Bishop pair to handle. This is a case where the Rook prevails over the two minor pieces.


Possibly 17...a6 could be an improvement, preventing White's next move, but I still think White's better after 18.Ne4!

18.Nb5 Rxh2 19.Be2 Bf4 20.g3 Rxf2 21.gxf4

Even stronger is 21.Bxg4 e2+ 22.gxf4 exd1=Q+ 23.Bxd1 Kg8 24.fxg5, or 21.Rh8+ Ke7 22.Bxg4 e2+ 23.gxf4 exd1=Q+ 24.Bxd1 and once again, Black appears to be busted. I would highly suggest looking at Black's alternative at move 9.

21...Rxe2 22.Nc3 e5 23.Rh8+ Ke7 24.Re8+ Kf6


The blunder that releases just about all of White's advantage. The winning move is 25.Nxa8, immediately threatening the Bishop, and after 25...Bf5, White has 26.Rd6+! The difference between the move in the game and this sequence is the location of the Black King. With the King on g6, Black can interpose with the f-pawn. Here he cannot. After 26...Be6 27.fxe5+ Kg6 28.Nc7 Re1+ 29.Rd1 Rxd1+ 30.Kxd1, Black's busted!


Suddenly, because 26.Rd6+ can now be answered by 26...f6, the threat on c2 is genuine, and White must return some of the material, and Black gets just enough to draw the game.

26.Nxa8 Bf5 27.Rd3 Bxd3 28.cxd3 Kf5 29.b5 gxf4 30.Bxf4 Kxf4 31.c6 bxc6 32.bxc6 Nf2 33.Rd8 Ra2 34.Kb1 Rxa3 35.c7 Rc3 36.c8=Q Rxc8 37.Rxc8 Nxd3 38.Re8 Kf3 39.Kc2 Nb4+ 40.Kd1 Nd5 41.Re5 Nf4 42.Nc7 a6 43.Nd5 e2+ 44.Kd2 e1=Q+ 45.Rxe1 Nxd5 46.Rf1+ 1/2-1/2

White is about to win the f-pawn, and the pawns are too far separated for Black to play for a win, and even if both pawns are lost, King and Rook versus King and Knight is a theoretical draw.

This line with 6.Bc1 is a highly underrated line that is not very popular, but I see no reason why it shouldn't be played more often by White. As mentioned prior, I would suggest that Black look into the 9...h5 line. It is highly unclear, and the line probably needs more testing to get an accurate assessment, but I don't think that 9...Ba5 is a viable option for Black any more because of 10.dxc5 instead of the older 10.b4.

Game 3: White plays 5.e5 and 6.Be3

This is the last of White's side line options, and is the most frequently played move outside of 6.Bd2. That said, I think Black has fewer problems in this line than he does in the 6.Bc1 line.

W: Garry Kasparov (2851)
B: Viktor Korchnoi (2659)
Iceland 2000

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Bb4 5.e5 h6 6.Be3 Ne4 7.Qg4

Once again, we face the dilemma of whether to compromise our Kingside Pawn structure, or surrender castling rights.



This is White's only legitimate shot at anything. 8.Ne2 c5 9.O-O-O Nxc3 10.Nxc3 Bxc3 11.bxc3 Qa5 is better for Black while 8.Bd3 Nxc3 9.a3 Ba5 10.Bd2 c5 11.bxc3 b6 12.Nf3 Ba6 is dead equal.

8...Bxc3+ 9.bxc3 c5

The other option is to grab the pawn. Play is unclear after 9...Nxc3 10.Bd3 Bd7 11.Nh3 Nc6 12.Nf4 Ne7 13.Nh5 g6 14.Nf6 Bb5 15.Bxb5 Nxb5 16.a4 Nc3 17.Ra3 Ne4 18.Bxe4 dxe4 19.Qxe4 Qd5.

10.Bd3 h5

Black can also play 10...Nxc3 and in Laurent Fressinet (2536) - Francisco Vallejo Pons (2554), a quick draw was also achieved after 11.dxc5 Nc6 12.Nf3 f5 13.exf6 Qxf6 14.Qd5 e5 15.Bg6 Kg8 16.O-O Be6 17.Rae1 Rd8 18.Bd2 Ne4 19.c4 Nxd2 20.Nxd2 Qg5 and a draw was agreed. After 21.Qxg5 hxg5 22.cxd5 Rxd5 23.Ne4 Rh6, any advantage that White may have is minimal.


White has a couple of alternatives here.

A) Black has no problems after 11.Qh3 Nxc3 12.dxc5 d4 13.Bd2 Qd5 14.f4 Nc6 15.Bxc3 dxc3 16.Ne2 Qxc5 17.Be4 Bd7 18.Rd1 Be8 19.Qxc3 Qxc3+ 20.Nc3 Na5 21.O-O Rc8 22.Rd3 g6 23.Bf3 Kg7 24.Rf2 Rc7 25.Ne4 Ba4 26.Nc3 Rc4 27.g3 Rhc8 28.Nxa4 Rxa4 29.Rd7 Rxa3 30.Bxb7 Rb8 31.Ba6 Rb6 32.Bd3 Nb7 33.Rc7 Ra5 34.Bc4 Rc5 35.Rxc5 Nxc5 36.Rf1 a5 37.Ra1 a4 38.Kf2 Rb2 39.Rc1 Nb3 40.Bxb3 axb3 41.Ke3 Rxc2 42.Rxc2 bxc2 43.Kd2 g5 44.fxg5 Kg6 45.Kxc2 Kf5 0-1.

B) In the game Hudecz - Jakab, Paks 1996, White tried 11.Qf3 Nxc3 12.dxc5, but Black proceeds to take advantage of the holes in White's position, particularly d5, e4, and e3, and with a Knight on e3, keeps the White King in the center of the board and executes a nice Queenless attack. The game went 12...Nc6 13.Qf4 d4 14.Bd2 Nd5 15.Qe4 Nde7 16.Ne2 Qd5 17.Qxd5 Nxd5 18.f4 Ke7 19.Bc1 Nc7 20.Bb2 Rd8 21.Rd1 Nd5 22.a3 Ne3 23.Rd2 Rd5 24.a4 Ke8 25.Bb5 Bd7 26.Ba3 a6 27.Bd3 Na5 28.Be4 Bc6 29.Bxd5 Bxd5 30.Rg1 Nac4 31.Bc1 Nxd2 32.Kxd2 Ng4 33.h3 Nf2 34.Nxd4 Ne4+ 35.Ke3 Nxc5 36.a5 Rc8 37.g4 Ne4 38.gxh5 Rc3+ 39.Ke2 Bc4+ 40.Kd1 Rxh3 41.f5 Rxh5 42.fxe6 fxe6 43.c3 Bd3 44.Nf3 Rh3 45.Ng5 Nxc3+ 46.Kd2 Nb1+ 47.Ke1 Rh2 0-1.

11...Qa5 12.Ne2


The only move, but a good one. Black cannot give White time to castle prior to grabbing on c3. Both 12...cxd4 13.Bxd4 Nc6 14.O-O and 12...Nc6 13.Bxe4 dxe4 14.O-O are better for White.


The pin is completely artificial and doesn't work here. After 13.Bd2?!, Black just plays 13...Nxe2 anyway as the Knight hits the Queen should White decide to take Black's Queen.

13...Nxe2+ 14.Bxe2 Nc6 15.c4 cxd4 16.Bxd4 Nxd4 17.Qxd4

White has compensation for the pawn with his extra space and lead in development, but no more.

17...Bd7 18.cxd5 exd5 19.Bf3 Bc6 1/2-1/2

Keeping in mind that this game was played between a world champion and a player that made the final twice for the world championship title, they knew that this position is equal and agreed to a draw here. At the amateur level, I would suggest playing on with 20.Rac1, against which Black should return the pawn and get his pieces active via 20...Re8 21.Rc5 Qa4 22.Qxa4 Bxa4 23.Bxd5 Rxe5 24.Rc8+ Re8 25.Rxe8+ Kxe8 26.Re1+ Kd7 27.Bxf7 with an equal game.

Game 4: White plays 5.e5 and 6.Bd2 (The Main Line)

The game I am going to show turns out to be a win for White, but the game will serve two purposes. First off, it will show what Black has to be on the look out for. More importantly, Black makes a critical mistake on move 20, and the improvement given at move 20 will show that it's actually White is that very close to being busted!

W: Cemil Gulbas (2399)
B: Kastriot Memeti (2210)
Belgium 2011

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Bb4 5.e5 h6 6.Bd2


This is a critical move to keep in mind. Black must trade his Bishop for the White Knight before moving his own Knight to e4. After 6...Ne4??, White wins a piece with 7.Nxe4 because after 7...Bxd2+, the "attacked" Knight is used to recapture and after 8.Nxd2. Retreating the Knight passively with 6...Nfd7 is also not good. White gets an easy game with no pressure placed on his position. Therefore, this capture is Black's only choice.


This is the correct recapture. Taking with the Bishop is clumsy. The Bishop doesn't belong here. After 7.Bxc3 Ne4, the move 8.Qg4 is not scary as Black can even castle here because after 8...O-O, there is no Bishop present to capture on h6, which would normally be winning for White. The other option would be 8.Bb4, but Black can equalize fairly easily via 8...c5 9.Bxc5 Nxc5 10.dxc5 Nd7 11.Qd4 Qc7 12.Nf3 Qxc5 13.O-O-O Qxd4 14.Rxd4 Ke7 15.Rg4 Rg8.

7...Ne4 8.Qg4

Posing the question again to Black that we have talked about before. Compromise the pawn structure on the Kingside, or relinquish castling rights?


Once again, we go with the latter option.


White can also play 9.h4, which will normally transpose to the game. There is nothing wrong with 9.h4, but I prefer the game move as it gives Black more room to error. The move 9.h4 prevents a line that is inferior for Black anyway.

9...Nxd2 10.Kxd2 c5

Inferior is 10...Qg5+ 11.Qxg5 hxg5 and now White has multiple options to gain the advantage. Below are two of them.

A) 12.g4 c5 13.Nf3 c4 14.Be2 f6 15.h4 gxh4 16.Nxh4 Kf7 17.Nf5 Rxh1 18.Nd6+ Kg8 19.Rxh1 Na6 20.f4 Nc7 21.g5 fxg5 22.fxg5 Bd7 23.Bh5 Be8 24.Nxe8 Nxe8 25.Rf1 Nc7 26.Bf7+ Kf8 27.Be6+ Ke8 28.Bg8 1-0 was Milan Matulovic - Roberto Cosulich, Imperia 1966.

B) 12.f4 gxf4 13.Rf1 c5 14.Nh3 Nc6 15.Rxf4 Ke7 16.Rhf1 Nd8 17.Rg4 c4 18.Be2 g6 19.Rgf4 Bd7 20.Ng5 Be8 21.h4 b5 22.Rh1 Rb8 23.g4 Kf8 24.Rf6 Kg7 25.Nf3 Rb6 26.a3 Ra6 27.Ra1 Nc6 28.h5 gxh5 29.gxh5 Rxh5 30.Rg1 Kf8 31.Ng5 Rxg5 32.Rxg5 Rxa3 33.Bg4 Ke7 34.Bxe6 fxe6 35.Rg7+ Kd8 36.Rxe6 b4 37.Rd6+ Kc8 38.Rg8 Kc7 39.Rxe8 Rxc3 40.Ree6 Rxc2+ 41.Kxc2 Nxd4+ 42.Kc1 Nxe6 43.Rxe6 Kd7 44.Rd6 Ke7 45.Rxd5 Ke6 46.Rc5 1-0 was Wang Jue - Zhang, China 2010.

Other 12th moves also give White the advantage, though these two moves leave Black with the least amount of counter play. It is recommended that this Queen trade is best avoided.


This is a direct transposition to the 9.h4 line, in which 9...c5 10.Bd3 Nxd2 11.Kxd2 is what typically follows, leading to the position in the game.


Forcing the Bishop to a passive position.


The idea behind retreating the Bishop all the way to b1 is to use the e2-square for the Knight. The more common response is 12.Be2. It was mentioned prior that Korchnoi was a big advocate of the 8...Kf8 line, well, here's a win by Black from Korchnoi himself. 12...Nc6 13.Rh3 Rg8 14.Rf3 Ke7 15.Nh3 Qa5 16.Qf4 Rf8 17.Rg3 Rg8 18.Bh5 Nd8 19.Re1 b5 20.a3 Qxa3 21.Rxg7 Rxg7 22.Qf6+ Kd7 23.Qxg7 b4 24.Re3 b3 25.Re1 Rb8 26.Nf4 Qa2 27.Bxf7 Qxc2+ 28.Ke3 Qe4+ 0-1, Florian Jenni (2471) - Viktor Korchnoi (2643), Zurich 2001.

In the game Viswanathan Anand (2781) - Viktor Korchnoi (2673), White altered at move 14 and was able to claim half a point after 14.Qf4 Bd7 15.Bh5 Be8 16.Ne2 f5 17.g4 Ne7 18.Rg1 Bxh5 19.gxh5 Qe8 20.Qf3 Rc8 21.Nf4 Rc6 22.Rhg3 Ra6 23.Qg2 Qf7 24.Qf1 Qe8 25.R1g2 Kf7 26.Rg1 Rxa2 27.Qg2 Qf8 28.Rb1 Qc8 29.Rg1 1/2-1/2

12...Nc6 13.Rh3 Bd7 14.Ne2 b5 15.a3 a5 16.Nf4

A very critical position has been reached here. Black must tread carefully.


This prophylactic move is Black's best. Two other far more dangerous moves have been tried.

A) In the game Peter Leko (2707) - Viktor Korchnoi (2635), Essen 2002, we see a case where Korchnoi ended up on the wrong end of the stick in a Rook and Minor Piece endgame. After 16...Rg8 17.Rf3 Ke7 18.Nh5 b4 19.Qf4 bxc3+ 20.Ke1 Be8 21.Rxc3 a4 22.Rg3 Qa5+ 23.c3 Rb8 24.Be2 Rb3 25.Qd2 g6 26.Nf6 Rh8 27.Bd1 Rb7 28.Bc2 Kd8 29.Rb1 Rxb1+ 30.Bxb1 Kc7 31.Bc2 Qb5 32.Rf3 Nd8 33.Qc1 h5 34.Kd2 Nb7 35.Qb1 Na5 36.Nxe8+ Qxe8 37.Qb4 Nb3+ 38.Ke3 Qd7 39.Qd6+ Qxd6 40.exd6+ Kxd6 41.Rxf7 Ra8 42.Rg7 Rb8 43.Ra7 Rg8 44.g3 Kc6 45.Rxa4 Na1 46.Bd1 g5 47.hxg5 Rxg5 48.Ra6+ Kd7 49.Ra7+ Kd6 50.Rh7 e5 51.Rh6+ Kc7 52.Rxh5 exd4+ 53.Kxd4 Nb3+ 54.Ke3 Rg6 55.Rxd5 Re6+ 56.Kf4 Ra6 57.g4 Kc6 58.Bf3 Nc5 59.Rd4+ Kb5 60.Bd5 1-0.

Black does have an improvement at move 21 with 21...Kf8 with a better position than what resulted above. That said, White can improve on his previous move by playing 21.Rg3 instead. There follows 21...Qb6 22.Rd1 Qb2 23.Nxg7 with a very dangerous attack for White.

In the same tournament, Korchnoi tried a different 16th move and also failed to survive. In the game Christopher Lutz (2644) - Viktor Korchnoi (2635), Essen 2002, Black tried 16...b4, but lost miserably after 17.Rf3 bxc3+ 18.Kd1 h5 19.Nxh5 Rg8 20.Ke1 Qb6 21.Rd1 Ne7? (The losing move. A little less clear would be 21...Qb2 22.Nf4 Ke8 23.Qh5 Ne7 24.Ne2 Ba4 25.Qxf7+ Kd7, though I'd still prefer White here.) 22.Qf4 Nf5 23.g4 Nh6 24.Nf6 Ba4 25.Nxg8 Kxg8 26.Rxc3 Qb2 27.Kd2 Rb8 28.f3 Rb3 29.Qe3 Rxa3 30.Rxa3 Qxc2+ 31.Ke1 Qxd1+ 32.Kf2 Bc2 33.Rxa5 Bd3 34.Bxd3 cxd3 35.Ra8+ Kh7 36.Ra2 1-0

17.Nh5 Nf5 18.Qf4 b4 19.Be2 bxc3+ 20.Kxc3


Turning the game around 180 degrees. It is important that Black grabs the b-file first. After 20...Rb8!, Black should not be afraid of 21.a4 as then 21...Qb6 is already winning for Black. Instead, 21.Rhh1 is forced, and after 21...Ba4 22.Rab1 Rg8 23.g4 Ne7 24.Rhc1 Rb6 25.Qe3 Qb8 26.Rxb6 Qxb6 27.Kd2 Nc6 28.c3 Qb2+ 29.Ke1 Qxa3, it is Black with the major advantage and the side that is playing for the win.

Instead, after the move played in the game, it's White that has the winning position.

21.Rb1 Rb8 22.Rxb8 Qxb8 23.g4 Qb1

23...Ne7 fails to 24.Nxg7!! where now 24...Kxg7? 25.Qf6+ wins on the spot for White while after 24...Ng6 25.Qf6 Rh7 26.Nh5 Qb6 27.Rf3 Kg8 28.Kd2, it's White that has the won position.

24.Kd2 c3+ 25.Rxc3 Nxh4 26.Qg3 Qh1 27.Rc7 Ke7 28.Qc3 Ng2 29.Qc5+ Ke8 30.Nxg7+ Kd8 31.Rxd7+ Kxd7 32.Qd6+ Kc8 33.Ba6# 1-0

Wow! That's a lot to absorb, isn't it? Well, nobody said that the French Defense, or chess in general, was easy. Actually, Black didn't win a single game amongst the main four games analyzed. That said, we looked at roughly two dozen games all told, many of which wins by Black, and as mentioned before, 3.Nc3 is the most difficult move for Black to face. Unlike the previous lines that we've looked at where you can equalize the position fairly easily, against 3.Nc3, you will always get three results. It's the nature of the beast.

As a quick overall summary, I'd like to point out the following:
  • After 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Bb4, the move 5.exd5 must be responded to with 5...Qxd5!
  • In the 5.e5 variation, the moves 6.exf6 and 6.Bh4 should be non-issues for Black.
  • The little played line 6.Bc1 I believe is the most dangerous line for Black. I would suggest the 9...h5 sideline mentioned in Game 2. Either way, Black must really tread carefully in this line.
  • Make sure you know the 6.Bd2 line really well. as this is White's most common response to the MacCutcheon French by far.
  • Our repertoire has us answering threats to g7 with ...Kf8, losing castling rights rather than compromising the Kingside.
  • In many cases, the best defense is counter-attack. Passive play rarely works in the MacCutcheon.
This concludes this article on the French MacCutcheon. In the next article, the other highly theoretical line of the 3.Nc3 French will be covered, namely the Steinitz Variation, which is the move 4.e5 instead of 4.Bg5.

Links to the rest of the articles.
Introduction and facing the Advance Variation
Part One: The Exchange Variation
Part Two: The Tarrasch Variation
Part Three: The King's Indian Attack
Part Five: The Steinitz Variation (Coming Soon)
Part Six: Beating the French with the Advance Variation (Coming Soon)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Opening Preparation: The French Defense - King's Indian Attack

Thus far, we have covered a side line for Black against the Advance Variation in the Introduction article, and we've covered the lines where Black should have no problems equalizing, namely the Exchange Variation (Part 1) and the Tarrasch Variation (Part 2), with ideas of how to gain the advantage if White doesn't play perfectly. The articles that follow this one will cover the most critical lines where I feel White can gain a slight advantage with best play from both sides, namely 3.Nc3 and 3.e5, the latter of which will be an article for those of you looking for a line to play as White against the French Defense.

So where does the King's Indian Attack (from here on out referred to as the "KIA") fit into all of this? Well, the KIA is that annoying line that is loaded with tricks and traps. In no way do I believe that White can get an advantage with best play from both sides in the KIA, but Black cannot get away with just understanding concepts like he can against the Exchange and the Tarrasch. It's important to know the theory of White's side lines and various move order tricks in the main line.

Now you might be asking yourself "Is there really a main line in the KIA?". Technically, no! However, there are lines that fit more in line with the Sicilian Defense where Black fianchettos his King's Bishop and develops the King's Knight to e7, and some KIA lines favored by those that don't play the Sicilian or the French, and then there is what some sources have referenced as the "KIA vs French", which involves putting the pawns on e6, d5, and c5, the Knights to c6 and f6, the Bishop to e7, and castling, not advancing any of the pawns on the Kingside and giving White a "hook". This is the line most commonly played by advocates of the French Defense. The diagram below shows what a typical KIA vs French looks like.

A typical KIA vs French

So rather than separate into sections by variation, I am going to start with covering the various move order tricks and why you might face them, and how to deal with each one, concluding with what specific order moves should be played in the main line. I will then go through four games, three of which will be wins by Black, and the other will show a win by White, showing what Black must watch out for. With that, let's take a look at White's move order tricks and what variations we need to account for.

1.e4 e6 2.d3

White also has the option to play 2.Qe2. The point here is to discourage 2...d5 by Black as then White could play 3.exd5 and Black would have to recapture with the Queen rather than the pawn. In this case, I recommend that Black play the move 2...c5! The reason for this is simple. Sure it looks enticing to play 2...Be7, looking to play 3.e5 on the very next move, but this allows White the big center with 3.d4. After 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Qe2, it would be Black's move, after which taking on e4 would be recommended as White would be forced to either gambit a pawn or else recapture with the Queen on e4, giving Black developing moves for free as something like 3...dxe4 4.Qxe4 Nf6 develops a Black piece and makes White move the Queen again. However, here, Black is not pressuring e4 yet, and so after 3.d4 d5, White can protect e4 with his Knight or advance the pawn. Particularly in the case of advancing the pawn, often times Black needs that e7-square to get his Knight out, and now the Bishop is in the way. Therefore, I recommend slightly adjusting the move order to 2...c5 followed by either 3...Nc6, 4...Be7, and only then play the moves like ...d5 and ...Nf6. Most of the time, this will directly transpose to the KIA, but there is one alternative in White playing an early f4. A prime example of this, where the game goes 2...c5 3.f4, can be found in my article on the 2017 Charlottesville Open if you go to Round 5 at the bottom of the article. Black reaches a won position before blundering late into a draw.

2...d5 3.Nd2

This move is often played in order to avoid a Queen trade should Black decide to ever trade on e4, and especially if Black plays an early ...Nf6. If White attempts to avoid the Queen trade after something like 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.g3 dxe4, he's out of luck and the Queens will come off whether White likes it or not. The primary alternative is once again 3.Qe2. This move, instead of 3.Nd2, can have the advantage of a theoretically strong line for White via transposition should Black choose to play the KIA vs Sicilian line, but this won't impact us as it should directly transpose to passive 13.Qe2 in the main line, which we will see later in the second game. By the way, that line that White is keeping available to himself by playing 3.Qe2 is 3...c5 4.g3 Nc6 5.Bg2 g6 6.Nf3 Bg7 7.O-O Nge7 8.c3 b6 9.Na3, with ideas of either Nb5 or else Nc2 and b4. This is typically the main reason behind delaying moving the Knight to the passive d2 square. Again, this won't impact us as we don't fianchetto the dark-squared Bishop.

3...c5 4.Ngf3 Nc6 5.g3

White fianchettoing his Bishop is the critical line here. Passive moves like 5.Be2 can be easily defended by using common sense and well known middle game concepts. White's position is totally passive and there is no pressure on the Black position at all here.


If you are not going to fianchetto the Bishop, as is the case here, then this is the better square for the King's Knight so that the e7-square is available for the Bishop.

6.Bg2 Be7 7.O-O O-O

We have now reached the diagram above.

8.Re1 b5 9.e5

This is a key move in this variation. White forces the Black Knight away from the f6-square where it would normally be a key defensive piece for the Black King. White's plan is fairly obvious. He's going for a direct attack at the Black King.

9...Nd7 10.Nf1 a5 11.h4 b4 12.Bf4

And now, some players as Black will play 12...a4 here and others will play 12...Ba6. I am going to recommend the latter as it will allow us to see one more move by White to determine what we want to do. No matter what happens, this is the one line where the move ...f6 is rarely a good idea because White can attack the weak e6 pawn via taking on f6 with his heavy pieces sitting on the e-file along with moving his Light-Squared Bishop to h3 to hit e6. Theerefore, if we never intend to play ...f6 unless we reach an endgame, then e5 won't move, and hence e6 won't move, and so there is no real point in keeping our Bishop on c8. Therefore, we pretty much want to play ...Ba6 no matter what White does, but the move ...a4 may be more effective against certain moves by White versus other moves. Therefore, we will play the move we want to play no matter what first.


And this takes us to what the games will cover. The first game will show what happens when Black plays 12...a4 and doesn't capture on a3 when it's advanced by White, causing Black's play to be a bit slower. The other three games will show what to do based on White's 13th move, whether that be a slow move like 13.N1h2 or 13.Qe2 (Game 2), which can often arise from the lines with Qe2 played on move 2, 3, or 8-onward or on move 13 itself, or whether that be the aggressive 13.Ng5 (Game 3). The other thing that White can try is to avoid the 12.Bf4 move and try to accelerate the Knight tour with 12.N1h2 and 13.Ng4 (Game 4). The main thing to keep in mind is that in the majority of cases, this turns into a race, and so slow, passive play will get you nowhere in this line.

Game 1: Black Plays 12...a4 and Doesn't Take on a3

W: Kaidanov,G (2625)
B: Nijober,F (2525)
Elista RUS(Round 5), 1998

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d3 Nc6 4.g3 d5 5.Nbd2 Nf6 6.Bg2 Be7 7.O-O b5 8.Re1 O-O

This specific game may have started with a Sicilian move order, but notice that after 8 moves, we are back in the KIA vs French territory. A word of note that the KIA, like some other openings such as the English or various Queen Pawn openings, can transpose at a high frequency, so make sure that you know and understand piece location in addition to various move orders by White. Via our normal move order, this game would have gone 1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.Ngf3 Nc6 5.g3 Nf6 6.Bg2 Be7 7.O-O O-O 8.Re1 b5.

9.e5 Nd7 10.Nf1 a5 11.h4 b4 12.Bf4


I think this is a move too soon for Black to push the a-pawn again. A better move is 12...Ba6, since he wants to play that move anyway, and wait and see what White does. This will be covered in the final three games.


The normal rule of thumb is not to advance pawns on the side of the board in which you are weak. That said, sometimes it's a necessary evil. In this case, White cannot allow Black to play 13...a3 as it will weaken the c3-square and a Black Knight will head into that square via b5 and threaten the a2 pawn, which will be hard to guard except to waste a whole Rook on a1 to baby the pawn as the c2-pawn blocks any lateral guarding of the pawn. If the a-pawn falls, Black has a massive pawn on a3 that is protected, passed, and only two squares away from promotion!

13...Ba6 14.N1h2

I would play 14.Ng5 here instead and take advantage to Black's early commitment to go for a4 and use it against him. Game 3 will show what Black should do against an early Ng5. It turns out, White plays this move three moves later, and it ends up killing Black as he fails to respond properly.


Black should instead take on a3, opening up the b-file immediately. Instead, this approach takes Black longer to open up the b-file and shuts down the c-file, slowing down Black's attack.

15.d4 c3 16.bxc3 bxc3 17.Ng5

So let's take a look at the position. Black has an open b-file, but otherwise the a-file, c-file, and d-file are all shut down, and the c3-pawn isn't even protected by the d-pawn, and so even if Black does manage to somehow win the c2-pawn, White can go after the c3-pawn. In the mean time, on the Kingside, it appears as though White's Bishops are blocked by the pawns, and the only slight threat is Qh5, making Black advance the h-pawn and creating a hook for White, but not the end of the world, right? We just get that Knight down to c4 to attack a3 and all is good?


Wrong! White's attack may appear dormant, but looks can be very deceiving, and once he gets the attack started, it's full speed ahead for White! Black had to knock the Knight back immediately with 17...h6.

18.Qh5 Bxg5

A sad necessity as 18...h6 doesn't work now. White just ignores the threat to the Knight and plays 19.Ng4!. Kaidanov himself gives the following analysis: After 19...hxg5 20.hxg5 g6 (20...Nxd4 21.Nf6+ gxf6 22.gxf6 Bxf6 23.exf6 Qxf6 24.Be5 and White wins the Queen as any movement by the Queen results in mate on h8 with the White Queen) 21.Qh6 Nxd4 22.Nf6+ Bxf6 23.gxf6 Nf5 24.Qh3 and Black has no way to stop 25.g4 and then 26.Qh6 once the Knight goes away. Black must always watch out for sacrifices on g5 and f6 in these lines.

19.Bxg5 Qe8

Black is looking to answer 20.Ng4 with 20...f5, using a trick that we will be seeing in Game 3. However, this position is totally different, and White has a move that stops Black's defensive idea immediately.


Forcing the Black Pawn to remain on f7, and hence Blocking Black from being able to trade Queens or guard the g7 and h7 squares.


The lesser evil was 20...gxf6 21.Ng4 Nd7 (to stop 22.Nxf6+ followed by mate) 22.Bxd5 exd5 23.exf6 Kh8 (White threatened mate with 23.Qg5+ and 24.Qg7#, and therefore Black must give up the Queen.) 24.Rxe8 Raxe8 25.Qxd5 Ncb8. White has a Queen and three Pawns for a Rook, Bishop, and Knight, but White's pieces are much stronger than Black's and the advantage clearly belongs to White.

With the game move, Black loses almost immediately.

21.Ng4 Nf5 22.Qg5 Kh8 23.Bxg7+

Black is about to be forced to give up his Queen just to avoid mate.

23...Nxg7 24.Nf6 Qd8 25.Qh6 Qxf6

The only move that stops immediate mate.

26.Qxf6 Rae8 27.g4 Nd7 28.Qf4 Bc4 29.h5 Rc8 30.Rab1 f5 31.exf6 1-0

Black threw in the towel. This game should illustrate how deceptively quiet the KIA can be and yet Black can still get blasted. That Knight that was going after the a-pawn never even made it to c4!

Game 2: Black Plays 12...Ba6 and White Responds Passively

W: Sebastien Maze (2412)
B: Martin Zumsande (2499)
EU-ch Internet Qualifier, 2003

1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.Ngf3 Be7 5.g3 c5 6.Bg2 O-O 7.O-O Nc6 8.Re1 b5 9.e5 Nd7 10.Qe2

As mentioned previously, this passive line with 13.Qe2 can easily come via transposition where White plays this Queen move at some point earlier in the opening, including move 2 or 3.

10...b4 11.Nf1 a5 12.h4 Ba6 13.Bf4

With a slight change in move order, we end up in the main line where White answers 12...Ba6 with 13.Qe2. If White has intention to play Ng5 and Qh5 to go after the Black King in rapid fire, he is going to end up spending an extra tempo to do it as the Queen will have moved twice. This slower approach gives Black time to expand and open the Queenside without having to worry about defensive moves on the Kingside yet.


And so now is the time to play this move! I would also recommend this move against the line with 12.Bf4 and 13.N1h2, where the Queen still sits on d1.


As mentioned before, this move is necessary for White in order to avoid Black from being able to play ...a3 and bring a Knight into c3 and attack the a2-pawn. The c3-square will still be somewhat soft, and the a-pawn still won't be completely safe, but a Knight on c3 won't attack the isolated pawn, and if it is ever captured, Black's pawn is a rank further back from promotion. Just this one move alone can sometimes be enough for White to finally go all in and ignore his Queenside weaknesses while banking on his Kingside attack being quicker.


Immediately opening one file on the Queenside, and not locking all of the other files up, keeping files like the c-file fluid compared to the first game.

15.bxa3 Rb8 16.N1h2 Rb2


Here is a prime example of the "tricks" in the KIA. White can't afford to not contest the invading Rook, but there is one way for Black to win, and many other ways not to! 17.Ng4 c4 18.d4 Qa5 19.Rec1 (19.Bd2?? c3 20.Bxc3 Bxe2 21.Bxa5 Bxf3 22.Bxf3 Nxa5 -+) 19...Rfb8 (19...Nb6 20.h5 c3 21.Qe1 Re8 22.h6 g6 23.Nf6+ Bxf6 24.exf6 Nc4 25.Qd1 is equal) 20.h5 Qc3!! (20...R8b3? 21.h6 g6 22.Bd2 c3 [22...Nxd4? 23.Nxd4 c3 24.Qe3 cxd2 25.cxb3 dxc1=Q+ 26.Rxc1 Bxa3 27.b4 Bxb4 28.Nc6 and now it's White with the big advantage] 23.cxb3 cxd2 24.Qe3 dxc1=Q+ 25.Qxc1 Rxb3 26.Qxc6 Bb5 27.Qc8+ Qd8 28.Rc1 Bc4 29.Qxd8+ Bxc8 30.Nd2 Rxa3 31.Nxc4 dxc4 32.Rxc4 is equal) 21.h6 g6 22.Bd2 Rxc2 23.Bxc3 Rxe2 24.Ne3 Bf8 25.Bf1 Reb2 26.Bxb2 Rxb2 27.Ng4 Rb3 28.Be2 Rxf3 29.Bxf3 Nxd4 30.Rc3 Nb3 31.Rd1 d4 32.Rc2 d3 33.Rc3 Bb5 and despite being down two Rooks for a Bishop, Knight, and two Pawns, Black's winning.

17...Rxb1 18.Rxb1 c4 19.Ng5 cxd3 20.cxd3

20.Qh5 h6 gives White nothing in this case.

20...Nc5 21.Rd1 Nd4 22.Qb2

Clearly things have gone horribly wrong for White.

22...Ndb3 23.d4 Nd3 24.Qb1 h6 25.Nh3 Nxf4 26.Nxf4 Bxa3

White's position continues to fall apart.

27.Ng4 Be7 28.Bf1 Bxf1 29.Kxf1 Qb6 30.Nh5??

Completely overlooking a tactical shot by Black that abruptly ends the game.

30...Nd2+ 0-1

Passive play by White is not the answer and Black has nothing to worry about. Even so, Black must remain on his toes at all times as shown in the notes to White's 17th move.

Game 3: Black Plays 12...Ba6 and White Responds With the Aggressive 13.Ng5

W: Walter Browne
B: Wolfgang Uhlmann
Amsterdam, 1972

1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.Ngf3 c5 5.g3 Nc6 6.Bg2 Be7 7.O-O O-O 8.e5 Nd7 9.Re1 b5 10.Nf1 a5 11.h4 b4 12.Bf4 Ba6 13.Ng5

White's most aggressive idea. The idea is to play the immediate Qh5 and force a concession from Black, whether that be advancement of the h-pawn, creating a hook for White, or else a parting of ways with his Dark Squared Bishop.


This is why we want to hold off on a4. If White goes for this crude approach, this defensive move will tactically stop White in his tracks, and the Bishop being developed to a6 is more useful than the pawn push to a4 as it connects Black's heavy pieces along the back rank and the Bishop eyes d3, which prevents the advancement of the c-pawn by White since the Queen has abandoned ship and has gone hunting for the Black King.


White continues his aggressive approach on the Black King. If Black wants to, he could play 14...h6 right now when 15.Nf3 can be answered by 15...f5, plugging up the center as White's Queen is hanging, and so he doesn't have time to En Passant, and the center is locked up. If the Queen is not hanging on h5, this trick is not possible as, for the same reason that ...f6 is unplayable in the KIA, White can play En Passant and the e6-pawn is fatally weak.


So why does Black take the Knight instead? Black is looking to take advantage of the e5-pawn. He removes the Knight off the board at a time that White can't recapture with the Bishop, and if plays 15.hxg5, his attack is non-existent. If he sacrifices the g-pawn to try to open the pieces up, Black can take with the f-pawn to open up the Rook as the Queen covers e6, and White is unable to put any real pressure on e6 with the resulting setup. If he doesn't sacrifice, where's the attack? The h-file? It will take for ever for White to stir up an attack on the h-file, giving Black time to proceed on the Queenside and making limited defensive moves when necessary. Therefore, White recaptures the way that makes the most sense, which is with the Queen. And based on that, Black will still be able to use the f5-trick in a few moves.

15.Qxg5 a4

Again, Black balances the act between defending his King and proceeding to attack on the Queenside.

16.Ne3 Kh8

A precautionary move, not allowing any tricks with the Knight entering the position on f6 or h6 via g4.


White bypasses the a3-push and completely ignores the Queenside, thinking that he'll be able to push through with his attack in the center and on the Kingside.


Not so fast says Black as he takes advantage of the Knight sitting on e3, blocking the Rook from e5. Therefore, White's next move is forced to hold on to the e-pawn, and this puts the Queen back on the square that allows Black the trick of plugging up the center.


18.Qg4 fails to 18...Ndxe5, which not only wins a pawn, but gains time on the White Queen as well.


The center is locked. The Queens are going away. White's attack will be non-existent, and the Black Knights in the closed position are going to cause White a lot more problems than anything that White's Bishop pair can do to Black.

19.Qxe8 Raxe8 20.Nc4

White uses the pin of the d5-pawn to get the Knight to the d6 outpost. However, Black will attack the loose White Queenside rather than react to White's Knight maneuver.

20...Nd4 21.Nd6


Once again, reacting to a threat in a manner that is typical of the KIA, countering the threat with a threat of our own rather than reacting to the Knight.

22.Nxe8 Rxe8

Removing White's best piece is more important than keeping the material balance. White can respond to 22...Nxe1 with 23.Nd6, preserving the annoying knight, rather than recapturing on e1.

23.Re2 b3

Black's advancement on the Queenside is going to be a major problem for White.

24.axb3 axb3 25.Red2 Bb5 26.Rc1 Ra8 27.Bf3 Ra2 28.Bd1 Ba4

This is stronger than 28...Rxb2, which simply leads to a massive tradedown after 29.Bxc2 bxc2 30.Rdxc2 Rxc2 31.Rxc2 with an equal position.

29.Rb1 Kg8 30.g4 fxg4 31.Bxg4 Kf7 32.Kg2 Bb5 33.Bg3 Nb6


This move allows a tactical shot by Black. A move like 34.Kh3 was better, though Black still maintains the advantage.

34...Bxd3 35.Rxd3

There is no better move for White as the discovery on the Rook on b1 was just as much a threat as the Knight fork on e1.

35...Ne1+ 36.Kf1 Nxd3 37.Bxb3 Rxb2 38.Rxb2 Nxb2 39.Ke2

The trade down has occurred, and Black is winning as he has a series of threats on the White Bishop that allows him to advance his pawns.

39...c4 40.Bc2 d4 41.Be4 d3+ 42.Kd2 Na4

With the deadly threat of 43...c3+.

43.Ke3 Nc5 44.Bf3 Nb3 0-1

There is no stopping promotion.

Game 4: White Plays a Quick Ng4, Leaves the Bishop Home

W: Bojkov (2475)
B: Potkin (2523)
Germany, 2004

1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.Ngf3 c5 5.g3 Nc6 6.Bg2 Be7 7.O-O O-O 8.Re1 b5 9.e5 Nd7 10.Nf1 a5 11.h4 b4 12.N1h2 a4

Again, I'm going to say that I think 12...Ba6 is a better move here, and in the game Lau - Uhlmann, Potsdam 1988, White played 13.Ng4 to which Black immediately responded with 13...Nd4, the move I am recommending when White commits to an early Ng4. With the Knight already moved from h2 to g4, contesting the f3-Knight makes sense. For White to recapture on f3 with a Knight, White would have to lose time, retreating the g4-Knight back to h2. Otherwise, Black has no objection to capturing on f3 if White has to take back with a piece other than the Knight. The immediate 14.Ng5 is too early, especially with the g4-Knight blocking the Queen from getting to h5 quickly. Taking on d4 via 14.Nxd4 does double Black's pawns, but it opens up the c-file for Black to attack the weak c2-pawn. The other thing to keep in mind is that if White doesn't trade on d4, Black may also have the option of going ...Nf5, which can act as a strong defensive piece that is difficult to dislodge, rather than trading on f3. For example, the Knight occupies g4, and even if it moves, advancing g4 to attack the f5-Knight will often leave the h-pawn hanging.

In that game Lau - Uhlmann, Potsdam 1988, after 12...Ba6 13.Ng4 Nd4, the game went 14.c3 Nxf3+ 15.Bxf3 Rb8 16.Bf4 a4 17.Qd2 a3 18.b3 bxc3 19.Qxc3 Rb4 20.Rab1 Bxh4 21.Bc1 Be7 22.Bxa3 Bb7 23.Qc2 d4 24.Be4 Rb6 25.Bc1 Bxe4 26.Rxe4 Ra6 27.Qe2 Re8 28.Kg2 Nf8 29.Rh1 Ng6 30.Rh5 Qa8 31.a3 Rb6 32.Kh2 Rxb3 33.Bh6 Qa6 34.Bxg7 Qxd3 35.Qxd3 Rxd3 36.Bf6 Bf8 37.Re1 Rf3 38.Kg2 Rf5 39.Rh3 h5 40.Reh1 c4 41.Rxh5 Rxh5 42.Rxh5 c3 43.Kf3 d3 44.Bg5 Bg7 45.Ke3 d2 46.Ke2 Rc8 47.Rh1 Nxe5 48.Nf6+ Kf8 49.Nh7+ Ke8 50.Nf6+ Bxf6 51.Bxf6 Rc5 52.f4 Nf3 0-1.

13.a3 bxa3 14.bxa3 Ba6 15.Ng4


Again we see the same idea as what we saw in Lau - Uhlmann.

16.h5 Rb8

And nothing says that we can't combine ideas. Here we see Black occupying the open b-file, similar to what we saw in Maze - Zumsande in Game 2. White's last move assures us no early Qh5 ideas like we saw in Game 3. Therefore, Black can proceed with his usually Queenside play.

17.h6 g6 18.Be3 Nf5

Now that the Bishop attacked the Knight, the Knight moves to the aforementioned f5-square, where it keeps an eye on the dark squares around the King, particularly h6 and g7.

19.Bf4 Rb2 20.Qd2 Nd4

And now that the Bishop has moved away and the Queen moved to d2, no longer covering the f3-square, the Black Knight returns to d4 with ideas of trading on f3.

21.Nxd4 cxd4

So White decided to trade on d4 instead, which does double Black's pawns, but it comes with many pluses for Black. Again, the c2-pawn is very weak, but there is also a sudden nasty threat by Black and that is the move 22...g5, which would trap the White Bishop and win a piece, and so White must spend time creating an opening for the Bishop.

22.Qc1 Qb6 23.Bg5 Bc5 24.Qf4 Rc8


White's best try here. Note that White gets absolutely nothing after 25.Nf6+? Nxf6 26.Qxf6 Bf8. With no White Knight on the board, the f6-square is the only way in for any of the White pieces, and it's such a bottle neck for White that all Black needs to defend his position is the Bishop on f8 and the rest of the pieces are free to roam. Black would be winning here. The move played in the game maintains equality for the time being, and Black actually has to be careful here.


25...Rxc2 is also fine for Black, but not 25...exd5? 26.e6 fxe6 27.Nf6+ Nxf6 28.Qxf6 and with the dual threats at g7 and e6, White's advantage would be significant!


26.Bg2 was probably a better move, not allowing the trick Black executes a few moves from now.

26...Rcxc2 27.Re4 Bb7!

Trying to protect the d4-pawn via 27...Bc5 has it's problems. After 28.Nf6+ Nxf6 29.Qxf6 Bf8 30.Rf4, the attack on f7 is annoying and Black is forced to play 30...Rc7 and he has no real attack. The position is roughly equal. The game move keeps Black's advantage.


White should probably admit that Black is better and play 28.Ree1. Note that 28.Rxd4 loses to 28...Bxf3!

28...Bxe4 29.Rxe4 Bxa3 30.Rxd4


Black uses the fact that the White King is on the same diagonal as the Black Queen to tactically trade everything down to a winning endgame.

31.Nxf2 Rxf2 32.Kxf2 Bb2 33.Be7 Qxd4+ 34.Qxd4 Bxd4+ 35.Ke1 Bc5 36.Bg5 a3 37.Bc1 Nxe5 38.Be2 Nc6 39.Bd1 a2 0-1

40.Bb2 would be answered by 40...Bd4 and so White resigned.

So we have seen four very exciting and at the same time very complicated games with a couple of other games embedded in the article. Hopefully a very careful study of these games, you can get a better understanding of when to take White's attack seriously, like in Game 1, and when it looks scary but really amounts to nothing, like Game 4. Also, hopefully these games will make you more aware of the potential tricks in the position, like the Queen maneuver we saw in the notes to White's 17th move in Game 2, the importance of eliminating White's best piece rather than counting material like we saw in Game 3, and both the potential traps and opportunities that lie in the position as we saw in Game 4 where Black had to avoid being tempted into taking the Bishop on d5 and finding the tactical opportunity on f2 to seal the win.

Links to the rest of the articles.
Introduction and facing the Advance Variation
Part One: The Exchange Variation
Part Two: The Tarrasch Variation
Part Four: The MacCutcheon Variation
Part Five: The Steinitz Variation (Coming Soon)
Part Six: Beating the French with the Advance Variation (Coming Soon)

Saturday, September 23, 2017

September G/60 Action!

50 players competed in CCCSA's G/60 Action tournament on Saturday, September 23.  The tournament was divided into 3 sections - Top, Under 1700, and Under 1200.  The prize fund was increased from the advertised amount to over $800 - each section had cash prizes for first place ($150), second place ($70), and a rating class prize ($50).

The Top section had 15 players, including two masters - Daniel "9:59am" Cremisi (2362) and South Carolina's Klaus Pohl (2200), who enjoyed free entry for being over 2200.

Round 3 battle between the top seeds - Daniel Cremisi vs Klaus Pohl, 1-0

They were joined by many Experts and Class A players, including CCCSA employees Dominique "NM" Myers (2099) and Alex "the new guy" Velasquez (1816).

FM (Former Master) Dominique Myers vs. Ali Shirzad, 1-0

More games from the Top Section

Cremisi defeated Myers in the final round to win 4.0/4 and win clear first ($150).  Klaus Pohl and Adharsh Rajagopal (1921) tied for second place, winning $35 each.  Aditya "draw?" Shivapooja (1784) won $50 for the highest score Under 2000 (2.5/4).

G/60 Action

Final Standings - G/60 Action: TOP

#PlaceNameRtngRd 1Rd 2Rd 3Rd 4TotPrize
11Daniel Cremisi2362W11W10W2W4 4.0$150
22-3Klaus Pohl2200W7W3L1W9 3.0$35
3 Adharsh Rajagopal1921W15L2W6W10 3.0$35
44-5Dominique Myers2099H---W6W8L1 2.5 
5 Aditya Shivapooja1784L10D9W15W13 2.5$50
66-8Ernest Nix1899W13L4L3W11 2.0 
7 Luke Harris1788L2W15D10D8 2.0 
8 Ali Shirzad1671H---W14L4D7 2.0 
99-10Sulia Mason2031L12D5W11L2 1.5 
10 Vishnu Vanapalli1941W5L1D7L3 1.5 
1111-13Pradhyumna Kothapalli1830L1W13L9L6 1.0 
12 Xiaodong Jin1785W9 --- --- --- 1.0 
13 Robert Moore1700L6L11B---L5 1.0 
1414Alex Velasquez1816H---L8 --- --- 0.5 
1515Mike Eberhardinger1700L3L7L5 --- 0.0 

Under 1700
The U1700 section was the largest of the day, featuring 19 players.  CCCSA regulars David Richards (1653) and Danny Cropper (1628) were the top seeds.

Round 3 face-off between the 2-0 scores: Sam Fuerstman vs Donald Johnson (U1700)

In the end, Danny Cropper (1653) and Sam Fuerstman (1489) took a draw in their round 4 encounter to tie for first place, each receiving $110 for their 3.5/4 result.

Ojas Panda (1467) and Arjun Rawal (1272) scored 2.5/4 and received $25 each for the Under 1500 prize.

G/60 Action

Final Standings - G/60 Action: Under 1700

#PlaceNameRtngRd 1Rd 2Rd 3Rd 4TotPrize
11-2Danny Cropper1628W16W11W7D2 3.5$110
2 Sam Fuerstman1489W14W13W9D1 3.5$110
33Benjamin Webb1598L13W17W10W9 3.0 
44-8David Richards1653L9W12W11D7 2.5 
5 Spencer Singleton1541W17L9D13W12 2.5 
6 Rithvik Prakki1539L10W14D8W13 2.5 
7 Ojas Panda1467W8W10L1D4 2.5$25
8 Arjun Rawal1272L7W19D6W17 2.5$25
99-10Donald Johnson1420W4W5L2L3 2.0 
10 Paige Cook1298W6L7L3W18 2.0 
1111-14Nishanth Gaddam1453W18L1L4D14 1.5 
12 Hassan Hashemloo1419H---L4W18L5 1.5 
13 Gautam Kapur1358W3L2D5L6 1.5 
14 Nikhil Kamisetty1276L2L6B---D11 1.5 
1515-17Ali Shirzad1671W19 --- --- --- 1.0 
16 Debs Pedigo1405L1D18L17H--- 1.0 
17 Pranav Swarna1302L5L3W16L8 1.0 
1818Henry Chen1145L11D16L12L10 0.5 
1919Byron Butler1438L15L8 --- --- 0.0 

Under 1200
17 players entered the U1200 section.  Amidst many upsets in every round, Siddharth Aravind (862) scored 4.0/4 to win $150.  Tied for second and the top Under 1000 prize with 3.0/4 were Dhyey Shah (877), Shreeshiva Raja (655), and Bhavani Dhulipalla (unrated), who received $40 each.

September's G/60 Action Tournament

G/60 Action

Final Standings - G/60 Action: Under 1200

#PlaceNameRtngRd 1Rd 2Rd 3Rd 4TotPrize
11Siddharth Aravind862W16W10W5W4 4.0$150
22-4Dhyey Shah877W15L4W8W9 3.0$40
3 Shreeshiva Raja655W9L6W14W11 3.0$40
4 Bhavani Dhulipallaunr.W7W2W6L1 3.0$40
55-8Akshay Rajagopal1019W17D8L1W12 2.5 
6 Nikolai Webb971W13W3L4D7 2.5 
7 Jesse Mindel849L4W15W10D6 2.5 
8 Athul Vikas778W11D5L2W14 2.5 
99-10Sarvajith Nalaneelan989L3W13W15L2 2.0 
10 Dean Creech541W14L1L7W16 2.0 
1111-13Sanchit Shah1114L8W12D13L3 1.5 
12 Raamcharan Puttagunta774H---L11W17L5 1.5 
13 Sreenidhi Prakki603L6L9D11W17 1.5 
1414-17Ellen Rosenfeld955L10W16L3L8 1.0 
15 Rishi Narayanan536L2L7L9B--- 1.0 
16 Kavin Michael Raj456L1L14B---L10 1.0 
17 Andrew Zhang213L5B---L12L13 1.0 

UPSETS - 150 points or more
U1200, Round 4 - Shreeshiva Raja (655) def. Sanchit Shah (1114) - 459 points
U1200, Round 1 - Dean Creech (541) def. Ellen Rosenfeld (955) - 414 points
U1200, Round 1 - Athul Vikas (778) def. Sanchit Shah (1114) - 336 points
U1200, Round 1 - Shreeshvia Raja (655) def. Sarvajith Nalaneelan (989) - 334 points
U1200, Round 3 - Shreeshiva Raja (655) def. Ellen Rosenfeld (955) - 300 points
TOP, Round 1 - Xiaodong Jin (1785) def. Sulia Mason (2031) - 246 points
U1700, Round 1 - Paige Cook (1298) def. Rithvik Prakki (1539) - 241 points
U1700, Round 1 - Gautam Kapur (1358) def. Benjamin Webb (1598) - 240 points
U1700, Round 1 - Donald Johnson (1420) def. Danny Cropper (1628) - 208 points
U1200, Round 4 - Athul Vikas (778) def. Ellen Rosenfeld (955) - 177 points
U1700, Round 2 - Arjun Rawal (1272) def. Byron Butler (1438) - 166 points
U1200, Round 3 - Siddharth Aravind (862) def. Akshay Rajagopal (1019) - 157 points

Bhavani Dhulipalla (unrated) defeated Nikolai Webb (971), Dhyey Shah (877), and Jesse Mindel (849).

USCF Rated Results

On Thursday, October 5 we will host our first Thursday Monthly Blitz event, followed by Reverse Angle 77 on Saturday, October 7.  Other Charlotte Chess Center events to look forward to include the NC Closed Championship, GM/IM Norm Invitational, CCCSA Junior Invitational, and the 4th Annual Southeastern FIDE Championship - please see our events calendar for details.