Sunday, 31 May 2020

064. The Box of Pawns

Black: bobby fissure - thematic tournament,, 2007

In a just-finished game I had the small pleasure of creating the “box of pawns”. Two sets of doubled pawns on adjacent files – created by two pawns, three files apart, capturing towards each other – can sometimes be arranged in a little square or “box”. In my game this occurred on e4, e5, f4 and f5. Unfortunately, it was in a Sicilian and hence not blog relevant.

Not wishing to be deterred, I've searched through my game databases looking for other instances and found three more. Two were “over the board” and hence not applicable either, but there was one in an online game. It was only an incidental box, lasting for a single ply, as a pawn recapture removed it at once. Nevertheless, a box is a box, so here it is in all its temporary glory:

The game itself isn't too interesting. I was already winning when my opponent left the queen en prise. And it featured the KGA Modern Defence with 3...d5. I tend to roll my eyes, often literally, whenever this line is proposed as an “antidote” to the King's Gambit. Sure, it's perfectly fine for Black, who can look forward to theoretical equality. But Black can count on at least that with virtually any defence to the King's Gambit.

So, in effect, the Modern means returning a dubiously donated pawn for an equality Black already has anyway. I'm rolling my eyes now just at the thought of it.

Monday, 18 May 2020

063. Four Exchange Sacrifices

Black: Decus Tutamen - all-play-all tournament,, 2020

Theory advances inexorably. In the Traxler, for instance, 5 d4, which used to be considered totally harmless, now appears to be the critical move. IM Panayotis Frendzas has proselytized for it on the forums, and that led me to try out 5 d4 myself as White in online thematic tournaments. My score: P14 W12 D2 L0. As someone who generally plays this as Black, those results are not encouraging.

As it happens, I've faced 5 d4 twice too during the same period – and managed to defend the position after 5...d5 6 Bxd5 Nxd5 7 dxc5 Ndb4 8 a3 Qxd1+ 9 Kxd1 Na6 10 b4 Nd4, but it's not the most fun I've ever had – and White can probably improve anyway.

Instead, the game below followed some analysis by Stefan Bücker (whether my opponent knew it or not), where White sacrifices the exchange for two pawns and far greater activity (given that Black's remaining pieces are all on the back rank).

More exactly, we followed it up to a point because, rather than accept the exchange straight away, my opponent first sacrificed the exchange himself (with 13...Rxf3!?). This led to equal material – but not equality.

Black's king is still stuck in the middle and he has a weak e-pawn. The one point in his favour is that the white a-pawn is also weak, which means endings are not hopeless for Black. So, rather than liquidate, I played for an attack on the kingside. This my opponent neutralized by sacrificing another exchange (27...Rxg5), leading to another endgame where my extra material was not enough to win, even after the queens came off.

Well, perhaps I could have played more strongly somewhere. Stockfish is keen on 24 a3!? for some reason. But a game is a game. The only move I actually regret not playing is 38 Qxd3+, because a plausible line then runs 38...Kc8 39 g3 Qh6 40 Qe3 Qh2+ 41 Kd1 Bf5 42 Qe8+ Kb7 43 Rxb5+! axb5 44 Qxb5+ Ka7 45 Qxf5 Qxg3 and White reaches a pawn-up queen ending.

It doesn't win either, please note. But at least that way I wouldn't have been outdone on exchange sacrifices.