Sunday, 14 March 2021

069. Just Because You Can

White: A. Corish - C&DCCC Sinclair Trophy, 2021

Mainly it's a blitz thing: playing a move simply “because you can”. It applies to those moves made for aesthetic (rather than objective) reasons, purely for the look of them, for the surprise of them, yet which are tactically sound. Some of us take this sensibility into longer form chess as well. The game below features two, even three such instances.

In the opening 4...Nf6!? is an unnecessary extravagance. After 5 0-0 there is nothing better than 5...fxe4, transposing to the main line anyway, whereas White also has the option of 5 exf5!. Nonetheless, I sometimes allow this simply because 5...Ne7! is such a nice reply and (I think) is just about sound. In other words: 4...Nf6!? just because I can.

My opponent, as many others have before, preferred the main line – but then played it uncritically. The moves immediately after 6...d6 are actually crucial. If Black manages safely to castle short, the opening problems are already solved and we can consider fighting for the advantage.

To that end I tried 13...g5!?. Here 13...Ne7 would be the routine continuation and should offer a plus. But I wanted to play 13...g5. And yes, it's tactically justified: 14 Bxg5? Bxg5 15 Nxc7 Qg6 16 Nxa8 Nf4 is a massive attack, while 14 Nxg5 Nf4! 15 Bxf4 exf4 16 Nf3 Qg6 (as in the game) provides excellent compensation, based on ...Rg8, ...Ne5, ...Bxh3 ideas. So 13...g5!? it was. Just because I could.

White should probably leave the pawn alone. My opponent took it and the pressure increased until he felt obliged to sacrifice the exchange. Then 29...Qh4! tied the white queen to defence of f2 with ideas of ...Rg3 and ...Bxh3; e.g. 30 b4 Rg3! 31 fxg3 fxg3+ 32 Kh1 Bxh3 33 gxh3 Rxf3! and wins. White guarded against this with 30 Rh1.

So now what? The obvious move is 30...Bg4, removing the defending bishop, or if 31 Qe2 then the reverse order 31...Bxh3! 32 gxh3 Rg3! wins. But what happens if Black just plays 30...Rg3 anyway?

Let's see: 30...Rg3!? 31 fxg3 fxg3+ 32 Kg1 (shutting the rook in) 32...Qg5 (threatening ...Qe3+) 33 Qd3 Qc1+ (decoying the white bishop from the f-file) 34 Bd1 Qe3+! 35 Qxe3 dxe3 leaves White facing ...Rf2 and ...e3-e2, regaining the piece for a winning endgame. Or if the bishop returns to block with 36 Bf3, then 36...Rxf3! 37 gxf3 Bxh3! 38 Rxh3 e2 sees the e-pawn promote. White might put up a fight with 39 Rxg3 e1Q+ 40 Kg2 Qd2+ 41 Kh3 Qxb2 42 Nd5, but Black would still be winning.

So 30...Rg3!? it was. Just because I could. And it all worked out very nicely :)


  1. I don't know how it works but the latest trend is "5...Ne7 6.d4! e4 7.Nh4 c6 8.Be2 Nxf5 [8...d5 9.g4±] 9.Nxf5 Qa5+ 10.Nc3 Qxf5 11.0-0± White plays f3 next, with a big advantage." in "The Modernized Ruy Lopez" by Darius Swiercz

    1. Supposedly so. That line actually dates back to E.Hintikka-S.Brilla Banfalvi, corr. 1981, which continued 11...d5 12 f3 Qg6 13 fxe4 dxe4 14 Rxf6 Qxf6 15 Nxe4 and led to a win for White. But it's not really so terrible. I've had that position twice in 2020-21 and scored 1½/2 as Black :)