The Siesta Variation

When a person hears the word “Siesta”, they would likely think of Spain, where, because of the heat, a long slumber between 2 and 5 PM is frequently practiced. And if that same person hears of the Siesta Variation in chess, it is quite likely that they envision a long, slow-moving positional game where nothing interesting occurs for most of the game.

Except the Siesta Variation is anything but boring. It is extremely tactical and wild enough to feature a few piece sacrifices.

Why this name then? It turns out that the name comes from the location of a 1928 Budapest tournament. Which was held in the Siesta Sanatorium, a private mental hospital in the Buda Hills. And yes, that means there are a lot of craziness in that place. Now the name makes more sense.

Let’s get going by first defining what the opening moves are.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 (yes, this is a Ruy Lopez) a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.c3 f5. Black’s 5th move challenges the normal, but still fully under tension, slow pace of many Ruy Lopezes. In fact, it blows up the kingside and center.

White can certainly try to sidestep the main lines of the variation, but he doesn’t get too much, and Black can easily take over the initiative.

Janos Balogh-Hermanis Matisons
Bardejov, July 27 1926
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 f5 5.d3
(Too slow!) 5…d6 6.c3 Qf6 7.Nbd2 f4 8.d4 Bd7 9.Qe2 Nge7 10.Bb3 g5 11.h3 h5 12.Nf1 exd4 13.Nxd4 Nxd4 14.cxd4 Qxd4 15.h4 g4 0-1

Fiorentino Palmiotto (2104)-A. Echte
corres.
Europe, 1967
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.c3 f5 6.Bxc6+ bxc6 7.Qa4 fxe4 8.Qxc6+ Bd7 9.Qxe4 Nf6 10.Qe2 Be7 11.d3 O-O 12.O-O Bc6 13.Ng5 Qd7 14.f4 h6 15.Ne4 d5 16.Nxf6+ Bxf6 17.Na3 Rae8 18.Qd1 d4 19.Bd2 Qf5 20.cxd4 exf4 21.Bxf4 Bxd4+ 22.Kh1 Qd5 23.Qc2 Rf6 24.Bg3 Rfe6 25.Rae1 Bf2 0-1

White has two main lines here.

(1) 5.c3 f5 6.exf5 Bxf5 7.d4, which White seeks to quickly open the center as he believes can take advantage of open lines faster than Black.

(2) 5.c3 f5 6.exf5 Bxf5 7.O-O, which White seeks king safety before launching any attack.

The first line was more popular from the 1950s to the 1970s. But after getting crushed too often, esp. after …h6 (a good combination move, defending Black’s kingside and threatening to open the h-file), White changed tactics.

Here are some games White probably does not want to remember.

Mikhail Vasilievich Shishov-Rashit Nezhmetdinov
Tbilisi, 1947
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.c3 f5 6.exf5 Bxf5 7.d4 e4
(Black rightfully avoids 7…b5?! Spassky-Hallstrom, World U20 Ch., Antwerp, 1955 continued with 7…b5 8.Bb3 Nf6 9.O-O Bg4 10.Re1 Be7 11.Bg5 Na5 12.dxe5 Bxf3 13.Qxf3 dxe5 14.Be6 +- e4 15.Rxe4 Rf8 16.Rd4 Bd6 17.Nd2 h6 18.Re1 1-0) 8.Ng5 d5 9.f3 h6 10.fxe4 hxg5 11.exf5 Bd6 12.Qg4 Nf6 13.Qxg5 Kf8 14.Bxc6 bxc6 15.Qg6 Qd7 16.Bg5 Re8+ 17.Kd1 Ne4 18.Kc2 Qf7 19.Qxf7+ Kxf7 20.Bc1 Ng3 21.Rg1 Rxh2 22.Nd2 Ne2 23.Rd1 Rxg2 24.Kb3 Nxc1+ 25.Raxc1 Bf4 26.Nf3 Bxc1 27.Rxc1 Rb8+ 28.Ka3 Rbxb2 0-1

Baturinsky-Estrin
Moscow, 1947
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.c3 f5 6.exf5 Bxf5 7.d4 e4 8.Ng5 d5 9.f3 h6 10.fxe4 hxg5 11.exf5 Bd6 12.Qg4 Nf6 13.Qxg5 Kf8 14.Bf4 Rh5 15.Qg3 Qe7+ 16.Kd1 Ne4 17.Qf3 Rxf5 18.Bxd6 Nxd6 19.Re1 Qf6 20.Qh3 Re8 21.Nd2 Rxe1+ 22.Kxe1 Nxd4! 23.cxd4 Qxd4 0-1

Y. Shaposhnikov-Y. Estrin
corres., 1954
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.c3 f5 6.exf5 Bxf5 7.d4 e4 8.Ng5 d5 9.f3 h6 10.fxe4 hxg5 11.exf5 Bd6
(Not 11…Qd6 12.Bxg5 Rxh2 13.O-O +/-) 12.Qe2+ (White has other queen moves, but nothing seems to work.) 12…Kf8 13.h3 g4 14.Qxg4 Rh4 15.Qg5 Re4+ 16.Kd1 Be7 17.Qg6 Nxd4 18.Nd2 b5 19.cxd4 bxa4 20.Nf3 Bf6 21.Bg5 Rb8 22.Bxf6 Nxf6 23.Rc1 Rxb2 24.Qg3 Ree2 0-1

J. Kuszubowski -H. Matzerath
corres.
BRD, 1956
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.c3 f5 6.exf5 Bxf5 7.d4 e4 8.Ng5 d5 9.f3 h6 10.fxe4 hxg5 11.exf5 Bd6 12.Nd2 Qf6 13.Qf3 O-O-O 14.Nf1 Nxd4 15.cxd4 Qxd4 16.Bd1 Bb4+ 17.Nd2 Re8+ 18.Be2 Nf6 0-1
(19…Ne4 cannot be stopped.)

Boris Gruzmann-V. Yurkov
USSR, 1969
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.c3 f5 6.exf5 Bxf5 7.d4 e4 8.Ng5 d5 9.f3 h6 10.fxe4 hxg5 11.exf5 Bd6 12.Qd3 Kf8 13.Nd2 Nf6 14.Kd1 Qe8 15.Bxc6 bxc6 16.Nf1? c5 17.Be3 c4 18.Qc2 Ne4 19.Kc1
(When your king has to make this type of journey you know you are in trouble.) 19…Rb8 20.Nd2 Nxc3 21.Re1 Na4 22.b3 Ba3+ 23.Kd1 Nb2+ 24.Ke2 Nd3 25.Rh1 Qh5+ 26.Nf3 Re8 27.bxc4 4 28.Qxd3 gxf3+ 29.Kf2 fxg2 30.Qxa3+Kf7 31.Kxg2 Qg4+ 32.Kf2 Rh3 0-1

White does better in line 2.

Adams-Piket
G/60
Cannes Team Tournament, 1992
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.c3 f5 6.exf5 Bxf5 7.O-O Bd3

[Alternatives lose.

Vladislav Klyashtorny-Alexandr Arakeljan
Volodarskij Spring-A, June 29 2007
7…Nge7?! 8.d4 b5 9.Bb3 e4 10.Ng5 d5 11.f3 exf3 12.Qxf3 Qd7 13.Bxd5 g6 14.Bf7+ Kd8 15.Be6 Bxe6 16.Qxf8+ Qe8 17.Nxe6+ Kd7 18.Nc5+ Kc8 19.Qxe8+ Rxe8 20.Bg5 1-0.]

8.Re1

[Despite this being the most common move White has other adequate responses. ECO cites this game:

Gerasin-Rucencev
USSR 1968
8.Qb3 b5 (not 8…Ne7? 9.Ng5! +/-) 9.Qd5 Nd4 10.cxd4 Ne7 11.Qe6 Bxf1 12.Bb3 Bc4 13.Bxc4 bxc4 14.dxe5 dxe5 15.Nc3 Qd6 unclear 16.Qxc4 h6 17.Qe4 Rd8 18.Nxe5 Qe6 19.f4 unclear again.]

8…Be7 9.Bc2 Bxc2 10.Qxc2 Nf6 11.d4 Qd7 12.dxe5 dxe5 13.Be3 O-O-O 14.Nbd2 Rhe8 15.Rad1 Qd3 16.Qxd3 Rxd3 17.Nc4 Rxd1 18.Rxd1 Bf8 19.Kf1 b5 20.Ncd2 e4 21.Nd4 Nxd4 22.Bxd4 Ng4 23.Ke2 g6 24.h3 Nh6 25.Nf1 Nf5 26.Ne3 Nxd4+ 27.Rxd4 Bg7 28.Rd1 c6 29.h4 Re5 30.g4 a5 31.g5 a4 32.a3 Kc7 33.Rd2 Re7 34.Ng2 Be5 35.Ne3 Bg7 36.Rd1 Re5 37.Ng4 Rf5 38.Ke3 Rf3+ 39.Kxe4 Rh3 40.Nf6 Rxh4+ 41.f4 Kc8 42.Rd6 Bf8 43.Rd2 h6 44.Ke5 hxg5 45.fxg5 Bc5 46.Ne4 Be7 47.Rg2 Kd7 48.Nf6+ Kc7 49.Ke6 Bc5 50.Kf7 Be3 51.Kxg6 Kd6 52.Ng4 Bc1 53.Kf6 Rh3 54.g6 Rf3+ 55.Kg7 Rf4 56.Kh7 1-0

GM Anand-GM Artur Yusupov
Candidates Match
Wijk aan Zee, 1994
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.c3 f5 6.exf5 Bxf5 7.O-O Bd3 8.Re1 Be7 9.Bc2 Bxc2 10.Qxc2 Nf6 11.d4 O-O 12.d5 e4 13.Ng5 Ne5 14.Ne6 Qd7 15.Nd2 e3 16.Rxe3 Nxd5 17.Nxf8 Nxe3 18.Qxh7+ Kxf8 19.fxe3 Re8 20.e4 d5 21.Nb3 dxe4 22.Be3 Bf6 23.Rf1 Ng4 24.Bd4 Qc6 25.Bc5+ 1-0

GM Andras Adorjan- Pawel Lurje (2220)
Groningen Open
Netherlands, 1996
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.c3 f5 6.exf5 Bxf5 7.O-O Bd3 8.Re1 Be7 9.Bc2 e4 10.Bxd3 exd3 11.Qb3!? Nf6 12.Qxb7 Na5 13.Qb4 c5?
(> 13…c6! with the idea of 14…14.Qa4 O-O.) 14.Qa4+ Kf8 15.Na3 d5?! 16.b4! Nb7 17.Ne5 Qc8 18.Nxd3 c4 19.Ne5 Qf5 20.Qc6 Rb8 21.Nc2! Nd8 22.Nd4 1-0

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