Beating a Master in 10 Moves

If you want to beat a Master, you have to study chess. If you want to beat a Master in the opening, you have to study the openings.

Here’s what I mean:


Escalante-NM Adaar
Thematic Tournament – Winawer Variation, Round 2, Aug.-Sept. 2018
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 (The usual route to the Winawer. All games in the tournament began with this position.) 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 O-O (Some years ago Van der Tak wrote an article in NIC 8 titled, “Castling Into It?” where he explored Black’s kingside castling possibilities in the Poisoned Pawn Variation of the Winawer, and if it was a viable option for Black. I don’t think the resulting positions favor Black.) 8.Bd3! (Thanks to GM Van der Tak, and his article, I am convinced this move is stronger, with many ideas not yet explored, than most other books might suggest.) 8…Nbc6 9.Nf3

[If Black does not know the main line, then he (or she) has a problem coming up with a good plan. Here’s an example:

E.H. Al Rufei (2068)-Nebal Al Jelda
Women’s Zonal
Tehran, 2001
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 O-O 8.Nf3 Nbc6 9.Bd3 Nf5 10.Bg5 Qa5 11.O-O c4 12.Bxf5 exf5 13.Qg3 Kh8 14.Qh4 Qxc3 15.Bf6 gxf6 16.exf6 Rg8 17.Ng5 Rxg5 18.Qxg5 1-0

His (or her!) best move is 9…f5 10.exf6 Rxf6 11.Bg5 Rf7, with many books giving this position a “=”. But life, on or off the chessboard, is rarely simple as an equal sign. Back to the game. My opponent decided to try something different in this game.]

9…cxd4?? (This loses the game in a hurry.)


10.Bxh7+! 1-0 [Black resigns due to 10…Kxh7 11.Qh5+ (stronger than the traditional Ng5+ as the potential escape square, g6, is denied to Black) 11…Kg8 12.Ng5 and White mates.]

Win a Battle and Hope to Winawer

I enjoy correspondence chess. Even more so if the tournament is thematic one.

Thematic tournaments (where everyone plays the same opening moves) are a good way to test an opening of your choice.

Right now I am involved in a French thematic tournament. And despite what I know about the French, there is always something new to learn.

One of my opponents has chosen a rare sideline of Winawer French, namely, 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qg4!?, which can lead to an interesting gambit.


Now Black, of course, can refuse to give up his “g” pawn by either 4…Kf8 or 4…g6.


4…Kf8 is not to be recommended as Black is not gaining anything by his King move.


For example, Zsivko Bratanov (2408)-Stephan Bardel (2219), Grenoble, France, June 2005 went 1.d4 e6 2.e4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qg4 Kf8?! 5.Bg5 (ECO gives 5.exd5 exd5 6.Qg3 +/-.) 5…f6 6.Bd2 Nc6 7.O-O-O Nxd4 8.exd5 e5 9.Qg3 Bf5 10.Bd3 Ne7 11.f4 Bxc3 12.Bxc3 Qxd5 13.fxe5 Rd8 14.Bxd4 Qxd4 15.Ne2 Qc5 16.Bxf5 Nxf5 17.Qf4 Rxd1+ 18.Rxd1 Ne3 19.Rd2 Kf7 20.e6+ Kg6 21.Qg3+ Qg5 22.Nf4+ Kf5 23.Qxe3 1-0

4…g6 is a possibility that needs to be further investigated:


A COMPUTER-GM Artur Yusupov (2640)
Ischia, Italy, 1997
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qg4 g6 5.e5 b6 6.Nf3 h5 7.Qh3 Ba6 8.Bxa6 Nxa6 9.O-O Bxc3 10.bxc3 c5 11.Bg5 Qd7 12.Rfd1 Rc8 13.c4 cxd4 14.cxd5 Qxd5 15.Rxd4 Qc5 16.Rad1 Ne7 17.Rd6 Nc6 18.Rxe6+ Kf8 19.Rxg6 Re8 20.Rh6 Rg8 21.Rh7 Rxg5 22.Qd7 Re7 23.Qc8+ Re8 24.Rh8+ 1-0


Jim Berry-IM Michael Brooks (2510)
North America Open
Oklahoma, 2003
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qg4 g6 5.e5 c5 6.dxc5 Bxc5 7.Bg5 Qb6 8.O-O-O Bd7 9.Nf3 h6 10.Bf6 Nxf6 11.exf6 Bxf2 12.Bd3 e5 13.Bb5 Qxb5 14.Nxb5 Bxg4 15.Nc7+ Kd7 16.Nxa8 Bxf3 17.gxf3 d4 18.c3 Nc6 19.cxd4 exd4 20.Nb6+ axb6 21.a3 Re8 22.Rhf1 Re2 23.Rd3 Be3+ 24.Kb1 Ne5 25.Rb3 Nc4 0-1


Daniel Campora (2538)-Antonio Morillo (2105)
Coria del Rio Open
Spain, Feb. 11 2005
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qg4 g6 5.Bg5 f6 6.Bd2 e5 7.Qe2 dxe4 8.dxe5 f5 9.Nxe4 Qe7 10.Nc3 Nc6 11.Nf3 Be6 12.a3 Ba5 13.Qb5 O-O-O 14.Bg5 Nd4 15.Bxe7 Nxb5 16.Bxd8 Nxc3 17.Bg5 Ne4+ 18.Bd2 Bb6 19.Be3 Bxe3 20.fxe3 Nh6 21.Bd3 Ng4 22.O-O Bd5 23.Rfe1 Re8 24.Rad1 Nxe5 25.Bxe4 Bxe4 26.Nxe5 Rxe5 27.Rd2 c6 28.Kf2 Kc7 29.Red1 Re7 30.c4 g5 31.Rd6 g4 32.Rf6 a6 33.b4 Rg7 34.c5 b6 35.Rf8 Kb7 36.Rdd8 bxc5 37.bxc5 a5 38.Ra8 Rd7 39.Rfb8+ Kc7 40.Ra7+ Kxb8 41.Rxd7 h6 42.h4 gxh3 43.gxh3 h5 44.Rh7 Bc2 45.h4 Bd1 46.Kg3 Bg4 47.Kf4 Ka8 48.Ke5 Kb8 49.Rf7 1-0

But I decided to go with the main line. After all, I am here to learn this opening and I can’t learn the main line if I avoid it.

So, we continue with gambiting the” g” pawn.

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qg4 Nf6 5.Qxg7 Rg8 6.Qh6 Rg6 7.Qe3


Now here come some competing plans. One is to play 7…c5, gaining a move to challenge the center. This is ECO’s recommendation.


1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qg4 Nf6 5.Qxg7 Rg8 6.Qh6 Rg6 7.Qe3 c5 8.Bd2 Ng4 9.Qd3 Nc6 10.Nge2 (10.h3? c4 -+) 10…cxd4 11.Nxd4 Nxf2 12.Kxf2 Bc5 -/+ 13.Be3 Qf6+ -/+

But surely my opponent is not going to play into this line. It is too simple and he can probably find a TN or even a better move. One can’t rely on books alone. A little investigation and a decent amount of imagination can show equally, or even better, alternate ideas.


If the purpose of the main line is for Black to gain a tempo by attacking the center with 7…c5, why does he have to wait for the intermediate moves of 6.Qh6 Rg6 7.Qe3? In other words, can Black play 5.Qxg7 Rg8 6.Qh6 c5 at this point? Not too many games with this sequence of moves. Is it because it is bad or because it is unknown?


Let’s find out!