The Poisoned Rook?

In the main line of the Winawer (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3) most players would simply play 5…Bxc3 6.bxc3 and continue with plans starting with 6…Qc7 or 6…Ne7. The main idea is to outplay White in an unclear position.

Why doesn’t Black play, after 5.a3, the move 5…Qa5!?. The a1-Rook is lost if White plays 6.axb4 and his queen is not on a bad square, putting pressure on the diagonal and the 5th rank if White doesn’t take the bishop.

Well, it turns out that taking the a1-rook by Black’s queen is a risky undertaking, and Black’s queen can get buried in a hurry.

The rook is also not so free, as Black gives up his only other developed piece (his bishop). And the queen will wind up in a corner where she is out of action. Meanwhile White’s minor pieces are ready to swarm and overpower Black’s defences made up of mostly pawns.

Let’s take a closer look.

Tigran Petrosian-Kelendzheridze
Training Tournament
Tbilisi, 1945

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Qa5 6.axb4 Qxa1 7.Nb5 Na6 (> 7…Nc6) 8.bxc5 Ne7 9.Nd6+ Kf8 10.Nf3 Nf5?! (> 10…Nb4, seeking counterplay.) 11.Bd3 (11.c3 should also be considered.) 11…Nxd6 12.cxd6 Nb4 13.O-O Bd7 [Why not 13…Nxd3 14.Qxd3 Qa6 (14…h6 15.Qb5!?) 15.Qxa6 bxa6 16.Nd2.] 14.Ng5 h6?


15.Nh7+
[White gets even a larger advantage after 15.Qh5! Be8 16.Nh7+ Kg8 (16…Rxh7? 17.Bxh7 and now White threatens 18.Bxh6!) 17.Nf6+! Kf8 18.Bh7! Rxh7 19.Nxh7+ Kg8 20.Nf6+ Kf8 21.Qxh6!!] 15…Ke8 16.Qg4 g5 (After 16…Nxd3? Black gets mated: 17.Qxg7! Bb5 18.Nf6+ Kd8 19.Qxh8+ Be8 20.Qxe8# . – Kalinchenko, “Winning in the Chess Opening – 700 Ways to Ambush Your Opponent”, #342) 17.Bxg5 Qa5 18.Bf6 Nxd3 (18.Be7 Nxd3 19.Nf6# wins faster. – Kalinchenko, “Winning in the Chess Opening – 700 Ways to Ambush Your Opponent”, #342) 19.Bxh8 [Black cannot prevent mate in four. (Black resigned on account of 19…Kd8 20.Bf6+ Kc8 21.Qg8+ Be8 22.Qxe8+ and mates. – Kalinchenko, “Winning in the Chess Opening – 700 Ways to Ambush Your Opponent”, #342)] 1-0

Claus Hansen-Svend Erik Hansen
Copenhagen, 1974

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Qa5 6.Nf3 cxd4 7.axb4 Qxa1 8.Nxd4 Nc6 9.Nb3 Qxc1 10.Qxc1 Nxb4 11.Nb5 Na6 12.Nd6+ Ke7 13.Qg5+ f6 1-0

Jose Manuel Garcia Serrano-Mikkel Hyldkrog
Politiken Cup
Copenhagen, July 26 2004

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Qa5 6.axb4 Qxa1 7.Nb5 Kd7 8.Nd6 Ne7 9.bxc5 Nf5 10.Nxf5 exf5 11.Bd3 Ke8 12.Ne2 Nc6 13.Nc3 Nxd4 14.Nxd5 Qa5+ 15.b4 Qd8 16.Bc4 Nc6 17.O-O Be6 18.Bg5 Qd7 19.b5 h6 20.Qh5 Nb4 21.c6 bxc6 22.bxc6 Nxc6 23.Rd1 Qb7

24.Nf6+! gxf6 25.Bxf6 Rg8 26.Bxe6 Rb8 27.Bd5 Qd7 28.e6! 1-0

Matheus Leal Assuncao (1866)-Jose Arlindo Lima Jr. (1904)
Natal, Oct. 9 2009

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Qa5 6.axb4 Qxa1 7.dxc5?! (Usual is 7.Nb5. The text boxes in Black’s queen but too many of White’s forces are used for this function.) 7…a6? (Much better is 7…Bd7 which begins Black’s attempt to slowly extradite his queen. A sample line: 8.Nf3 a5 9.b5 a4 10.Qd2.) 8.Nf3 (With the apparent idea of Bd3, and O-O. But the move has another, unexpected idea.) 8…Nc6 9.Nd2! (Threatening Black’s entombed queen.) 9…Nxb4? (Black’s fatal error. After 9…Nd4! 10.Bd3 a5 11.Bb5+ Kf8 12.O-O Nxb5 13.Nxb5 axb4, he might just survive.) 10.Nb3! +- Qxc1 11.Qxc1 Ne7 12.Bd3 Ng6 13.f4 Bd7 14.O-O O-O 15.Qd2 a5 16.Bb5 1-0

Vladimir Vlasov (1598)-Maksim Novgorodskij (1615)
June 21, 2011

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Qa5 6.axb4 Qxa1 7.Nb5 Kd7 8.Nd6 Ne7 9.bxc5 Nbc6 10.Nf3 Nf5 11.Nxf5 exf5 12.Bd3 g6 13.O-O a6 14.c4 Nb4 15.cxd5 Nxd5 16.Qb3 Kc6 17.Bd2 1-0

Hans Gao-Crystal Zhu
New Zealand Jr. Ch., July 26 2011

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Qa5 6.axb4 Qxa1 7.Nb5 Na6? (Good enough to stop 8.Nc7+, but not the more serious threat of 8.Nd6+) 8.Nd6+ Ke7? (Black has to play 8…Kf8.) 9.Bg5+ f6 10.Qxa1 Nxb4 11.Qc1 h6 12.Bd2 Nc6 13.dxc5 fxe5 14.Nf3 b6 15.Bb5 Nd4 16.Nxe5 Nxb5 17.Nxb5 bxc5 18.Ng6+ Kf6 19.Nxh8 g5 20.h4 Kg7 21.hxg5 hxg5 22.Bxg5 Bd7 23.Bh6+ Kf6 24.Qg5mate 1-0

Renato Rodrigues Quintiliano (1910)-J. Eduardo Campos Nascimento (2277)
Brazil, Sept. 18 2011

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Qa5 6.axb4 Qxa1 7.Nb5 Na6 8.Nd6+ Kf8 9.Bxa6 Qxa6 10.Qf3 [> 10.Qh5! g6 (only move) 11.Qf3 f5 12. dxc5 Qa4.] 10…f6 11.bxc5 (11.dxc5!? is perhaps better. Black has 11…b6!? 12.Qh5 g6 13.Qh4 bxc5.) 11…Qc6 (11…Bd7!, activating another piece, is better.) 12.exf6 Nxf6 13.Bg5 Ke7 14.Bxf6+ gxf6 15.Qh5 Kd8 16.Qf7 Bd7 17.Qxf6+ Kc7 18.Qe5 Rhf8 19.Nf3 Qa6 20.Kd2 Kc6 21.b4 b5 22.Rb1 Qa2 23.Ne4 Rad8 24.Nc3 Qc4 25.Qe3 Rxf3 26.gxf3 Re8 27.Qe5 Bc8 28.Ra1 a6 29.Qd6+ Kb7 30.Qxa6+ 1-0

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