LEARNING A NEW OPENING

PART 10

by Steve Lopez

After my brain-blasting, embittering tournament loss to my friend Bobby (alluded to two issues back in ETN), I became a major chessplaying fool, studying and playing ever chance I had until I felt I was proficient at the White side of the Pirc Defense (Bobby's favorite response to 1.e4).

There was one line that particularly fascinated me, involving a Knight sacrifice and a flank "end run" by White's h-pawn. Knowing Bob's preferences, I felt that this was the line I would probably wind up playing, so I gave it special attention.

Last issue, I briefly described how I used ChessBase to prepare to face Bob again. I used many of the techniques described over the past two months here in ETN, modified slightly since I was preparing for a specific opponent, not learning a new opening in general. I was simultaneously preparing a surprise for him in case I played the Black pieces, and I was doing the same for two or three of my other regular opponents.

Five months after I lost horribly to Bob, I was paired with him again in another event, again as White. I went into the game confident, prepared to win back my self-respect (and my rating points!).

Lopez,S - Byers,B [B09]
Martinsburg, 1994

1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.f4 Nf6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.e5

Up until now, the moves have been standard. But now Bobby took his first short pause for thought.

6...Nfd7

I had a decision to make here. We're still in my home preparation, so do I pretend to think for a bit (to mislead him into thinking I'm winging it) or do I just go ahead and save clock time by moving instantly and playing what I know? After a moment's thought, I opted for the latter choice...

7.h4

...and snapped off my home-cooked surprise. The interesting thing about the whole e5 line is that John Nunn pans it in his 1993 book New Ideas in the Pirc Defense, yet gives it the OK in his 1994 ChessBase disk Pirc 3. What a difference a year makes...

7...c5

Black meets the flank attack by attacking in the center.

8.h5

8.e6 is also possible here, but I liked the text a whole lot better. Advancing in the center seemed too much like changing course in mid-stream. It was about this time that Bobby let out an audible groan and said, "I fell into your home analysis!" I just half-shrugged and smiled.

8...cxd4 9.hxg6

White plays with much testosterone, leaving the Knight en prise to continue Kingside operations. This appealed to the gambler in me and has elicited Tim Allen-esque grunts of approval from people to whom I've shown this game. 9.Qxd4 is safer but much less studly.

9...fxg6

There were two book moves at this point and Bob passes up both of them. Correct were either 9...hxg6 or 9... dxc3. Now his King is sitting out in the breeze and I have everything I wanted from my opening.

[9...dxc3 10.gxf7+ Rxf7 11.Bc4 This line is what I'd expected to see. Materialistic players would prefer Black in this position, but statistically this line is better for White. Add to this the fact that I'd played a couple dozen games from this position and the assessment here becomes "White is unafraid".]

10.Bc4+

Hanging onto the initiative.

10...Kh8

Bob didn't like the pin that follows 10...Rf7.

11.Ng5 h6

Forced. I'm threatening Rxh7#. Bob would have been better off with the pinned Rook on f7.

12.Nf7+

Oops! This should have lost, but Bobby's too rattled to see it. 12.Ne6 is mo' better. My problem is that I'm trying too hard -- I have a big advantage, but instead of nursing it, I'm trying to make it pay immediate dividends. My zeal has landed me in trouble.

12...Rxf7 13.Bxf7 Nf8

And Bob errs, putting me right back into the game. He should have copped off the Knight on c3 while he had the chance.

[13...dxc3 14.Bxg6 dxe5 15.bxc3-+]

14.Ne4

And I should have snagged the pawn with 14.Qd4. Shakespeare would term this game A Comedy of Errors.

14...dxe5 15.fxe5 Qa5+ 16.c3 Qxe5 17. Qxd4 Qxd4 18.cxd4

What a lovely set of material and positional imbalances! I still like my position better, as I'm better developed with more space.

18...Be6

Should Black try trading to gain space? I would say "no" as my material advantge will become a greater factor as pieces come off the board.

19.Ng5 Bxf7 20.Nxf7+ Kg8 21.Rf1 Nc6 22.Nxh6+ Bxh6 23.Bxh6

By winning another pawn, I find myself the full Exchange ahead...

23...Nxd4

...an advantage which seems short-lived. But Bobby wasn't counting on what I was going to do next...

24.Rxf8+ Rxf8 25.Bxf8 Nc2+ 26.Kd2 Nxa1 27.Bxe7

And I've converted my material advantage into a strategic one: with pawns on both sides of the board, my Bishop is better than his Knight.

27...Kf7 28.Bd6 Ke6 29.Bb8 a5 30.Kc3

Trapping the Knight in the corner. This horsie has no future -- his legs be broke.

30...Kd5 31.Ba7 b5 32.b3

Preparing to win the Black Knight.

32...Ke4 33.g3 g5 34.Bb8

My g3-pawn is covered.

34...g4 35.Kb2 Nxb3

The Knight is history, so Bobby figures that he might as well get something for it.

36.Kxb3 Kd5 37.Bf4 Kc5

The game is as good as won. Remember, even though I'm outnumbered on the Queenside, I can always pick up an opposition-grabbing tempo by moving my Bishop along the b8-h2 diagonal.

38.a4 Kb6

[38...bxa4+ 39.Kxa4 Kb6 40.Be5 Ka6 41.Bc7 Kb7 42.Kxa5 Kxc7 43.Kb5 Kd7 (43...Kd6 44.Kc4 Ke5 45.Kd3 Kf5 46.Ke3 As in the main variation.) 44.Kc5 Ke6 45.Kd4 Kf5 46.Ke3 Kg5 47.Ke4 Kh5 48.Kf4 +-]

39.Be5 b4 40.Bf4 Kc6 41.Kc4 Kb6 42.Be3+ Ka6 43.Bc5 Kb7 44.Kb5 b3

It doesn't work -- I have the extra Bishop, remember?

45.Ba3 Kc7 46.Kxa5 Kc6 47.Kb4 Kd5 48.Kxb3

And my a-pawn will promote ages before Black will be able to nail the White g-pawn and queen his own pawn.

1-0

And thereby hangs a tale. Bobby and I proceeded to shake hands and then analyze the game -- for months. Every time we got together, this game was a hot topic of conversation. Bobby would always bring up the game and talk about some new analysis he had uncovered concerning this line. We'd sometimes get out a set and go over some handwritten notes.

But the important points (to me) were that I started to again respect myself as a player, and that I realized that I no longer had to get angry to win games. I began to win about two-thirds of my games (both tournament and casual) and it no longer took anger to do it. It just required a more serious attitude toward the game and some extra work on my part.

Hard work changed Bobby, too. Chess made him more responsible than he'd been in his younger days. He discovered Christianity the following year and entered a seminary school. He's currently taking a break from his studies, though I haven't seen him down at the library on "Chess Night" yet. But I'll keep looking...

The main thrust of this and the last two issues of ETN has been to make you aware of the possibilities of using ChessBase to prepare for specific opponents, even for "mere" class-level players. If you tend to play the same people repeatedly (whether on-line, at a club, or in local tournaments) you should make notes on your opponents' opening preferences and use ChessBase and Fritz to help you in preparing to face those openings. A bit of work in home preparation can save you gallons of sweat over the board.

I hope that this series on using ChessBase to learn a new opening is helpful to you. As always, if I've missed anything or if you've discovered another technique that works well for you, I invite you to write to me and tell me about it. Perhaps I'll include your suggestions in a future issue of Electronic T-Notes.

Next week, ChessBase and HTML. Until then, have fun!

Please post comments to our ChessBase Users Group or e-mail me directly.