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published in 2017 by Gloucester Publishers Limited, London

Copyright © 2017 Cyrus Lakdawala

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About the Author
Cyrus Lakdawala is an International Master, a former National Open and American Open
Champion, and a six-time State Champion. He has been teaching chess for over 30 years,
and coaches some of the top junior players in the U.S.

Also by the Author:

Play the London System
A Ferocious Opening Repertoire
The Slav: Move by Move
1 … d6: Move by Move
The Caro-Kann: Move by Move
The Four Knights: Move by Move
Capablanca: Move by Move
The Modern Defence: Move by Move
Kramnik: Move by Move
The Colle: Move by Move
The Scandinavian: Move by Move
Botvinnik: Move by Move
The Nimzo-Larsen Attack: Move by Move
Korchnoi: Move by Move
The Alekhine Defence: Move by Move
The Trompowsky Attack: Move by Move
Carlsen: Move by Move
The Classical French: Move by Move
Larsen: Move by Move
1 … b6: Move by Move
Bird’s Opening: Move by Move
Petroff Defence: Move by Move
Fischer: Move by Move
Anti-Sicilians: Move by Move
Opening Repertoire: … c6
First Steps: the Modern
About the Author

1 3 … Qa5
2 3 … Qd6: Introduction and … c6 Lines
3 3 … Qd6 with … a6
4 3 … Qd6 with … g6
5 White Delays Nc3
6 2 … Nf6
7 Everything Else

Index of Complete Games

Modernes Skandinavisch, Matthias Wahls (Schach 1997)
Starting Out: The Scandinavian, Jovanka Houska (Everyman Chess 2009)
The Safest Scandinavian, Vasilios Kotronias (Chess Stars 2016)
The Scandinavian, John Emms (Everyman Chess 2004)
When we first enter the exciting/terrifying arena of rated tournament chess it may feel that
whatever we know, everyone else seems to know more. Our first task is to build an
opening repertoire, preferably one which fits our natural style and inclinations. So why
would we pick the Scandinavian, which presumes to be beyond the grasp of the law and
which, in the 2 … Qxd5 versions, we flagrantly violate by bringing out our queen on the
second move? So honest and upright is your writer, that if I accidently exceeded the speed
limit by five miles per hour, I would drive to the nearest police station and turn myself in,
demanding that they ticket me. Well, maybe this is a slight exaggeration, but I certainly
wouldn’t play an opening line which violates chess laws. Yet I happily play the

It may feel crazy even to consider the … Qxd5 Scandinavian lines, since on her
second move Black’s insane queen goes swooping up, as if she were Daenerys Targaryen,
Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons, riding Drogon (that’s the largest of her three
dragons, with black and red markings) into battle. When we play 2 … Qxd5 the laws of
physics begin to break down. After all, how can bringing out our queen as the first piece
developed be sound? If a clinical psychotic were to see such a move, his or her first
thought would be: “That’s crazy!” The natural corollary of 2 … Qxd5 is that we as Black
– already a move down – fall further behind in development. You may ask, “What logical
end are you striving to reach?” Why should we play a line with such an unwanted,
inherited by-product? Starting the game down in development with Black is not some
species-specific issue, since most openings have us behind in development as Black. It’s
just that the … Qxd5 Scandi flaunts it. My answer is to dismiss your concerns about the
line’s soundness credentials. Black may be behind in development, yet remains relatively
safe since White must deal with these issues:
1. White is unable to exploit his or her development lead, since Black’s ultra-solid …
c6/ … Bf5/ … e6 set-up renders the position rigid.
2. White lacks targets in our weakness-free position, which greatly dilutes the
development lead.
3. For some bizarre reason, the vast majority of my miniature wins (in under 20
moves) tend to come from Scandinavians. Why? Well, because many of my opponents
tend to go berserk at the sight of 1 … d5!, in response to their push of their e-pawn. A
good chunk of your club-level opponents will not respect or understand the
Scandinavian’s hidden resources and they may proceed recklessly in a position you will
probably know better than they do.

When it comes to opening choices, we tend to get to pick from two categories:
1. Openings based on memorization of data and sharp, computer-checked forcing lines.
2. Openings based on depth of understanding, which takes precedence over absorption of

So which category does Scandinavian fit in? The answer is both. There are incredibly
sharp lines in the … Qa5/ … Bg4 Scandinavians, which are nothing more than tactical,
homework/comp battles between the two sides, like the following position in the
following diagram:

The above position is a realm of no second chances, since if we mess up we become

the startled sinner on Judgment Day, unprepared for the Almighty’s righteous wrath. In
this position, Black must be booked up on 9 Nc4, which places our queen in great peril; 9
h4, intending to go after our bishop with 10 h5; and also the 9 Bg2 line, threatening our
b7-pawn. If you aren’t comped up here, you are as good as dead with the black pieces. I
take to quiet strategic lines as a narcotic to a terminally ill patient in chronic pain. Your
writer is bred for abstract logic, rather than the blood and gore of tactics and calculation.
So how do I get away with playing this crazy line? The reason I score well is that this line
is heavily comped. I have been playing it for three and a half decades and holding my
own, even versus GMs, since they play my computer, not me. The Scandinavian is the
movie martial arts master who makes the apprentice sweep the floor and mow the lawn for
months (in our case years!) before he is willing to teach the disciple. It’s a long learning
curve to master the Scandinavian, but I assure you, it’s well worth the wait, because once
you understand it, you will wield it as a terrible weapon. It’s a difficult opening to learn
and we can’t treat it as the shoe-store clerk who decides to change careers by studying
YouTube videos on surgery, and then applies for the newly opened post of head of
neurosurgery at the local hospital.

The Caro-Kann Scandinavians

The Scandinavian, once considered just an interesting oddity, is now a fully fledged
member of the sound openings category, especially when we enter the ultra-solid lines like
the … Qa5/ … c6 and … Qd6/ … c6 lines which exude a Caro-Kann flavour, as in the two
diagrams below. I actually consider the lines rather easy to learn and understand. Many of
our sharp trendy lines are hard to remember and it’s easy to get disoriented in the network
of tributaries. Not this one. If modern opening theory is Big Brother, then the … e6/ … c6
Scandinavian structure is Winston Smith.
The soundness
credentials of the black side of a line like the Chigorin Ruy Lopez are impregnable. Would
you be surprised if I claimed the same status for some lines of the Scandinavian? Your
tactically challenged writer has survived all these years, simply by ducking sharp positions
and playing deviously solid lines. What does “solid” have to do with the Scandinavian?
Well, any time you play a … c6 version, you get a very solid Caro-Kann(-ish) version, as
in the above two diagrams. But you may ask: “If you like Caro-Kann structures, then why
not just play the Caro-Kann?” The answer is: in the Caro-Kann White has the option to
veer with un-Caro lines like the Advance Variation, or the Panov-Botvinnik Attack, where
he or she often takes on an isolani. In the Scandinavian … c6 versions we always get
positions similar to the ultra-solid structures derived from the Classical lines of the Caro,
which arise from the move order 1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 dxe4 4 Nxe4. Our Scandi
positions are exceedingly similar. Trust me. These lines easily pass as civilization.

The 2 … Nf6 Scandinavian

The Scandi rules are subject to change without notice and maybe the laws of physics
suddenly begin to alter, where the sun begins to revolve around the earth, and not the other
way around. The diagram above is the starting position of the 2 … Nf6 Scandinavian,
which is a completely different opening from the 2 … Qxd5 lines, and is filled with
geological caprices. First of all, it’s really a gambit, since White can push the c2-pawn to
c4 in order to hang on to the now extra d5-pawn. We have several interesting responses at
our disposal. A gambit with the white pieces tends to be a risky proposal, while a gambit
with the black pieces almost feels reckless. Now I am normally an intolerant, puritanical
conservative when it comes to gambits. So just think what I will have to say about
sacrificing with the black pieces! Having studied the lines carefully, I came to a shocking
conclusion: Black’s various gambits all appear sound. I have never played the 2 … Nf6
Scandinavian lines, always incorrectly viewing them as shady and every time I was
tempted in the past, I always backed off, thinking this love affair is as doomed as Fay
Wray’s cross-species fling with King Kong. But now, having absorbed greater
understanding of the lines, I vow to start playing the 2 … Nf6 Scandi.

In a weird way, this is almost two different books, within a single book, since the 2 … Nf6
lines are so alien from the 2 … Qxd5 lines. Back in the 1980s, IM David Strauss and I
shared a room at a tournament where he successfully played the 2 … Nf6 Scandinavian.
Bewildered, I asked David: “But, but, but, doesn’t it just lose a pawn to 3 c4 - ?” It does.
In that position we can play 3 … e6, turning it into the dangerous Icelandic Gambit, where
White can fall seriously behind in development. I have never had the guts to play the line,
yet I saw friends like IM David Strauss and GM Darwin Laylo absolutely destroy strong
players with it. So be warned: The 2 … Nf6 line may outwardly feel less risky than the 2
… Qxd5 lines, but I assure you it’s not. The wide range of the Scandinavian offers us great
leeway either to go all out and force the issue, as in the 2 … Nf6 lines, or play ultra
solidly, as in the … Qd6/ … c6 Caro-Kann Scandinavians, which I play. The road lies
ahead for us, but first we must provision for the journey. Here are some of the positions
we reach in the 2 … Nf6 lines:

The above position was reached from the Icelandic Gambit, from the game Kuijf-
Hodgson. Black may be down a pawn, yet his massive development lead and potential for
a wicked attack surely compensate.

This is the Jadoul Gambit, White can play f2-f3, followed by c2-c4, securing the extra
pawn on d5. Just as in the Icelandic Gambit, in the Jadoul Gambit (also called the
Portuguese Gambit) Black gets a massive development lead and sacrifices one and
sometimes even two pawns. Now if a safety-first chicken of your writer’s calibre agrees to
play such a line, then rest assured that it’s sound.
I walked by my buddy GM Darwin Laylo’s board at a tournament and saw this
position, which arose from the Jadoul Gambit. Let me tell you that Jane Eyre’s suffering at
the orphanage was a picnic when compared with what is about to happen to White here.

White doesn’t always try to hang on to the d5-pawn, and sometimes just gives it back
to seize a large pawn centre. But this doesn’t mean that Black is doomed to stand worse.
The positions we reach can resemble lines from Alekhine’s Defence, where we first give
White the centre, then do everything we can to either overextend or dismantle it.

White originally declined to hang on to the offered d5-pawn, yet here we see another
sacrifice on our part. Even though we may soon be down a pawn in an ending, our
massive development lead, coupled with White’s slight overextension, offers us more than
enough compensation and, in fact, I think White will be lucky to remain equal.

Many thanks to cousin Richard for his edit and also to Nancy for proofreading. May our
overconfident and under-booked opponents rub their hands in glee when we respond to 1
e4 with 1 … d5!.
Chapter One
3 … Qa5

In this chapter we cover the old-school 3 … Qa5 lines, which can be played in
extremes. If we go with the … c6, … Bf5 and … e6 structures, we reach one of the
most solid opening lines in chess. On the other hand, if we venture the wild … Bg4
lines, we provoke White into h2-h3 and then g2-g4, where the positions we reach are
considerably sharper and we can end up with quick wins or losses.

Game 1
L.Dominguez Perez-V.Ivanchuk
Capablanca Memorial, Havana 2012

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5
Black’s principle-violating queen is the outlaw who bleaches her hair orange after the
commission of a crime to assist her quest for anonymity, thinking to herself, “There! Now
I will blend in.” Black’s shocking move evaporates our Fred Reinfeldian frame of
reference for what passes as “normal” in the opening, as we take leave of the familiar and
embrace the incomprehensible. In one swoop, Black brings out the queen, violating the
original sin principles:

1. Don’t bring out your queen early in the game.

2. Don’t fall behind in development in the opening stage.

Yet by some geometric quirk, I assure you the 2 … Qxd5 Scandinavian, a treasure chest of
contradiction, remains both solid and sound. We look at 2 … Nf6 near the end of the book.
3 Nc3 Qa5

Later in the book we look at the ultra-solid 3 … Qd6.

Instead, 3 … Qd8!? is a weird idea which is growing in popularity. To me it goes
against the spirit of the Scandinavian by safely tucking in the queen and accepting a slight
disadvantage. Part of the fun of the Scandi is that our queen is in danger. That fact tends to
push White into risky action. Play can continue 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 Bg4 6 h3 Bxf3 7 Qxf3 c6,
reaching the tabiya starting position. It looks quite unpleasant to me, with White in
ownership of the bishop pair and space. My recommendation to you is to avoid this line as
4 d4 Nf6 5 Bd2
White’s bishop ominously eyes Black’s target queen on a5.

Tip: When White plays Bd2 with our queen on a5, be on high alert for all potential
discoveries with the c3-knight. But also remember this: the more we expose ourselves
to a toxin, the more immunity we build.

Experienced Scandinavian players barely suppress a yawn as Black in such
situations, since we wisely comped the position to kingdom come, and know
full well that the club-level opponent isn’t magically going to find something
the 3200-rated chess computer missed. As a chess teacher I refuse to
eternally coddle the nervous and the unprepared. So I tell my students to
relax and just trust the comp’s analysis, over our fallible human opponents.

Next we examine White’s main line with 5 Bc4 c6 6 Nf3 Bf5 7 Bd2 e6 8 Qe2
Bb4 9 0-0-0 reaches the main line, which we examine next game, and 8 Nd5
will be covered in the following two games.

5 … c6
This move offers our queen air to escape via c7 or d8.
Also possible is 5 … Bg4 6 f3 (if 6 Be2 Bxe2 7 Qxe2 Nc6 8 Nf3 Qf5 Black has
benefited from the exchange of light-squared bishops, since his position is more free,
V.Okhotnik-S.Azarov, Tallinn 2014)

Note: The insertion of a white pawn on f3 slightly jumbles White’s kingside
development by denying the f3-square for a piece.

6 … Bd7 (if the bishop went to f5, it would allow White a g2-g4 attacking thrust free
of charge) 7 Bc4 (the threat is Nd5 and Nxc7+) 7 … Qb6 (attacking d4) 8 Nge2 e6 (of
course White’s b2-pawn isn’t really hanging, since White would respond with Rb1 and
Rxb7) 9 Bb3 Nc6 10 Be3 Na5! (Black picks off the bishop pair) 11 0-0 Nxb3 12 axb3
with a solid game for Black, V.Anand-L.Van Wely, Wijk aan Zee 2013.
6 Bd3
The idea is to cut off … Bf5. Instead, 6 Bc4 Bf5 leads to the main lines.
6 … Bg4!

Tip: 6 … Bf5?? is a trap we must know and avoid. White wins a piece by deflecting
Black’s queen with 7 b4!.

7 f3 Bh5

On g6 we can challenge White’s bishop.

8 Nge2

Note: White intends Nf4, picking up the bishop pair. What should we do about it? The
answer is … nothing! As Black in many Scandinavian lines we allow this imbalance,
since it rids us of our bad bishop and strengthens our pawn structure when we
recapture on g6 with our h-pawn.

Tip: Don’t fear the structural alteration when White plays 8 Ne4 Qc7 9 Nxf6+ gxf6.
This position resembles Larsen’s Variation of the Caro-Kann which runs 1 e4 c6 2 d4
d5 3 Nc3 dxe4 4 Nxe4 Nf6!? 5 Nxf6+ gxf6. I think the version we get here in the
Scandinavian is actually superior to the Caro version, since we provoked the awkward
f2-f3 from White.

8 … Nbd7
8 … Bg6 is also possible. After 9 Ne4 Qb6 10 Nxf6+ gxf6 11 Be3 Nd7 we have a
sharp game where Black stands no worse.
9 Nf4 Bg6 10 Nxg6 hxg6

Was it a mistake for us to give White the bishop pair? No, since we dumped our bad
bishop and, as a bonus, received an open h-file, which could come in handy to whip up an
attack should White decide to castle short.
11 Qe2 e6 12 Ne4 Bb4!
Black either rids White of the bishop pair, or induces c2-c3. Why is that important?
Because if we provoke c2-c3, White’s king will be unsafe on either side of the board.
Black’s last move was stronger than the also playable 12 … Qb6.
13 c3
13 Nd6+ fails to bother Black’s king, since he is happy on f8, with the h8-rook in
control over the open file. Play continues 13 … Kf8 and now if 14 Nxb7? Qb6 15 Nc5
Nxc5 16 dxc5 Bxd2+ 17 Qxd2 Qxb2 18 0-0 Qe5! with a double attack on h2 and c5,
which wins a pawn.
13 … Be7 14 g3!?
a) 14 0-0 Qc7 allows Black’s queen to take aim at h2.
b) 14 c4 can be met by 14 … Bb4!.

Tip: In this situation, typical of some Caro-Kann lines, we shouldn’t fear the
“combination” 15 Nd6+?! Ke7 16 Nxb7 Qb6.

White’s extra pawn was short lived, since Black immediately regains it, favourably.
After 17 Nc5 Bxd2+ 18 Qxd2 Nxc5 19 dxc5 Qxc5 20 0-0-0 Rhd8 the advantage is with
Black, who has increased control over the central dark squares, has the potential for a
good knight versus bad bishop situation, and who owns the favourable pawn majority.
Finally, Black’s king looks safer.
14 … Nxe4!?
Ivanchuk invites White to take central control, with the intention of chipping away at
the centre from the sides. I would be more inclined to play the safer 14 … 0-0, which is
15 fxe4 Bg5!
Two principles follow with this move:

1. The cramped side benefits from exchanges.

2. When your opponent owns the bishop pair, swap one of them off.
16 0-0 Bxd2 17 Qxd2 c5!
Ivanchuk demonstrates that White’s imposing pawn centre is as much a liability as an
18 Qf2 0-0 19 e5!?
The fact that we own a pencil and a piece of paper doesn’t automatically mean we
have the ability to draw. White enhances his bishop’s power, at the cost of turning his d-
pawn into a backward one.
19 … Rad8 20 Be4 cxd4 21 cxd4 Nb8 22 Rad1?!
This move may be overly ambitious. 22 Bxb7 Qb6 23 Bg2 Rxd4 24 Rad1 Rxd1 25
Rxd1 Rd8 looks about even.
22 … Nc6 23 Rd3
After 23 Bxc6 bxc6 24 b3 Qb4 25 Rd3 Rd5 26 Rc1 Qb6, White is the one fighting for
the draw.
23 … Qb6 24 Rfd1 Rd7 25 Rb3 Qa6 26 Ra3 Qb5 27 Bxc6
White attempts to reduce pressure from d4. 27 Rb3?! is met by 27 … Qa4! with
pressure on a2 and d4.
27 … bxc6 28 Rf1 f5!
In this way Black doesn’t have to worry about defending f7 any more.
29 b3?
White gets better chances to draw if he enters a pawn down queen ending with 29 exf6
Rxf6 30 Rf3 Rdf7 31 Rxf6 Rxf6 32 Qg2 Rxf1+ 33 Qxf1 Qxb2 34 Qc4 Kf7.
29 … Rfd8 30 Ra4 c5!
This is the unpleasant by-product of his 29th move. Now White is given a terrible
choice of losing a pawn or allowing Black’s rooks to infiltrate at d2.
31 dxc5?
This allows decisive rook entry and White is now as far from salvation as the sky is to
the ground below. He should just give up a pawn with 31 Rd1 Qb6 32 h4 Rxd4 33 Raxd4
cxd4 34 Rd3. It’s still lost, but at least here White can play on.
31 … Rd2 32 Qf3
32 Qe3?? R8d3 33 Qg5 Qxc5+ 34 Kh1 Qd5+ forces mate.
32 … Qxc5+ 33 Kh1 Qc2!
It’s time to go after the Dickensian waif on h2.
34 Rc4 Qxa2
There was also nothing wrong with grabbing both pawns with 34 … Rxh2+ 35 Kg1
35 Rh4 g5!
This places White’s rook way offside.
36 Rh5 g4 37 Qc6 Qxb3
Covering e6, while nabbing another white pawn.
38 Rg5

Exercise: (mating pattern): How does Black force mate?

Answer: 38 … Rd1! 0-1
Answer #2: Also crushing is 38 … Rc2! with the removal of the defender. White’s
queen must vacate the h1-a8 diagonal with devastating consequences to his king after 39
Qa6 Qd5+ with mate in two moves.
After 38 … Rd1! as played, 39 Qg2 (or 39 Rxd1 Qxd1+ 40 Kg2 Rd2 mate) 39 …
Rxf1+ 40 Qxf1 Rd1 wins the queen.

Meet an early Bd2 with … c7-c6, which offers our queen an escape route to potential
knight discoveries.

Game 2
San Luis Zonal 2007

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qa5 4 Nf3 Nf6 5 d4 c6 6 Bc4 Bf5 7 Bd2 e6 8 Qe2
This is considered White’s main line. In the next game we look at 8 Nd5.
8 … Bb4
If someone walks up to you and attempts to sell you a gold brick for $20, the odds are
rather high that it’s an actual brick, spray-painted gold. Don’t get greedy with 8 … Bxc2??
9 d5!.

Warning: Note the principles: open the position and create confrontation when
leading in development.

After 9 … cxd5 10 Nxd5 Qd8 11 Bb5+ Nc6 (11 … Nbd7 12 Ne5! is lethal) 12 Nxf6+
gxf6 13 Rc1 Bg6 14 Rxc6, the description of Black’s position which comes to mind is that
it looks a lot like the eviscerated entrails of a rat, blown to smithereens by the disgruntled
farmer’s 12-gauge shotgun.
9 0-0-0 Nbd7 10 a3
10 d5 doesn’t lead anywhere for White after 10 … cxd5 11 Nxd5 Nxd5 12 Bxd5
Bxd2+ 13 Rxd2 Nc5 with a good position for Black.
10 … Bxc3

Tip: Don’t be afraid of handing over the bishop pair to White. The structure is rigid
for now, which enhances the capabilities of Black’s knights.

11 Bxc3 Qc7 12 Ne5
White clears the path for ideas such as f2-f3 and g2-g4.
12 … Nxe5
The main line, which follows the principle: Clarify the structure into rigid resolution
when your opponent owns the bishop pair.
Instead, 12 … 0-0!? is a playable, high-risk venture. After 13 g4 (the calmer 13 f3
intending g2-g4 is also worth a thought) 13 … Nxe5 14 dxe5 Nxg4 15 Rhg1 Nh6 16 Bd2
Kh8 17 Bxh6 gxh6 18 Rd6 Rg8, White got full compensation for his sacrificed pawn,
H.Steingrimsson-E.Prie, Reykjavik 1993.
13 dxe5 Nd5

14 Bd2
White logically preserves the bishop pair. Sometimes I get the cowardly/joy-killing 14
Bxd5, which is an attempt to grovel a draw in an opposite-coloured bishops ending. After
14 … cxd5 (if you are desperately in need of a win, then you can venture the risky 14 …
exd5!? 15 g4 Bg6 16 Qe3!, preventing queenside castling; White probably has the better
chances, but at least it’s complicated and you denied your cowardly opponent a drawish
game) 15 Bb4 Rc8 16 Rd2 b6 17 Qb5+ Qc6 18 Qxc6+ Rxc6. The ending is pretty close to
even, but if anyone is going to win, it will be Black, who can play on the c-file and light
squares with the plan … Kd7, … Rhc8 and … Rc4. I once beat a 2300+ rated player from
this position, so it’s not 100% drawn.
14 … 0-0-0 15 g4
White typically plays for f2-f4 and then f4-f5.
15 … Bg6 16 f4 h5!
In this way Black generates play down the h-file.
17 h3
17 g5?! would be a strategic error from White, who just froze his once mobile kingside
structure and also handed Black control over the freshly minted f5-hole.
17 … Qb6!
Reactivating the queen, while fighting for control over e3.
18 Rhf1
Still angling for f4-f5.
18 … hxg4 19 hxg4 Qc5!
The queen latently eyes c2, while creeping closer to the c4-bishop.
20 Bb3
20 f5?! exf5 21 gxf5?? would be a big blunder due to 21 … Bh5, bagging the
exchange on d1.
20 … Rh3!

The threat is … Rxb3.

21 Qf2
Black is okay in this ending. 21 Rf3 is considered the critical line. The following game
is an example of Black’s optimal play against this move: 21 … Rdh8 22 f5 Rh2 23 Qc4
Qxc4 24 Bxc4 exf5 25 gxf5 Bh5 26 Bxd5 cxd5 27 Rc3+ Kd7 28 e6+ fxe6 29 fxe6+ Kxe6
30 Re1+ Kd7 31 Bf4 Re2! (ignoring the c7-invasion) 32 Rc7+ Ke6 33 Rxe2+ Bxe2 34
Rxg7 d4! 35 Kd2! (35 Rxb7?? Rh1+ 36 Kd2 Bf3! 37 Rxa7 Rd1 is mate) 35 … Ba6 36
Rg5 and the players agreed to a draw, Z.Markovic-M.Savic, Senta 2011.
21 … Qxf2 22 Rxf2 Be4!
Black’s bishop sidesteps the coming f4-f5.
23 Re1
23 f5!? Bf3 24 fxe6!? Bxd1!? (24 … fxe6 is also okay for Black) 25 Bxd5 cxd5 26
exf7 Bxg4! 27 f8Q Rh1+ 28 Rf1 Rxf8 29 Rxh1 Bf5 with an equal ending.
23 … Bf3! 24 g5?!
Nobody can describe White’s kingside structure as an exquisitely choreographed
ballet. White risks an overpress. Handing Black control over the f5-hole and the kingside
light squares is a big concession. Far safer is 24 Rg1 Rdh8 25 f5 Rh1 26 Rff1 Rxg1 27
Rxg1 Kd7 which is fine for Black.
24 … Ne7?!
24 … Bg4! is more accurate.
25 Bb4?!
White misses 25 g6! and if 25 … Nxg6 26 f5!, White’s initiative flares up.
25 … Nd5 26 Bd2 Bg4!
Now we transpose to the note above and Black is back on track.
27 Bc4 Bf5
The bishop occupies the f5-hole.
28 b3 Ne7 29 a4 Ng6 30 a5 b6 31 Bf1 Rg3 32 Re3 Rg1 33 Rc3 Kc7 34 Re3 Rh8 35
Kb2 Rhh1 36 Bd3?
36 Re1 is correct, when Black only holds a slight edge after 36 … Nh4.
36 … Rb1+ 37 Kc3 Ne7!
White must watch out for a knight check on d5.
38 Kc4
After 38 axb6+ axb6 39 Ref3 c5! 40 Bxf5 Nxf5 41 Be3 White’s king is not too safe
and he landed in a classic good knight versus bad bishop position.
38 … c5 39 Kb5!?
White attempts the lemons-to-lemonade trick, by trying to transform his advanced
king into a virtue, rather than a liability.
39 … Kb7
Cutting off potential king invasions into a6, while worrying White about … a7-a6+
40 a6+ Kc7 41 Be4?!
41 Ref3 is a tougher defence.
41 … Rhd1?!
Black misses 41 … Bxe4! 42 Rxe4 g6 43 Re3 Nf5 44 Rd3 Nd4+, winning material.
42 Bf3
42 Bxf5 Nxf5 43 Rd3 Rb2! 44 Be3 Rxd3 45 cxd3 Rxb3+ 46 Kc4 Rb4+ 47 Kc3 Nxe3
42 … Bxc2!?
Black gets two pawns for this exchange sacrifice, but 42 … Rg1! is even stronger.
43 Bxd1 Bxd1 44 Re1 Nf5?!
44 … Rxb3+ 45 Kc4 Rb1 is completely lost for White.
45 Bc3 Rxb3+
White’s position continues to disgorge pawns at an alarming rate.
46 Kc4
Exercise (combination alert): Black missed a way to win more material here. Do you
see how to do it?

46 … Ra3
Still winning.
Answer: But stronger was 46 … b5+! with deflection/removal of the guard. After 47
Kxc5 Rxc3+ and if 48 Kb4? Rc4+ 49 Kxb5 Bb3!, Black’s threat of … Nd4+ and … Ra4
mate can only be stopped by handing over even more material.
47 Rd2
47 Rxd1 is met by the fork 47 … Ne3+.
47 … Bf3 48 Ra1

Exercise (combination alert): Black to play and win more material.

48 … Bd5+!
Answer: Step 1: Drive the king to d3.
49 Kd3 c4+! 0-1
Step 2: Drive the king to c2 – 50 Kc2 Be4+!
Step 3: Drive the king to b2 – 51 Kb2 Rb3+ – White’s demoted bishop seems to be an
eternal “associate” status member of his team.
Step 4: Deliver a rook check on b3, which separates king from bishop.

This game is one of the most important in the book for … Qa5 Scandinavian players. At
the very least, you must memorize the tabiya position which arises after Black’s 14th
move. Not only that, but you should be ready for White’s plan to push his or her kingside
pawns with a g2-g4 advance. So study this one carefully.

Game 3
Austrian Team Championship 2014

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qa5 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 c6 6 Bc4 Bf5 7 Bd2 e6 8 Nd5
With this move White hopes to achieve the following:
1. The c3-knight is often a problem piece, since it almost artificially isolates White’s
d-pawn. By moving the knight, White allows his c-pawn free to push to c3, supporting d4.
2. Black’s queen will be chased to d8, which blocks the natural square for a black
3. When White swaps on f6, if Black’s queen captures, she is vulnerable; if Black
recaptures with the g-pawn, many players perceive it as damage to Black’s structure
(whereas I don’t!).
8 … Qd8 9 Nxf6+ gxf6!

Tip: Don’t consider this “damage” to our pawn structure.

In fact, it can be argued that Black’s structure has actually been enhanced, since by
playing … g7xf6, Black has:
1. Seized control over the e5-square.
2. Seized a greater central influence, since our g-pawn got promoted to a more central
3. Seized an open g-file, which can come in very handy as the precursor to an attack,
should White castle kingside.
I advise the reader to avoid 9 … Qxf6?! which loses even more time, since Black’s
queen isn’t well placed on f6. After 10 c3 Nd7 11 Qb3 Nb6 12 Be2 h6 13 a4! 0-0-0 14 a5
Nd5 15 Ne5 a6 16 f4 (16 c4 Nc7 17 Bc3 looks pretty tough for Black) 16 … Be4 17 0-0
Qe7 18 Rfe1 Bh7 19 Nxc6?! (this sacrifice allows Black back into the game; White stands
clearly better after 19 Bh5!) 19 … bxc6 20 Bxa6+ Kd7? (20 … Kc7! is okay for Black) 21
Qb7+? (21 Bb7!, preparing to push the a-pawn, favours White) 21 … Nc7? (21 … Kd6!)
22 d5! Qc5+! 23 Be3 exd5! 24 Rad1? (after 24 Bxc5?? Bxc5+ 25 Kh1 Rb8 Black regains
the sacrificed queen with interest; however, Black is busted after the simple 24 Kh1!) 24
… Qxa5 25 b4?? (25 Ra1! is still better for White) 25 … Qxa6 0-1. Black is two pieces up
and queens are coming off the board, A.Shirov-C.Lakdawala, Internet Blitz 1996. This
game gives direct challenge to the Capablanca quip of the better player always being
lucky. Sometimes the crappy one lucks out as well!
10 c3 Nd7 11 Bf4 Nb6 12 Bb3 a5!

This move gains useful space on the queenside and makes it less palatable for White to
castle long.
13 a4

Note: This move comes at a cost for White. Now when Black posts a knight on d5,
White is not so tempted to boot it out with c3-c4, since the knight can jump into the
freshly created hole on b4.

13 … Nd5 14 Bg3 Bg4 15 0-0 Qb6!?
Black threatens … Bxf3, when White would be forced to recapture with his g-pawn.
Black equalizes comfortably if he plays it safe with 15 … Bd6! 16 Re1 0-0 17 Bc2 f5 18
Qd3 Bxf3! 19 Qxf3 Kh8.
16 c4!
The only move.
16 … Nb4 17 Qe2 c5!? 18 Qe4?!
This wastes time. Correct was 18 h3 Bh5 19 d5 Bg7 20 Rfe1 0-0! 21 dxe6 Nc6! 22
exf7+ Rxf7 23 Bd1 Re7 with full compensation for the pawn. Since White’s forces are
tangled, Black’s knight has access to b4 and d4 and Black’s queen applies pressure down
the b-file.
18 … f5 19 Qe3 Bxf3 20 Qxf3 Nc6!
Black threatens to bang down a knight on d4, forking white queen and b3-bishop.
21 dxc5 Bxc5
Black has the advantage as he dominates key central dark squares: d4, c5, b6 and b4.
Also, White’s light-squared bishop is a god-awful piece, with a- and c-pawns fixed on the
wrong colour.
22 Rad1?
He had to try 22 Qc3 Bd4 23 Qc2 Rg8 24 Rfe1. Now I admit that in this line White’s
pieces, much like our lazy dogs, sprawl limply on the floor, doing nothing, while thinking
about nothing. White’s game is strategically miserable, but still better than what he got in
the game’s continuation.

This decision doesn’t easily lend itself to the concept of moderation. In this case White
hopes his sacrifice is the Snickers bar for his low-energy, sagging position.

Exercise (combination alert): White’s last move, a desperate/unsound sacrifice, was
made with the thought: collateral damage to your own side is sometimes a regrettable
military necessity. Black has a simple way to win material. How?

22 … Nd4
Answer: Double attack on f3 and b3. The move is so simple and so easy to find that it
doesn’t really even deserve an exclam. White’s metastasizing dark square weakness
continues to spread unchecked.
23 Qh5 Qxb3
Or 23 … Nxb3 24 Be5 Rf8 25 Bg7 Nd4! 26 Qxh7 (your attack is likely to fail when
only 20% of your forces penetrate enemy territory) 26 … Rd8 27 Bxf8 Bxf8 and Black’s
two pieces far outweigh White’s rook and pawn.
24 Be5 0-0-0 25 Bxh8 Rxh8 26 Qxf7
A bomb is a useless weapon when deprived of the targets on which it seeks to expend
itself. White has indeed made inroads into Black’s kingside. The problem is that Black’s
king now resides on the other side.
26 … Rd8
Very clearly, we see that White’s would-be initiative now droops like an elderly and
under-watered rose.
27 Rxd4!?
He turns it into a full piece sacrifice to pick up a few black pawns.
The greedy 27 Qxh7?? walks into 27 … Ne2+ 28 Kh1 Qxd1, when White not only
drops a rook, but is also mated.
27 … Bxd4 28 Qxe6+ Kb8 29 Qxf5 Qxc4 30 b3
After 30 Qxh7 Black has the killing shot 30 … Bxf2+!, winning on the spot.
30 … Qxb3 31 Qxa5
The verdict from the gathered evidence is now well past the point of denial. White’s
last move was a blunder in an already lost situation. His defence has been rendered as
dysfunctional as his counter-attack.

Exercise: Black to play and force the win:

31 … Bxf2+!
Answer: Attraction/weak back rank/queen trap.
32 Rxf2
A suggestion isn’t really a suggestion if you don’t have the option of turning it down:
a) 32 Kxf2 Rf8+ 33 Ke2 Qc2+ wins.
b) After 32 Kh1 Rd5! the once invisible begins to materialize in a shimmer of de-
bonding atoms. Black unexpectedly traps White’s queen.
32 … Rd1+ 33 Rf1 Qe3+ 34 Kh1 Rxf1 mate

Don’t be afraid to face White’s knight discovery 8 Nd5 Qd8 9 Nxf6+, when we follow
principle by capturing toward the centre with 9 … gxf6. The position we reach is similar
to Larsen’s line of the Caro-Kann.

Game 4
San Diego Rapidplay 2006

IM John Bryant is the son of GM Enrico Sevillano, who also played in this tournament.
1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qa5 4 d4 Nf6 5 Bc4 Bg4

Black takes advantage of White’s slightly non-standard move order with a move which
either provokes a pawn weakness or a pin. 5 … c6 6 Nf3 Bf5 7 Bd2 e6 leads to positions
we have already examined.
6 f3
a) 6 Nge2 e6 7 0-0 Bd6 8 f3 Bf5 9 Ng3 Bg6 10 Nce4 Nbd7 looks okay for Black.
b) After 6 Nf3 Nc6! Black is ready to castle queenside and play … e7-e5, with at least
an equal game.
6 … Bh5!?
This move probably takes provocation a bit too far, since Black’s bishop becomes
vulnerable to future g2-g4 and f3-f4! smothering ideas. Safer and stronger is 6 … Bf5,
Black’s main line, which runs 7 Nge2 e6 8 Bd2 Qb6 9 0-0 c6 and I don’t believe Black
stands worse.
7 Bd2
The threat is Nd5 and Nxc7+.
If 7 Nge2 Nc6!? 8 Bd2 0-0-0 9 Nd5 Qa4 10 b3 Qa3.
Remember our sacred Scandinavian prayer: our queen only requires a single safe
square. After 11 Nxf6 gxf6 12 c3, the advance … e7-e5 is coming and I think Black gets
fully even chances in the coming complications, T.Radjabov-C.Lakdawala, Internet Blitz
7 … c6?!
Your writer is now older and wiser than the 2006 version, where I didn’t know any
better. This move is inaccurate and allows White a powerful idea. Correct was 7 … Qb6! 8
Nge2 e6.

Tip: Watch out for traps like 8 … Nc6??, which is in blasphemous violation of the
our-queen-requires-only-a-single-safe-square prayer. After 9 Na4 we go home early,
since our queen is trapped.

8 Nd5
Much stronger was 8 Qe2!, leaving Nd5 hanging over Black’s head, since White
threatens g2-g4 and then f2-f4, intending f4-f5. Here 8 … Bg6! is an unplayed move
(which is I believe an improvement over theory’s 8 … Qc7?! 9 g4 Bg6 10 f4!, when Black
is in serious trouble) 9 0-0-0 Qc7 10 h4 e6 11 Nh3 Bd6 12 Ne4 with a solid advantage for
8 … Qd8 9 Nxf6+ gxf6
More thematic than capturing with the e-pawn, away from the centre.
10 Ne2
Protecting the d4-pawn, while contemplating a future Nf4, going after my h5-bishop.
10 Qe2!?, offering d4 for a development lead, is an alternative.
10 … Bg6 11 c3 Nd7 12 0-0
12 h4 Nb6 13 Bb3 Qd7 14 Nf4 Bh6 15 h5 Bf5 16 g4 Qd6! allows Black’s light-
squared bishop to slip out.
12 … Qc7 13 Re1
13 Bf4 is met by 13 … e5.
13 … e6 14 Bf4
Or 14 Nf4 0-0-0 and of course Black isn’t afraid of Nxg6, since … h7xg6 opens the h-
file for Black’s potential attack.
14 … Bd6 15 Bxd6 Qxd6 16 a4
White starts attacking the queenside even before I commit my king there!
16 … Nb6
16 … 0-0!? is also possible.
17 Ba2 Nd5

Note: A reminder – when they toss in a2-a4 in such structures, just like last game, we
can post a knight on d5. If White plays c3-c4, our knight can jump into the b4 hole.

18 Ng3 0-0-0!?
This is an outright declaration of war. 18 … 0-0 is safer, but I had to win to go for a tie
for first place with Bryant’s GM father.
19 a5
19 Ne4 Qe7 20 Qd2 Rhg8 is the alternative.
19 … f5
Denying White’s knight use of e4.
20 Qa4 a6 21 Bxd5
He wants to stick me with a bad bishop versus his remaining knight.
21 … cxd5 22 b4?!
If you see a crime taking place against your position and you do nothing about it, you
cannot be called an “innocent bystander”. It does you no good to only work out half of the
equation. The position is deceptive. It looks like White gained the quicker attack and also
a good knight versus bad bishop, since every single pawn on my side is on the same
colour as my remaining bishop. But the reality is the opposite. Black’s bishop is the
stronger piece and Black’s attack is also faster. White had to try 22 Ne2!, intending to
transfer the knight to either d3 or b3.
22 … f4
Kicking the knight but, more importantly, crimping the white g-pawn. This fact
coordinates perfectly with the open g-file Black has at his disposal.
23 Nf1
He was better off playing the knight to e2.
23 … Bd3!
This move flips the assessment, base over apex, and we begin to sense a great divide
between what White’s game appears on the outside and how it really is on the inside. In
this case Black’s enhanced ability on the light squares acts as an opiate against White’s
fading power on the dark squares. The bishop shuts down White’s queenside play by
freezing his pawns. Now White can only wait.
24 Nd2 Rhg8 25 Nb3 Rg6
Preparing to double rooks on the open g-file.
26 Nc5 Bc4!
In this way I make it harder for my opponent to cover g2 since, on c4, the bishop
prevents both Ra2 and Re2.
27 Re5?
When our forces fail to coordinate, we become the captain of the ship threatened with
mutiny. Now there’s no way for a rook to cover the second rank and g2, since Black’s
bishop covers both a2 and e2, making defence of the white king impossible. Here my eyes
gazed at the ceiling and my lips moved silently, perhaps in prayerful thanks to the chess
goddess, since I realized I was completely winning. Necessary was the awkward 27 Red1.
27 … Rdg8 28 Qc2

Exercise (planning): White’s position is a stormy sky, about to erupt into a full-
blown storm. Find one powerful idea and White’s king can’t be saved.

28 … Qf8!
Normally your attack/initiative-challenged writer tends to spray errors like a fountain
during the time pressure phase, but not this time.
Answer: Step 1: Transfer the queen into the attack, via f8. The effectiveness of
Black’s well-coordinated force achieves results far out of proportion to its size.
29 Rd1 Qh6!
The h2-square, not g2, is the intended target. White remains alive after the inaccurate
29 … Qg7?! 30 Rd2.
30 Kh1 Qh4!
There’s no defence against … Rh6. This move is even stronger than the also winning
30 … Rxg2 31 Qxg2 Rxg2 32 Kxg2 Qg6+ 33 Kh3 Qc2 34 Rg1 Qxc3. The base of White’s
structure collapses.
31 Qa4
31 Rd2 Rh6 32 h3 allows the breakthrough sacrifice 32 … Rxg2! 33 Rxg2 (or 33
Kxg2 Qxh3+ 34 Kf2 Qf1 mate) 33 … Qxh3+ 34 Kg1 Qh1+ 35 Kf2 Qf1 mate.
31 … Bb5 0-1
The careless 31 … Rxg2?? walks into 32 Qd7+ Kb8 (the king hoped to terminate the
interview with his sister as soon as etiquette allows, but she just won’t go away) 33 Qxb7
and it is Black’s king who is mated.
However, after 31 … Bb5 White is mated: 32 Qc2 Rh6 33 h3 Rg3! 34 Rd2 Rxh3+! 35
gxh3 Qxh3+ 36 Rh2 (36 Kg1 Qf1 mate) 36 … Qf1 mate.

Lines in which we end up with the … g7xf6 structure often end up with the players
castling on opposite wings, with mutual attacks. Your job is to get to the opponent’s king

Game 5
E.Moreno Tejera-V.Laznicka
German League 2016

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qa5 4 Bc4 Nf6 5 d3

This is an example of White holding back on d2-d4. The idea is to avoid providing
Black with a target.
5 … Bg4
I like this move better than Black’s main continuation 5 … c6 6 Bd2 Qc7 7 Qe2, when
White prepares to castle queenside.
6 f3 Bd7!

Tip: After having provoked a weakness in White’s camp with … Bg4, our bishop
sometimes posts itself on d7, the safest spot, since h5 or f5 allows White a future useful
tempo with g2-g4.

7 Bd2 Qb6!
I also prefer this move to 7 … c6.
8 Qe2 Nc6!
Threatening to harass White’s queen with a future … Nd4. 8 … Qxb2?! would be an
unwise pawn grab. After 9 Rb1 Qa3 (9 … Qxc2?? is yet again a violation of the our-
queen-only-requires-one-square prayer: 10 Bb3 and adios black queen) 10 Rb3 Qc5 11
Rxb7, when it is White who benefited from the exchange of b-pawns.
9 Na4
Is the queen trapped?
9 … Qd4

Note: No. Please remember our sacred prayer. As all the comps understand: you only
need one safe square for the variation to work. Don’t let this worry you, since one is all we
require. It’s just the high-risk nature of our line.

10 Be3 Qe5

11 Nc3?!
11 f4 looks like a better try. The game looks even after 11 … Qd6 12 Nc5 Nd4! 13
Bxd4 (13 Nxb7?! Qb6 14 Bxd4 Qxd4 15 Qe5 Qb6 16 Nc5 Bc6 17 Nf3 e6 18 Nb3 Bxf3 19
gxf3 Bd6 and Black regains the lost pawn with the superior position) 13 … Qxd4 14 Nxd7
Nxd7 15 Nh3 Qxb2 16 0-0 Qf6, when at least White has a development lead to comfort
him from the fact that Black has an extra pawn.
11 … Nd4!
Black picks up the bishop pair as well as enhanced dark square control.
12 Bxd4
12 Qd2?? Qxe3+! 13 Qxe3 Nxc2+ 14 Kf2 Nxe3 15 Kxe3 leaves Black up a pawn,
with the bishop pair and superior structure in the ending.
12 … Qxd4 13 Qd2 g6
I prefer the more natural 13 … e6.
14 Nge2 Qh4+ 15 Ng3
White is better off playing 15 g3!.
15 … Bg7 16 0-0 0-0 17 Rae1 e6 18 Nce4 a5
Black is looking to gain a little queenside space.
19 c3 a4?!
Black missed 19 … b5! 20 Bb3 a4 21 Bc2, when he has a promising pawn sacrifice
with 21 … b4! 22 cxb4 Nd5 with huge compensation from control over d5 and enhanced
power on the dark squares.
20 a3 Rad8 21 Nxf6+ Qxf6 22 d4
Now White’s position looks only slightly worse since White’s extra space somewhat
makes up for Black’s bishop pair.
22 … b6 23 Qe2 Qf4 24 Ne4 c6 25 Nf2 Bc8 26 Nd3 Qc7 27 Qe3 Rd6 28 f4 Rfd8 29
29 Ne5 is correct.
29 … Qa7
Perhaps Black can enter slightly favourable complications with 29 … b5! 30 Ba2 c5!
31 Nxc5 Rxd4! 32 Bxe6 Qxc5 33 Bxc8 Rxc8 34 cxd4 Bxd4 35 Qd2 Kg7 36 Kf1 Bxf2 37
Qxf2 Qd5 38 Qe3 Rc4. Black stands better in the major piece ending, since White’s king
doesn’t look safe.
30 Ne5 Ba6 31 Qf3 c5 32 dxc5 bxc5 33 Qe4 Bxc4 34 Nxc4 Rd5
Black stands a shade better since he controls the d-file, his bishop is slightly more
useful than White’s knight, and b2 looks weaker than Black’s a4- and c5-pawns.
35 Ne3 Rd3 36 Nc4 Qa6 37 Ne5 Rd1 38 h3 h5 39 Rxd1 Rxd1+ 40 Kh2 h4! 41 Nf3
Bf6 42 Rd2 Rc1
The threat is … Qf1 and … Qh1 mate.
43 Qe2?!
The awkward 43 Rd3 should hold the game after 43 … Rc2 44 Ne5!, intending to
counter-attack with Rd7.
43 … Qxe2!
This ending will be tough to hold for White.
44 Rxe2 Rf1!
Preventing g2-g3.
45 Re4!
White avoids the strategic trap 45 Rd2? Be7! 46 Rd7 Kf8 47 Rd2 (not 47 Ra7?? Bd6
and White is suddenly busted) 47 … Ke8 and White is in zugzwang. For example: 48 Re2
Bd6! wins material.
45 … Rf2 46 Rxa4 Rxb2 47 Rc4 Be7 48 Kg1 Ra2 49 a4 f5 50 Kf1 Kg7 51 Ne5 g5
52 fxg5?!
52 Nc6! Bf6 53 fxg5 Bxg5 54 a5 and White still stands worse but may yet save the
52 … Bxg5 53 Rxc5 Be3 54 Rc6 Kf6 55 Nd3 Rxa4 56 Ke2 Ba7
Black holds an edge for the following reasons:
1. Black’s bishop is more powerful than White’s knight.
2. White’s g-pawn is vulnerable to the black rook’s attacks along the second rank.
3. Black’s kingside majority is more dangerous than White’s passed c-pawn, since the
majority, if pushed far enough, may be able to break through on f3.
4. Black’s king is slightly more active than White’s.
57 Nb4 Ra5 58 Rc4 Kg5 59 Rc7 Re5+ 60 Kf1 Be3 61 Nc2 Bf4 62 Nd4 Kf6 63 Rc8
Threatening mate on e1.
64 Ne2 Ra5 65 Nd4
White is unable to save himself in the rook ending after 65 Nxg3 hxg3 66 Ke2 f4 67
Kf3 e5 68 Ke4 Ra1! 69 Rc6+ Ke7 70 c4 (70 Kxe5?? f3! and Black forces a pawn through
to promotion) 70 … Re1+ 71 Kf3 Re3+ 72 Kg4 Re2 and the g2-pawn falls, after which
White is busted.
65 … Ra1+?!
A violation of the endgame principle: Avoid giving the enemy king unnecessary checks.
65 … Ra2 66 Rc6 Kf7 leaves White busted, no matter how he plays.
66 Ke2 Re1+ 67 Kd2 Re4
67 … Rg1 68 Rc6 offers White adequate counterplay.
68 Kd3 Bf2 69 Rf8+ Kg5 70 Rg8+ Kf4 71 Ne2+
After 71 Rg6! Bxd4 72 cxd4 Re3+ 73 Kc4, White should hold the draw.
71 … Ke5 72 Rb8 Ra4 73 Rb1 Ra5 74 Rf1 Rd5+ 75 Kc4 Be3 76 Re1 f4?
Moves continue to pass inconclusively and until now Black’s advantage refused to
increase or decrease but, instead, remained in what felt like an endless “=+” slight edge
assessment … until now. Black holds his edge with 76 … Bd2! 77 Rd1 Rd7.
77 Nd4!
Intending Nf3+ and Nxh4.
77 … Kf6 78 Nf3 Rd8 79 Re2 e5 80 Nxh4 Kg5 81 Nf3+ Kf5 82 Ne1?
After 82 Ra2! e4 83 Ra5+ Kf6 84 Ne5, White will hold the game.
82 … e4 83 g3?
White had to try a move like 83 Ra2.

White believes he feigns injury, when in secret he is ready to counter. He hoped to

break up Black’s connected central pawn mass. In reality this is an unwelcome added
burden in an already difficult situation.

Exercise (planning): White’s last move was a blunder. Black to play and force the

83 … Rd2!
Answer: Sometimes it’s the cheapo which is the point and it is the logic and strategy
which feels like the distraction. This is a bitter awakening for White to the truth: Black’s
central pawns, rather than breaking up, are instead helped forward. By forcing White’s
rook from e2, Black enables the decisive … f4-f3 push and the fabric of the defence rends
like an overripe tomato to a hammer.
84 Rg2 Bf2
Also winning is 84 … f3!, when the f-pawn follows the white rook like a bloodhound
on the escaped convict’s scent. After 85 Rxd2 (there was nowhere else for the
disenfranchised rook to go) 85 … Bxd2 86 Nxf3 (or 86 Nc2 f2, forcing promotion) 86 …
exf3 87 Kd3 Bf4!! wins.
85 gxf4 Bxe1 0-1

I like to meet all of White’s d2-d3 lines with a kingside fianchetto, starting with … g7-g6.
Prepare for long manoeuvring games in this variation, since there is no early clash of
pawns in the centre.

Game 6
San Diego Rapidplay 2006

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qa5 4 Nf3 Nf6 5 Bc4 Bg4 6 h3 Bh5 7 g4

Tip: Don’t be intimidated when White chases our bishop with h2-h3 and g2-g4. Yes,
White gains space, but at the same time White risks future overextension.

Note: 7 b4!? is a kind of Wing Gambit. I’m okay with Black’s position after 7 …
Qxb4 8 Qe2 Bxf3 9 gxf3 Qd6 10 Rb1 b6 11 Bb2 Nbd7. Okay, I admit we are a mile
behind in development, and handed White an open b-file and also the bishop pair. But on
our side of the ledger we are a pawn up and inflicted damage to White’s kingside
structure. Chances look approximately balanced.

7 … Bg6 8 d3

Tip: White can switch to a d2-d3 line late, so don’t assume your opponent will always
play d2-d4.

8 … Nbd7

Tip: By playing this move order, if White tries the standard Bd2 and Nd5 tricks, when
he plays Nxf6+, I can recapture with my d7-knight, avoiding the … g7xf6 structures
which we looked at earlier in the book.

9 Bd2

Note: I can’t stress this enough: when our queen is on a5 and our opponent’s bishop
on d2, be on high alert for dirty Nd5 tricks, like the one White threatens here.

9 … c6 10 Qe2 Qc7 11 0-0-0 e6 12 h4 h5!
This move was prepared at home, specifically for my opponent. The previous week I
walked into his prep after 12 … Nxg4?. Your amiable writer is one of those remarkably
happy/gullible people who got that way from a serendipitous mix of a clear conscience,
good weather from living in San Diego, and a low IQ. After 13 Bxe6! I groaned softly and
internally buried my face in my hands, a universal symbol of despair. When we walk into
a trick like this, we desperately want to declare to our opponent: “Okay, I’ve been
provoked. Watch out opponent, or I will respond with a retaliatory(ish!) gesture, which is
certain to intimidate you.” And of course we have nothing and proceed meekly. The game
B.Baker-C.Lakdawala, San Diego Rapidplay 2006, continued 13 … fxe6 14 Qxe6+ Be7
15 Qxg4 0-0. Later I ended up stumbling into a win due to my bishop pair and light square
control, but in this position White stands clearly better.
13 g5 Ng8!

Thanks for your concern but my mental state remains perfectly within “normal”
parameters. In this instance retrograde developing is turned into a serviceable weapon. I
intend the leisurely transfer of my knight into the f5-hole, while daring White to do
something about it.
14 Ne4
a) 14 Bxe6? fxe6 15 Qxe6+ Ne7 doesn’t give White enough for the piece, since Black
will castle long next.
b) 14 Nd4 doesn’t bother Black either. We simply play 14 … Bc5, when White’s
sacrifices on e6 are all borderline sound. For example: 15 Nxe6!? (such a sacrifice looks
to me like a dangerous mix of finite resources and infinite ambition) 15 … fxe6 16 Qxe6+
Ne7 17 Ne4 Nf8 18 Qh3 Bd4. Sure, Black is tangled up, but White only has two pawns for
the piece and I would take my chances with Black’s position. White certainly gets
practical opportunities and conversion for Black won’t be easy, since the road ahead
remains infested with cutthroats and highwaymen.
14 … 0-0-0 15 Kb1 Ne7
The f5-square is a juicy outpost for my knight and at this stage I was happy with my
chances of overextending White later in the game, should pieces be exchanged.
16 Be3 Nf5
I ignore his “threat” to a7.

17 Nfd2
He doesn’t mind handing over the bishop pair, since if I play … Nxe3, met by f2xe3,
he rids himself of a powerful black piece on f5 and also eliminates his hole on f4.
Possible is 17 Bxa7? (if you possess some courage, then you are brave; if you
overflow with too much courage, you are foolhardy – this is a case of the latter), but the
sac is unsound after 17 … b5! (double attack – both white bishops hang; certainly not 17
… b6?? 18 Ba6+, when Black must cough up his queen) 18 Bxb5 cxb5 19 Be3 Kb8 and I
don’t see enough compensation for the piece sacrifice.
17 … Kb8 18 Bb3 Be7 19 d4
The comp likes Black after this move, but if not this then White lacks a concrete plan.
19 … Nb6
Uncovering an attack on d4. 19 … c5 is also worth a thought.
20 Nc4 Nxe3!
This is a good moment to chop on e3, since White is unable to recapture with his f-
pawn. This means that I picked up the bishop pair without losing control over the f4-hole.
21 Qxe3 Nd5 22 Qe1 Qf4
Jumping into the hole.
23 Ng3
The comp suggests 23 Nc5.
23 … Bb4
Provoking an ending where Black hopes to make White pay for his previous pawn
pushes on the kingside. 23 … f6!? is an interesting option.
24 Qe5+ Qxe5 25 Nxe5 Ne7
Not allowing White to inflict damage to my structure with Nxg6.
26 Kc1 Bd6 27 Rhe1 c5!?
I didn’t think I could win after 27 … Bxe5 28 dxe5 Kc7, so I entered a risky line to
oust White’s powerful e5-knight without giving up my dark-squared bishop.
28 dxc5?!
28 d5! is the only way to maintain the balance. After 28 … exd5 29 Bxd5 Nxd5 30
Rxd5 Kc7 31 Nxg6 fxg6, I only slightly prefer Black’s chances, due to White’s weakened
kingside pawns. Note that 32 Re6?? is impossible due to 32 … Bf4+, picking off his now
hanging d5-rook.
28 … Bxc5?!
Most of our games tend not to be won or lost in a straight line, but instead are
episodic, full of ups and downs. Stronger is the more straightforward idea 28 … Bxe5! 29
Rxe5 Rxd1+ 30 Kxd1 Rd8+ 31 Kc1 Rd4!, when White’s h-pawn falls and Black gains a
passed pawn, with the superior chances in the ending.

Exercise (critical decision): Did Black just blunder? Make a decision: would you play
29 Nd7+, which wins the exchange? Or is it better to refrain?

29 Re2!
Answer: White should refrain from winning the exchange. He sees through my
strategic trap and my opponent’s eyelids closed half-way in deep suspicion, avoiding 29
Nd7+? Rxd7 30 Rxd7 Bxf2 31 Rh1 Bxg3 32 Rxe7 Rd8!, when the dual threats of 33 …
Bd6 (to trap his e7-rook) and … Rd4 are coming, after which White will drop all his
kingside pawns, leaving Black with too many passed pawns on that flank.
29 … Rxd1+ 30 Kxd1 Rd8+ 31 Ke1 Kc7 32 c3 Bd6 33 Nxg6 Nxg6
This is a case where the parties share each other’s fears of having their kingside pawns
wiped out.
34 Nxh5?!
This is that place where we are driving and we turn right instead of going straight on.
White should still be okay after 34 Re4!.
34 … Nxh4 35 f4?
Now White’s misery quotient begins to rise dramatically since his kingside pawns get
fixed on vulnerable squares. Others:
a) 35 Nxg7? Ng2+! 36 Kf1 Nf4 37 Re3 Rg8 traps the wayward white knight. White
doesn’t have enough pawns after 38 Nxe6+ Nxe6 39 Bxe6 fxe6 40 Rxe6 Rxg5.
b) 35 Re4! was White’s best shot at resisting. After 35 … Nf3+ 36 Ke2 Nxg5 37 Rg4
Be7 38 f4! (if 38 Nxg7? Rh8! White’s knight is at grave risk) 38 … g6 39 fxg5 gxh5 40
Rf4 Rf8 41 g6 fxg6 42 Rxf8 Bxf8 43 Bxe6 and White has good chances to hold the draw
due to the bishops of opposite colours.
35 … g6
Black’s solution is neither mysterious nor difficult to spot. After this simple move the
walls crumble and White’s pawns begin to fall.
36 Nf6 Bxf4 37 Ne4 Nf3+ 0-1
The g5-pawn falls as well.

Realize that when White holds back his or her d-pawn, as in this game, they have the
option to play d2-d3, rather than push the pawn two squares, so factor this into your piece
Game 7
German League 2002

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qa5 4 g3

Note: The kingside fianchetto lines are in the same vein as the d2-d3 lines, where
White refuses to offer Black any pawn targets. The downside for White is that in these
lines, he or she lacks White’s normal space edge, since all the white pawns have been held
back to the third rank.

4 … Nf6 5 Bg2 c6

Tip: Against the g2-g3 lines, I like to toss in an early … c7-c6, which blunts White’s
powerful light-squared bishop.

After 5 … Nc6!? 6 Nge2 Bg4 7 h3 Bh5 8 b4!? Nxb4 9 Bxb7 Rb8, Black’s activity
makes up for the fact that he just devalued his queenside pawns with two isolanis.
6 Nge2

Note: In this line White generally develops the g1-knight to e2, since on e2 it keeps
the light-squared bishop’s diagonal open and also reinforces the c3-knight, which can be
important if White later plays d2-d3 and b2-b4.

6 Nf3 Bf5 7 0-0 e6 8 d3 Be7 9 h3 h6! preserves the light-squared bishop against
White’s Nh4 ideas. Black looks fine here.
6 … g6!
I like this non-standard fianchetto versus the g2-g3 lines, since it undercuts White’s
plans. If we develop routinely with 6 … Bf5 White can exploit it with 7 b4!. If our queen
takes the pawn, then White has Rb1 and Rxb7. If we decline the pawn, then White can
play to soften up the h1-a8 diagonal with b4-b5. So this means that by not developing our
light-squared bishop, we deny White this b2-b4 trick, since our b7-square remains
7 0-0 Bg7 8 Rb1
White’s b2-b4 is coming all the same.
8 … 0-0 9 b4 Qd8
Black can also play 9 … Qc7, intending to meet 10 d3 and Bf4 with … e7-e5.
10 a4
White plans b4-b5.
10 … Ne8!
I consider British GM Jon Speelman a brilliantly original strategist. The best way to
describe his style is one of disorganized accumulation. I love this original Speelmanesque
contortion. Black’s oddly effective idea is to not develop his queenside pieces just yet.
This means that when White plays b4-b5 and b5xc6, Black will simply recapture with his
b8-knight. In this way Speelman weirdly rendered White’s typical queenside attack
strategy harmless.
11 b5 Nd6!
If White takes on c6, then Black develops nicely with … Nxc6. If White retains the
pawn tension, then Speelman drums up counterplay with the plan to push his c-pawn to
12 d3 c5!?
Speelman’s plan remains provisional, to be altered with the flow of events. He intends
to loosen up White’s queenside light squares with … c5-c4!. The comp prefers to go into
waiting mode with 12 … Re8.
13 Ne4
After 13 Bd2 Nd7 14 Re1 c4! 15 Nd5 Nb6 Black looks okay.
13 … Nxe4 14 Bxe4 Nd7
At long last, Speelman develops his first queenside piece!
15 Bd2
White wants to play a4-a5 and a5-a6.
15 … Rb8 16 Bc3 Bxc3
I wouldn’t give White’s knight a free lift to c3. Maybe 16 … b6 is a touch more
17 Nxc3 Nf6 18 Bg2 b6
Notice how all of White’s queenside pawns have been lured on to the same colour as
the remaining white bishop.
19 Ne4 Nxe4 20 Bxe4
20 dxe4 e5 is slightly worse for White, who is stuck with a bad bishop.
20 … Qd4
Worrying White about his a4-pawn.
21 Re1! e6
After 21 … Qxa4? 22 Bc6! White regains the pawn favourably, since he
simultaneously threatens Rxe7 and Ra1, followed by Rxa7.
22 Ra1 a5!
Either White’s pawns will get fixed on the wrong colour, or he activates Black’s
23 bxa6 Bxa6
Black stands a shade better from my human perspective, which contradicts Komodo’s
even assessment.
24 Ra3 Rfd8
Now the advance … c5-c4 is in the air.
25 Qa1 Qxa1 26 Rexa1 c4! 27 dxc4 Bxc4
White has two isolanis to Black’s one. Still, one gets the feeling that White should
hold the game here.
28 Rb1 Kg7 29 Rc3 Bd5 30 Bxd5 Rxd5 31 Rcb3 Rc8 32 R1b2
32 Rxb6 Rxc2 33 R6b2 is a theoretical draw, where Black can still play on and press
for a hundred moves.
32 … Rd4 33 Rb4?
Correct is 33 Rxb6 Rxa4 with only a sliver of an edge for Black.

Exercise (combination alert): Ignorance isn’t the same thing as confusion. It’s
impossible to spot your opponent’s combination when we harbour doubts about its
existence. In this position there is a direct correlation between the acquisition of wealth
and happiness. White just walked into a little combination. Do you see it?

33 … Rxc2!
Answer: Overloaded defenders. Black’s rooks believe in the vigilante’s motto: if
society won’t provide you justice, then get it yourself. For Speelman this shot brings with
it a promise of new beginnings.
34 Rxb6
After we blunder, it’s important to place a time period on our mourning. Then we must
move on without sorrow gnawing away at our heart. Casper was undoubtedly irritated that
he overlooked Black’s combination. Still, he has decent chances to hold the draw.
34 … Rc1+ 35 Kg2 Rxa4
One phase ends and another begins.
36 Rb7 g5!
Discouraging h2-h4, which would help White’s defence.
37 R7b4
After 37 Rd7 Ra5 38 Rbb7 Rf5 there is no mistaking Black’s intent. f7 is covered and
White is the one who must scramble to prevent Black’s coming … Rc2, which goes after
37 … Rc4 38 Rxa4 Rxa4 39 Rb5 f6 0-1
White lost on time.

Note: Four versus three on the same side in a rook ending is theoretically drawn but
often lost in practice. I would say Black’s practical chances to win are around 50%, since
successful defence requires the patience of a granite monument.

Remember GM Speelman’s amazing undevelopment plan against the Fianchetto line:
1. Play an early … c7-c6 with your light-squared bishop remaining undeveloped on c8. In
this way it takes the sting out of White’s early b2-b4 tricks.
2. After castling, play … Ne8! and … Nd6!, which allows Black to aim for … c6-c5 and
… c5-c4 if White plays his or her b-pawn to b5.

Game 8
San Diego Rapidplay 2005

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qa5 4 Nf3 Nf6 5 Bc4

Or 5 d4 Bg4 6 Be2 Nc6 7 Be3 (after 7 0-0 0-0-0 8 Be3? – White should play 8 Ng5! –
8 … e5 9 d5 Nxd5 10 Nxe5 Bxe2 11 Nxc6 Bxd1 12 Nxa5 Nxc3 13 bxc3 Bxc2, Black was
up a pawn in the ending, with the bishop pair and a superior pawn structure, B.Barquin-
C.Lakdawala, San Diego Rapidplay 2006) 7 … 0-0-0 8 a3 Qh5 9 0-0 e5 10 h3 exd4! 11
hxg4 Nxg4 12 Nh4 f5! 13 Bxg4 fxg4 and Black had a winning attack, D.Hughan-
C.Lakdawala, Yuma 2005.
5 … Bg4!

Tip: I like to meet an early Bc4 with … Bg4. Why? Because White then has the
unpleasant choice of either wasting a tempo to retreat the already-developed bishop back
to e2, or weakening the kingside structure with h2-h3 and g2-g4.

6 h3 Bh5

7 d4!?
This move provides Black a juicy target along the d-file. Perhaps White should settle
for the more modest 7 d3.
7 … Nc6!

Tip: Always be on alert to abandon our standard Caro-Kann/Scandi set-up with …
c7-c6 and instead replace it with … Nc6, preparing to castle long, going after d4. One
thing to realize is that if you play any of the … Nc6 lines, the position tends to grow
progressively noisier, when juxtaposed with the sedate Caro-Kann/Scandinavian
… c6/ … Bf5 and … e6 structures.

8 0-0
White is better off trying 8 g4 Bg6 9 Bd2 (9 Bb5 Ne4! favours Black) 9 … 0-0-0 10
Qe2 Nxd4 11 Nxd4 Rxd4 12 Nb5 Rxd2 13 Qxd2 Qxd2+ 14 Kxd2, when Black’s pawn
and bishop pair offer adequate compensation for the sacrificed exchange.
8 … 0-0-0 9 Be3?
Too passive. He had to take the plunge with 9 g4 Bg6 10 Bb5 Qb6 11 Be3 Nd5 12 Qe2
with a complete mess of a position, which the comp rules equal.
9 … e5
Now White is in deep trouble, due to his pinned d-pawn.
10 d5 Bb4?
“Papa Gepetto, will I one day be a real chess player?” When pieces are swapped and
an ending nears, I remind one of a Zen master, with eyes closed, legs crossed, each foot on
the opposing thigh, and with palms upward in the attitude of meditative equipoise. On the
other hand, in a crowded board like this one, your initiative/tactics/attack-challenged
writer’s play is more unnerving than that time when you discovered that your physical
trainer at the gym was obese. Black stands clearly better after the thematic 10 … e4! 11 g4
exf3 12 gxh5 Ne5 13 Bb3 Nxh5 14 Qd4 f6.
11 g4?
Better is 11 Qe2! Nd4 12 Bxd4 exd4 13 Nb5 Nxd5 14 a3 Be7 15 g4 Bg6 16 Bxd5
Rxd5 17 c4! Rd7 18 Ne5! (this wins the exchange, although Black still gets full
compensation) 18 … Rhd8 19 Nxd7 Rxd7 20 Nxd4 Bf6, when White stands no worse in
the complications.
11 … Bxc3 12 bxc3
12 gxh5 Nxd5 is also miserable for White.
12 … Nxd5
Stronger than 12 … Bg6.
13 Bxd5 Rxd5 14 Qe2 Bg6
White’s game is an overextended wreck, a pawn down and with a hopeless structure
on both wings. His only prayer lies with generating an attack down the b-file.
15 c4 Rdd8!?
I didn’t want to play 15 … Rd7 since I planned … Nd4, and when White exchanges,
then … e5xd4. Here I wanted the option of seizing the e-file with … Rhe8.
16 Rab1 Nd4
16 … f6!, consolidating the e5-point, followed by … h7-h5 looks like a strong plan.
17 Nxd4 exd4 18 Rb5 Qa6
The comp likes the greedy 18 … Qxa2! 19 Bf4 Rhe8 20 Rc5 Qa5!!, but of course we
blind humans miss such geometric anomaly lines.
19 Bf4!
Going after Black’s only soft point, on c7.
19 … Rhe8 20 Qd2 d3?!
20 … b6! completely kills White’s attempted attack.
21 cxd3?!
Now White is re-busted. He misses 21 Rc5! Re7 22 Re1! dxc2 23 Rxe7 Rxd2 24
Rcxc7+ Kd8 25 Bxd2 Qd6 26 Be3 Qxc7 27 Rxc7 Kxc7, when the presence of bishops of
opposite colours may offer some chance of salvation.
21 … Rxd3 22 Qb4 Be4! 23 Re1?!
23 Re5! is correct.
23 … Qf6! 24 Rf5

Exercise (combination alert): In this position Black’s health and well being is
simply a matter of arithmetic. Should Black move his queen, or do you see something

24 … Rxh3!
Answer: Queen sacrifice. Actually it’s a completely fake queen sac since White is
mated on the move if he takes it!
25 f3
Now what? Black’s queen and bishop are simultaneously attacked:
a) 25 Rxf6?? Rh1 is mate.
b) 25 Rxe4 Qa1+ 26 Qe1 (or 26 Kg2 Qh1 mate) 26 … Qxe1+ and Black comes out a
full exchange and two pawns ahead in the ending.
25 … Qh4!
Black allows the bishop to hang, since his major pieces hunt down White’s king. I see
that your eyes are wet with tears from the almost unbearable beauty of Black’s attacking
skill. They aren’t? Okay, still, it’s a pretty nice finish, even if you don’t cry.
26 Rxe4 Rh1+ 27 Kg2 Qh3+ 28 Kf2 Rf1+ 0-1
On the rare occasions I win a game like this one, I expect the spectators to cheer and
carry me on their shoulders onto the street, but it hasn’t happened so far.
After 29 Ke3 (when we proceed forward bravely against all odds, rather than
resigning, we do so mainly because we are too dense to understand that we are busted and
wasting everyone’s time) 29 … Qxf3+ 30 Kd4 Rxe4+ 31 Kc5 Qf2+ 32 Kb5 c6+ (are you
crying yet?) 33 Ka5 Qxa2+ 34 Qa4 b6+ 35 Ka6 Qxa4+ 36 Ra5 Qxa5 is mate.

Meet an early Bc4 with … Bg4. Why? Because White then has the unpleasant choice of
either wasting a tempo to retreat the already-developed bishop back to e2, or weakening
the kingside structure with h2-h3 and g2-g4.

Game 9
Buena Park 1994

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qa5 4 Bc4 Nf6 5 d4 Bf5 6 Nf3 e6 7 0-0

When we come into a chess game theoretically unprepared, to my mind it’s the same
as a couple making reservations to a world-class restaurant and then, when seated, just
asking the waiter for water. They don’t need food, since they carried in their own take-out
bag from McDonalds. This unassuming move is kind of the default variation when White
isn’t booked up on the sharper lines. Study this game and the next one carefully, because
you reach this kind of set-up a lot at club level.
Instead, 7 Bd2 c6 8 Qe2 Bb4 9 0-0-0 is a position we already examined earlier in the
7 … c6

8 Ne5
a) 8 Re1 Bb4 9 Bd2 Nbd7 10 a3 Bxc3 11 Bxc3 Qc7 is possible. Now if 12 Nh4!? (12
Ne5 0-0 transposes to our game), attempting to pick up the bishop pair, can be met by 12
… Be4 13 f3 Bd5 14 Bf1 0-0 (now White must watch out for … g7-g5 tricks, which trap
the wayward h4-knight) 15 Bd2 (threatening c2-c4, trapping our bishop) 15 … b5! and
Black stands no worse.
b) 8 Bf4 Nbd7 9 h3, intending Nh4, to go after our light-squared bishop, can simply be
met by 9 … h6 with an equal position.
c) 8 Nh4 Bg6 9 f4!? (we have to be careful against this plan; 9 Nxg6 hxg6 is no
problem for Black) 9 … Bh5! 10 Qe1 Nbd7 11 f5 e5 12 dxe5 Nxe5 13 Bf4 Bd6 14 Bb3 0-
0-0 15 h3 Rhe8 and Black’s bishop is curiously safe on h5.
8 … Nbd7 9 Re1 Bb4

Tip: I have always played this way to create an imbalance. Don’t fear the loss of
the bishop pair. The relatively rigid central formation allows Black’s knight to hold its

9 … Nxe5 also looks promising after 10 Rxe5 Qc7, when White must worry about the
coming … Bd6 and White’s d-pawn looks under-protected with … 0-0-0 coming.
10 Bd2 0-0 11 a3 Bxc3
This is my standard unbalancing move when playing for a win against a lower-rated
opponent. White’s bishops don’t function particularly well in the rigid structure.
12 Bxc3 Qc7 13 Bd3
I was happy to see this move. It’s an indicator that White is unable to find a dynamic
plan, mainly since a dynamic option is non-existent for his side!
13 Bb3 Rad8 14 Qf3 h6 15 h3 Nxe5 16 Rxe5 Rd7 17 Rae1 Rfd8 is also equal,
J.Gdanski-A.Gechkov, Antwerp 1992.
13 … Bxd3
Note the principles:

1. When your opponent owns the bishop pair, remove one of them if possible.
2. Exchanges favour the cramped side, which in this case is Black, since we only
pushed our pawns to the third rank.
14 Qxd3 Rad8
White must be careful to get his queen off the d-file.
15 Qg3
15 Re2?! Nxe5 16 Rxe5 Qxe5! 17 dxe5 Rxd3 18 cxd3 Nd5 leads to a Black advantage,
as he has a good knight versus a potentially bad white bishop and White also nurses a
backward d3-pawn on the open file.
15 … Nd5 16 Bd2 Nxe5 17 dxe5
After 17 Rxe5 Ne7 18 c3 Ng6 19 Re2 Qb6!, Black already stands slightly better due to
White’s weakened light squares on the queenside.
17 … Ne7
Reading the position from left to right, all looks well for White. Outer tranquillity
sometimes belies hidden danger. White’s draw-in-hand is an illusion and he is in for a
lengthy and difficult defence. I already prefer Black, who has good chances to seize
control over the open d-file and owns the superior minor piece. In such positions we
should ladle out irritation in small doses, the cumulative effect of which is future outright
pain for our opponent.
18 Bg5 Rd5 19 c4?!
This tempting move weakens d4. I think White has better chances to draw by
exchanging into a slightly unfavourable major piece ending with 19 Bxe7 Qxe7 20 Rad1
Rfd8 21 Rxd5 Rxd5 22 Qe3 b5 23 g3 c5. Obviously Black stands better, due to absolute
control over the d-file. Still, winning major piece endings is notoriously difficult.
19 … Rd4?!
In chess, alertness to detail tends to be the sole source of all our benefits and
happiness, and the concentration required for details in such positions is akin to reading
with too-small print. More accurate is 19 … Nf5! 20 Qc3 Rd7 21 Rad1 h6 22 Rxd7 Qxd7
23 Be3 b6 24 Re2, intending Rd2. After 24 … Qd1+ 25 Re1 Rd8! Black seizes control
over the d-file and owns the superior minor piece.
20 Rad1 Nf5 21 Qc3 c5 22 Rxd4 Nxd4 23 Re4?!
A far-away fire can still be inferred by the smoke we do see. Sometimes we wilfully
choose to disregard a position’s warning signs, simply because embracing the truth is
depressing. White should be concentrating on defence, rather than chasing a non-existent
attack on the kingside. I can see the reasoning behind his decision: he feels he has
toothache, and not doing something about it is akin to thinking, “if I go to the dentist and
have a root canal done, it will hurt; it’s better not to go and just accept the more minor
pain of the toothache, in perpetuity.” White has reasonable chances to save the game if he
assumes a defensive posture, starting with 23 f3.
23 … h6 24 Bc1
24 Be3??, which attacks Black’s knight, has one slight downside: it hangs a queen
after 24 … Ne2+.
24 … Rd8 25 h3 Nf5 26 Kh2 Rd4!
Principle: Meet a wing attack with a central counter.
27 Re2
After 27 Rxd4? cxd4 White’s queen can protect the c4- or e5-pawn, but not both.
27 … h5
This move anchors the knight on f5.
28 f4?!
A powerful medicine is of no use to us if our constitution is too weak to stand the cure.
This move, which makes his semi-bad bishop even worse and also fatally weakens the
central light squares, is in violation of the principle: Avoid fixing your pawns on the same
colour as your remaining bishop. White should satisfy himself with the passive 28 Qc2.
28 … Qc6 29 Be3
Technically, White’s last move isn’t even an error, since 29 b3 b6 30 a4 h4 31 Qc2
Qd7 leaves White in virtual zugzwang. If 32 Qb2 Rd1 33 Qc3 Qd4 34 Qxd4 Nxd4, Black
wins a piece.

Exercise (combination alert): My eyes widened in glee to silver dollar-like
dimensions since we find the thought of our opponent’s misery maliciously soothing. I
see that Black can force the win of a pawn after White’s last move. How?

29 … Re4!
Answer: Step 1: Pin White’s bishop.
30 Qd3 Nxe3
Step 2: Removal of the guard. Swap off the defender of f4.
31 Rxe3 Rxf4
Step 3: Pick up the loose f4-pawn.
32 Qd8+ Kh7 33 Rg3?
Threat: Qg5, with a double attack on f4 and g7. But the move is incorrect, since it
loses another pawn. He had to play 33 b3.
33 … g6 34 Qd6
This leads to a hopelessly lost rook ending, as does 34 Qd3 Qe4.
34 … Qxd6 35 exd6 Rd4 36 b4 b6 37 bxc5 bxc5 38 Rb3 Rxd6 39 Rb5 Ra6 0-1
40 Rxc5 Rxa3 leaves Black up two clean pawns, with a simple technical win.

The default set-up with Nc3/Nf3/d2-d4/Bc4/0-0 is toothless and no threat to our side. Still,
we must master the position since we get it so often, especially at club level.

Game 10
San Diego Rapidplay 2015

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qa5 4 Nf3 Nf6 5 Be2 c6 6 d4 Bf5 7 0-0

Nothing much has altered from the last game, except this time we get the default
variation with White’s bishop on e2, rather than the more aggressive c4-square. We
proceed much like we did last game.
7 … Nbd7

Tip: Control over e5 is a high priority for Black, so I often play … Nbd7 before
playing … e7-e6. Why does this matter? Because when we give White control over e5,
we offer our opponent options like an early Ne5, followed by potential g2-g4 and h2-h4
thrusts, which go after our light-squared bishop on f5.

8 Bf4 e6
This move allows his coming Nh4. As mentioned earlier in the book, we are not afraid
of handing over the bishop pair, for the following reasons:
1. Our knights hold their own against White’s bishops in a rigid position.
2. With our … h7xg6 recapture, we get use of an open h-file, with a potential for
attack against White’s king – especially if, as in this game, he is already castled.

Tip: When we already lag in development, don’t take the time to insert 8 … h6?! to
preserve our bishop pair.

I think Black is already in trouble after 9 Nd2!, when 9 … e6 can be met by 10 Nc4,
attacking the queen, with the option to sink the knight into d6.
9 Nh4

Note: One point of White’s posting of his bishop on e2, is that when he plays Nh4,
going for the bishop pair, Black now lacks the … Bg4 option.

9 … Bg6 10 Nxg6 hxg6 11 Bf3 Be7
12 g3?!
White thinks he has the time for the leisurely Bg2, Ne2, and a later c2-c4.
Instead, 12 Re1 is about equal.
12 … g5! 13 Bd2 Qf5!
Threatening … Qh3.
14 Bg2 g4
Intending … Qh7, going after h2. I wanted to play this before White got to play h2-h3.
15 f4?
He had to try 15 f3! Qh7 16 fxg4 Qxh2+ 17 Kf2 (planning Rh1, trapping Black’s
queen). Here Black has a very promising sacrifice with 17 … Ne5! (also possible is 17 …
Bc5!, when 18 dxc5 is met by 18 … Ne5 and if 19 Rh1 Nfxg4+ 20 Qxg4 Nxg4+ 21 Kf3
f5 22 Rxh2 Rxh2 and Black only stands a shade better in the ending) 18 dxe5 (forced) 18
… Bc5+ 19 Be3 Bxe3+ 20 Kxe3 Qxg3+ 21 Qf3 Qxe5+ 22 Ne4 0-0-0. Admittedly this
looks pretty scary for White, but it’s still far better than what he reached in the game.
15 … Qh7 16 Kf2 0-0-0
White’s problem is that I don’t have to take h2 and fall for his queen trap. His king is
unsafe in the middle and his d-pawn – almost an artificial isolani – is vulnerable to tricks
from Black’s rook on d8.
17 Be3 Nb6 18 Qe2 Nbd5 19 Nxd5 exd5
Now the e-file is opened and White must be on a constant lookout for Black’s knight
landing on e4.
20 Rh1
A sad necessity, since after 20 Rae1?? Qxh2! the planned queen trap 21 Rh1 fails
miserably to 21 … Ne4+ 22 Kf1 Qxh1+! (simplification) 23 Bxh1 Nxg3+ 24 Kg1 Nxe2+
with a hopeless ending for White.
20 … Qf5
Preventing h2-h3 or h2-h4 ideas from White.
21 Qd3!?
When we are in deep trouble, we sometimes act like the person who had too much to
drink at a party. Every attempt to disguise the fact that we are drunk makes everyone
notice it more. This is a huge concession for king safety.
21 … Qxd3
Houdini doesn’t like this move, but I think it leads to a winning ending.
22 cxd3
Now Black’s pawn structure is Beverly Hills, while White’s is a slum. The
wonderfully odd thing about chess is that two different players may enter the same
position and yet experience opposite psychological realities. Here my beef is not with a
human player, but with the idiot/genius comp, who has me less than a pawn up. I, on the
other hand, took a look at White’s awful structure and felt I had a strategically won game.
You are the judge and arbitrate the dispute.
22 … Rh5!
Intending … Rdh8, which would tie down White’s king and rook to defence of h2. The
idea behind my move is that I want to induce h2-h4, which makes his structure even more
rigid and harms his bishops further.
23 h4 Ne8
The knight is of no use on f6 any more.
24 Bf1 Nc7!
This move has two points:
1. White’s queenside minority attack with b2-b4, a2-a4, and b4-b5 is halted.
2. Black can later pile up on d4 with … Ne6 and … Bf6.
25 Be2 f5 26 a4
If 26 Rhb1, Black replies 26 … Re8 and now if White launches his minority attack
with 27 b4? it can be met by 27 … Rxh4! 28 gxh4 Bxh4+ 29 Kg2 Rxe3 30 Rb2 Ne6 31
Rf1 Nxd4, when White’s position is a disaster.
26 … Re8 27 Bf1 Bb4
Occupying the newly-made hole on b4 and simultaneously seizing control over e1.
28 Bg2

Exercise (planning): We discover the correct plan when we formulate the correct
questions. Find one simple idea and White’s game collapses.

28 … Rh6!
Answer: Transfer the h5-rook to e6 and then invade along the e-file.
29 Rab1 Rhe6 30 Bc1 Be1+ 0-1
The bishop’s predominantly vertical expansion effort comes to a successful
conclusion, since g3, the base of White’s structure, falls.
Even more crushing is to simply seize the second rank with 30 … Re2+ 31 Kg1 Be1
32 b3 Bxg3 with an overwhelming position, since White’s king has been reduced to a
quivering mental patient whose medication just lapsed.

Don’t fear Nh4 and Nxh6, since after … h7xg6, we are easily compensated by the open h-
file and resultant attacking chances.

Game 11
Bucharest 2006
1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qa5 4 b4!?

This sacrifice, although almost certainly dubious on an objective evaluation, is

nevertheless dangerous as a practical surprise weapon. When I try – unsuccessfully – to
talk one of my students out of playing some shady gambit, I reach the point of the phone
call where the exasperated father says: “Please put mommy on the phone!” White’s
thinking behind the gambit is, “why memorize the endlessly growing cannon of
mainstream theory, when one contaminating move shifts the game into the unknown, at
the low price of just one pawn?”
So, with his last move, White vocally embraces absolute violence. He offers a pawn to
increase his already present development lead and also open the b-file for his once-
sleeping a1-rook.
4 … Qxb4
Your first over the board battle in this line will impress itself into your mind, far more
than any amount of leisurely home study.

Tip: We shouldn’t ignore White’s discourtesy. If we decline the gambit then White
gets a free kick on our queen and useful queenside space for no cost.

5 Rb1 Qd6
So for the pawn, White gets a development lead and an open b-file for his rook. The
trouble is that our weakness-free position provides the would-be attacker zero targets.
6 d4
White can also hold back the d-pawn with 6 Nf3, but it’s a temporary state since White
nearly always ends up pushing the d-pawn two squares later on. After 6 … Nf6 7 Bc4 a6,
Nakamura saw nothing better than 8 d4 in H.Nakamura-R.Har Zvi, Internet Blitz 2007.
6 … Nf6 7 Nb5

Note: White plays this to achieve c2-c4. Black didn’t really lose a tempo, since we
get it back with a tempo on White’s knight with … c7-c6.

7 … Qd8 8 c4 c6 9 Nc3 g6!

As in the lines where White fianchettoes kingside, against the Wing Gambit I like
Black’s strategy of … g7-g6! and then fianchetto with … Bg7. This way we deprive our
opponent of clear sacrificial targets. The comp says the position is almost even, giving
White full compensation, while your greedy writer says: “Hooray, a free pawn for me!”
10 Bg5 Bg7 11 Qd2 0-0 12 Nf3 Na6!
The knight will be transferred to c7, where it keeps watch over the d5-square and also
gets White nervous about a possible … Ne6, which hits his bishop, as well as the d4-
13 c5?!
He wants his bishop on c4 and also hopes to make Black defend b7, but handing Black
the d5-square is a too huge concession. 13 Be2 is better. Yet even after this, I don’t see full
compensation following 13 … Nc7 14 0-0 Ne6 15 Be3 Qc7, intending to complete
development with a combination of … Rd8, … b7-b6 and … Bb7.
13 … Nc7 14 Bc4 b5!

Now comes the clash between matter and anti-matter. Principle: When you are up a
pawn and defending, always look for a way to return the pawn and seize the initiative.
Black does just that with his last move.
15 cxb6 axb6 16 Rxb6 Nb5!
Suddenly Black’s pieces explode with energy. Black’s knight uncovers on White’s now
loose b6-rook, forcing the next move.
17 Rxc6 Nxc3 18 Qxc3 Ne4
Even stronger is 18 … Bb7! 19 Bxf6 Bxf6 and White must hand over the exchange on
f6, since after 20 Rc5? Bxf3 21 Qxf3 Qxd4 22 Rc6 Qa1+ 23 Qd1 Qc3+ 24 Qd2 Rfc8! 25
Rxc8+ Rxc8 White must hand over a piece, as 26 Be2?? is met by 26 … Qa1+ and White
loses his queen, no matter which way he blocks the check.
19 Qb4
Threatening e7 …
19 … Bd7!
… which Black ignores with powerfully energetic play.
20 Rb6
20 Bxe7 Rb8! 21 Qa3 Qe8! 22 Ra6 Rb1+ pops the rook in the h1-corner.

We are at the point where James Bond enters the villain’s lair, attempting to disarm the
nuke, and reaches the “What-does-this-wire-do?” moment.

Exercise (combination alert): Find Black’s combination and you end White’s

20 … Ra4?!
This is a case of correct idea/wrong move order. Black still has a winning position
after this.
Answer: But much stronger was 20 … Nxg5! 21 Nxg5 Ra4! 22 Qc5 Rxc4!
(overloaded defender) 23 Qxc4 Qxb6 and Black wins a piece.
21 Bxf7+!
White finds the only move to remain alive. GM Golubev probably expected 21 Qb3?
Nxg5 22 Nxg5 Rxc4!, winning a full piece.
21 … Rxf7 22 Qb3 Bxd4!?
Risky. Black consolidates with 22 … Ra8! which covers his first rank against Rb8.
23 Rb8
Inaccurate. Marginally better is 23 Nxd4 Rxd4, when 24 Rb8 is met by 24 … Bc8.
23 … Bxf2+
Another invader slips through White’s porous border.
24 Kf1 Bc8
Threatening a huge check on a6. Sometimes forced moves can still be strong ones.
25 Rxc8!
This move regains the lost piece, yet there is little corresponding improvement in his
overall misery index. 25 Qxa4?? walks into 25 … Qd3 mate.
25 … Qxc8 26 Qxa4

Exercise: White may have regained his lost piece, yet he is far from safe. How should
Black exploit his development lead/attack?

26 … Rxf3!
Answer: Black’s coming co-ordinated attack is a ballet of destruction. This exchange
sacrifice removes a key layer in White’s defensive barrier.
27 Qxe4
The only move. 27 gxf3?? Qh3+ 28 Ke2 Nc3+ forks king and queen.
27 … Rf7
White’s king is decisively exposed. Black threatens a deadly discovery with his
28 Ke2
If 28 Bf4 e5! and White must hand over a piece since 29 Bxe5 is met by 29 … Qa6+!
30 Qe2 Bg3+, which forces mate in three moves.
28 … Qa6+ 29 Qd3 Qxa2+ 30 Bd2
30 Qd2?? loses to 30 … Qc4+ 31 Qd3 Qg4+ 32 Kd2 Qxg2 with a double attack on h1
and g5.
30 … Qe6+ 31 Kd1 Qg4+! 32 Kc2 Qxg2 33 Ra1 e5!
This has a dual purpose:
1. Black’s king is shielded from potential bishop checks on c3, should Black’s king
later be forced to g7.
2. Black’s passed e-pawn is an asset, to be later pushed down the board.
34 Qd8+ Rf8 35 Qd7 Qe4+ 36 Qd3
After 36 Kd1 Bd4 37 Qe6+ Kh8, White is out of checks and is unable to cover dual
threats on f1 and a1.
36 … Rc8+ 37 Bc3

Exercise (combination alert): Find Black’s game-ending combination.

37 … Rxc3+! 0-1
Answer: Attraction/bishop skewer. After 38 Kxc3 Bd4+ (here is the skewer) 39 Kc2
Qxd3+ 40 Kxd3 Bxa1, White’s lone king isn’t going to put up much of a fight against
Black’s extra piece and two pawns.

The Wing Gambit with 4 b4!? is, in my opinion, a dangerous but borderline unsound line.
If we are prepared for it, we should be able to grab the pawn and ride out the storm.

Game 12
Western States Open, Reno 2005

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qa5 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 Bg4!?

Why do we get tempted by a line so complex that only about ten players in the world
actually understand it? After this provocation, there is no way for Black to – what is the
word? – “regularize” the position. The early … Bg4 line of the … Qa5 Scandinavian is
maybe the sharpest possible response. Some annotators have dubbed the line as dubious. I
don’t believe it and have played it successfully for three decades. In this game I have the
chutzpah to play it on a pretty strong GM.
6 h3
All other tries are harmless for Black:
a) 6 Be2 Nc6! 7 0-0 0-0-0! is similar to my game with Haun, earlier in the chapter.
b) 6 Bc4 Nc6! 7 h3 Bh5 8 0-0 0-0-0 directly transposes to Haun-Lakdawala.
c) 6 Bd2 Qf5!? 7 Bd3 (7 Be2 Nc6!, intending to castle long, is at least equal for Black)
7 … Bxf3 8 gxf3 Qd7 is an interesting imbalance between White’s development lead and
bishop pair versus Black’s superior structure.
6 … Bh5 7 g4! Bg6 8 Ne5!
This idea is by far White’s most challenging line against the early … Bg4 lines. All
others allow Black easy equality.
8 … e6 9 Bg2
I face this move most often. White develops, while generating a threat against our b7-
pawn. Others:
a) If there is a refutation of Black’s line then I predict it will come out of 9 h4!. I have
yet to find a path for Black to full equality, but even when White plays the book
“refutation”, to my mind it’s only a “+=“ edge for White in complex positions, which I can
live with.
White’s intention with his last move is Bd2 and h4-h5, running Black’s bishop out of
room. Play continues 9 … Bb4 10 Bd2 Nbd7 11 Nc4 Qa6 12 h5 Bxc3 13 hxg6 Bxd2+ 14
Nxd2 Qc6 15 gxf7+ Kxf7. Okay, I admit that White stands better, with the bishop pair. But
is it really that bad to be called a “refutation”? I can deal with slight inferiority in a
complex position which I will certainly understand better (due to greater experience) than
my opponent.
b) 9 Bd2 Nbd7 is okay for Black. We shouldn’t fear 10 Nc4 Qa6 11 Qf3 (11 Bf4?! is
met by 11 … Qc6! with advantage for Black), since 11 … Bb4 is about equal.
9 … c6 10 0-0 Nbd7
11 Qe2!?
The book move, but I think it’s weak. White has a hard time staying equal in this line.
11 f4! is White’s best. My buddy GM Yasser Seirawan played this on me several times in
online 5-minute games and I think it’s the only way to put pressure on Black in the Bg2
line. The move doesn’t try to refute Black’s line but simply grabs space. Y.Seirawan-
C.Lakdawala, Internet Blitz 2007, continued 11 … Bb4! 12 Ne2 and now 12 … Rd8 looks
only slightly worse for Black.
11 … Nxe5 12 dxe5 Nd7 13 Bf4
Superior to 13 f4?! h5! 14 f5 Bh7 15 fxe6 fxe6 which was played in a Benjamin-
Rodgers game, where White’s position already felt somewhat overextended.
13 … Bb4?!
This superficial move is a waste of time because White wants his knight to head for e4
anyway. 13 … h5! 14 Ne4! hxg4 15 hxg4 Bxe4 16 Qxe4 0-0-0 looks at least equal for
14 Nd1?!
The players have willingly entered a strategic tangle whose workings neither side fully
comprehends. This is too leisurely for the position’s needs. White plans a slow queenside
pawn advance, which he doesn’t have time for. 14 Ne4! Bxe4 15 Qxe4 h5 16 g5! looks a
touch better for White, whose central space and bishop pair may mean something.
14 … Be7
Running away before being hit with a2-a3.
15 a3?
Correct is 15 Ne3.
15 … Qa4!
The battle begins to swing in Black’s favour. This move, overlooked by my opponent,
hits both the c2-pawn and the f4-bishop.
16 c4 Qb3!
Ibragimov missed this move as well which plugs up his intended queenside pawn
advance. He was expecting 16 … Nc5 17 b4! (White abandons a weakness to bolster his
strength) 17 … Bd3 18 Qe3 Bxf1 19 Bxf1, when White’s queenside initiative, space and
bishop pair may offer him full compensation for the exchange.
17 Ne3 Bd3 18 Qd1

Exercise (critical decision): I considered a pair of possibilities here: a) 18 … Bxc4,
winning a pawn; b) 18 … Nc5, declining the pawn, while increasing Black’s bind on the
central light squares. So should Black go for immediate gratification with line ‘a’ and take
the money? Or at least temporarily decline the cash and go for line ‘b’?

18 … Bxc4?!
This hasty pawn grab throws away a huge chunk of Black’s advantage.
Answer: It grows to decisive proportions with 18 … Nc5! 19 Qxb3 (19 Re1 Qxb2
gives Black a crushing bind and an extra pawn) 19 … Nxb3 20 Rad1 Be2 21 Be4 g5 22
Bg3 Bxd1 23 Rxd1 Rd8 24 Bc2 Rxd1+ 25 Bxd1 and White, a full exchange down in the
ending, is totally without hope.
19 Nxc4 Qxc4 20 Bg3 Rd8 21 Rc1 Nb6! 22 Qe1
After 22 Rxc4 Rxd1 23 Rxd1 Nxc4 24 Rd3 Nb6, the exchanges have benefited Black.
22 … Qb3 23 Qe2 Qd3
Principle: Exchanges benefit the material-up side.
24 Rfe1
The GM refuses to make yet another concession with 24 Qe1 and allows a queen
24 … 0-0 25 Be4 Qxe2 26 Rxe2 Rd7 27 f4 Rfd8 28 Rcc2 Rd1+ 29 Kf2 Nd5
29 … Na4! either eliminates White’s bishop pair or worsens his position after 30 Kg2
Nc5 31 Bf3 a5. White can do nothing but await events.
30 Kf3 Rd7
The idea is to centralize the king next. 30 … f6 was worth a thought.
31 Re1! Rxe1 32 Bxe1
White’s position has gradually gotten better over the last 15 moves or so, and Komodo
at this stage only gives Black a slight edge, despite the extra pawn.
32 … Bd8 33 h4 h6?!
This is overly passive. I should challenge White’s centre with 33 … f6!.
34 h5 ½-½
I agreed to a draw here, with Komodo assessing at nearly even (most of us
unconsciously defer to the comp’s assessment – even when it’s inaccurate!). Now why
would I accept a draw against a strong GM a full pawn up? This was one of my final slow
time control tournaments, before I was forced to retire, due to recurring back issues. In
this case my back was on fire and it was only the second day of a three-day tournament. I
knew that if I played the game out for another two or three hours, it would destroy my
play on the final day. There is no point in agreeing to fight in a weakened state, so I
decided to save my strength for the next day, where my odds are better.

5 … Bg4!? is a high-risk winning try from our side. Only those who crave adventure will
dare to play it among the Scandi folk.

Game 13
R.Del Pilar-C.Lakdawala
San Diego Rapidplay 2006

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qa5 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 Bg4 6 h3 Bh5 7 g4 Bg6 8 Ne5 e6 9 Nc4

Tip: Everyone please remain calm and remember our only-one-safe-square-required
philosophy. Our queen isn’t trapped, since she slips into a haven on a6.

9 … Qa6 10 Ne5!?
A tacit draw offer if Black repeats with … Qa5.

Tip: Don’t be afraid of the queen “trap” 10 Bf4?! Qc6! 11 Nd6+?? (White is only a
touch worse after 11 Rg1 Bb4) 11 … Bxd6 12 Bb5 Bxf4 13 Bxc6+ Nxc6, when Black got
three pieces – way too much – for White’s “extra” queen, G.Hernandez- C.Lakdawala,
San Diego Championship 1993.

10 … Qb6

Tip: Always be aware of our g6-bishop’s health by staying away from traps
like 10 … Qd6? 11 Bg2 c6 12 h4! h5 13 g5 Nd5 14 Nxg6 fxg6 15 Qd3, when
Black is strategically lost.

11 Bg2 c6?!
11 … Nbd7 is Black’s most accurate response, since it is in our best interests to
challenge White’s e5-knight as quickly as possible. 12 Nxg6 hxg6 looks fine for Black.
12 0-0?!
White lets me off the hook for my inaccuracy last move, which he could have
exploited by 12 h4! Bb4 13 h5 Be4 14 f3 Bd5, when White gained useful kingside space
and placed Black’s bishop in an uncomfortable post on d5.
12 … Nbd7
Now everything is okay again for Black.
13 Nxd7
13 h4 is met by 13 … Rd8! 14 Qe2 Qxd4 15 Nxd7 Rxd7 16 h5 Bxc2 17 Qxc2 Qxg4
and Black has full compensation for the piece.
13 … Kxd7?!
Your writer’s great joy in life is to bait opponents. Our life decisions convey our
personality, far better than words and descriptions alone. Such bone-headed decisions are
certain to stain my Wikipedia page. We construct our reality in terms of expectation and in
this case the host of my justifications and rationalizations fall short. I was leading the
tournament and needed only a draw for clear first, but I also outrated my National Master
opponent by about 250 rating points and thought about playing for a win, which I did with
this unnecessarily provocative move. Much simpler and better suited for my tournament
situation is 13 … Nxd7 with a perfectly stable position.
14 Na4!
Dual purpose:
1. White’s knight is ready to land on c5, with tempo.
2. White clears the way for c2-c4 to go after Black’s king.
14 … Qc7 15 Nc5+ Ke8!?
I felt that 15 … Bxc5 16 dxc5+ not only handed White the bishop pair but also gave
away too many dark squares.
16 Be3
Not energetic enough. 16 f4! invests his position with potency. After 16 … Bd6 17 f5
exf5 18 gxf5 Bh5 19 Qd3 h6 20 Bd2 Kf8 (remember, Black can’t castle, having
voluntarily moved the king earlier) Black’s h8-rook will be out of play for some time.
16 … Rd8
Threatening a cheapo on c5.
17 Qe2 Bd6
17 … h5! either forces the slightly overextending white g-pawn to g5, or allows Black
to open the h-file.
18 Rae1 Kf8
Buh bye! I see f2-f4 and f4-f5 coming and get my king off the e-file.
19 f4 h6
Black’s main issue: How do I develop my h8-rook?
20 Bc1
I would play 20 Nd3, intending to go to e5 next.
20 … Be7?!
Black may be okay after the correct 20 … Kg8.
21 Qf2
He should go for the energetic 21 f5! Bxc5 22 dxc5 exf5 23 gxf5 Bh5 24 Qf2 Kg8 25
Bf4 Qa5 26 Be5 Qd2 27 Bd6 Qxf2+ 28 Kxf2 with a difficult ending for Black.
21 … b6 22 Nb3?!
Passive. White must seize his moment with 22 f5!, when he has a clear advantage.
22 … Bd6
Now Black is okay again.
23 Re2 a5 24 a4?!
Now if he plays c2-c4, Black will occupy the b4-hole with his bishop. 24 Be3 was
24 … Kg8 25 Qf3 h5!

White is given the unpleasant choice of allowing Black to open the h-file for his rook,
or create a hole on f5 by pushing past with g4-g5.
26 g5 Nd5 27 c4 Nb4
The knight happily occupies the b4-hole. White already stands worse, with a distinct
feeling of overextension.
28 c5?!
In his desperation to win the game White is overextending further. Correct was 28
28 … Be7 29 f5!?
White’s game is overtaken by the force of inertia. This desperate clearance sacrifice is
motivated by the fear of having to lapse into defence and just defend his multiple
weaknesses passively.
29 … Bxf5 30 Bf4 Qa7 31 Be5!?
Del Pilar was low on the clock by now. After 31 cxb6 Qxb6 White has too many
structural weaknesses to survive.
31 … bxc5 32 dxc5
32 Nxc5 Bxc5 33 dxc5 Rd3 is decisive.
32 … Rd3

The d3-square is the fulcrum for Black’s lever, and White is completely busted.
33 Re3 Bxc5 34 Nxc5 Qxc5 35 Rfe1 Nd5
35 … Nc2! is even stronger.
36 Bf4 Qd4!
Attacking a key defender of e3.
37 Be5 Qb6
Also easily winning is 37 … Qxe3+!? 38 Rxe3 Rxe3 39 Qf2 Rxe5 with way too many
pieces for the queen.
38 Bf4

Exercise (combination alert): Find a key move and you short circuit White’s defence.

38 … e5!
Answer: Removal of the guard. Black wins a piece.
39 Kh1 Nxf4 40 Rxd3 Bxd3 41 Rxe5 Qd4 42 Re7 Bg6 43 Qxc6 Kh7 0-1
I was really tired of spotting my opponent rook odds this game and decided to finally
develop the late-blooming h8-rook.

When White plays 9 Nc4, remember our only-one-safe-square-required policy and
respond with 9 … Qa6.

Game 14
US 10-minute Championship 2005

Same GM, different time control. This one was played at the US G/10 Championship. A
ten-minute game with a three-second time delay doesn’t really count as rapid and is more
of a glorified blitz battle.
1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qa5 4 d4 Nf6 5 Bc4 Bg4!?
It’s unwarranted to believe that if a risky project is likely to fail, then there won’t be
someone dumb enough to volunteer for it anyway. In this case Black plays the “pinning”
… Bg4 before White placed a piece on f3. The idea is to provoke White into f2-f3, which
inhibits development and also weakens White’s central and kingside light squares.
6 f3 Bh5!?
Perhaps the riskiest of Black’s available choices. Others:
a) 6 … Bf5 7 Nge2 e6 8 Bd2 Qb6 9 0-0 Be7 and Black looks okay.
b) 6 … Bd7. The idea behind this move is that White is deprived of the future plan of
g2-g4 and Nf4, going after Black’s light-squared bishop on g6. After 7 Nge2 e6 8 0-0 Be7
9 Ne4 Black can try 9 … Bb5!?, adhering to the principle: Exchanges benefit the cramped
side. Black looks okay here as well.
7 Nge2 Nc6
Once again I plan to go after White’s artificial isolani on d4, planning … 0-0-0 next.
8 Bb5

Tip: When our opponents play this move to inflict damage on our queenside structure,
my advice to you is: let them! Our development lead (yes, we are now the ones ahead
in development: how did that happen?), bishop pair and pressure on White’s d4-pawn
easily compensate. Below is the zip file which condenses the entire variation:

a) 8 Bd2 0-0-0! (we once again follow the our-queen-only-requires-one-safe-square
motto) 9 Nd5 (9 a3 is met by 9 … Nxd4 10 Nb5 Qb6 11 Nbxd4 Rxd4 12 Nxd4 Qxd4,
which offers Black decent compensation for the exchange, since White’s b2-will be taken
as well) 9 … Qa4 10 Bb3 (after 10 b3 Qa3 11 Nxf6 gxf6 Black looks okay, since … e7-e5
is in the air) 10 … Qa6. I like Black’s chances and count eight internet blitz games I
played from this position, including one versus GM Radjabov.
b) 8 d5 0-0-0 9 Bd2 Ne5 10 Bb3 Bxf3!? (well, it’s just a blitz game, so who cares if I
win or lose?) 11 gxf3 Nxf3+ 12 Kf2 Nxd2 13 Qxd2 e6 and Black got full compensation
for the piece, D.Reinderman-C.Lakdawala, Internet Blitz 2003.
c) 8 g4 Bg6 9 h4 h6 (9 … e5! favours Black after 10 d5 Nb4 11 Bb3 h5) 10 Nf4 Bh7
11 d5?! (the idea is to prevent … e7-e6) 11 … 0-0-0 12 Bd2, T.Abrahamyan-C.Lakdawala,
Los Angeles 2005. Black stands much better after 12 … Nd4! 13 Bb3 Qb6!.
8 … 0-0-0! 9 Bxc6 bxc6

As a positional player, it’s impossible for me to make such a recapture without at least
a tiny tremor of revulsion. But we are far, far away from the busted ending we so
desperately fear. Remember to trust in our development lead and bishop pair.
10 Be3!
The d-pawn requires support. This is a new move and an improvement over 10 Bd2?
e5 11 Ne4 Qb6 12 Nxf6 gxf6 13 dxe5? (White was already losing, and this only makes it
worse) 13 … Bh6 14 f4? (he had to try 14 Bxh6 Rxd1+ 15 Rxd1) 14 … Bxf4! 0-1,
R.Richard-C.Lakdawala, San Diego 2004. With which other opening can you beat a
national master in 14 moves as Black?
10 … e5
Principle: Open the game when leading in development and owning the bishop pair.
11 Qc1?!
He should chance 11 0-0.
11 … Bb4
I want to keep developing. Also favouring Black are 11 … Nd5 and 11 … e4.
12 0-0 Bxc3
Possibly inaccurate. 12 … Rhe8 13 dxe5 Qxe5 14 Bf2 Bd6 15 Bg3 Qc5+ 16 Bf2 Qc4
retains Black’s pressure.
13 bxc3 Rhe8 14 Ng3

14 … Bg6
I thought about the greedy 14 … Qxc3!? 15 dxe5 Rxe5, but then my opponent can get
counter-greedy with 16 Bxa7.
15 dxe5 Rxe5 16 Bd4
16 f4 Ree8 17 f5 Bh5 is okay for Black.
16 … Red5 17 Rb1
After 17 Bxf6 gxf6, Black’s activity more than makes up for my not-so-pretty
17 … Ne8!?
Here we go again. I inexplicably make a passive move in a situation which requires
vigorous action. The comp recommends the inhumanly greedy 17 … Qxa2!?.
18 Re1 c5 19 Bf2 Qxc3 20 Rb3 Qxc2 21 Qa3 Rd1!
Principle: Exchange pieces when under attack.
Not 21 … Nd6?, which loses to 22 Nf1 Rd1 (22 … c4 23 Qa6+ Kd7 24 Rbe3 threatens
Re7 mate; now if 24 … Nc8 25 Bh4! wins, since 25 … f6?? 26 Qe6 is mate) 23 Qa6+ Kd7
24 Qa4+ Kc8 25 Rxd1 Qxd1 26 Rb8+.
22 Qa6+ Kd7 23 Qa4+

Exercise (critical decision): This is a position permeated with what-ifs. Should Black
just play his king back to c8 and take the draw? Or play his king to d6 and go for the full
point? Assess the potency of White’s attack in that case.

23 … Kc8
Answer: The great tension-driver of most chess games is the not-knowing, the
uncertainty of the final result. I was tempted to shove my king to d6 and go for the full
point, but then I remembered watching Dracula for the first time as a kid. When I finally
went to bed, I kept seeing Bela Lugosi’s sinister shadows on the walls. So nyet! I’m not
going to play suicidally for a win by bringing my king to d6.
If 23 … Kd6? (Black’s king finds himself unarmed and in the path of would-be
assassins) 24 Rd3+! Bxd3 25 Nf5+! Bxf5 26 Bg3+ Kd5 27 Rxd1+ Ke6 28 Re1+! Kf6 (28
… Kd5 29 Re5+ wins) 29 Qh4+ Kg6 30 Qxd8 leaves Black busted.
24 Qa6+ Kd7 25 Qa4+
This indicates the matter is closed. The position remains in uneasy balance, with
neither side powerful enough to overcome the other. So the game ends in perpetual check,
which is similar to circling WWO wrestlers sizing each other up, before beginning their
fake fight.
25 … Kc8 ½-½
Chapter Two
3 … Qd6: Introduction and … c6 Lines

Why do some Scandi players pick the 3 … Qd6 lines over the 3 … Qa5 lines? I for
one believe it’s more solid than playing the queen to a5, since Black’s queen is less safe on
a5 where it really can be trapped if we miscalculate. On d6, Black’s queen, although
vulnerable to tempo loss with Nb5, Ne4 or Bf4 from White, is at least very unlikely to get
trapped, since it has access to multiple escape squares. The positions are even more Caro-
like than the 3 … Qa5 lines.

Game 15
San Diego Rapidplay 2017

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qd6

4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 c6
This is the Caro-Kann version of the … Qd6 Scandinavian, to my mind one of the
most solidly bulletproof lines in all of chess. Later in the chapter we look at the riskier 5
… a6. Others:
a) 5 … Bg4 6 h3 Bh5 7 g4 Bg6 8 Ne5 Nbd7 9 Nxg6 hxg6 10 Bg2 c6. This position is
quite playable for Black, but of course White must be given a “+=“ edge for the bishop
pair and superior central influence.
b) 5 … g6, when the currently most popular line is 6 Nb5 Qd8 and then:
b1) 7 c4 Bg7 8 h3 0-0 9 Be2 c5 10 d5 a6 11 Nc3 b5!. The idea is that if White takes
the bait with 12 cxb5 axb5 13 Bxb5 Bb7 14 Bc4 Nbd7 15 0-0 Nb6, Black regains the
pawn with a good position.
b2) 7 c3 (the idea is to stabilize d4 and then re-route the b5-knight to c4, via a3, which
keeps a lock on Black’s potential … e7-e5 break; also playable is c4, which takes space
but slightly weakens the d4-pawn) 7 … c6 8 Na3 Bg7 9 Nc4 0-0 10 Be2 Nbd7 11 0-0 Nb6
12 Nce5 and Black has yet to fully equalize since his position is slightly cramped and the
… c6-c5 or … e7-e5 breaks are not easy to engineer, Ma.Carlsen-T.L.Petrosian, Internet
Blitz 2016.
6 Ne5
Current theory considers this move as Black’s most difficult challenge.
6 … Nbd7

Tip: A white knight on e5 must be challenged immediately, before White has time to
establish a clamp on the position. If we play passively with anything like 6 … Bf5?! 7 g4!
Bg6 8 f4 e6 9 Bg2 Nbd7 10 h4 h5 11 Nxg6 fxg6 12 g5 Ng4 13 Ne4!, White’s central
clamp, bishop pair and power on the light squares offer a clear plus.

7 Bf4
This logical move develops a piece, reinforces e5 and also threatens Ng6. In the next
two games we look at 7 Nc4 and 7 f4.
7 … Nd5!
The move looks unnatural but is quite effective. Principle: The cramped side should
seek exchanges. I believe Black can equalize from this position, no matter what White
8 Nxd5
If 8 Bg3!? Nxc3 9 bxc3 Nxe5 (remember, every trade helps Black) 10 Bxe5 and Black
can play 10 … Qg6!. I like this move best, even though it was only been played in the
database twice and Black lost both games!
Two games doesn’t exactly constitute a scientific sample and in both games White
held a considerable rating advantage. The idea is that it isn’t so easy for White to develop,
since if he offers the g2-pawn for a development lead with 11 Be2 (11 Bg3 Bf5 is also fine
for Black), I think we can safely grab it; for example: 11 … Qxg2 12 Bf3 Qh3 13 d5 Qf5
14 Qe2 cxd5 15 0-0-0 f6 16 Bg3 Kf7! 17 Rxd5 e5 and the comp calls it even, while I
wouldn’t mind playing Black’s position here.
8 … Qxd5
9 Qd2!?
a) 9 Nf3 (best and the main line) 9 … Nb6! (clamping down on White’s c2-c4
expansion attempt) 10 Be2 Bf5 11 0-0? (11 c3 is correct and equal in my opinion) 11 …

Tip: Remember this dirty trick, which even titled players occasionally fall for: 12 Bg3
Qxc2 and White found himself down a pawn for no compensation, K.Kiewra-
C.Lakdawala, San Diego Rapidplay 2014.

b) 9 Qd3!? Nxe5 10 Bxe5?! (10 dxe5 is even) 10 … f6! 11 Bf4 Bf5 12 Qd2 Qe4+!
(that same trick again) 13 Be2 Qxc2 and White lacked compensation for the pawn,
H.Tianyi-C.Lakdawala, San Francisco 2016.
9 … Nxe5
With each exchange, White’s initiative slips away like driftwood on a tide.
10 Bxe5
10 dxe5 Qxd2+ is an even ending.
10 … Bf5
The move … Qe4+ is in the air, attacking White’s king as well as the c2-pawn.
11 c4
11 f3?! is too passive. After 11 … f6 12 Bg3 Rd8! (castling allows Qf4) 13 Bf2 e5,
Black already stands better.
11 … Qe4+!
This … Qe4+ is a recurring theme in this line. White really doesn’t want to swap into
an ending, where his space “advantage” may quickly turn into a liability.
12 Qe3 f6
Slightly better is 12 … Qxe3+!, when 13 fxe3 f6 14 Bg3 e5! leaves White fighting for
13 Qxe4 Bxe4 14 Bg3 e6

The elderly eyes of your writer see fearful youth everywhere I look at chess
tournaments. The genetically enhanced offspring of today’s world (i.e. my opponent, who
has a master’s rating but is a young teen) play like seasoned adults, thanks to powerful
comps, databases and excellent chess books (like this one!), yet they all have a collective
Achilles heel: the endgame. This ending is equal. Black places his hopes on the only
available target: White’s d4-pawn.
15 0-0-0 Rd8 16 f3 Bf5 17 Bf2 Bd6 18 Bd3 Bxd3 19 Rxd3 Kf7 20 Rhd1 Rd7 21 d5
Otherwise White has no plan but to await Black’s intent.
21 … exd5 22 cxd5
His hand hovered over his bishop and then jerked back. He saw my cheapo 22 Bxa7??
b5!, when Black gains a clean pawn with a winning position.
22 … c5
Creating this imbalance is the only winning try for Black. I gain a queenside majority
and hand White an isolani on d5, which can also be interpreted as a powerful passed
pawn. I preferred Black, even if objectively the game is probably close to balanced.
23 Kc2 Re8 24 a4 b6 25 Kc3
White has dreams of infiltrating my queenside light squares with his king.
25 … a6 26 Kc4?
Correct was 26 Bg3 b5 27 b3, when I prefer Black very slightly.

Exercise (combination alert): Push implausible just a bit too far and it reaches the
unwanted next level of impossible. White’s last move was overly optimistic. How did
Black exploit a flaw hidden within it?

26 … b5+!
Answer: A Lannister (and a Lakdawala) always pays his debts! Black can activate his
majority since taking on b5 places White’s king at grave risk.
27 axb5 axb5+
Where should White’s king go? One way lies misery, while in the other, madness.
28 Kxb5!?
Madness it is. Hey, I just said: “ … since taking on b5 places White’s king at grave
risk”! My opponent saw that not taking was fatal:
a) 28 Kb3?? hangs a rook to 28 … c4+.
b) 28 Kc3 Be5+ 29 Kc2 c4 30 Re3 (30 R3d2?? Bf4! wins the exchange, since if White
lifts the rook, then … Re2+ is decisive) 30 … Red8 and White’s precious passed d-pawn
28 … Rb8+ 29 Kc6!?
Welcome! Bienvenue! Willkommen! Irasshaimase! My house is your house, so please
step into c6. White’s suicidal king continues his self-destructive ways. An opponent’s utter
indifference for his own king’s safety – and by extension, logic itself – has a way of
unnerving us. The pessimist’s great skill is the ability to suspect the ugly within the
beautiful exterior. I knew in my heart I was winning and pretty much worked out a forced
win on this move, yet was worried he saw something I didn’t. He saw that he loses with:
a) 29 Kc4 Rb4+ 30 Kc3 Be5+ 31 Kd2 Rxb2+ 32 Ke1 c4 33 Re3 c3.
b) 29 Ka4?? would be a delightful gift after 29 … Ra7 mate.
29 … Ke7
Threatening mate on the move on c7. Here I began vibrating gently, like a car whose
carburettor requires a visit to the mechanic. I had worked out that I win, but what if I
30 Re1+ Kd8
Even on d8, the black king’s status shifts from captive to captor by participating in the
mating attack.
31 Bxc5
You aren’t crying “Wolf!” if there really is a lurking wolf. Alex told me he originally
intended 31 Rde3?? and then saw my intent: 31 … Rc7+! 32 Kxd6 Rb6 mate.
31 … Rc8+ 32 Kb5 Rxc5+
My young opponent, a notorious bitter-ender, refuses to resign.
33 Kb6 Rc2 34 b3

Exercise (calculation): On the attack your writer is to be pitied, more than feared.
But in this position even I am capable of getting the job done. Just looking at White’s
position makes us think of pain. The gestation period wasn’t long and Black has a forced
mate in five moves. Work it out in your head before you look at the answer.

Answer: 34 … Bc5+ 35 Kb5 Rb7+ 36 Ka6 Rb6+! 37 Ka7
Really? You still refuse to resign?
37 … Ra2 mate

The position after 6 Ne5 is perhaps the most important and testing tabiya for us in the 3 …
Qd6 lines.

Game 16
San Diego Rapidplay 2017

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qd6 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 c6 6 Ne5 Nbd7 7 Nc4

White’s knight moves to c4 with tempo and makes way for a coming secondary tempo
gain with Qf3 and Bf4, or g2-g3 and Bf4.
7 … Qc7 8 g3
8 Qf3 is another way to engineer Bf4. Play can continue 8 … Nb6 9 Bf4 Qd7!

Tip: When we get chased from c7, move to the unnatural d7-square. Why? Because
then we threaten to play … Qg4, with a queen swap which favours us, the cramped side.

And now:
a) 10 Ne5 Qxd4 11 Rd1 Qb4 12 g4? (the comp says sliding the f4-bishop back to c1 is
even; I don’t believe it) 12 … Be6 13 g5 Nfd5 14 Bd2 Qd4 and White had no
compensation for his missing pawn, R.Bruno-C.Lakdawala, San Diego Rapidplay 2013.
b) 10 Nxb6 axb6 11 0-0-0 e6! (we don’t allow White an easy game-opening d4-d5
lever) 12 Be5 Be7 13 Bc4 b5 14 Bb3 0-0 and Black’s position is fine.
c) 10 0-0-0 Qg4 11 Qe3!? (a queen swap is equal) 11 … Nfd5! 12 Nd6+ Kd7! 13 Nxf7
Nxe3 14 fxe3 Qe6 and all hell has broken loose, but at least it’s hell in Black’s favour,
N.Arutyunov-C.Lakdawala, San Diego Rapidplay 2012. This game is annotated in The
Scandinavian: Move by Move.
8 … Nb6
We unravel, challenge c4 and fight for control over the d5-square.
9 Bf4 Qd8 10 Qd2
10 Ne5 is the main line. After 10 … Nbd5 11 Bd2 Bf5 (believe it or not, this natural
move is new in the position; 11 … Nxc3 12 Bxc3 Qd5 is a reliable equalizer) 12 Bg2
Nb4!? (this is a bit greedy; Komodo suggests the bizarre retreat 12 … Nb6) 13 0-0 e6 (13
… Qxd4 14 Qe2 offers White dangerous compensation) 14 Bg5?! (14 a3! is better for
White) 14 … h6 15 Bxf6 gxf6 16 Nf3 Bxc2 and White lacked full compensation for his
missing pawn, R.Bruno-C.Lakdawala, San Diego Rapidplay 2014.
10 … Be6!

Note: This looks like a gross violation of principle, since it blocks our kingside
development with … e7-e6 and … Be7. But remember, we can always fianchetto, as in
the game’s continuation.

11 Ne5 Nbd5
This may be the wrong knight. 11 … Nfd5! is an unplayed improvement which keeps
control over c4. Now if 12 0-0-0? then 12 … Nxc3 13 Qxc3 Qd5! double attacks h1 and
12 0-0-0!? Nxc3 13 Qxc3 Nd5
13 … Qd5?? fails miserably this time since we don’t have control over c4. White can
play 14 Bc4 Qd8 15 Bxe6 fxe6 16 Qb3 and Black is strategically busted.
14 Qd2 g6
I also considered 14 … Nxf4 15 Qxf4 Qd6 16 Bg2 0-0-0, which is equal.
15 Kb1
15 Bh6 Nb6! 16 Bxf8 Rxf8 (threatening … Qd5) 17 Be2 f6 18 Ng4 Qc7 is about even.
Black will castle long.
15 … Nxf4 16 Qxf4 Qd6 17 Bh3!?
A “gut feeling” doesn’t represent corroborative evidence or proof of our theory. I was
hoping for this sacrifice which I thought at the board was unsound. Komodo has it at
almost even!
17 … Bxh3!

Note: In the Scandinavian we often find ourselves behind in development. This
means that many of our opponents will attempt sacrifices – both sound and unsound – to
try and exploit this factor. We must make coldly impersonal decisions which gain material
yet place our king in danger. Take the loot, if we judge the odds to be in our favour.

We tend to view a neutral object with indifference – neither love nor hate,
but not this time! Not accepting the sacrifice is, I freely admit, completely
playable yet totally gutless and unworthy of a true Scandi player, whose
greed level can put to shame most Wall Street bankers and make them seem

18 Qxf7+ Kd8
This is a position permeated with what-ifs and has been shorn of all strategic
guideposts. It’s just kill or be killed here.
19 g4?
Passion and fury, if not followed up correctly, can easily devolve into a mushy
nothingness. White threatens Qf3, with dual attacks on f7 and h3, but Black can defend
both. I expected 19 Qb3 Kc7 20 Rhe1 Be6 21 d5! with crazy complications.
19 … Bg2 20 Qb3
Threatening a life-ending knight fork on f7, as well as the b7-pawn, but Black has
everything under control.
20 … Kc7 21 Rhg1?!
This essentially wastes a tempo, since Black wants to move the bishop to d5 anyway.
It was better to play the rook to e1. Note that 21 Nf7?? is met by 21 … Bd5 with winning
21 … Bd5 22 c4 Bg8!
Do you seek beauty, or do you want function? Black’s position, although externally
ugly, is in reality winning, since one pawn is just not enough for White’s missing piece,
despite Black’s clumsiness and lack of development.
23 Qg3 Bg7
I wasn’t worried about the coming discovered check.
24 c5 Qd5 25 Nxg6+ Kd7
The comp likes 25 … e5! even more than the move I played.
26 Ne5+
He must hang on to the initiative. After 26 Nxh8 Qxa2+ 27 Kc2 Qa4+ 28 Kc1 Bb3! 29
Qd3 Rxh8, Black’s bishops will mow White down.
26 … Ke8
Threatening … Qxa2+.
27 Rge1?

What? The only thing more harmful than doubling down on a false theory is to triple
down on it. Willpower alone can’t accomplish a goal which is beyond our resources. Once
the initial sting of a bad position wears off, we redouble our resolve to settle past scores,
but this move goes way too far. The a2-threat cannot be ignored merely to gain a tempo.
He had to try 27 b3. When unpleasant change is forced upon us, the universal mom
platitude “It was all for the best”, generally rings hollow. White is also busted here, just
less so than in the game’s continuation.
27 … Qxa2+
“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” sings the queen, as she spies her brother in
his not-so-hidden chamber, hiding under the bed.
28 Kc2 Qa4+ 29 b3
29 Kc1 Bb3 is curtains. 29 Kd3 Rd8 is also completely hopeless for White.
29 … Qa2+ 30 Kc3
He allows a queen swap, which is the equivalent of resignation. White is slaughtered
after 30 Kc1 Bxb3 31 Qd3 Bh6+.
30 … Qxb3+ 31 Kd2 Qxg3 0-1
A true hero would of course keep queens on the board. But not me, who craves the
easy and the simple on the chess board. It becomes clear that White’s dream has fallen into
complete disarray. Black is just up a piece in the ending for no compensation.

After 7 Nc4 we lose time. And then even more time after White’s coming 7 Bf4. Yet the
inherent solidity of our position keeps us afloat. Such is the weird mystery of the 2 …
Qxd5 Scandinavian lines. We should be busted since we flagrantly violate principle, yet

Game 17
Pardubice 2012

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qd6 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 c6 6 Ne5 Nbd7 7 f4!?

This is Shirov’s Variation, perhaps White’s most radical attempt to refute our line.
7 … Nb6!

Tip: Always keep an eye out for the c4-square, since White may toss in either Nc4 or
Bc4 at any moment. I think this move is more accurate than 7 … g6?! which allows 8 Bc4
e6 (not a single player in the database has tried 8 … Nd5 9 Ne4 Qc7 which also favours
White) 9 0-0, when Black’s position looks cramped and unpleasant, especially since it
will be an eternity before he can develop his sleeping queenside.

8 g4!?

Note: This risky thrust is White’s main line. Remember, an opponent who wants to
play Shirov’s line goes for a blowout. Our goal is to overextend them. The wimpy 8 Be2
is playable but not in the spirit of White’s intent. Then 8 … g6 9 0-0 Bg7 10 Be3 0-0 11
Qd2 Nbd5 offers Black decent chances, where our power on the central light squares, such
as f5, makes up for our lack of space.

8 … g6!
This has a dual purpose:
1. A fianchetto is the most efficient method of developing our kingside.
2. We create the option of meeting g4-g5 with … Nh5!?.
9 Bg2 Nbd5
I like this move, which follows the principle: The cramped side should seek
exchanges. Also playable is 9 … Bg7 10 0-0 0-0 which allows White to retain more pieces
on the board.
10 g5
This is White’s main line. The alternative is to hold back with 10 0-0 Nxc3 11 bxc3
Bg7 12 Rb1 0-0, when White’s space is balanced out by his likelihood to overextend.
10 … Nxc3
This is both a plus and a minus for our side. We further damage White’s structure, yet
also help it by strengthening d4 and opening the b-file for his rook.
11 bxc3 Nd7!
More accurate than 11 … Nd5 12 c4.
12 Nc4?!
This move may be slightly inaccurate, since Black’s queen is happy to slide away to
c7, and later on Black will play … Nb6, where White either swaps, which benefits Black,
or wastes a tempo going back to e5. Normal is 12 0-0 and here we can play 12 … h6!,
reminding White that it will perhaps be his king which may get mated in the future.
12 … Qc7
12 … Qe6+!? 13 Ne3 Nb6 14 0-0 h6! also looks okay for Black.
13 0-0 Nb6
The unravelling process begins.
14 Ne5
White must keep pieces on the board to launch an attack, but now we see that his
earlier Nc4?! was simply a loss of time.
14 … Bg7 15 c4?!
This sacrifice is dubious. Yes, Black hands over the steward of his dark squares, yet
there are two good reasons why he should do so:
1. White already pushed his g-pawn to the fifth rank, which means that the normal
attacking move Bh6 is unavailable.
2. Black’s king is still in the middle. This means he still has the option to castle
15 … Bxe5!
Kasparov – no, not the 13th World Champion, the other one, who also happens to be a
GM Scandinavian expert – isn’t afraid of ghosts and correctly gives up his dark square
power to bag a pawn.
16 fxe5 Nxc4 17 Rxf7!?
A person who decides upon a move like this is someone who insists on having things
his way, or no way at all! White reasons that his attack’s energy requirements will be
considerable, if he has any hope of breaking down Black’s resistance. This sacrifice feels
like it’s made more out of nervousness that his previous pawn sacrifice was unsound than
actual attacking euphoria. I don’t trust White’s alleged compensation for the pawn after
the quieter 17 Rf4 Be6 18 Qe1 0-0-0, which objectively is still White’s best path forward.
17 … Kxf7 18 Qf1+
This is White’s idea. It wasn’t a full rook sacrifice but one which leaves White down a
full exchange, in exchange for perceived attacking chances.
18 … Bf5
19 e6+!
White’s only chance is to somehow open the a1-h8 diagonal for his bishop and
perhaps then add the queen to the line-up against Black’s king.
19 … Kg7
Humans don’t tend to play it safe when under attack. Opening White’s attacking lines
with 19 … Kxe6!? just doesn’t look right, though the comp says even that version favours
20 Qxc4 Rhd8?!
This move allows White play. Correct was 20 … Qa5! 21 d5 Rhd8 22 Bb2+ Kg8 23
Qf4 (threatening Qe5; 23 Qd4?? Qb6 allows Black to remove queens from the board) 23
… Rxd5! 24 Bxd5 Qc5+ 25 Bd4 Qxd5 and White’s attack stalls.
21 Rb1?!
Both parties are somewhat addled by the complications. After 21 Qc3! Qb6 22 Be3
Rd5 23 Qa3 Kf8 24 Bxd5 cxd5 25 c4! Qxe6 26 cxd5 Qxd5, Black still has a lot of work to
do before he converts.
21 … Rac8
21 … Kg8! is better, as after 22 Bb2 b5 23 Qc3 b4! 24 Qe3 Qb6 25 Rf1 Rd6 White is
22 Rb3!?
White perhaps hopes to lift his rook miraculously into his still non-existent attack.
White didn’t want to grovel with 22 Qc3 Kg8 23 Bb2 Rd5 24 Bxd5 cxd5 25 Qxc7 Rxc7,
when I don’t think he will save the ending.
22 … Kg8 23 Bb2 b6
Not best. After 23 … Qa5! 24 d5 Qe1+ 25 Bf1 Rxd5, White’s queen has no way to
line up on the dark-squared bishop’s diagonal.
24 Qe2
Here 24 Qc3! Rd5 25 Bxd5 cxd5 26 Qxc7 Rxc7 27 Rc3 was White’s best shot at a
24 … Qf4!
Principle: Meet a wing attack with a central counter.
25 Rb4
25 Re3 wouldn’t have saved White.

Exercise: White’s attack needs help immediately. The problem is “immediately” is
over. Find one powerful move and Black seizes a deadly initiative:

25 … c5!
Answer: Dual purpose:
1. White’s d-pawn is pinned.
2. The move follows the principle to counter in the centre when assaulted on the wing.
26 Rc4 cxd4 0-1
It becomes clear that White’s queen and bishop line-up will never happen.

Shirov’s line, beginning with 7 f4, is probably White’s sharpest way to meet our ultra-
solid 3 … Qd6 line, so be prepared for it.

Game 18
Cap d’Agde Rapidplay 2014

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qd6 4 d4 c6

Tip: If you don’t want to allow White an early Nb5 option, then this move order
makes more sense than playing 4 … Nf6.

5 Bc4 Nf6 6 Nf3

This is a popular set-up for White. Our main choice is between developing our bishop
on f5 or g4. In the next game we look at 6 Nge2.
6 … Bg4
After 6 … Bf5 7 0-0 Nbd7 8 Qe2 e6 9 h3 h6 10 Re1 Be7 11 a3 (or 11 Ne5 0-0 12 Rd1
Rad8 13 Bf4 Qb4 14 Bb3 Nxe5 15 Bxe5 and I don’t see any advantage for White) 11 …
0-0 White’s innocuous set-up allows Black to equalize easily. Play can continue 12 b4?!
(the structural weakening probably outweighs the territorial benefits) 12 … Nb6 13 Bd3
Bxd3 14 Qxd3 Rfd8 15 Ne4 Nxe4 16 Qxe4 Qd5 17 Bf4 Bf6 18 Bc7?! (White wants to
eliminate the knight, which would occupy c4 but, in doing so, hands over the superior
minor piece and opens the a-file on his backward a3-pawn) 18 … Rd7 19 Bxb6 Qxe4 20
Rxe4 axb6 21 Ne5? (21 c3 leaves White worse but with a still playable game) 21 …
Rxd4! and the coming rook ending is hopeless for White, J.Humphrey-C.Lakdawala, San
Diego Rapidplay 2017.
7 h3!?
White offers a pawn for the bishop pair and development lead. For an IM, I’m a good
defender and a hopelessly incompetent attacker, so when I’m in such a tempting situation
as White’s position here, I think to myself, “Take a chance and sacrifice. You won’t regret
it.” In this particular prediction I am wrong close to 100% of the time. More cautious is 7
Be3 Nbd7!. Black looks equal. I think this move is more accurate than 7 … e6 8 h3 Bh5 9
g4 Bg6 10 Ne5.

Tip: Try and seize control over e5 as soon as possible.

7 … Bxf3!?
Karpov takes up the challenge.
8 Qxf3 Qxd4
Such pawn grabs are simultaneous promise/peril, in equal parts. To the naked eye, this
looks like an outrageous violation of all which Paul Morphy held sacred. First, Black falls
behind in development by bringing out the queen on the second move. Next, Black hands
over the bishop pair, and then tops it off by pawn grabbing. Yet Komodo assesses it as
dead even! Why is this so? It’s because of the incredible inherent solidity of the … Qd6/
… c6 Scandinavian lines, where White’s development lead hits a brick wall, with nothing
soft to attack.
9 Bb3 e6 10 Be3
There are only six games in the database from this position, but don’t be shocked
when I tell you that it is Black, not White, who enjoys a healthy plus score of 75%. Six
games clearly don’t constitute a full sample, but it’s at least a very good early indicator of
the inherent soundness of the pawn grab.
10 … Qd8!
This retrograde move prevents White from castling long, which was undoubtedly her
11 Ne4 Be7 12 Rd1 Qa5+ 13 c3 Nbd7!?
I would be inclined to swap immediately on e4.
14 0-0
Karpov sees that:
a) 14 Ng5? is a waste of time and is met by 14 … Nc5!, when White has nothing.
b) 14 Nd6+?! isn’t the least bit dangerous for Black after 14 … Bxd6 15 Rxd6 Qc7 16
Rd2 Nd5 17 0-0 Nxe3 18 Qxe3 Nf6. Here Black is ready to castle kingside and challenge
the d-file and I don’t see an iota of compensation for White’s sacrificed pawn.
14 … Nxe4 15 Qxe4 Nf6
Karpov avoids the tempting 15 … Nc5? 16 Qe5! 0-0 (16 … Nxb3 17 Qxg7 also
favours White) 17 Bc2, when Black is in deep trouble, with b2-b4 and Bd4 both in the air.
16 Qh4 0-0 17 Bc2
Sebag plans Bg5 to provoke a pawn weakness from Black.
17 … h6
The unbelievably greedy comp likes 17 … Qxa2 which at first I felt intuitively should
give White at least a draw, but playing the comp, I couldn’t get anything going with
White’s alleged attack. For example, 18 Bg5 (threatening Bxf6 and Qxh7) 18 … Rfd8! (
… which the comp nonchalantly ignores!) 19 Bxf6 Bxf6 20 Qxh7+ Kf8 and Black’s king
is completely safe and he is winning.

18 Rd3!?
She just doesn’t have time to swing the rook to g3.
a) 18 Bxh6? is unsound; e.g. 18 … gxh6 19 Qxh6 Qh5 20 Qe3 Nd5 21 Qe4 Rfd8,
when Black’s king is safe and White lacks compensation for the piece.
b) 18 Qg3 (this move is White’s relatively best choice) 18 … Kh8 19 a3 Rfd8 and I
don’t see compensation for White’s missing pawn.
18 … Rfd8 19 Bd4
Still intent on playing for mate. Others:
a) 19 Bxh6?? Rxd3 20 Bxd3 gxh6 21 Qxh6 Rd8 22 Bb1 Qe5 and White has no
compensation for the missing piece.
b) 19 Rfd1 Rxd3 20 Rxd3 Rd8, when White is down a pawn with no attack.
19 … Qxa2!
Throughout this game Karpov’s queen is the dishonest judge who accepts the mob
boss’s bribe. He plays the greedy comp move! You have to be completely confident in
your defensive ability to play such a move.
20 Rg3
Exercise (critical decision): Should Black’s king move to f8 or h8? One square is
clearly better than the other.

20 … Kf8!
Answer: The f8-square is correct and keeps Black’s king safe. In rapid games, or
when in time pressure, we must have the mental acuity to sense a threat, as opposed to
actually seeing it when we have time on our clock. Karpov’s intuition doesn’t let him
down. Only this move kills White’s attack which now undergoes a sharp revision from the
formally “promising” to the present “not-so-sound”.
Instead, 20 … Kh8? leads to 21 Be3 Ng8 22 Bd4! Rxd4 (22 … Bxh4?? would be a tad
overly optimistic, running into 23 Bxg7 mate) 23 Qxd4 Nf6 24 Rb1 Rd8 25 Qf4 and
Black, with two pawns for the exchange, still stands fine, but is clearly no longer winning,
or even better.
21 Bxf6
There is nothing better for White.
21 … Bxf6 22 Qb4+ Kg8 23 Qxb7 Rab8 24 Qxc6 Rxb2
Black remains up a clean pawn and now seizes the initiative.
25 Be4
After 25 Rd3 Rxc2 26 Rxd8+ Bxd8 27 Qe8+ Kh7 28 Qxd8 Rxc3 29 Qe7 f6, White is
down two pawns and losing.
25 … Rbd2 26 Bf3 Qa5
Karpov could have won another pawn with 26 … Bh4 27 Rg4 Bxf2+ 28 Kh1, but he
probably didn’t want to hand White practical chances by opening the f-file. Komodo says
White is totally busted here.
27 Bg4

Exercise (combination alert): The verdict from the gathered evidence is now well
past the point of denial: White is in deep trouble. How can Black force the win of more

27 … h5!
Answer: Attraction/trapped piece.
Step 1: Chase White’s bishop either to an unsound sacrifice on e6, or the tactically
unfavourable f3-square.
28 Bf3
If 28 Bxe6 fxe6 29 Qxe6+ Kh7 30 Qe4+ Kh8 and White’s attack is at a dead end.
28 … Bh4!
Step 2: Corner White’s g3-rook, winning the exchange.
29 Rb1 Bxg3 30 fxg3 Qe5
Eyeing g3, while keeping watch over his king.
31 c4 g6
There is nothing wrong with 31 … Qxg3.
32 Qa6 R8d7 33 Qc8+ Kg7 34 Qa8 Qxg3 35 c5
The c-pawn isn’t going anywhere.
35 … Qf2+ 36 Kh1 Qxc5 0-1

If you reach the position after 7 h3, then fearlessly follow Karpov’s suit and grab the pawn
with 7 … Bxf3 and 8 … Qxd4. The comp says we can get away with it, so let’s take the

Game 19
M.Al Modiahki-B.Predojevic
Dresden Olympiad 2008

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qd6 4 d4 c6 5 Bc4 Nf6 6 Nge2

White has two ideas behind this posting: he prepares further tempi gains with Bf4 and
he can play for the plan of Ng3, f2-f4 and f4-f5.
6 … Bf5 7 Bf4
White takes the pure development plan. Alternatively, 7 0-0 e6 8 Ng3 (we must be
prepared for White’s secondary plan, which is to blast us open with f4-f5) 8 … Bg6 9 f4
Qd7! (the fight is for control over the f5-square) 10 f5 exf5, when White has decent
compensation for the pawn and will probably regain it.
7 … Qb4 8 Bb3 e6 9 0-0

9 … Nbd7!
Don’t fall for the strategic trap 9 … Be7? as your boneheaded writer did, with a
national title on the line, despite writing a book on the Scandinavian at the time of the
game. I never claimed to remember everything I write!
After 10 Ng3?! (here the late GM Browne missed 10 Bc7!, threatening to trap Black’s
queen with a2-a3; after the forced 10 … Bd8 11 Bxd8 Kxd8 I wouldn’t say Black is
busted, but his king in the middle of the board is clearly a source of deep anxiety) 10 …
Bg6 11 Re1 (11 Bc7! still favours White, but if he missed the theme last move, there is no
reason he will see it this move) 11 … 0-0 (whew! now I’m safe) 12 Nce4 Nxe4 13 Nxe4
Nd7 14 c3 Qa5 15 Qf3 Nf6 16 Nd6 Qb6 17 Nc4 ½-½, W.Browne-C.Lakdawala,
Pleasanton 2012.
10 Bc7
This is no problem for Black, now that e7 is open for his queen.
If 10 Ng3 Bg6 11 Re1 Be7, the wannabe queen trap 12 Bc7 is harmless since it can be
met by 12 … Bd8 and if White swaps on d8, we aren’t forced to recapture with our king,
as in the note with my game with GM Browne.
10 … Rc8

Note: Just a little reminder: please, please don’t fall for 10 … Be7?? 11 a3, trapping
Black’s queen after which you will be demanding a refund on this book.

11 a3 Qe7
The life of a Scandinavian player isn’t an easy one, and is only suited for a person with
a high degree of humility, since we get pushed around so much during the opening phase!

12 Ba5
12 Bf4 is met by 12 … Qd8, unravelling.
12 … b6
12 … Bg6 13 Re1 Qd6! 14 Bb4 Qc7 15 Bxf8 Nxf8 is also fine for Black.
13 Bb4 Qd8 14 Bxf8 Kxf8 15 Ng3 g6!
Giving his king air on g7, which also frees the h8-rook. 15 … Bg6? 16 f4! is clearly in
White’s favour.
16 Nce2
Black doesn’t mind 16 Nxf5 exf5, when the f5-pawn’s enhanced central influence
makes up for the fact that White owns a healthy queenside pawn majority.
16 … Kg7 17 Nf4 Qc7 18 Qd2 Rcd8
Preparing to add heat to d4.
19 Nxf5+ exf5
I don’t believe Black stands worse, and neither does the comp.
20 f3 Nc5 21 Ba2 Nb7!?
I would go for the more natural 21 … Rhe8.
22 Rfe1 Rhe8 23 c3 c5 24 Rxe8 Rxe8 25 Nd5 Qd6 26 Nxf6 Qxf6 27 Bd5 Nd6 28
dxc5 bxc5 29 Qf2?!
29 Rd1 f4! retains an approximate balance.
29 … f4! 30 Re1
30 Qxc5?! is exceedingly dangerous for White after 30 … Re5! 31 Qc6 Re2!, when
Black threatens both the b2-pawn and also … Qg5.
30 … Re5! 31 Rxe5 Qxe5
When we set up a cheapo, as Black just did, exposure to the light is our greatest fear.
32 Qd2
32 Qxc5?? would be unwise on account of 32 … Qe1 mate.
32 … h5 33 b4 cxb4
The main option is to go for 33 … Nb5 34 c4 Nxa3 35 bxc5 Nxc4! 36 Bxc4 Qxc5+ 37
Qf2 Qxc4 38 Qxa7. Only Black has chances to win this queen ending.
34 axb4 h4 35 Bc6?!
35 h3 would weaken all of the dark squares around White’s king, yet is still better than
the choice in the game.
35 … Nf5
Better is 35 … Nc4! 36 Qd4 Qxd4+ 37 cxd4 Ne3 (threatening … Nc2) 38 d5 Kf6 39
d6 Ke6 40 d7 Ke7 41 Kf2 Nc2 and if 42 b5 Nd4 43 Ke1 a6! wins.
36 Be4 Ne3 37 Qd4?
The ending is lost for White, since Black’s nimble knight and king round up at least
one pawn. White resists better with 37 h3.
37 … Qxd4 38 cxd4

Sometimes we seek answers and end up only with more questions. On paper, White
should be fine. After all, he has a bishop versus knight, and also a passed pawn, versus
Black’s crippled 4-3 kingside pawn majority. The reality is completely the opposite:
1. Black’s knight is far superior to White’s remaining bishop, who floats aimlessly in
the centre and lacks pawn targets.
2. White’s b- and d-pawns can be attacked by Black’s knight and provoked forward to
be fixed on vulnerable light squares.
3. Black’s king can quickly centralize and threaten White’s b- and d-pawns, while
White’s must hang around the kingside.
Conclusion: White is busted.
38 … f5! 39 Bb1 Kf6 40 Kf2 g5 41 b5 Ke6 42 Ba2+ Kd6 43 Bb3 Kc7!
White will have a terrible time defending his b-pawn.
44 Be6 Kb6 45 Bd7
In every society someone has to be there to perform the distasteful work. White’s
bishop plays this role. In most endings a bishop is slightly superior to the opponent’s
knight. Here this is clearly not the case.
45 … Nc2 46 d5 Nd4!
Preventing Ke2, while menacing b5.
47 g3 hxg3+ 48 hxg3 Kc5
Trading on g3 is also winning.
49 gxf4 gxf4 50 Kg2 Kxd5 51 Kf2
White’s king is stuck in an eternal babysitting session for the f3-pawn.
51 … Kd6 52 Be8 Kc5 53 Bd7 Kc4!
He wants White’s king on g2 before he captures b5.
54 Kg2 Nxb5 55 Bxf5 Kc3 56 Kf2
56 Kh3 Nd4 57 Be4 Kd2 58 Kg4 Ke3 and Black’s passed a-pawn will cost White his
56 … Kd2 0-1

After 57 Bd7 Nc3 58 Bc6 a5, the a-pawn runs down the board.

Game 20
San Diego Rapidplay 2017
1 e4 d5
I’m not so certain Flaubert would approve of my following description, but my
somewhat excitable buddy IM Dionisio Aldama is one of those hot tempered “The-
Scandinavian-is-totally-unsound!” guys, who always attempts to kick the mierda out of
anyone who dares to play it against him.
2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qd6 4 d4 c6
With this sneaky move order I prevent Aldama’s favourite line 4 … Nf6 5 Nb5.
5 Nf3

Tip: Meet 5 Ne4 with the odd pinning move 5 … Qe6! 6 Qe2 Nf6! 7 Nxf6+ exf6,
which is equal.

5 … Nf6 6 Be2!?

My poacher IM rival, who comes to San Diego most Saturdays from Tijuana, Mexico,
was leading by half a point, so I thought he was just playing it safe. He told me after the
game that he felt he would be out-prepped if he entered the main line with 6 Ne5 Nbd7,
which we covered earlier in the book. How fortunate for me that most of my opponents
delusionally believe I remember everything I write!
6 … Bf5
a) 6 … Bg4 7 h3 Bh5 8 g4!? Bg6 9 Ne5 Nbd7 10 f4 e6 11 0-0 Rd8 12 Be3 Ne4 (note
the principle that exchanges benefit the side which is cramped) 13 Nxg6 Nxc3 14 bxc3
hxg6 15 Rf3, D.Aldama-C.Lakdawala, San Diego Rapidplay 2017. Here Black stands no
worse, despite White’s bishop pair and space, since his chances of overextending are
equivalent to his chances of squeezing Black.
b) GM Tiviakov, the world’s greatest … Qd6/ … c6 practitioner, prefers to delay the
development of the c8-bishop, when confronted with the early Be2 lines. He prefers 6 …
g6 7 0-0 Bg7 8 Bg5 0-0 9 Qd2 Bf5 10 Bc4 (a bit of a victory for Black, who got White to
waste a tempo to re-energize this bishop) 10 … b5 11 Bf4 Qd8 12 Bb3 a5 13 a4 b4 14 Ne2
Bg4 15 Ne5 Bxe2 16 Qxe2 Qxd4 17 Bg3. Here the comp claims White has compensation
for the sacrificed pawn, but that didn’t stop Tiviakov from converting in M.Aanstad-
S.Tiviakov, Vadso 2010.
7 0-0
7 Ne5 Nbd7 8 Bf4 Nxe5 9 Bxe5 Qb4 10 Qd2 e6 11 0-0-0 Qa5, intending … Bb4,
looks fine for Black.
7 … Nbd7
I follow my immediately-seize-control-over-e5 rule. The alternative is to go for 7 …
e6 8 Nh4 (if 8 Ne5 Nbd7 9 Nc4 Qc7 10 g3, intending Bf4 and Nd6+, then 10 … Nb6 11
Bf4 Qd8 12 Ne3 Bg6 and White has got nothing from the opening) 8 … Bg6 9 f4 Be7 10
f5 exf5 11 Nxf5 Bxf5 12 Rxf5 0-0, when Black’s loss of the bishop pair is made up
somewhat by White’s awkward d4-pawn, which could become a target.
8 Bg5
I thought he would try 8 Nh4! Bg6 9 f4 e6 10 f5 exf5 11 Bf4 Qb4 12 a3 Qb6 13 Bc4 0-
0-0 14 Nxg6 fxg6 15 Qd2 (threatening Na4, trapping Black’s queen) 15 … Re8, when
White certainly holds the initiative, but at least Black’s extra pawn will be of some
8 … h6
This safeguards the light-squared bishop from Nh4 ideas.
9 Bh4 e6 10 Bg3 Qb4

Note: One of the wonderful side benefits of playing the Scandinavian is that about
half of all our opponents subconsciously think it’s unsound and tend to go crazy against it.
You want proof of my theory? Please see White’s next move:

11 a3!?
Only IM Aldama, whose chess temperament is the equivalent of a just bathed and still
wet cat, would initiate such psychotic complications when he leads the tournament by a
half point. A more pragmatic player would have gone for 11 Rb1 with a position which is
far harder to lose for White. Komodo says his sacrifice is sound.
11 … Qxb2
The most terrible words that come from a parent who forces us into an unpleasant task
are: “This is for your own good!” I decided that I had to teach my poacher buddy a lesson:
Don’t give away that which is valuable, without receiving equivalent or greater
compensation in return. The comp says White gets full compensation, and then there is the
question of practical chances, since for a flawed human, Black’s position isn’t all that easy
to navigate.
12 Qe1! Be7!
I burned up a huge amount of time, but it was well spent. Black must castle quickly. 12
… Qxc2? allows 13 Bc4! Bh7! (giving air to Black’s queen; 13 … Be7?? 14 Ra2 traps it)
14 Rc1 Qf5 15 d5! with a scary development lead and dangerous attack for White.
13 d5?!
My opponent’s chess personality is the active volcano, liable to go off at any time. It’s
impossible to will a combination into existence when the base causes and conditions are
missing. Aldama continues to sacrifice in the joyous state of attacking inebriation of a
sailor on shore leave, who just got paid. He overpresses, yet his idea is of great practical
danger to Black and I was way behind on the clock at this point. Keep in mind that
impersonal academic study at home never fully prepares us for the trials of actual war,
fought over the board. At home, I would never have dreamed of Aldama’s
crazy/dangerous idea, yet here I am at the board, behind on the clock, trying to solve the
practical difficulties tossed my way. Correct is 13 Rb1! Qxa3 14 Rxb7, when White has
partial compensation for the pawn. However, I prefer Black even here, since I can castle.
13 … Nxd5
Of course I want to remove as many pieces as possible from the board.
14 Nxd5 exd5!
The correct recapture. 14 … cxd5? 15 Rb1 Qxc2 16 Rxb7 Qc6 17 Rc7 Qa4 18 Qd2
gives huge compensation to White. If 18 … 0-0?! then 19 Bd1! disconnects the queen
from protection of d7, since 19 … Qb5?! is met by 20 a4.
15 Rb1 Qf6 16 Rxb7 0-0
Praise Buddha! My king finally evacuates the centre.
17 Nh4
White is frantic for some kind of compensation so he prepares to shove his f-pawn
17 … Be6 18 f4 Nc5!
I saw what was coming and took the plunge.
19 Rxe7
This move is based on the thought, “All is not lost, as long as I hang on to the
19 Rb1? is met by 19 … Rfe8, when Black is up a clean pawn and has the initiative.
19 … Qxe7 20 f5 Ne4?!
The smoke from such complications greatly reduces the visibility in every direction.
Sometimes the only reward the reader gets from going over one of my games is
bewilderment. Komodo hates this concession, but I just didn’t feel comfortable risking 20
… Bd7! 21 f6 gxf6. White just doesn’t have enough compensation for the exchange,
according to Komodo, but with my low clock, I think IM Aldama would have at least a
51% chance of swindling your easily confused writer.
21 fxe6 fxe6 22 Bf3 Qc5+ 23 Bf2?
He had to try 23 Kh1! Qxc2 24 Ng6! (not 24 Bxe4?? Rxf1+ 25 Qxf1 dxe4! 26 h3 Rd8
27 Kh2 Rd1 28 Qf4 Qc1! 29 Qxc1 Rxc1 and White’s minor pieces can’t stop Black’s
passed pawns) 24 … Rf6, when Black stands better.
23 … Nxf2 24 Qxe6+!?
This is losing, as is 24 Rxf2 Rf6! threatening … g7-g5, trapping the wayward knight.
White won’t save the game since Black has too many pawns and White’s c2- and a3-
pawns are targets.
24 … Kh7 25 Rxf2

Exercise (combination alert): Black has a winning sequence here. Can you find what
I missed over the board?

25 … Rf6?
I threw away a winning position with this move.
Answer: Correct was 25 … Rae8! (weak back rank/double attack) 26 Qg6+ Kh8,
when Black threatens to exploit White’s weak back rank with checkmate on e1. After 27
Kf1 the simple double attack 27 … Qc4+! picks up his loose h4-knight.
26 Qe2?!
Better is 26 Qe5! Raf8 27 Be4+! (I saw this idea but didn’t realize that it might save
White) 27 … Kg8 28 Nf3 Qxa3 29 Bd3 and White has good chances to hold the game.
26 … Qxa3 27 g4
He wants to bring his knight into play once again.
27 … Raf8
Black should probably just shove the a-pawn down the board with 27 … a5!.
28 Kg2 Qc3?!
28 … g6! was correct.
29 Rf1?!
He had to try 29 Qd3+ Qxd3 30 cxd3 Ra8, when Black will again push his a-pawn
down the board.
29 … g6!
After this unnatural but strong move, White’s kingside pieces are unable to untangle.
30 Qd3 Qb4
31 c4?!
Neither of us saw the idea 31 g5! hxg5 32 Nxg6! Rxg6 33 Bh5 Rfg8 34 Rf7+ Kh6 35
Bxg6 Rxg6 36 Qh3+ Qh4 37 Qf5 Qe4+ 38 Qxe4 dxe4 39 Kf2! and White should save the
rook ending.
31 … dxc4 32 Qc2 Qb3 33 Rc1?
33 Qe4 was forced.
33 … Qd3!
Forcing White into a lost ending.
34 Qxd3
The only move.
34 … cxd3 35 Rd1
If 35 Rxc6?? Rxc6 36 Bxc6 d2 37 Ba4 Rd8 38 Bd1 Re8 then … Re1 is coming and
White can resign.
35 … Rd8 36 Be4 Rd4!
Also winning is 36 … c5! 37 Rxd3 Rxd3 38 Bxd3 Rd6.
37 Bxd3 Rxg4+ 38 Kh3 h5 39 Ra1
39 Bxg6+ is also lost for White after 39 … Rgxg6 40 Nxg6 Kxg6. Black’s two extra
pawns will win the rook ending.
Dreams often leave out the unpleasant details which reality is happy to show us.

Exercise: How did Black force the decisive win of material here?

39 … Rff4!
Answer: Removal of the guard. White’s knight covers the key f3-square and is unable
to move away.
40 Rxa7+ Kh6 41 Be2
His problem is that his knight is unable to move:
a) 41 Ng2?? Rf3 mate.
b) 41 Nxg6?? Rf3 mate.
41 … Rxh4+ 0-1

The innocuous-looking 6 Be2 contains a drop of poison, since we must watch out for Nh4
ideas, where we lack a … Bg4 option. I’m now inclined to think that Tiviakov’s 6 … g6
may be Black’s best solution.

Game 21
Bangkok 2004
1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qd6 4 d4 Nf6 5 Bd3

White reasons that a bishop on c4 generally hits a pawn wall on e6. So why not place
it on d3, where it aims at Black’s kingside? Secondly, White plans Nge2 and Bf4, gaining
time on Black’s queen.
5 … Nc6!

Tip: Against the 5 Bd3 line play 5 … Nc6! which involves multiple ideas:

1. White’s d-pawn is slightly less protected than if White’s bishop was posted on c4, so
Black immediately pressures the pawn further by posting a knight to c6.
2. One of the points of White’s early Bd3 is that it aims the bishop at the kingside.
With our last move we indicate that we may castle long, thus negating the purpose of the
d3-posting of White’s bishop.
3. White plans Nge2 and Bf4. With our last move, we create the option pre-empting
this plan with … e7-e5!.

Warning: Avoid the suicide-inducing 5 … Qxd4??. My Chessbase annotation pallet is
inadequate to my question mark needs, since the objective evaluation of this move should
be at least five question marks. After 6 Bb5+ Black hangs the loose d4-queen and goes
home after six moves.

6 Nge2 e5!
a) Not 6 … Nxd4?? 7 Nxd4 Qxd4?? and, once again, 8 Bb5+ hangs the queen, just as
in the above warning.
b) In D.Aldama-C.Lakdawala, San Diego 2017, I played the slightly inferior 6 …
Bg4!? out of the paranoid desire to dodge his opening preparation. After 7 f3 Bh5 8 Bf4
Qd7 9 Qd2 e6 10 0-0-0 Bb4 11 Qe3 0-0-0 12 Be5, chances were equal.
7 Nb5
a) 7 dxe5 Nxe5 8 Bb5+ c6 9 Qxd6 Bxd6 10 Ba4 b5! 11 Bb3 a5 12 a4 b4 13 Nd1 Ba6
14 Ba2 0-0 15 Ne3 Rfe8 16 h3 Bc5 17 Bd2 Ne4 18 Rd1 Rad8 and White’s pieces were
getting pushed off the board, I.Manolov-V.Spasov, Sunny Beach 2012. This game is
annotated in The Scandinavian: Move by Move.
b) 7 0-0 Nxd4 8 Nxd4 Qxd4 9 Nb5 Qd8 10 Re1 c6! (we give the pawn back to get a
good position) 11 Rxe5+ Be7 12 Nc3 0-0 and Black has equalized.

7 … Qe7!

Tip: Boldness always comes attached with the unwanted attribute of risk. Sometimes
a position’s unusual demands force us to alter our natural instinct. At first this crazy
“logic” feels like Black makes the claim that East, not North, is the highest of all
directions. The point of this move is that we keep open options to castle queenside to get
our king out of the centre. Try and remember that this unnatural move is superior to 7 …
Qd8?! 8 dxe5 Nxe5 9 Bf4 which gives White a dangerous development lead.

8 dxe5 Nxe5 9 0-0

Note: Externally, this looks really dangerous for Black, since our queen sits on e7, on
the open e-file. In reality Black is fine. Secondly, a white knight sits on e2, which clogs
the e-file and gives time to unravel before White’s Re1 becomes problematic.

9 … a6 10 Nbd4
Or if 10 Nbc3 Bd7 11 Re1 Nxd3 (we pick up the bishop pair in an open position) 12
Qxd3 0-0-0 with at least equality for Black.
10 … g6
Black has two other good options, which both equalize:
a) 10 … c5 11 Nf5 Bxf5 12 Bxf5 g6 13 Bh3 Bg7 and Black is ready to castle kingside
with a decent position.
b) 10 … Bd7 11 Re1 Nxd3 12 Qxd3 0-0-0 and Black stands at least equal.

11 Bg5

Note: White is unable to exploit our precarious pieces on the e-file. For example: 11
Re1 Bg7 12 Ng3 0-0 13 Bf4 (13 f4? Qc5 favours Black) 13 … Nfd7 and if 14 Qe2 Qh4,
Black stands well.

11 … Bg7 12 Nc3 0-0 13 Re1 Qd6
At long last, we remove our queen from her vulnerable state.
14 Nf3?!
Correct was 14 Be2.
14 … Nfg4?!
I have no idea why Black refused to pick up the bishop pair, while simultaneously
damaging White’s structure, with 14 … Nxd3 15 cxd3 b5.
15 Bf4?
White should fumigate the area of all pests with 15 Nxe5 which is about equal.

Exercise (combination alert): White’s last move overlooked a combination. How
would you proceed here?

15 … Nxf2!
Answer: The psychological concussive effect of being on the receiving end of such a
shot shouldn’t be underestimated. The theme is attraction/discovered attack.
Step 1: Lure White’s king to f2.
16 Kxf2
16 Bxe5? is even worse for White after 16 … Qb6! 17 Qe2 Nxd3+ 18 Qe3 Nxe1 and
Black wins the exchange.
16 … Nxd3+
Step 2: Take on d3, with a discovered attack on the loose f4-bishop.
17 Qxd3 Qxf4
From the combination Black has picked up a clean pawn plus the bishop pair.
18 Nd5 Qa4! 19 c3
After 19 Nxc7 Bf5 20 Qb3 Qxb3 21 cxb3 Rad8 22 Rad1 Bxb2, Black remains up a
pawn with two bishops against two knights.
19 … Be6!

20 Red1!?
White internally submerges his distress for now and does nothing about the
provocation. If 20 Nxc7 Rad8 21 Qe4 Qxe4 22 Rxe4 Bf5 23 Rc4 (23 Ree1?? Rd7! traps
White’s knight) 23 … Rd6 24 Re1 Bd7 25 a4 Rc6 26 Rxc6 Bxc6 (Black threatens … Rc8)
27 Nd4 Bxa4 and White is lost in the ending.
20 … Rfd8 21 c4 Bf5
Even stronger is 21 … c6! 22 Nb6 Qa5! 23 Qe3 Rab8.
22 Qb3 Qxb3 23 axb3 Bc2
Pawns soon begin to spill out everywhere like water from an overflowing toilet.
24 Re1 Bxb3 25 Rac1 Bf8
There is nothing wrong with 25 … c6 26 Nb6 Rab8 with an easy win for Black.
26 Nf6+
26 Nxc7 fails to win a pawn after 26 … Rac8 27 Nd5 Rxc4.
26 … Kg7 27 Ne4 Ba4 28 Nc3 Bc6 29 Ne5
Everything loses, but this makes it worse by allowing Black’s rook entry to d2.
29 … Rd2+ 30 Re2 Bc5+ 31 Kf1 Rxe2 32 Nxe2

Exercise: Black found a combination to increase White’s misery. The incongruity of
the white knights shouldn’t be lost upon the reader. How did Black exploit this?

32 … Bxg2+!
Answer: Attraction/removal of the defender.
33 Kxg2 Re8
Black regains his piece with interest, since White’s knights are awkwardly lined up on
the e-file.
34 Nd7 Rxe2+ 35 Kf3 Re3+ 36 Kf4 Bd4 37 Rd1 c5 38 b4 Rc3 39 bxc5 Bxc5!
Even stronger than 39 … Rxc4.
40 Nxc5 Rxc4+ 41 Ne4 f5 42 Rd7+ Kh6 1-0

The 5 Bd3 line is a bit tricky for us, not because it inherently favours White, but because
it’s not played very often. So when our opponent does play it, we often forget our analysis.
So don’t get caught, and review it from time to time.
Chapter Three
3 … Qd6 with … a6

The lines involving … Qd6 and … a7-a6 have a completely different feel to the more
solid Caro-Kann-like … Qd6/ … c6 lines we looked at in the previous chapter. It can
almost feel like we are on the black side of a Sicilian!

Game 22
San Diego Rapidplay 2010

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qd6 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3

Later in the chapter we look at the move order 5 Bc4 a6 6 Nge2.
5 … a6
I find repetition in opening choices has a numbing effect on my play, since when we
play a line only one way it’s easy to fall under the sway of the delusion that we understand
it completely. So I play the Scandinavian in virtually every possible version, including this
one, which is far removed in character from the … Qd6/ … c6 lines. The idea of tossing in
… a7-a6 is twofold:
1. Black permanently cuts out all Nb5 tricks from White.
2. Black can expand on the queenside with a future … b7-b5 and … Bb7, and then
either play … e7-e6 or fianchetto with … g7-g6. The positions can sometimes take on a
Sicilian-like flavour if Black later tosses in … c7-c5 as well. In general the lines tend to be
more open and more tactical than the ones we looked at in the previous chapter.
6 g3!
This is considered to be the biggest theoretical challenge for Black. In this chapter we
also look at 6 Be2, 6 Bc4, 6 Ne5 and 6 Bd3. Others:
a) 6 Be3 (White reinforces d4, while possibly preparing Qd2 and Bf4 later on) 6 …
Nc6 7 Qd2 Bf5 8 a3 e6 9 0-0-0 0-0-0 and, personally, I don’t think White’s extra space is
such a big deal and I am okay playing Black here.
b) 6 h3 (I sometimes see this introverted move; the idea is to deny Black … Bg4) 6 …
b5! (I like this reaction if we are unable to play … Bg4) 7 Bd3 Bb7 8 0-0 e6 9 Re1 Nbd7
10 Ne4 Nxe4 11 Bxe4 Bxe4 12 Rxe4 Nf6 13 Re1 Be7, when … c7-c5 is coming and
Black has equalized.
c) 6 Bg5 (White plans Qd2 and Bf4, but is it really a tempo gain if you already moved
the bishop twice?) 6 … Nbd7 7 Qd2 b5 8 Bf4 Qb6 and Black will follow up with … e7-
e6, … Bb7, and eventually … c7-c5.
d) 6 a4 (White suppresses … b7-b5) 6 … Bg4 7 h3 Bh5 8 g4 Bg6 9 Bg2 Nc6 10 Be3
0-0-0 11 0-0 e6. Here I’m not concerned about White’s extra space and like the fact that
White tossed in g2-g4, which weakens the king.
6 … Bg4
We pin the knight, pressuring a defender of the d4-pawn, while preparing our plan of
… Nc6 and … 0-0-0.
7 h3
After 7 Bg2 Nc6 8 0-0 0-0-0 9 d5!? Ne5!

Warning: Avoid the “free” pawn with 9 … Nxd5?! 10 Qxd5 Qxd5 11 Nxd5 Rxd5 12
Ng5!, when Black is in deep trouble.

10 Bf4 Bxf3 11 Bxf3 Nxf3+ 12 Qxf3 e5! 13 dxe6 Qxe6 14 Bg5 Bd6 15 Rfe1 Be5!,
Black has equalized, since 16 Bf4 is easily met by 16 … Nd7.
7 … Bh5

8 Bf4
Instead, 8 Bg2 is White’s main line, which then runs 8 … Nc6 9 0-0 0-0-0 10 Bf4 Qb4
11 g4 Bg6 12 a3 Qxb2 (I’m trying my best to set your mind at ease, and not doing such a
great job of it when I tell you this suicidal-looking pawn grab, which opens lines against
our king, is actually Black’s best move!) 13 Qe1. Here White doesn’t necessarily look
upon such a costly attack as a loan to be repaid in slow, painful intervals, with even more
material investments to come. White is supposed to get decent attacking compensation for
the pawn (or pawns) Black grabs and the your guess is as good as mine on the assessment.
The comp calls it close to even.
8 … Qb4 9 g4
9 Bg2 Nc6 10 g4 Bg6 11 0-0 0-0-0 12 a3 Qxb2 13 Qe1 transposes to the note above.
9 … Bg6 10 Qd2
Not every dispute is destined to erupt into outright violence. This move was a practical
decision. Elliott’s already low clock held him back from more violent choices like 10
Ne5!? since, when we are missing the time to calculate, we lack the empirical proof
calculation brings to substantiate our theory. Play can continue 10 … Qxb2 11 Bd2 Qb6,
when White has compensation for the pawn. If instead 11 … Bxc2?! then 12 Qc1 Qxc1+
13 Rxc1 and, believe it or not, the comp calls it better for White, despite Black’s two extra
pawns in the ending. Development matters!
10 … Nc6 11 0-0-0
Not 11 Bxc7? (White can’t afford this waste of time) 11 … Rc8 12 Bf4 e6 13 0-0-0
Qa5! and Black gets a ferocious attack for the pawn.
11 … 0-0-0 12 Qe3
A new move in the position. 12 a3 Qa5 13 Qe3 e6 is similar, S.Vedmediuc-
I.Kovalenko, Dnepropetrovsk 2007.
12 … e6
I equalized, with the massive bonus that my old student Elliott Liu, who has two IM
norms, used up most of his time working out the opening, while I used about five minutes!
13 Bg2 Nd5 14 Nxd5 exd5!?
Fear of the unknown has a way of suffocating curiosity. This is not a good practical
decision. A move like this is perhaps the consequence of a unhealthy psyche, which
always demands safety over adventure – even when adventure is in my favour! Due to my
huge time advantage, I probably should have gone in for the more adventurous 14 …
Rxd5!?, which brings to mind the statement: there’s a first time for everything. After 15
Ne5 Rb5, Black induces time-burning complications.
15 Nh4 Bd6 16 Bxd6
Elliott was seriously behind on the clock at this point, with only six minutes to my
16 … Qxd6 17 Nxg6 hxg6
The position resembles certain lines of the Exchange French. I was happy to see the
bishop versus knight imbalance, which makes the game a little less dull.
18 Rhe1 Rd7 19 Qf3 Nd8!
Heading for f4, when the knight will dominate White’s bishop.
20 c3 c6
Principle: Place your pawns on the same colour as your opponent’s remaining bishop,
thereby limiting its scope.
21 Re5
The comp likes this move, whereas I think it may be a waste of time.
21 … f6
Thanks! I wanted … f7-f6 and … g6-g5.
22 Re3 Re7 23 Rde1 Rhe8 24 Kd2 Kd7 25 Ke2!?
He feels safest on f1.
25 … Ne6 26 Kf1 Nf4

White’s position suffers from a kind of degenerative disease, growing weaker by the
move. The problem is that White has nothing to do but wait, and while he waits, Black’s
game keeps getting incrementally better. It becomes clear that Black’s knight is clearly
superior to White’s bishop, since it occupies a juicy hole on f4.
27 Rxe7+ Rxe7 28 Rxe7+ Kxe7
I don’t mind the exchanges, since each one enhances the lousiness (I’m pretty sure this
is a real word, but will check with you later on it) of his bishop.
29 Qe3+ Kf7 30 Kg1 g5
Black has good chances with the queen and knight combo against queen and lame
31 Bf1 b5! 32 f3?
Up to here Black’s slight but steady improvement was enough to warrant mild
jubilation, yet not outright celebration – until now. This move is a wilful embrace of
oblivion, which damages White’s dark squares and worsens his bishop, without receiving
anything in return.

Tip: When defending, avoid unnecessary and unforced pawn moves. Elliott had no
time for anything but the most superficial cursory examination of the facts and was down
to seconds for his remaining moves. This weakens all the dark squares around his king
and makes his feeble bishop even worse.

32 Bd3 was infinitely preferable to the push of the f-pawn. I would then have continued
with 32 … a5 in an attempt to open the queenside.

32 … Ng6 0-1
White flagged, and Komodo now has Black at a winning -1.53 assessment. If you
know this line well, odds are your club-level opponent will only have a fleeting
knowledge of it and will likely burn up more time than you.

The … Qd6/ … a6 lines are nothing like last chapter. The positions tend to be more open
and more overtly tactical than the Caro-Kann/Scandi version.

Game 23
Wang Li-Zhou Weiqi
Lishui 2009

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qd6 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 a6 6 Be2

This unambitious move is played quite often. White’s reasons behind it are:
1. By playing the bishop to e2, Black’s possible … Bg4 will not come as a pin.
2. With the bishop on c4, Black’s … b7-b5 arrives with tempo, whereas on e2 it
3. White can suck some of the dynamism out of Black’s … b7-b5 and … Bb7, with the
irritating plan of Ne5, followed by Bf3.
4. Lines involving 6 g3 and 6 Bc4 tend to be more tactical and therefore vulnerable to
home-prepared comped lines from Black. With the bishop on e2, White’s position is safe
from computer-generated ambushes. So it’s a kind of default line, if White isn’t super
booked up on the … Qd6/ … a6 lines.
6 … Nc6!

Tip: Against 6 Be2, Black’s best plan is the following set-up: … Nc6, … Bf5, … 0-0-
0 and if possible, … e7-e5.

Warning: Avoid the temping 6 … b5? which actually plays into White’s hands after 7
Ne5! Bb7 8 Bf3 Qb6 9 Be3, when Black’s position suddenly grows incredibly

7 h3!?
I can’t exactly claim with honesty that White develops with commendable speed, yet
it’s not easy for Black to take advantage of such a move, since as Black we begin the game
a move down. This feels unnecessary. White is better off with 7 0-0 Bf5 8 a3 0-0-0 9 Be3
e5! 10 dxe5 Nxe5, when Black stands no worse.
7 … Bf5 8 0-0 0-0-0 9 Be3 e5!

Tip: Achieve the … e7-e5 break and you generally achieve full equality.

10 Nxe5?!
Alertness and prescience are two different things. White displays a serious gap in his
opening knowledge and his innocent-looking move actually gets him into trouble. Yet it’s
very difficult to see that here, especially if you are not well acquainted with the … Qd6/
… a6 Scandinavian.

Note: The exchange of the f3- and c6-knights favours Black, when Black’s queen is
lifted for free into e5. Why? Because Black then follows with … Bd6, threatening mate on
h2, which in turn induces White to weaken central squares with f2-f4. Correct is 10 dxe5
Nxe5 11 Qc1 Nxf3+ 12 Bxf3 Be7 which is equal.

10 … Nxe5 11 dxe5 Qxe5

12 Qc1
White wants to play Bf4, which Black of course prevents on his next turn.
12 … Bd6
Threatening mate on the move, which forces White’s weakening pawn move.
13 f4
This forced move weakens both e3 and e4 in White’s camp.
13 … Qe7 14 Bf3 Rhe8 15 Bf2 Qf8
More natural and stronger was 15 … Bc5. Now if White attempts to challenge the e-
file with 16 Re1, then 16 … Bxf2+ 17 Kxf2 Qd6 is unpleasant for White, whose f-pawn is
a target and whose king isn’t completely safe.
16 a3 Ne4?!
Each exchange diffuses the Black initiative’s potential for lethality. Black’s pressure
remains after the correct 16 … Bc5.
17 Nxe4 Bxe4 18 Bxe4?!
This move is in violation of the principle: Don’t be the one to release piece or pawn
tension, since in doing so we hand the opponent the concession of a lifted piece in the
centre. There was no reason to bring Black’s rook to e4. White should have played 18
Qe3!, when Black must reply 18 … f5! (rather than the greedy 18 … Bxc2?? 19 Qa7,
when White has a winning attack).
18 … Rxe4 19 f5?
White must contain the infection before it spreads with 19 g3, which admittedly
seriously weakens his king, yet was still the lesser evil.

Exercise (planning): The weight of Black’s strategic plusses press down upon
White’s position. Come up with a step by step plan for Black to achieve a winning

19 … Bf4!
Answer: Step 1: Play … Bf4, sending White’s queen into the position’s equivalent of
exile on b1.
20 Qb1 Rd2
Step 2: Play … Rd2 to seize control over White’s second rank.
21 b4
Better, though also losing, was 21 Re1 Qe7 22 c3 Ree2 23 Rxe2 Qxe2 24 Qf1 Rxb2,
which is hopeless for White.
21 … Ree2
When doubled on the opponent’s second rank, the black rooks’ tentacles reach
22 Qb3 Qe7!?
An ambitious move. Black isn’t satisfied with mere material gain after 22 … Be3 23
Qxe3 Rxe3 24 Bxe3 Rxc2.
23 Qf3 Be3!
Unbearable pressure is brought against f2.
24 Bxe3

Exercise (combination alert): 24 … Rxg2+ will win. Do you see anything stronger?

24 … Qxe3+!
Answer: Queen sacrifice/attraction/removal of the guard.
25 Qxe3
White is unreceptive to the combinational clues. A mega-blunder isn’t such a terrible
fate when we are already dead lost. White must have been in severe time pressure to allow
a simple mate. Also hopeless was 25 Kh1 Rxg2 26 Qxg2 Rxg2 27 Kxg2 Qg5+ 28 Kh1
Qg3, when White’s ill-apportioned rooks are of no help and Black’s queen will pick off
too many pawns.
25 … Rxg2+! 0-1
A queen for a g-pawn are by definition, unequal in power, yet here we see the reverse,
since by capturing the pawn, Black forces mate: 25 … Rxg2+! 26 Kh1 Rh2+ 27 Kg1
Rdg2 mate.

6 Be2 is a popular yet unambitious method of meeting our set-up. Its inherent passivity
allows Black to equalize without too much stress.

Game 24
SCCF State Championship 2010

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qd6 4 d4 Nf6 5 Bc4

The move order 5 Nf3 a6 6 Bc4 is seen frequently too.
5 … a6 6 Nf3

This is a very common set-up against the … Qd6/ … a6 system. White puts his pieces
on natural squares and often focuses on a sacrificial breakthrough on e6.
6 … b5

Note: We are happy to gain this free move, but we shouldn’t be overjoyed, since
playing … b7-b5 also provides White, who leads in development, with a means to disturb
the game with confrontation after a future a2-a4.

7 Bb3 Bb7 8 0-0
8 Ne5 e6 9 Bf4 can boldly be met by 9 … c5! 10 dxc5 (10 Ng6? is heavily in Black’s
favour after 10 … Qxd4 11 Qxd4 cxd4 12 Nxh8 dxc3 – at some point White’s h8-knight
will be lost) 10 … Qxd1+ 11 Rxd1 Bxc5 and Black stands no worse.
8 … e6 9 Re1
White’s development lead and angry glare at e6 look ominous, yet the comps assure us
that Black stands well and actually scores 52.5% in my database.
9 … c5!
The threat is … c5-c4, trapping White’s bishop.
10 a4!
White’s most principled move, which increases the confrontation level.

Tip: Don’t fear the line-opening sacrifice 10 d5?. It is unsound for White after 10 …
c4 11 dxe6 fxe6 12 Nd4 e5 13 Ndxb5 Qxd1 14 Nc7+ Kd7 15 Nxd1 Kxc7 16 Bxc4 Nbd7.
White’s two pawns are not enough compensation for his missing piece.

10 … c4 11 Ba2 Qc6!

1. Black’s queen covers the b5-pawn.
2. Black’s queen/bishop battery along the a8-h1 diagonal prevents White’s f3-knight
from moving to either e5 or g5.
12 Bg5?
My Darth Vader-like Dark Side mind suggestion succeeds! Advantage Black for the
following reasons:
1. The queenside bind imprisons White’s light-squared bishop.
2. Black’s knights have access to d5.
3. White’s f3-knight is glued to its square due to Black’s queen/bishop battery along
the a8-h1 diagonal.
Correct is 12 Re5!, increasing pressure on b5, while worrying Black about d4-d5
advances. After 12 … Bd6 13 axb5 axb5 14 Rxb5 0-0 15 Bd2 Qc7 16 Rxb7! (16 Rg5 is
met by 16 … h6) 16 … Qxb7 17 Bxc4 Rxa1 18 Qxa1, the game is dynamically balanced
with White picking up two pawns for the exchange.
12 … Nbd7
Covering the Re5 idea.
13 Qc1 Bb4 14 Qf4?!
He should back down with the meek 14 Bd2.
14 … Bxc3!
This move forever entombs his buried a2-bishop.
15 bxc3
White is for all practical purposes playing without his light-squared bishop. This factor
alone means he is busted.
15 … h6 16 Bxf6 Nxf6 17 Qg3
He protects g2 to release his knight.
17 … 0-0 18 Ne5 Qc7 19 Rab1 Bd5 20 Rb4
The comp doesn’t like this and prefers to grovel in the ending with 20 Ng4 Qxg3 21
Nxf6+ gxf6 22 hxg3, which I would have been overjoyed to enter.
20 … Ne4!
The plan:
1 Transfer the knight to d6.
2 Play … f7-f6 and then … Qc6.
3. Double rooks on the e-file.
4. Break in the centre with … e6-e5!.
Result: the bishop on a2 is missing in action, and White can’t survive the opening of
the centre a piece in arrears.
21 Qe3 Nd6 22 Qg3 Rfe8! 23 f3 Ra7!
The comp prefers the materialistic 23 … a5 24 Rbb1 bxa4. I didn’t like this one since
there is now a vague possibility of White’s bishop escaping if, in the future, my c4-pawn
24 Ng4
Threatening cheapos on f6 and h6.
24 … Kh7 25 Re5
With his rook and bishop out of play on the queenside, White simply doesn’t have
enough attackers on the kingside to worry the black king.
25 … f6!
Go away.
26 Re2
Or 26 Rh5 Qf7. White has no attack.
26 … Qc6
Clearing the way for … Rae7 and … e6-e5!.
27 Ne3 Rae7 28 Qg4 e5!
Mission accomplished!
29 Nf5 Nxf5 30 Qxf5+ g6?!
There was no reason to weaken the pawn front around the king. Simpler and more
practical is 30 … Kh8.
31 Qg4 h5 32 Qg3 exd4 33 Rxe7+ Rxe7 34 cxd4 Re2
The rook infiltrates White’s second rank. Meanwhile, his rook and bishop languish on
the queenside.
35 h4 Qe6!
Going for his king. I didn’t want to free his bishop with 35 … Rxc2 36 Bb1 Rc1+ 37
Kh2 Bf7.
36 Qc7+
If 36 axb5?? Qe3+ 37 Kh2 Bxf3! destroys White’s king’s cover.
36 … Kh6 37 Qf4+
After 37 Qb8 (threatening mate on h8) 37 … Qe3+ 38 Kh1 Re1+ 39 Kh2 g5 40 Qh8+
Kg6, White is out of checks and is soon mated.
37 … g5 38 hxg5+ fxg5 39 Qf8+ Kg6 40 axb5 Qe3+ 41 Kh2

Your incompetent writer on the attack is the shy, bored accountant who thinks to
himself: “I’m really tired of being a CPA. Maybe I should apply for a job as a hit
man/enforcer for the Medellin drug cartel, just for a refreshing change in my life?” I knew
for a 100% certainty that I was winning here, yet the Lakdawala brow contracted mightily
with the stress of worry, since I’m the only IM in the world whose tactical ability rating
runs in the Elo 800 range, rather than the 2500 required. I missed out on first place by a
half point in the 2010 State Championship and this is the exact moment I blew it, turning a
win into a draw.

Exercise (calculation): Black to play and force mate.

41 … Qd2??
This throws away the win.
Answer: 41 … Re1! 42 Qd6+ Be6 and White is mated.
42 Qd6+ Re6
A lucky break isn’t a lucky break when you recognize it too late. I realized, with deep
mental agony, that I had blown it and that my opponent would hold the draw. 42 … Be6
also fails to force the win after 43 Bxc4 Rxg2+ 44 Kh1 (this is the would-be attacker’s
worst nightmare: it looks like you have a mate but don’t). Black has nothing better than 44
… Rh2+ 45 Qxh2 Qe1+ 46 Qg1 Qh4+ 47 Kg2 Bh3+ 48 Kh1 Bf5+ 49 Qh2 Qe1+ with
perpetual check.
43 Qf8!
He avoids my final trap: 43 Qxd5?? Qf4+ 44 Kg1 (or 44 Kh3 Qh4 mate) 44 … Re1+
45 Kf2 Qe3+ 46 Kg3 h4+ 47 Kg4 Qf4+ 48 Kh3 Rh1 mate.
43 … Re2
This allows him perpetual check. 43 … Rf6 is an attempt to till a non-existent mate
from barren soil. However, after 44 Qe8+ Bf7 45 Qe4+ Kh6 46 c3 Rf4 47 Qe5 Qxa2 48 b6
Qf2 49 Qxf4! gxf4 50 b7, Black must once again deliver perpetual check.
44 Qd6+ ½-½

Game 25
San Diego Rapidplay 2013

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qd6 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 a6 6 Ne5

The idea behind this move is to punish Black for the early queen excursions with a
coming Bf4. We must react vigorously to avoid this.
6 … Nc6!

Tip: Against the early 6 Ne5 line, we must immediately challenge the intruder, or else
White quickly establishes a bind. Normal developing schemes fail.

For example:
a) 6 … Bf5?! 7 Qf3! with a double attack on b7 and f5 embarrasses Black.
b) 6 … b5?! 7 Qf3 Ra7 8 Bf4 is unpleasant for Black.
7 Nxc6
After 7 Bf4, we have a choice between taking an immediate draw or playing for the
win: 7 … Bf5 (this one goes for the full point as White has no useful discoveries; 7 …
Nxd4 leads to a draw by repetition after 8 Ng6 Qe6+ 9 Ne5 – threat: Bc4 – 9 … Qb6 10
Nc4 and we have nothing better than to repeat with a queen check on e6) 8 Bc4 e6 9 Qf3
(not 9 Ng6? Qb4! 10 Nxh8 Qxc4 and White is completely busted, since the knight in the
corner will eventually be lost) Now Black can play the untried 9 … g5! 10 Bg3 Qxd4 11
Bxe6 fxe6 12 Nxc6 Qb6, when he stands at least equal in the complications.
7 … Qxc6 8 d5
The advanced d-pawn exudes a spotlight quality, to which all eyes are drawn. Is it a
strength or a weakness? It’s hard to say but, from my experience, I like Black’s chances of
later putting pressure on the pawn. This is White’s main move and does cramp Black’s
ability to develop smoothly. On the flipside it also makes the d5-pawn a target, as seen in
this game. If White avoids playing d4-d5, then Black develops easily after 8 Bf4 Bf5 9
Be2 0-0-0, when he stands at least equal, due to the potential to pressure d4.
8 … Qd6

Note: This position represents the great paradox of the 2 … Qxd5 Scandinavian lines:
A full 50% of Black’s moves have been made with the queen, who merrily skips all over
the place, tra-la-laing without a care in the world. Yet Black is not behind in development,
nor doe she stand worse! Such is the arcane magic of the Scandi!

9 Bc4
Reinforcing d5, hoping the pawn will bind Black. Instead, after 9 Be2 Bf5 10 0-0 0-0-
0 11 Qd4 e5! 12 Qa7 Qb6 13 Qxb6 (13 Qa8+?? would be a wonderful gift for Black, who
picks up a free piece after 13 … Kd7 14 Na4 Rxa8 15 Nxb6+ cxb6) 13 … cxb6, Black
stands better since the d5-pawn is artificially isolated.
9 … g6
This is probably not as accurate as the immediate 9 … b5! 10 Bb3 c5!, threatening to
smother White’s bishop with … c5-c4 next. After 11 dxc6 Qxc6 12 0-0 Bb7 13 f3 e6,
Black stands slightly better since White lacks targets and his bishop on b3 hits a wall on
10 Be3
I would have tossed in 10 a4!.
10 … Bg7 11 Qd2 0-0 12 Bb3 b5
At long last.
13 a3 Bb7 14 0-0?
This natural move gets White into trouble. When we face simultaneous contradictions,
we shouldn’t think to ourselves: “They both make perfect sense.” White’s entire position
was set up to castle long and go for opposing wing attacks. Here he tries to enjoy the
cramping benefits of the d5-pawn, while simultaneously seeking the safety of same-side
castling. Correct was 14 0-0-0 with balanced chances.
14 … Rad8 15 Rad1

Exercise (combination alert): Find one simple move and Black gets a winning

15 … c5!
When we know all the tricks of our opening deeply, we don’t search for answers at the
board, since we already understand them from our home prep. A threat becomes all the
more juicy when our side does everything in our power to block its disclosure. This move
undermines White’s notion of reality by flipping it upside down.
Answer: Double attack. Suddenly, the advanced d-pawn is outside the sphere of
White’s supervision. Black threatens … c5-c4, where the b3-bishop gets buried, just as in
the previous game against Gupta. If White attempts to break the bind by capturing en
passant, the result is a deadly double attack on g2 and d2.
16 Bf4
After 16 dxc6?? Qxc6, Black simultaneously threatens mate on g2 and also … Rxd2,
picking up White’s queen.
16 … Qd7
And here lies White’s problem: there is no defence to the coming … c5-c4, which
pushes away a defender of the d5-pawn.
17 Qe3 c4 18 Ba2 Nxd5

Tip: Don’t be afraid of ghosts. Black’s queen may be on the same file as the d1-rook,
but if the opponent has nothing concrete, then the concept “dangerous” is false.

19 Nxd5 Bxd5 20 Be5?
20 c3 was necessary.

White’s position is the balloon blown to its stress limits, which is about to rend with a
loud pop, with even one more breath exhaled into it. White reels from the events of the
past few moves and blunders.

Exercise (combination alert): How can Black take advantage of the favourable

20 … Qg4!
Answer: Pin/overloaded defender/double attack.
Step 1: Black threatens mate on the move.
21 f3
21 Bg3 overloads White’s bishop which is needed to cover b2 and Black simply plays
21 … Bxb2 22 Qxe7 Rfe8 23 Qb4 Qe4! (double attack) 24 f3 Qxc2!, since if White thinks
he wins a piece with 25 Rd2?? then 25 … Bxa3! overloads his queen.
21 … Bxf3!
For once in my tactically inept life, I manage to find shots with pernicious regularity.
This kind of “sacrifice” requires muscle, but happily no money, since Black immediately
regains the investment with a tidy profit.
Step 2: By chopping on f3, both White’s queen and f1-rook are overloaded, while his
g-pawn is pinned, since g2xf3 is illegal!
22 Qxf3
22 Rxf3?? hangs even more material to 22 … Rxd1+.
22 … Qxf3 23 gxf3
An unfortunate necessity for White.
23 … Bxe5
Black came out two clean pawns ahead. White played on since his final prayer is the
drawing power of opposite-coloured bishops in the ending.
24 c3 Kg7 25 Bb1 f5!

Endgame principle: Place your pawns on the same colour as your opponent’s
remaining bishop.
26 Bc2 Kf6!
Principle: In the ending, invite your king to be an active participant, rather than a
mere spectator.
27 h3 Kg5!
Same principle. My king plans to rest comfortably on f4.
28 f4+
28 … Bxf4 29 h4+
A non-existing mating net beckons White.
29 … Kg4
Tra, la la, la la. My king goes on a leisurely stroll. We can add one more frustration to
the various frustrations in White’s life, since he just doesn’t have enough material to do
anything about my mocking king.
30 Rde1
30 Rxd8 Rxd8 31 Bd1+ Kh3! wins.
30 … e5 31 Re2 Kxh4
32 Rg2

White’s attempt to attack is the remnant of General Custer’s army, about to make a
final blood-soaked charge at the Sioux, who at this point enjoyed overwhelming numerical

Exercise (critical decision): Should we follow the principle of swapping pieces when
ahead on material with 32 … Rd2 - ? Or is there something better?

32 … Be3+!
Answer: Zwischenzug. It’s important to toss this move in before playing … Rd2 since
the immediate 32 … Rd2?? hangs a piece to 33 Rxf4+! (removal of the guard) 33 … exf4
34 Rxd2. When we fall for a simple trap like this, it’s our cue to shake our head from side
to side in disgust, in imitation of a pendulum. Black’s former position was so good that he
even stands better after falling for White’s trap.
33 Kh1 Rd2 0-1
This swap eliminates White’s vague hope to force mate.

Against the early 6 Ne5 line, we must immediately challenge the intruder, or else White
quickly establishes a bind.

Game 26
Dresden 2011

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qd6 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 a6 6 Bd3

White’s thinking is: why play the bishop to c4, where it hits a wall on e6, when we can
play the bishop to d3, where it takes aim at Black’s kingside?
6 … g6!
When confronted with the Bd3 set-up, I like this response best. The ideas are:
1. By playing … g7-g6, Black fortifies the kingside against possible Greek Gift
sacrifices on h7.
2. When White developed the bishop to d3, this slightly weakened d4 and by
fianchettoing, Black’s dark-squared bishop bears down on the d4-pawn.
a) 6 … Bg4 7 0-0 Nc6 8 Ne4! Nxe4 9 Bxe4 0-0-0 10 c3 f5 11 Bxc6 Qxc6 12 Ne5!
Bxd1 13 Nxc6 bxc6 14 Rxd1 and White stands better in the ending.
b) 6 … Nc6 also applies immediate pressure to d4, but then 7 0-0 Bg4 transposes to
line “a”, since 7 … Nxd4?? is of course taboo, due to 8 Nxd4 Qxd4?? 9 Bb5+, winning
the queen.
7 Bg5
White pursues an aggressive plan, involving Qd2 and castling long. If 7 0-0 Bg7 8 Ne2
0-0 9 c3 c5 10 Bf4 Qb6 11 Qb3 Qxb3 12 axb3 Nbd7 and Black has a decent ending.
7 … Bg7 8 Qd2 Nc6 9 Bf4 Qd8 10 0-0-0
The d4-square remains tactically protected.
10 … 0-0
Now that White no longer has Bb5+, the d-pawn is less secure.
11 Bh6!?
White doesn’t care! At times, our temperament can be as much of an opponent as our
actual opponent. This doesn’t work out well for White, who swaps away a good central
pawn for one on the edge. She might be better off with a calmer approach such as 11
11 … Nxd4 12 Bxg7 Kxg7 13 Bxg6
White regains her pawn, but was it such a good deal? Black essentially picked up
White’s powerful d-pawn in exchange for an h-pawn and stands at least even, if not a
shade better.
13 … hxg6 14 Qxd4 Qxd4 15 Rxd4 Bg4
I would go for another fianchetto set-up with 15 … b6 16 Re1 e6 17 g3 Bb7.
16 Ne5 Be6 17 Rhd1 Rh8 18 h3 c5! 19 R4d2 Rac8 20 f3 b5!
The comp calls it even here, whereas your human writer disagrees with this
assessment. Black begins to seize useful queenside space, while White is left without a
useful plan.
21 b3 Rh5 22 Nd3
Now Nf4 is a worry for Black.
22 … Rf5 23 Ne1!?
It’s not worth a retreat to achieve the g2-g4 break, which only loosens his pawns.
White should go passive with 23 Nf2 b4 24 Ne2.
23 … b4 24 Ne2 g5!
Black’s intention is effective, not for what it clearly reveals, but for what it implies.
Now White must worry about Black’s knight landing on f4.
25 g4!?
Weakening. It is better to stay neutral with 25 Ng3.
25 … Re5 26 f4?!
This premature gesture of defiance exceeds the tolerable limits of White’s position. 26
Ng2!, preparing f3-f4, looks much better.
26 … Re3!
Paehtz goes after the base pawn on h3.
27 Ng2
a) 27 fxg5 Ne4 overloads the d2-rook. After 28 Ng2 Rxh3 29 Rd3 Bxg4 Black has a
winning position.
b) 27 Ng1 c4! (stronger than 27 … gxf4 28 Ng2 Re4 29 Rf1) 28 fxg5 Nd5! 29 Ng2
Rg3 and White is almost in zugzwang. For example, 30 bxc4 Rxc4 31 Re1 Ra3 is
27 … Rxh3 28 fxg5 Ne4! 29 Nef4
29 Rd3 was better.
29 … Nxd2
Also worth consideration is 29 … Rh2! 30 Nxe6+ fxe6 and White loses material, no
matter what she plays.
30 Nxh3 Bxg4 31 Rxd2 Bxh3 32 Nf4 Bf5

White’s game is weighed down with defensive gravity:

1. Black emerged a clean pawn ahead.
2. Black’s bishop is clearly superior to White’s remaining knight.
3. White’s overextended g5-pawn is doomed.
4. Black can inflict damage by attacking the urban population concentration with a
coming … c5-c4!. If White captures the pawn, then c2 requires defence for the remainder
of the game; if White refuses to swap and allows … c4-c3, then Black gets a decisive
33 Rd5 e6 34 Rd6 c4! 35 bxc4
Now White gets three isolanis, which is raw sewage to the eyes of a strategist.
However, after 35 Rd2 c3 36 Rd6 Rh8! White’s position is hopeless.
35 … Rxc4 36 Nd3 a5 37 Ne1 Rc5
Securing a5, as well as dooming g5.
38 Kb2 Bg6
White’s defensive barrier is the clay pot coming into contact with water. A second
pawn falls and White can resign.
39 Kb3 Rxg5
Black keeps carving up white pawns like a Thanksgiving turkey.
40 Rc6 Be4 41 Ra6 Rg3+ 42 Kb2 Ra3 43 c3 Rxc3 44 Rxa5 Re3 0-1
Since 45 Rg5+ Kf6 46 Rg1 Ke5 is complete domination.

Meet White’s Nc3/Nf3/Bd3 set-up with … g7-g6!.

Game 27
Arad 2006

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qd6 4 d4 Nf6 5 Bc4 a6 6 Nge2

The idea is to pick up a tempo on our queen with a coming Bf4.
6 … b5

Tip: Some “combinations” should be ignored, even when we see them. The greedy
comp suggests 6 … Qc6 with a double attack on c4 and g2. My recommendation is that
you decline this temptation, since White gets a massive development lead after 7 Bb3
Qxg2 8 Rg1 Qxh2 9 Bf4 Qh5 10 Bxc7.

The comp still calls it even here, but my database contradicts it with a 78.6% score for
White, based on seven games. I have tested the line in blitz and inevitably lose. So my
appeal to you is that we put aside greed and avoid it.
7 Bb3 Bb7 8 Bf4
Remember we meet White’s “cramping” 8 d5?! with the same plan as in my previous
game against Baker; i.e. 8 … c5! (threatening … c5-c4) 9 dxc6 Qxc6 10 f3 Nbd7. Here
both … Nc5 and … Rd8 are in the air and Black already stands better.
8 … Qd7!

Tip: I feel that d7 is a slightly more logical choice than b6, since White lacks the
normal Nf3-e5 mechanism. On b6, the queen is vulnerable to Be3, or a2-a4 and
then a4-a5.

Now saying this, 8 … Qb6 is also perfectly playable after 9 0-0 e6 10 a4 c5
(if 10 … b4?! 11 a5 Qa7 12 Na4 Nbd7, I don’t particularly care for Black’s
position and feel like White holds a strategic edge) 11 axb5 axb5 12 Rxa8
Rxa8 13 dxc5 Bxc5 and Black looks okay.
9 d5?!
This isn’t one of those eye-of-the-beholder choices. The hope of this push is that it
interferes with the position’s natural process, except it does the exact opposite. There it is
again; White’s favourite strategic inaccuracy in this line – the d4-d5 push. I don’t really
see White getting anything after the main line 9 0-0 e6 10 Re1 c5 11 dxc5 Bxc5 12 Ng3
Qc6 13 Nce4 Nbd7, when I slightly prefer Black.
9 … c5!
Our c-pawn is the hungry bear emerging from hibernation, now in search of prey. Burn
this idea into your memory: Just as in my game against Baker in this chapter, we meet an
early d4-d5?! with … c7-c5!.
10 dxc6
White must agree to this concession, since 10 a4? is disastrous for White after 10 …
c4 11 Ba2 b4 12 Nb1 Qxd5.
10 … Qxc6
Targeting g2.
11 f3 Nbd7
12 Qd2!
White prepares to castle queenside. Black stands even better after 12 0-0 e6 13 Kh1
Nc5. Black can pick up the bishop pair any time he pleases and White struggles to find a
12 … e5!?
This move, while gaining a tempo on White’s bishop, also weakens the d7- and f7-
squares. I would play it more cautiously by holding back with 12 … e6.
13 Be3 Nc5
Black picks up the bishop pair, which is of enhanced value in this already semi-open
14 0-0-0
The comp prefers to give up the other bishop with 14 Bxc5. I don’t like it though,
since Black’s bishop cuts through the g1-a7 diagonal after 14 … Bxc5.
14 … Nxb3+ 15 axb3 Bb4
I would have developed the bishop to e7 to keep a … b5-b4 option hanging over
White’s head.
16 Bg5 0-0 17 Kb1 a5!
Malaniuk accurately judges that Black’s queenside attacking chances outweigh the
weakening of b5.
18 Qd3 Bxc3?!

Tip: Avoid trading away a stable advantage for an obscure ideal. There was no good
reason to hand back the bishop pair.

Instead, 18 … e4! follows the principle: Open the position when in possession of the
bishop pair. After 19 Qxb5 Qxb5 20 Nxb5 exf3 21 gxf3 Bxf3 22 Rhg1 Bxe2 23 Bxf6 g6
24 Rd5 Ra6 the position is in Black’s favour, since his majority is the more valuable

19 Bxf6
More accurate was 19 Nxc3.
19 … Qxf6
The complications of 19 … Bxb2!? favour Black after 20 Be7 (20 Bxg7?? hangs a
piece to 20 … e4!), yet White should hold with accurate play. For example, 20 … Rfe8 21
Qd7 Bd4 22 Qxc6 Bxc6 23 Nxd4 exd4 24 Rhe1 f6 25 Bc5 d3 and Black still stands better,
but White should save the game via the bishops of opposite colours.
20 Nxc3 b4

Exercise (critical decision): Should White’s knight centralize to e4, or should it
blockade on a4?

21 Ne4?!
This is why chess is such a difficult game. This is a case where following the principle
to centralize is incorrect, while the decentralizing placement on a4 is correct. Why?
Because Black’s biggest threat in the position is to go after White’s king with the line-
opening … a5-a4, which must be stopped.
Answer: White should entrust his defensive wishes to an ambassador on a4 with 21
Na4!, which is not a misapplication of principle and is okay for White.
21 … Bxe4 22 fxe4
Even worse for White is 22 Qxe4?! a4!.
22 … a4 23 bxa4?
This is one of those surgeries which is more likely to kill than cure the patient. Now
Black’s attack runs riot. White had to try 23 Qd6! Qg5, after which Black would love to
see the greedy 24 Qxb4? axb3 25 Qxb3 Qxg2! 26 Qd5 Rfc8, since White’s king is far less
safe than Black’s.
23 … Rxa4 24 b3 Ra3 25 Kb2
He plans to play Ra1.
25 … Qf2?!
Deadly is 25 … Qb6!, when a vast array of resources are brought to bear upon White’s
king. After 26 Ra1 Qa7 27 Rhd1 g6! White has no defence to the coming … Ra8. (Black
must avoid the suicide-inducing 27 … Ra8?? 28 Qd8+ with back rank mate next move.)
26 Ra1?!
White misperceives Black’s command as a suggestion, which he ignores. Now nothing
impedes Black’s progress, since he is allowed to enter the position from the previous note.
White had to try 26 Rhf1 Qa7 and then run like hell with 27 Kc1.
26 … Qa7! 27 Rhd1 h5!
By making luft for his king, Black creates the unstoppable threat of … Ra8.

Did You Know?: The chess term “luft” comes from the German word for “air”.

27 … Ra8?? 28 Qd8+ is the same boneheaded mate given in the previous note.
28 Rf1
Everything loses.
28 … Ra8 29 Rab1 Ra2+ 30 Kc1 Rc8
The target is c2.
31 Kd1
Or 31 Rb2? Rxb2 32 Kxb2 Qa3+ 33 Kb1 Ra8 with mate to follow.
Exercise (critical decision): By playing 31 … Rcxc2, we get a queen and a pawn for
two rooks. Is this a good deal for our side?

31 … Rcxc2!
Answer: The attack is the devouring flame which moves through White’s position,
leaving only death and destruction in its wake. It’s easily winning, since White’s
remaining rooks are hopelessly uncoordinated and we actually pick one of them up.
32 Qxc2 Qd4+! 0-1
Zwischenzug. This anomaly sows confusion within White’s ranks.

Did You Know?: The term “zwischenzug”, another German word, means “in-
between” (move). Why does Germany have such a monopoly on chess terms?

After 33 Kc1 Qe3+ 34 Kd1 Rxc2 35 Kxc2 Qe2+!, White’s most terrible fears are
confirmed. This is one of those self-explanatory positions, where even a single sentence
from the writer represents an extended explanation. After 36 Kc1 Qxf1+ it’s no longer two
rooks for the queen.

On 6 Nge2, proceed with 6 … b5 and avoid temptation with the greedy/unwise double
attack “combination” 6 … Qc6?!, which reaches a position only a comp can survive for
Chapter Four
3 … Qd6 with … g6

In this chapter Black sets up with … Qd6, combined with a kingside fianchetto.
According to theory White’s best chance for an advantage is to immediately chase Black’s
queen with an early Nb5, so we concentrate on this plan for the chapter.

Game 28
Wan Yunguo-A.Motylev
Chinese Team Championship 2012

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qd6 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 g6

This is the fianchetto line, which I have played a few times. Now you may ask: why
fianchetto when we have access to the normal plans of … Bf5 and either … c7-c6, or …
a7-a6 - ? The reason is that on f5 Black’s bishop becomes a target to either Nh4, or Ne5
and g2-g4. By fianchettoing, there is no need to play an early … e7-e6, so we can keep our
c8-bishop where it is, fianchetto on the kingside, and only then decide where Black’s
light-squared bishop belongs. The downside to the fianchetto set-up is that Black is
slightly cramped and it’s not all that easy to set up an effective … c7-c5 or … e7-e5
freeing break.
Note: The fianchetto line is often played in conjunction with … a7-a6, as in the
following game:

5 … a6 6 h3 g6 7 Bd3 Bg7 8 0-0 0-0 9 Ne4 Nxe4 10 Bxe4 Nd7 11 c3 c5 12 dxc5 Qxc5
13 Be3 Qc7 14 Qb3 Rb8 15 a4 b6 16 Rfd1 e5 17 Bd5 Nf6 18 Bc4 h6 19 Re1 Kh7 20 Rad1
Nd7 21 Bxf7!? Nc5 22 Bxg6+ Kxg6 and White got full compensation for his piece
sacrifice as crazy complications erupted, B.Baker-C.Lakdawala, San Diego 2010.
6 Nb5
White’s main line, the idea of which is to free the c-pawn to go to either c3 or c4.
a) 6 Bc4 Bg7 7 0-0 0-0 8 h3 a6 9 Re1 (if 9 a4 Nc6 then I slightly prefer White after 10
b3! intending Ba3 next) 9 … b5 10 Bb3 Bb7 11 Bg5 c5 12 dxc5 Qxc5 and White got
nothing from the opening, L.Dominguez Perez-F.Caruana, Tashkent 2012.
b) 6 g3 Bg7 7 Bg2 Qa6! 8 Bf4 (if 8 Bf1, Black can repeat moves or play for the win
with 8 … Qb6) 8 … c6 and Black is fine.
c) 6 Ne5 Bg7 7 Bf4 Nd5! 8 Nxd5 Qxd5 and Black looks fine since the sacrifice 9
Be2!? seems rather speculative after 9 … Qxg2 10 Bf3 Qh3 11 Qe2 c6 12 0-0-0 0-0.
Maybe it’s stylistic, but I like Black’s extra pawn over White’s development lead.
6 … Qb6
Black’s queen makes room for a future … Rd8, which pressures White’s d-pawn. On
the other hand, Black’s queen remains vulnerable on b6.
6 … Qd8 feels kind of defeatist to me. After 7 c4 c6 8 Nc3, White looks slightly better
with extra central space.
7 c4
White seizes maximum space, while worrying Black about a possible c-pawn push to
7 Na3 is less ambitious and also safer, since White in this version only plans to
reinforce the d4-pawn with c2-c3. After 7 … c6 8 Nc4 Qc7 9 Nce5 Bg7 10 Bc4 the comp
gives White only a tiny edge, yet Black scores pretty miserably from the small sample of
seven games in my database.
7 … c6
Kicking White’s knight, while making room for Black’s queen on either c7 or d8.
8 Nc3
8 c5 doesn’t really bother Black after 8 … Qd8 9 Nc3, since Black now has access to
the d5-square.
8 … Bg7

9 h3
White invests a tempo to prevent … Bg4 and … Bxf3, since that would rid Black of a
problem piece and also deprive White of a defender of d4.
9 … 0-0 10 Bd3!?
This feels like a slightly odd placement for the bishop, since it reduces White’s
coverage of d4. 10 Be2 Rd8 11 0-0 Bf5 looks like only a slight edge for White.
10 … Nbd7
I would delay the knight’s development and play 10 … Rd8.
11 0-0 Re8 12 Re1
Of course White isn’t about to allow Black a freeing … e7-e5 break.
12 … Qc7 13 Bg5 Nf8!?
Motylev wants to transfer the knight to e6, taking his sweet time finding a central
break. I would go for the immediate 13 … e5.
14 Qd2 Ne6 15 Be3 b6
A queenside fianchetto is the only way to complete queenside development.
16 Rac1 Bb7 17 c5!?
He gives up d5 to clamp down on Black’s queenside. The alternative is to continue to
squeeze with something like 17 b4.
17 … bxc5 18 dxc5 Rad8 19 Qc2
Black’s rook on d8 prompts White’s queen to vacate the d-file.
19 … Nf4

20 Bxf4?!
Nobody listened to Noah, when he predicted that the light drizzle would turn into
heavy rain. There was no reason to hand over the bishop pair and dark square control.
White held an edge after 20 Bc4.
20 … Qxf4 21 Bf1 Bc8
Reactivating the bishop along the h3-c8 diagonal.
22 Qb3?!
Losing a tempo. Correct was 22 Qa4.
22 … Be6 23 Qb7
Simultaneously attacking loose black pawns on a7 and c6. 23 Rxe6? looks tempting
since it appears White gets a pawn or two and light squares for the exchange. The trouble
is Black can take the other rook with 23 … Qxc1, when White has given away an
exchange for nothing.
23 … Nd5! 24 Ne4
24 Qxc6? Nxc3 25 bxc3 Bd5 26 Qb5 Bxf3 27 gxf3 Be5 is highly favourable to Black,
following the principle that opposite-coloured bishops favour the attacker.
24 … Qc7
Securing both pawns.
25 Qxc7 Nxc7

Advantage Black, who owns the bishop pair and the more mobile pawn majority.
26 b3 Bd5 27 Bc4
Correct was 27 Ned2.
27 … Ne6
Black’s advantage increases if he immediately activates his majority with 27 … f5! 28
Ng3 e5.
28 b4
28 Rc2 minimized White’s disadvantage.
28 … Rb8 29 Bxd5 cxd5 30 Nc3 Bxc3 31 Rxc3 Rxb4
Black has won a pawn for no compensation.
32 Ra3 Rb7 33 c6 Rc7 34 Rb1 Rec8 35 Ra5 Rxc6 36 Rxd5 Rc1+ 37 Rd1 Rxd1+ 38
Rxd1 Kg7 39 g3 Rc3 40 Ne5 Rc5 41 Ng4 Ra5 42 Rd7 Kf8 43 Rd2
White’s rook will be tied down to defence of his a-pawn.
43 … h5 44 Ne3 Ra4 45 Kg2?!
It’s better to be apprehensive, rather than unaware. He should toss in 45 h4.
45 … h4!
Black’s advantage encouragingly mounts.
46 gxh4!?
Now White begins to absorb the import of his 45th move inaccuracy by voluntarily
taking on a strategic debt he can never repay. A natural strategist would consider such a
move as criminal disregard for the law, yet in reality it’s a pick-your-poison moment.
White’s last move leaves him with three isolanis; 46 Nd5 hxg3 47 fxg3 gives Black a
passed e-pawn.
46 … Rxh4 47 Kg3 Ra4 48 Rb2 Nc5 49 Kf3 Kg7 50 Rc2 Ne6
Threatening a cheapo on d4.
51 Kg3 Ra3 52 Rd2 Ng5
Another cheapo alert, this time on e4.
53 Kg2 Ne4 54 Rc2 e6 55 Ng4 Nc3
With a double attack on a2.
56 Ne5 Nd5!
56 … Nxa2? would be careless: after 57 Rc7, f7 falls and White generates enough play
to draw.
57 h4 Kf6 58 Ng4+ Ke7 59 Ne5 Nf4+ 60 Kg1 f6!
Our overall goal may be very simple to envision and, at the same time, brutally
difficult to actually implement its details on the board. Black’s plan:
1. Give up the a-pawn for White’s h-pawn to make it a race of two against one.
2. If possible swap knights, since a pure rook ending is easy with a two versus one
race, barring any anomaly. Motylev manages both steps of his plan in this game.
61 Nc6+ Kd6 62 Nd4
Threatening a fork on b5.
62 … Ra5!
Black prepares to swing the rook over to h5, essentially swapping his a-pawn for
White’s h-pawn to implement step one of his plan.
63 f3 Rd5 64 Nb3 Rh5 65 Nd2 f5
Cutting off Ne4+ counterplay.
66 Nc4+ Ke7 67 Ne3 a5 68 Ng2 Nxg2
The rook ending is easily won.
69 Rxg2 Kf6 70 Rh2 f4 71 Kf1 e5 72 Rb2 Rxh4 73 Rb5 g5 74 Rxa5 g4 75 fxg4
Our confidence tends to increase in proportion to our opponent’s ability to generate
counterplay. White was busted 40 moves ago and we have no reason to believe that
anything has altered since then. Principle: A two-connected pawns versus one race in rook
endings is nearly always a win for the material up side. So Black managed to complete
step two of his plan and remainder is easy.
76 a4 Rg3 77 Ra8 Ra3 78 a5 Kf5
Black’s king will hide on e4.
79 a6 Ke4 80 a7 Kf3 0-1

I feel like Black falls just a tad short of equality with the Fianchetto line, since White
owns extra space and Black’s … c7-c5 or … e7-e5 breaks are not so easy to achieve

Game 29
Zalakaros 2016

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qd6 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 g6 6 Nb5 Qb6 7 Na3!?

The idea of this voluntary retreat is twofold:
1. White plans to redeploy the knight to c4, where it hassles Black’s queen.
2. On the c4-square White clamps down firmly on any future … e7-e5 break. This
means Black only has the option of a … c7-c5 freeing break.
7 … c6
Logically giving his queen some air.
8 Nc4 Qc7
9 g3

Warning: You require a humble personality to be a true … Qxd5 Scandinavian player,
since your queen constantly gets pushed around. The reason we get away with this flagrant
violation of principle is based on a single factor: White is unable to effectively open the
position to punish us.

In this case White plans Bf4, gaining yet another tempo on Black’s queen. The main
line runs 9 Nce5 Nbd7 10 Bc4 Nxe5 11 Nxe5 Nd5 12 0-0 Bg7 13 Re1 0-0. Here White’s
central space offers a tiny edge, while Black remains free of weaknesses.

Note: This position is similar to ones arising from the main lines of Alekhine’s
Defence after 1 e4 Nf6 2 e5 Nd5 3 d4 d6 4 Nf3 dxe5 5 Nxe5 c6. Later Black often
fianchettoes on the kingside with … g7-g6.

9 … Be6 10 Qe2
White covers his c4-knight to complete a kingside fianchetto.
10 … Bg7 11 Bg2 0-0 12 0-0 Nbd7 13 Bf4
Another tempo gain, yet doesn’t it feel like Black’s position is still well within the
tolerable range?
13 … Bxc4
This exchange is logical for two reasons:
1. It follows the principle: Exchanges benefit the cramped side.
2. In such structures Black’s light-squared bishop is often considered a problem piece
and it’s common to dump it for a white knight with … Bg4 and … Bxf3. In this case
Black rids himself of the bishop by chopping White’s other knight.
14 Qxc4 Qb6
The queen gets out of the f4-bishop’s way, while adding mild pressure to d4 and b2.
15 a4 a5
Not 15 … Qxb2?? which is a tad hasty, since the queen is trapped after 16 Rfb1 b5 17
axb5 cxb5 18 Qd3.
16 Rad1 Nd5
Again, 16 … Qxb2? only benefits White after 17 Rb1 Qa3 18 Rxb7.

17 Bd2!?
Before a semi-sound sacrifice is launched, we have a habit of applying the blissful
balm of overconfidence. For some players the thought of playing it safe is the same as
Indiana Jones declining a dangerous mission in favour of a cushy desk job as curator of a
museum. I think this is move is playable – just barely – yet it feels like White is the one
who must find all the only-moves just to survive, so it’s not a good practical decision. 17
Bc1 is the safe route.
17 … Qxb2!
This is well-timed. Black correctly takes up the challenge.
18 Rb1 N7b6!
This clever zwischenzug is the point. Horvath probably expected 18 … Qa3? 19 Rxb7
which heavily favours White.

19 Qc5?!
White achieves compensation for the sacrificed pawn in the line 19 Qd3 Qa2 20 Ne5
Bxe5 21 dxe5 Qxa4 22 e6 f6 23 Bxd5 Nxd5 24 Rxb7.
19 … Nxa4!
19 … Qa2? 20 Rxb6 Nxb6 21 Qxb6 Qxa4 22 Qxb7 Qxc2 23 Qxe7 is in White’s
favour, since his two minor pieces outgun Black’s rook and pawn.
20 Rxb2?
After this Black wins material. Also unfavourable is 20 Qc4!? Nab6 21 Qc5 Nd7! 22
Qxd5 Qxb1 23 Qxd7 Qxc2 24 Qxb7 a4! 25 Rc1 Qb3 26 Qxe7 a3, when Black’s surging a-
pawn is terribly dangerous.
20 … Nxc5 21 c4 Nc7 22 Rbb1
Unpinning the d4-pawn.
22 … a4?!
This move is the inevitable jarring note on an otherwise perfect day. Amid the haze
and smoke on the battlefield, it becomes difficult to tell friend from enemy and both sides
are swept up in complications neither is able to fully control. Rakhmanov gambles
everything on his a-pawn and allows White back in the game.
Black is winning after the more materialistic 22 … Ne4! 23 Rxb7 Ne6.
23 dxc5 a3

Exercise (critical decision): White’s choice is between aggression/risk or

passivity/solidity. Would you play the blockade plan with 24 Ra1, or would you risk it
with 24 Rxb7 - ? Both lines heavily favour Black, yet only one line offers White even a
prayer to save the game.

24 Ra1?!
Passive defence places White firmly on track toward destruction. His only practical
chance to save the game lay in raw aggression.
Answer: 24 Rxb7! Ne6 25 Ne1! Rfb8 26 Rxe7 a2 27 Nc2 Rb2 28 Bxc6 Rab8 29 Be3
Rxc2 30 Ra7 Rb1 31 Be4 Rcb2 32 Ra8+ Bf8 33 Bc1 Rxc1 34 Rxc1 Nxc5 35 Bc2 and
White continues to hang on – just barely.
24 … a2 25 Be3 Rfd8 26 Rfc1 Bb2!
Black’s a2-pawn continues to throb painfully for White. Principle: The threat is
stronger than its execution. This is a case where we can take on a1, yet shouldn’t just yet,
since White has no way to relieve the threat.
27 Re1

Exercise (planning): Come up with a clear winning plan for Black.

27 … Ra3!
Answer: Step 1: Transfer the rook to a3.
28 Kf1 Na6!
Step 2: Play … Na6, after which there is no defence to … Nb4 and … Nc2.
29 Ke2 Nb4 0-1

The positions arising from the 7 Na3 line are similar to ones from the main lines of
Alekhine’s Defence after 1 e4 Nf6 2 e5 Nd5 3 d4 d6 4 Nf3 dxe5 5 Nxe5 c6. Later Black
often fianchettoes on the kingside with … g7-g6.
Chapter Five
White Delays Nc3

In this chapter we examine 3 Nf3 (or 3 d4, which often transposes). Now White gets a
free tempo with 3 Nc3, hitting our queen on d5. So why on earth would White hold back
on this logical option? The answer is that, by delaying Nc3, White gets the future option
of playing d2-d4 and c2-c4, when he or she gets a much bigger share of the centre,
compared to the 3 Nc3 lines. Be very careful with this chapter, mainly since the positions
tend to be more open than normal Scandinavian lines, which can throw the Scandi player

Game 30
Arvier 2007

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nf3

By not taking a free tempo with 3 Nc3, White is the hungry person at the buffet who
decides to only go for the salad, skipping the dessert and main course items entirely. As
mentioned above, White does plan to gain a tempo on the black queen, just not with the
b1-knight but with the c-pawn, with a future c2-c4 thrust.

Note: 3 d4 doesn’t make any difference, since we transpose after 3 … Nc6 4 Nf3 Bg4
5 Be2.

3 … Bg4
4 Be2
4 Nc3 is effectively met by 4 … Qe6+! 5 Qe2 Nc6 6 h3 Qxe2+ (if you are in an
adventurous mood, then go for 6 … Bxf3!? 7 Qxe6 fxe6 8 gxf3 g6 with a difficult ending,
which the comp calls as a slight edge for White) 7 Bxe2 Bf5 8 d3 0-0-0 and White has
nothing in this equal ending.
4 … Nc6!
We continue with our … Nc6, … 0-0-0, and … e7-e5 plan.

Warning: Against the 3 Nf3 lines, don’t go passive with the … c7-c6 structure. We
get squeezed after 4 … c6?! 5 0-0 Nf6 6 d4 e6 7 c4 Qd8 8 Nc3 Be7 9 Be3. White scores a
heavy 68.8% from this position, since our opponent owns space while we as Black remain
without counterplay.

5 d4 0-0-0 6 c4
Unlike we Hypermodern Scandi players, classical players are those who believe in a
strong central government. This is White’s main idea, to delay Nc3 and, instead, gain the
tempo with the c-pawn, seizing central space. But not to worry: White’s centre is as much
a liability as a strength. Instead, 6 Nc3 Qa5 transposes to lines we have already looked at
in the … Qa5 chapter of the book, where White’s queen is distinctly uncomfortable on d1,
facing Black’s rook on d8, with … e7-e5 coming soon.
6 … Qf5!
The comps show that f5 is the most effective square for our queen, as we will soon
7 Be3
The ultra-aggressive/unsound 7 d5? overextends for White: 7 … e6 8 0-0 exd5 9 Qa4
(9 cxd5 loses a pawn to 9 … Nf6 10 Nc3 Nxd5) 9 … d4 10 h3 Bh5 11 g4 Qe6! and Black
was up a pawn, with the far safer king, P.Hodges-C.Lakdawala, San Diego Rapidplay
7 … Bxf3!
This is the start of a tricky tactical sequence. Don’t worry, the comps worked it all out
for us, so all which is required of us is to do our homework and remember the lines.
8 Bxf3 Nxd4!

One gets the impression that the boorish knight isn’t exactly a paragon of tact. That
which began in a sophisticated fashion now grows increasingly primitive. I beseech calm.
GM Prie hasn’t gone completely mad and this isn’t the precipitous decision it appears to
be. The all-seeing comps show this to be the most effective way to destroy White’s centre,
with the help of some really unnatural comp-generated tactics!

Warning: With Black, we hold our own in this line, but now comes the bad news:
this is a completely forcing line and you need to absolutely memorize Black’s defensive
mechanisms, at least until move 19. So while White’s line fails to really test us
theoretically, it does indeed put a massive strain on our collective memory!

9 Bxd4
“Winning” Black’s queen with 9 Bg4? doesn’t cut it after 9 … Nc2+, when White has
no choice but to unwillingly play 10 Qxc2 Qxg4, getting a much worse version of the
game’s continuation, since White is down a tempo.
9 … Qe6+!
With this bizarre sequence Black regains the lost piece, with one pawn interest. Now
White gets compensation for this pawn, but if we know our analysis (to move 19!) we
stand at least even.

10 Be2
a) 10 Kf1?? (to my delight, I got this in a blitz game just a couple of weeks ago; this
attempt to hang on to the extra piece is disastrous for White) 10 … Qxc4+ 11 Be2 Qxd4
and White is down two pawns and lags in development.
b) 10 Qe2? is also pretty dumb, since White agrees to go into an ending a pawn down
for nothing after 10 … Qxe2+ 11 Kxe2 Rxd4.
10 … Qe4!
This is our (well, okay, not “our” since the comps found all these moves!) clever point:
White has no way to save his d4-bishop and we emerge a pawn up. But this isn’t the end
of the story; it’s only the beginning, since White gets a dangerous development lead,
which can easily spark into a winning attack, if we don’t know what we are doing. So let’s
study this one with great depth.
11 0-0 Qxd4 12 Qa4!
Of course White isn’t interested in a queen trade. With his last move D’Amore dodges
the swap, clears d1 for his rook, and offers b2 as a line-opening sacrifice.
12 … e6

Warning: Grabbing b2 is suicidal, since we fall way too far behind in development.

For example: 12 … Qxb2? 13 Qxa7! (threatening Qa8+, followed by a rook check on
d1) 13 … e6 14 Bf3! Qb4 15 Nc3! Bc5 (not 15 … Qxc3?? 16 Qxb7+ Kd7 17 Rfd1+ Bd6
18 Rxd6+! Kxd6 19 Rd1+ Ke7 20 Qxc7+ Kf6 21 Qxd8+ and Black can resign) 16 Qa8+
Kd7 17 Rfd1+ Bd6 18 Qxb7! Qxb7! (forced) 19 Bxb7 and White stands clearly better in
the ending.
13 Nc3
13 Rd1 Qxb2! (now we can take it, if we are okay with a draw, since this only leads to
a forced perpetual check; also playable is 13 … Qe5!? if we want to go for the full point)
14 Nc3 Qxc3 15 Bf3 c6 16 Bxc6! Bc5 17 Bxb7+ Kxb7 18 Rd7+ Rxd7 19 Qxd7+ Kb8 20
Qd8+ with perpetual check.
13 … Bd6 14 Nb5
14 Rfd1 Qe5 15 g3 Ne7 16 Bf3?! was P.Hodges-C.Lakdawala, San Diego Rapidplay
2017 (16 Qxa7 c6 is equal). Here Black should play 16 … Bc5 17 Ne4 Bd4 18 Rac1 h5!
19 b4 Kb8, when I don’t see full compensation for White’s pawn.
14 … Qe5!
This double attack on h2 and e2 ensures that we remain a pawn up (but under attack!).
15 Nxd6+ cxd6 16 Bf3 Kb8
So White finds himself under financial obligation since we cover a7 and are now up a
clean pawn. Are we winning? Well, not quite. If we examine the position by static
measures alone, then Black is in good shape, with a healthy extra pawn and a good
structure. Yet when we introduce the dynamic element the assessment begins to shift to the
middle. The comps say White’s development lead, superior minor piece and attacking
chances offer him full compensation. So not only do we need to memorize the position to
here (or maybe even a bit further), we also must understand the defensive ideas to survive
White’s coming wave. Of all the Scandi lines in the book, this one requires the most
precision and homework on our part.
17 Rfe1
After 17 b4 Ne7 18 c5, I played 18 … d5 in a blitz game and survived White’s attack
(the comp prefers the counterintuitive line-opening 18 … dxc5!?).
17 … Qc5 18 b4!
Here it comes.
18 … Qc7

Warning: Don’t touch that c-pawn! It loses more time and decisively opens lines for
White after 18 … Qxc4?? 19 Bxb7! and now if 19 … Kxb7? 20 Rac1 Qd4 21 Qc6+ Kb8
22 Qc7+ with mate in three moves.

19 Rac1
White can also plunge ahead with the immediate 19 c5 Ne7 (I prefer keeping the
structure fluid to 19 … d5 which is also playable) 20 Rec1 Nf5 21 cxd6? (correct was 21
c6 Rc8 22 b5 d5, when the comp calls it even, while I can tell you that I have won blitz
games routinely as Black from this position, since White’s attack has faded from its
former lustre) 21 … Qxd6 22 Qb5, J.Exposito-M.Munoz, Barcelona 2017. Here Black’s
king is safe and White no longer has any compensation for his missing pawn after 22 …
Rd7!, since 23 Rd1?! is met by 23 … Nd4 24 Qd3 e5 with a winning position for Black.
19 … Ne7 20 Re3
Contemplating a rook swing to a3.
20 … Qd7 21 Qd1?!
White’s queen should hang around the queenside with 21 Qa5 Nc6 22 Bxc6 Qxc6.
Even here, I don’t believe in White’s compensation.
21 … Rc8 22 c5 Rhd8
Black’s king is safe and GM Prie, a Scandinavian expert, can be very happy with the
outcome. White’s attack is non-existent and Black is pretty much up a pawn for not a
whole lot of compensation for White.
23 Rd3 Qc7
23 … d5! was better.
24 Qa4 dxc5 25 Rxd8 Rxd8 26 bxc5
White has got the open b-file, but it’s just not enough to bother Black’s king, since too
many pieces have been swapped off. However, after 26 Rxc5?! Qd7 27 Qc2 Qd2 28 Qb1
Nf5 White is busted.
26 … Nc6 27 Rb1 Rd4!

Principle: Counter in the centre when attacked on the wing.

28 Qc2 Rh4!?
Hey, the principle isn’t: Decentralize when attacked on the wing! This is a slight waste
of time, since White wants to make luft for his king anyway. Black was better off
consolidating with 28 … g6.
29 Bxc6
Old expectations of victory begin to give way to present concerns of survival. Every
swap hurts White. Black gets to swap knight for bishop anyway after 29 g3 Nd4.
29 … Qxc6 30 g3
He is better off with 30 h3! g6 31 Qd3.
30 … Rh5 31 Qd3 Kc8
Covering the d8-square.
32 Qa3 a6 33 Rc1 Rf5 34 Qc3 f6 35 Qe3 h5!
This is a reminder to White that he no longer has an initiative, nor a safe king.
36 h4 Kb8 37 Qd4 Rd5 38 Qe3 Ka7 39 Qa3 g5!

Every able-bodied citizen – even a lowly pawn – is conscripted in Black’s war effort.
Prie is up a pawn and now on the attack.
40 Qb4 Re5 41 hxg5 fxg5 42 Qd4 Rd5 43 Qe3 h4 44 g4
Now Black earned a connected passed h-pawn.
44 … Ka8 45 Qc3 e5 46 Qe3 Rd4 47 f3 Rf4
White is completely busted, since he is down a pawn, tied down to defence of f3, and
has an unsafe king.
48 Rc3 e4! 49 Rc4 Rxf3 50 Qxg5 Qd7
White’s king has no chance now.
51 Rc1 Qd4+ 52 Kh1 Qd3! 53 Qg8+ Ka7 54 Qb3 Rh3+ 55 Kg2 Rg3+ 56 Kh1 Qd2!
57 Qc2

Exercise (calculation): We must now activate our inner caveman and cavewoman.
Black to play and force mate.

Answer: 57 … Rh3+ 58 Kg1 Qe3+ 0-1
The conclusion is 59 Kg2 (59 Qf2 lasts longer but isn’t much of an improvement after
59 … Qxc1+) 59 … Qf3+ 60 Kg1 Rh1 mate.

We can’t wing it here. The line calls for high-resolution accuracy and a lot of homework.
The 3 Nf3 line leads to rather alien, un-Scandi positions which we must know deeply – in
the case of the variation in this game, to move 19 (no one ever said chess was an easy
game!). We first give up a piece, then get it back, plus a pawn, only to deal with White’s
dangerous development lead and attacking chances. So I urge you to continually study this
one as if your life depends upon it, because it does!

Game 31
San Diego Rapidplay 2015

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nf3

In this version White does play Nc3, yet holds his d-pawn back, just as in my game
against Ballard. After 3 Nc3 Qd6 4 Nf3 Nf6 5 Be2 Bg4 (Black can also set up with 5 …
a6 6 0-0 Nc6) 6 0-0 c6 7 h3 Bh5, White has 8 b4!

Tip: When you play … Bg4 and White hasn’t yet moved his or her d-pawn, always
be aware of this trick, which gains queenside space for White.

8 … a6 (8 … Qxb4? plays into White’s hands after 9 Rb1 Qc5 10 Rxb7) 9 a4 e6 10
Ba3 Qc7 11 Qc1 Bd6 12 b5 0-0 13 b6!? (the single benefit of this move is that Black must
now watch out for promotion sacrifices on c6 and a6 in any ending) 13 … Qe7 14 Bxd6
Qxd6 15 a5 Nbd7 16 d3 Bxf3! (played in order to create an imbalance against a lower-
rated player and also prevent his idea of playing Nd2 and Nc4) 17 Bxf3 and Black has
equalized, D.Soong-C.Lakdawala, San Diego Rapidplay 2017.
3 … Bg4 4 Be2 Nc6 5 0-0 0-0-0 6 d3

This is one of those rare times when your safety-first writer looks down on the
chickenish view. White’s idea is that he refuses to play d2-d4, thereby depriving Black of
a target. The downside is that when Black achieves … e7-e5, he will be the one with more
6 … e5 7 Nbd2!?
I have also faced 7 Nc3 Qd7 8 a3 f6 9 Be3 Nge7 10 b4 Nf5 11 Nd2 Bxe2 12 Qxe2?!
(12 Nxe2 is correct and even there, I slightly prefer Black) 12 … Ncd4 13 Qd1 Kb8 14
Re1 Qc6! 15 Ndb1?! (15 Nde4 was necessary) 15 … Bd6?! (a cowardly move; I
misassessed the line 15 … Nh4! 16 f3 Ndxf3+ 17 gxf3 Nxf3+ 18 Kf2 Nxe1 19 Kxe1 f5,
when Komodo says Black is clearly winning) 16 Bxd4 Nxd4 17 Ra2! f5 18 Ne2 Ne6 19
Ng3 Nf4 20 f3 g6 0-1, J.Ballard-C.Lakdawala, San Diego 2017. Here he flagged in a
pretty bad position. How do you lose on time on the 20th move, with a five-second time
delay on the clock!?
7 … f6
I prefer to reinforce e5 than go for the riskier space-gaining 7 … f5.
8 Nc4 Qd7

9 Ne3!?
He mutes his longing for counterplay with a safe move. GM Sevillano once tried to go
after my king with 9 a3!? (attempting to attack with b2-b4 next is in violation of the
principle: The side with less space should not launch an attack) 9 … Nge7 10 b4 Nd5 11
Bd2, as in E.Sevillano-C.Lakdawala, San Diego Rapidplay 2006. Here Black is very well
placed to deal with White’s aggression.
9 … Be6 10 c3
A newly weakened pawn has a way of attracting unwelcomed attention. He keeps my
pieces out of d4, at the serious cost of weakening d3.
10 … Nge7 11 Qa4?!
This is a waste of time, since White is vulnerable to queen swaps, which leave him in
an inferior ending due to his lack of space and slightly weak d3-pawn. He should play 11
11 … Kb8
Now … Nd4 tricks are in the air.
12 Re1
He should just admit that going to a4 with his queen was wrong and lose a tempo with
12 Qc2.

Exercise (combination alert): How can Black force a highly favourable ending?

12 … Nd4!
Answer: Zwischenzug. White doesn’t have time to take the knight since his queen
hangs. This move picks up the bishop pair and forces White into a miserably passive
ending. Shockingly, the comp prefers to attack with 12 … Ng6.
13 Qxd7 Nxe2+
The in-between move.
14 Rxe2 Bxd7
I want to re-route the bishop to either c6 or b5.
15 d4
This move does eliminate his weak d-pawn, yet also opens the game for Black’s
bishop pair.
15 … exd4 16 Nxd4 c5 17 Nb3 Ng6 18 Nf1
I expected 18 Rd2.
18 … Bb5 19 Re1 Bd6 20 Ng3 Rhe8 21 Be3 b6 22 Nf5 Bf8 23 f4?
Principle: Avoid fixing your pawns on the same colour as your remaining bishop. This
move, played to keep my knight out of e5, drastically weakens his light squares. He was
better off with a neutral choice like 23 Rad1.
23 … Bd3 24 Ng3 Nh4!
Seizing control over f5, while targeting g2.
25 Bd2 Bc4 26 Rxe8 Rxe8 27 Re1?
27 Kf2 is better, although White is still losing strategically.

The daydreaming rook walks into a lamppost. It’s a big mistake to believe in
something, merely because we want to believe it. My opponent made his move, shrugged
and offered a draw, as if a dead drawn result is a foregone conclusion.

Exercise (planning): White’s last move loses a pawn by force to a simple idea. What
would you play?

27 … Rxe1+
Answer: Step 1: Swap rooks.
28 Bxe1 Bd5
Black’s bishop and knight eat through White’s light squares like a 1950s sci-fi movie
alien’s death ray.
Step 2: Target g2, which can’t be defended. I have always excelled when confronted
with the super-easy-to-comprehend. Black wins a clean pawn and, in doing so,
dramatically weakens White on the light squares. The remainder is a relatively simple
technical win for Black.
29 Nh5 Nxg2 30 Bf2 Bf3 31 c4 Bxh5 32 Kxg2 Kc7 33 Nd2 Kd7 34 Bg3 Bg4 35 Kf2
Bf5 36 Nf1 Bd3!
Principle: Tie your opponent down to his pawn weaknesses. This move ties White
down to defence of c4 with a piece; he can’t afford b2-b3, since then his queenside pawns,
all fixed on light squares, would be sitting ducks.
37 Ne3 Ke6 38 Ke1 g6 39 Kd2
Okay, he freed his knight from babysitting c4, but this does nothing to alleviate his
despondency, since his happiness is as transitory as the butterfly who momentarily rests on
a daisy to catch its breath.
39 … Be4 40 Ng4 h5 41 Ne3 Bh6 42 Nd1
When we have been busted for a long time, our survival instinct has a way of growing
dangerously ambivalent. 42 h3, miserable as it looks, at least prevents Black’s coming

Exercise (combination alert): The bank is about to foreclose on White’s mortgage.

Black has a simple combination which wins a second pawn:

42 … h4!
Answer: Removal of the guard/double attack.
43 Bxh4
If all you have received is bad news, then a little more doesn’t feel so terrible. The h2-
pawn falls.
43 … Bxf4+ 0-1


6 d3 is too meek for White to produce an edge, since Black is the one who soon grabs
space with … e7-e5.
Chapter Six
2 … Nf6
The positions are about to undergo a seismic upheaval. Instead of recapturing on d5 with
our queen, in this version we play 2 … Nf6, which leads to positions completely different
from the 2 … Qxd5 universe. This line is essentially the gambit version of the
Scandinavian, since White is given the option of protecting the d5-pawn with c2-c4.

Game 32
Clare Benedict Cup, Copenhagen 1977

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Nf6

Note: The 2 … Nf6 Scandinavian lines are utterly different from the 2 … Qxd5 line.
In essence, this variation is a gambit, since White on his next move can play 3 c4,
hanging on to the d5-pawn. We look at the gambit versions later in the chapter.

3 d4
White’s main response, where he doesn’t try to hang on to the pawn but instead is
satisfied with greater central control. In this chapter we also cover:
a) 3 Nf3 can transpose to our game and has the great benefit of avoiding the Jadoul
Gambit (which we examine later). Then 3 … Nxd5 4 d4 g6 5 c4 Nb6 indeed transposes.
b) 3 Bb5+ – see Games 36 and 37.
c) 3 c4 – see Game 38.
d) 3 Nc3 Nxd5 4 Bc4 reaches a position that also arises from Alekhine’s Defence. In
Alekhine’s Defence: Move by Move, I advocated 4 … c6 5 Nf3 (5 Qf3 is well met by 5 …
e6 6 Nge2 Nd7 7 d4 N7f6 with an equal Caro-Kann-like position; we can easily later
develop our c8-bishop with a fianchetto) 5 … Bg4 6 h3 Bh5 7 d3 e6 and Black achieved
equality, L.Galego-A.Giri, European Cup, Eilat 2012.
e) 3 Bc4 Nxd5 4 Nf3 Nb6 5 Bb3 Nc6 6 0-0 Bf5 (don’t fall for 6 … Bg4?? 7 Bxf7+!
Kxf7 8 Ng5+, when Black is busted) 7 d4 e6 is equal.
f) 3 Be2 is a rather paranoid move, an attempt to prevent … Bg4 and the Jadoul
Gambit, which we look at later in the chapter. Then 3 … Nxd5 4 d4 g6 is likely to
transpose to the Janetschek-Larsen game; 4 … Bf5 is also played.

3 … Nxd5

Tip: It’s too late to revert to the … Qxd5 versions, so avoid:

a) 3 … Qxd5?!, which leads us to a passive version of the 3 Nf3 lines in the 2 … Qxd5
section of the book. The reason is that Black’s f6-knight is misplaced. If you recall, our
best set-up is an early … Nc6, … Bg4, and … 0-0-0. After 4 Nf3 Bg4 5 Be2 Nc6 6 c4
Qh5 7 Be3, Black got a clearly inferior version when juxtaposed with the 3 Nf3 lines we
looked at in Chapter Four.
b) 3 … Bg4!? leads to the Jadoul Gambit, which we examine later in the chapter.
4 c4
White logically gains space with a free kick on Black’s knight, similar to lines in
Alekhine’s Defence. Instead, 4 Nf3 can transpose to a position we look at later. After 4 …
g6 5 Be2 (5 c4 will transpose to our game) 5 … Bg7 6 0-0 0-0 7 Re1 Nc6 8 c3 (this is the
joyless kind of move that says: “I’m not interested in getting much of an advantage – I just
want to be safe.”) 8 … Bf5 9 Na3 a6 10 Nc4 b5 11 Ne3 Nxe3 12 Bxe3 Qd6! 13 g3 Rfe8
14 Bf4 e5, Black equalizes.
4 … Nb6 5 Nf3
White correctly retains control over e5. This is more accurate than 5 Nc3 e5! which we
look at in the next game.
5 … g6
Here 5 … Bg4 6 c5! N6d7! (6 … Nd5?! 7 Qb3! favours White) 7 Be2 e6 8 0-0 Be7 9
Nc3 0-0 is slightly in White’s favour due to the extra space.
6 Be2
Later we look at 6 c5! which I believe is White’s best try for an advantage.
6 … Bg7 7 0-0 0-0 8 Nc3 Nc6

Tip: Our goal in this line is to apply ever increasing pressure on d4. I think Larsen’s
move is more accurate than 8 … Bg4 9 h3 Bxf3 10 Bxf3 c6 11 c5 with space and the
bishop pair for White.

9 Be3
Now White’s best shot at an edge may lie in 9 d5! Ne5 10 Nxe5 Bxe5 11 Be3 e6 12
Bd4 Qf6 13 Bxe5 Qxe5 14 Re1 exd5 15 Bf3 Qd6 16 cxd5 Bf5. which seems only slightly
better for White, whose d-pawn cramps Black.
9 … Bg4
Adding further pressure to d4. Also playable is 9 … e5 10 d5 Ne7, where White only
looks a shade better.
10 d5
a) 10 h3?! is a clear waste of a tempo, and 10 … Bxf3 11 Bxf3 Nxc4 favours Black.
b) 10 c5 Nd5 11 h3 Bxf3 12 Bxf3 e6 13 Nxd5 exd5, when Black has equalized and,
indeed, scores well from this position.
c) 10 b3 (White reinforces c4 to be able to capture on f3 with the bishop, rather than
the g-pawn) 10 … Bxf3 11 Bxf3 Nxd4 12 Bxb7 Rb8 13 Be4 c5 and Black’s powerful d4-
outpost easily compensates for White’s bishop pair.
10 … Bxf3!

Tip: As mentioned in the previous chapter, in such structures it is often in our best
interests to trade our light-squared bishop for White’s f3-knight, since it’s our problem
piece, and we relieve a bit of our cramped situation with a soothing swap.

11 gxf3!

I know what you are thinking: any person who even considers such a move can’t be
sane. There are some players who view obstacles almost as entertainment. Believe it or
not, this wilful defacement of the structure is White’s most principled move, embracing an
absolutist’s path by refusing to compromise with 11 Bxf3 Ne5 12 Bxb6 axb6 13 Be2,
when Black stands at least equal.
11 … Na5!
Larsen’s knights rivet their attention to an attack on c4. 11 … Ne5? is a case of correct
idea/incorrect implementation. After 12 c5 Nc8 13 f4 Nd7 14 Rc1 White’s space and
activity of his bishop pair grows to alarming proportions.
12 c5?
This is clear overextension. Correct is 12 Bd4, which can be met by 12 … e5 13 Bc5
Naxc4! 14 Bxf8 Kxf8, when Black’s extra pawn and dark square control give him full
compensation for the exchange.
12 … Nbc4?
Larsen, normally the epitome of the uncompromising fighter, uncharacteristically
chickens out. He should take the plunge with 12 … Bxc3! (don’t treat the fianchettoed
dark-squared bishop as an adored only child; yes, the bishop is important for Black’s king
safety, but here White gave up way too much for the privilege) 13 bxc3 Nxd5 and White’s
all isolani crew and minus one pawn status ensure his inferiority.
13 Bf4! e6!

Tip: When we are bothered by defence of a weakness, there is only one sure-fire
method which spares us from future defensive tribulation: give it away in return for the

Larsen reverts to his true personality and correctly offers his c7-pawn to dismantle
White’s imposing centre. Otherwise Black chokes on his lack of space. After 13 …
Nxb2!? 14 Qc2 Nbc4 15 Rac1 White’s space, bishop pair and Black’s awkwardly
protected knights offer full compensation for the missing pawn.
14 dxe6 fxe6 15 Qxd8 Raxd8 16 Bxc7
White temporarily wins a pawn at the cost of losing the initiative – not such a great
16 … Rd2
The threat is … Bxc3 and … Rxe2.
17 Bxc4 Nxc4
The b2- and f3-pawns hang simultaneously and Larsen regains his investment with
18 Ne4 Rxb2

Black stands better since White’s structure is riddled with isolanis.

19 Rad1
19 Kg2?? protects f3 at the high cost of falling for the cheapo 19 … Ne3+, forking
king and rook.
19 … Be5!?
Larsen instinctively goes after White’s dark squares, rejecting the options 19 … Rxa2
and 19 … Rxf3.
20 Nd6
20 Rd7 was preferable.
20 … Nd2
20 … Rc2! ensures an edge.
Exercise (combination alert): We normally think of launching combinations from a
position of strength. Sometimes, as in this case, we have access to one when our position
is in danger. Black’s knight simultaneously threatens the f1-rook and f3-pawn. How did
White avoid his fate?

21 Rxd2!
Answer: Exchange sacrifice/attraction/knight fork.
Step 1: Sacrifice the exchange to lure Black’s rook into unfavourable geometry on d2.
Without this option White would be busted.
21 … Rxd2 22 Nc4
Step 2: White regains his material instantly with a knight fork on d2 and e5.
22 … Bxc7 23 Nxd2
White has yet to equalize in the ending since Black’s bishop is slightly superior to
White’s counterpart knight, and Black’s structure is also slightly more stable than White’s.
23 … Rf5
The rook targets c5, while tying White’s knight to defence of f3.
24 Rb1!
Principle: Counter-attack tends to be a better option than passive defence. Hence the
passive 24 Rc1? would be incorrect and loses a pawn to 24 … Bf4 25 Rc2 Bxd2 26 Rxd2
24 … Rg5+ 25 Kf1 Rxc5
25 … b6 is also a consideration.
26 Rxb7 Bb6
26 … Bxh2 27 Rxa7 is also a likely draw.
27 Ne4
Threat Nf6+.

27 … Rc7
White’s rook was too influential on the seventh rank and had to be eliminated.
28 Nf6+! Kf7
28 … Kg7?? walks into 29 Ne8+.
29 Rxc7+ Bxc7 30 Nxh7 Bxh2
The ending should be drawn for two reasons:
1. There are not many pawns remaining on the board.
2. Neither side owns a pawn majority.
31 Ng5+ Kf6 32 Ne4+ Ke5 33 Ke2
White achieves an immediate draw with the decentralizing 33 Kg2! Bf4 34 Kh3 Kd4
35 Kg4 Bh6 36 Ng5 and it’s a clear draw.
33 … Kd4 34 Ng5 e5 35 Ne4?!
After 35 Ne6+! Kd5 36 Nf8! g5 37 Kd3, Black is unable to make progress.
35 … Bf4 36 Nd6 Kc5
Black has better chances to win with 36 … a5.
37 Nc8 a5 38 Kd3 Bg5!

Black threatens the following:

1. The bishop encroaches on the knight’s escape trajectory.
2. The bishop threatens … Bh4 and … Bxf2.
3. Black’s king threatens a raid to a2, winning the pawn, followed by the push of his
own passed a-pawn.

Exercise (critical decision): White is faced with a difficult decision. Should his king
move to c3 or to e4? Only one way holds the draw.

39 Kc3?
Passive defence loses.
Answer: White missed 39 Ke4! (his wilting position is in dire need of good news, and
here it is; with this move White manages to keep his flag flying in the face of extreme
adversity) 39 … Bf4 40 Ne7 g5 41 Ng6 a4 42 Nxf4 exf4 43 Kd3! Kb4 44 Kc2 Ka3 45
Kb1 and despite Black’s dominant king position, the position remains a draw.
39 … Bh4!
Now f2 falls.
40 a4 Bxf2 41 Ne7 g5 42 Nf5 Bd4+ 43 Kb3 Bf2
Quicker is the plan of sacrificing the e-pawn to create a passed g-pawn with 43 … e4!
44 fxe4 g4 45 Nh4 g3 46 Ng2 Be5 47 Ne1 Kd4 e4 and White won’t save the game.
44 Kc3 Be1+! 45 Kb3 Bh4
Black wins more easily with 45 … Bd2! 46 Kc2 Bf4 47 Kb3 e4!.
46 Kc3 Bf2 47 Kd3 Kb4 48 Nd6 Bc5 49 Nf7 e4+!

This move forces White’s king to reallocate already scarce resources to a non-critical
sector. Either White’s king is lured away from the queenside, or he fatally creates a passed
g-pawn for Black.
50 Kxe4
After 50 fxe4 g4 51 Ne5 g3 the g-pawn marches to g1, costing White his knight.
50 … Kxa4 51 Nxg5
Material is even, yet White is dead lost since his knight is unable to sacrifice itself for
Black’s a-pawn.
51 … Kb3 52 Ne6 Bf2!
It’s crucial for Black to control d4. It wasn’t too late to blow it with 52 … Be7?? 53
Kd3 a4 54 Nd4+! Kb2 55 Nb5! and White holds the draw.
53 f4
You may have noticed a geological absence in White’s position: his knight has no way
to sacrifice itself for Black’s lone pawn, which allows it to promote. 53 Nd4+ is too slow.
53 … Bxd4 54 Kxd4 a4 and Black wins the promotion race.
53 … a4 54 f5 a3 55 f6 Bh4!
55 … a2?? 56 f7 is drawn.
56 f7 Be7 0-1
Oh, no you don’t!

The 2 … Nf6 line is first of all a gambit, if White plays 3 c4 or 3 Bb5+. Secondly, the
position we get in the 3 d4 lines resembles an Alekhine’s Defence more than a 2 … Qxd5

Game 33
Cappelle-la-Grande 1995

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Nf6 3 d4 Nxd5 4 c4 Nb6 5 Nc3?!

This is a common (I have seen White play into this over and over at club level) but
inaccurate move order. Why inaccurate? Because it allows Black a promising freeing
pawn sacrifice on the next move.
5 … e5!
Just when White thought he had a stable space edge, Black offers a pawn to free his
position and earn a development lead. Normally, gambits with the black pieces have a
nasty way of harming those who employ them, just as easily as the target it was intended
to incapacitate. This entire chapter seems to be a rare exception to this rule!

Tip: Burn this freeing sacrifice into your memory. We can only play it when White
substitutes 5 Nc3 for the correct 5 Nf3. Black gets full compensation if accepted, and full
equality if declined.

6 dxe5!?
The two sides’ agendas begin to sharply diverge. White tries to hang on to what is his,
while Black presses with an endgame development lead. Now I’m being kind with my
“!?” (interesting move) assessment, which I secretly believe to be in actuality “?!”
(dubious) instead. In my opinion White’s most principled move, which takes up the
challenge and accepts the sacrificed pawn, is also his most risky/semi-dubious option.
Black also equalizes with every method of declining:
a) 6 d5 Bb4 (playing the bishop to c5, taking aim at f2, is also a solid option) 7 Qb3
(White covers against structural damage with … Bxc3+, while gaining a tempo) 7 … Qe7
8 a3 Bc5! (we play the bishop to c5 after all, but only after making White waste time with
Qb3 and a2-a3) 9 Ne4 Bd4 10 Nf3 N8d7 and Black stands no worse.
b) 6 Nf3 Bg4! (we offer the e5-pawn for a second time) 7 Be2 Bxf3 8 Bxf3 exd4! 9 0-
0 (White’s main move) 9 … dxc3 10 Re1+ Be7 11 Bg5 Qxd1 12 Raxd1 f6 13 Bh5+ g6! 14
Bxf6, M.Velcheva-M.Muzychuk, Zlatibor 2007. Black stands slightly better after 14 …
Nc6! 15 Bxh8 c2 16 Rc1 gxh5, when the two minor pieces outweigh White’s rook.
c) 6 Qe2 (this queen move counter-attacks e5) 6 … Be7!? (we continue to offer the
pawn; if you want to play safe, then go for 6 … Qxd4 7 Nf3 Qg4! 8 Qxe5+ Qe6 with
equality) 7 dxe5 Nc6 and Black’s development lead compensates for White’s extra pawn.
6 … Qxd1+ 7 Nxd1
White seriously lags in development. 7 Kxd1?! is worse, since White’s king may later
get batted around in the centre.
7 … Nc6

8 Nf3
The trouble with this is that White’s knight will be pinned next move and isn’t such a
great defender of e5. Others:
a) 8 f4 is White’s greediest and most principled move, made with the thought: if I am
to suffer, then at least let me be paid for it. This cements White’s pawn-up status, at the
cost of making a non-developing move, when already lagging. Play can continue 8 … Be6
9 Ne3 Bc5 (threatening to regain the lost pawn with … Bxe4 and then chopping c4) 10 b3
0-0-0 11 Nf3 and Black can generate promising compensation for the pawn after 11 …
Rhe8, intending to pry open the centre with … f7-f6 next.
b) 8 Bf4?! Be6 and now 9 b3 a5!, intending to play to a4, leaves White dangerously
behind in development.
8 … Bg4 9 Be2
Just in case you are thinking that it’s too risky to sacrifice a pawn in the ending, be
aware that White scores a miserable 19.7% in my database at this point, based on 32
9 … 0-0-0 10 Bg5 Re8 11 Ne3 Bxf3
Black regains his sacrificed pawn, while retaining the initiative and development lead.
12 gxf3
He doesn’t want to lose any more time. After 12 Bxf3 Nxe5 13 Be2, Black can pick up
the c4-pawn due to the pin on the e-file.
12 … Nxe5
Also to be considered is 12 … Bb4+, depriving White of castling.
13 0-0-0 Bc5
Threatening to swap on e3 and then pick off c4.
14 b3 h6 15 Bf4 Nbd7

16 Bxe5?!
This just hands over the bishop pair and control over the dark squares, without
compensating returns. White stands only slightly worse after 16 Bg3.
16 … Nxe5 17 f4 Ng6 18 Bg4+
The idea is to drive the black king to b8 and then invade with a rook on the seventh
18 … Kb8 19 f5 Nf4 20 Rd7 Rhf8 21 f6?
This is the same as training a bunny to attack any potential intruders on your property.
When we are in trouble we fall sway to the allure of the comforting darkness of
complications, even when they are unfavourable for our side. White attempts to inflict
some structural damage upon Black’s position with his crippled forward f-pawn, but it
actually does more harm than good to his own position. I think he was better off leaving it
be and continuing with 21 Rhd1.
21 … gxf6?
Why agree to the opponent’s intent? Instead, 21 … g6! gives Black a winning position
after 22 Rhd1 h5 23 Bf3 Kc8 (threatening … Bd6, cutting off the d7-rook) 24 R7d2 Bxe3
25 fxe3 Rxe3 and White is down a pawn, with the f6-pawn to fall soon too.
22 Rhd1 a6 23 Nd5!
This well-thought-out pawn sacrifice increases White’s chances to hold the draw based
upon the principle: In endings, opposite-coloured bishops favour the side with fewer
23 … Nxd5 24 R1xd5 Bxf2 25 Bh5
Targeting f7.
25 … Bg1 26 h3 Re3 27 Rd3 Rxd3 28 Rxd3 f5 29 Rd7 Be3+ 30 Kc2 f4 31 Rxf7

So White managed to reduce the deficit to just one pawn. The trouble is that Black’s
rook will infiltrate after his next move.
31 … Rd8 32 Rf6 Rd2+ 33 Kc3 Rh2 34 Bg4 h5 35 Bxh5 Rxh3 36 Rf5 Bc5+ 37 Kc2
Rh2+ 38 Kc3 Be3 39 a3
White has excellent chances to hold the draw.
39 … Ra2 40 a4
White unnecessarily fixes all his remaining pawns on the same colour of his remaining
bishop. He can actually ignore the “threat” with 40 Bf3!, when Black must avoid 40 …
Rxa3? (correct is 40 … Bc1! 41 a4 Rf2, when Black’s win is less likely than White’s
draw) 41 Kb2, trapping the rook and forcing 41 … Bc1+ 42 Kxc1 Rxb3 43 Rxf4, when it
is Black who is fighting for the draw.
40 … Bd2+
A waste of time. He should play 40 … c6.
41 Kd3 Be3 42 Rf7 Rd2+ 43 Kc3 Rf2 44 Bg6 Bc5?!
Correct is 44 … a5!, fixing White’s pawns where they stand.
45 b4! Be3
45 … Rf3+ 46 Bd3 Bxb4+ 47 Kxb4 Rxd3 48 Rxf4 b6 49 a5 is a drawn rook and pawn
46 c5 a5

Exercise (planning): Come up with a clear plan for White to force a draw.

47 Kc4?
Answer: White missed 47 Rf8+! Ka7 48 Rf7!, which holds the draw. If 48 … c6, then
49 b5! (threatening to force mate with b5-b6+, as well as simply b5xc6) 49 … Kb8 50
Rf8+ Kc7 51 Rf7+ Kb8 52 Rf8+ is perpetual check.
47 … axb4
Now White’s uncared-for isolanis give one the impression of soot-covered Dickensian
street urchins, desperately seeking food and shelter. Black has serious chances to win.
48 Kxb4 Rd2 49 Rf5 Ka7 50 Bf7 Rc2 51 Bg8 Rc1 52 Bf7 c6 53 Bg8 Bd2+ 54 Kb3
The king’s help may later be needed on a5.
55 Kb2
White moves his king away from his c5-pawn when he should keep it as near as
possible. The trouble is that the more natural 55 Be6 also loses to 55 … Ka5! 56 Rf7 Rc3+
57 Kb2 Rxc5 58 Rxb7 Kxa4. Black is up two pawns and should convert without too much
55 … Be3
The c5 point falls and it’s just a matter of time before Black converts.
56 Kb3 Ka5!
Black wants to win all of White’s pawns. His move is even stronger than the
immediate 56 … Rxc5.
57 Rf7 Rb1+ 58 Kc3
58 Kc4 Kxa4 wins.
58 … Kxa4 59 Bh7 Rb3+ 60 Kc4 Rb4+ 61 Kc3 Bd4+ 0-1

5 … e5! is a complete response to 5 Nc3?!. We get full compensation for the sacrificed
pawn if White accepts, and equalize comfortably when declined.

Game 34
Voronezh 2007

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Nf6 3 Nf3

This move order usually transposes to 3 d4 Nxd5 lines.
3 … Nxd5

Note: As mentioned before in the chapter, don’t try to revert to the 2 … Qxd5 lines
with 3 … Qxd5?! since we get an inferior version with our knight already on f6; i.e. 4 d4
Bg4 5 Be2 Nc6 6 c4 Qf5 7 Be3 0-0-0 8 0-0 is a better version for White than those in
Chapter Four, since Black can’t easily add pressure to d4.

4 d4 g6 5 c4
White can also play more conservatively by holding back on c2-c4, but I don’t believe
a noticeable advantage can be earned by playing this safely. After 5 Be2 Bg7 6 0-0 0-0 7
Re1 Nc6 8 c3 Bf5 9 Na3 a6 10 Nc4 b5 11 Nce5 Nxe5 12 Nxe5 Qd6, the advance … c7-c5
is in the air and Black looks fine, R.Tischbierek-J.Palkovi, German League 1995.
5 … Nb6

Note: Even though we began the game with 3 Nf3, rather than 3 d4, we transposed to

6 c5!
With this move White’s c-pawn comes charging, pounding chest, and bellowing like
Tarzan. By pushing to c5, White cramps Black further, at the cost of handing the knight
the d5-square. I feel like White must risk this move to gain an edge.
6 … Nd5 7 Qb3
The usual move order is 7 Bc4 Bg7 8 Qb3. After 7 Nc3 Bg7 8 Bc4 c6 9 0-0 0-0 10
Re1 Bg4 11 Bg5! (11 Qb3 Bxf3 12 Qxb7 Nd7 13 gxf3 Bxd4 works out okay for Black) 11
… Nf6, White only looks slightly better.
7 … Bg7 8 Bc4
Now we see White’s intention, which was to hand Black use of d5 and then promptly
fight for that square.
8 … c6
More logical than 8 … e6 which hems in Black’s light-squared bishop and also
weakens the kingside dark squares.
9 Nc3
It appears as if Black is in trouble. After all, … e7-e6?! is strategically undesirable, we
can’t swap on c3 since f7 hangs, and Black’s bishop is unable to play to e6 since then b7
hangs. So what are we to do?
9 … 0-0!

Tip: Our answer is to sacrifice a pawn to enhance our development.

10 0-0
10 Nxd5!? is quite risky for White, who seriously lags in development after 10 …
cxd5 11 Bxd5 Nc6 12 Bxc6 (this concession is forced, as 12 Be3? Na5! disconnects
White’s queen from her d5-bishop: after 13 Qa4 Qxd5 14 Qxa5 Bg4, White is busted) 12
… bxc6 13 0-0 Be6 For the pawn, Black gets the bishop pair and unchallenged control
over the light squares, while White has a backward d4-pawn which may be vulnerable
later on.
10 … Nxc3
This move is now possible since f7 is covered.
11 bxc3 b5!
We hand White the unpleasant choice of reducing his space advantage or making the
d3-bishop back up, with tempo.
12 cxb6
This is White’s main line, which hands Black full equality since it swaps away a the c-
pawn for Black’s a-pawn, while reducing White’s space advantage. No better is 12 Bd3
Be6 13 Qc2 a5 14 Re1 Bd5, where Black threatens to undermine on f3 as well as with a
future … b5-b4 and looks fine.
12 … axb6 13 Ng5!?
This move may appear amateurish, yet the ideas behind it aren’t:
1. White forces Black into … e7-e6, which hems in our light-squared bishop.
2. If Black later kicks the knight away, it moves to e4, which eyes d6 and Black’s …
c6-c5 pawn break.
13 Re1 can be met by 13 … b5 14 Bf1 Bg4 15 Ne5 Be6 with a good position for
13 … e6 14 Re1 Ra5

Note: Normally rooks are ineffective when lifted into a crowded middlegame. This
position feels like an exception, since White lacks an effective way to punish the
indiscretion with piece attacks on the rook. 14 … h6 15 Ne4 Ba6 is also fine for Black.

15 Nf3
It seems odd to play to g5 unprovoked and then, unprovoked, return to f3. However,
15 Ne4 Qc7 (preventing Bf4) 16 a4 Ba6! looks fine for Black.
15 … Ba6!

Principle: Exchanges benefit the cramped side.

16 Bxa6 Rxa6 17 Ne5 Re8
Also playable is 17 … Qc7 18 Bf4 Qb7 19 Qb4 c5! (a temporary freeing sacrifice) 20
dxc5 Nc6 21 Nxc6 (21 Qe4 bxc5 is also fine for Black) 21 … Qxc6 22 cxb6 Rxb6, when
Black regains the lost pawn with an edge.
18 Bb2
White wants to play c3-c4 and therefore supports d4 first. 18 Bf4 looks more natural.
18 … Qc7 19 c4 Nd7 20 Nd3
Retreating an already centralized piece, but he probably didn’t want to split his
structure after a line like 20 h3 Nxe5 21 dxe5 Rea8.
20 … Rb8 21 Nb4 Raa8 22 d5
After this liquidating move the natural result of the game should be a draw.
22 … Nc5 23 Qc2 cxd5 24 Bxg7 Kxg7 25 cxd5 Rd8 26 Qb2+ Kg8 27 Rad1 Rd7
27 … Na4 28 Qb3 Nc3 29 Rd3 (29 Rc1?? walks into the overload/fork 29 … Ne2+)
29 … Nxd5 should be drawn.
28 Nc6?!
In situations of relative stasis, a winner and loser of the battle remains unforeseen,
unless one side decides to force the issue with a radical alteration. It isn’t so much what
has happened to White’s position, as what is about to happen. This move allows Black a
tactic. White may even stand a shade better after 28 h4!.
28 … Ne4!

A strange coincidence is sometimes not a coincidence at all. Oh, the happy accident of
serendipitous geometry. The success of such an attempt often hinges upon its shock value.
Black stands clearly better after this odd move. White probably expected 28 … exd5? 29
Ne5! Rdd8 30 Ng4!, which leaves Black in deep trouble.
29 Nb4?
a) 29 Rxe4? Qxc6! exploits White’s weak back rank and favours Black.
b) 29 f3 is probably White’s best shot to draw. After 29 … Rxd5 30 Rxd5 exd5 31 Qc1
Ra4 32 fxe4 Rc4 33 Qa1 Qxc6 34 exd5 Qc5+ 35 Kh1 Qd4, White stands slightly worse
and is fighting for the draw.
29 … Qc3!
This move prods White to fret over his d-pawn.
30 Qxc3
Better was 30 Re2 Ra4 31 Rc1 Qxb2 32 Rxb2 exd5 33 Rc6, when White still has
chances to save the game.
30 … Nxc3 31 Rd2 Ra4 32 Nc6
32 dxe6?? fails to 32 … Rxd2 33 e7 Ne2+ 34 Kf1 Ra8 35 Rxe2 Rxe2 36 Kxe2 f5 and
Black consolidates.
32 … Nxd5
Black has won a clean pawn, with the superior minor piece and a weak white a-pawn.
33 g3 Rc7 34 Ne5 Rca7
Targeting a2.
35 Ree2 Nc3 36 Rd8+ Kg7 37 Rc2 Nd5 38 Rcc8?
Our opponent can issue a command or a request, but this move feels like a little of
both. This endgame idea is unsound, and White’s strained piece activity has that pseudo-
cheerfulness in that person we know, who is obviously unhappy but pretends everything is
38 Rd7 was forced.
38 … Kf6
38 … Rxa2 is also playable. Black undoubtedly feared 39 Ng4, but this is easily met
by 39 … Ne7, covering the mate on g8.
39 f4 Rxa2
Not only does Black rob his opponent blind, he also threatens a mating net himself
with … Rb2 and … Ra1+.
40 Ng4+ Kf5 41 Nh6+
White’s would-be attackers keep coming at Black’s completely safe king, since
forward is the only direction they know.
41 … Ke4 0-1
Black’s king is anything but the harried fox with a pack of hunting dogs chasing him
down. In fact, he is a potent attacker and it is White’s king who is all alone.

The 3 Nf3 move order shouldn’t confuse us, since it usually transposes to 3 d4 Nxd5 lines.

Game 35
Zlatibor 2007

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Nf6 3 d4 Bg4!?

This is the risky but potentially rewarding Jadoul (or Portuguese) Gambit. Once we
commit to such a precipitously life-altering choice, the matter is closed and we should
refuse to explore our conscience on the decision. Anyone who essays this gambit is clearly
not adhering to the live-and-let-live lifestyle!
4 f3!
White’s best chance at an advantage is to enter Black’s lair and accept the gambit. The
one practical problem White faces with such a decision is that the odds are about 10-to-1
on that Black knows the lines better, since Jadoul Gambit players get this position all the
time as Black, whereas White gets it about once every two years in tournament play!
a) I remember reading once that Leko said White should decline the gambit with 4 Be2
and just be satisfied with a mild space edge. I disagree with this assessment and feel that
Black equalizes at the end of the variation 4 … Bxe2 5 Qxe2 Qxd5 (in this case it’s more
logical for Black to recapture with the queen, since we reach a 2 … Qxd5-like position
where Black has benefited from the swap of a pair of pieces) 6 Nf3 e6 7 0-0 Nc6 8 Nc3
Qf5 9 Be3 0-0-0 and Black has reached a favourable version of a 2 … Qxd5 line and
b) 4 Nf3 Qxd5 5 Be2 Nc6 6 c4 Qf5 7 Be3 e5! also equalizes, as 8 d5 Nb4 9 Na3 Bxf3!
forces White to recapture with the g-pawn, since d3 must be covered: 10 gxf3 (10 Bxf3?
Nd3+ 11 Kf1 e4 favours Black) 10 … 0-0-0. Here the comp calls it even, while I prefer
Black’s position.
c) 4 Bb5+ is a delayed form of acceptance of Black’s gambit. After 4 … Nbd7 5 f3
Bf5 6 c4 a6 7 Bxd7+ (7 Ba4 is met by 7 … b5! 8 cxb5 Nxd5 9 bxa6 Rxa6 with a
development lead and open files on the queenside for Black’s missing pawn) 7 … Qxd7 8
Ne2 e6 9 dxe6 Qxe6 offers Black a development lead and the bishop pair for the pawn.
4 … Bf5 5 c4
White clings to the pirate’s booty on d5. Instead:
a) 5 Bb5+ Nbd7 6 c4 a6 transposes to line ‘c’ above.
b) I’m not so sure that 5 g4!? constitutes a “free” tempo since White’s move doesn’t
count as development and may actually later contribute to overextension. After 5 … Bg6 6
c4 e6! (Black must break up White’s gigantic central mass) 7 Nc3! exd5 8 g5 Nfd7 9
Nxd5 Nc6, White remains a pawn up, yet also lags in development and owns a position
with an overextended feel. The greedy comp prefers White, while most humans would be
okay taking on Black.
5 … e6
Nothing ventured …

Warning: If you play this gambit, then don’t delay on the dismantling of White’s
imposing centre.

6 dxe6 Nc6!

Black declares this to be a place without rules, and where money is spent lavishly on the war effort.

Tip: Our mantra with the Jadoul Gambit is: Development over material. When we
attack furiously, without worrying about material or structural cost, the preservation of our
own life almost feels like a redundant afterthought. Black has three pieces out, while
White has yet to develop a single piece.

7 Be3
A noticeable undercurrent of unease runs through White’s position.
Dangerous is 7 exf7+?! (greed isn’t generally regarded as a virtue; White scores a
miserable 29% in my database from this position) 7 … Kxf7 (Black’s king clears the path
for a future rook check on e8, making White’s position look really scary). White’s main
line move here is actually a blunder. Most of the games in the database continue 8 Be3?
(in such a position a single mistake will be your last, with no reset button to push; correct
is 8 Ne2 Nb4 9 Ng3! with insane complications) 8 … Bb4+ 9 Nc3 Re8 10 Kf2 Rxe3! 11
Kxe3 (in a tournament at the San Diego Chess Club I witnessed my buddy GM Darwin
Laylo dismantle his opponent from the Black side of this position) 11 … Bc2! 12 Qd2 (or
12 Qxc2 Qxd4+ 13 Ke2 Bxc3 14 bxc3 Re8+ and White gets massacred) 12 … Ng4+! 13
fxg4 Qg5+ 14 Ke2 Re8+ and White must resign. This shows the terrible fate for White if
he or she doesn’t know what he or she is doing against Jadoul’s Gambit.
7 … Qe7
Black can also first give check on b7 and then bring the queen out. One example: 7 …
Bb4+ 8 Nc3 Qe7 9 Bd3 (9 d5!? 0-0-0 offers Black loads of compensation) 9 … Bxd3 10
Qxd3 0-0-0 11 0-0-0 Ne5! 12 Qe2 Bxc3 13 bxc3 Qa3+ and Black achieves strong
attacking compensation for the missing material, R.Nolte-D.Laylo, Philippines
Championship, Manila 2008.
8 Nc3 0-0-0!
Of course. Did you think we would bother to capture on e6? (If so, please refer to our
development over material mantra above.)
9 Kf2!?
The lesson we all learned from the dumbest of the Three Little Pigs is that it isn’t wise
to build your house from straw. White’s king isn’t all that safe on the queenside and
instead goes for the safer kingside, at the cost of gumming up her development. White
may have been better off going for a more normal set-up with 9 Qd2 fxe6 10 0-0-0 Qb4,
when both … Na5 and … Ne5 are in the air and Black gets full compensation for the
9 … Qb4
9 … fxe6 also scores well for Black.
10 Nge2
White’s main move. The comp suggests the unplayed idea 10 Na4!?, which can be met
by 10 … Nxd4! 11 Bxd4 Rxd4! 12 Qxd4 Qxa4 with a wicked attack and dark square
power for the exchange.
10 … Qxc4!
A new move in the position which looks like a slight improvement over the also
promising 10 … fxe6.
11 exf7 Qxf7
White’s king is vulnerable to future … Ng4+ tricks.
12 Kg1
I don’t know about you, but I already prefer Black, whose massive development lead
and piece activity more than make up for White’s not-so-impressive extra pawn.
12 … Bc5
Adding more heat to d4.
13 Qa4?
Clarity tends to be the first casualty of war. This natural move walks into a cleverly
implanted booby trap. White should try 13 Na4 to reduce pressure on d4, though I still
prefer Black after 13 … Bd6.
13 … Qe7! 14 Bf2

Exercise (combination alert): Black has access to a clever tactical sequence where
she regains her lost material while retaining the initiative. What should she play here?

14 … Nxd4!
Answer: Removal of the guard/mating net.
Step 1: Sacrifice the knight on d4.
15 Nxd4 Rxd4!
Step 2: Offer a full rook, which can’t be accepted.
16 Qb5?!
White reels from the shot and places her queen on the wrong square. Others:
a) 16 Bxd4?? Qe3+! (this stunning queen sacrifice reveals why Black’s rook can’t be
taken) 17 Bxe3 Bxe3 mate, exploits the white king’s vulnerability in his g1-nook.
b) 16 Qa5! is still lost for White but better than the move played in the game.
16 … Bd7! 17 Qe2 Qd6
Of course Black isn’t about to swap queens.
18 Rd1 Rxd1
More accurate is 18 … Re8! 19 Qc2 Rxd1 20 Nxd1 Bxf2+ 21 Nxf2 Re1, when White
is paralysed.
19 Nxd1
Forced. 19 Qxd1?? is met by the crushing 19 … Ng4! 20 fxg4 Rf8! and White’s game
19 … Re8 20 Bxc5 Qxc5+ 21 Qf2 Qc1

White’s position is a dystopia of undevelopment.

22 Nc3 Bc6?!
Black should add heat to the f1 pin with 22 … Be6! 23 h4 Bc4, threatening … Re1,
with decisive pressure.
23 h4
Now is not the time for the queen to go pawn grabbing: 23 Qxa7?? Qxb2 24 Qc5 Re1
25 h3 Rc1 26 Qf8+ Ne8 27 Ne4 Rxf1+! 28 Kxf1 Qc1+ pops the rook in the corner.
23 … Qf4?!
There was no rational reason to give up a7. Black’s almost spiritual disdain for all
things material goes too far. She is winning if she simply secures the a-pawn with 23 …
24 Qxa7!
When there is no way to improve your position, then grab material!
24 … b6 25 Qa6+ Bb7 26 Qc4 Qe3+ 27 Kh2 Qe5+ 28 Kg1 Bxf3!?

Black’s wishes fail to coincide with her position’s requirements. Just because we can
get away with something doesn’t mean we should. Sometimes when we spot a
combination, we should still reject it, since in its commission we actually improve the
opponent’s position, as in this case. Black may have been better off playing 28 … Kb8.
29 Rh3!
Suddenly, White is able to develop her rook. Not 29 gxf3?? Qg3+ 30 Bg2 Re1+ and
29 … Bb7 30 Be2?!
Inaccurate. Black only has an edge after 30 Rd3.
30 … Rd8
Black can pick up a pawn with 30 … Nd5! 31 Nxd5 Bxd5 32 Qd3 Bxa2.
31 Rd3 Rxd3 32 Qxd3 Qf4! 33 Bf3?!
White generates more play with 33 Nb5 Qxh4 34 Qc3.
33 … Bxf3 34 Qxf3 Qxh4 35 g3
A queen check on a8 accomplishes nothing.
35 … Qd4+ 36 Kf1 Kb8 37 Qf2!?
She tries her luck in a pawn down knight ending. I would have kept queens on the
37 … Qxf2+ 38 Kxf2 c6 39 a4 Kc7 40 b4?
White hopes to keep Black worried about the possibility of an outside passed pawn
with a future a4-a5. The problem is that b4 itself becomes a target after Black’s next move.
40 … Nd5

41 Ne4
It’s hopeless to give up a second pawn. Also lost is 41 Na2 Kd6 42 a5 b5! 43 Ke2 Nc7
44 Nc1 c5.
41 … Nxb4 42 Ng5
With dual threats on h7 and e6. The problem is it’s just too slow.
42 … Nd3+ 43 Ke3 Nc5 44 a5
44 Nxh7 Nxa4 45 Ng5 Kd6 is also completely lost for White.
44 … bxa5 45 Kd4 Kd6! 46 Nf7+ Ke6 47 Nd8+ Kd7 48 Nf7 Ne6+ 49 Kc4 Kc7 50
Ne5 Ng5 51 Nd3 Ne4 52 g4 Nf6 53 Nc5 Nxg4 54 Ne6+ Kd6 55 Nxg7 Ke5 56 Nh5 Nf6

I am the kind of player who normally frowns on a gambit from move-down Black. In this
case I make an exception and tell you that the Jadoul Gambit appears sound and is actually
tempting me to try out the 2 … Nf6 Scandinavian lines, since I would feel terribly
uncomfortable defending White’s side. It almost stretches credulity that starting the game
a move down, we can sacrifice one or more pawns and get away with it, yet this seems to
be the case here in this anomalous line, since White is so far behind developmentally.

Game 36
Las Palmas Interzonal 1982

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Nf6 3 Bb5+

In this variation White won’t go so far as to play an immediate c2-c4, but instead
hopes to disrupt Black’s attempts to regain the d5-pawn. Don’t worry though, we do get
the pawn back eventually, or if White does manage to hang on to it, we get compensation.
3 … Bd7
Black’s main line is to oppose with our bishop, rather than the b8-knight. Also
playable is 3 … Nbd7 and if 4 c4 a6 5 Ba4 b5! 6 cxb5 Nxd5 7 Nc3 N5b6 8 Bc2 axb5 9
Nxb5 Ba6 10 Nc3 e5, Black gets reasonable compensation for the pawn. In this version
though, I slightly prefer White after 11 Nge2.
4 Bc4

Note: This is White’s main intent: to hang on to the extra d5-pawn with pieces alone
and without the help of a weakening c2-c4 push. My advice is to be patient. Eventually we
either regain the sacrificed pawn, or we get full compensation.

4 … Bg4!
As in the Jadoul Gambit, we harass White with an early … Bg4 to provoke a
weakening f2-f3.
5 f3
White is pretty much forced into this concession, which hampers development and
weakens central dark squares, or else hand Black easy equality after 5 Nf3 Nxd5.
5 … Bf5 6 Nc3
White continues to hold on to d5.
6 … Nbd7
We plan to pile up on d5 with … Nb6 next.
7 Nge2
White plays it safe with a developing move, which is known today to allow Black full
equality. In the next game we look at the riskier 7 g4!?.
7 … Nb6 8 Bb5+
Black stands no worse after 8 Bb3 Nbxd5.
8 … Bd7 9 Bxd7+ Qxd7
White’s “extra” d5-pawn will be extra no more, since it’s about to fall.
10 d4
10 0-0 Nbxd5 11 d3 is way too mild to threaten Black. We can even spice up the game
a bit with the enterprising 11 … 0-0-0!?.
10 … Nbxd5 11 Nxd5 Nxd5 12 0-0 e6
I’m surprised that Larsen, who loved imbalances, didn’t play the slightly riskier 12 …
13 c4 Ne7!
Hidden intent can be read into an outwardly bland move. Larsen has his eye on the d4-
pawn and intends to apply pressure to it with a coming … Nf5 and either … Rd8 or
queenside castling. I like Larsen’s enterprising choice over the mundane and equal 13 …
14 Be3 Nf5
Another possibility is to set up with 14 … Rd8 15 Qb3 c6 16 Rad1 Nf5 17 Bf2 Bd6.
15 Bf2 Be7 16 Qc2
Clearing d1 for a rook.
16 … c6 17 Rad1 0-0 18 Rd3 b5!?

As usual, Larsen is the first to start trouble. The idea is to seize control over the d5-
square. 18 … Rfd8 is safe and equal.
19 cxb5
Maybe White should consider 19 b3.
19 … cxb5 20 d5
Bouaziz wants to liquidate and secure a draw against his higher-rated rival.
20 … Rac8
Black is unable to retain the pawn if he plays 20 … exd5 21 Qb3 Rad8 22 Rfd1.
21 Qd2 e5!
Now we reach a position of opposing wing majorities, with White’s passed d5-
pawn/isolani, whose strength or weakness for now is unclear.
22 Rd1 Nd6
Principle: Blockade the square in front of the opponent’s passed pawn.
23 b3 e4!
This move is an attempt to disrupt White’s natural flow.
24 Rc3 exf3 25 Rxf3?!
The embracing of a hasty absolute leaves us no room to backtrack if the evidence
begins to point in the opposite direction. Unwilling to weaken, White loses the initiative
after this natural move. He should deliberately degrade his structure to retain control over
e4 with 25 gxf3, although I slightly prefer Black after 25 … a6.
25 … Ne4 26 Qd3 Nxf2
Black’s bishop will be superior to White’s knight. Also White’s king isn’t so secure
27 Kxf2
Just because we are forced to perform an unpleasant task – 27 Rxf2?? hangs a full
exchange to 27 … Bc5 – doesn’t mean we have to like it. There is no glossing over such a
large concession. Not only did White end up with the inferior minor piece, his king from
this point doesn’t look so safe either.
27 … Bc5+ 28 Kf1 Qd6
Blockading the d-pawn, while targeting h2.
29 g3 b4!

Larsen prevents Nc3, while worrying White about a future … Rc3 should his knight
move away from e2.
30 Kg2 Bb6
The comp prefers 30 … Rfe8.
31 h4?!
He wants to play Nf4 without fear of a future … g7-g5, which Black is unlikely to
play anyway. White is better off with 31 Rf4! g6 32 Rc4.
31 … Rfe8 32 Rd2 Re5
With simple moves, Larsen’s position gets better and better.
33 Nf4 g6 34 Re2 Rc1
Black might also have played 34 … Rc3!, and if 35 Qd2 Qc5! 36 Rxe5 Qg1+ 37 Kh3
Qh1+ 38 Qh2 Qxf3, White is busted.
35 Rf1 Rc3 36 Qb5?!
He had to try 36 Rxe5 Qxe5 37 Qd1 Qe4+ 38 Kh3 Bc5.
36 … Be3!
White is collapsing on the dark squares.
37 Ne6?

A combination isn’t really a combination when it doesn’t work! Under normal

circumstances thought proceeds action, whereas in time pressure it’s the reverse.

Exercise: How can Black refute White’s last move?

37 … Qxd5+?!
Why settle for a flaccid derivative when you can get the real thing? Picking up a clean
pawn is still winning, but Black had something much stronger.
Answer: 37 … Qxe6! (pin – this move comes with the attention-grabbing power of
the click of the mugger’s switchblade). Black gets away with a free piece after 38 dxe6
Rxb5 39 Rxf7 a5 40 Rd7 Re5 41 e7 Kf7 42 e8Q+ Kxe8 43 Rxh7 Bf4!.
Instead, 37 … fxe6?? would be horribly misguided: 38 Qe8+ Kg7 39 Rf7+ Kh6 40
Qh8! Qxd5+ 41 Kh3! Qh1+ 42 Rh2 and Black is either mated or must hand over a full
38 Qxd5 Rxd5 39 Nf4 Rd4 40 Rf3 Bxf4
The rook and pawn ending is won for Black.
41 gxf4 Kg7 42 Rxc3
Bouaziz probably wasn’t too happy to give Black this deep passed pawn, but there are
no good alternatives.
42 … bxc3 43 Kf3 Rd3+ 44 Ke4 Rd2!
Also winning is 44 … Rh3! 45 Rc2 Kf6 46 b4 h5 47 b5 Ke6 48 a4 Rxh4 49 Rxc3 f5+!
50 Ke3 Rh3+ 51 Kd4 Rxc3 52 Kxc3 h4 53 a5 Kd6. Black’s king is within the square of
White’s would-be passed pawn, while White’s king isn’t.
45 Ke3
Or 45 Re3 f5+ 46 Kf3 c2 47 Re7+ Kf6 48 Rc7 Ke6 49 Ke3 Rh2 50 Kd3 Kd5 51 a4 a5
52 Rxc2 Rxh4 with a winning rook and pawn ending for Black.

Exercise (critical decision): If Black swaps rooks, does he win, lose, or draw the
king and pawn ending?

45 … Rxe2+!
Answer: The king and pawn ending is winning for Black.
46 Kxe2 Kf6 47 b4
Or 47 Kd3 Kf5 48 Kxc3 Kxf4 49 b4 h5 50 b5 g5 51 hxg5 h4 and Black promotes first.
47 … Kf5 48 a4 Kxf4!
Pawns are just lying around for Black’s king to take, like cookies and milk, left for
Santa on Christmas Eve. Larsen correctly calculated that he can capture this pawn and still
be within the square of White’s coming queenside passed pawn.
49 b5 Ke4 50 a5 Kd5 51 Kd3 Kc5 0-1
After 52 b6 axb6 53 a6 Kc6, White’s a-pawn goes nowhere.

With 3 Bb5+ White hopes to disrupt us enough to hang on to his or her extra d5-pawn
with pieces, rather than with the weakening pawn push c2-c4. If we are patient, we should
get it back, and if not, we get compensation.

Game 37
M.Crnic-R.Van Asperen
Correspondence 1999

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Nf6 3 Bb5+ Bd7 4 Bc4 Bg4 5 f3 Bf5 6 Nc3 Nbd7 7 g4!?

Note: White wants to hang on to the extra d5-pawn permanently, and is willing to
deface his structure to do so.

7 … Nb6!

Warning: Avoid the automatic 7 … Bg6? 8 f4! (threatening to push on and trap
Black’s bishop) 8 … Be4 9 Nxe4 Nxe4 10 Qe2, when Black has handed White the bishop
pair, dangerously lacks space, and remains a pawn down.

8 Qe2
8 b3 is the latest multipurpose try:
1. White protects his c4-bishop.
2. White solves the problem of how to develop his dark-squared bishop. Its influence
is not to be underestimated along the a1-h8-diagonal.
When Caruana won the following impressive game, I remember the online buzz:
“Caruana has refuted the 2 … Nf6 Scandinavian with this move!” No, he hasn’t. Akobian
got surprised at the board, didn’t react well and lost. I looked at it deeper with the comp
and was satisfied that Black could still equalize, even after Caruana’s TN.
After 8 … Bc8! 9 Bb2 Nfxd5?! (I think Black has a big improvement in 9 … h5! 10
Qe2 hxg4 11 0-0-0! Nxc4 12 bxc4 c6! with messy and evenly matched complications)

Tip: Remember, when White backs up the d5-pawn with a pawn on c4, we must
break up this central mass, or risk slow strangulation.

10 Nxd5 Nxd5 11 Qe2 e6?! (11 … h5!) 12 0-0-0 b6 13 Nh3 Bb7 14 f4!, White has
earned himself a strong initiative and his b2-bishop is all powerful along the diagonal,
F.Caruana-V.Akobian, US Championship, St Louis 2016.
8 … Bc8!
8 … Bg6? is trouble for Black after 9 Bb5+! Nfd7 10 f4!.
9 Qd3
Believe it or not, this incredibly awkward move is White’s main line and the only way
to hang on to d5.
9 … g6
Black calmly proceeds to develop the dark-squared bishop and castle.
10 Bb5+
a) 10 b3 Bg7 11 Bb2 h5 12 g5 Nfd7! (intending … Ne5; 12 … Nfxd5?! loses a pawn
to 13 Bxd5 Nxd5 14 Qxd5 Qxd5 15 Nxd5 Bxb2 16 Nxc7+ Kd8 17 Rb1) 13 f4 0-0 14
Nge2 Nxc4 15 bxc4 c6! 16 0-0-0, A.Ilyin Zhenevsky-I.Rabinovich, Leningrad 1937.
Black has more than full compensation for the missing pawn after 16 … Qa5, intending …
Nb6 next.
b) Weirdly enough, I can’t find a single game with 10 Bb3?! in my database, yet I can
see it being played at club level, if White doesn’t know the theory and wings it. However,
10 … c6! is an excellent response. Black will either favourably regain the lost pawn, or if
White gets greedy with 11 dxc6 Qxd3 12 cxd3 bxc6, Black obtains terrific compensation
in view of White’s overextension and lousy structure.
10 … Bd7 11 g5 Nfxd5!

Black will still be a pawn down after this clever tactic, but attains full compensation
for it.
12 Nxd5 Bxb5 13 Nxc7+
Only with this move does White stay a pawn up. After 13 Qxb5+? c6, Black regains
the piece and stands clearly better.
13 … Qxc7 14 Qxb5+ Nd7
Yes, White stays up a pawn, but his overextended and undeveloped position remains
an eyesore and Black gets more than enough compensation.
15 Ne2
He understandably doesn’t want to waste even more time defending c2.
15 … Bg7
The comp also likes Black a shade better after both 15 … h6 and 15 … Qxc2.
16 c3
White defends c2, at the cost of falling even further behind in development.
16 … a6 17 Qd5?!
This move is a really strange choice since Black is obviously going to gain more time
with a future … Rd8. White should go for the unpleasant but still playable 17 Qb3 0-0 18
d4 e5.
17 … 0-0 18 h4?
The human mind concocts intricate “logic” to rationalize an inherently illogical yet
tempting idea. White’s actions are at war with the position’s requirements and this
contradiction in terms is the professional wrestler spotted doing research at the university
law library. Principle: Don’t attack the opponent when you are the one lagging in
development. Virtually any other move would be better.
18 … Rad8 19 d4
19 0-0 Nc5 20 Qc4 b5 21 Qg4 Nd3 is also grim for White, who experiences difficulty
developing his queenside.
19 … e5
Of course. This move emphasizes the disharmony in White’s position. Principle: Open
the game and create confrontation when ahead in development.
20 h5 Rfe8 21 hxg6 hxg6 22 Kf1 exd4 23 Bf4 Ne5!
When our opponent ignores our “threat”, it often comes across as an unthinking – but
no less painful – insult. It goes against our instincts to self-pin. Here it’s decisive.
24 Qb3 dxc3 25 bxc3 Qe7 0-1
After 26 Qb4 Qd7 27 Bxe5 Rxe5 28 Nd4 Re3 White’s overextended position doesn’t
have a prayer. Incidentally, 25 … Rd3! 26 Kg2 Qd7 27 Rad1 Nxf3 looks even more

After 7 g4!? White can actually hang on to the extra d5-pawn, but at the high cost of
risking overextension and a development lag.

Game 38
Wijk aan Zee 1989

1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Nf6 3 c4 e6!?

This is the risky and dangerous Icelandic Gambit, which is the future serial killer, who
at age 10 realizes he has a lust for killing small animals and neighbour’s pets. In this line
Black hands White a pawn and control over the centre, in exchange for a really scary
development lead.
The alternative is 3 … c6 4 d4 (4 dxc6?! Nxc6 offers Black a kind of super reversed
Smith-Morra Gambit, which is known to give Black at least full compensation for the
pawn) 4 … cxd5, transposing to the Panov-Botvinnik line of the Caro-Kann.
4 dxe6
4 d4 exd5 5 Nc3 Be7 transposes to a line of the Exchange French, considered harmless
for Black.
4 … Bxe6 5 d4
This is White’s most defiant move. He can also try and hold back on d2-d4 with 5 Nf3
Nc6 6 Be2 Bc5 7 0-0 0-0 8 d3 Re8 9 Nc3 Bf5, when Black’s superior piece activity and
White’s weak d-pawn offer Black full compensation.
5 … Bb4+ 6 Bd2
6 Nc3?! is considered inaccurate. After 6 … Ne4! 7 Qd3 Bf5 8 Bd2 0-0!, White scores
a catastrophically low 21.5% in my database from this position, which tells us all we need
to know.
6 … Qe7
Threatening a discovery on c4 with the light-squared bishop.
7 Bxb4
7 Nc3? is too slow and can be met by the simple 7 … Bxc4+.
7 … Qxb4+
Now b2 and c4 are under attack.
8 Qd2
White can also block with the knight: 8 Nd2, when I prefer the simple 8 … 0-0! over
the crazy 8 … Nc6, which is the main move. After 8 … 0-0 9 Qb3 Qxb3 10 axb3 Nc6!,
White lags dangerously in development.
8 … Nc6! 9 Nc3
a) 9 d5 0-0-0 10 Nc3 transposes to the game.
b) 9 Qxb4?! Nxb4 10 Na3 0-0-0 and again White is too far behind in development.
9 … 0-0-0 10 d5
The d-pawn is lured forward. 10 Nf3? Bg4 leaves White in deep trouble.
10 … Bg4
This is Black’s main line. I – and when I say “I”, I actually mean “the comp”! – found
an interesting theoretical novelty and a potential surprise weapon with 10 … Ne5!?, when
c4 is under attack and White is unable to equalize; for example: 11 a3 Qb3 12 Qd1 Qb6!
13 Na4 Qd6 14 Qd4 (14 dxe6?? Qxe6 leaves White helpless) 14 … Bf5! 15 Qxa7 Rhe8 16
0-0-0 Nxc4! and … Qf4+ is in the air.
11 f3 Rhe8+ 12 Be2 Bf5
White scores pretty badly from this position, which is encouraging for us, since this is
the main line!
13 0-0-0
13 g4 is of no help: 13 … Bg6 14 0-0-0 Ne5! leaves White overextended.
13 … Na5
Going after c4.
14 g4
14 b3 is met by 14 … c6!.
14 … Bg6 15 Nh3?!
He had to risk 15 b3 c6.
15 … Nd7?!
Principle: Don’t covet that which you can’t afford to attain.
This gambit can be played like a poet who intuits, or like a scientist who believes only
what he can see, touch and calculate. This is a case of the former, where Hodgson goes for
a beautiful idea, which is not so easy to implement, rather than take the immediate payoff.
The chess world tends to applaud risk takers, while looking down on the safety-first
player. In this case I must buck the trend and criticize Black’s ornate plan. I play Hodgson
from time to time in internet blitz and I’m convinced that his greatest weakness is an
excess of talent! This move is a case of just that, where only a strong GM would have
played the move he chose, while the club-level amateur would have taken on c4 and it
would be the better move! Black should just take the cash with the mundane/superior 15
… Nxc4 16 Bxc4 Qxc4, when he stands clearly better.
16 Nb1?
Forced was 16 Ne4! Qa4 17 b3 Qa3+ 18 Qb2, when White stands no worse
and Black’s attack is a perishable product, with a short shelf life.

Exercise (combination alert): White’s last move allows Hodgson a dazzling tactic.
What would you play here?

16 … Qb3!
Answer: Queen sacrifice/mating net. This is where Eve shows Adam the forbidden
Answer#2: Also winning is 16 … Rxe2! 17 Qxe2 Nc5! (threatening to land either
knight on b3 and force mate) 18 Rd2 Nxc4 with a decisive attack for Black.
17 Bd3
17 axb3?? Nxb3 is mate, as is 17 Qxa5?? Qc2.
17 … Qxa2 18 Qb4

Exercise (combination alert): White’s position is about to become a place of terror,
normally only confined to fiction. Black has two ways to win. Find one of them.

18 … Re2!
Answer: Deflection/removal of the guard.
Answer #2: Also winning is 18 … Nb3+ 19 Kc2 Re2+! (exploiting the pin on White’s
bishop) 20 Nd2 Bxd3+ 21 Kxd3 Rde8! (threatening mate on e3) 22 Kc2 Nd4+ 23 Kd3 c5!
24 dxc6 Ne5+! 25 Kxd4 Nxc6+ and Black not only wins the queen, but can also force
mate in four moves.
19 Bxe2
19 Bxg6 Nb3+ wins.
19 … Nb3+ 20 Qxb3 Qxb3 21 Rd2 Qe3 0-1


The Icelandic Gambit, initiated with 3 … e6!?, looks absolutely sound to your
normally gambit-sceptical writer.
Chapter Seven
Everything Else
This single game chapter covers White’s not-so-scary attempts to dodge theory with
gimmicky attempts to ambush us.

Game 39
San Diego Rapidplay 2017

1 e4 d5 2 e5!?

It’s not difficult to excel in an endeavour everyone else avoids. I could open all my
white games with 1 f3! and 2 Kf2!? and declare myself as the world’s leading authority on
the Lakdawala’s Folly variation and not many would be impressed. I very much doubt that
Everyman would be convinced to allow me to write a First Steps book on that line. This is
the clowns-to-the-left-of-me,-jokers-to-the-right, single game chapter, where we cover
White’s unconventional attempts to get us out of theory.
Previously, I beat National Master Ron Bruno as Black in two super-theoretical
Scandinavians, so this time he tries to get me out of theory. Just remember that when we
obsess over our opening preparation we sometimes forget that we are now on the
battlefield, not the lab back home. I knew this line wasn’t supposed to be so great for
White, except that I totally forgot what the book move was here and basically winged it.
So in a strange way, my opponent’s opening deviation was a success, since it knocked me
off my theoretical perch. But is that worth giving way the white pieces birthright “+=“? I
doubt it.
a) 2 Nc3 dxe4 3 Nxe4 Bf5 4 Ng3 (4 Qf3 e6 5 Ng3?! Bxc2 6 Qxb7 Nd7 favours Black)
4 … Bg6 5 Nf3 Nd7 6 d4 e6 7 h4 h6 8 h5 Bh7 9 Bd3 Bxd3 10 Qxd3 Ngf6 11 Bd2 is
essentially a position from the … Bf5 main line of the Caro-Kann, except for a single key
difference: Black hasn’t wasted a tempo on … c7-c6. This means that, when we play our
freeing break 11 … c5, we are a full move up over theory and achieved equality at a
b) Only an unrepentant optimist would consider 2 d4!?. White dispenses with polite
preambles and offers a pawn – in my opinion, only semi-soundly – to increase
development and attain attacking chances. This is the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit. Honour
demands that we boldly accept the gambit and make White prove compensation, rather
than chicken out. So, 2 … dxe4 (Black can also play 2 … e6 or 2 … c6, entering a French
or Caro-Kann Defence) 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 f3 exf3 5 Nxf3 g6 (this is the line I play; by
fianchettoing, our king is safer than if we set up with … e7-e6 and … Be7) 6 Bc4 Bg7 7 0-
0 0-0 8 Qe1 (White’s main line, played in anticipation of swinging the queen to h4) 8 …
Nc6! (Principle: Counter in the centre when assaulted on the wing ) 9 Qh4 Bg4 (now d4 is
loose) 10 Be3 e6! (Black’s highest scoring move, which prevents d4-d5 tricks) 11 Rad1
Ne7!, when … Nf5 is coming and I don’t see even a spec of compensation for White.
c) 2 d3 (there is an IM I play in online blitz who plays this way consistently against
my Scandinavian; it’s more boring than bad) 2 … dxe4 3 dxe4 Qxd1+ 4 Kxd1 e5 is a
boringly equal ending.
d) 2 Nf3?! (I was once surprised by this gimmicky gambit) 2 … dxe4 3 Ng5. Now
simplest is 3 … Bf5 4 Nc3 Nf6 5 Bc4 e6 6 f3 Nbd7! (I once fell for 6 … exf3 7 Qxf3 c6 8
Nxf7!, but then played 8 … Qd4! and actually stood better and won) 7 fxe4 Nxe4! 8
Ngxe4 Bxe4 9 Nxe4 Qh4+ 10 Nf2 Qxc4, when I don’t see any compensation for the
e) 2 f3 dxe4 3 fxe4 (or 3 Nc3 e5! 4 fxe4 Nf6 5 Nf3 Bc5! 6 Bc4 0-0 7 d3 h6 and Black
stands at least even, since White experiences trouble castling) 3 … e5 (threatening …
Qh4+ and … Qxe4+) 4 Nf3 Bc5 leads to a line of the King’s Gambit Declined which is at
least equal for Black.
f) 2 Bd3?! (this clumsy move wastes time) 2 … dxe4 3 Bxe4 Nf6 and Black either just
gains a tempo, or picks up the bishop pair. After 4 Bf3 e5 Black stands at least even.
2 … c5 3 c3 Nc6 4 Nf3
4 d4 cxd4 5 cxd4 Bf5 is a position reached from the Advance Caro-Kann line, except a
full move up for our side, since Black didn’t waste a tempo playing … c7-c6 and … c6-c5,
and instead played to c5 in one go.
4 … Bg4 5 Bb5
5 d4 cxd4 6 cxd4 Bxf3 7 gxf3 e6 is a dream Advance French-like position for Black,
who inflicted damage to White’s structure and dumped our bad bishop.
5 … Qb6 6 a4
I expected 6 h3 Bxf3 7 Bxc6+ Qxc6 8 Qxf3 e6 9 d3 Ne7, again with a wonderful-
looking French, sans bad bishop, for Black.
6 … a6 7 h3 Bf5!?
7 … axb5 8 hxg4 e6 also looks good for Black.
8 Be2
He preserves his good bishop at the cost of time and is already struggling to equalize
as White – not such a great outcome.
8 … e6
White’s attempts to confuse have failed and Black already stands slightly better.

9 d4
Now his d-pawn will be weak. But 9 0-0 Be4 10 Re1 Nge7 11 d3 Bxf3 12 Bxf3 Ng6
13 Bh5 Ngxe5 14 f4 c4+! 15 d4 Nd3 16 Rxe6+ Be7 17 Re2 0-0 leaves Black miles ahead
in development, with a clear advantage.
9 … cxd4 10 Nxd4
Or 10 cxd4 Be4 11 Nbd2 Bg6!, with threats on d4 and also … Nb4.
10 … Nxd4 11 a5!?
The maintenance cost of White’s would-be initiative switches from high to the level of
prohibitive. I had a feeling he would try this, but the complications are clearly in Black’s
favour. On the other hand, 11 cxd4 Bb4+ 12 Nc3 Ne7 is another fantastic French for
Black, due to the hole on b4, and whose light-squared bishop is outside of the pawn chain.
11 … Nc2+! 12 Qxc2 Qxf2+!
This zwischenzug wins a pawn. I also thought about 12 … Bxc2 13 axb6 Bxb1 14
Rxb1 Bc5 and again White will lose a pawn.
13 Kxf2 Bxc2 14 Na3 Bb3
In order to stop b2-b4 and b4-b5 ideas.
15 Be3 Ne7
I was happy here, since Black is up a pawn and White’s would-be initiative exhibits
clear signs of malnourishment. Needless to say, I was blindsided by my opponent’s next
16 Nb5!?

At this point all who looked upon me knew something was amiss. My mouth, in
village idiot fashion, gaped open, and my askew glasses slid forward, adrift on my nose.
The word which pops into our mind is “improvised”, which implies crude and hastily
constructed. Is it just me, or do you sense a wee bit more menace than friendliness from
White’s last move?
When we miss our opponent’s key idea, it is a failure of imagination. If your chicken-
hearted writer had been born in another time, I would be an unlikely candidate for
knighthood and a seat at King Arthur’s Round Table. “Oh my God, I’m losing!” said one
part of my brain. “It’s garbage. Take the piece and you will win!” said the other part. I
missed this idea, but my opponent understands that he will lose if he plays quietly. The
trouble is that I didn’t know if his sacrifice was sound or unsound at the board and quaked
like an 11-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.

Exercise (critical decision): Should we accept or decline White’s sacrifice. And if we
decline, how do we do it?

16 … axb5!
Answer: White’s sacrifice is completely unsound and we should accept. My opponent
seeks in vain for a solution in a situation where a solution simply doesn’t exist for him.

Tip: Don’t fear ghosts. When the opponent offers an unsound sacrifice, take it!

I’m ashamed to admit that for several panicked minutes I was looking for all kinds of
ways to decline White’s unsound sac. I spent quite some time considering the colossally
stupid decision to refuse the gift and play 16 … Kd7?? 17 Nd6 Nf5 18 Nxf7 Nxe3! 19
Kxe3 (19 Nxh8?? Bc5 leaves White completely busted) 19 … Bc5+ 20 Kd2 Rhf8 21 Rhf1
Be7, and here I thought to myself the poisonous: “I can play it safe and still stand better”,
which is ridiculous when compared to the feast Black gets when White’s unsound sacrifice
is accepted.
17 Bxb5+ Kd8 18 Bb6+ Kc8 19 a6 bxa6 20 Bxa6+ Rxa6! 21 Rxa6 Kb7 22 Rha1!?
I expected 22 Ra3 Bc4 23 Be3 Nc6 24 Ra4 Bb5 25 Ra2 Be7 26 Rha1 Bd8 27
b3 Nxe5 28 Ra7+ Kc6 and Black will consolidate.
Exercise (combination alert): This one is simple. How does Black win even more

22 … Bc4
Answer: Removal of the guard.
23 Ra8 Kxb6 24 b3 Nc6!
This simplification combination gives Black an easy win in the ending.
25 bxc4 Bc5+ 26 Ke2 Rxa8 27 Rxa8 dxc4 28 Rh8 Nxe5 29 Rxh7 g6 30 g4 f6 31
Rh8 Kc6 32 Rc8+ Kd6 33 Rf8 f5 34 gxf5
He wants to reduce the number of pawns on the board. On 34 g5 I calculated 34 …
Kd5 35 Rd8+ Ke4 36 Re8 f4 37 Rxe6 f3+ 38 Kf1 Be3 39 h4 Kf5 40 Re8 Kf4 41 Rf8+
Kg3 42 Re8 Ng4 and Black will promote or mate.
34 … exf5 35 Rd8+ Ke6 36 h4 f4
Pushing my passed
f-pawn down the board, while clearing f5 for king entry.
37 h5 f3+ 38 Kf1 gxh5
I saw 38 … Ng4 but, out of paranoia, followed my sacred rapid chess rule of keeping
it simple, even when the fancy wins faster.
39 Rh8 Be3 40 Rxh5 Bd2 0-1
The c3-pawn falls.

All of White’s gimmicky attempts to dodge theory offer Black equality at a minimum, and
even an edge in most cases.
Index of Complete Games
Al Modiahki.M-Predojevic.B, Dresden Olympiad 2008
Aldama.D-Lakdawala.C, San Diego Rapidplay 2017
Ardeleanu.A-Malaniuk.V, Arad 2006
Arutyunov.N-Lakdawala.C, San Diego Rapidplay 2015
Arutyunova.D-Paehtz.E, Dresden 2011
Baker.B-Lakdawala.C, San Diego Rapidplay 2006
Baker.B-Lakdawala.C, San Diego Rapidplay 2013
Ballard.J-Lakdawala.C, San Diego Rapidplay 2015
Bouaziz.S-Larsen.B, Las Palmas Interzonal 1982
Bruno.R-Lakdawala.C, San Diego Rapidplay 2017
Bryant.J-Lakdawala.C, San Diego Rapidplay 2006
Casper.T-Speelman.J, German League 2002
Costello.A-Lakdawala.C, San Diego Rapidplay 2017
Costello.A-Lakdawala.C, San Diego Rapidplay 2017
Crnic.M-Van Asperen.R, Correspondence 1999
D’Amore.C-Prie.E, Arvier 2007
Del Pilar.R-Lakdawala.C, San Diego Rapidplay 2006
Didenko.S-Kasparov.S, Pardubice 2012
Dominguez Perez.L-Ivanchuk.V, Capablanca Memorial, Havana 2012
Gliksman.D-Lakdawala.C, Buena Park 1994
Gupta.A-Lakdawala.C, SCCF State Championship 2010
Haun.B-Lakdawala.C, San Diego Rapidplay 2005
Horvath.A-Rakhmanov.A, Zalakaros 2016
Ibragimov.I-Lakdawala.C, US 10-minute Championship 2005
Ibragimov.I-Lakdawala.C, Western States Open, Reno 2005
Janetschek.K-Larsen.B, Clare Benedict Cup, Copenhagen 1977
Kabanov.N-Savchenko.B, Voronezh 2007
Kuijf.M-Hodgson.J, Wijk aan Zee 1989
Lemos.D-Flores.D, San Luis Zonal 2007
Liu.E-Lakdawala.C, San Diego Rapidplay 2010
Moreno Tejera.E-Laznicka.V, German League 2016
Nay.O-Goh.K, Bangkok 2004
Osman.M-Golubev.M, Bucharest 2006
Poetsch.H-Rapport.R, Austrian Team Championship 2014
Sebag.M-Karpov.A, Cap d’Agde Rapidplay 2014
Sudakova.I-Muzychuk.A, Zlatibor 2007
Tondivar.B-Smagin.S, Cappelle-la-Grande 1995
Wan Yunguo-Motylev.A, Chinese Team Championship 2012
Wang Li-Zhou Weiqi, Lishui 2009