Sunday, February 15, 2009

The First Time

Tim McGrew recounts his first try with the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit--an article taken from BDG World 75, Nov-Dec 1996.

By Tim McGrew

Most BDG'ers can remember their first tournament trial of the gambit. Ask an oldtimer for his story and you're likely to hear the exuberance of youth creep into his voice, to hear the fond and perhaps embellished recollection of that memorable occasion when he first discovered the One True Opening.
For me it's a little easier, since I'm a relative latecomer to the BDG. Having just discovered it a year or so ago when Tim Sawyer sold me some of his extra books on the gambit (thanks, Tim!), I've been enthusiastic enough to recommend it to some of my chess students.
But old habits die hard, and 1.e4 is a habit of 20 years standing with me. (It's really a trap -- so many people respond with 1...c5?!, not realizing that this puts them a move behind in the English Opening!) So despite a few postal encounters (mostly with me as Black) and some hair-raising blitz games on the Internet Chess Club, I never had a chance to try the gambit out under the strain of tournament conditions until this September, when I was suddenly confronted with an opportunity to stake everything on a gambit about which, truth to tell, I don't feel I know all that much.
2281 / Teichmann Defense Tim McGrew (2140) M. Stefanski (1900) Kalamazoo Mini Swiss, 21 Sep 1996
1. e4 d5
I sat a while thinking here -- not my normal experience on move two. On the one hand, my "official" theoretical knowledge of the BDG doesn't go all that deep. On the other hand, how could I encourage my students to take risks that I am not willing to take myself? And how would I explain to my friends Tom Purser and Tim Sawyer that I had chickened out at the last moment? No, my conscience would not permit me to bail out here!
2. d4 dxe4 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. f3 exf3
My opponent was moving crisply and with confidence, and I began to wonder whether I would regret my choice of opening. Clearly he was familiar with the theory through the next few moves.
5. Nxf3 Bg4 6. h3 Bh5 7. g4 Bg6 8. Ne5
Only here did he think for a moment. Unfortunately, this is just the point where my own theoretical knowledge begins to fade out, so from this point on it's a one-on-one game, each of us thinking it through as we go along.
8. ..e6 9. Qf3
BDG aficionados will not be surprised by this move, though it usually arises from the Gunderam move order and without h3 for White. But I had to calculate first in order to assure myself that 9...Qxd4 10.Nxg6! hxg6 11.Qxb7 really is winning.
9. ..Nd5
But this was unexpected and threw me wholly on my own resources. Obviously Black has ideas of ...Qf6 or ...Qh4+ in here, so I evolved a plan to accelerate my development. As it turns out, I was reinventing the wheel: the following maneuver was played by Diemer, Studier, and Stapelfeld in a correspondence game against Gunderam in which essentially this position arose (without the pawn on h3).
10. Bb5+! c6 11. 0–0 f6
11. ..Qf6 occurred in the aforementioned game. But there the allies were able to take advantage of the free h3 square to play Qh3! setting up a pin on the h-file and therefore threatening to devalue Black's pawn structure with a subsequent Nxg6. Since that is impossible here, White needs an alternative way to handle the position. One idea is 12. Nxd5 exd5 13. Qxd5 Qd6 14. Qxd6 Bxd6 15. Nxg6 hxg6 16. Bc4 which is at least slightly better for White because his Bishops coordinate well, e.g. 16. ..Rxh3 17. Bxf7+ Kd8 18. Bf4! Bxf4 19. Rxf4 g5 20. Re4 Kc7 21. Kg2+/-
12. Nxg6 hxg6 13. Bd3 f5
Time for another long think. Trading on f5 opens the e-file, but Black can quickly scurry away from a check there. It's more important to keep the weak pawn on e6 as a target for later attack. And the most natural way to do this involves the sacrifice of another pawn while White completes his development. Here again, Diemer had preceded me by suggesting the ensuing two moves.
13. ..Ne7 appears better at first glance because it doesn't create holes on e5 and g5. But after 14. Be3 it appears that Black has no useful way to untangle his pieces without playing ...f5 anyway.
A) 14. ..Nd7 comes to mind, but the Black Knights do not give the impression of great coordination and the central squares can be probed. 15. Bc4 Nd5 16. Rae1 Be7 17. Bg5!? is an interesting idea, striking at the weakened white squares and e6 in particular.
A1) 17. ..0–0 gives White the King's permanent address. After the temporary piece sac 18. Qe4 fxg5 19. Qxe6+ Kh8 20. Bxd5 Bf6 a plausible continuation like 21. Bb3 Bxd4+ 22. Kg2 Rf6 23. Rxf6 Nxf6 (23. ..Qxf6 24. Qxf6 gxf6 25. Rd1 Bxc3 26. Rxd7 Bxb2 27. Rxb7 may be equal or even += notwithstanding Black's extra pawn, given the active deployment of White's pieces) 24. Rd1 c5 25. Ne2 Qa5 26. Nxd4 cxd4 27. Qc4 Re8 28. Qxd4 is better for White. Black's King is safe enough, but the tripled pawns make a very bad impression and an exchange of Queens will leave Black in an almost certainly lost endgame because his King is completely locked out.;
A2) 17. ..Nxc3 18. bxc3 e5 19. dxe5 Qb6+ 20. Kg2 fxg5 21. Qf7+ Kd8 22. e6 Rf8 23. Qxg7 and White, by resolute play, has managed to generate decisive pressure -- not uncommon for a BDG!;
A3) 17. ..Qb6 is perhaps a sterner test, forcing White to sacrifice more material in a line like 18. Be3!? Qxb2 19. Nxd5 cxd5 20. Bd3 0–0–0 21. Rb1 Qc3 22. Rb3 Qa5 23. Rfb1 Nb6 24. c4 dxc4 25. Bxc4 when Black's King is more exposed than it might first appear to be.;
B) 14. ..f5 gives rise to a structure similar to the one in the game -- with the weakness at e6 in particular -- without allowing Black the solace of munching the d-pawn. 15. Rae1 Qd6 16. Qf2!? Rxh3 17. Bf4 Qd7 18. Bc4 Nd5 19. Rxe6+ (19. gxf5 Nxf4 20. Qxf4 Bd6 21. fxe6! also looks very good, but don't you want to see what happens if White just grabs the Queen?) 19. ..Qxe6 20. Re1 Qxe1+ 21. Qxe1+ Ne7 22. gxf5 gxf5 23. Kg2 Rh8 24. Be6 Rh5 (24. ..Kd8 25. Bxb8 Rxb8 26. Qe5+-) 25. Bc8 a5 26. d5 g5 27. Bxf5 gxf4 28. Bg6+ Kd8 29. Bxh5 cxd5 30. Qe6 Ra6 31. Qf7+-;
13. ..Kf7 is the other natural move. In his notes to the correspondence game mentioned above, Freidl suggests the maneuver Ne4, intending to meet Kg8 with Ng5. This looks interesting, but as the notes to this game are already long enough I will not pursue it here!
14. Bd2 Qf6
14. ..Nb4!? may actually be a better defensive try, aiming to eliminate the B/d3 before the white squares in Black's position are laid bare by exchanges on f5 or invasions on e6. 15. Rae1 Qxd4+ 16. Kg2 e5 17. gxf5
A) 17. ..Nxc2 18. Re4! (18. Bxc2? Qxd2+ 19. Re2 Qg5+ 20. Kh2 Nd7 21. fxg6 0–0–0-/+) 18. ..Qd6 19. fxg6 (19. Bxc2!? Qxd2+ 20. Rf2 Qg5+ 21. Rg4 unclear) 19. ..Be7 20. Qf7+ Kd8 21. Qxg7 Rh5 22. Qg8+ Kd7 23. Bxc2 Qxd2+ 24. Re2 Qg5+ 25. Kh2 and now the attempt to snag a perpetual by 25. ..Rxh3+ fails to 26. Kxh3 Qh4+ 27. Kg2 Qg4+ 28. Kh2 Qh4+ 29. Kg1 Bc5+ 30. Rff2! Qg3+ 31. Kf1 Qh3+ 32. Ke1 Bxf2+ 33. Rxf2 Qh1+ 34. Rf1 Qh4+ 35. Kd1 and His Majesty escapes to the Queenside;
B) 17. ..Nxd3 comes too late now since after 18. Qxd3 Qxd3 19. cxd3 gxf5 20. Rxe5+ Kd7 21. Rfxf5 White's Rooks stampede through the Black position like rogue elephants, e.g. 21. ..Bd6 22. Rf7+ Kc8 23. Re6 Bc7 24. Rxg7 Na6 25. d4 Rf8 26. Ne4! and White dominates the board
15. Rae1 Qxd4+
From this point on the game is a contribution to theory, so I have annotated it rather heavily. To forestall the natural question, no, I did not see all of this at the board! During the game I formed some general prescriptions against alternative defenses and in some cases calculated a few concrete variations. But from a practical point of view this was the right decision. The game was played at a G/90 time control, and under these conditions Black, with the onus of defense, is even more likely to falter than White is. And while a slip by White might mean only a missed opportunity, a slip by Black in the forthcoming complications would almost certainly be fatal.
16. Kg2 Kf7
16. ..Kd7 looks better, taking the K away from the open f-file, and it was the move I expected. Here again the play becomes very sharp and White must make further sacrifices in order to justify his earlier play.
A) 17. Qe2 Qf6 (17. ..Nc7 18. Bf4 Bb4 19. Be5 Qb6 20. Bxc7 Kxc7 21. Qxe6 Bxc3 22. bxc3 Nd7 23. gxf5 Rhe8 24. Qxg6+/-) 18. Ne4 Qxb2 19. Ng5 Qf6 20. Nxe6 Bd6 21. gxf5 Qh4 22. Rf3 gxf5 23. Bxf5! This sets up a very strong discovered check that Black cannot ultimately evade. 23. ..g6 24. Bg5 Qb4 25. Bg4 Qxg4+ An acknowledgment that the discovered check would be deadly. But despite the trick coming on h2, Black cannot match White's coordinated firepower and in the sequel he is simply outgunned. 26. hxg4 Rh2+ 27. Kg1 Rxe2 28. Rxe2 Na6 29. Rf7+ Kc8 30. c4 Ndc7 31. Nxc7 Nxc7 32. Be7!+-;
B) 17. gxf5 17. ..gxf5 18. Bxf5!? is another heroic approach to the position. Now a long and mostly forced variation runs 18. ..exf5 19. Qxf5+ Kc7 20. Nxd5+ cxd5 (20. ..Qxd5+ 21. Qxd5 cxd5 22. Re8! regains the piece with a better pawn structure and a nasty pin on the 8th rank: 22. ..g6 23. Rfxf8 Rxf8 24. Rxf8 b6 and now White can simplify to a winning pawn ending with 25. Bf4+ Kb7 26. Bxb8 Rxb8 27. Rxb8+ Kxb8 28. Kg3+-) 21. Bf4+! (21. Ba5+!? is less convincing, e.g. 21. ..b6 22. Re8 Nd7 23. Rxa8 bxa5 unclear) 21. ..Bd6 22. Re7+ Kc6 23. Re6 Rd8 24. Rxd6+ Rxd6 25. Qc8+ Kb6 and now after 26. Bxd6 White can escape the checks and win a piece on b8, e.g. 26. ..Qe4+ 27. Rf3 Qe2+ 28. Rf2 Qe4+ 29. Kh2 Qd4 30. Rg2 Qc4 31. Qd8+ Ka6 32. b3 Qc6 33. Bxb8+-
17. Ne4!? Be7!
Black correctly ascertains that the g5 square must, at all costs, be defended from invasion -- a point on which the fate of the game turns in just a few more moves. 17. ..Qxb2 is altogether incautious, and Black is properly punished by 18. Ng5+ Kg8 19. Rxe6 Qxa2 20. gxf5 Nd7 (20. ..gxf5 21. Qxf5 Nf6 22. Qg6+- is the prosaic win for this set of lines.) 21. fxg6 N7f6 and now White can win with the amazing and paradoxical move 22. Nh7!! , for example:
A) 22. ..Bc5 23. Qf5 (threatening 24.Rxc6!) 23. ..Bb6 (23. ..Nb4 24. Rxf6+-) 24. Qe5!+-;
B) 22. ..a6 23. Re2 b5 24. Nxf6+ gxf6 25. Qf5! and now the threat of Qe6+ forces Black to abandon f6 with 25. ..Nc7 when 26. Qxf6 is every bit as crushing as it looks;
C) 22. ..Nf4+?? looks good at first blush, but after 23. Qxf4 Qxe6 24. Nxf6+ gxf6 25. Bc4 only Black is blushing.
18. c3
18. c4!? Is a serious alternative here, banking on the exposure of Black's Queen to give White an extra tempo in the attack. At the time I rejected it because I could not find a way to break through in one subvariation, but it appears that I simply underestimated the resources at White's disposal:
A) 18. ..Nc7 19. Bc3 Qb6 20. c5! is an improved version of what might have happened in the game had Black found 19...Nc7. Here White already has his b-pawn defended and Black collapses quickly: 20. ..Bxc5 21. Ng5+ Kg8 22. gxf5 gxf5 23. Bxf5!+-;
B) 18. ..Nb4 19. Bxb4 Bxb4 20. Ng5+ Kg8 21. Rxe6 Qxb2+ 22. Rf2 Qc3 23. gxf5 Nd7 24. fxg6 Nf6 25. Ne4! In my analysis at move 18 I had missed this move, which takes care of matters very nicely. (I have assigned myself more calculation exercises as penance!) 25. ..Qc1 (25. ..Qd4 26. Nxf6+ gxf6 27. Rxf6 Rh4 28. Qf5 Bc5 29. Qe6+ Kh8 30. g7+ Kxg7 31. Rg6+ Kh8 32. Rh6+ Rxh6 33. Qxh6+ Kg8 34. Qh7#) 26. Nxf6+ gxf6 27. Qxf6 Rf8 28. Re8!+-;
C) 18. ..Nf6 let's White plant a N on the critical square with 19. Ng5+ after which the attack plays itself: 19. ..Kg8 20. gxf5 Qxb2 21. Rf2 gxf5 22. Bxf5! exf5 23. Qxf5 Rh4 24. Rxe7 Na6 25. Qg6+-
18. ..Qb6 19. c4 Nb4?!
This is the error I had anticipated. Though Black is probably objectively lost, he can put up much stiffer resistance if he is willing to hunker down and defend passively. 19. ..Nc7! is the move that makes White work hardest for the point. On the plus side, this move defends the chronic weakness at e6 that has plagued Black ever since move 13. On the minus side, it locks Black's Queen out of the action in the center and on the Kingside. The latter consideration turns out to be more important, though to prove it White must find an exact sequence of moves. After 20. Bc3 White has to solve problems of calculation against a variety of plausible defenses. This is the sort of position where one cannot hope to see everything, but the typical sacrificial themes are a guide through the labyrinth.
A) 20. ..Kg8 21. c5! Bxc5 22. Ng5 Nd5 and now
A1) 23. Bxg7!? is probably good enough to win, e.g. 23. ..Kxg7 24. Nxe6+ Kh7 25. Bxf5 (25. gxf5 Qxb2+ 26. Re2 Qa3 27. fxg6+ Kh6 28. Qg3+-) 25. ..Ne3+ 26. Rxe3 Qxb2+ 27. Re2+-;
A2) 23. Rxe6! is much crisper. Black is dead in the water after 23. ..Qd8 24. Rxg6 Bf8 25. Bxf5+-;
B) 20. ..Bf6 21. c5! (this move is critical in most lines) 21. ..fxe4 22. Bxe4 Qxc5 23. Bxf6 Kg8 24. Bxg7 Qe7 25. Bxh8 Kxh8 26. Bxg6+-;
C) 20. ..Nd7 developing the Knight and connecting Rooks looks like Black's best shot. Now White must find 21. b4! when again Black has a variety of defensive tries:
C1) 21. ..Ne8 22. c5 Qc7 23. Bc4! puts Black under a great deal of pressure, but after 23. ..Kf8 24. Bxe6 Ne5 25. Bxe5 Qxe5 26. gxf5 gxf5 White must still find 27. Nd6! in order to make full use of the open files at his disposal. Black goes under quickly after 27. ..Qb2+ 28. Re2 Qf6 29. Nxf5+-;
C2) 21. ..Qa6 22. Ng3 Qxa2+ 23. Re2 and now White crashes through with heavy sacrifices on f5 no matter where Black tries to hide, e.g. 23. ..Qb3 (23. ..Qa4 24. gxf5 gxf5 25. Nxf5 exf5 26. Qxf5+ Nf6 27. Qg6+ Kf8 28. Rxe7+-) 24. gxf5 gxf5 25. Nxf5 Bf6 26. Nd4! Qxc3 27. Bg6++-;
C3) 21. ..Bxb4 22. Rb1 c5 23. a3 Ke8 24. axb4 fxe4 25. Qxe4 e5 26. Bxe5 Nxe5 27. Qxe5+ Kd8 28. Qxg7 and Black's King is too exposed for long term survival.
20. c5!
White must sacrifice a third pawn, but the benefits are overwhelming. Black must take his Bishop away from guard duty on e7, and when White's Knight arrives on g5 all of the white squares on the kingside fall into White's hands
20. ..Bxc5
20. ..Qa5 21. a3 wins easily.
21. Ng5+ Kg8
At this point it is possible to calculate things out to mate or overwhelming material gain. There are several ways to win (22.Qe2!, for example, immediately gains a piece because of the threat of 23.Qxe6+ and 24.Qf7#), but I decided on a thematic win that involves -- finally -- the opening of all of those lines on the Kingside. Fittingly, it contains more sacrifices!
22. gxf5! Nxd3
22. ..Nd7 23. fxe6 Nf6 24. Bxg6 Nbd5 25. e7! clears the light squares for the decisive invasion 25. ..Bxe7 26. Qf5!+-
23. fxe6! Nxe1+ 24. Rxe1!
And Black resigned in view of 24...Qc7 25.Qf7+! Qxf7 26.exf7+ Kf8 27.Re8# -- a picturesque conclusion! 1–0
(This game appeared in BDG World 75.)