Thursday, May 31, 2007

PCG in "Virginia Chess Newsletter"

It has been more than four years* since I last wrote an article on the Philidor Counter Gambit for Virginia Chess Newsletter. Since then, I have had many adventures (and a few misadventures!) with my favorite defense against 1.e4. Some of the material in this article has already been published by me in Atlantic Chess News and in Empire Chess. I present it here in a different format, and I have added new material as well. I hope that you enjoy analyzing the games as much as I enjoyed playing them!

Not long after my last article appeared in VCN, I had what was arguably the best day in the history of the PCG on June 30, 2002, defeating a grandmaster and a player rated FIDE 2280 in my two games as Black in a 4-round tournament at the Marshall Chess Club in New York City. Since I was playing in the one-day schedule, the Ashley game in round one was played at game/30 while the Koenig game in round three had the slower time control of 30/90 followed by game/60.

Game #1

GM Maurice Ashley (USCF 2543) - NM Jim West (USCF 2200), Marshall Chess Club 6/30/2002

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bc4 f5 4.d4 Nc6 5.dxe5 dxe5 6.Qxd8+ Nxd8 7.Nc3 fxe4 8.Nxe4 Nf6 9.Nc3 Bd6 10.O-O Be6 11.Bb5+ c6 12.Bd3 Nf7 13.Ng5 Nxg5 14.Bxg5 O-O 15.Bh4

White should have played 15.Rae1 when Black's next move could have been met advantageously by either 16.Bd2 or 16.Rxe5.


This move threatens to smash up White's queenside pawns, and if the white knight retreats Black has a good game after 16...e4.


This blunder can only be attributed to the fast time control because ordinarily Ashley is an excellent tactician.


After this simple capture, White is lost due to 17.Bxe4 Rf4! winning one of the bishops. Now Ashley tries his best to mix things up tactically.

17.c3 Bc5 18.Rae1 Nxf2!

19.Bxf2 Rxf2 20.Rxf2 Rf8 21.Ree2 Rxf2 22.Rxf2 Bxa2 23.Kf1 Bxf2 24.Kxf2 g6

25.Ke3 Kf7 26.h4 h5 27.g3 Be6 28.Be2 Kf6 29.Bd1 a5 30.Bf3 Bd5 31.Be2 b5 32.Bd3 a4 33.Be2 Kf5 34.Bd3+ e4 35.Be2 Bc4

36.Bd1 Bd3 37.Kd4 c5+! 38.Ke3 Bb1 39.c4 bxc4 40.Bxa4 Kg4 41.Be8 Kxg3 42.Bxg6 Kxh4 43.Kf4 e3!, White resigns.

To date, this is my only win against a grandmaster!

* * * * * * * * * * *

Game #2

David Koenig (FIDE 2280) - Jim West (FIDE 2221), Marshall Chess Club 6/30/2002

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nc6 3.Nf3 d6 4.d4 f5 5.exf5 Bxf5 6.Nc3

An interesting idea suggested by Peter Tamburro is to transpose into Spielmann-Lasker, St. Petersburg 1909 by 6.Bb5 which would bring about a well-known position in the Vienna Game with colors reversed. The book continuation is 6...exd4 7.Nxd4 Bd7 8.Bxc6 bxc6 9.O-O Nf6 10.Re1+ Be7 11.Qe2 c5 12.Nf3 Bg4 13.Bg5 with clear advantage for White, according to theory. Keep in mind that the colors are switched! Now Lasker recommended 13...Bxf3 14.Qxf3 O-O 15.Qh3 Rf7 16.Nc3 with inescapable pressure after 16...Qf8 17.Re6. But 16...Nd5! solves Black's problems after either 17.Bxe7 Nxe7 18.Qe6 Qc8 or 17.Nxd5 Bxg5 followed by 18...c6.

6...Nf6 7.Bg5 Be7 8.dxe5 dxe5 9.Qe2 e4 10.Bxf6 exf3 11.Qxf3 Bxf6 12.Qxf5 Qe7+ 13.Kf1

White might have tried 13.Qe6 Qxe6+ 14.Bxe6 when I had two playable continuations:

a) 14...Bxc3+ 15.bxc3 Ke7;

b) 14...Nd4 15.Bb3 Nxb3 16.axb3 O-O.

13...Bxc3 14.bxc3 Rf8 15.Qb5?!

A better move would have been 15.Qh3 when Black has compensation after 15...Qc5 16.Re1+ Ne7 17.Qh4 Rf6 18.Qd4 Qxd4 19.cxd4 Rd8 20.c3 Kf8 due to White's awkwardly placed king.

15...O-O-O 16.Re1 Qf6 17.f3 Rd6

18.Qc5 Rfd8 19.Kf2 Kb8 20.Bd3 Rd5 21.Qa3 Ne5 22.Re4 Nxd3+ 23.cxd3 Rxd3 24.Rb1 Qxc3 25.Qxc3 Rxc3 26.Re7 Rc2+ 27.Kg3 Rg8 28.Rbe1 b6 29.Re8+ Rxe8 30.Rxe8+ Kb7 31.Re7 g5 32.Rxh7 Rxa2

33.h4 gxh4+ 34.Rxh4 a5 35.f4 Kc6 36.Rh7 Kd6 37.Kf3 a4 38.g4 a3 39.g5 Rb2 40.Rh8 Ke6 41.Re8+ Kf7 42.Ra8 a2 43.Ke4 b5 44.Ra7 Rb4+ 45.Kf5 Ra4 46.Rxc7+ Ke8 47.Ke6 Ra6+, White resigns.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The PCG is gaining in popularity as can be seen in the following game played at this year's Polish Championship.

Game #3

Kacper Piorun (FIDE 2126) - Piotr Markowski (FIDE 1958), Polish Championship 3/25/2006

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 f5 4.Nc3 fxe4 5.Nxe4 d5 6.Nxe5

GM Paul Motwani in his book C.O.O.L. Chess likes 6.Neg5 mentioning 6...h6 and 6...e4 but not considering Black's best response 6...exd4 7.Nxd4 Qe7+, as already played by me against NM Dragan Milovanovic in December 2005 at Hamilton NJ, proceeding with 8.Qe2 h6 9.Nge6 Bxe6 10.Nxe6 Kf7 11.Nf4 Qxe2+ 12.Bxe2 Nf6 13.c4 Bb4+ 14.Bd2 Bxd2+ 15.Kxd2 c6 16.cxd5 cxd5 17.Bf3 Nc6 18.Rhd1 Rhd8 19.Ke1 Ne7 20.Rac1 Rd7 21.h4 g5 22.hxg5 hxg5 23.Nd3 Ng6 24.Nc5 Re7+ 25.Kf1 Rd8 26.Rd4 Ne5 27.Rcd1 Nxf3 28.gxf3 Rh8 29.Kg2 Kg6 30.Nd3 b6 31.Nb4 Nh5 32.Nxd5 Re5 33.Kf1 Nf4 34.Nxf4+ gxf4 35.Re4 Rxe4 36.fxe4 f3 37.Ke1 Kg5 38.Rd7 Re8 39.Rxa7 Rxe4+ 40.Kf1 Rc4 41.Kg1 Rg4+ 42.Kf1 Rd4 43.Kg1 Rg4+ 44.Kf1 Rc4 45.Kg1, draw. The real test would have been 11.Nxf8 Qxe2+ 12.Bxe2 Kxf8 13.Bf4 c6 14.O-O Nf6 15.Bd3 Kf7 16.Rfe1 Nbd7 17.Bd6 Rhe8. White has the absolute bishop pair, but Black has no pawn weaknesses. In fact, this position is almost identical to the one arrived at in a game from February 1990 where NM Jerry McDonnell was White against me, reached by this curious move order: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 f5 4.Nc3 fxe4 5.Ng5 d5 6.dxe5 c6 7.Ncxe4 Qc7 8.Nd6+ Bxd6 9.exd6 Qxd6 10.Bd3 Nf6 11.Qe2+ Qe7 12.Qxe7+ Kxe7 13.O-O h6 14.Re1+ Kf8 15.Ne6+ Bxe6 16.Rxe6 Kf7 17.Re1 Nbd7 18.Bf4 Rhe8. The game was drawn in 52 moves.

6...dxe4 7.Qh5+ g6 8.Nxg6 Nf6

In August 2005 at Mount Arlington NJ, I tried the wild 8...hxg6 against expert David Grasso. The game continued 9.Qxg6+ Kd7 10.Qf5+ Ke8 11.Qg6+ Kd7 12.Qf5+ Ke8 13.Qe5+ Be6 14.Qxh8 Nd7!? 15.Be2 Ndf6 16.Be3 Qd5 17.O-O Rd8 18.c4 Qf5 19.d5 Rd7! 20.Qh4 when 20...Bd6! 21.f4 Rh7 22.Qg3 Bf7 would have given me good attacking chances as compensation for my slight material deficit. Instead I played 20...Rh7 21.Qg5 Bd6 22.h4 Qxg5 23.Bxg5 Bf5 and held on to draw in 54 moves.

9.Qe5+ Kf7 10.Bc4+ Kg7 11.Bh6+ Kxh6 12.Nxh8 Bb4+ 13.c3 Qxh8 14.h4!? Kg7 15.Qxc7+ Bd7 16.cxb4 Qf8 17.O-O Nc6

18.b5 Ne7 19.Rac1 Kh8 20.Rc3 Nf5 21.Rfc1 Qg7 22.Qxb7 Rf8 23.Qxa7

It looks like an easy win for White who is way ahead in material. But Black finds a fantastic shot on his 25th move, enabling him to draw.

23...e3 24.fxe3 Nxh4 25.Qb7 Ne4!!

Ordinarily double exclams are reserved for winning moves. Here they are given for snaring White's queen.

26.Qxe4 Nf3+ 27.Qxf3 Rxf3 28.Bd5 Rf8 29.Bc6 Rg8 30.R1c2 Bxc6 31.bxc6 Qg4 32.Rd2 Qe4 33.c7 Qb1+ 34.Kh2 Qe1, draw.

The final moves could have been 35.c8=Q Qg3+ with perpetual check.

*{This article originally appeared in the July-August 2006 issue of Virginia Chess Newsletter}