Sunday, February 25, 2007

King's Indian Defense

At the New York Open 1996*, my best game was played in round four as Black against WGM Anjelina Belakovskaya.

Game One

Anjelina Belakovskaya (FIDE 2315) - Jim West (FIDE 2210), New York Open 4/5/1996

1. d4 Nf6

Lately I have been playing 1...e6 2.c4 f5, transposing into the classical Dutch Defense without having to worry about the Staunton Gambit, the Korchnoi Gambit, or even offbeat continuations like 1.d4 f5 2.Bg5. Since this was a FIDE-rated game, I decided to fall back on my old standby, the King's Indian Defense.

2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.Bf4

But I wind up playing against an offbeat continuation anyway! I guess my opponent avoided the usual 4.e4 because she has defended against it herself when playing Black, as I observed in a later round.

4...O-O 5.e3 c5

This seemed to me the correct way to proceed against White's unambitious system.


I was pleasantly surprised by this move, having expected either 6.d5 or 6.Nf3.

6...Qa5 7.Nf3?!

Perhaps my opponent was having a bad day. I had expected 7.Qd2, preventing Black's next move.


Only now did she look worried. Apparently she had overlooked this rather obvious move, exploiting the pin against the knight on c3.

8.Be5 Bxe5

The immediate 8...Nxc3 also came into consideration. But after 9.Qd2, Black probably has nothing better than 9...Bxe5 anyway.

9.Nxe5 Nxc3 10.Qd2

Here I went into a long think and came up with the risky plan of sacrificing a pawn. Simply 10...Qxc5 would have given Black a good game. Also worthy of consideration was 10...Nc6 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Qxc3 Qxc5.

10...d6!? 11.Nd3 Nc6 12.Qxc3 Qxc3+ 13.bxc3 dxc5 14.Nxc5

So White is up a pawn, but Black has compensation in White's doubled c-pawns. The only question is whether it is enough.

14...b6 15.Nb3 Ne5!

The idea behind this move is to start attacking the weak c-pawns by ...Ba6 and ...Rac8, while inviting White to play the weakening move 16.f4 after which 16...Ng4 would be awkward for White.

16.c5 Be6

Now 17.cxb6 axb6 would create the threat of 18...Bxb3.

17.Ba6 Rab8

I spent a long time on this move which prevents Bb7 and also allows Black to recapture on b6 with the rook after an eventual cxb6.

18.f4 Bc4!

Once White's bishop has been exchanged, the c8 square will become available for one of Black's rooks.

19.Bxc4 Nxc4 20.cxb6 Rxb6

At this point, I was extremely satisfied with my position. Black's knight on c4 is a monster, and Black's rooks have good play on the queenside. In addition, White has weak pawns on c3 and e3. It now became apparent that my pawn sacrifice had been successful.

21.Kf2 Nd6!

The threat of a knight fork on e4 is now in the air.

22.Rac1 Rc8 23.Rhd1 Ra6!

Now I felt that I had a slight advantage, despite my temporary pawn deficit.

24.c4 Rxa2+ 25.Kf3 Nxc4!

That this move was playable appeared to surprise my opponent.

26.Rd4 Ra3

Of course, Black must avoid 26...Nb6? 27.Rxc8+ Nxc8 28.Rd8+ Kg7 29.Rxc8.

27.Rdxc4 Rxc4 28.Rxc4 Rxb3 29.Rc7 e6

Having gotten this far, I decided not to press my luck with 29...a5 30.Rxe7 a4 31.Ra7 Ra3 since White's active rook offsets Black's outside passed pawn. Upon playing 29...e6, I offered my opponent a draw which she accepted at once in view of 30.Rxa7 h5 with a dead-drawn position.

As part of my opening preparation for this tournament, I had taken the King's Indian Defense out of mothballs and played it the previous weekend at the Manhattan Chess Club.

Game Two

Ilijas Terzic ( USCF 2295) - Jim West (USCF 2230), Manhattan Chess Club 3/31/1996

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.c4 Bg7 4.Nc3 O-O 5.e4 d6 6.h3

White's plan here is not to go into the Makagonov system but rather to steal a tempo on the line 6.Be2 e5 7.dxe5. It is not clear that having the white h-pawn on h3 instead of h2 amounts to anything tangible.

6...e5 7.dxe5

The usual continuation is 7.d5.

7...dxe5 8.Qxd8 Rxd8 9.Nd5 Nxd5 10.cxd5 c6 11.Bc4 cxd5 12.Bxd5 Nd7 13.Bg5 Re8

Except for the white h-pawn being advanced an extra square, the position reached is identical with Teschner-Fischer, Stockholm 1962 which ended in a draw after 41 moves.


This is Mednis's recommendation. Instead Teschner played 14.Rc1, but after 14...h6 15.Be3 Nf6 16.Bb3 Nxe4 17.Rc7 Be6 18.Bxe6 Rxe6 19.Rxb7 Ra6 Fischer had slightly the better of it.

14...Nc5 15.Ke2 Ne6 16.Be3 Nf4+ 17.Bxf4 exf4

I have had great success with this type of position in the past against masters. Black's dark-squared bishop exerts powerful pressure on the long diagonal.


White would like to play 18.Nc4, but then 18...Be6 disallows 19.Nd6? on account of 19...Bxd5 20.Nxe8 Rxe8.

18...Bxb2 19.Rc7 Be6 20.Bxe6

No better is 20.Bxb7 Rab8 21.Bc6 Rec8 22.Rxc8+ Rxc8 23.Bd5 Rc2.

20...Rxe6 21.Rb1 Be5 22.Rcxb7 Ra6!

Once again, this rook move yields Black a slight advantage.

23.Nc4 Rxa2+ 24.Kf3 Bd4!

This move gains time by counterattacking the f2 pawn.


White did not want to play passively with 25.Rf1 a5 26.Nd6 Rf8.

25...Rxf2+ 26.Ke4 Bb6 27.Rd1 Rc2 28.Nd6

Better drawing chances may have been offered by 28.Nxb6 axb6 29.Rdd7.

28...Rc7 29.Rxc7 Bxc7 30.Nxf7

White had counted on this tactical trick to regain a pawn, but the rook-and-pawn ending is lost due to the ideal placement of the black rook on a8 in back of the passed pawn.

30...Kxf7 31.Rd7+ Ke6 32.Rxc7 a5

In order to stop the a-pawn, White will be reduced to total passivity.

33.Rc6+ Kd7 34.Kd5 a4 35.e6+ Kd8!

It is important to keep White's rook off the seventh rank.

36.Rc4 g5 37.Rd4 a3 38.Ke5+ Ke8 39.Rd1 a2 40.Ra1 Ke7

The remainder of the game requires no commentary.

41.Kf5 Ra5+ 42.Kg4 Kxe6 43.h4 h6 44.hxg5 hxg5 45.g3 fxg3 46.Kxg3 Kf5 47.Kf3 g4+ 48.Ke3 g3 49.Kf3 Ra3+ 50.Kg2 Ke4 51.Kg1 Kd3, White resigns.

In both these games, Black's rooks had good play on the a-file.

*{This article originally appeared in the July-August 1996 issue of Atlantic Chess News}