Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sicilian Taimanov

After the opening moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Ng5 d6 6.Bf4 e5 7.Be3, a position from the Taimanov variation of the Sicilian defense has been arrived at that could also have been reached from the Kalashnikov variation after the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e5 5.Ng5 d6 6.Be3.

In fact, this is currently my favorite way of meeting both the Taimanov and Kalashnikov variations.

Following 7.Be3, Black is not obligated to play 7...Nf6 but can try an immediate 7...a6, first played in Anderssen-Szen, London 1851. But not to be recommended is 7...f5 8.N1c3 f4 9.Nd5 fxe3 10.Nbc7+ Kf7 11.Qf3+ Nf6 12.Bc4 Nd4 13.Nxf6+ d5 14.Bxd5+ Kg6 15.Qh5+ Kxf6 16.fxe3 Nxc2+ 17.Ke2, and Black resigned in Morphy-Anderssen, Paris 1858.

After 7...a6, my game as White against candidate master Bob Rose at the Somerset NJ quads in April 1997 proceeded 8.N5c3 Nf6 (8...Be6 9.a4 Nge7 10.Nd5 Bxd5 11.exd5 Qa5+ 12.Nc3 Nb8 13.Bd3 Nd7 14.O-O Nb6 15.b4 Qxb4 16.Rb1 Qxc3 17.Rxb6 Nxd5 18.Bb5+ axb5 19.Qxd5 Qc4 20.Qxb7 Qc8 21.Qd5 bxa4 22.Rb7 Be7 23.f4 f6 24.fxe5 dxe5 25.Rfb1 Rf8 26.Rxe7+, 1-0, Fischer-Blackstone, San Francisco simul. 1964) 9.Bc4 Be6 (9...Be7 10.Nd5 Nxd5 11.Bxd5 O-O 12.Nc3 Kh8 13.O-O Be6 14.Bb3 Na5 15.Nd5 Nxb3 16.axb3 Bxd5 17.Qxd5 Qc7 18.c3 g5 19.Ra4 Rad8 20.Rb4 Rd7 21.Rb6 Kg7 22.Ra1 f5 23.exf5 Rxf5 24.Ra4 Rf8 25.Rc4 Qb8 26.Rcb4 Qa8 27.c4 a5 28.R4b5 a4 29.Rxb7 axb3 30.h4 Rxb7 31.Rxb7 Rf7 32.Bxg5 Qa1+ 33.Kh2 Qxb2 34.Qe6 Qxf2 35.Rxe7, 1-0, Fischer-Badilles, Philippines 1967) 10.Bb3 Be7 11.Bg5 O-O 12.Bxf6 Bxf6 13.O-O Nd4 14.Nd5 Nxb3 15.axb3 Bxd5 16.Qxd5 with absolute control of the d5 square.

Eventually White converted this positional advantage into material gain and won.

Following 7.Be3 Nf6 8.Bg5 Be6, most attention has focused on 9.Nd2. Probably this is because the continuation 9.N1c3 a6 10.Bxf6 gxf6 11.Na3 d5, as in Fischer-Petrosian, Buenos Aires 1971 is supposedly in Black's favor, even though Fischer won that game. The critical position occurs after 12.exd5 Bxa3 13.bxa3 Qa5 14.Qd2 O-O-O 15.Bc4 Rhg8 (15...Bf5 16.O-O Nd4 17.Bd3 Bxd3 18.Qxd3 Kb8 19.Kh1 Rhg8, Jim West (USCF 2239) - Jim Gwyn (USCF 2159), Hamilton NJ 1991. Now I played 20.f4, and the game was eventually drawn in 52 moves. Instead, 20.Rad1 would have transposed into the Fischer-Petrosian game.) 16.Rd1.

Here Petrosian played 16...Bf5. As Jan Timman asks in his book The Art of Chess Analysis, "But why didn't Petrosian play 16...Rxg2?" In my opinion, the correct move for White after 16...Rxg2 is 17.Qe3.

After 17...Nd4 18.Kf1, Timman gives three possible continuations for Black: (a) 18...Nf5, (b) 18...Nxc2, and (c) 18...Bg4.

(a) 18...Nf5 could lead to a forced draw by repetition, as given by O'Kelly, following 19.Qa7 Qxc3 20.Bxa6 bxa6 21.Qa8+ Kc7 22.Qa7+, etc.

(b) 18...Nxc2 is more complicated. Timman now gives 19.Qd3 Rg4 20.dxe6 Rxd3 21.Rxd3 Qxa3 22.exf7 Nd4 23.Rg1 as risky for Black.

But White has no more than a draw after 23...Rxg1+ 24.Kxg1 Qc5 25.Ne4 Qb4 26.Rg3 Qe1+ 27.Kg2 Qxe4+ 28.f3 Qc2+ 29.Kh3 Qf5+ 30.Kg2 Qc2+, etc., or 24...Qb4 25.Nd5 Qe1+ 26.Kg2 Qe4+ 27.Kg1 Qe1+, etc.

(c) 18...Bg4 leads to a winning attack for Black, as shown by Timman, after 19.Kxg2 Bf3+ 20.Kh3 Qc7 21.Rxd4 Qd7+ 22.Kg3 (22.Kh4 Qf5 23.Qh6 exd4 24.Rg1 dxc3) Bxh1 23.Rg4.

Here Timman gives a long variation beginning with 23...f5 24.Qc5+ Kb8 25.Rg7 Rc8, but winning at once is 23...h5 24.Qc5+ Kb8 since now 25.Rg7 leads to mate after 25...h4+ 26.Kxh4 Rh8+. If instead of 19.Kxg2 White plays 19.Be2, Timman gives 19...Nf5 as "strong, perhaps too strong." Here I must disagree with Timman because 19.Be2 Nf5 20.Qd3 Bxe2+ 21.Nxe2 Rg5 22.h4 Rh5 23.Qf3 Ng7 24.Qg4+ wins the black knight.

After 19.Be2, Black should play 19...Bxe2+ 20.Nxe2, but after Black tends to his attacked rook on g2 by a move like 20...Rgg8, White simply plays 21.c4. After the likely continuation 21...Qa4 22.Qd3 Nxe2 23.Kxe2, the position looks approximately even, with White's doubled a-pawns offset by his protected passed d-pawn.

A transposition into the Sveshnikov variation can occur if instead of Petrosian's 11...d5 Black plays 11...b5 12.Nd5 f5 13.exf5 Bxf5 14.c3 Bg7 15.Nc2 O-O 16.Nce3 Be6.

Another possibility is 11...Nd4, after which the game Fischer-Taimanov, Vancouver 1971 continued 12.Nc4 (12.Bc4 b5 13.Bxe6 fxe6 14.Ne2 Nc6 15.Ng3 Qd7 16.c4 Nd4 17.O-O b4 18.Nc2 Nxc2 19.Qxc2 h5 20.Rfd1 h4 21.Nf1 Rg8 22.a3 h3 23.g3 bxa3 24.Rxa3 Qc6 25.Qe2 f5 26.c5 Qxe4 27.Qxe4 fxe4 28.cxd6 Bh6 29.Ra5 Kd7 30.Rxe5 Bg7 31.Rxe4 Bxb2 32.Ne3 a5 33.Nc4 Rgb8 34.Rh4 Kc6 35.Rh7 Bd4 36.Rc7+ Kd5 37.d7 a4 38.Nb6+ Rxb6 39.Rc8 Rd6 40.Rxa8 Rxd7 41.Rxa4 e5 42.Kf1 Rb7 43.f4 Ke6 44.fxe5 Rf7+ 45.Ke2 Rf2+ 46.Kd3 Bxe5 47.Re1, 1-0, Fischer-Najdorf, Santa Monica 1966) f5 13.exf5 Nxf5 14.Bd3 Rc8

15.Bxf5 Rxc4 16.Bxe6 fxe6 17.Qe2 Rd4 18.O-O Qg5 19.Rad1 Qf5 20.Rxd4 exd4 21.Ne4 Be7 22.Rd1 Qe5 23.Qd3 Rf8 24.Qxd4 Qxd4 25.Rxd4 d5 26.Nc3 Bc5 27.Rd2 Rf4 28.g3 Rc4 29.Ne2 Ra4 30.a3 Kd7 31.Kg2 b5 32.c3 a5 33.Nd4 b4 34.Nb3 Bb6 35.axb4 axb4 36.c4 Kc6 37.c5 Bc7 38.Nd4+ Kd7 39.f4 e5 40.c6+ Kc8 41.Nb5 Ra2 42.f5 Bd8 43.Rxd5 Rxb2+, and here Black resigned.

Besides Petrosian's 16...Bf5, Black can also play 16...Bg4, a suggestion by Korchnoi and Furman.

Their analysis continues 17.f3 Bf5 18.Ne4 Rxg2 19.Qxa5 Nxa5 20.Bd3 Rxd5 21.Nxf6 Rxd3 22.cxd3 Rxa2 which Timman calls strong for Black. But better than 21.Nxf6 is 21.Bf1 Rxd1+ 22.Kxd1 when the threat of 23.Nd6+followed by 24.Nxf5 forces Black to play 22...Bxe4 23.Bxg2 Bd5. After Black captures with ...Bxa2, White will stand slightly better due to Black's doubled f-pawns.

Even after 16...Bf5 17.Bd3, Timman says that Black could have gained an advantage by 17...e4 instead of Petrosian's 17...Bxd3. After 17...e4, Timman gives 18.Be2 Rxg2 19.Qe3 Ne5 20.Kf1 Ng4 21.Bxg4 Rxg4 22.h3 Rh4 "with a difficult position for White." But why not 18.Bf1 instead?

Now White will play 19.g3 followed by 20.Bg2. If Black tries to prevent this plan by 18...Ne5, then 19.Qd4 threatens 20.Qb4. And if Black answers 19.Qd4 with 19...Qxa3, White simply plays 20.Rb1 with 21.Qb4 to follow.

After Petrosian's 17...Bxd3, Fischer concluded the game with 18.Qxd3 Nd4 19.O-O Kb8 20.Kh1 Qxa3 21.f4 Rc8 22.Ne4 Qxd3 23.cxd3 Rc2 24.Rd2 Rxd2 25.Nxd2 f5 26.fxe5 Re8 27.Re1 Nc2 28.Re2 Nd4 29.Re3 Nc2 30.Rh3 Rxe5 31.Nf3 Rxd5 32.Rxh7 Rxd3 33.h4 Ne3 34.Rxf7 Rd1+ 35.Kh2 Ra1 36.h5 f4 37.Rxf4 Rxa2 38.Re4 Nxg2 39.Kg3 Ra5 40.Ne5, and Black resigned.

{This article originally appeared in the May-June 1997 issue of Atlantic Chess News}