Saturday, February 24, 2007

Two Knights Defense, Morphy Variation

In a previous article, I analyzed several games in which I played the Evans Gambit after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4. Here I will give a pair of games against masters featuring the Two Knights Defense 3...Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Na5 6.d3, called Morphy's variation by Yakov Estrin in his book on this opening. Actually 6.d3 was originally analyzed by Max Lange in 1849. Both games took place at the Marshall Chess Club, in June and July of this year respectively*.

Game One

Jim West (USCF 2226) - Arkady Rabinovich (USCF 2291), Marshall Chess Club 6/22/1996

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Na5

Other fifth moves for Black, such as 5...Nxd5 or 5...Nd4 or 5...b5, will not be considered in this article.

6.d3 h6 7.Nf3 e4

A few months later, at the Hamilton NJ quads in August, candidate master George Krauss played the inferior 7...Bg4 8.h3 Bxf3 9.Qxf3 Bd6 and lost in 30 moves.


On Bronstein's bishop sacrifice 8.dxe4 Nxc4 9.Qd4, Euwe gave the following refutation: 9...Nd6 10.e5 Nf5 11.Qa4+ Qd7! or 10.Nc3 Nfxe4 11.Nxe4 Qe7 12.O-O Nxe4 13.Re1 f5 14.Nd2 Qc5.

8...Nxc4 9.dxc4 Bc5 10.h3 O-O 11.Nh2 e3

When Morphy faced this variation as Black, he played 11...Nh7 and 12...f5. Alternatively Black can try 11...b5 or 11...c6, and in both cases 12.O-O may be White's best response.

12.Bxe3 Bxe3 13.fxe3 Ne4 14.O-O Ng3 15.Qd3 Nxf1 16.Nxf1 Qg5 17.Kh1 Bd7

Instead Estrin gave 17...Bf5 18.Qe2 Rfe8 19.Nc3, concluding that "White has sufficient compensation for the exchange" although Keres rated the position after 17...Bf5 as slightly better for Black.

18.Nc3 Rae8 19.Re1 f5 20.Nh2 Re7 21.Nf3 Qh5 22.c5 Rfe8 23.d6

Already White stands better. The passed d-pawn is powerful.

23...cxd6 24.cxd6 Re6 25.Nd5 Re4

Naturally Black avoids 25...Rxd6 26.Ne7+ Rxe7 27.Qxd6.

26.Nc7 Rb8 27.Qd5+ Qf7 28.Nd4 Qxd5 29.Nxd5 Kf7 30.c4 Rc8 31.b3 g6

With two healthy pawns for the exchange, White has good winning chances.

32.Kg1 Bc6?! 33.Ne7 Rd8 34.Ndxc6 bxc6

I think my opponent intended to play 34...Rxd6 but suddenly realized that 35.Nxa7 Rxe7 36.Nc8 drops the exchange.

35.c5! Ke6 36.Nxc6

With three pawns for the exchange, White has a won endgame. But the win is still difficult.

36...Rc8 37.Nd4+ Kd7 38.b4 f4 39.Nc2 Rc4 40.Re2 fxe3 41.a3 Rc3 42.Nxe3 Re8 43.Kf2 Rxa3 44.Nc4! Rxe2+ 45.Kxe2

Black has won back a pawn, but White's passed pawns can not be stopped.

45...Rb3 46.Ne5+ Ke6 47.d7 Ke7 48.c6 Rc3 49.Kd2! Rxc6 50.Nxc6+ Kxd7 51.Nxa7

Ordinarily Black would resign here, but with a time limit of game/60 he plays on.

51...Kc7 52.Kc3 Kb6 53.Nc8+ Kc7 54.Ne7 g5 55.g4 Kb6 56.Nf5

And here Black finally resigned.

Game Two

Jim West (USCF 2225) - Vladimir Grechikhin (USCF 2200), Marshall Chess Club 7/21/1996

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Na5 6.d3 Bc5 7.O-O Nxc4 8.dxc4 h6 9.Nf3 e4 10.Nd4

Since Black has played ...Nxc4 prematurely, this centralizing knight move is now possible, as the d-pawn is protected.

10...O-O 11.h3 c6 12.Nb3! Be7 13.Nc3

Black has little to show for his pawn deficit.

13...Qc7 14.Be3 Rd8 15.Qd2 b5 16.Bf4 Qd7 17.cxb5 cxd5 18.Rad1

White has successfully completed his development and is prepared to exploit the d4 square.

18...Bb4 19.Nd4 Bb7 20.a3 Ba5 21.b4 Bb6 22.a4 a5 23.bxa6 Bxa6 24.b5 Bb7 25.Be3 Ba5 26.Nb3 Bxc3 27.Qxc3 Rxa4??

This move should have lost immediately.

28.Nc5 Qxb5 29.Nxa4?!

I played too quickly here, even though the first time control of 30/90 was looming. It would only have taken a few seconds to realize that 29.Rb1! wins outright.

29...Qxa4 30.Bxh6 d4

Although White is an exchange ahead, Black's advanced center pawns are nettlesome.

31.Qg3 Ne8 32.Bg5 Rd6 33.Rb1 Qc6 34.Qb3 Ba6 35.Rfe1 Re6 36.Bf4 Rg6 37.g4 Re6 38.Qb4 e3 39.Qxd4 e2

Black hopes to create mating threats on the long diagonal.

40.Be3 Qf3 41.Kh2 Nd6

On 41...Bb7, White reaches a two-pawns-up ending by 42.Rxb7 Qxb7 43.Rxe2.

42.Qf4 Qd5 43.Qg3 Ne4? 44.Rb8+ Kh7 45.Qh4+ Kg6 46.f4! Qd6 47.Rb6 Qc7 48.Qh5+ Kf6 49.Qf5+ Ke7 50.Rxe6+ fxe6 51.Qxe4

The rest is easy.

51...Bb7 52.Qd4 Kf7 53.Qc5 Qd7 54.f5 Qd1 55.fxe6+ Kxe6 56.Qf5+ Ke7 57.Bc5+ Ke8 58.Qe6+ Kd8 59.Bb6#.

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