16 January 2010

Tartakower and Chess960

The SchemingMind 2008 Chess960 Dropout Tournament finished recently and unlike the two previous years (see Pyramids and Dropouts for background) there was no clear winner. Of the eight players who managed to stay under the elimination threshold until the sixth and last round, four reached the threshold without exceeding it and were declared co-winners.

It's always interesting to look at games where good players compete with each other, which I'll do in a future post. It's also interesting to look at the early rounds of an event where the best players are taking full points from their less accomplished opponents.

The following miniature, between one of the co-winners and the event's tournament director, was played in round two. White's first move was 1.Nb3. While there is nothing wrong with this move, which develops the corner Knight to its natural square, it does nothing to stake a claim in the center. The moves 1.d4 and 1.c4, restricting Black's responses, were stronger.

Black continued 1...c5, preparing the development of three pieces and establishing a toehold in the center. White's best move was probably 2.c4, avoiding the subsequent embarrassment of the developed Knight. Instead White played 2.d4, reaching the diagram and handing the initiative to Black.


The game continued with a Knight chase: 2...c4 3.Nc5 d6 4.Nxb7 Qb6 5.Na5 c3. The move 6.Bxc3 was White's last chance to avoid a rout, but he continued 6.b4 and the game ended a few moves later. Here is the full PGN game score, courtesy SchemingMind.com.

[Event "2008 Chess960 Dropout Tournament"]
[Site "SchemingMind.com"]
[Date "2008.04.06"]
[Round "2"]
[White "spoke"]
[Black "saxon"]
[Result "0-1"]
[Variant "fischerandom"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "nbrqbnkr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/NBRQBNKR w KQkq - 0 1"]
[WhiteCountry "GER"]
[BlackCountry "GER"]
[WhiteElo "1634"]
[BlackElo "2373"]

1.Nb3 c5 2.d4 c4 3.Nc5 d6 4.Nxb7 Qb6 5.Na5 c3 6.b4 Qxb4 7.Nb3 a5 8.Ne3 e6 9.Qd3 Bb5 10.Qe4 Nb6 11.Qb7 Nfd7 0-1

Commenting later on White's 4.Nxb7, Black repeated a quip from Tartakower that was new to me: 'Never capture on b7, even when it's a good move!' Is it strange that it should also apply to chess960?

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