Marc Esserman has racked up three brilliancies in the US Chess League. We have published two and cannot resist publishing the third, probably leaving Esserman alone for the near future. This game is Esserman, White, of the Boston Blitz v. Oleg Zaikov, Black, of the Carolina Cobras. Zaikov adopts a frequently successful strategy of getting out of the books early and avoiding prepared variations.
But in this game, a Latvian Gambit, the strategy does not work. The Gambit is offered on move 3 and is immediately declined by Esserman. On move 6, Zaikov makes a critical mistake, allowing Esserman to uproot his King. The displaced Monarch struggles thereafter, but the ending is captivating.
a) This is an inferior version of the Latvian Gambit (1.34 e5 2.Nf3 f5?!), which is already a bad opening.
b) This is necessary because 10. . .Nf6?? loses immediately to 11.Bf7+!! Kxf7 (11Kd7 12.Qf5+ Kd6 13.Bf4+ etc.) 12.Ne5+ Ke7 (12Kg7 13.Qf7#) 13.Qf7+ Kd6 14.Nc4#
c) Or 12. . .Be7 13.Bxe7 Qxe7 (13Kxe7 14.Qg7+) 14.O-O-O with a raging attack.
d) It turns out that 14.Rd1! is much stronger, as was found by the computer program “Fritz. The variations are complicated but the key point is that there is no check along the c1-h6 diagonal. After 14.O-O-O it is still winning but by a lesser margin.
e) The “Boston Blitz’’ website suggests that either 18.Bf6 or 18.Qf6 would have been better, although the move Esserman plays still puts Black under pressure.
f) It was necessary to play 19. . .Bd6, when Black is still hanging on for dear life.
g) A fantastic finish! It is checkmate after 20. . .Bxe6 21.Qe7# or 20Kd6/e8 21.Qe7#, so 20Qxe6 is forced, but after 21.Qxg7+ Black’s position falls apart completely.
Annotations by grandmaster Patrick Wolff, a two-time US champion who offers chess exercises and more at www.wolffchess.com.