Chess Notes

By Harold Dondis and Patrick Wolff
Globe Correspondents / July 16, 2011

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Here is a game Ruslan Ponomariov, White, took from Spartak Vysochin, Black, in the eighth round; Ponomariov was on his way to winning the 2011 Ukrainian championship. It is an English Opening, which might be characterized as a Sicilian with colors reversed.

In this game, Vysochin tries to surprise his opponent with an unusual Bb4, but Ponomariov is unperturbed by the move. His 3.Nd5 turns on the bishop, which must retreat. A surprising move is Black’s 7..Nf6, which allows White’s knight to attack Black’s queen, whereupon the two pieces seemed to dance a reel together. The upshot is that White’s knight occupies d6, thus partitioning Black’s position into two parts. White then turns to the kingside and, using rook and knight play, completely collapses Black’s defenses.

a) This offbeat line is playable, but basically inferior to the more normal 2. . .Nf6 or 2Nc6.

b) An important point is that 4. . .e4? is powerfully met by 5.Ng5!

c) More normal is 7. . .d6 8.g3 Nf6 9.Bg2 etc. with an edge to White.

d) If 8. . .Qe5 9.Nxg7+ Kf8, then 10.f4 (but not 10.Bh6? Bxf2+! with the idea of 11.Kxf2 Ng4+ and 12Nxh6) rescues the knight once the queen moves away from the control of f5.

e) Perhaps 10. . .Qc5 was an improvement here.

f) It is clear that White has a large advantage in this position. Black will have trouble completing his development given the gaping hole on d6.

g) Note White’s highly logical play. He has kept his grip on d6 and completed his development briskly; now he turns his attention towards attacking Black’s king.

h) This loses, but there was nothing better. For example, 22. . .Nxd6 loses the queen after 23.Nf6+ Kh8 24.Nd5+.

i) Not 23. . .Qa5 24.h5!, but 23Qa4 looks more tenacious, as 24.Nc3 Qa5 just hangs on, and 24.Nxe8 Raxe8 25.Nf6+? Rxf6 26.Qxf6 Qxc4+ gives Black too much counterplay. White keeps an advantage with 25.Nd6, but after 25Re6 the game continues.

j) Necessary to defend against checkmate without catastrophic loss of material, but after. . .

k) . . .it is all over. Of course 27Nxe4? allows 28.Qg7#, but now the roof caves in.

Annotations by grandmaster Patrick Wolff, a two-time US champion.

Ponomariov Vysochin Ukrainian Championship, 2011 English Opening

Ponomar VysochinPonomar Vysochin
White BlackWhite Black
1. c4 e516. Bd3 Nxd3+
2. Nc3 Bb4?! (a)17. Rxd3 b6
3. Nd5! Bc518. h4! (g) Ba6
4. Nf3 c6 (b)19. Rh3 Ne8
5. Nc3 Qe720. Rg3 g6
6. d4 exd421. Rg5 Qb4
7. Nxd4 Nf6?! (c)22. Nce4 f5 (h)
8. Nf5! Qf8 (d)23. a3 Qe1+? (i)
9. Be3 Bxe324. Rd1 Qe2
10. Nxe3 Qe7 (e)25. Ng3! Qxf2
11. Qd4! O-O26. Ngxf5 Nf6 (j)
12. O-O-O (f) Na627. Ne4! (k) c5
13. Nf5 Qc528. Nxf6+ Kh8
14. Nd6 Qa529. Qxd7 1-0
15. e3 Nc5