Game 9: Zicfun-SmithyQ: A Very Crazy Opening

That’s an old adage that says amateur chess players need not worry about opening theory, since no one follows the mainlines after move eight anyway.  This is perhaps an oversimplication, but it has a grain of truth in it.  The game today, though, shows this off perfectly.

By about move 4, we had reached a completely unique position, one you could barely tell was a Sicilian.  You could have every opening book ever memorized and it wouldn’t help you.  If you knew basic ideas, though, then you could figure out the correct plan without much effort.

This game was a blast to play, and I’m excited to share the following crazy opening.

[Event “Let’s Play!”]
[Site “Chess.com”]
[Date “2015.04.12”]
[Round “?”]
[White “zicfun33”]
[Black “SmithyQ”]
[Result “0-1”]
[ECO “B20”]
[WhiteElo “1511”]
[BlackElo “1726”]
[Annotator “Pettit”]
[PlyCount “64”]
[EventDate “2015.??.??”]
[TimeControl “1”]

{In takes less than five moves to reach a completely novel and crazy position,
where I outplay my opponent tactically.} 1. e4 ({Before we begin, I want to
highlight a well-known opening trap, as it will have similar themes to the
main game.} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nd4 4. Nxe5 {White plays the most
natural move on the board, which loses.} Qg5 {This move hits both the Knight
on e5 and the pawn on g2.} 5. Nxf7 Qxg2 6. Rf1 Qxe4+ 7. Be2 Nf3# {This trap
works for one reason: White wasted time capturing a pawn. That wasted time
allowed Black’s Knight on d4 and Queen on g5 to hit all the weak points in
White’s position. Had White castled first (or indeed, played virtually any
more that wasn’t Nxe5), he’d be fine. It’s worth remembering that a Knight and
Queen can wreak havoc on an uncastled position.}) 1… c5 {A wild Sicilian
appears! I’ve played this off and on throughout the years, but it’s been a
rare guest over the last ten years or so.} 2. Bc4 {True story, a big reason I
stopped playing the Sicilian was because of annoying sidelines. White would
play the Bb5 lines or the Closed lines or the Alapin and I’m forced into dull
positions. This is clearly not the main line, and things get weirder quick.} e6
{Blunting the Bishop immediately makes the most sense, as I may even get d5 in.
} 3. e5 $5 {In a bizarre way, this move makes sense. It advances the central
pawn that Black failed to stop, and it attacks two important squares in the
Black camp. As is, it’s premature, as there’s no way to keep the pawn there.}
Nc6 4. Nf3 (4. f4 {This move looks good, as it aims to keep the pawn on e5,
but it fails tactically.} Nxe5 $1 5. fxe5 Qh4+ 6. Kf1 Qxc4+ $17) 4… d6 {
If White trades on d6, then he has wasted several tempi (e4, e5, exd6) just to
develop Black’s Bishop.} 5. Qe2 {That’s why this move makes some sense, trying
to keep control of e5 … but what about opening principles?! We’re moving a
pawn twice, we’re now developing our Queen, this can’t be a good opening!} dxe5
6. Nxe5 Nd4 $1 {If you look at the pieces, this position is near identical to
the opening trap I showed above. My Knight attacks not only the Queen but also
a fork on c2, and my Queen is ready to come to g5. White needs to be extremely
careful.} 7. Qd3 $6 ({White had one chance to keep the game even, exploiting
the main difference between this and the trap I showed above.} 7. Bb5+ Ke7 {
My King is forced to an uncomfortable square, but it doesn’t matter in a few
moves.} 8. Qc4 Qd5 9. Qxd5 exd5 $17 {Black has the advantage, as his Knight
still threatens c2, the Bishop is hanging and White has no central pressence
at all.}) 7… Qg5 {[%cal Gg5e5,Gg5g2] The Queen hits two hanging White
targets, and there’s no way to defend both.} 8. Bb5+ Ke7 {Yes, my King is in
the centre, but White can’t take advantage of that. He has no follow-up and he
needs to defend my threats.} 9. f4 Qxg2 10. Rf1 a6 {This position is crazy.
Both kings are stuck in the centre, both armies are largely undeveloped. With
a6, I am now threatening b5 and c4, trapping the Bishop. There are lots of
tactics here, and White only has one move to stay in the game.} 11. Rf2 {
White was unable to calculate the lines correctly and opted for this. To be
fair, this is not an easy position, and it took me a long time to calculate
the options.} (11. Ba4 b5 (11… Nh6 {The computer suggests this is even
better. I don’t need to rush the b5 idea, and White still needs to defend. The
threat is stronger than the execution.} 12. c3 Ndf5 13. Qe2 Qxe2+ 14. Kxe2 b5
$17 {and Black is up a pawn, with the better pawn structure, and will soon
have great coordination with his pieces after Bb7, f6, Kf7 and Bd6.}) 12. c3
bxa4 13. cxd4 {is the line I analyzed, where we now add funky pawn structures
to the other imbalances.}) (11. c3) 11… Qg1+ 12. Qf1 Qxf1+ 13. Bxf1 {White
managed to save his Bishop …} Nxc2+ {… but now he loses the exchange.} 14.
Ke2 Nxa1 15. Na3 {I’m up a Rook, but my Knight is likely trapped and I have no
pieces developed on move 15. I need to untangle. Logically, I need to move my
King to allow my Bishop to develop, and since I can’t castle anymore, the best
square is likely f7. Playing f6 would also push the advanced White Knight away,
so that’s a double bonus.} f6 16. Nd3 Kf7 17. b3 {White gets ready to round up
my Knight, but amazingly, I’m able to extract it. The key is that only the
Knight on a3 controls c2, the escape square. If I can get that Knight to move,
then my Knight is free.} b5 $1 18. Bb2 b4 {If White’s Knight moves, my Knight
escapes. He doesn’t want to allow a simple trade, as then I’m just up a Rook.}
19. Bg2 $2 {White tries this, a counter attack to my Rook, but it doesn’t work.
} bxa3 20. Bxa8 axb2 21. Nxb2 Nc2 {I’m up two full pieces. The rest is easy.}
22. Nd1 Nh6 {Fun fact: this is the first move where I haven’t played
‘perfectly’ according to the computer. Everything up until now has been
completely computer approved.} 23. Be4 Nd4+ 24. Kf1 Bd6 {Once I get all my
extra pieces out, the game will be over.} 25. Nb2 Bd7 ({The computer likes the
following line significantly better, but again, at this point it doesn’t
really matter.} 25… Ng4 26. Rg2 f5) 26. Nc4 Bb5 {By pinning the piece, I
guarantee a trade. The more pieces I trade, the more weight my two extra
pieces have.} 27. d3 Nhf5 28. Bxf5 Nxf5 29. a4 Bxc4 30. dxc4 Rb8 {There’s not
much left to say.} 31. Rb2 Bxf4 32. Kg2 Nd4 {And with more pawns dropping soon,
White resigns. This was a fascinating game to play, and if I’m completely
honest, I overlooked the Bb5+ line at the beginning. At the same time, my
intuition told me it had to be good regardless, and the computer confirmed I
was right.} 0-1

Conclusions

I need to point something out explicitly here, just to make sure there is no chance of misunderstanding: I did not win this game because I memorized the opening trap I showed at the beginning.  Not even close.  Honestly, I didn’t even have it memorized: I knew the first four moves, but I had to look up the finish.  I kept playing better defensive moves than Nxf7.

Anyway, it wasn’t about memory but about pattern recognition.  The position seemed familiar, and several candidate moves popped to my head almost instantly.  This is why studying master games is so important: you learn patterns that you can use in different positions.  Rather than trying to memorize things, I try to understand the logic behind the moves.

Besides, even with the opening coming out nicely, I was only up one pawn.  It was the follow-up that added more and more, until my advantage was unquestioned.  You need not memorize reams of theory, but if you understand the ideas, you can do amazing.

4 thoughts on “Game 9: Zicfun-SmithyQ: A Very Crazy Opening

  1. Gringo

    1. This is a crazy game. Your qeen had a chance to take a pawn on move 10, but you kept attacking the bishop. Any particular reason?

    2. I have the Opening Courses 1&2. Though I did notice that Smirnov’s book mentions these openings.

    Against 1.e4:
    Marshall counter-attack in the Ruy Lopez
    Sveshnikov variation of Sicilian Defence
    Berling Defence of Ruy Lopez
    Petroff’s Defence

    Against 1. d4:
    Nimzo-Indian
    Queen’s Indian Defence
    Grunfeld Defence

    Do you have any thoughts on these. I quickly glanced but I thought these openings might not have been in the practical part of the opening labs or at least opening lab 2.

    I just picked KID as black and although it’s not easy to get crushed I think the locked chains from earth to the moon and turning me off. I want to practice more open games to improve strategical game play and learn to attack weaknesses. I am not planning to spend much time on openings but rather put my effort into something or play it that doesn’t require too much maintenance. When I do play KID it’s generally based on principles rather than any variations so to me it doesn’t matter. So what would be your recommendation about openings that I don’t have to keep upgrading? You seem to be getting turned off from Nimzo-Indian & Bogo-Indian due to them being easily avoidable.

    Gringo

  2. JP Post author

    1. I’m already up a pawn, but I’m well behind in development. Spending more time to take more pawns is a sure-fire way of getting in trouble. That’s why I push back the Bishop instead, which also threatens b5 and c5 with a fork.

    2. I have a lot of thoughts here, so instead of trying to squeeze it into a comment, look for a post about openings in the next little bit.

    Always appreciate the comments, Gringo.

  3. Gringo

    I was a bit confused about you not capturing a pawn because of the principle of material. You didn’t take the pawn but now that I think about it could it be explained easily because you were in the opening stage and over there development and not moving same piece twice etc take precdence, and not pawn hunting? To me this seems to clear the mind of clutter and brings back a harmony of sorts.

    Had you completed the first stage of the game would you have considered taking the pawn? Or had the king been safer, or then it would have required concrete variational check due to pieces being in contact? The more I write the clearer my thinking seems to be getting. Maybe writing does consolidate thinking and iron out logical flaws.

    As for your article about opening, perhaps it may take a few themed sessions to get the pertinent questions answered. I am writing the kind of questions that confuse me so that it might give you ideas about the tragectory of your posts.

    1. Which openings for a players under expert levels.
    2. Are there openings that work at all levels?
    3. How does one know about opening transposing to another?
    4. Is there a ‘tree’ of openings with transpositions to have a clue about which openings to study in tandem?
    5. How does one know when black has achieved equality? What does it even mean? What about white keeping it’s first mover advantage?
    6. Is there a way to steer and opponent in a certain opening or are we at the mercy of opponents moves?

    This is all I could think of. A lot of these may be very basic questions but an older person I know is apt to say: Baby no cry, mama give no milk.

    Gringo

  4. JP Post author

    In that position, I never even considered taking the pawn, exactly for the reasons you outlined. In particular, my King is in the centre and White has centralized Knight, Bishop, Queen (if misplaced) and Rook. He will play f5 at some point and I could be in trouble. Since I’m already up a pawn, I need to consolidate before thinking about grabbing more. Besides, it’s not like White can easily protect it.

    I’ll have a post about my thoughts on the opening, covering some of your questions, up this weekend.

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