Week 2 Game of the Week annotated by both players!
by IM Greg Shahade                      

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This week we have a special treat as GM Alejandro Ramirez and IM John Donaldon have both annotated their wild game from last Wednesday's San Francisco vs Dallas match. I want to thank both players for their fantastic annotations. All moves from the game are in bold. Alejandro's comments will be in GREEN, and John's will be in RED.  If it's easier for you, you can follow the game on ICC by logging onto their server at www.chessclub.com and typing ex USChessLeague %33 or you can click on this link

White - IM John Donaldson
Black - GM Alejandro Ramirez

1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 c6 4. Nc3
a6 (D)

JD - The Chebanenko variation (4...a6) is a tough nut to crack. Alejandro has used it successfully in the past including a draw with Kasimdzhanov in the FIDE World Championship Knockout in Tripoli in 2004.

AR - This silly looking move has been the fashion slav for some years. The idea is to cover the b5 square, threatening dxc4, but overall to allow the R manouvre to a7, defending the b7 pawn. You have to love modern chess.

5. c5

AR - This came as a pleasant surprise. I was expecting Donaldson to attempt a draw after cxd5, and expect boards 3 and 4 to result in a victory for the SF team.


JD - Black has other choices here but this is currently considered best.

6. Bf4 Nh5 (D)

7. Bd2

JD - 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bd2 Nhf6 9. Qc2 Qc7 10. e4 dxe4 11.Nxe4 Nxe4 12.Qxe4 Nf6 13. Qc2 Be6 14. Bd3 Nd7 15. 00 Bd5 16.Rfe1 e6 17. Ne5 Nxe5 18. dxe7 Be7 =  Topalov - Kasparov, Linares 2004

AR - 7.e3 is a bit more popular then 7. Bd2, but in my opinion both moves present black with problems.


JD - 7...g6 8.e4 led to a nice victory in Gelfand-De la Riva Aguado, Pamplona 2004.


AR - White prepares the e4 break, black has no reason to fear it though.


AR - and prepares his own break on e5.

JD - Normally 8....g6 is played here and I am not sure White has shown a way to an advantage. One amusing possibility is 9.e4 dxe4 10.Ng5 Bg7 11.Bc4 00 12.Bxf7 Rxf7 13.Ne6 Qe8 14. Nc7 Qd8 15.Ne6 with a draw as 15...Qa5?? drops the queen to 16.Nxe4 Qb5 17.a4.
    Alejandro's move 8...Qc7 caught me by surprise. It has been played a couple of times in this exact position, and Kasparov has used it in similar positions, albeit with the inclusion of ....h6 (Bf4-g5-d2, instead of simply Bf4-d2).

9. e4 (D)


JD - 9....dxe4 gives white the extra option of 10.Ng5, which Lautier used to beat Jakovenko in a blitz game.

10. Nxe4 dxe4 11. Qxe4 Nd7-f6 (D)

AR - This is an interesting moment in the game. I was expecting John to play Qe5, as it seemed the most hazardous:

12. Qc2

AR - yet he prefers to retain the biggest amount of pieces possible in the game, claiming that his space advantage is more important then his weak d5 square and d4 pawn.

 If 12.Qe5 Qxe5 13.dxe5 Nd5 14.Bc4 g6 with an unclear position. White has more space but has some structural weaknesses.

JD - The Mechanics' Chess Club's GM-in-Residence, Alex Yermolinsky, told me after the game that retreat was not best, that 12.Qe5 looked more testing.

12....Bc8-e6 (! AR)

AR - This move is rather important. Normally chess players would block the d4 pawn with a N, but in this case the B on d5 will be much more powerful!

13. Bd3 Bd5

JD - 13...Nd7, in comparison with the Topalov-Kasparov game (but with no ....h6), might be considered. Alejandro's move certainly looks very natural.


JD - Maybe 14. O-O along the lines of Topalov's play might be right.  14....Bxf3 15.gxf3 e6 leaves White with some ratty looking pawns but he does have space and two bishops. If Black doesn't take on f3 then Ne5 might come with effect.

14...g6 15. Ne5 (!? AR) (D)

AR - White realizes that if he simply develops, he will end up in an inferior position in little time, so he sacrifices a pawn for the sake of attack.


AR - Black declines until there is a better moment. White is forced to play f4-f5 if he is to continue his play.

JD - 15...Bxg2 16.Rhe1 Bg7 17.f4 Bd5 would transpose to the game but White would get the choice of other moves besides f4 on move 17.

16. f4 (?! JD)

JD - 16.f3 is more prudent but I thought the text would stop Black castling either side. This is probably true but Alejandro shows that it's not so important.


AR - I saw no good reason not to take this pawn now. White has some compensation, but I was confident in my defensive possibilities.

17. Rhe1 (! AR)

AR - A not so obvious move. Most people would "regain" their tempo by playing Rhg1, yet that would only "force" black to play Bd5, a move he wants anyways! The rook is much better placed in the e file.


AR - The bishop goes back to defend f7.

18. f5 (D)

JD - 18.Kb1 was an offhand suggestion made by Yermo after the game. His thought is that f4-f5 weaken White's grip on the position and he's probably right.

18...Nd7 (! JD+AR)

AR - A fine tactical mess issues, where I think John misplayed. White strongest option here is to exchange knights, and pressure the e pawn.

JD - 18....0-0-0 19.Qa4; 18...0-0 19. Rg1 both look a little scary for Black with Ba5 burying Black's Queen in one line and sacks on g6 looking tempting in the other, but Alejandro's decision to trade off White's pieces stops the attack in its tracks.

19. Nc4 (!? AR)

AR - Very risky, white sacrifices yet another pawn. I was planning 19.Nxd7 Kxd7! 20.Bc4 Rae8 and blacks pawn is not free, but its a pawn.

JD - I pretty much have to do this to keep it complicated but now another pawn goes.


AR - And black simply takes it! I was aware of the Nd6+ followed by Ba5 line which occured in the game, but saw that white was really gaining nothing out of it.

20. Nc4-d6+ (D)

AR - 20.Ba5 Qf4 21.Bd2 was an interesting option. Surely you don't sacrifice 2 pawns to force a perpetual, but white had to start thinking if his attack would really crash through.


JD - 20...Kf8? 21.Bh6 Kg8 22. Rxe7 would be very nice for white.

 21. Ba5 (! AR)

AR - A simple move to see, the bishop is indirectly protected. Black must have foreseen this possibility when playing 18...Nd7, otherwise a question mark should be attached to that move!

21...b6 22. cxb6 Bxb6

AR - 22...Nxb6?? 23.Nxf7 Bxf7 24.Be4! and white wins. It was also important to notice this when playing 18...Nd7.
23. Bxb6 Nd7xb6 (D)

AR - Now black is two pawns up, and wants to consolidate by playing e6. His king is pretty happy in the centre of the board. White still has some pressure, and should create all sort of threats to keep black from consolidating.

24. Nc4

JD - White's intention here is to trade some minor pieces here to get at Black's King but 24.Ne4 gxf5 25.Nc5 might have been a better try.

24.... gxf5 (! JD)

JD - I think this is the right idea, ensuring that Black has a strong pawn center to hide his king behind.

25. Qc3

JD - During the game I thought this interpolation was a good idea but the straightforward 25.Nxb6 Qxb6 26.Bxf5 was not without it's points as my move activates Black's Rook.

25....Rg8 26.Nxb6 Qxb6 27. Bxf5 Rb8 28. Bxh7 Rg8-g2 (D)

AR - Black is now active and has an extra pawn. The position should be winning, and whites only hope is to create murky water in the time trouble we just got in.

29. Bc2

JD - 29.Rd2 allows ....Rxd2 and ...Qb4 or the immediate ...Qb4 but might have been better than the text. By this point both opponents were getting low on time.

29....Qb4 (! AR)

JD - 29...Rxh2 30. Qe5 Qc7 31. Qxc7 Kxc7 32. Rxe7 Kb6 might have been a good risk-free practical decsion but at this point the match was still wide open and Alejandro probably felt he needed to win the game at all costs (Simutowe-Zilberstein was a one point turnaround in one move).

30. Qh8+

JD - 30.Qe5 f6 wins on the spot so I need to lure his king up.

30....Kd7 (D)

31. Qh8-e5

AR - 31.Rxd5+ cxd5 32. Qh3+ e6 33.Qxg2 Qxe1 and black is winning. If 31.Qh3?! Kc7 and again black has a winning position.

31....Qc5 (? AR)

AR - Quite messy, Qc4 was much cleaner. Now white gets counterplay due to his passed h-pawn. After 31...Qc4, white doesn't have the Re2 resource that he used in the game. Black seems almost winning to me.

JD - I was hoping for 31....f6? 32.Rxd5 cxd5 33.Ba4!

32.Re2 Rxe2

JD - 32...Rbg8 looks right. I am purposely going to refrain from criticizing moves from this point on because we were both really low on time.I should mention that unlike the other teams the MI always plays G/60 with 30 second increment instead of G/90 with a 30 second incrememnt as we are the only team on the West Coast in the league. (Dallas always plays G/60 also - Greg Shahade)
 Yermo's first impression was that Black should stay with his King in the center behind his pawns. The queenside doesn't turn out to be a safe haven.

33. Qxe2 Qb5 34. Bc2-d3 (D)

JD - Now the Oracle (aka Fritz) thinks that White is equal. Some strong players feel that when you are a pawn down and the computer say you are equal you are actually better, that is certainly not the case here but the materialist silicon creature does appreciate the looseness of Black's position.


AR - Just trying to gain some time on the clock.

35. Kb1 a5

JD - 35...Rg8!? (Fritz) 36.Bxa6 Rg1 37.h4 Qd4 38. Rxg1 Qxg1 39.Kc2 Bxa2 looks good for Black. Probably White should not grab the pawn on a6.

36. Be4

JD - I played this to loosen Black's King position but 36.h4 looks better

36...e6 37. Qf3

JD - White continues his plan to open Black up, but now b2 is unguarded. Better was 37.h4


JD - 37...Ke7 following Yermo's idea to hide behind the pawns makes sense.

38. Qf3-g3 (D)


AR - 38....Rxb2 39.Kxb2 fxe4 was possible, but white probably has perpetual check somewhere.

JD - 38....Qd6 39.Qg7+ Kc8 safeguards the King.

39. Qg7+ Qe7 40. Qe5 Rb5 41. Bc2 Kc8 42. Qh8+ Qd8 43. Qh8-h7

JD - Cheap threats of Rg1-g8 are entering White's brain.

43...Rb7 44. Qh6

AR - With time pressure still going on, it was a relief to see that his queen was unable to give checks for a while. Black still has an extra pawn and is much better.

JD - I had just enough time left to appreciate that f6 would be a very nice square for Black's Queen.


AR - A little trap....

 45. h4

AR - 45. Qxe6?? Rxb2+! 46. Kxb2 Qh8+ and black is winning the white queen.

JD - Finally the right idea

45....Ka7 46. h5 Qb6 47. Qf6

JD - This blunders a pawn away, instead I should have played 47.Qc1 Bf3 48. Re1 Bxh5 49. Rxe6


JD - 47...Bf3 48.Re1 Bxh5 49. Bb3 Bf7

48. Ka1 (D)

AR - Black is a pawn up and it is obvious that white has no perpetual check posibilites. Yet, seeing that my teammate Peter Vavrak had 2 pawns up in a totally winning endgame while the match was tied at 1-1, I didn't want to risk the match in the insuing time trouble. I saw the possibility of Bf3 as probably winning, but decided to allow a perpetual check. I had already offered a draw a couple of moves ago, but it had been declined.

JD - Another blunder, I saw 48.h6 Rh7 but missed 49.Qd8


JD - 48...Bf3 does the trick again. At this point we had around 40 seconds left (with a 30 second increment per move)

AR - 48...Bf3! --+  49.Rd3 (49.Rb1 Bxh5 50.Bb3 Bf7 and black is won) 49....Qg1+ 50.Bb1 Be4 51.Qd4+ Qxd4 52.Rxd4 and black has all the chances.

49. Qd4+ Kb8 50. Qh8+ Ka7 51. Qd4+

JD - Now I found out that a draw was not going to be enough as we had lost on boards 2+3. I should have tried 51.Qc3 hoping for 51...Qxh5? (51...Kb6 and again Black is better) 52. Qxa5+ Kb8 53.Qd8+ Ka7 54. Rd4

 Kb8 52. Qh8+ Ka7 53. Qd4+

JD - One check too many, White has gained some time to think on the clock but alowed a three-time repetition.

AR - And with this the exciting game was drawn. It is interesting that whites attack looked so promising, yet it is (at least for me) impossible to see where he missed a way to crash into the black fortress.

{Game drawn by repetition} 1/2-1/2

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