13 June, 2010

TL4545: Another round, another Bird....

Note to self....if you intend to play Bird's Opening, then you had better learn more about From's Gambit and how to defeat it !

In this Team League game, as an antidote to avoiding the Scandinavian that my opponent plays with regularity, ( and to cover a lack of preparation )  I opted for 1.f4, and just as in my previous outing I meet 1...e5 : From's Gambit.

Some statistics:

In my Master-games database f4 scores 47% for white, not exactly great.

However, in Team League (TL), it scores 56% which is actually pretty good ! A total of 333 TL games started with f4 and only 36 went down the path of Black's reply of e5 and From's Gambit, so for me to end up with two in a row is quite unfortunate !

Onto the game...

Its a more mainline game though, with g4 being the play rather than the quieter Nf6 from the last round.

After 1. f4 e5 2. fxe5 d6 3. exd6 Bxd6 4. Nf3 (...the threat is Qh4 mate, so this is the simplest way to stop it  ) g5  5. g3  ( a good [and old, so maybe not so well known ] alternative is d4, but g3 has options of Bg2 and helps against h4 ) h5 ( this is mentioned as “too slow” by Taylor who gives 6.d4 f6 7.Qd3 h4 8.Qg6+ Kf8 9.Nxg5!  as winning for White [ see game Horvath – Velvart below ], however, I wasn't expecting it, so it had the right effect). 

There follows 6.d4 g4  and here is the first decision point for me. 

The usual move , after 5...g4 is 6.Nh4, but when I applied it here, in a slightly different position and worked it through ( 7. Nh4 Be7 8. Be3 Bxh4 9. gxh4 Qxh4+ 10. Bf2 Qg5 ) it didn't seem great. 

I felt that Ng5 or Ne5 was better as although f6 drives the Knight away, it can move to c4 threatening the Bishop. I had to be prepared for BxN and the Queen exchange, but both Kings are quite exposed , so it didn't seem to be too bad . In the end I settled on Ne5 and the game continued in fairly obvious manner...

7.Ne5 Bxe5 (an alternative is h4, but after Bg2, it could lead to a number of exchanges  - 8...hg 9.hg Rxh1+ Bxh1 and now if 10. Bxe5 the resulting Queen exchange, as happened in the game, leaves White in a better position) 8. dxe5 Qxd1+ 9. Kxd1 Nc6 10.Bg2 ( here, the idea was to give back the gambit pawn in exchange for developing both bishops ) Nxe5 11. Bf4 f6 12. Nc3 ( normal developing moves, but White is now ahead in development, but hardly much of an advantage ) c6 (stopping Nd5, but I wasn't intending that !) 13. Ne4  

( attacking the f-pawn with Nxf6 and a later pin against the Rook after Nxf6 for Black. This was probably the second major decision point for me ) 13...Ke7 ( I think better is Nf7, but not by much ) 14. Ke1 ( safer than on  d1 and preparing Rd1 ) Nh6 (now that Nxf6 is stopped, Black aims for Nf5 threatening g3 ) 15. b3 (intending to reduce Black's space by preventing Nc4) Nf5 16. Rd1 (taking the d-file. I was actually expecting Rd8 at sometime ) b6 (this surprised me. It stops Nc5,but leaves c6 as a target, something White could take advantage of . I was actually expecting h4 or possibly a Bishop move ( Bd6 ) to activate the a-Rook) 17. Nf2 ( The engines don't like this, favouring c4 instead, but my idea was to attack c6 with Bishop and Knight. ) Bd7  

(why not 17... Bb7, which puts the Bishop behind the pawn and frees the d-file ? This turned out to be an important move for White, both in allowing the continued attack on the c-pawn, and the placing of the Bishop on the d- instead of b-file : both becoming targets) 

The game continues 18. Nd3 (I was actually expecting the exchange NxN, which would be met with Rxe3. This seemed OK for me, as ultimately, all the team needed was a draw, so I would be happy with that ! ) Ng6 (threatening NxB to pressurise g3 ) 19. Be4 h4 20. Nb4 ( finally hitting the c6 pawn with a good threat. Rf1 was something I considered and also Rg1, but the direct attack against the c-pawn provokes the mistake  when Black plays 20...Rac8??  appearing to defend the pawn, but actually allowing a Rook sacrifice and pinning King against the c-Rook to win !!

What was required was 20...Nxf4, gxf4 Nd6 to keep level. Playing 20...hxg3 would also allow the Rxd7+ manoeuvre )  21. Rxd7+ ! which deserves a diagram ...

Black continued with 21...Ke6 ( Kxd7 22.Bxf5+ Ke7 23.Bxg6 and it is definitely over !) 22. Rxa7 (just grabbing material ) hxg3 (Nxf4 is probably better, but it doesn't really matter now as after the next flurry of exchanges Black is running out of moves).

23. Bxf5+ Kxf5 24. Bxg3 (this combination keeps the exchanges level. 24. hg loses the Rook ) Ke4 (this, and the next few moves are natural and concentrate on the f5 square) 25. Rf1 f5 26. Nd3 Rcd8 (Rcf8 was what I expected, to protect the f-pawn ) 27. Ra4+ ( it has to be...not much else to play ) Ke3 ( I can only believe he let me mate him, as indeed is the gentlemanly thing having played on, as this mate is too obvious. Better was 27...Kd5 28. Rxf5+ Ke6 29. Rg5 Rhg8 30. Re4+) 28. Bf2#. Its all over, and this also means the team qualifies for the T45 playoffs ! 

Overall, an enjoyable game, with plenty of good play from both sides. As always, the last mistake decided it.
This won't stop me playing Bird's opening, but as mentioned right at the start, if I want to save myself stress and tension, its probably a good idea to prepare against the From Gambit in its various lines.

Although supposedly "refuted" by theory, when playing it live, the From Gambit gives Black quite an advantage in that he is immediately threatening White's now exposed King-side,and in a very active way,

The gain for Black is that White has to think on each move ( in my case dropping me behind on time ) and so that probably is a good balance against the gambit pawn.

I suspect that giving back the pawn with compensation, as I did with Bg2 and Bf4, gives White a small edge, but I am not qualified to say that it is good enough to win.

Regardless, Bird's Opening produces interesting positions and games, so I am glad to keep it as an occasional option.

The additional games below show the 6.d4 option against 5...h5 ( Horvath-Valvart) and the last game (Dietze-Hoerig) shows a different way for Black to meet Ne5, although I don't think it contributed to White's loss. That was more to do with e3 and White's King losing protection.

[Event "ICC"] [Site "Internet Chess Club"] [Date "2010.06.13"] [Round "?"] [White "Signalman"] [Black "I-K"] [Result "1-0"] [Eco "A02"] 1. f4 e5 2. fxe5 d6 3. exd6 Bxd6 4. Nf3 g5 5. g3 h5 6. d4 g4 7. Ne5 (7. Nh4 Be7 8. Be3 Bxh4 9. gxh4 Qxh4+ 10. Bf2 Qg5) 7... Bxe5 8. dxe5 Qxd1+ 9. Kxd1 Nc6 10. Bg2 Nxe5 11. Bf4 f6 12. Nc3 c6 13. Ne4 Ke7 14. Ke1 Nh6 15. b3 Nf5 16. Rd1 b6 17. Nf2 Bd7 (17... Bb7) 18. Nd3 Ng6 (18... Nxd3+ 19. Rxd3) 19. Be4 h4 20. Nb4 Rac8 (20... hxg3 21. Rxd7+ Kxd7 22. Bxf5+ Ke7 23. Bxg3) 21. Rxd7+ Ke6 22. Rxa7 hxg3 23. Bxf5+ Kxf5 24. Bxg3 Ke4 25. Rf1 f5 26. Nd3 Rcd8 27. Ra4+ Ke3 (27... Kd5 28. Rxf5+ Ke6 29. Rg5 Rhg8 30. Re4+) 28. Bf2# 1-0 [Event "Ch Hungary"] [Site "Budapest (Hungary)"] [Date "1993"] [Round "9"] [White "Horvath Julia (HUN)"] [Black "Velvart Peterne (HUN)"] [Result "1-0"] [Eco "A02"] [Annotator ""] [Source ""] 1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.Nf3 g5 5.g3 h5 6.d4 f6 7.Qd3 h4 8.Qg6+ Kf8 9.Nxg5 fxg5 10.Bxg5 Be7 11.Bxe7+ Qxe7 12.Bg2 Nd7 13.Rf1+ Ndf6 14.Nc3 Rh6 15.Qg5 h3 16.Bd5 Be6 17.O-O-O Bxd5 18.Nxd5 Qf7 19.Qxh6+ 1-0 [Event "International Tournament"] [Site "Leipzig (Germany)"] [Date "1997"] [Round "4"] [White "Dietzel Uwe"] [Black "Hoerig Dimitri"] [Result "0-1"] [Eco "A02"] [Annotator ""] [Source ""] 1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.Nf3 g5 5.g3 h5 6.d4 g4 7.Ne5 h4 8.Bg2 Bxe5 9.dxe5 Qxd1+ 10.Kxd1 Nc6 11.Bf4 Bf5 12.c3 Nge7 13.e3 O-O-O+ 14.Ke2 h3 15.Bxc6 Nxc6 16.Na3 Be4 17.Rhe1 Rhe8 18.Kf2 Nxe5 19.Bxe5 Rxe5 20.Rad1 Rf5+ 21.Kg1 Rfd5 22.Rxd5 Rxd5 23.Kf2 Bf3 24.Rc1 Rd2+ 0-1