The Roller Coaster

By GM Lev Alburt

Even after blundering apiece, a true master remains calm, resilient, resourceful and ready for a comeback.. This month's exciting game contains an unorthodox opening, a blunder, and a spectacular reversal.

Writes the winner of this month's award: My name is Victor Baserga and I am currently unrated. I learned to play chess at the age of 23 when I got locked up. Recently, on the advice of a master (Rajan Ayyar, aka Raj) I subscribed to Chess Life. I'm also the proud owner of two chess books, The Big Book of Busts by Watson & Schiller, and Volume C of ECO. I hope to add one of yours to my humble collection.

The following game took place at Pleas ant Valley State Prison last year.

Falkbeer Counter Gambit (C31)

Rajan Ayyar (Master) Victor Baserga (Unrated)

1.e4e5 2.f4d5

I don't appreciate being on the black side of the King's Gambit, so I offered Raj a counter gambit of my own, the Falk beer.

3. exd5

After 3. exd5

Black usually plays here 3. ... e4, 3. ... c6, or 3. ... exf4.

(see diagram top of next column) 5 Bb4

After 5. fxe5

Transposing to the Scandinavian Defense, e.g., 1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qa5 4. d4 e5 5. dxe5 Bb4 ... except that White's hanging pawn came from the f row instead of the d row.

A good example of how ideas from one opening can help you on a totally different opening! Of course, the two positions (with the d or f pawn on the fourth rank) are very different; still, Victor's 5. ... Bb4 is more challenging than 5. ... Qxe5+, which leaves Black behind in developing, or than 5. ... Nc6 6. Bb5.

6. Nf3 Bg4

After 6. ... Bg4

This move is uncharacteristic for Raj. This statement is somewhat ambigu ous. Does Victor mean that 7. Bc4 is bad, or simply too aggressive for Raj's more positional style? Chesswise, 7. Bc4 is fine of course, only if not followed by 8. 0 0.

Analysis after 9. Ng5+

White is up a pawn, while non capturing eighth moves also have drawbacks and should favor White. Raj decided not to check these complex lines and played "safe." And blundered.

(see diagram top of next column)

I was very excited at this point! 9. d4 Qxc4

I'm up a bishop for my pawn!

After 10. a3

10 Ba5

In retrospect, I should have retreated to e7 or captured his knight.

Of course, all three moves should win. I'd prefer 10. ... Bxc3 11. bxc3 Qxc3, grab bing a pawn and going for the queens' trade (after 12. ... Bxf3) after an eventual Bxf3; the solid 11. ... Nge7 is also convinc ing.

After 11. ... Nxd4

12. Kh1 Nxf3

Better 12. ... h6 13. Bf4 0 0 0! with pressure, and no counter attack for White; if 13. Bh4, then 13. ... g5 followed by 14. ...0 0 0 and White is still in trouble.

13. gxf3 Be6 14. Ne4

(see diagram top of next column)

After 14. Ne4

14 Qd5

The move 14. ... h6, questioning his bishop, would have been better, e.g., 15. Bh4 g5 16. Bg3 Ne7 with the idea 17. ... Nd5 and my only worry is which side to castle on.

15. Qe2

After 15. Qe2

Greed on my part. 15. ... Ne7, 15. ... h6, or 15. ... f5 all seem better.

Certainly not 15. ... f5 16. exf6 e.p., and if 16. ... gxf6, then 17. Bxf6!

After 17. c4

The price of not protecting the king is soon evident! 17. ... f6 18. Bh4 a6 19. Rad1 Ne7 and 20. ... 0 0 and all White can hope for is a stalemate. If 20. c5, Bd5!.

I like 17. ... f6. By "stalemate" I guess Victor means "draw" or "equality." And after 17. ... f6 18. Bh4, 18. ... 0 00 is both safe and clearly in Black's favor.

I strained at a gnat and swallowed a camel!

19. Nxf5 Bxf5 20. Rad1+, Black resigned.

Final position

I resigned. All the king's horses and all the king's men ...

Yes, the resistance is futile. Not only is White ahead in material (Q vs. B+N+pawn) but he'll soon win more: 20. ... Kc721. b4 Bb6 22. c5, or 20. ... Kc8 21. Qe8+.

Thank you for your time and patience in looking over this game. I think there's a lot more in this game that I am miss ing, and I believe Chess Life readers would benefit from my blunders.

P.S. Just out of curiosity, what would my approximate rating be, based on the above game against a master?

I think Chess Life's readers will benefit both from the errors, and from the accom plishments, of both players. My guess, the rating would be in the 1500 1900 range; but, of course, being based only on one game, and the notes to it (albeit they are good ones) this is only a guess. What do the readers think?

Send in your games!

If you are unrated or were rated 1799 or below on your Chess Life label, then GM Lev Alburt invites you to send your instructive games with notes to:

Back to Basics, c/o Chess Life PO Box 3967 Crossville, TN 38557 3967

Or e mail your material to [email protected]

GM Alburt will select the "most instructive" game and Chess Life will award an autographed copy of Lev's newest book, Chess Training Pocket Book II (by Lev Alburt and Al Lawrence) to the person submitting the most instructive game and anno tations.

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