Taylor, Timothy – Brown, Michael
Lina Grumette Memorial, Los Angeles, 2011
Readers of my last Bird Blog might get the mistaken impression that White always gets the advantage with Bird’s Opening. However, it pains me to relate that this is not always true.
In this game White gets rather less than nothing out of the opening—but still wins the game! How is that possible? There is a twofold answer: one, the ideas of Bird’s Opening carry through into the middlegame and even the endgame, and if you are familiar with those ideas, you will have chances throughout the game—see especially move 24 here. Secondly, I find that many people simply don’t study endgames (or the great masters like Spassky who gave me an assist during this game) and therefore while their opening and middle game play may be of a high order, the quality drops seriously when the endgame is reached. This is why I encourage all my chess students to study the endgame first—for as the saying goes, after a bad opening there is hope for a good middlegame, and after a bad middlegame, there is hope for a good endgame, but after the endgame there is no more!
1…d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.g3 Bf54.Bg2 e6 5.0–0 Be7 6.d3 h6 7.c3 0–0 8.Qe1 c5 9.Nbd2 Nc6 10.e4 Bh7
Black has played the opening well and has a good position—so White must seek an improvement before this point. I have something in mind, but that will have to wait for another game!
11.Ne5 Qc7 12.Nxc6 Qxc6 13.exd5 exd5! 14.Nf3
Not 14.Qxe7?? Rfe8! wins the queen. One now sees that Black is slightly better.
14…Rfe8 15.Ne5 Qc7 16.Be3 Bd6 17.Qd2 Rad8
But Black also must beware: not 17…Bxe5 18.fxe5 Qxe5 19.Bxc5±
18.Rae1 c4 19.d4 Ne4 20.Qc1 f6 21.Ng4 Bf5 22.Nf2 Qc6
Not 22…Nxf2 23.Bxd5+±
As I wrote in my Bird book, I gave the move f5 more exclams than any other White move! This advance nearly always helps White in the Bird: gains space, frees the pieces, particularly the KR and QB, and often leads to a direct Kingside attack.
In this particular position an attack is too much to ask for, but the pieces are freed and White can think of an endgame bind in view of Black’s weaknesses at g6 and e6.
Objectively (computer wise) Black is still slightly better because of the e file, but after one slight mistake I will be able to play.
24…Bxg2 25.Kxg2 Re4 26.Bf4 Rde8?!
An almost unnoticeable error: Correct is 26…Bxf4 27.Rxf4 Rxe1 28.Qxe1 Re8 seizing the e file, when I agree to the equals plus assigned by Mr. Fritz.
27.Bxd6 Qxd6 28.Rxe4 Rxe4 29.Re1!
White neutralizes the e file.
Now White is completely equal on the board, but perhaps better from a sporting point of view: the f5 wedge, and the aforementioned weaknesses at e6 and g6 mean if there is a decisive result, only White can win.
29…Qe7 30.Kf2 Kf7
If my opponent had been confident in the endgame, he might well have entered the critical pawn ending: 30…Rxe1 31.Qxe1 Qxe1+ 32.Kxe1 with a very important calculating kind of position: Can White break through on g6 or b3? The following variations seem to show that it is a draw—with correct play of course—regardless of what plan White chooses. 32… Kf7 33.Kf2 Ke7 34.Kf3 Kf7 35.Kg4 Kg8 36.Kh5 Kf7 37.Kh4 (or the other plan: 37.g4 b5 38.h4 a5 39.g5 hxg5 40.hxg5 fxg5 41.Kxg5 b4 42.a4 bxa3 43.bxa3 a4 44.Kf4 Kf6=) 37…Ke7 38.Kg4 Kf8 39.Kf4 Ke7 40.Ke3 Kd6 41.Kd2 Kc6 42.Kc2 b5 43.b3 a5 44.bxc4 dxc4=
31.Re3 Rxe3 32.Qxe3 Qd7 33.g4
Here is the aforementioned Spassky assist: I recalled the following game. 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bg5 Be7 4.Nbd2 d5 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Bd3 b6 7.c3 Bb7 8.Qc2 c5 9.0–0 h6 10.Bh4 0–0 11.Rae1 c4 12.Be2 Qc7 13.Bg3 Bd6 14.Bxd6 Qxd6 15.e4 Nxe4 16.Nxe4 dxe4 17.Nd2 b5 18.Nxe4 Qf4 19.Bf3 Rab8 20.Re3 Rfd8 21.Ng3 Bxf3 22.Rxf3 Qh4 23.Re1 Nf6 24.Ne4 Nxe4 25.Rxe4 Qe7 26.a3 Rd5 27.h3 a5 28.Rg3 Rbd8 29.Reg4 Rg5 30.Rxg5 hxg5 31.Qe2 Rd5 32.Re3 Qc7 33.Re4 a4 34.Qe3 Qd6 35.g3 Qd8 36.Kg2 Rf5 37.f3 Rd5 38.Re5 Rxe5 39.Qxe5
Black’s pawn advances give him a weak position in the Q ending, as pawn endings favor White, while the room behind the advanced Black pawns invites the WQ. During the game I was hoping for just such a situation. 39…Qd5 40.Kf2 Kh7 41.Ke3 Kg6 42.Qe4+ f5 43.Qe5 Kf7 44.Qb8 Kf6 45.Qf8+ Kg6 46.Qe7 Qc6 47.Kf2 Qd5 48.h4 g4 49.Qg5+ Kf7 50.fxg4 Qe4 51.gxf5 Qc2+ 52.Ke3 Qc1+ 53.Ke4 Qe1+ 54.Qe3 exf5+ 55.Kf4 Qb1 56.Qe2 g6 1–0 Spassky, B-Reshevsky, S/Amsterdam 1964 White has an extra, passed pawn and wins easily with 57.d5 when besides the passer, White still has targets on both sides, particularly the weak Black knight pawns.
With Spassky on my side, I felt confident of the win, though objectively I think the Q ending should also be drawn—with that cursed “best play” of course!
Correct for Black now is 33…h5! to chop wood! After 34.h3 hxg4 35.hxg4 g5! (but not 35…g6 36.Qh6! with attack) 36.Qh3 Kg7 37.Qh5 Qf7 Black has covered his weaknesses and should draw.
34.Kg2 Qb6 35.Qe2 Qd6 36.h3 Qb6
White now has a small pull, analogous to Spassky – Reshevsky.
37.Kf2 a6 38.Ke1 Qd6 39.Kd1 Kf8 40.Qf3 Qh2 41.Qxd5 Qg1+ 42.Ke2 Qh2+ 43.Kf1 Qxh3+ 44.Qg2 Qd3+ 45.Qe2 Qh3+
Too risky is 45…Qb1+ 46.Kf2 Qxa2 47.d5 and the passed d pawn is dangerous, e.g. 47…Qa4 48.d6 Qd7 49.Qe6 Qxe6 50.fxe6 Ke8 51.Ke3 g6 52.Kd4 h5 53.gxh5 gxh5 54.Kc5 h4 55.Kb6 h3 (55…Kd8 56.e7+ Kd7 57.e8Q+ Kxe8 58.Kc7) 56.Kc7 h2 57.d7+ and the critical pawn queens with check and White wins.
46.Ke1 Qh1+ 47.Kd2
47…Qb1! is correct. 48.Qxc4 (Now White can’t play as above, as I would be a tempo down and after 48.Ke3 Qxa2 49.d5 Qb3 50.Kf4 Qb6 51.Qe6 Qxe6 52.fxe6 Ke7 Black wins) 48…Qxb2+ and the active BQ should give a draw.
Note that the quality of Black’s play has gone down: Correct is 48…Qc6 49.Qf3 Qb5 when Black is worse but still playing, while now White’s advantage is clear.
49.gxh5 Qxf5 50.Qxc4 Qxh5 51.Qb4+ Ke8 52.Qxb7 g5
Black got rid of the cramping f pawn, but at too high a price: White’s extra pawn appears decisive regardless of Black’s defense, e.g. 52…Qg5+ 53.Kd3 Qb5+ 54.Qxb5+ axb5 55.c4 and wins the pawn ending.
53.Qxa6 Qh3+ 54.Kd2 g4 55.Qe6+ Kd8 56.Qxf6+ Kc7 57.Qe5+
Black is hoping his single passed pawn is worth as much as four—and in some queen endings this is indeed possible, but here it seems the pawn is too far back and White’s threats are too real for Black to be able to save the game.
A typical variation is 57…Kb7 58.Qg7+ Ka6 59.Qg6+ Kb7 60.Qf7+ Ka6 61.Qc4+ Kb7 62.Qb3+ Ka8 63.Qd5+ Ka7 64.Qd7+ Ka6 65.Qc6+ Ka7 66.d5 g3 67.Qc7+ Ka8 68.Qd8+ Kb7 69.Ke3 g2+ 70.Kf2 Qh2 71.Qe7+ Kb6 72.Qf6+ Kb5 73.Qc6+ Ka5 74.b4# when, as in the game, White’s mating threats trump Black’s single passed pawn.
58.d5 g3 59.d6 Qh2+
White’s point is that Black can’t advance the pawn: 59…g2?? 60.Qe7+ Kc8 61.Qc7#
60.Kd3 Qh7+ 61.Ke3 Qa7+ 62.Kf3 Qf7+
Or 62…Qf2+ 63.Kg4 and the pawn still drops.
Black can check for a while, but shelter can be found.
64.Kf3 Qf7+ 65.Qf4 Qd5+ 66.Ke2 Qg2+ 67.Kd3 Qd5+ 68.Kc2 Qg2+ 69.Kb3 Qb7+ 70.Qb4 Qd5+ 71.c4 Qd3+ 72.Ka4 Qd1+ 73.Ka5 Kd7 74.Qa4+ Qxa4+ 75.Kxa4 Kxd6 76.Kb5