This week the focus of our study was on positional maneuvering. To facilitate this study we chose to study the Breyer variation of the Ruy Lopez (featuring an early knight retreat to its home square). The following "team" or "consultation" game was played by the students. They were divided into two teams and collaborated to come up with moves. Ian and I checked analysis for blatant tactical errors and asked methodological questions to ensure that the students were satisfied with the logic and completeness of their thought process. We did not contribute significantly to the content of the games by offering moves or evluations of resulting positions.
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 b5 6.Bb3 Be7 7.Re1 0-0 8.c3 d6 9.h3 Nb8! The tabiya of this variation. We began the game from this position.
10.d4! White plays in principled fashion, attacking in the center!
10...Nbd7 the point of the maneuver! Black reinforces his center just in time and puts the knight in a spot where it will not obstruct the c8 bishop on its new diagonal (a8-h1). The "simplest" response to White's move, exchanging pawns, would leave White with 2 against 1 in the center, an unfavorable situation for Black.
11.Nbd2 Witness the complexity of the students' concept as it unfolds. Keep your eye on this knight!
11...Bb7 12.Bc2 Overprotection! The students came up with this deep idea, releasing the knight, completely on their own!
12...c5! So far both teams have generated moves that have been played by top Grandmasters. This move is also very principled as it increases the pressure on White's center.
13.Nf1! Rc8 14.Ng3 Keep watching this one!
14...Qc7 Diagram # Black creates the first concrete threat, to win material: ...cxd4, cxd4 Qxc2!
15.Nf5 White answers aggressively!
15...Rfe8 16.d5 White eschews the trade Nxe7, logically reasoning that the knight will be more useful than the hemmed-in bishop.
16...Bf8 17.Bg5 White is beginning to develop an attack on the kingside.
17...g6 Black evicts the knight from its menacing position and prepares to reposition the bishop on g7. This maneuver has also been employed by Grandmasters, but the students came up with it entirely on their own!
18.Ne3! A brilliant concept! The students plan Nfh2 and a coordinated attack from g4!
18...Bg7 19.Nh2 c4! Another maneuver! Black finds a logical way to pursue the same plan: this consistency in maintaining a line of reasoning is exceptionally commendable: Black plans Ndc5, from which point the knight will coordinate with the other to attack e4, a square that has been made tender by the e3 knight's obstruction of the e-file. What an intricate maneuvering game!
20.Kh1 an extraordinary prophylactic idea! White removes his king from the c5-g1 diagonal as he wishes to attack Black's center with f4 (after careful preparation) and anticipates danger to the king along that diagonal.
20...Nc5 Black continues his plan from the previous move.
21.Qf3 White answers in the most straightforward manner, protecting the pawn and threatening the f6 knight
21...Nfxe4!! an extraordinary idea! Black sacrifices his knight for two pawns and a huge pawn presence in the center! The entire character of the game and position changes - White is put on the defensive! It turns out that this strategical idea had also been employed in top Grandmaster play, unbeknownst to the students. We could not be more impressed with the quality of their play!
22.Bxe4 f5 23.Bxf5!! Showing superb defensive instincts! White rejects the "safer" alternatives which would lead to extremely passive positions in favor of this bold counterstroke, creating an attack against the Black king. An extraordinarily dramatic development!!!
23...gxf5 24.Nxf5 e4 25.Qg4 White menaces the black king, threatening Bh6.
25...Kh8! An astute reply! Black gets his king off the dangerous file and prepares yet another counterattack, beginning with Rg8!
26.Bf4 Be5 27.Bxe5+ Rxe5 28.f4 White finds a way to incorporate his previous idea.
28...Nd3 Black is full of energy!
29.Rf1 Rxd5 30.Ne3! The knight continues to maneuver. From this excellent square it blockades the black e-pawn and prepares to advance its own f-pawn.
30...Rg8!! another beautifully energetic reply! Black sacrifices the exchange so as to avoid a slowing down of his initiative.
31.Nxd5 Bxd5 32.Qf5 a very important gain of tempo. If White retreated passively he would be in extreme danger after Black liberated his bishop on the diagonal with ...e3!
32...Qg7! Black continues to build his attack with alarming speed! Now checkmate itself is threatened!
33.Ng4 A beautiful maneuver. From here the knight stanches the file and prepares Qf6, to trade queens.
33...Bc6 34.Qf6 White hastens to trade off the dangerous black queen.
34...e3! Black continues to sacrifice material for initiative. The students show a bold consistency in their play!
35.Qxg7+ Rxg7 36.Nxe3 Rg3 an extremely powerful invasion, which White had been hoping to prevent.
37.Rae1 White yet again wisely returns the material to stave off the black threats to his king.
37...Nxe1 38.Rxe1 Rxh3+ 39.Kg1 Rh4 40.Rf1 Be4! an astute repositioning of the bishop, outside of the black pawn wall he intends to erect.
41.f5 Kg7 42.Rd1 d5 43.Nxd5 Bxf5 44.Nc7 Rh6 and here, after many hours of play, the two sides agreed to a well-deserved draw. 1/2-1/2