Wagner - Burba

(43) Wagner,S (1691) - Burba,M (1915) [B00]
GWCC Holiday Happiness Open GWCC, Shrewsbury, MA (1), 06.12.2001
[Fritz 6 (120s)]

1.e4 Nc6 The Nimzovich Defense, a slightly offbeat opening sometimes used by US GM Joel Benjamin and by UK GM Tony Miles (and by local hero FM John Curdo). Probably the definitive book on this defense was written by US master Hugh Myers. This is the first time I have tried Nimzovich's Defense in a rated game, though I use it quite often in unrated internet games at ICC. I decided to use this opening against Stefan because I had lost my two previous games as Black against him using the defense that I usually play, though I'm not convinced my opening play was faulty. Offbeat defenses sometimes work well by surprising an opponent. They cannot usually be relied on as a 'main defense', because they usually are theoretically suspicious - they're offbeat for good reason. As a practical matter I suggest that if you want to learn an offbeat defense, that you learn one that you might face as White, thus getting added benefit from your study time. For instance, if you play 1.d4 as White, then you could study the Budapest Defense (1.d4, Nf6; 2.c4, e5) as Black and sooner or later you'll see it from the White side. Or, if you play 1.e4 as White, then you could study the Center Counter Defense (1.e4, d5) and, again, you'll eventually see it with the White pieces. MB 2.d4+/= [ 2.Nf3 e5 Transpoing to well-charted double king pawn opening territory. It's important to be aware of transpositional possibilities. MB; 2.Nf3 d6 An attempt to keep away from the beaten paths and stay within Nimzovich's Defense. MB] 2...e5

Striking back at the center! One idea in this variation is to displace White's pawn at d4 and thus gain some play on the dark squares, as happens in this game. MB [ 2...d5 This is a major alternative to the game move. It's very useful in opening play to vary the variation that you play withing a particular opening. One reason for this is that typically you need to know a lot of sidelines, minor variations, when you play any opening. You may not see them often, but you need to be ready. When you add a variation to an opening that you play, usually you've already done all the side work on those minor variations. So it's a way to increase your opening repertoire with less work than by learning an entire new opening. By the way, FM John Curdo uses this strategy with the Nimzovich Defense: he plays both 2..., e5 and 2..., d5. MB] 3.c3 Controls b4 Not a usual response. It can lead to clumsy placement of the White pieces. MB [ 3.d5 Nce7+/=

Black has the choice of two major plans from this position: 1) Reposition the knight by Ng6 and then actively post the king's bishop by Bc5 or Bb4. Sometimes Black plays Bb4 to entice White into playing c3, which takes the best square away from the queen's knight, and then plays Bc5. 2) Use a King's Indian Defense setup (g6, d6, Bg7) and play an early f5. This is an interesting opening trick because it can lead a White e-pawn player into a structure that more resembles a d-pawn opening. MB; 3.Nf3 Leaving Nimzovich's Defense and transposing to the Scotch Game. MB] 3...Nf6 [ 3...exd4 4.cxd4 Bb4+ 5.Nc3=] 4.dxe5 Black has succeeded in displacing the White d-pawn. However, now the Black knights can become targets for the White pawns.MB [ 4.d5 Ne7=

A Nimzovich player would relish this position: Black can enter a King's Indian setup when White must waste a tempo with c4. Or Black can try to play Bc5 (if White doesn't play Be3!) and see what White does with his queen knight. MB] 4...Nxe5= 5.f4 Nc6

[ 5...Ng6 This alternative deserves attention. From g6 the knight watches the pawn on f4 and prevents White's queen knight from developing. MB; 5...Nxe4 6.Qd4 Qh4+ 7.g3 Nxg3 8.Qxe5+ Be7 9.Nf3 Qh6 10.Rg1+/- MB] 6.e5 White gets more space [ 6.Bd3 Bc5 And Black's dark bishop temporarily rules an important diagonal. MB] 6...Qe7 [ 6...Ne4 The knight seems destined for e4. The question is: does the insertion of ..., Qe7; Be2 in the game variation help White or Black? MB] 7.Be2 Ne4 8.Nf3 [ 8.Bf3 f5+/= 9.Bxe4 fxe4 10.Qd5 d6 11.exd6 Qxd6 12.Qxe4+ Be7 13.Nf3 0-0 14.0-0 Bf5 15.Qa4 Qc5+ 16.Kh1 Bd3 17.Re1 Bd6 18.Na3 Rae8 19.Rxe8 Rxe8 20.Qb3+ Kh8 21.Bd2 Qf2 22.Rg1 Bc5 23.Qf7 Rf8 24.Qd5 Rd8 25.Qe6 Bf1 26.Qe4 Qe2 27.Qxe2 Bxe2 28.Re1 Bxf3 29.gxf3 Bxa3 30.bxa3 Kg8=/+ An example of Black getting great activity if White tries to win a pawn. MB] 8...Qc5 White cannot castle king side. The mate threat is Qf2 Dark square play! MB [ 8...d6 9.Qd5 f5 10.exf6 Nxf6= MB] 9.Nd4

[ 9.Rf1 Qe7=] 9...Nxd4 [ 9...d5 10.Be3 This line had me concerned about the Black queen, probably needlessly. MB; 9...d6 10.Bf3 dxe5 11.fxe5 Nxd4 12.Qxd4 f5 13.Bxe4 Qxd4 14.cxd4 fxe4+/=] 10.Qxd4 d5 11.Be3 Qxd4 12.cxd4 Bb4+ 13.Nd2 Bf5=

Black is comfortable. MB [ 13...c5 14.dxc5 d4 15.0-0-0 Nxd2 16.Bxd2 Bxc5 17.Bf3+/=] 14.g4+/= Nxd2 15.Bxd2 Be4 The bishop dominates 16.Rf1 Be7 Refusing the bishop trade to make it harder for White to connect the rooks. MB 17.Rc1 Kd7 18.Ba5 c6 Secures b5 19.f5 White wins space 19...g6

[ 19...Rhe8!?=] 20.f6+/= [ 20.fxg6 hxg6 21.Rxf7 Ke6 22.Rf1 Rxh2=/+ MB] 20...Bd8 [ 20...Bf8 21.h4+/=] 21.Bxd8+/- Rhxd8 22.Bf3 Bxf3 23.Rxf3 Rh8 24.h4 [ 24.Rh3 h5= MB (But Fritz 6.32 likes White in much of this double rook ending).] 24...h5 25.g5 a5 Played to prevent White from attempting a minority attack via b2-b4-b5xc6. MB 26.Kd2 Rhe8 27.Rfc3

Black could try Ke6 & c5 to undermine the White e-pawn or Ke6-f5-g4. White could try to attack the Black queenside, possibly the Black b-pawn. None of these plans is risk-free and all can be parried - so a draw was agreed. MB 1/2-1/2

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