Monday, June 28, 2010

A Debate on a Falkbeer Countergambit Variation

The players
Yakov Borisovich Estrin born in Moscow, Russia 21 April 1923 (died 2 February 1987). Yakov Estrin was one of the few players to become an over the board Grandmaster and a correspondence Grandmaster. He was the Seventh International World Correspondence Chess Champion (1972-1976) and was a finalist 4 other times. The game in this lecture is from his book GAMBITS (Chess Enterprises, 1983).

Paul Keres was born in Narva, Estonia 7 January 1916 (died 5 June 1975). In 1938, at the age of 22, the arrangements for a World Championship match with current champion Alexander Alekhine were interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. Paul Keres was one of the strongest Grandmasters in the world, he missed making it to the World Chess Championship 5 (!) times in the post war years. GM Keres is considered to be the strongest player never to compete in a World Chess Championship. He wrote my favorite endgame book, Practical Chess Endings.

When the game below was played, Paul Keres was already an accomplished Grandmaster and considered a serious contender for the World Chess Championship as noted above. Yakov Estrin was about to graduate from our equivalent of high school.

Estrin writes in his book Gambits how he “spent considerable time analyzing one of the variations of the Falkbeer Countergambit” which somehow just happened to be a line Paul Keres played in the prewar (WWII) years.

It went like this
1.e4 e5 2.f4 d5 3.exd5 d4 4.d3 Nf6 5.Nd2 Bf5 6.dxe4 Nxe4 7.Qe2

Here Estrin notes, “For a long time, theory held that the diagrammed position was in White’s favor. And in fact 7… Qxd5? Loses a piece to 8.g4!; while 7….Qe7 8.Ngf3 (snip) White clearly has the better of it.

But Estrin had a different idea he had analyzed and was determined to try it out. He did so against Grandmaster Paul Keres during a simultaneous exhibition in Moscow in the spring of 1941.

7…. Bb4!?! 8.c3 O-O 9.Nxe4 Re8 10.cxb4 Rxe4 11.Be3 Qe7 12.Kf2 Nd7

It is here Estrin pauses to note, “… it will not be easy for White to find a satisfactory defense.”

No kidding!

After 13.Re1 Nf6 14.h3 Re8 15.Qd2 Rxb4 16.Bd3 Bxd3 17.Qxd3 Rxb2+ we have the position on the right where the following occurred

18.Re2 Ne4+ 19.Kf3 Qh4 20.Bf2 Qxf2+
21.Rxf2 Rxf2+ 22.Kg4 Rxg2+ 23.Kh4 Rg6
24.Rh2 f5 25.Qf3 Rh6+ 26.Qh5 Rxh5+
27.Kxh5 Rd8 and White resigned.

You might think this would be the end of it, but it was not. A school boy had just defeated one of the world’s leading GM’s and did it in fine style.

Nine years later (nine years!) GM Keres did his best to throw doubt on the entire variation by suggesting an improvement to 8.c3 with 8.Qb5+ writing, “I see no way for Black to save all his hanging pieces here.”

He would have to eat those words after Estrin replied in print.

Estrin in 1951 ten years after the initial game gave the following refutation of Keres idea above: 1.e4 e5 2.f4 d5 3.exd5 d4 4.d3 Nf6 5.Nd2 Bf5 6.dxe4 Nxe4 7.Qe2 Bb4!?! 8.Qb5+ Nc6 9.c3 and then 9…. a6!!

Now the main lines White may choose from on move 10 which all lead to advantage for Black.

1) 10.Qxb7 Nd6! 11.Qxc6+ Bd7 12.Qxa8 Qxa8 13.cb O-O and Black is preferred
2) 10.Qd3 Nxc3 11.Qxf5 Qe7+ 12.Be2 Nxe2 13.Nxe2 Qxe2+ 14.Kxe2 Nd4+ advantage Black.
3) 10.Qc4 b5! 11.Qb3 Qe7 12Be2 Nc5 13.Qd1 O-O-O with a strong attack
4) 10.Qa4 Qe7 11.Be2 Nc5 12.Qd1 O-O-O! with a strong attack again
5) 10.Qe2 Nd4! O-O and Black has a tremendous attack

(All the analysis/notes above are Estrin’s)

Estrin’s line eventually ended the debate and put this line out of business for White.

- Honza Cervenka said, “Excellent attack of Yakov Estrin. 23...Nd6 threatening 24...Re4 with next 25...Nf5+ 26.Kh5 g6# was another possible finish.”
- bernardchinshin asks, “What happens if 20. Qe4. I cannot see a win for Black.”

Additional games: Found four (4) games have been played since the original on Black won all four. The following two games are representative.

Moscow, Russia 1949
Yu Steinsapir vs Yakov Estrin
1. e4 e5 2. f4 d5 3. exd5 e4 4. d3 Nf6 5. Nd2 Bf5 6. dxe4 Nxe4 7. Qe2 Bb4 8. c3 O-O
9. Nxe4 Re8 10. cxb4 Rxe4 11. Be3 Qe7 12. Kf2 Nd7 13. Qh5 g6 14. Qg5 Qxb4 15. Re1 Qxb2+ 16. Re2 Qc3 17. g4 Rae8 18. gxf5 Rxe3 19. fxg6 Nf6 20. Kg2 hxg6 21. f5
Rxe2+ 22. Nxe2 Qe5 23. Kg1 Ne4 24. Qf4 Qxd5 25. fxg6 fxg6 26. Bg2 Qc5+ 27. Kf1 Rf8 28. Bxe4 Rxf4+ 29. Nxf4 Qc4+ 30. Bd3 Qxf4+ 31. Ke2 c5 32. Bxg6 Qg4+ 33. Kf2 Qxg6 34. Rg1 Qxg1+ 35. Kxg1 Kg7 36. a4 b6 37. Kf2 a6 38. Ke3 b5 39. a5 Kf6 40. Ke4 c4 0-1

Nijmegen, Netherlands 1963
N Speyer vs V Soultainbeiff
1. e4 e5 2. f4 d5 3. exd5 e4 4. d3 Nf6 5. Qe2 Bf5 6. Nd2 Bb4 7. c3 O-O 8. dxe4 Nxe4
9. cxb4 Re8 10. Nxe4 Rxe4 11. Be3 Qe7 12. Kf2 Nd7 13. Qf3 Re8 14. Bd2 Nf6 15. h3 Rd4 0-1


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