The Spirit of Adventure - First Move Chess -First Move Chess

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In a bygone era of chess history, games were more often than not always some sort of brawling, swashbuckling affair that was replete with adventurous quick attacks that would lead to an opponent’s king being hunted all over the board, before finally falling victim to a brutal checkmating attack. This sentiment was never truer than during the Paul Morphy era in the 1800s when players with the white pieces would sacrifice pawns and even pieces from the opening to go right in for the kill.

Adolph Anderssen was also one of the greatest masters during this period – and in two of his most famous games, he sacrificed so many pieces to hunt down his opponent’s kings, that those encounters were forever adorned in the annals of the game with the titles of the ‘Immortal Game’ and the ‘Evergreen Game’. However, as chess matured, so did defensive techniques and strategic understandings that were to originate straight out of the playbook of Wilhelm Steinitz, who in 1886 became the first official World Chess Champion.

Organised preparations and positional maneuverings replaced all that swashbuckling impetuosity. Oftentimes, a dozen or more moves can be made these days without much feistiness at the board; not even a single capture of a pawn let alone a piece. But once in a while, we do come across a game that can appear out-of-time by a century or more, and we are treated to something very reminiscent of those bygone days of Morphy and Anderssen.

A classic example of this came during the early rounds of the ongoing Russian Team Championship Premier League in the Black Sea coastal resort of Sochi, where the untitled young Russian, Grigory Palchun opted more for the spirit of adventure than modern-day positional and strategic techniques, and the outcome was a highly original, entertaining game we feature today.

Meanwhile, at the business end of the table, Peter Svidler’s ‘Bronze Horsemen’ of St. Petersburg, Miedny Vsadnik, look to be effortlessly heading towards the title. Going into the final round, Miedny Vsadnik has the big advantage of a one-point lead over their nearest rivals, Legacy Square Capital of Moscow.

Standings:
1. Miedny Vsadnik 15/16; 2. Legacy Square Capital 14; 3. Molodezhka 12; 4. Sibir 8; 5-7. SShOR, Moskovskaya Oblast, Ladya 7; 8. Sima-Land 6; 9. Yuzhny Ural 4; 10. Zhiguli 0.

Photo: © Russian Chess Federation

Grigory Palchun – IM Ivan Bocharov
Russian Team Championship Premier League, (1)
Petrov’s Defence
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 Nxe4 4.dxe5 Conventional Petrov play would see 4.Bd3 d5 but now the game proceeds to take a very sharp turn that’s more remiss of our aforementioned, romantic era of chess. 4…Bc5!? 5.Qd5!!? Well, this puts the cat amongst the pigeons! The safe option was 5.Be3 Bxe3 6.fxe3 d5 7.exd6 Nxd6 – but then again, chess – and life in general – wouldn’t be interesting if we didn’t take risks. 5…Bxf2+ 6.Kd1 f5 7.Bc4 Rf8 8.Nc3 c6 9.Nxe4!? Before move 10, white is already offering up a speculative queen sacrifice. You could imagine swashbucklers such as Paul Morphy or Adolf Anderssen playing this way – but not a modern-day player, and certainly not in a competitive team tournament! 9…cxd5 10.Nd6+ Ke7 11.Bg5+ Rf6 12.Bxd5 White only has a knight for the queen – but he does have wonderful compensation with a raging attack! 12…Qa5 13.c4! Play is double-edged, fiercely complex, not to mention full of the spirit of adventure. And worthy of consideration also was 13.Nxc8+!? Kf8 14.Bxb7 Rc6 15.Nd6 (Bad was 15.Bxa8? Rxc8 16.Bd2 Qb6 and black has a big advantage.) 15…Qa4 16.Bd2! Qg4 (To be avoided was 16…Qxc2+? 17.Ke2 Bc5 18.Bxa8 Bxd6 19.Bxc6 Nxc6 20.exd6 as white will easily combine his forces for a material and positional advantage.) 17.Ke2 Bb6 where, if you are brave and have a steely nerve, you could quite well see the game concluding with 18.Rhf1 Qxg2+ 19.Ke1 Rxc2 20.Nxf5 Rxb2 21.Rc1 Na6 22.N5h4 Qg4 23.Ng5+ Ke8 24.Nf5 Nc5 25.Nd6+ Ke7 26.Rf7+ Kd8 27.Rf8+ Ke7 28.Rf7+ and a repetition. All easy to asses with the benefit of a playing engine – but the white pieces are aligned in such a configuration that you would be alert to the game ending either with a mate or a repetition; so not so far-fetched as we might think. 13…Nc6 14.Nxf5+ Kf8 15.exf6 gxf6 16.Bxf6 White has emerged with a slight material advantage – but his active pieces now swarming around the black king offers excellent practical winning chances. 16…Nb4 17.Bc3 Qb6 18.Ng5? [see diagram] What a tragedy! Palchun gets carried away by believing he has an imaginative mating attack, that turns out to be nothing more than a mirage. Instead, he had the clinical strong shot of 18.Bxb4+! Qxb4 19.Kc2 d6 20.N5d4 and white’s rooks and pieces pose a serious threat to black’s shaky king. All of which is a pity, as Palchun should have been rewarded for all his bravery by winning this game. 18…Nxd5 19.cxd5 d6 Stronger was 19…Qg6 – but you can easily understand that all black wants to do here is get his bishop and rook into the game as quickly as possible. 20.Ne6+ Bxe6 21.dxe6 Qc5 22.e7+ Ke8 It’s a total reversal of fortunes now, with black’s king having sanctuary, and now he can focus on his own attack. 23.g4 Qd5+ 24.Kc2 Qe4+ 25.Kb3 Forced, as 25.Kd2 retreating the king risked 25…Qxg4 26.Ng3 Kxe7 and black has a big material advantage. 25…Qxg4 26.Nxd6+ Kxe7 27.Rad1 The only option, as 27.Nc4 runs right into 27…b5 28.Nd2 Qa4#. 27…Rd8 28.Bb4 Ke6 29.Rhf1? [White is more remembering the passion of his earlier attacking chances – but he simply had to try here 29.a4 to prevent what’s coming. 29…a5! 30.Ba3 If 30.Bxa5 Qf3+! 31.Bc3 Rxd6 effectively sweeps up now. 30…b5! 31.Rd3 Qa4+ 32.Kc3 b4+ 33.Kd2 bxa3 0-1 Palchun resigns, as 34.Rxf2 Qb4+ 35.Kc2 (No better is 35.Kd1 Rxd6 36.Rxd6+ Kxd6 37.Rd2+ Ke5 easily winning.) 35…Qxb2+ 36.Kd1 Qxf2 wins.

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