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Coffee Break Chess No. 11, 13th June 1999

© 1999 by Alexander Baburin

Dear Chess Friends!

In this issue I would like to show some more games, played in Havana, and also to address the problem of defeat in chess. As usually, I mention what caught my eyes recently.

IM John Watson needs help. International Master John Watson (48), from San Diego, USA, recently suffered a stroke. John is a fine writer and coach: his articles in Inside Chess, New in Chess and other magazines are always interesting, as well as his splendid book reviews in TWIC. His book ‘Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy’ (Gambit 1999) is widely regarded as one of the most powerful chess books emerged in the last decades. Among John’s students are World Junior Champion GM Tal Shaked and very promising US junior Patrick Hummel. But above all, John is a very nice person! Right now he needs help - he is paralyzed on his right side, but there is hope that with physical therapy he will be able to regain the use of one or both limbs. John does not have medical coverage and his total bill will be in excess of $200,000. So, if you feel you can help John Watson, please send a check to his sister Barbara Watson at 143 River Road, Gill MA 01376, USA. Contributions should be made payable to the John Watson Medical Fund.

Interesting reading – ‘Kingpin’. Last week I received the latest issue of this magazine (No. 30), which immediately caused me to stop working. I informed its editor Jon Manley that my bill for the loss of income will follow shortly! :) Indeed, there is a lot of interesting stuff in that issue: interview with Larsen, article on Karpov by Lev Khariton, ‘Chess and Politics’ by John Watson. And not the least important is much needed survey ‘Chess and Sex’ by GM Stuart Conquest! To subscribe to the magazine or to order back issues, please contact Jonathan Manley at

My first book review. My first review of opening books is out - you can see it on Hanon Russell’s Web site – Chess Café at I must say that I am not to keen on opening books, preferring game collections and tournament books, but a good opening monograph certainly has its value too. Alas, there are many poor books in this particular field, but I hope that my column in Chess Café will help you to avoid them.

Surfing the Web. Recently I came across very interesting chat with IM Jeremy Silman. I agree with many of Jeremy's points (i.e. that chess is an art, though to me it's also a game) and disagree with some (for example, that it's very easy to become a GM nowadays). The chat session can be found at I also found a very good site for chess links - Chessopolis - That site now hosts CBC as well. Talking about my newsletter, it's now available in French, thanks to Jonathan Faydi, who posts it at

Defeat in chess. Chess players do not like to lose (who does?) and I am no exception. Alas, I have plenty of experience in this field and here I’d like to share it. First of all, I feel that proper classification is much needed. I like GM Rublevsky’s remark that while our victories confirm our class, our losses show how unlucky we can be sometimes. Thus, I’d like to suggest the following classification, based completely on luck – it should make every chess player more comfortable, by explaining why exactly he loses:

  1. First Degree Defeat – our opponent got lucky, as he/she had to face us, when we:
  1. were very sick (had sour throat, temperature, etc – add what you prefer);
  2. were disturbed by financial problems (death of our dog or cat, etc);
  3. forgot to check the sharpest line in the latest ‘Crash Them With...’ book.

Our opponent may think otherwise - e.g. that he won a nice game, outplayed us completely, found a brilliant strategic idea or splendid combination, but we know better why things went wrong – he got lucky!

  1. Second Degree Defeat – our opponent got very lucky: we played really well, in impressive style, but missed a fluke cheapo (blundered, got distracted by a nice blond spectator, etc). His victory was completely undeserved and he is better watch out when we meet again! By the way, if you suspect that your opponent does not understand that he was just plain lucky, tell him something like this: "I will not include this game in my best game collection!". This is what one famous Swiss GM told me that immediately after resigning, which left me somewhat puzzled: did he really think/fear that I would include that game in my best game collection?

I hope that armed with this absolutely scientific classification, we will never fail to explain what really happened in some of our games! :)

But seriously speaking, defeats are very painful and for a tournament player it’s important to be able to coop with them well. Personally I do this by accept that defeat is a part of the game – sometimes it just happens. We can actually benefit from defeats by strengthening our character (learning how to take the pain) and improving our understanding of the game (by learning from our mistakes). Here is a recent example:

Alexander Baburin (2586) – Julio Becerra (2535)

Capablanca Memorial, Havana (8), 15.05.1999

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nf3 Bg7 4 g3 0-0 5 Bg2 d6 6 0-0 c6 7 Nc3 Qb6 8 b3 e5 9 e4 Bg4 10 Be3 Qa5 11 Rc1 Nbd7 12 h3 Bxf3 13 Bxf3 a6 14 d5 cxd5 15 cxd5 Rfc8 16 Qd2 Rc7 17 Nb1 Qxd2 18 Nxd2 Rac8 19 Nc4 Bf8 20 Bg2 b5 21 Na5 Rxc1 22 Rxc1 Rxc1+ 23 Bxc1 Nc5 24 f3 Nh5 (D)

The play has not been free of mistakes, but White is clearly getting the better of it, as this ending is difficult for Black: his bishop is passive and the d6- and a6-pawns may become weak. However, I was suffering from the dead-brain syndrome (described in CBC-10), as I spent too much time on every single move. Thus, I felt that an injection of adrenaline was much needed and played: 25 Be3! This is even better than 25 Kh2, which would be also good for White. Then he should try to activate his light squared bishop by h3-h4 and Bg2-h3. 25...Nxg3 Black had to accept the sacrifice, as 25...Nd3 26 Bf1 Nb4 27 a4 bxa4 (or 27...Nxg3? 28 axb5 Nxf1 29 b6+-) 28 Bd2!? (28 bxa4 Nxg3 29 Bc4±) is bad for him. 26 Bxc5 dxc5 27 Kf2 Nh5 28 Nb7 f5? This is certainly a mistake, but Black’s defensive task was not easy, for example: 28...Nf4 29 d6 c4 30 bxc4 bxc4 31 Bf1 (but not 31 d7? c3! 32 d8Q c2) 31...c3 32 Ke1 - Black's c-pawn is stopped, while White's d-passer is may cost Black a piece. 29 d6 Nf6 (D)

It looks like Black is on top, but this impression is wrong - once White's sleeper on g2 wakes up, his d-pawn can get very dangerous. Thus: 30 f4! Nd7 Or 30...exf4 31 e5 Ne4+ 32 Bxe4 fxe4 33 Nxc5+-. 31 exf5 exf4 32 Bd5+ Kg7 33 Be6 Ne5 34 d7 Be7 35 fxg6

It was possible to play 35 d8Q Bxd8 36 Nxd8, but taking on g6 is better.

35...Bh4+ 36 Kf1 c4 37 bxc4 bxc4 (D)


Here I had 2 minutes and thus I really cannot explain why I did not play 38 d8Q Bxd8 39 Nxd8 Kxg6 40 Bd5+-, which would have brought me in the lead on +4 and sent my opponent to -2. As it happened, I finished on +1, while GM Becerra went to win 3 more games in a row and finished on +3 and came equal 2nd. Well, this is chess...

38 gxh7?? c3 39 Bf5 Nxd7

Oops! I completely forgot that the knight could take my pawn... :(

40 Ke2? Yet another mistake, which gives Black two tempi. 40...Ne5-+ 41 Na5 f3+ 42 Kf1 Bd8 43 Nb3 Bb6 44 Be4 f2 45 Kg2 a5? 46 a4 Nd7 47 Nxa5! Bxa5 48 Kxf2 Nf6 49 Bf5 Nxh7 50 Ke3 Ng5 51 h4 Kf6 52 Bc2 Nf7 53 Kd4 Ne5 (D)

With some of help from the opponent, White made a lot of progress and here I could save the game by playing 54 Kc5! Nf3 55 Bb1 Ne1 56 Kb5. Then the a-pawn would cost Black one of his pieces, for example: 56...Bc7 57 a5 c2 58 Bxc2 Nxc2 59 a6. Strangely enough, I saw that I should attack Black's bishop, but still played the absolutely pointless move 54 h5?. After this mistake the rest is easy: 54...Nf3+ 55 Kc5 Ne1 56 Be4 c2 57 Bxc2 Nxc2 58 Kb5 0-1

I guess you can imagine how I feel after this game... I know some people who in such situation would try to crash some furniture (with their heads), but I am against such extremes. I remind myself that there is life outside of chess - read a good book or have a beer with friends. Better yet to have 2 or 3 beers - this is exactly what I did in Havana and it worked.

What to make of this loss? I really don't know - perhaps that I should play a bit faster and promote my pawns, when given a chance! :) But there was some comfort in the way I lost that game - I was not outplayed by my opponent and my strategy in the game was correct. After all, there is luck in chess and sometimes you do get unlucky. It's harder to deal with situations when your opponent outplays you, as it happened in my game vs. young Cuban player L. Bruzon, who fully deserved his GM-norm in Havana. Then you need to put more efforts into restoring your confidence, which is not that easy during the tournament.

But enough about my losses - I'd like to show one of the games where I got lucky! :)

Alexander Baburin (2586) - Walter Arencibia (2520)

Capablanca Memorial, Havana (3), 09.05.1999

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nf3 Bg7 4 g3 0-0 5 Bg2 d6 6 0-0 c6 7 Nc3 Bf5 8 b3 Ne4 9 Bb2 Nxc3 10 Bxc3 Be4 11 e3 d5 12 Bh3 Bxf3 13 Qxf3 e6 14 Rfd1 Nd7 15 e4 Nf6 (D)

This opening line usually gives White small, but lasting edge. Black should have considered 14...f5 or 15...dxe4, but he followed his own plan. Indeed, it looks like Black is equalising comfortably, as taking on d5 is not good for White, while after 16 e5 Ne4 Black can exchange one of White's bishops. However, Black's idea has a serious drawback: 16 e5 Ne4 17 Bb4 Ng5 18 Qg2 Nxh3+ 19 Qxh3 Re8 20 Bd6!

This is the point - White plants the bishop on d6 and it will be hard for Black to live with it. 20...a5! 21 a4!? I felt that White should not allow ...a5-a4 and this is probably right. 21...Qb6 22 Rab1 Bf8 23 c5 Qb4 24 Qf1 b6 25 Qe1 bxc5 26 dxc5 Qxe1+ 27 Rxe1 f6! 28 f4! fxe5 29 fxe5 (D)

White's d6-bishop dominates the board. It's interesting that in the post-mortem my opponent said that he thought that the bishop would be out of play on d6. GM Arencibia is a very original player, but I think that here his assessment is wrong - I wish I would have more pieces which would be so much 'out of play'! Of course, this bishop is powerful only as long as there are other pieces on the board. In this case Black's rooks are passive, as the b8- and f8- squares are not accessible for them. Black could try 29...Rab8 here, but after 30 Bxb8 Rxb8 31 Kg2 White is much better. 29...Bh6 30 Re2 A useful move - White stops ...Bd2 and prepares for b3-b4. 30...Ra7 31 Kf2 Rb7? Better was 31...Rea8 and Arencibia thought that after Black would be OK, but I doubt it: White plays 32 Reb2, followed by Kf2-e2-d3 and then he can choose between play with b3-b4 or the invasion on the f-file. Also, h2-h4 and g3-g4-g5 might be possible at some point.

32 b4! axb4 33 Reb2 Ra7 34 Rxb4 Bd2?

The problem with this move is that on d2 the bishop is obstructing the d-pawn and shelters White's king from attacks on the 2nd rank. Better was 34...Rea8 35 Rb8+ (35 Ra1!?) 35...Rxb8 36 Rxb8+ Kf7. Then after 37 Rb4 Bd2 White should play 38 Rb6!, which allows him to maintain his advantage after 38...Rxa4 39 Rxc6 Ba5 40 Rc8 Ra2+ 41 Kf3 Ra3+ 42 Kg2!.

35 Rb8 Rxb8 36 Rxb8+ Kg7 37 Ke2 Bc1 (D)

38 Kd1 White should have attacked the c6-pawn immediately, as after 38 Rb6 Rxa4 39 Rxc6 Black's bishop is badly placed on c1.

38...Be3 39 Ke2 Bg1 40 Rb6! Rxa4 41 Rxc6 g5 42 Rc8 Rc4 43 c6 Bb6 44 c7 Kh6 45 h3 g4 46 hxg4 1-0 That was certainly my best game in Havana!

In the next issues of CBC I am going to show some games played in Common Wealth Ch in India (they are not available in any database yet) - stay tuned!

Technical support. I am very grateful to Igor Yagolnitser for his help with this project. For assistance regarding CBC, please contact Igor at

Alexander Baburin, Dublin.

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