08 August 2017

It's Only Blitz

I beat a National Master yesterday afternoon. It has been a couple of months since my last win against a titled player, so I was happy to get this one. It was my last game in a blitz playing session characterized by poor play, but it was a better game. Of course, I made errors, but they were less egregious than in my previous several games.

I spent a little more than an hour playing blitz, and at least that much time analyzing this one game. This game was played in less than six minutes. Did it deserve more than an hour of post-game analysis? My opponent shall remain unnamed because he left a clue on his Chess.com page that suggests he would prefer it that way.

Stripes,J (1892) -- Internet Opponent (1926) [E11]
Chess.com, 07.08.2017

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Bb4+ 4.Nbd2

4.Bd2 is the most popular move. Some years ago, I bought and read partly through The Chess Advantage in Black and White (2004) by Larry Kaufman. Many of the lines that Kaufman recommends do not suit me well, but his basic idea has been an influence. He advocates "second best" moves early in the game when it reduces the amount of theory that one must learn.

I am not certain that 4.Nbd2 is second best, but it is second most popular. 4.Bd2 is played twice as often. 4.Nbd2 has a better scoring percentage for White and a slightly higher Elo performance as well. I had the impression that 4.Bd2 was the choice of top Grandmasters, but a check this morning refuted that. Garry Kasparov has played both moves. Magnus Carlsen has played both, but 4.Nbd2 more recently. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave seems to favor my choice.

I spent some time thinking about the relative merits of the choice that White makes here in the Bogo-Indian Defense. Why is 4.Bd2 more popular?

4...Qe7 5.g3 b6

The databases suggest that this move is rare, but the structure is certainly familiar.

6.Bg2 Bb7 7.0–0 0–0

Castling leads via transposition to a small batch of reference games.


It is hard to believe that this move has not been played before. There must be something wrong with it. Perhaps, this move offers a clue to the popularity of 4.Bd2. The knight blocks the bishop when it stands there. It also lacks good squares that can be reached from d2. On b3, where I placed it, it interferes with queenside pawn expansion. Other moves seem worse.

Black to move

8...d5 9.a3 Bd6 10.c5!?

This brilliant pawn sacrifice was actually an oversight. I was unaware that I was down a pawn until at the end of the game, savoring my victory, I noticed that material was equal. This sacrifice creates a minor piece imbalance that sometimes favors White, but was it worth a pawn?

10...bxc5 11.dxc5 Bxc5 12.Nxc5 Qxc5 13.Be3 Qd6


14.Rc1 Na6


15.Bf4 Qd7


16.Ne5 Qe7 17.Nc6

Black to move

At this point of the game, I was pleased with my position. I seem to have my opponent's forces tied down.

17...Qd7 18.Qc2 Rfc8 19.b4 Nb8 20.b5 Bxc6

After this exchange, we have two bishops against two knights and only the c-pawns are blocked.

21.bxc6 Qe7

White to move

How might White squeeze Black from this position?

22.Qb3 with the idea of Qb7 seems to have some merit.

22.Bg5 threatens e4.

I did not spend much time on this position during the game, but invested about fifteen minutes with it on the deck in the evening. It might be one that could be added to the store of middlegame positions for performing Jeremy Silman's inventory of imbalances.

22.e4 dxe4 23.Bxe4 Nxe4 24.Qxe4 a5

Maybe 24...Qxa3

25.Rfd1 Qxa3

Maybe 25...Ra6

26.Bxc7! Na6

26...a4 27.Bxb8 Raxb8 28.c7 looks overwhelming for White.

26...Rxb7 27.Rd8+ Qf8 28.Rxf8+ Kxf8 and the material balance has shifted strongly in favor of White. Even so, a queen and pawn agianst a rook and bishop is not always a winning material advantage in time pressure.

27.Bd6 Nb4 28.c7 h6

White to move


29.Be7! My target is d8. Why not make a move that contributes to this plan?

29... axb4

29...Qxb4 30.Qxa8!


Black to move


30...Qa5 is equal and takes advantage of my error a move earlier.

31.Rcd6 g6 32.Rd8+ Kg7 33.Qe5+ f6 34.R8d7+

34.R1d7+ Qe7 35.Rxe7#

34...Kg8 35.Qxe6+ 1–0

Maybe my pawn sacrifice was sound. Both players committed the sort of positional errors that one might expect in a blitz game.


  1. I think Bd2 is so much more popular just because it is the natural way to block that check. Nbd2 is not as natural because it enters a pin and blocks the c1 bishop. Which is not at all to say it's an inferior move. You see the same disparity with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+. 3...Bd7 is the most popular by a lot, but the knight moves are good, too.

    On move 8 I would have played 8.a3. I thought this was the main idea of Nbd2--to kick that bishop, and maybe get in e4 eventually. But the computer doesn't agree with me, so I guess that shows what I know about this position.

    The computer has an interesting suggestion here though. 8.e4!? with the idea: 8...Nxe4 9.Nxe4 Bxe4 10.c5! dxc5 11.a3 Ba5 12.dxc5 and now you're down a pawn, but Black's development is a mess.

    1. I'm trying to work on my courage, as I sometimes play it safe when a position is unclear. At least that's true OTB. In blitz, I can be reckless. Against masters in blitz, I often retreat into safe mode.

      8.e4!? invites chaos. I did not look at it. I need to consider these options more often.

    2. In the Catalan, I routinely play e4 with a knight on d2, but that bishop is usually on e7.