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Game 7 Cox-Ali, Champaign 1997

1. e4 e5

2. Nf3, Nc6

3. Bc4, Bc5

4. b4

The Evans Gambit, one of my favorite classical openings.

4...Bxb4

Accepted

5. c3, Ba5

This is the most popular move, though a modern master might play 5...Be7.

6. d4, d6

With blacks last he is headed for Lasker's Defense which put the Evans on the back burner for most of the 20th century.

7. Qb3

This is Harding's idea which made the Evans playable again. The old move is 7. 0-0 when 7...Bb6! (Lasker) and white is denied the powerful move 8. Qb3 due to ...Na5.

7...Qd7

This is considered blacks most reliable defense the so called "conservative defense". If black plays 7...Nxd4?! 8. Nxd4, exd4 when white has scored well with 9. Bxf7+!? it however may not be sound. Better is 9. 0-0! which gives white a fine game, e.g. 9...Qd7 10. cxd4 whites center and active pieces give him an optimum compensation for his pawn minus. or 9...dxc3 white can transpose to a superior form of the Bxf7 idea with 10. Bxf7+!, Kf8 11. e5!, Qe7 12. Bxg8, Rxg8 13. exd6 with very strong play for white.

8. Nbd2!?

This novelty was given by GM Larry Christiansen in Seirawan's "Inside Chess" magazine, Dec 23, 1996. Vol. 9 Issue 25-26. I had studied his article "A fresh look at the Evans Gambit" as I was a long time Evans player. This was my first opportunity to test out his ideas.

A Note about the old main line which is 8. dxe5 which is still playable e.g. 8...dxe5 9. 0-0, Bb6 10. Rd1! white has a strong game, or the line considered strongest for black 8...Bb6 9. Nbd2!, Na5 10. Qc2!, Nxc4 11. Nxc4, d5 and black was thought to have the better ending. But then 12. Bg5!? was discovered for white which is a piece sacrifice that gives him a dangerous attack. This is hairy stuff and one must have nerves of steel to play either side.

Another idea here is Tartokovers 8. a4?! intending a5 however after 8...exd4 9. 0-0, Nf6 10. cxd4, 0-0 white doesn't have enough compensation for the pawn.

8...Bb6

Best. Black withdraws his bishop to safety while directing fire at the white center, he also keeps the option of ...Na5, for example if 9. dxe5?! then 9...Na5! is good for black. But not 8...Nf6? when 9. dxe5, Nxe5 (or 9...dxe5 10. Ba3 is similar) 10. Nxe5, dxe5 11. 0-0!, 0-0 12. Ba3!, Re8 (if 12...Qxd2 13. Rad1, Qxc3 14. Bxf7+! wins) 13. Rad1 and black cannot shake off the pressure.

9. a4!

An improved version of Tartakover's 8. a4 this is Christiansen's idea. If now 8...Na5?! blacks original intention, then 10. Qa2! (the key move according to GM Christiansen as it is important to keep an eye on f7 so as to discourage ...Nge7) 10..exd4 11. cxd4 and white classic center gives him huge compensation for the pawn in true Evans Gambit style. And here 10...Nxc4?! 11. Nxc4 menaces a4-a5 as well as dxe5 with advantage to white.

9...exd4

Now black sees that he can win a second pawn with gain of time.

10. cxd4, Nxd4

White plan for compensation is not too obvious and taking the second pawn appears safe.

11. Qc3

11...Nxf3+

After 11...Ne6 12. 0-0, Nf6 13. a5, Bc5 14. e5 black will not come out alive.

12. gxf3!

The point of whites last 2 moves he has counterplay down the a1-h8 diagnol combined with potential pressure on the g-file.

12...Nf6

13. a5!

This is an improvement over GM Christiansen's suggestion of the immediate 13. Rg1. The reason will be seen. The point is pushing the bishop onto the more vulnerable c5 square before proceeding with Rg1.

13...Bc5

14. Rg1

Now castling is fatal to black due to Qxf6.

14...Kf8

Defending g7

15. Nb3

Threatening Bh6 crushing black at once.

15...Qh3!

The only correct defense. Black anticipates Bh6 and stops it. Had white played 13. Rg1 instead, then 13...Qh3! is a strong defense as black has a counter-attack. In fact in the game continuation he threatens ...Bxf2+! and white cannot take the bishop by Kxf2 as ...Nxe4+! wins the white Queen due to the presence of the black Queen on h3 pinning the f3 pawn.

16. Nxc5!

Now we see why 13. a5! first is stronger white snaps off the menacing black bishop.

16...dxc5?

This seemingly automatic recapture is not the best and was played too quickly. Black had a much better defense but it involved playing several zwhichenzug moves before recapturing 16...Qxh2! 17. Rg3, Nh5! (17...dxc5? 18. Qe5!, Qh5 19. Bg5, Qg6 20. Rd1 white has a clear advantage) 18. Rg5, h6 which is unclear. Here white has 2 interesting ideas a) 19. Rxh5!?, Qxh5 20. Na6!, bxa6 21. Bd5, Bb7 22. Bxb7, Re8 23. Bb2 and white stands better. or b) 19. Rd5!?, Nf6 20. Bb2, Rh7 21. Rd2, Qg1+ 22. Ke2, Qg5 23. e5, Nh5 24. Nd3 with an edge to white, or in this line 19...Kf8 20. Nb3, Bd7 21. Rd1, Re8 22. Be3 and again white maintains a slight edge. This was blacks best defense which was difficult to see, and is precipiced on the notion of anticpating my next move.

It must be noted however that my next move came as quite a shock to my opponent.

17. Rxg7!!

Suprise! Shattering blacks defenses, my g-file and long diagnol pressure is triumphant! Another reason 16...Qxh2! was better. This sacrifice doesnt seem to work with the black Queen on h2 as he has the opportunity to check on g1+ after taking the rook, this takes away the move Bg5 as seen in the game continuation.

17...Kxf7

The threat was Rxf7+. If 17...Be6 instead then 18. Qxf6! is crushing as 18...Bxc4 19. Rg1 with the awesome threat of Bh6+

18. Bg5!

Winning back a piece with an unstoppable attack.

18...Rf8

Defending f7.

19. Qxf6+. Kg8

20. 0-0-0!

All of white pieces participate in the attack! The Threat is mate on the g-file.

20...Qg2

This stops mate at g7 by preventing Rg1 and guarding the g7 square after the abvious looking Bh6. But now comes....

21. Bxf7+!, Rxf7

22. Rd8+!

Exploiting his back rank.

Black Resigns as its mate next move.

1-0




One of my favorite games.