Friday, October 14, 2016

Queens Gambit Lein Variation

I played Hank Ross in a Queens Gambit Declined. Ross chose 5…Ne4. This looks like a premature Lasker Variation. The point of this move for Black is to swap off one or two sets of minor pieces. Emmanuel Lasker was a great endgame player. Lasker would welcome almost any step closer to an ending. The normal Lasker Defense is 5…h6 6.Bh4 0-0 7.e3 Ne4. Lasker played this way a couple times in 1935. Guimard and Eliskases both played it very frequently after that.

A few masters played this Hank Ross move in a single game now and then as Black with 5...Ne4!? They included players such as Pillsbury, Alapin, Thomas, and Spielmann. In my lifetime the only grandmaster to play this exact move order as Black was Anatoly Lein. He played it at least nine times vs top US grandmasters like Christiansen, Yermolinsky, and Ivkov.

Club players choose 5...Ne4 in an attempt to swap off attacking pieces. They fear a White attack, especially from a higher rated player. I used to be such a player myself once upon a time. The ironic aspect of playing 5...Ne4 as Black is that such players routinely and unintentionally head for a losing endgame. They avoid the attack and give White an easy victory. I’ve won a thousand games like that vs players rated near 1700.

Sawyer (2100) - Ross (1709), corr APCT 1981 begins 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.Nf3 Ne4!? [Black usually plays either 5...0-0 or 5...h6] 6.Bxe7 Qxe7 7.cxd5!? [More promising are 7.Qc2+/= or 7.Rc1+/=] 7...Nxc3 8.bxc3 exd5 9.Qb3 c6 10.e3 0-0 [10...Bf5! 11.Be2 0-0 12.0-0 a5=] 11.Bd3 Nd7 12.0-0 Nf6 13.Rab1 b5?! [13...b6 14.c4 Be6 15.Rfc1=] 14.a4 Bg4?! [14...a6 15.Qb4+/=] 15.Ne5 Qe6 16.axb5 cxb5 17.Qxb5 Nd7? [This drops another pawn. Somewhat better is 17...Bf5 18.Bxf5 Qxf5 19.c4+-] 18.Nxg4 Qxg4 19.Qxd5 Nb6 20.Qe4 [Or 20.Qb5+- ] 20...Qg6 [This loses more material, but swapping into an endgame when down two pawns is not likely to help after 20...Qxe4 21.Bxe4+-] 21.Qxa8! Qxd3 22.Qxa7 Nc8 23.Qc7 Qf5 24.Rb8 h5 25.h3 g5 26.Ra1 Qe6 27.Raa8 1-0

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