Thursday, 5 July 2007

Speelman's Schliemann

Position after 12 ... Qh3

I have to admit I wanted to shout it to the rooftops the other day when I found out about Jon Speelman's coverage of my game against Colin Crouch (My head's subsequently reduced a little in size, although give it a while longer before normality returns). After all, Jon's one of England's greatest players, he qualifed twice for the Candidates matches, and as I posted previously on Chess Tales, he was once ranked number 4 in the world.

Despite this, I also have to admit to a shocking lack of knowledge of his games and results. One game that I do remember well though was in his Candidates 1/4 final match with Jan Timman in 1989. If my memory serves me right, it was the final game and Jon needed a win with the Black pieces to force the match into a play-off.

His choice of opening for the game was the Schliemann Defence (1 e4 e5; 2 Nf3 Nc6; 3 Bb5 f5!?), one of the wildest lines Black can adopt against the Ruy Lopez. Originating in the 1840's, and truly at home with the romantic gambit play of the 19th Century, it's certainly not something you'd have expected to see in a modern Candidates Match.

Play went down one of the main lines, where White hopes to prove that Black's queen is offside and to gradually pick off the weak Black pawns. As compensation Black has active play for his pieces, and as happened in the game, the Queen can actually prove to be well posted to support an attack.

I was so impressed with the game line, that I twice foresook my Sicilian and adopted it as a surprise weapon. The results were good: a win and a draw against strong opposition.

Jan Timman - Jon Speelman, Candidates 1/4 Final 1989
1 e4 e5; 2 Nf3 Nc6; 3 Bb5 f5; 4 Nc3 fe; 5 Nxe4 d5; 6 Nxe5 de; 7 Nxc6 Qg5; 8 Qe2 Nf6; 9 f4 Qxf4; 10 Ne5+ c6; 11 d4 Qh4+; 12 g3 Qh3 (see diagram); 13 Bc4 Be6; 14 Bg5 0-0-0; 15 0-0-0 Bd6; 16 Nf7 Bxf7; 17 Bxf7 Rhf8; 18 Bc4 Rde8; 19 d5 c5; 20 Rhf1 Kb8; 21 Bf4 Rd8; 22 Bg5 a6; 23 Bxf6 gf; 24 Qxe4 Qxh2; 25 Rh1 Qxg3; 26 Rxh7 Rfe8; 27 Qf5 b5; 28 Bf1 Re1; 29 Qh5 Qf4+; 30 Kb1 Qxf1 0-1

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Chess Tales by Roger Coathup: A collection of online articles about chess and chess players.