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Player: United  KeSetoKaibaChessHere Gold Member Subject: IM Levy Rozman On Fire!

2020-08-14 07:26:44
IM Levy Rozman On Fire!

Context is everything and it would be a shame to overlook a game like this one because of narrow-minded, cultural norms, disregarding this game as “just another blitz chess game.” For those unaware, this game did have increment utilized (Chess “increment” is an element of chess time controls that actually adds a selected amount of time to the clock upon each move; the result is often times “higher quality chess”, because each side finds it much less likely to win the game solely on time. Therefore, this game is still categorized in the realm of “speed chess” - but it is not something to be disregarded for being purely a race against the clock because of the increment feature in play).

“Titled Tuesday” is a popular online chess event regularly hosted (and often times streamed live). As the name implies, all entrants must be “titled chess players” (Grandmaster, International Master, Fide Master and many other titles are accepted). This particular chess game comes from the Titled Tuesday event hosted on May 12th, 2020. The chess.com hosted event began at 1 P.M. Eastern Standard Time. The game we are looking at comes from round 7 of the event with IM Levy Rozman (chess.com username “GothamChess”) as the White pieces and GM Camilo Ernesto Gomez Garrido (chess.com username “relaxx87”) as the Black pieces.

IM Levy Rozman was “On Fire!” for a portion of this tournament. Going into this game, Rozman had 4 wins and only 2 losses despite playing against 3 chess grandmasters in a row (this game against Garrido is number 4). Unfortunately for Rozman, his fire was put out towards the end as his last three rounds resulted in loss-win-loss. Rozman ended the event with 6 wins, 4 losses (no draws) and ended up placing tied for #177; this still isn’t so bad considering that the particular Titled Tuesday event featured 1084 entrants - all titled players - with none other than GM Hikaru Nakamura (chess.com username “Hikaru”) taking 1st place.

1. e4 IM Levy Rozman decides to begin the game with 1. e4 here. Actually, he is selling a new opening repertoire he created that is a bit more “offbeat” than the traditional mainlines in my opinion. The repertoire he is selling is based off of playing 1. e4 for White and playing 1…e6/1…b6 for Black!

c5 2. a3!? Part of this repertoire contains the a3 Sicilian. This interesting move avoids a lot of opening preparation and gives White a playable game. Ideally, White might even catch the Black Sicilian player out of book if they didn’t “do their homework” on some less popular lines.

Nc6 This is a logical “developing move”, but of course 2…e6 or 2…d6 are playable. Perhaps even 2…g6 is okay, but this move might give White the initiative after an immediate d4. A sample line might be 1. e4 c5 2. a3 g6 3. d4! cxd4 4. Qxd4 and although the opening is still fairly equal, White probably has the initiative and Black can’t play the Bishop fianchetto to g7 as thematically early as they would normally like with the …g6 setups. The only move that is completely losing for Black here is after 4. Qxd4 then 4…Qa5+?? is a massive blunder. 5. b4! and the attacked Queen must move again when the h8 Rook falls to White’s Queen. After 4. Qxd4, simply 4…Nf6 is probably about equal.

3. b4!? This move is objectively not best, but it is an interesting part of this e4 repertoire Rozman is advocating. The idea of continuing in gambit-style might catch Black unprepared out of the opening. The initiative may be worth more than a pawn if Black doesn’t play the best defense after grabbing the “free pawn” on b4.

cxb4 4. axb4 Nxb4 Often times in chess, we can refute gambits by accepting them. With this said, I think Black is playing solidly so far here, but they must be careful if they are treading unknown territory.

5. c3 The point. Naturally, 5. d4 or 5. Nf3 are fine moves, but the idea of sacrificing material on b4 is to kick the Knight back with the initiative and grab hold of the center.

Nc6 6. d4 d5?! As Rozman said in the live game commentary: “Okay, now …d5 is a bad move... [the opponent then surprises him by playing …d5].”

7. exd5 Qxd5 8. Na3 As soon as …d5 was played, you can tell Rozman is becoming excited, “guys, we might catch a GM in our course prep; now please go here [8…Nf6].”

Nf6?? And just like that, Rozman exclaims: “Black is lost … guys, Black is lost! This is straight from the e4 course…”

From a human perspective, I think this opening “book trap” is enticing because 8. Na3 just looks like a silly move that neglects opening principles. When the opponent neglects opening principles, typically the counter is to just continue following opening principles yourself and keep developing pieces to gain a lead in development. 8…Nf6?? is a unique blunder because this developing move is one of the most natural-looking moves in the world here.

Better for Black would have been 8…Qa5 9. Bd2 or perhaps even 8…Be7 9. Nc4 when the c4 square is an odd-looking position for the Knight to get back into play. However, a line like 8. Na3 Be7 9. Nc4 Qe6+ 10. Ne3 would give White an active position and the center. White has more than enough compensation for the sacrificed pawn. Also note how in this line, the Queen on e6 is blocking the Black e-pawn from advancing and letting the f8 Bishop develop. Black will probably (sooner than later) have to invest in relocating the Queen again. Moves like …Qd6-e6-Be7 are in the air for Black, but this costs time. Meanwhile, White has the center and swift development possible. White will quickly play moves like Nf3-Bd3 and end up castling Kingside and get a good position.

9. Nb5 Qd8 10. d5 This is all “opening theory” with White getting the better of it. As Rozman enthusiastically notes, “he can’t take on d5 [with the f6 Knight] because Queen [captures] d5 and then Nc7. Black is already losing. …Ne5 Bf4 …Nfd7 Qd4 … and also Nf3...unbelievable…”

Ne5 11. Bf4 Nfd7 Played out just as Rozman dictates from memory of opening theory.

12. Qd4 The two “big” mainlines are certainly 12. Qd4 and 12. Nf3 from this position. Rozman says he has played both, but chooses 12. Qd4 here. Interestingly, Stockfish seems to slightly prefer 12. Nf3, but both lines are clearly winning for White.

f6 13. Nf3 Rozman now calms down a bit, “[sigh] I hope he doesn’t embarrass me now. I hope he doesn’t embarrass me; you know? From here, like, I’ve lost games from this position in blitz because it’s blitz and anything can happen…” What Rozman might be forgetting though is that these games feature increment and White’s position is so nice that it is highly unlikely Black can escape with even a draw; White would probably have to blunder something to allow Black into the game again. Despite White being down in material (the sacrificed pawn), Stockfish evaluates this position as over +3.00 or roughly a lead of an entire piece! In all confidence Rozman has, he reassures himself with, “…It’s very difficult to screw this up with White…” You have to love a humble titled player in the chess world.

e6 This finally seems to be the point where Rozman is finally out of his memorized opening preparation. He begins calculating and goes for the best move 14. dxe6 “Uh, d[x]e6 …Nc5, I can take on d8…that looks pretty convincing, let’s … let’s do that.”

14. dxe6 Nc5 Now Rozman decides on changing his mind about taking on d8 right away. This is an instructional note. In chess, the most successful players are always with some plan in mind. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t change plans. It is as the old adage attributed to Emanuel Lasker goes, “When you see a good move, look for a better one.”

15. Nxe5 fxe5 There are many winning ideas here, but sometimes it is tough deciding among many good plans; which one is best? 15. Qxd8+ is strong and forcing. For instance: 15. Qxd8+ Kxd8 16. O-O-O+ Ke7 17. Nc7 looks problematic for Black. Another plan might be 15. Bxe5 fxe5 16. Qxe5 “and Nc7 is a problem [for the Black pieces]” according to Rozman’s analysis. The game move decided ends up being 15. Nxe5.

16. Qxd8+ In response to 15…fxe5, Rozman begins narrating his current planned line: 16. Qxd8+ Kxd8 17. Bg5+ Be7 18. O-O-O+ with a “very, very, convincing win. [If 17. Bg5+] …Ke8 Nc7 is checkmate. That is mate!”

Kxd8 17. Bg5+ Be7 18. O-O-O+ Notice how this line predicted was the exact line played. It seems impressive that an International Master (IM) can calculate future lines with such good accuracy, but it isn’t quite as difficult as it may look. Take note of how extremely forcing this variation is: beginning with 16. Qxd8+. In fact, every single move is with check! Giving checks for the sake of it is not generally a good idea, but they do keep up the initiative and this should not be overlooked. It also makes calculation easier because it narrows down the legal options that the opponent can play.

Ke8 Now Rozman starts looking for any possible forced checkmate since White’s attack is so strong. He correctly assesses that there is no “beautiful forced mate here, like Rd8[+].” He then quickly shifts his attention to 19. Nc7+ and if he can safely capture the a8 Rook without getting his Knight trapped.

19. Nc7+ Kf8 20. Bxe7+ Kxe7 21. Nxa8 “Umm?! My Knight going to get trapped though? [further calculating] I don’t think so.”

Nxe6 22. Bc4 White is simply up a Rook and the threat is Bxe6 and then the a8 Knight escaping the corner via c7.

Bd7 23. Bxe6 Bxe6 24. Nc7 Bc4 Rozman’s analysis summarizes the position in a detailed manner, but also kind of builds himself a humble “safety net” if he does happen to lose this game: “So, it is a Rook for a pawn - which is generally considered a big advantage [small chuckle]. Um, you know, I, I, should not have any particular problems converting this position. My opponent is still playing on, which is ... a little …embarrassing, I suppose; but, you know? Tilt is real. I, I can imagine…”

25. Nd5+ Ke6 26. Ne3 Bb3 27. Rd2 Rc8 28. Kb2 Ba4 29. Re1 h5 Desperation. The last few moves highlight that if Black does choose to play on, then they must try to seek active threats for counterplay to justify to material deficit (as they have done). White, on the other hand, simply develops and tries to address those threats. I think 29…h5 is a move of desperation because this pawn move is the first move in a while not aimed at White’s King. It is as if acknowledging that Black has nothing on that flank, so perhaps some miracle source of counterplay may appear over on this side of the board. To be fair to GM Garrido of Cuba, “Tilt is real. I, I can imagine” and also he did just lose to a lower rated player by falling into a studied “book trap.” I am sure if this was a more “standard line of play”, then Black probably would have resigned long ago.

30. f4 exf4 31. Nd5+ Now the best try was probably 31…Kf7 for Black. The King can’t remain on the e-file due to the White Rook giving check from e1. Any King move to the d-file drops the Black Rook on c8 to another discovered attack with the Knight moving. 31…Kf5 walks into the Knight fork with 32. Ne7+. The f6 square is unavailable to the Black monarch because White’s Knight currently eyes that square, so finally 31…Kf7 is best only by process of elimination.

Kd6 32. Ne7+ 1-0 This game was an exciting one right out of the uncommon opening. Unfortunately for Black, they fell right into a trap via opening preparation: however, it did give the audience a look into a deceiving trap. As I stated in the earlier annotations, “8…Nf6?? is a unique blunder because this developing move is one of the most natural-looking moves in the world here.” Although I typically do not approve of playing for “opening traps”, this game does illustrate the power of opening preparation and the element of surprise if the opponent is unfamiliar with the territory you have previously scouted out.

In the post-game commentary, IM Levy Rozman comments on this opening: “This is already very dangerous, this [8.] Na3 move…[when] 8…Qa5 is the critical move … and I don’t even remember what you are supposed to do here. I think you can play like this [9. Ne2 Qxc3+ 10. Bd2] and go for like super gambit.”

If you want a change of pace, or a creative opening, then perhaps experiment with the a3 Sicilian. Lots of Albert Einstein quotations lack evidence he actually said them. However, one such quotation that comes to mind (and seems to be one of the more likely quotations he did say) is “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” If you successfully use this opening trap in your local chess club, and no one is familiar with this line, then that becomes known as your personal creativity! I actually am familiar with many “book lines” that my chess buddies use often; I am tempted to say this line is from so and so, but of course, I know many of these lines have existed for over a hundred years. Perhaps this is one enticing thing about the game of chess, it is so old and deeply studied that there is question to if a new novelty is truly such, or simply a resurrected line that had been forgotten.

If you want to play “on fire” like Rozman, then perhaps resurrecting an old opening is all you need to spark your inner creativity.
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