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Tandem Analysis: Robson and Lenderman Print E-mail
By Alex Lenderman and Ray Robson   
July 20, 2009
IM Ray Robson and GM-elect Alex Lenderman, Photos Besty Dynako

In a one-of-a-kind CLO article, two of our most popular young talents, IM Ray Robson and GM-elect Alex Lenderman annotate the same critical game from the 2009 U.S. Junior Closed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (July 13-16). Ray Robson won the tournament with 6/7- more photos, annotated games and details from the event coming later this week!


GM-elect Alex Lenderman (AL)
This was the 6th (penultimate) round of the Junior Closed. I faced the youngest participant, 14-year-old IM Ray Robson. Ray is one of the most talented and hard-working players in the United States. He was leading the tournament at this point with 4.5/5 and I was in a tie for 2nd with 3.5/5. I needed to win with White in order to keep realistic chances to win the tournament. I knew that Ray knows openings extremely well so I decided to go as far away from theory as possible.
IM Ray Robson (RR) : !? In this tournament several players decided to surprise me. Going into this round I was a point ahead of the field, so this was a very important game. With this move and his follow up Alex shows that he wants to avoid theory and just play a game. Normally Alex plays 1.d4.
1...d5 2.g3

AL: !? I have never played this before in serious tournaments games, but I have had this played against me and I found this to be rather unpleasant. In my opinion it is hard for Black  to have a clear plan against this solid system. I looked at some games in this opening with the emphasis on what Ray played and felt comfortable with the resulting positions.
2...c6 3.Bg2 Bg4
AL: stronger than Bf5, as White's idea is d3 and later on get e4 in.
4.0–0 Nd7 5.d3 Ngf6 6.c4 e5 
Position after 6...e5

RR: Normally Black plays 6...e6... and perhaps that would have been a better choice.
AL: ?! For some reason I am not a big fan of this (e5) move. Even though Black  is challenging the center, the center also becomes vulnerable and Black  falls a little bit behind in development. e6!? is more solid, when cxd5 followed by Qc2 and e4 is a regular idea. GM Yermolinksy played this way against me as White and gained an advantage.
AL:! Immediately presenting Black  with a tough critical decision. If cxd5 now, then Qa4!? threatening Nxe5 is unpleasant. Now Black has to either give White the two bishops with Bxf3 or play Bd6 after which Nc3 is annoying as Nxd5 is a new threat. After a long think, Ray chose not to allow this.
AL: !?
RR: After 7...cxd5 I was worried about ideas like 8.h3 Bh5 (8...Be6 might be the best move, but I don't like having the bishop on e6 as much as on a different square.) 9.g4 Bg6 10.Nh4 (10.g5 Nh5 11.Qb3 actually wins a pawn.)
AL: !? Another move I liked, again making Ray commit. For instance, 8...Bd6? would be bad due to 9.Nxd5 cxd5 10.Qb3! Nb6 11.a4! +/-. Instead, 8...Nxc3 would also give me a pleasant game because after 9.bxc3 I would have an open b-file and a stronger center.
Position after 8...Nf6

AL: !? An odd-looking move, but it appears to be best in this position.
RR:!? If 8...Bd6 9.h3 (9.Nxd5 cxd5 10.Qb3 Nc5! is a nice trick, as White can't take d5 because of Be6, trapping the queen. However, even here might be able to try a move like (10...Nb6 11.a4) 11.Qb4 threatening g4 and Nxe5.) 9...Bh5 (9...Be6 10.Ng5 is better for White.) 10.Nxd5 cxd5 11.Qb3 is what I was worried about, because now Nc5 isn't possible because there is no Be6.
AL:With the idea of b4 and b5 gaining space.
RR: 9.d4 was also a possibility, trying to open up the position before Black  is completely developed. 9...Bd6 10.Bg5 Bxf3 (10...0–0 11.dxe5 Nxe5 12.Ne4) 11.Bxf3 exd4 12.Qxd4  with a slight advantage to White.
9...a5 10.Be3 Be7
RR: 10...Bc5 11.Bxc5 Bxf3 12.Bd6 (12.Bxf3 Nxc5) 12...Bxg2 13.Kxg2 Qb6! 14.Qa4 Qd4 15.Qxd4 exd4 16.Ne4 Nxe4 17.dxe4 is a little bit unpleasant for Black .
AL: Again, forcing Ray to make a decision.
AL: ?! I did not like this decision. I honestly thought Be6!, not letting my Queen to get to b3, was more solid. After 11...Be6 12.Ng5 Bd5 is strong. In the game the bishop on h5 is out of play.
RR: 12.d4 was again a possibility. I was planning 12...Bxf3 13.Bxf3 exd4 14.Bxd4 Bc5 but White is better after 15.b4! Bxd4 (15...axb4 16.Bxc5) 16.Qxd4
12... Qc8

Position after 12...Qc8

AL: Better than Qc7, as after Rhc1 with a threat of g4 and g5 was very strong.
RR: I was thinking about Qc7 or Qb8, but the queen can be exposed to attack on b8 if White plays d4 and a later Bf4. Eventually I realized that the queen is better placed on c8.
AL: Maybe this was inaccurate. d4 was also interesting, but I did not see anything special there. I wanted to control the c-file and play for some holes on the queenside, including c5 and b6 squares, while the bishop on h5 remains out of play.
13...0–0 14.Na4
AL: Possibly not the strongest, but I did not see that d4 was stronger. I felt that Nh4 was nothing special due to Nc5 and if I play g4 and g5, he gets--believe it or not--a strong h5 square! If Nh4 after 14. g4 Bg6, then I felt Bc5 or Nc5 was strong. So I figured right now I would fight for the dark squares on the queenside.
14...Nd5 15.Bd2 Ra6
AL: ? First mistake or at least an oversight in my opinion, overlooking a tactical idea. Black  is trying to defend c6 so that he can play b5, but unfortunately this turns out to be an error. Better was N5f6!? and it is not so clear how I make progress in this position.
RR: I simply miscalculated here.  15...Rd8 was a logical move, when Black  has a very solid position.
AL: !
16...Bg6 17.Nxe5

RR: !
AL: ± The idea of g4 was so that e2 doesn't hang in some variations.
17...Nxe5 18.Bxd5 h5
Position after 18...h5

AL: !? Very good practical chance, even though it might not be the soundest idea. After b5?! Nc5! cxd5 Nxa6 Qxa6 Qxd5! White gets a big advantage.
RR: Although I didn't think it should work, I thought this was my best practical chance. [18...b5 19.Nc5 I don't actually remember exactly what I missed, but perhaps it was this move. 19...cxd5 20.Nxa6 Qxa6 21.Qxd5 this position is clearly better for White.
RR: ?! 19.d4 may have been a better try 19...hxg4 20.dxe5 Qd7 21.hxg4 cxd5 22.f3 f5 23.exf6 Bxf6 Black  has some compensation.
AL: ?! More accurate was 19.d4 Qd7 20.dxe5 cxd5 21.Nb6+-  I felt that Black  had more chances here, but in fact I underestimated terrific practical chances for Black  that the game move allowed.
RR: !? 19...hxg4 was also possible, although I didn't consider it much. 20.fxe5 Qd7 21.Bg2! (21.Bh1; 21.Bh1 Qd4+ gives Black  at least enough compensation.) 21...gxh3 22.Bf3 Qd4+ 23.Kh1 and White is still better.
AL: !  Undoubtably this is the best practical chance. Against any other move, I play Bg2, f5, and his bishop is out of the game. This is what I was counting on. I saw Nxg4, but I did not think it was as powerful as it turned out to be.
20.hxg4 Qxg4+ 21.Bg2
Position after 21.Bg2

21... Qxe2
RR: 21...h4! is a very strong move. I saw this, but thought that after 22.d4 Black  simply has nothing. However, I missed (22.Kh1 Qxe2 23.Re1 (23.Qxb7 h3 24.Bxh3 Qxd3 25.Bg2 Be4) 23...Qxd2 24.Rxe7 h3! 25.Bxh3 Qxf4 and Black  should have enough counterplay to make a draw.) 22...Rd8! when White has to be careful not to lose. 23.Qe3 (23.Kh1 Rxd4 is good for Black .; 23.Nc5 Rxd4 24.Nxa6 Rd3!! is what White has to watch out for 25.exd3 h3 26.Kf2 Bh4+ 27.Ke3 hxg2–+)
AL: Far more sound than 21...h4?! Kf1 h3 Bf3 Qg3 Be1!
RR: ! A strong move because White has enough resources to defend and can just take Black 's material.
AL:!? Objectively the best move, but after 22.Be1 Black  did not have all that much and was probably a simpler way to get the advantage. The game move required more accurate calculation and unfortunately I was not in my top form to outlast Ray in this.
RR: 22...Qxd2 23.Qxe7 and Black  just doesn't have enough counterplay.
AL:  It was probably better to move the rook out of the way, but this try was also interesting.
RR: 23.Qxa6?? Bf2+ 24.Kh2 Qg4–+
23....Qe3+ 24.Kh1 Bxe1
After 24...Bxe1


RR: ?? A really big mistake, which was fortunate for me. I didn't think I had enough compensation after Qxa6, and I don't. [25.Qxa6 Bg3 26.Qxc6 Qxf4 27.Rc4 and White defends easily against Black 's threats.
AL:? Unfortunately, in this position I made a critical error, which blows the win. What was even more frustrating was the fact that I made this move automatically. I had an illusion a couple of moves ago that I can never take this rook on a6 (for example after 22...Bh4) because then Black  has play with his Bishop and Queen. I forgot that here the Black  pieces are coordinated differently, without forming a mating pattern. I would have been up a clean Rook and probably winning. Ray would have had to settle for ...Bd2 Qxc6 Bxc1 Rxc1 Qxd3 with some chances of counterplay due my weak kingside, but objectively I should be winning. For some reason I also thought he had to play Qa7, and forgot about the idea of making a perpetual check with just the queen, while being down a rook and a knight!
AL:! Of course! Back to reality kick! :)
RR: Objectively White should have taken the draw here, but Alex was a point behind me and needed to win. [26.Qxa6 Qh4+ 27.Kg1 Qd4+ 28.Kh2 Qf4+=
AL:?! At this point I had to settle for a draw Qxa6 Qh4+ Kg1 Qd4+ Kh2 Qf4+! Kg1 Qd4+ with perpetual (Kf1?? Bd3+ –+). However, a draw meant that I would have no realistic chance of winning the tournament.
26...Qh4+ 27.Kg1 Bxd3
Position after 27...Bxd3

AL: ! Now I have to make a draw with an accurate move.
RR: ? This was the real mistake, as after Rfd1 I might have been forced to take a perpetual check. [28.Rfd1 Qd4+]
AL: ?! Rfd1 is still a dead draw as after Bb5, I have Nc3, stopping Qd4+. Psychologically, however, it is not easy to make such a move
AL:?! An inaccuracy, letting me make a nice draw again, which Ray showed me in the analysis. Qd4+ followed by Be2(Rf2 Bb5) gave Ray the advantage.
RR: ? I was short of time and played this move too fast, missing an important detail. 28...Qd4+ 29.Kh1 Be2 is better for Black .
Position after 29.Rd1

RR: ? The final mistake . Alex thought for a long time here and during that time I realized that he had a way to save the game with Nc3. [29.Nc3 Qd4+ 30.Kh1 Ra7 31.Rf4! (31.Nxb5 Qh4+) 31...Qe3 32.Rf3=
AL:? The decisive mistake. Originally I wanted to play 29.Nc3 Qd4+ 30.Kh1 Ra7 31.Nxb5 but then say Qh4+ and he gets at least a rook. We get into position with me having two pieces for a Rook, but my pieces are uncoordinated, his rooks are very active, and, crucially, there are three passed pawns on the kingside. This is probably lost for me. What I missed was that after 29.Nc3 Qd4+ 30.Kh1! Ra7 I have 31.Rf4! Qc5 32.Rf5! Qe3 33.Rf3! with perpetual attack of his queen. This would still force a draw. My tired brain could not figure this out at the end of an exhausting series of tournaments.
RR: 29...Bxa4 was even better.
AL:! Most decisive! Now this is completely over. He will have a Rook for two minor pieces, a very strong Queen, passed pawns and my busted king position. Instead, Qxa4 Rd7 still gave me a few chances.
AL: I did not see any adequate moves.
30...Bxf3 31.Bxf3 Qg3+
32.Bg2 Qe3+

AL: The Time control included a 30-second per move increment; therefore, with Ray being in time trouble, any check is good to gain time. Plus the queen is on a more active square now and the rook can be activated with tempo.
33.Kh1 Rb6 34.Qa7 Qf2
RR: Now White has no time to exploit the pin because I threaten either Rxb2 or Qh4+ and Rxb2.
AL: ! This killed all my hopes of any counterplay. Now Rxb2 is threatened and his other rook will come in the game. Qh4+ and Qxb2 is also an idea.
35.Rf1 Qh4+ 36.Kg1 Rxb2 37.Nd1

Position after 37.Nd1

RR: Alex offered a draw with this move, but since there was a 30 second increment there was really no way I was going to consider accepting.
AL: White is reduced to passive defense.
37...Rd2 38.Ne3 Qg3
RR: Threatening Re2.
39.Kh1 Qh4+ 40.Kg1 Qg3 41.Kh1 Re2

AL: This was done to gain time.
42.Rf3 Qh4+ 43.Kg1 Qg5

AL: My pieces are completely paralyzed and Ray's other rook and his h5 pawn are about to get into the game.
Position after 44.Kh1

RR: The final mistake, but White was lost anyway.
44... c5

AL: ! As I lose at least another piece now, I resigned here and congratulated Ray with a well-deserved fighting victory. Chess is very competitive and there is always a winner and a loser. It's a not a great feeling to play well and lose a tough game, but, most importantly, it is a good learning experience. Congratulations Ray on winning the event! 0-1

For more Robson annotations+bios, see Betaneli's midway indepth report on the U.S. Junior Closed . For more info on the event including the final crosstable, see the Wisconsin Chess Blog. More annotations, photos and thoughts by Betaneli coming soon!