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Thus played Vitruvius

And you, how would you play?

If only they had Vitruvius for a friend

5 Tuesday 13 March, 2012 in Openings by Roberto Munter
Creativity in Chess
This series of articles will present positions and games where the help of Vitruvius could have made a difference to the outcome of the game under examination. Of course this is only a semi-serious attempt to show how much the style of Vitruvius parallels that of strong human players.

Our first position comes from a very interesting game played in the 10th round of the 48th Italian Championship (1988) between Fernando Braga and Michele Godena. The game proved to be of decisive importance in that Godena needed a win to register his IM norm and keep contact with the tournament leaders whilst for Braga it was imperative not to lose in order to maintain good chances of finishing 1st. The game was therefore also a battles of nerves, especially for Godena who had to win at all costs with Black.

Braga Fernando-Godena Michele
Italian Chess Championship (10th round)
Chianciano Terme, 1988 (A72)

1.d4 Cf6 2.Cf3 c5 3.d5 e6 4.c4 d6 5.Cc3 exd5 6.cxd5 g6 7.Af4 Ag7 8.e4

Through a move transposition we land in one of the classical positions of the Modern Benoni.

8...O-O 9.Ae2 a6

The move is certainly playable but I don’t like it because the hole in b6 and the backward b-pawn in the endgame may prove to be too be too much of handicap. More interesting and in the spirit of the position is the active pawn push in b5, suggested by our Opening Book (9...b5!? 10.Cd2 a6 11.O-O Te8).

10.a4 Ag4 11.Cd2?!

Although known to theory this move seems to me quite alien to the requirements of the position. One of the main problems facing Black in the Modern Benoni is the development of his light squared Bishop and the text move simply does Black’s bidding by giving him the chance to do away with his problem piece.

11...Axe2 12.Dxe2 Ch5 13.Ae3 Cd7

The position is completely equal.

14.O-O f5!?

Braga gives this move an ‘!’ and considers inferior 14...De7 due to the game Kasparov-Suba, Lucerne 1982. Suba however did not lose because of this move but because of later middlegame errors (14...De7 15.a5 Ad4 16.Ta4 Df6 17.Dd3 Ce5 18.Axd4 Cxd3 19.Axf6 Cxf6 20.Cc4 Tad8 21.Td1 Cb4+=). On my part I prefer Godena’s move because it opens the centre and capitalises on White’s ‘misplaced’ pieces; more importantly since he is trying to win the move fits the bill perfectly because it is very sharp and causes White to take further decisions.

15.exf5 Txf5 16.f4!?

A good alternative here is 16.Cc4. After the text move, the important e5 square is out of bounds to Black’s pieces, but in pushing the f-pawn White has very much so weakened the e-file. Here Godena played 16...Ad4. Nothing against the move except that it practically throws away all chances of playing for a win. Moreover unsuccessfully searching for something more aggressive and double edged he used a lot of time on the clock leaving himself with about only 15 minutes to reach the 40th move. No surprises here, his game got worse and worse and he ended up with a lost endgame.

So much for the ‘story’. Back to the drawing board. Actually the position contains enough dynamic content to permit Black to play for a win. It of course entails some risk, but if one needs to win, it is exactly what one asks from any position. Let’s use some computer aided analysis and see what we can come up with.

Deep Rybka 4.1 gives 16...Ad4 17.g3 Chf6 18.Axd4 cxd4 19.De6+ Rg7 20.Cce4. A good and solid continuation but not exactly what we are looking for. By the way this was also the game continuation; Godena instead of continuing with 20...Cf8! 21.Dxd6 Dxd6 22.Cxd6 Txd5, with equality, tried a last bet to complicate with 20...Cc5!? but his aim fell short. The continuation is certainly correct but it also deprives Black of all winning chances.

Enter Houdini 2.0. After a while the Houdini suggests 16...Axc3 but than replaces it with Rybka’s move and then tries a pawn sacrifice with 16...Ad4 17.g3 Chf6 18.Axd4 cxd4 19.Cce4 d3!?. Alas the position is dead draw even here and White will have no difficulty to keep the balance.

Next in line: Vitruvius 1.0H. The machine chooses the incredible 16...Df8!?. Oh heck! What is this? He is losing badly here… 17.g4 Tae8! Oh! Not so fast. Black now threatens Te8xe3 and then Ag7-d4. Neat! But White remains with the exchange up so Black’s continuation doesn’t look so clever… However let’s try this position with Black against Deep Rybka 4.1 and see what Vitruvius 1.0H comes up with. 18.gxf5 Txe3! 19.Dg4 Ad4 20.Rh1 Defending against the discovered check. 20...Cdf6 21.Dh4 Dc8!

How do we assess the position? White is an exchange up, but it will be very difficult for him to make it count to anything. The position is extremely complicated and sharp and every small error from either side can be fatal. There are no ready made moves but both sides need to calculate their moves with extreme care and precision. In an actual game the tension would be enormous and no doubt all sorts of psychological factors would be in play. If Black had prepared the line beforehand it would be White to be on the wrong side here.

Here are some assessments of our final position by some top engines (positive values favour White, negative ones Black):

Vitruvius 1.0H -0.13
Deep Rybka 4. +0.00
Critter 1.4 +0.07
Houdini 2.0c +0.00

All engines here agree that the position is really drawn, so this shows that Vitruvius’ exchange sacrifice is sound… But, and the BUT is of gigantic proportions, the continuation suggested by Vitruvius would have given Godena the possibility of continuously presenting his opponent with complex problems to solve, and would have enhanced enormously his chances of a win. THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED!
Last Modified: Saturday 17 March, 2012
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