The Amateur Eye – 1. b3

My first encounter of this move now called Nimzowitsch-Larsen Opening AO1 was as a kid finding several postal games played by brother Ray during World War II at Fort Landing and again at Fort Benning where he served as a training NCO.  The games are long demised now but Ray said he had no chess materials and just to experiment with a solid type setup free of book analysis used by postal players.

US Chess Championship  2018, St. Louis, Mo. between GM Hikaru Nakamura and GM Sam Shankland.  1. b3 e5 2. Bb2 Nc6 3. e3 Nf6 4. Bb5?! I don’t quite understand this move. 4. d3 followed by Nf3 and Be2 was more in keeping with the fianchetto plan.

4. … e4 5. f3 a6 6. B:c6 d:c6 7. Qe2 Bf5 8. f:e4 B:e4 Black could also play 8…N:e4.

9. d3 Bg6 10. Nc3 Bc5 11. O-O-O Qe7 12. 12. e4 Ba3!  This nice move’s idea is to prepare a Queenside sortie with … a5/b5 in the wings.

13. g4 a5 14. g5 Nh5? Somehow missing a logical 14… Nd7 as would be indicated with my own s/c theory eg: 15. h4 h6 l6. Rh3 h5 blocking up any immediate idea of a Kingside wake up call.

15. Qe3 O-O 16. Nge2 b5! 17. B:a3 Q:a3+ 18. Kb1 a4 19. Nc1? Why not striking out to gain count with Nd4.

19… Rfb8 20. Rhe1 c5 21. Ka1 a:b3 22. c:b3 c4 23. Nb1 Qa6 24. Rd2 f5?  Here is a case of a pawn too far. Better for Black is 24…. f6! 25. h4 Bf7! Bringing the bishop back into a strategic line.

25. e:f5 B:f5 26. b4 Qg6 27. Rf1 Missing a winner with 27. Nc3 Re8 28. Qf3!

27… c6 28. Nc3 Re8 29. Qf3 B:d3?  Missing the strong 29… Q:g5! 30. Rg2 Qf6 31. Kb2 Bg6!

30. N:d3 Rf8? 31. Qd1 c:d3 32. R:f8+ R:f8 33. R:d3 Q:g5 34. Rd6 Qf4? Missing the last chance with … Rf6.

35. R:c6 Q:b4 36. Qd5+!! The saving move.

36… Kh8 37. Q:b5 Qf4 38. Qc5 Draw agreed. But the missed chances to put White down for the count is what makes chess with so many chances to find sizzlers that win mixed among the numerous miscues discovered during play and analysis later that makes the struggle worthwhile and lessons learned.

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