Weekly chess column

The US championship is well on its way, featuring the repatriation of Hikaru Nakamura to the event, as well as 11 other top US performers. Nakamura faced Robert Hess in the first round, and revealed his love of dangerous chess by playing, as White, the Evans Gambit.  This opening was a favorite of Paul Morphy, but it went out of style with most gambits. Garry Kasparov revived it in a single successful game against Viswanathan Anand, and Nakamura now follows in his footsteps.

         Hess in turn came up with a surprise response: 5... Bd6 obstructing his own pieces, but setting up a defensive wall and hoping to throw off his opponent. Nakamura immediately went on the offensive. Hess did not stand by his original plan. With 9… Ba3, he tried to free his pieces but overburdened his queen. Nakamura got back his pawn and a strong center. Any hope that Hess had of surviving later vanished with 19... Nc7 by which Hess put his knight on the wrong side of the board. Nakamura built up his center and soon completed his attack.

 a) Once relegated to club play, Kasparov rehabilitated the Evans Gambit in the 1990s and ever since it has been perfectly respectable, even at the highest grandmaster levels.


b) Is this the latest fashion? The main line is 5…Ba5, and I have also seen 5…Bc5 and 5…Be7. The move played by Hess looks clumsy, and Nakamura easily gets sufficient play for the pawn.

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c)  Black sensibly decides to give back the pawn in order to free his game.

d) After 10.dxe5 Ng4 Black regains the pawn while successfully freeing his game.

e) Or 14…Nxd6 (14…Qxd6 15.e5 keeps the knight passive on e8) 15.Bd3 with an edge for White.

f) White has emerged from the opening with more space, more active pieces, and the easier game to play. Other than 9…Ba3, I see no obvious place to improve, so 5…Bd6 looks suspect to me.


g) Thanks to Black’s careless 19th move, White has won a pawn.

h) Not 25…Ng5? 26.Qf5 Rcxe5?? 27.Rxe5 Rxe5 28.Qxe5! Qxe5 29.Rd8+ and mate to follow.

i)  Or 29…Rxe6 30.Rd8+ and mate to follow.

j)  White’s attack is devastating. There is no good defense to 31.Qg6.

k)  White can also win prosaically with 31.Qg6 Rg8 32.Rg3, but Nakamura’s move is flashier.

Nakamura – Hess

US Chess Championship 2012

Evans Gambit

Nakamura Hess

Nakamura Hess

White Black

White Black

1. e4 e5

18. Qxf3 Rc5

2. Nf3 Nc6

19. Re3 Nc7?

3. Bc4 Bc5

20. e5! dxe5

4. b4!? (a) Bxb4

21. Qxb7 a5

5. c3 Bd6?! (b)

22. Qe4 Ne6

6. d4 Qe7

23. fxe5 (g) Re8

7. O-O Nf6

24. Rd1 Qc7

8. Nbd2 O-O

25. Rdd3 h6 (h)

9. Re1 Ba3 (c)

26. Bd5! Qb6?!

10. Nxe5 (d) Nxe5

27. c4 Qb1+?

11. dxe5 Ne8

28. Kh2 Qxa2?

12. f4 Bxc1

29. Bxe6! fxe6 (i)

13. Rxc1 d6

30. Rd7 (j) Kh8

14. exd6 cxd6 (e)

31. Rxg7 (k) Kxg7

15. Nf3 (f) Bg4

32. Rg3+ Kf8

16. h3 Rc8

33. Qh7 1-0

17. Bb3 Bxf3