Aleksandr Lenderman, a grandmaster from New York and Mackenzie Molner, an IM from New Jersey, now dwelling in Arizona, appear to encounter each other frequently in National tournaments. They played at least one game in 2009 and two in 2010, mixing up their openings each time. In that period, the White pieces triumphed and Lenderman had a 2-1 score. In today’s game, played in the last round of the National Open, Molner managed to even the score, playing the Black pieces in a Gruenfeld defense.
2013 National Open
Aleksandr Lenderman vs Mackenzie Molner
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Qb3 The Russian variation of the Gruenfeld. dxc4 6.Qxc4 O-O 7.e4 a6 The Hungarian variation of the Russian variation of the Gruenfeld! 8.e5 b5 9.Qb3 Nfd7 10.Be2 c5 11.e6 cxd4!? An interesting piece sacrifice which has been offered before but which no one has accepted. The reason is, I think, more psychological than the result of actual calculation. Though Black only has two pawns for the piece after 12. exN Bxd 13.Ne4 Bc6, he has good pieces and a strong center. White will be faced with a long struggle to realize his small material advantage while after 12.exf7+ White has great hopes of winning gloriously with a brilliant mating attack! 12.exf7+ Kh8 13.Ne4 Lenderman has been here before in the 2012 US Championship against Ray Robson. That game went: 13. .. Ne5 14.Nxe5 Bxe5 15. h4 Bb7 16. h5 Bxe4 17. Bf3 Bf5 18. g4 Nd7 19. gxf5 gxf5 20. Bh6 Bg7 21. Bxg7+ Kxg7 22. Rg1+ Kf6 23. Bxa8 Qxa8 24. Qg3 Qe4+ 25. Kf1 Ne5 26. Re1 Qd3+ 27. Qxd3 Nxd3 28. Rd1 Nxb2 29. Rxd4 Rxf7 30. h6 Nc4 31.Rd8 with a winning advantage for White (1-0; 64). Based on this success, Lenderman was probably pretty comfortable repeating the line against Molner. 13…Nc6! (Diagram) A big improvement over Robson’s 13…Ne5 but not new. This was also played in the game Shabalov vs. A. Gupta, 2012 World Open. A game very much to Shabalov’s liking: 14.h4 h6 15.h5 g5 16.Bxg5 Nde5 17.Bf4 Bf5? (Nxf7=)18.Nxe5 Bxe5 19.Qf3 Qd5 20.Ng3 Be6 21.Rc1 Bxf4 22. Qxf4 Rxf7 23. Qxh6+ Rh7 24. Qf4; (1-0, 36) 14.h4 Burning many bridges. 14…h6 15.Bg5? Does not work out. He should have tried Shabalov’s 15. h5 and 16. Bxg5. This way, White just gets pushed back with tempo, allowing Black to take over the board 15…Nf6 16.Nxf6?! Better was the retreat 16.Ng3. Black is still slightly better after 16…Nh5! 17. NxN gxN 18.Bd2 Not only does NxN fix Black’s king-side pawns but also opens the e-file on his uncastled king, which is not a good idea. 16…exf6 17.Bd2 Back home but Black’s kingside is a lot healthier than before and White has one less piece to attack Black with. 17…Qe7 18.Qc2 Really sliding. White needs to make the transition from attacking to defending but he is not doing a good job of it. The threat to Black’s g-pawn and knight is an illusion. Better was18. Kf1 to try and survive the pawn down endgame after 18…Qxf7 18…Nb4 19.Bxb4 If 19.Qxg6 then 19…d3 wins. 19…Qxb4+ 20.Kf1? Again, White needs to go over to the defense with 20.Qd2, again with hopes of holding the pawn down endgame after 20…QxQ+ 21.KxQ Rxf7. 20…Bf5 Development with tempo. White could be already lost here. 21.Bd3 Rac8 22.Qe2 Bxd3 23.Qxd3 Qxb2 24.Re1 Qxa2 25.Qxg6 Qxf7 Finally getting rid of the annoying f-pawn. 26.Qf5 Qc4+ 27.Kg1 Rc5; 0-1 Two passed pawns down, White could play on but probably just gave up in disgust.