Goran in John Watson’s bestseller

For the last few months, and along with other books, I’ve been reading “Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy” by John Watson. This masterpiece won 1999 USCF and BCF awards, and after going through first few chapters, I added it under must have on the sidebar. You can imagine my amazement, and delight too, after reaching page 255, where I discovered my own game! You are reading the blog of a chess strategy trend-setter.

The game was played in the 8th round of the local Cuprija Open Championship and my opponent was FM Boroljub Zlatanovic. We went to the same elementary school and won 1992 Yugoslav Scholastic Championship. After a tough game on the previous day, I woke up too late and missed school that morning. Having nothing better to do, I grabbed two Chess Informants (there were no databases and internet back then!) and tried to find some ideas against expected French defense. I’ll copy John’s comments and add couple of mine.

John Watson – Four themes from this book arise in the following game: trippled pawns, the struggle between two bishops and two knights, the early space-grab by flank pawn moves, and a rook-lift on the fourth rank.

Goran Urosevic – Boroljub Zlatanovic

Cuprija, 1996

  1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 Ne7 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 c5 7. Nf3 Bd7 8. h4 Ba4 9. h5

John Watson – An increasingly popular idea which, as explained in Part 2, Chapter 3, has to do with prophylactically denying Black his usual kingside play, as well as setting up long-term prospects for White on that wing.

9…h6 10. dxc5!

John Watson – And here is a case of the trippled-pawn complex used to open lines and transfer pieces via d4; see Part 1, Chapter 4.

Goran – This move without any further analysis was mentioned in Chess Informant 62 as “deserving attention” and attributed to Brazilian GM Milos. I liked how rook on the 4th rank is exploring shaky position of Ba4. The main idea of putting bishop there is to stop White’s activity by blocking a3-a4 (and the usual Ba3) and tying White queen for c2 defence. White’s rook maneuver is successfully refuting this plan and I haven’t seen this line since the game appeared in Chess Informant 68 and next edition of ECO.

10…Qa5 11. Rh4!

John Watson – The fourth-rank rook-lift discussed in Part 1, Chapter 7; note how White’s bishops remain undeveloped, as structure and the “most difficult” pieces are attended to first.

Goran – Rook arrives just on time to save the pawns on c-file (11…Qc3 12. Bd2 wins the Ba4). One of the c-pawns will be given back, but White will use Black’s poor coordination and shaky pieces to grab the initiative. Now 11…Nbc6 runs into 12. Bd2 and 11…Bc6 12. Rb4 Qxc5 13. Qd4 is favorable ending for White. Black decided to dive in the complications with the game move. We were still swimming in my home analysis and even 10 years later I remember my excitement as Boroljub run into the preparation. My knees were literarly shaking!

11…Nd7 12. Bd2 Nxc5 13. c4

John Watson – A feature of the trippled-pawn complex; the pawns can be used as levers to chip away at the opponent’s centre.

Goran – Now 13…Qb6 is a mistake because 14. Rb1 wins crucial tempo for setting the Bb5 strike, 14…Qc6 15. cxd5 Qxd5 16. Rd4! Qc6 17. Ra4 wins the piece. Boroljub played the only move.

13…Qd8 14. cxd5 Qxd5 15. Be3! Ne4 (only move) 16. Qxd5 exd5 17. Nd4

John Watson – White has a clear advantage in the queenless endgame, due to his extra pawn [sic] and two bishops.

Goran – Partly because of my inexperience and also because Boroljub is very skilled opponent, the game ended in a draw.

John probably didn’t look beyond the moves published in Chess Informant, but they have filtered some of my analysis. Actually, I chickened out with 16. Qxd5 because I started to have doubts about my prepared 16. Bd3. Black has to continue 16…Qa5 17. Kf1 Nc3, and now 18. Qe1! saving d2 for bishop, instead of my prepared Qd2, was better. I felt something was missing and I was also afraid of Boroljub’s tactical skill superior to mine, so I went for 16. Qd5 in the game.

Only on 2006 I got a chance to try Bd3 in a game against talented Canadian junior played on WorldChessNetwork:

Goran Urosevic – Kevin Chung

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 Ne7 7. Nf3 Bd7 8. h4 Ba4 9. h5 h6 10. dxc5 Qa5 11. Rh4 Nd7 12. Bd2 Nxc5 13. c4 Qd8 14. cxd5 Qxd5 15. Be3 Ne4 16. Bd3 Qa5+ 17. Kf1 Nc3 18. Qe1 Ned5 19. Bd2 Rc8 20. Rb1 Bc6 21. Rb3 Bd7 22. Bc4 Qc5 23. Bxc3 Nb6 24. Bb4 Qc7 25. Bd3 Nd5 26. Bd6 Qa5 27. Qxa5 1-0