C11 Short, Nigel – Morozevich, Alexander, French Defense

Short, Nigel (2680) – Morozevich, Alexander (2700)

C11 French Defense, Reggio Emilia, Italy (2), December 29, 2010 [Notes by Hoffer]

Italy's oldest and most renowned chess tournament, the 53rd "Torneo di Capodanno", took place December 28th 2010 – January 6th 2011 at the hotel Astoria Mercure in Reggio Emilia. This tournament is similar to the famous Christmas-New Year's tournaments at the seaside resort of Hastings, England. Despite being only 45 years-old, one of the tournament's oldest contestants, GM Nigel Short, took the early lead with this game, thanks to a spectacular swindle in a lost position. You all may recall my friend Nigel is best known for playing Garry Kasparov in the World Chess Championship at London 1993. In the following game, GM Alexander Morozevich, who barely managed to make it out of snow and ice-bound Russia in time for the game, demonstrates how to give White a great deal of trouble with the French Defense. This was Morozevich's return to chess after a long lay-off. Normally a brilliant tactician, perhaps the rust and all that traveling contributed to Morozevich failing to finish off Short on move 28.

1.e4 e6 2.d4

White chooses to play 2.d4 99% of the time against the French, so Black players are often perplexed if White tries a change of pace such as the King's Indian Attack with 2.d3.

2…d5 3.Nc3 Nf6

3…Bb4 The Winawer Variation was known to give the great American Champion Bobby Fischer so much trouble that a group of GMs conspired to feed the following line to an average IM Vladimir Kovacevic, who used it to hand Fischer his only defeat at Zagreb 1970. 4.a3 Bxc3+ 5.bxc3 dxe4 6.Qg4 Nf6 7.Qxg7 Rg8 8.Qh6 Nbd7 9.Ne2 b6 10.Bg5 Qe7!³ 11.Qh4 Bb7 12.Ng3 h6! 13.Bd2? 0–0–0 14.Be2 Nf8! 15.0–0 Ng6 16.Qxh6 Rh8 17.Qg5 Rdg8 18.f3 e3 19.Bxe3 Nf8µ 20.Qb5 Nd5 21.Kf2 a6–+ 22.Qd3 Rxh2 23.Rh1 Qh4 24.Rxh2 Qxh2 25.Nf1 Rxg2+ 26.Ke1 Qh4+ 27.Kd2 Ng6 28.Re1 Ngf4 29.Bxf4 Nxf4 30.Qe3 Rf2! 0–1 Fischer,R-Kovacevic,V, Zagreb 1970.

4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.dxc5!?

Nigel intentionally avoided the mainline of 6.Nf3 because 6.dxc5 had given him problems as Black on the Internet. An old favorite of Steinitz and Tarrasch, apart from GM Roman Ovetchkin, this line has not been seen in Grandmaster play since 1967!


6…Bxc5!? 7.Qg4 0–0 8.Nf3 (8.Bd3?! f5 9.Qh3 Bxg1! 10.Rxg1 Nc5= 11.Bd2 Nc6 12.Nb5? Qb6 13.0–0–0 Bd7 14.Nd6 Na4! 15.Bb5 Nd4 16.Be3 Ne2+! 17.Bxe2 Qxb2+ 18.Kd2 Qb4+ 19.Kc1 Nc3µ 20.Rde1 Nxa2+ 21.Kd1 Nc3+ 22.Kc1 d4 (22…a5 23.Bd3 a4ƒ) 23.Bf2 Rfc8 24.Bd3 Na2+ (24…Ba4–+) 25.Kd1 Nc3+ 26.Kc1 Rc5 (26…Ba4–+) 27.Qh4 Ra5 28.Kd2 h6? (28…Ra2!–+) 29.g4 fxg4? (29…Nd5+±) 30.Rxg4+- Kh8 31.Qxh6+ 1–0 Fischer,R-Benko,P, Candidates Curacao 1962) 8…f5 9.Qh3 Qe8!? 10.Bd3 Nc6 11.a3 Nd4 12.Nxd4 Bxd4 13.Nb5 Bb6 14.b4 a5 15.Rb1 axb4 16.axb4 Qg6 17.Be3 Qg4 18.Qxg4 fxg4 19.Bxb6 Nxb6 20.g3 Bd7 21.Nd4 Ra2 22.Ke2 Na4 23.Ra1 Rb2 24.Kd2 Rxb4 25.Rhb1 Rxd4 26.Rxb7 Nc5 27.Rc7 Nxd3 28.cxd3 Be8 29.f5 Ra4 30.Rxa4 Bxa4 31.fxe6 Re8 32.Ra7 Bc6 33.Ke3 Rxe6 34.Kd4 Kf8 35.Kc5 Rh6 36.d4 Be8 37.Kxd5 Rxh2 38.e6 Rg2 39.Ke5 Rxg3 40.d5 Re3+ 41.Kf4 Rd3 42.Ke5 g3 43.d6 g2 44.Ra1 h5 45.Rg1 Rd2 46.d7 Bxd7 47.exd7 Ke7 48.Kf5 Kf7 49.Rxg2 Rxd7 50.Rf2 g6+ 51.Kg5+ Kg7 52.Ra2 Rd5+ 53.Kh4 Kh6 54.Ra6 Rd4+ 55.Kg3 Re4 56.Rb6 Kg5 57.Rb5+ Kf6 58.Rb6+ Kf5 59.Rb5+ Re5 60.Rb3 Kg5 61.Ra3 h4+ 62.Kf3 Kh5 63.Ra8 Rf5+ 64.Kg2 g5 65.Kh3 Rf3+ 66.Kg2 Rb3 67.Rh8+ Kg4 68.Ra8 Rb2+ 69.Kg1 h3 70.Ra4+ Kh5 71.Ra8 Kh4 72.Ra4+ g4 73.Ra1 Rb4 74.Rc1 g3 75.Kh1 h2 76.Kg2 Rb2+ 77.Kf3 Rf2+ 0–1 Ovetchkin,R (2543)-Volkov,S (2628), Internet 2006.


This pawn move subsequently gives Black a target for attack. 7.Nf3 Bxc5 8.Bd3 a6 9.Qe2 Nd4 10.Nxd4 Bxd4 11.Be3 Bxe3 12.Qxe3 Qb6 13.Qxb6 Nxb6 14.Ne2 Bd7 15.Nd4 Nc8 16.Kd2 Ne7 17.c3 Nc6 18.Nf3 Rc8 19.Rhf1 Ke7 20.Rae1 g6 21.Rf2 Rc7 22.Ke3 b5 23.Rc2 Rb8 24.Rec1 Na5 25.Nd4 Nc6 26.g3 Rbc8 27.Nf3 Na5 28.Ng5 Rh8 29.Nf3 Rhc8 30.b4 Nc4+ 31.Bxc4 Rxc4 32.Nd2 R4c7 33.Nb3 f6?! 34.Nc5 a5 35.exf6+ Kxf6 36.Kd4± Ra8 37.Re1 Kf7 38.a3 Bc8 39.Rce2 Rc6 40.g4 Rc7 41.g5 Bd7 42.h4 Ke7 43.Kd3 axb4 44.axb4 Ra3 45.h5+- Kf7 46.Rh2 gxh5 47.Rxh5 Kg8 48.f5 Rxc5 49.bxc5 b4 50.fxe6 Be8 51.Rh2 bxc3 52.Kd4 Bg6 53.e7 Ra8 54.Kxc3 Be4 55.Rf2 1–0 Korchnoi,V-Stahlberg,G, Bucharest 1954.


7…Nxc5 8.b4 Nd7 9.Bd3 a5 10.b5 Ncb8 11.Nf3 Nc5 12.Be3 Nbd7 13.0–0 g6 14.Ne2 Be7 15.Qe1 Nb6 16.Nfd4 Bd7 17.Qf2 Nba4 18.Rab1 h5 19.b6 Nxd3 20.cxd3 Bxa3 21.f5 gxf5 22.Nf4 h4 23.Ra1 Be7 24.Rxa4! Bxa4 25.Ndxe6! fxe6 26.Nxe6+- Bd7 27.Nxd8 Rxd8 28.Bc5 Rc8 29.Bxe7 Kxe7 30.Qe3 Rc6 31.Qg5+ Kf7 32.Rc1 Rxc1+ 33.Qxc1 Rc8 34.Qe1 h3 35.gxh3 Rg8+ 36.Kf2 a4 37.Qb4 Rg6 38.Kf3 a3 39.Qxa3 Rxb6 40.Qc5 Re6 41.Qc7 Ke7 42.Kf4 b6 43.h4 Rc6 44.Qb8 Be8 45.Kxf5 Rh6 46.Qc7+ Kf8 47.Qd8 b5 48.e6 Rh7 49.Ke5 b4 50.Qd6+ 1–0 Pillsbury,H-Lasker,E, Nuremberg 1896.

8.Qg4 0–0 9.Bd3

The alternative is an old line by Lasker & Tarrasch which has not fared well in modern times: 9.Nf3 Nd4 (9…f5 10.Qh3 Nd4 (10…d4 11.Ng5 h6 12.Nxe6 Qa5 13.Bc4 dxc3 14.Nxc5+ Kh8 15.b4 Nxb4! 16.Nb3 Nxc2+µ 17.Kd1 Qa4 18.Kxc2 Qxc4 19.Qxc3 Qe4+ 20.Qd3 Qxg2+ 21.Bd2 Nb6 22.Rhg1 Qc6+ 23.Bc3 Be6 24.Nd4 Qa4+ 25.Kd2 Rad8 26.Ke1 Rf7 27.Qc2? Rxd4!–+ 28.Qxa4 Rxa4 29.Bb4 Nd5 0–1 Ovetchkin,R (2539)-Nepomniachtchi,I (2520), Internet 2006) 11.Nxd4 Bxd4 12.Nb5 Bb6 13.Be3 Nc5 14.0–0–0 Bd7 15.Nd4 Rc8 16.Kb1= Qe7?! 17.g4 fxg4 18.Qxg4 Be8 19.f5 Kh8 20.Rg1 Ne4 21.fxe6 Bg6 22.Bd3 Bc5 23.Qh3 Kg8² Schmid,L (2540)-Berry,J (2240), Lone Pine 1975 1/ 2–1/2 (36)) 10.Bd3 f5 11.Qh3 Nxf3+ 12.Qxf3 Bb6 13.Na4?! Nxe5 14.fxe5 Qh4+ 15.Qg3 Qxa4 16.Bd2 Bd7 17.Rf1 Bb5 18.Bh6 Rf7 19.Rf4 Qa6 20.0–0–0 Rc8 21.Kb1 Bxd3 22.Rxd3 Rc4 23.h3 Bc7 24.Rxc4µ Narmontas,M (2293)-Sakalauskas,V (2423), Siauliai 2007 0–1 (59).


9…f5 10.Qh3 Bxg1 a) 10…a6 11.Nf3 Nd4 12.g4?! Nxf3+ 13.Qxf3 Qh4+ 14.Qg3 Qxg4 15.Bd2 Qxg3+ 16.hxg3 g6 17.0–0–0 Rf7 18.Rh6 Bf8 19.Rh2 Nc5 20.Bf1 b5 21.Be1 Rb7 22.Bg2 Ne4 23.g4 b4 24.axb4 Bxb4 25.Bxe4 Omeliansky,V-Romanovsky,A, St Petersburg 1905 1/2–1/2 (49); b) 10…Be7 11.b4 g5 (11…Ndxe5!? 12.fxe5 Nxe5 13.Nge2 Ng4 14.Nf4 Bh4+ 15.g3 Bf6 16.Bb2 Bxc3+ 17.Bxc3 e5 18.0–0–0 exf4 19.gxf4 Qc7 20.Kb2 Qxf4 21.Rhg1 Be6 22.Rdf1 Qg5 23.Qf3 Qh4 24.Qf4 Rf7 25.Re1 Bd7 26.Qd4 Qd8 27.Qxd5 Bc6 28.Qxd8+ Rxd8 29.Bc4 Bd5 30.Bxd5 Rxd5 31.Re8+ Rf8 32.Re7 Rf7 33.Re8+ Rf8 34.Re7 ½–½ Grondin,J (2261)-Linskiy,O (2412), Quebec 2001) 12.Qh6 Kh8 13.Nf3 g4 14.Nd2 Rg8= 15.Bb2? Rg6 16.Qh5 Kg7 (16…Qf8!–+ threatening to trap the Qh5.) 17.Bxf5 exf5 18.Nxd5 Nf8 19.Ne3 Nd4 20.e6 Bxe6 21.Nb3 Bxb3 22.Rd1 Bf6–+ 23.Bxd4 Be6 24.Bc5 Qc8 25.Ke2 Qc6 26.Kf2 Rh6 27.Nxf5+ Bxf5 28.Qxf5 Bh4+ 29.Kf1 Qe6 30.Qxe6 Rxe6 31.g3 Be7 32.Bd4+ Bf6 33.Kf2 Rc8 34.Bc5 b6 35.Bxf8+ Kxf8 36.Rd2 Rcc6 0–1 Bonch Osmolovsky,M-Aronin,L, Moscow 1949; c) 10…Qb6 11.Nf3 Bf2+³ 12.Ke2 Nd4+ 13.Nxd4 Bxd4 14.g4?! Nc5µ 15.gxf5 Nxd3 16.cxd3? Rxf5–+ 17.Qg3 Bd7 18.Bd2 Be8 19.Rhc1 Bh5+ 20.Ke1 Raf8 21.Nd1 Bxe5 22.Be3 d4 23.fxe5 Rf1+ 24.Kd2 Bxd1 25.Bxd4 Qxd4 0–1 Liebenstein,H-Smith,S, Hannover 1902; 11.Rxg1 Nc5 12.Bd2 Nxd3+ 13.Qxd3= a6 14.0–0–0 b5 15.Ne2 Bd7 16.g4 fxg4 17.Rxg4 Be8 18.Qg3 Bg6 19.Be3 Ne7 20.Nd4 Nf5 21.Nxf5 Rxf5 22.Rd2 Rc8 23.Rg5 Rxg5 1/2–1/ 2 Weiss,M-Mason,J, New York 1889.

10.Bd2 f6 11.Qh4 h6 12.exf6 Nxf6 13.0–0–0 e5 14.fxe5 Nxe5 15.Nf3 Nxd3+ 16.cxd3

This position was last reached over 100 years ago! Afterward Nigel said "there is absolutely no chance of me playing that hideous opening again. I was amused to discover later, that we were following Spielmann-Alapin, Munich 1909 (also 1–0 incidentally) up until the 16th move."


Splendid! White's King is virtually homeless and naked on the open c-file. In opposite side castling positions, when the center is well-defined, both sides race to throw their pawns at the opponent's King area to pry open lines of attack. He whose pawns hit first wins. This is often done without regard for losing one's pawns because that would actually help open up lines for the Rooks to join in the attack. It is less interesting yet playable to develop Black's next piece with 16…Bf5 17.Rhe1 Qd6 18.Bf4 Qa6³; Simon Alapin got toasted after playing the inferior 16…Be3?! 17.Rhe1 Bxd2+ 18.Rxd2 Qd6 19.Rde2 Bd7 20.Qd4 a6 21.Re5 Rac8 22.Kb1 Qc6 23.Rxd5!! Nxd5 24.Nxd5 Qc2+ 25.Ka2± Rce8?? 26.Ne7+ Rxe7 27.Rxe7 Rf7 28.Qd5 1–0 Spielmann,R-Alapin,S, Munich 1909.


17.b4!? Bb6 18.Kb2; But not 17.Nxb5? The b-pawn cannot be captured with impunity. In the words of MC Hammer, "Can't touch this!" because it allows Black's Rook dangerous lines of attack via the open b-file. 17…Rb8 18.Nfd4 Bxd4 19.Nxd4 Bg4 20.Bb4 Rxb4 21.axb4 Qe3+ 22.Kb1 Qxd4 23.h3 g5 24.Qxh6 Bxd1 25.Qxg5+ Kf7 26.Rxd1 Rb8 Break it down! Stop, Hammer time!


This is about as good as it gets for the French Defense. Black has the two B's, has achieved his …f6 …e5 pawn break in the center, and White's King safety is vulnerable.

18.Be3 Bxe3+ 19.Rxe3 a5

Threatening 20…b4 with great vengeance and furious anger.


20.a4!? bxa4 (20…b4 21.Nb5 Bd7 22.Nfd4³) 21.Qxa4 Bg4µ


White is strategically busted.

21.Re7 Qb6 22.axb4

22.Nd1 bxa3 23.bxa3 Qb3–+

22…axb4 23.Nd1 Bg4

Black misses an easy win with 23…Ne4! (both sealing off d2 and threatening …Qc5+) 24.R7xe4 (24.dxe4 Rxf3! 25.gxf3 Ra1+ 26.Kc2 b3+ 27.Kd3 Ba6+ 28.Kc3 Rc1+ 29.Kd2 Rc2#) 24…dxe4 25.Rxe4 Ra1+ 26.Kd2 Ba6 27.Rxb4 Qg6 28.Ne1 Bxd3–+ 29.Nxd3? Rxd1+ 30.Kxd1 Qxd3+ 31.Kc1 Rf1+ 32.Qe1 Rxe1#

24.Kd2 b3 25.Ke2 Ra4 26.Qg3 Nh5 27.Qe5 Rf5?!

Black had two better options leading to a win: 27…Nf4+ 28.Kf1 Qg6–+; Or 27…Bxf3+ 28.gxf3 Nf4+ 29.Kd2 Qg6–+


28.Qc7 Qd4 29.Qc8+ Rf8 30.Qc3 Qf4–+


28…d4! 29.Qc8+ (29.Qc7 Qg6 30.Nf2 Bxf3+ 31.gxf3 Qg2 32.Qc8+ Rf8 33.Qg4 Qxh2 34.Qd7 Ng3+ 35.Kd2 Qxf2+–+) 29…Kh7 30.Re8 Re5+ 31.Kf2 Bxc8–+

29.gxf3 d4??

Just one move ago this would have won. Now it is simply an aimless pawn move which disrupts the coordination of Black's pieces. The late IM Boris Kogan always told me, "You can never miss check!" Black misses both giving check and receiving one on his back rank. This position has been crying out for 29…Nf4+ and Black is smashed 30.Kf1 (30.Kd2 Rg5–+ 31.R7e5 Rg2+ 32.R1e2 Nxe2 33.Rxe2 Rxe2+ 34.Kxe2 Qe6+ 35.Kd2 Rh4–+) 30…Qg6 31.Ne3 Rf8–+; When attacking it is nearly always better to bring the next piece into the attack rather than committing yourself to a pawn move. If nothing else, it gives your opponent a chance to hang himself under the pressure. White also had no adequate defense to: 29…Rh4 30.Kd2 Rxh2+ 31.R1e2 Rxe2+ 32.Rxe2 Rxf3 33.Qc8+ Rf8 34.Re8 Qb4+–+


30.Qc8+ Rf8 31.Re8 Qf6 32.Rxf8+ Qxf8

30…Kh7 31.Qc8 Nf4+ 32.Kf1 Qb5 33.Nf2!

Nigel sets a very nice trap.


In Zeitnot, Black loses a piece and the game. Unfortunately this was not a good position in which to be in time trouble. It is difficult to evaluate whether or not Black can still force a win. There is an old Russian proverb, "All Rook endings are a draw!" It would not surprise me if someone takes the time here to discover a win for Black or a forced draw. Insufficient seems to be  33…Ra6 34.Qc4 Qxc4 35.dxc4 Rc6 36.Rc1 Nd5 37.Ke2 Nc3+ 38.bxc3 b2 39.Rb1 dxc3 40.Kd1 Rxf3 41.Ne4 Rxc4 42.Kc2 Rh3 43.Rh1 Ra4 44.Nxc3 Rc4 45.Kxb2 Rcxc3=;

Black's best winning chances appear to be found in 33…Ra2 34.Rh8+ (34.Rc1 Ng6 35.Qe6 Qd5 36.Qxd5 Rxd5 37.Rb1 Rc5 38.Rb8 Nh4 39.Rxb3 Nxf3 40.Ke2 Nxh2 41.Kd2 Rg5 42.Ra3 Rxa3 43.bxa3 Ra5 44.Ra1 g5 45.Ke2 Rc5–+) 34…Kg6 35.Rc1! Ra6 (35…Rxb2? 36.Rc6+ Kh5 37.Rhxh6+ gxh6 38.Qe8+ Kh4 39.Rxh6+ Rh5 40.Rxh5+ Qxh5 41.Qd8+ Qg5 42.Qh8+ Nh5 43.Qxd4+ Nf4 44.Qh8+ Qh5 45.Qxb2 Qxf3 46.Qf6+ Kh5 47.Qf7+ Kg5 48.h4+ Kxh4 49.Qf6+ Kh5 50.Qf5+=) 36.Qc4 (36.Rd1 Nd5 37.Rc1 Ne3+ 38.Ke2 Ng2µ; 36.Qe8+ Qxe8 37.Rxe8 Ra2 38.Rb1 Nd5 39.Ng4µ) 36…Qxc4 37.dxc4 Re6 38.Rb8 (38.c5 Re2 39.c6 Rc2) 38…Re3 39.Rd1 Rxf3 40.Rxd4 Nh3 41.Kg2 Nxf2 42.Rb5 Rf6 43.Rb6 Rxb6 44.Kxf3 Rf6+–+

34.Rh8++- Kg6 35.Qe6+ Kh5

35…Rf6 36.Qe4+ Qf5 37.Qxf5+ Rxf5 38.Nxd3 Rxf3+ 39.Ke2 Re3+ 40.Kd2 Rxe1 41.Nxe1 Ra2+-

And we have reached the key move in Nigel's deflection swindle. Do you see it?


After the game, Nigel posted a message that he experienced an extreme physiological response upon making this move.


Black must relinquish his Queen to avoid mate. 36…Qxb8 37.Qxf5+ g5 38.Qh3+ Kg6 39.Re6+ Kg7 40.Qxh6+ Kf7 41.Qg6+ Kf8 42.Rf6+ Ke7 43.Rf7+ Ke8 44.Qg8#; …36…– 37.Rxb5 Ne5 38.Qxf5+ g5 39.Rb6 d3 40.Qh3+ Rh4 41.Qxh4+ gxh4 42.Rxe5#

37.Rxe5 Ra1+ 38.Re1

38.Ke2 Rxe5+ 39.Qxe5+ Nxe5 40.Rb5 g5 41.Rxe5+-; White still had to be careful to not blunder with 38.Kg2?? Nf4+ 39.Kg3 Rg1#

38…Rxe1+ 39.Qxe1 Nxe1 40.Kxe1 Rxf3 41.Rd8 Re3+ 42.Kf1 Rc3??

Seriously? Well, Black was lost in any event. 42…Re6 43.Rxd4 Rb6 44.Rd3 Rb4 45.Kg2+-

43.bxc3 dxc3

No better is  43…b2 44.Rb8 dxc3 45.Nd3+-

44.Nd3 1–0

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