The trophy at stake (picture from FM Jonathan Berry) doubled as a functional teapot
In my last post, I detailed how I started off against Bu Xiangzhi in the US-China Chess Summit of 2001. After that embarrassing start, team captain GM Nick De Firmian showed some faith and sent me back out the next day to board 1. This time I got the white pieces.
A 3.Bb5+ Sicilian arose (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+), but Bu avoided the main lines with 3…Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Nbxd7. After 5.0-0 Ngf6 6.Qe2 g6 (6…e6 is much more popular), I played 7.c3. The game continued with 7…Bg7 8.d4 cxd4 9.cxd4, and it already looks to me like White is better. Black either has to allow e4-e5 (and maybe e5-e6), or he continues as Bu did with 9…e5.
r2qk2r/pp1n1pbp/3p1np1/4p3/3PP3/5N2/PP2QPPP/RNB2RK1 w kq e6 0 10)
Now that I look at it, Black was 2-0 with this line at the time our game, so maybe it was part of Bu’s preparation. I only played 1.e4 back then, with a couple anti-Sicilians as part of my repertoire. Of them, the Rossolimo/3.Bb5+ lines were my most serious lines, so this line couldn’t have been a surprise for him.
“Beware the knight, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!”
(a liberal retelling of Jabberwocky)
Before continuing with my Greatest Hits, I’ll take a little detour into Greatest Flops.
r5k1/pp5p/2p3p1/3n4/2NP4/1P6/P5PP/4R1K1 b - - 0 24)
The above position was reached in my game against GM Bu Xiangzhi (he had the white pieces), at the first US-China Chess Summit match in 2001. The match was a 4-round team event, with a men’s team, a women’s team, and a junior team.
I was on Board 1 for the junior team, with Dmitry Schneider on Board 2 and Hikaru Nakamura as the reserve. The Chinese junior team had Bu on Board 1 (already a 2560 GM at the age of 16 – a great achievement now, an even bigger deal back then), with Ni Hua on Board 2 and Wang Yue as the reserve.
This was the first game of the match, and so far, things had gone quite well for me. I had neutralized Bu’s opening quite easily and reached the pretty equal endgame above. If Black now plays the simple 24…Rd8 (if 25.Na5, 25…Rb8 is enough), he has no real troubles. With the powerful knight on d5 and the rook on the 8th rank, White can never make any real headway, and if he takes his pieces offsides, then Black might bring his king up without worrying about any annoying knight forks. It also makes complete sense to bring the rook into the game.
Unfortunately, I completely lost my head and proceeded to play the endgame like a child.