When Ray Robson plays well, he can take his opponents apart, even with Black, as in the following game.

Robson is a very interesting player. He is inconsistent, but every now and then he outplays a very strong opponent with Black, and he makes it look like a piece of cake. This was one of those games. Robson’s opponent is Alexander Shabalov, a four-time United States Champion. 

Shabalov, A. vs. Robson, R.
PRO League Pacific 2017 | chess.com INT | Round 4 | 01 Feb 2017 | ECO: A03 | 0-1
1. f4 d5 2. Nf3 c5 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. d3 Nf6 6. O-O O-O White's opening choice is definitely unusual -- he has a reverse Leningrad Dutch, but up a tempo.
7. Qe1 Playing in the style of the old main line, but again, with colors reversed.
7. c3 In the corresponding position with the Black pieces, this move and Nc6 (Nc3 in this case) are more often played nowadays.
7... Nc6 8. Na3  )
7. Nc3 d4 8. Na4 Nbd7! This might be a reason to avoid Nc3. The Black knight is not yet on c6 and can come to d7 to defend the pawn.
...  9. c4  )
7... d4 8. Na3
8. e4 According to my understanding of the Dutch setup, White is supposed to play this move, but in this particular position, it is tougher because Black could play:
8... dxe3 9. Bxe3 Ng4! When White's pieces would be a bit uncoordinated because he has not yet played c3. In order to avoid giving up the bishop pair he must play:
10. Bc1 But Black would then have a good position.  )
8... Nc6 9. Bd2
9. e4?! Again, White cannot play this because of:
9... dxe3 10. Bxe3 Ng4! 11. Bxc5 b6  )
9. c3 I'd prefer this move, but it's not necessarily better than the move played in the game.  )
9... Be6 10. c3 Qd7! Strong play from Robson. He doesn't exchange the center pawns; he prefers to maintain the tension.
11. Nc2 Rab8 12. cxd4? White blinks first. This move makes no sense to me.
12. a3 This move looks strongest, followed by b4 and White can try to undermine the center from the side, though I still would prefer Black's position.  )
12... cxd4 13. b4 b5 14. a4? This seems to be a blunder.
14... bxa4 15. Na3
15. Rxa4 Bb3 And White loses material.  )
15... a6! Simple and strong; it stops b5.
16. Nc4 Bxc4! 17. dxc4 Ne4! Black's pieces now develop rapidly.
18. Rxa4 Material is equal, but White is really suffering after:
18... Nc3! 19. Qa1
19. Rxa6 Nxb4 This move would also have given Black a large advantage.  )
19. Bxc3 dxc3 Black would have a powerful passed pawn on c3 and White would still have to lose material on b4.
20. Qb1 Nd4! 21. Rxa6 c2 And Black will win.  )
19... Nxb4! Black does not even bother winning the exchange.
19... Nxa4 20. Qxa4 Black would still have a decisive edge, but the move played in the game was definitely cleaner, faster, and more efficient.  )
20. Bxc3 dxc3 21. Ne5 Bxe5 22. fxe5 Nc2 White resigned as he cannot save the rook on a4.


Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 4 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He was also a member of the team that won the gold medal at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter, has his own site, and is also on Facebook.