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. f4d52. Nf3c53. g3g64. Bg2Bg75. d3Nf66. O-OO-OWhite's opening choice is definitely unusual -- he has a reverse Leningrad Dutch, but up a tempo. 7. Qe1Playing in the style of the old main line, but again, with colors reversed.
( 7. c3In the corresponding position with the Black pieces, this move and Nc6 (Nc3 in this case) are more often played nowadays. 7... Nc68. Na3 )
( 7. Nc3d48. Na4Nbd7!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... d48. Na3
( 8. e4According 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... dxe39. Bxe3Ng4!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. Bc1But Black would then have a good position. )
8... Nc69. Bd2
( 9. e4?!Again, White cannot play this because of: 9... dxe310. Bxe3Ng4!11. Bxc5b6 )
( 9. c3I'd prefer this move, but it's not necessarily better than the move played in the game. )
9... Be610. c3Qd7!Strong play from Robson. He doesn't exchange the center pawns; he prefers to maintain the tension. 11. Nc2Rab812. cxd4?White blinks first. This move makes no sense to me.
( 12. a3This 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... cxd413. b4b514. a4?This seems to be a blunder. 14... bxa415. Na3
( 15. Rxa4Bb3And White loses material. )
15... a6!Simple and strong; it stops b5. 16. Nc4Bxc4!17. dxc4Ne4!Black's pieces now develop rapidly. 18. Rxa4Material is equal, but White is really suffering after: 18... Nc3!19. Qa1
( 19. Rxa6Nxb4This move would also have given Black a large advantage. )
( 19. Bxc3dxc3Black would have a powerful passed pawn on c3 and White would still have to lose material on b4. 20. Qb1Nd4!21. Rxa6c2And Black will win. )
19... Nxb4!Black does not even bother winning the exchange.
( 19... Nxa420. Qxa4Black would still have a decisive edge, but the move played in the game was definitely cleaner, faster, and more efficient. )
20. Bxc3dxc321. Ne5Bxe522. fxe5Nc2White 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.