Players from South America often have unusual opening ideas. The attack by Black in the following game is a good example.

I’ve noticed a lot of South American players are very inventive at the board and thrive in non-standard middlegames. In the following game, Felipe de Cresce El Debs, a Brazilian grandmaster, falls victim to an unusual approach by Yago de Moura Santiago, a compatriot, who is an international master.

El Debs, F. vs. Santiago, Y.
Brazil Open 2017 | Joao Pessoa BRA | Round 5.1 | 19 Mar 2017 | ECO: C04 | 0-1
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Nc6!? This is an unusual move but it is not as bad as its reputation. Instead of advancing the c-pawn, which he has blocked, Black wants to play e5.
4. Ngf3
4. c3 e5! Would justify Black's play.  )
4... Nf6 5. e5 Nd7 This looks like a lousy version of a French Defense for Black because he cannot undermine White's central space advantage by playing c5, but he has another idea.
6. Be2 f6! 7. exf6 Qxf6! White has trouble preventing Black from playing e5 and his pawn on d4 is attacked.
8. Nf1! This is a strong multi-purpose move. The pawn on d4 is now protected and the knight is ready to jump to e3, when it will attack the Black pawn on d5, thereby discouraging Black from playing e5.
8. O-O Nxd4  )
8. c3 e5!  )
8... Bd6 9. Ne3 O-O 10. O-O White seems to have a nice position because he has prevented Black from playing e5. But Black comes up with another plan that I really like.
10... Qg6! An excellent move. Black clears the f6 square for his knight, lending added support to d5
11. c3
11. Re1 This looks more natural because the d-pawn is perfectly safe. But White's move also can't really be bad.  )
11... Nf6! 12. Bd3 Qh5 13. Re1 Bd7 It is very hard for White to prevent e5 and to develop his pieces. Black is ready to play Rae8, while White has a problem finding a place for his dark-squared bishop and getting his rook on a1 into the game. The computer initially evaluates the position as clearly better for White, but after analyzing for a little while, its evaluation falls quickly.
14. Nf1?! Strategically this makes perfect sense: the knight will head to g3, expelling the Black queen and creating room for the dark-squared bishop to develop. But Black has an energetic response:
14. Bc2! This was much better. The bishop would no longer be in danger on d3 and the Black pawn on d5 would be under pressure from the White queen. Still, after:
14... Rae8 15. Nf1 e5 16. Ng3 Qf7 Black would not be doing badly.  )
14... Ng4! Black is creating serious threats and White can no longer play Ng3.
15. h3
15. Ng3? Bxg3! 16. hxg3 Rxf3! 17. Qxf3 Rf8 And White is losing.
18. Bf4 g5!  )
15. Be2! This was the only way to fight for a draw, but it was a very hard move to find during the game.
15... Rxf3 16. gxf3 Bxh2+ 17. Kg2 Nxf2 18. Qd2  )
15... Nxf2! 16. Kxf2 e5 Black's pieces are springing to life and White's king is in real danger.
17. dxe5
17. Ng3 Qh4! This clever move creates all sorts of pins and Black threaten e4.  )
17... Nxe5 18. Rxe5 A sad necessity for White
18... Bxe5 19. Be2 c6 The dust has settled. White is out of immediate danger, but Black's rooks are very active and, given the roughly equal material, I prefer Black's position because his pieces have more activity.
20. Kg1 Bc7 21. Be3 Rae8! Elementary and textbook chess. Black brings his last piece into the game, gaining a tempo.
22. N3d2
22. Nd4 This move was also good.  )
22... Qh4 23. Qe1? Too ambitious.
23. Nf3 White should have been content with trying to draw.  )
23... Qf6
23... Qd8! This move was even stronger; Black could follow up with Bb6.  )
24. Nf3 Qg6 25. Kh1 Re4 I really like how almost every move black has played has been an advance. Incredibly, the White rook on a1 still has not moved.
26. Qf2 Qh5! Black will soon begin sacrificing material to feed his attack.
27. N1h2?
27. N1d2! Ree8 28. h4! This was a more resilient defense, but White's position would still have been very difficult after:
28... Bg4  )
27... Qe8! Now Black simply wins material on the e-file.
28. Nf1 Bb6! 29. Bd3
29. Bxb6 Rxe2! And Black would be up a piece.  )
29... Bxe3 30. Qc2 Bxh3! There was nothing wrong with retreating and holding on to the extra material, but I like attacking, so I applaud Black's decision.
31. Bxe4 dxe4 32. Re1 Qh5 33. N3h2 Bf2! 34. Re2 Bxg2+! 35. Kxg2 Qg5+ 36. Kh3 Rf6 37. Qb3+ Kh8 It's not easy to demolish a grandmaster like this with the Black pieces. Props to Santiago.


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.