Annotated Game #2 from the 1998 New York Open

annotations by NM Steve Mayer

Ariel, Donny  (2290) - Nenashev, Alexander (2625) [C96]

1998 New York Open (Round 2)    16.03.1998

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3
O-O 9. h3 Na5 10. Bc2 c5 11. d4 Nd7 12. Nbd2 exd4 13. cxd4 Nc6

2_1.jpg (31482 bytes) What has there been to say about this game so far? What does one need to know to make sense of what follows? It helps to know that the game is still “all theory,” that Nenashev frequently plays this line and that he doesn’t seem to be a player who believes that ‘insane risks’ are necessary in the first round of a nine round lottery. This isn’t to say that Nenashev isn’t ‘playing to win,’ but he’s experienced enough to know that it’s best not to lose first round games.
Of course, much less is known about Donny Ariel. To him, this game is a chance to ‘show what he knows’ against a working GM and that’s what lends this game its slight but undeniable charm.

14. e5

This moves ‘feels’ odd but it may well be book. Also known is 14 dxc5 dxc5 15 e5 c4 (transposing to the game) and 14 Nf1, when Black has been known to play both 14...cxd4 and 14...Bf6.

14...dxe5 15.dxe5 c4 16. b3 Nc5

This appears to be Nenashev’s latest ‘opinion’ on how best to play this position. A few years ago, he preferred 16...c3 17 Ne4 Ndxe5 18 Nxe5 Qxd1 19 Rxd1 Nxe5 20 Nxc3 Bf6 against Stefansson at Komotini 1993. That position also should be playable for Black (one assumes) but Nenashev almost lost that game and there’s no objective reason why he should wish to repeat the experiment with Ariel.

17. bxc4 Be6 18. cxb5

Ariel accepts the gambit. Is this the best decision in the position? Maybe, maybe not. Kotronias played 18 Ba3 against Nenashev at Karditsa 1996. That game continued 18...bxc4 19 Re3 Rb8 20 Qe2 Nb4 21 Bxb4 Rxb4 22 a3 Rb7 23 Nxc4, and White had once again won a pawn.

So why does Nenashev continue to play this line for Black? Because it’s a gambit and a low-risk one at that. Like the Open Variation of the Ruy Lopez, a ‘skilled practicioner’ of the variation can generate a great deal of activity and rescue many a pawn down ending with little ‘real’ effort.
18...axb5 19. a3 b4 20. Re3 Qd7 21. Bb2 Rab8 22. axb4 Nxb4

And now what more is there to say about the game? White is a pawn ahead and must be considered better. Each side has active pieces, but does one really expect a young master to win this position against a 2600 FIDE? No. Still, he must try and he must also make sure that he doesn’t do something ‘bold’ that results in him scoring a zero after such a fine effort.

2_2.jpg (31158 bytes)

23. Bd4 Rfc8 24. Bb1 Nd5 25. Re1 Nf4 26. Bxc5 Rxc5 27. Qa4 Qxa4 28. Rxa4 Nd5 29. Ne4 Rcb5 30. Bd3 Rb4 31. Rxb4 Nxb4 32. Bb1 g6 33. Nd4 Bd7 34. Rc1 Rd8 35. Nd6 Bxd6 36. exd6

So now White has a passer but I doubt that either side thought that it was going anywhere.

36...Be8 37. Rc4 Nd5 38. Be4 Nb6 39. Rb4 Rxd6 40.Bc6 Bxc6 41. Rxb6 1/2-1/2

A fine job by both players, though the game obviously ‘meant’ something different to each of them.