Playing the Rossolimo Aggressively
It is a great honor to be given the opportunity to write a guest article for the GMChess web site. Before proceeding further, let me introduce myself first. I am not a titled player much less a Grandmaster. I am simply a chess lover who plays occasionally in tournaments in Malaysia, my home country. I am also an author. I have a column called 'The Lam Connection' in Chess Asia, a chess magazine published in the Philippines.
Now that you all know who I am, let's get down to business. My article today will revolve around the Rossolimo. This anti-Sicilian weapon has gained popularity in recent years following the solid successes of English GM Michael Adams. This opening was also discussed in the famed online chess game "The World v Kasparov". And, most recently in the Astana GM tourney, Sadvakasov also played it against Kasparov. Other than Adams and Sadvakasov, Bronstein, Stean and Fischer are also among the supporters of the system.
What is the inherent quality of the opening that attracts so many top GMs? Shamkovich best describes the answer to this in his book The Modern Chess Sacrifice. He said that it is a continuation employed as a rule to avoid well-known variations. That's right! With the saturation of variations and lines in the Sicilian defenses, more and more White players are switching to anti-Sicilian weapons such as the Rossolimo.
I myself have also played the Rossolimo a couple of times and the results have been pretty encouraging. Many attacking players have been turned off by the quiet nature of the opening. Their argument is that the Rossolimo is more suited to the temperament of positional players such as Michael Adams, who plays the opening in a very solid way. While I respect this argument, I do not agree with this 'blanket' judgment. Let's go back to the 50s and 60s and look at the way the Rossolimo was played in Bronstein - Geller, Goteborg 1955. Also, try looking at the game Stean - Geller, Moscow 1975. These games were played with so much passion and aggression. Pawns were sacrificed in pursuit of the Black monarch.
Before that, let's take a look at a miniature game, which was partly created by me. It occurred in an Asian level inter-university chess tournament in Kuala Lumpur two years ago. One further point before proceeding to the game: This game is my first attempt at playing the Rossolimo. Alright, no more stories, let's go straight into the game:
Edwin Lam Choong Wai - Mohd Azizul [B52]
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.0-0 Nc6 6.c3 d5 7.exd5
Alternatively, 7.e5 and then:
Perhaps better is 8.Na3 and now 8...c4?! Sacrificing the c-pawn.
(8...Rd8 9.Nb5 Qd7 Black's position looks solid. The only drawback is the poor
development of Black's pieces. 10.d4 a6 11.Na3) 9.Qa4 e6 10.Qxc4 Bxa3 11.Qxd5
exd5 12.bxa3 0-0-0 13.d4 Things do not look too bright for White due to the
defective pawn structure. However, things will change drastically withinthe next
few moves. 13...Nf6 14.Bb2 Ne4 15.c4 dxc4 16.d5
8...Rd8 9.Be3 e5?!
My opponent just loves to go pawn hunting.
Sacrificing a second pawn. Is this right or wrong?
The best hope. Other alternatives will leave Black with a cramped position. 10...Qe4 11.Nc3 Qg6 12.d5; 10...Qd7 11.d5 Qc7 12.Qe2
Black's Queen is offside and White should take full advantage of this to launch an attack.
12.d5 Nf6 13.Bg5 Rxd5?!
Black is now two pawns up. Quite an achievement considering the point that this game is just 13 moves old!
However, it would have been better to bring the Black King to safety first before
grabbing the d5 pawn. This is the right plan. After this, Black should have no
problem transposing into a won ending. 13...Be7! 14.Qb3 Nd4 15.Nxd4 cxd4 16.Nb5
Qb6 17.Rac1 0-0 18.Rc7
14.Qb3 Rd3 15.Qc2 Nd4?! 16.Nxd4 Rxd4 17.Qf5!
Both players agreed that this is the turning point in White's game.
17...Nd7 18.Rfe1 f6
Of course not 18...Qe6? 19.Nb5 Qb6 (19...Qxf5 20.Nc7#) 20.Nxd4 cxd4 21.Rac1 with a strong attack.
19.Be3 Rd5 20.f4! Kf7
This move is aimed at securing the square e6 first before bringing the Black Queen back into the game via d3. The immediate 20...Qd3!? 21.Qe6+ Kd8 22.Nb5 fails as the King istrapped in an open d-file.
Now, it will be a draw.
22.Qxe6+ Kxe6 23.f5+ Kd6 24.Nc4+ Kc6
Both players surprisingly agreed to a draw here. To my dissappointment, I found out later that White actually wins the game here! White can win material here by the maneuvre Na5-b7-d8-f7!˙Sadly, I missed the "knight tour" during the game. What a miss!
"He who fears an isolated queen's pawn should give up chess". Siegbert Tarrasch
"The most powerful weapon in chess is to have the next move"! David Bronstein.