Ivins-Levin, 1995 U.S. Amateur Team East

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. O-O Bg7 5. c3 Nf6 6. Re1 O-O 7. d4

I'd had this same position a couple months earlier in a game against Ron Burnett. There I had followed the standard line by playing 7...cxd4 8. cxd4 d5 9. e5 Ne4 10. Nc3 Nxc3 11. bxc3, but soon found trouble: 11...Na5 12. Ba3 a6 13. Bd3 Bd7 14. Ng5 Rc8 15. e6 Bxe6 16. Nxe6 fxe6 17. Rxe6 Rf7 (17...Rxc3 18. Bxe7 Qd7 19. Bxf8 Qxe6 20. Bb4 wins material) 18. Bc5 Qd7 19. Qe2 Rc6 20. Re1 Rxe6 21. Qxe6 Qxe6 22. Rxe6 Nc6 23. Be2 Rf6 24. Bg4 Kf7 25. Rxf6+ Bxf6 26. Bc8 Nd8 27. Bb6 e6 28. g3 Ke7 29. Bc7 Kf7 30. f4 Be7 31. Kf2 Bf6 32. Kf3 Be7 33. Ke3 Bf6 34. Kd3 Be7 35. Kc2 Ke8 36. Bxd8 Kxd8 37. Bxe6 Kc7 38. Bxd5 and White eventually won.

In pondering this game, I concluded that the static pawn position in the center enabled White to take the initiative on the kingside before Black had time to exploit the backwardness of the c-pawn. Now against Ivins, I had a chance to test my theory.


By refraining from exchanging pawns at d4, Black inhibits the development of White's b1 knight to the c3 square and the subsequent exchange of knights there. White cannot now win a pawn by 8. exd5 Qxd5 9. Bxc6 Qxc6 10. Rxe7, because his rook would be trapped after 10...Be6, intending ...Nd5.

8. Bxc6 bxc6 9. e5 Ne4 10. Nbd2 Nxd2 11. Nxd2

Revealing the concept behind 8. Bxc6. White intends to clamp down on the c5 square with 12. Nb3 and 13. Nc5, and 11...c4 (trying to inhibit this knight maneuver) fails after 12. b3 Ba6 (12...Be6 13. bxc4 dxc4 14. Ne4) 13. bxc4 Bxc4 14. Qa4 Bb5 15. Qa3 (15. Qb4 a5 and ...a4) 15...Bc4 (else 16. Nb3) 16. Nxc4 dxc4 17. Qc5 winning a pawn.

11...cxd4! 12. cxd4 c5! 13. dxc5 Qc7 14. Nb3 Bxe5

15. Rxe5!

Otherwise Black's two bishops and center pawns might have dominated the game. 15. Qxd5 would not have won material due to 15...Bxh2+, but White's kingside would have been permanently weakened.

15...Qxe5 16. Be3 Rd8

After 16...Qxb2 17. Bd4 Qa3 18. Qe2 White threatens 19. Qxe7 or 19. Qe5 f6 20. Qxd5+. Although Black could have defended by 18...Qa6 19. Qxe7 Qe6, exploiting his material advantage would have been problematic.

16...Bb7 may be best, anticipating 17. Nd4 Qc7 18. b4 e5 19. Nb5 Qc6 20. Nd6 d4! 21. Nxb7 dxe3!, leaving White's game in shreads.

17. Nd4 Qc7 18. b4 e5 19. Nb5 Qc6 20. Nd6


20...d4 21. Bg5 Rxd6 22. cxd6 Bb7, intending to take control of the critical h1/a8 diagonal before capturing the d-pawn, is met by the remarkable skewer 23. Qf3! threatening 24. Qf6 and 25. Bh6. 23...Qxd6? would lose immediately to 24. Qxb7. 23...Qxf3 24. gxf3 leaves White with a powerful passed d-pawn (24...Bxf3? 25. d7).

21. cxd6 d4 22. Rc1 Qxd6 23. Qf3 Rb8

The ingenious 23...dxe3 24. Qxa8 exf2+ fails to 25. Kh1 (25. Kxf2? Qd2+ and ...Qxc1; 25. Kf1 Qd3+! 26. Kxf2 Qd2+) 25...Qd2 (25...Qxb4 26. Qxc8+ Kg7 27. Qa6, intending to interpose on f1) 26. Qxc8+ Kg7 27. Rf1, to meet 27...Qe1 by 28. Qc1.

24. Bh6 Bd7

But not 24...Bb7? 25. Qxb7! (25...Rxb7 26. Rc8+), nor 24...f5 25. Rc6 Qd7 (25...Qxb4 26. Qd5+ forces mate) 26. Qb3+ Kh8 (26...Qf7? 27. Rxf6!) 27. Qc4 carries the devastating threat 28. Rc7.

25. h3 f6

26. Rc7? Qxc7 27. Qb3+ Be6!

White, intending 27...Kh8 28. Qf7 Rg8 29. Qxf6+, must have overlooked the text move.

28. Qxe6+ Qf7 29. Qd6

Although Black has a winning position, much work remains. My plan was to gradually prepare the advance of my center pawns for an eventual breakthrough, while avoiding inconvenient checks along the way.

29...Re8! 30. h4 Qe7 31. Qd5+ Kh8 32. a4

32...Rd8 33. Qc6 d3 34. Bd2 Kg7 35. Kf1 Qd6 36. Qf3 Qd4 37. g4 Qa1+

Not bad, but 37...Qd5! 38. Qh3 Qe4! threatening 39...Qe2+, probably wins the bishop in short order.

38. Kg2 Qxa4 39. Qe3


Black immediately recentralizes to keep control.

40. f3 Kg8 41. g5 Qd4 42. Qe1 e4!

Finally blasting open a central file.

43. fxe4 Re8 44. Qc1

Or 44. Kf3 f5, again regaining the pawn.

44...Qxe4+ 45. Kg3 fxg5 46. hxg5 Rf8 47. Qd1


Prepares 48...Qe2, as 49. Qb3 would not then be check.

48. Qb3 Qf3+ 49. Kh4 Qf2+ 50. Kh3 Qxd2 51. Qd5 Qe3+ 52. Kg4 Qf4+ 53. Kh3 Qf3+ 0-1