26 Feb

The Noteboom

The Dutchman Daniël Noteboom (1910-32) was one of the unsung rising stars of the early 1930s, who passed away before his time on this day eighty-four years ago. He gained notoriety with an impressive début for Holland at the 1930 Chess Olympiad in Hamburg, scoring 11.5/15, but died tragically young just a week after contracting pneumonia at the Hastings tournament of 1931-32.


Noteboom was the eponymous hero of the Noteboom variation, a particularly wild and complex line in the Queen’s Gambit Semi-Slav: 1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 c6 4 Nf3 dxc4 5 a4 Bb4 6 e3 b5 8 axb5 Bxc3 9 Bxc3 cxb5 10 b3 Bb7 that today still packs a lethal punch for an unsuspecting opponent. It has become a lasting legacy to this all-to-young fallen hero.

And many tournaments have been held in his memory, too, the first of them in 1936 won by Dr. Max Euwe during the short period (1935-37) the Dutchman was world champion. The latest tournament in his honour, marks the 76th anniversary of Noteboom’s death, took place earlier this month in Leiden, which is just six miles from Noordwijk, where Noteboom was born.


This small but highly select event is always well attended by Dutch chess players as they pay homage to Noteboom.  And this year, GM Benjamin Bok edged out IM Migchiel de Jong, GM Namig Guliyev, GM Vyacheslav Ikonnikov and IM Albert Blees on tie-break after all scored 5/6.  Bok’s tie-break victory came by virtue of his superior endgame technique to beat Blees in today's game.

IM Albert Blees - GM Benjamin Bok
76th Noteboom Open, (3)
Semi-Slav Defence, Triangle System
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 The so-called Triangle System lays the foundation for the Noteboom, Marshall Gambit and Semi-Slav lines. 4.Qb3 A pity, because after the more standard 4.Nf3, top seed Bok could well have intended to honour Daniël Noteboom who first brought to prominence, one of the most imbalanced positions in chess that can be reached in a dozen moves after 4...dxc4 5.a4 Bb4 6.e3 b5 7.Bd2 a5 8.axb5 Bxc3 9.Bxc3 cxb5 10.b3 Bb7 11.bxc4 b4 12.Bb2. 4...Nf6 5.Nf3 dxc4 6.Qxc4 b5 7.Qb3 Nbd7 8.g3 b4 9.Na4 Ba6! Putting a spoke in White's grand plan of playing Bg2 and castling, as the pawn on e2 is under attack. 10.Bd2 Qa5 11.Rc1 c5 12.Nxc5 Nxc5 13.dxc5 Bxc5 14.Bg2 0-0 Black has clearly won the opening battle with his active bishops, and White still having to deal with how to safely castle with e2 under attack. 15.0-0 White opts for the radical solution of simply giving up on e2, hoping that he will have compensation in having the bishop-pair and active rooks for the pawn. 15...Bxe2 16.Rfe1 Bxf3 Black has to cede the bishop-pair, as after 16...Ba6 17.Ne5 White suddenly has activity and threats. 17.Bxf3 Rad8 18.Rxc5 Qxc5 19.Bxb4 Qb6 20.Bxf8 Qxb3 21.axb3 Kxf8 Those doubled isolated b-pawns make an easy endgame target. 22.Ra1 Rd3 23.Kg2 Rxb3 24.Rxa7 Rxb2 25.Ra8+ White is going to exchange bishop for knight and hope the rook ending with 4 vs 3 on the same wing that should be a technical draw - but that is easier said than done when you are playing a good grandmaster! 25...Ke7 26.Ra7+ Nd7 27.Bc6 Rd2 28.Kf3 Kd8 29.Ra8+ Ke7 30.Ra7 f5 31.h4 Rd3+ 32.Ke2 Rd6 33.Ba4 e5 34.Ke3 Ke6 35.Bxd7+ Rxd7 Here though, the grandmaster has already started advancing his pawns and has his king is actively placed - all of which makes for trying to draw this much, much harder. In reality, in such endings the better player will keep on making little advances in his position that builds up to a big winning advantage. 36.Ra6+ Kf7 37.Ra5 Ke6 38.Ra6+ Rd6 39.Ra7 Kf6 40.Ra8 Rb6 The distance with the rook in these endings is crucial, as the better side looks to possibly force the king back a rank with a timely ...Rb3 etc. And for the defending side, the key to drawing this is to keep your rook as active as you can. 41.Rf8+ Ke6 42.Re8+ Kf6 43.Rf8+ Ke6 44.Re8+ Kd6 45.Rd8+ White want's to force the concession of Black's king retreating back a rank. 45...Ke7 For now, the Black king has to stay in the vicinity of his kingside pawns, because if he moves away from there, the White rook can inflict damage: 45...Kc6 46.Rh8 h6 47.Rf8! g6 48.h5! and with Black's pawns now unstable, White should easily hold the draw. 46.Rd3 Now, if 46.Rh8 h6 47.h5 Rb1! and Black will soon pick off the h-pawn as his king defends his pawns. 46...g6 47.Ra3 Again distance, as White wants to be able to threaten rook checks/infiltration to the seventh rank - and note how the king and rook set-up prevents Black from forcing for now the White king back to the second rank with a rook check. 47...Rb7 48.Kf3 Kf6 49.Ra6+ Kg7 50.Ra3 Kh6 51.Re3 The only chance to salvage something now was perhaps with 51.g4 - but even then Black has good practical winning chances with his king being close to the White h-pawn. 51...e4+ 52.Kg2 Rb2 Black is now dominating White, and not unsurprisingly Blees cracks under the constant pressure. As noted earlier on in the ending, little advances soon equate to a big advantage. 53.g4 fxg4 54.Rxe4 Kh5 Once the h-pawn falls, White's only hope is Black falling into a stalemate trap. 55.Re7 h6 56.Re6 The rook is best-placed to stop Black's king taking on h4, as his own pawns on g6 and h6 would be compromised. But unfortunately now there's.... 56...Rb3! The winning plan now is ...Rh3 and ...Rxh4 while the Black king protects the pawns. 57.Rc6 Rh3 58.Rb6 Rxh4 The rest now is an exercise in safely advancing his extra pawns up the board. 59.Rb5+ g5 60.Ra5 Rh3 61.f4 White's last trick, but Bok see's his way through it. 61...Kg6! 62.Ra6+ Now if 62.fxg5 h5! and Black will have two connected passed pawns far up the board and White's rook will be tied to defending the pawn on g5. 62...Kf5 63.Ra5+ Kxf4 64.Ra4+ Kf5 Heading back to h5 for cover from the checks. 65.Ra5+ Kg6 66.Ra6+ Kh5 67.Rb6 Ra3 68.Rc6 g3! The winning plan starts by steadily inching up the board with ...g4, ...Kg5, ...h5 and ...Kh4. 69.Kh3 g4+ 70.Kg2 Kg5 71.Rc5+ Kh4 72.Rc6 h5 73.Rc5 Ra2+ 74.Kg1 g2 75.Rb5 Ra1+! (See Diagram) Black avoids the pitfalls of the final trick - if he continues with the same plan now of inching his pawns up the board with 75...g3? there comes the stalemating save with 76.Rxh5+! Kg4 77.Rg5+ Kf4 78.Rg4+ Ke5 79.Re4+ Kf5 80.Rf4+ etc. 76.Kxg2 By sacrificing the pawn on g2, Black has created a little 'luft' for the White king so as to avoid the stalemate trap. 76...Ra2+ 77.Kg1 g3 78.Rc5 Kg4 79.Rb5 h4 80.Rb4+ Kh3 81.Rb1 Ra4! Even now, it is not so easy as Black can readily fall again for a stalemate/drawing trap with 81...g2 82.Rb3+ Kg4 83.Rg3+! and Black can't escape from the draw with 83...Kh5 as after 84.Rxg2 Rxg2+ 85.Kxg2 it is a draw as White's king has the opposition. But with 81...Ra4! Black protects his king from checks after ...Kg4 to push his h-pawn up the board to create a mating net. 82.Rc1 Kg4 83.Rc8 Ra1+ There's a mate now after 84.Kg2 h3# 0-1

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