More Fun With Shredder

by admin on February 14, 2019

I haven’t written about any of my games with Shredder in at least three or four months, partly because I realized I was overdoing it. Also my tournament results showed me that playing against the computer was not really doing anything good for my game, and maybe even hurting it in some ways. So I’ve only played a handful of games this year against Shredder.

But! A couple of days ago I played one of my most fun games ever against it. The game features two pawn sacrifices, a bishop sacrifice and a rook sacrifice. All of them except the bishop sacrifice were accepted. Of course, the sheer amount of material sacrificed is not a very accurate criterion for how good a game is. What I liked just as much was the way that the game followed basically one theme for the last 20 moves: White’s dominance over the dark squares.

Aside from that, I can’t promise any deep lessons from this game. Shredder’s rating was set at 2234, but it did things that a human player of that rating just wouldn’t even consider. Part of that is because it’s a computer, and part is because it’s Shredder. For some reason, this program is particularly reluctant to play defensive moves – which makes it fun to play against, because it’s always coming at you with both fists flying. And it sometimes underestimates the importance of long-term positional weaknesses, something that hurt it big-time in this game.

So sit back and enjoy as Shredder gets… shredded.

Dana – Shredder

1. e4 c5 2. f4 d6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. d3 Nc6 5. c3 Bg4?!

I already don’t like this move. It seems to me that it gives away too much space on the kingside and allows White’s kingside attack to develop very easily. On the other hand, Black doesn’t have to castle kingside.

6. h3 Bxf3 7. Qxf3 e6 8. g4 …

My play may be a little bit primitive, but I didn’t see any downside to this move, so why not?

8. … d5 9. Bg2 d4 10. O-O g6?!

Position after 10. … g6. White to move.

FEN: r2qkb1r/pp3p1p/2n1pnp1/2p5/3pPPP1/2PP1Q1P/PP4B1/RNB2RK1 w kq – 0 11

Here’s another move that I think human masters would be very unlikely to play. The “Swiss cheese” pawn formation e6-f7-g6-h7 is something that most strong players avoid. The bishop can already develop on e7, so why waste a tempo to put it on g7? And more importantly, why create permanent weaknesses on the dark squares? Maybe Shredder wanted to create more pressure along the long diagonal, but my next move shuts that down immediately.

11. c4 Bg7 12. g5 Nd7 13. f5?! …

I’m not sure if this is best, but at least it’s consistent. My whole strategy since move 6 has been to get a pawn avalanche going on the kingside. This does create a nice square on e5 for his knights… but how big a win is that for Black? Note, by the way, that 13. … Be5 is out of the question because of 14. fe.

13. … Nde5 14. Qg3 Qd6?

Position after 14. … Qd6. White to move.

FEN: r3k2r/pp3pbp/2nqp1p1/2p1nPP1/2PpP3/3P2QP/PP4B1/RNB2RK1 w kq – 0 15

After this I think that Black may be losing, or at least in big trouble. He moves right into a nasty pin, which is something that a human again probably wouldn’t do. On the other hand, I’m not sure where the queen belongs. Maybe b6? I just don’t like the looks of Black’s position at all. None of his pieces are working together.

15. f6 Bf8 16. Bf4 h6 17. h4 hg 18. hg …

Black has opened the h-file, but the confusion among his pieces ensures that it will be a long time before he can do anything with it.

18. … Qc7

Position after 18. … Qc7. White to move.

FEN: r3kb1r/ppq2p2/2n1pPp1/2p1n1P1/2PpPB2/3P2Q1/PP4B1/RN3RK1 w kq – 0 19

Black had to do something about the threat of Nb1-d2-f3. At first it looks as if this is an adequate solution; Black intends to play 19. … Bd6 followed by 20. … O-O-O. But here I found my favorite move of the game.

19. b4! …

Earlier this week, in the PRO ChessLeague broadcast at, GM Robert Hess said something very interesting: “In most positions, the player who controls the pawn breaks is the player who has the advantage.” I have never heard this said before, at least so categorically. Certainly it’s true in this position. Now is exactly the right time for White to throw a stick of dynamite into the position.

19. … cb

On the alternative 19. … Bd6, where Black tries to just ignore White’s pawn demonstration, I would have played 20. bc! Bxc5 21. Nd2 Bd6 22. c5! Bxc5 23. Nc4 Bd6 24. Nxd6 etc. This is just like the game except that White has sacrificed only one pawn instead of two. I really love this variation, the way that Black keeps trying to play … Bd6 and White keeps deflecting it away with his pawns, which are just like mosquitos buzzing around Black’s position.

20. Nd2 Bd6 21. c5! Bxc5 22. Nc4 Bd6 23. Nxd6+ Qxd6 24. Rac1 …

Neither knight can move, and so they are just like sitting ducks.

24. … a5 25. Rxc6 Qxc6?!

Perhaps Black could put up a better fight with 25. … bc, but after 26. Rc1! I still have to believe in the power of my two bishops. If 26. … Nxd3!? 27. Bxd6 Nxc1 28. Qe5! is looking too checkmate-ish. Black doesn’t have time to extricate his knight or promote his d-pawn.

26. Rc1! …

Gaining a very useful tempo.

26. … Qa4 27. Bxe5 Qxa2

Typical Shredder, not even considering the possibility of defense. Nom nom nom, the computer says, just feed me more material. I was quite happy to oblige!

Position after 27. … Qxa2. White to move.

FEN: r3k2r/1p3p2/4pPp1/p3B1P1/1p1pP3/3P2Q1/q5B1/2R3K1 w kq – 0 28

Now comes my second-favorite move of the game. It’s kind of an unusual move, but as soon I saw it, I knew that the game was absolutely over.

28. Bb8! …

Retribution is coming on the dark squares. White’s threat is 28. Rc8+ followed by mate. Of course, 27. … Rxb8 28. Qxb8+ Kd7 29. Qc7+ also leads to mate, so Black has only one way even to survive for a couple more moves.

28. … O-O

Talk about castling into an attack! Now Black has absolutely no way to stop checkmate on g7. I can sacrifice everything if I want, and I proceed to do so.

29. Qh4 …

Please take my bishop!

29. … Qa3 30. Qh6 …

Please take my rook!

30. … Qxc1+ 31. Kh2 resigns

I was hoping for 31. … Rfxb8 so that I could checkmate with a 10-point material deficit (two rooks and three pawns versus a bishop). But Shredder decided that enough was enough.

I said that there weren’t going to be any lessons from this game, but in fact there are three.

  1. Beware the Swiss cheese pawn formation e6-f7-g6-h7.
  2. The player who controls the pawn breaks most likely has the advantage.
  3. Many pins are mere nuisances, but a pin that can’t be broken is a very serious problem that can ruin a position.
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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Roman Parparov February 14, 2019 at 10:53 am

Dana, there’s a predecessor to your game! By no other than Tal!


admin February 14, 2019 at 12:01 pm

Wow, thanks! I hadn’t seen this game before. Of course Tal’s game is much better. But any day that I can have one of my moves compared to Tal is a great day!


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