The GRAPE – Gem City Open 2011

Richard Mercer (1911) vs Mark Kellie (1732)
Commentary by Mark Kellie

1. d4 d6 2. c4 Nd7
Signature move of my “Grape” system.

3. Nc3 g6 4. e4 Bg7 5. Be3 e5 6. d5?!
In this “Grape” system which I play, the d5 move relieves the tension in the center, which helps black in the near term; however, the move d5 can pay dividends to the white player in the endgame should white: 1) survive to an endgame and, 2) get a clear lane to promote on the 8th rank somehow. Also positive for white is that a pawn on d5 can support other pieces at some later point at e6 or c6, providing holes appear on those squares as game play continues.

6. … Ne7
Placement of the Knight here seems and can be passive but, its placement here also gives black many non-traditional options.

7. Bd3 h6!
In my “Grape” system, this move seems bad; however, thousands of games I’ve played on the Internet have proved that the position demands an early h6. I don’t have the time to explain why here, just suffice to say that in the “Grape”, rarely will I not play the “h” pawn.

8. b4
Seeking early queenside expansion and counter-play at the expense of officer development…

8. … O-O 9. Qd2
Too be considered here is Queen movement to the queenside in support of the queenside expansion idea?

9. … Kh7 10. Nge2
What is the idea here?

10. … f5!
In my “Grape” system, a key idea is an early “f” pawn sortie; this can bring on quick attacks by opening the position or, can support transposition to King’s Indian pawn pyramid positions, with ‘attack’ always in my mind.

11. f3
Also to be considered here is f4

11. … f4!?
I accept the ‘invite’ and transpose the position to a King’s Indian pawn pyramid type of position; these types of positions always have pros and cons, but suit the attacking player more than the defender.

12. Bf2 Nf6
The “Grape” snake or spring begins to uncoil.

13. g3 g5 14.gxf4 gxf4 15.Rc1
Before White can take the pawn of f4 (Nxf4), he desires to get the rook on a1 out from the bishop (g7) pin while simultaneously supporting his Queenside expansion idea.

15. … Ng6
In many King’s Indian positions, a Knight placement here often supports future offensive operations.

16. c5
Continuing with Queenside ideas.

16. … a6
A necessary defensive move, otherwise a Knight at b5 supports a breakthrough of the “c” file and also ‘eyes’ the d6 square.

17. cxd6 cxd6 18.Na4?!
Seeking holes.

18. … Bh3!
Bh3 here stops a potent h pawn push; this Bishop is almost always developed or ‘uncorked’, or ‘un-sprung’ if you will on this diagonal and not the b7 or a6 diagonals; if developed at b7 or a6, my opening is no longer a “Grape” but rather, a “Hippopotamus”.

19. Rg1?!
Knight to b6 immediately is better.

19. … Rc8
Ah, my “Grape” is developing nicely!

Too late.

20. … Rxc1+ 21. Qxc1 Nh4!
Knight begins the ‘offensive’ operations.

22. Bxh4 Qxb6 23. Qb2?
Lets me ‘in’

23. … Qe3
Licking my ‘chops’

24. Qd2 Nh5!
Now, the “Grape” Knight springs to life in this King’s Indian position while avoiding any tactical trickery by White (Nxf4).

25. Qxe3 fxe3
Now this pawn is not easily ‘touchable’ by White and is a ‘monster’ dagger aimed directly at the heart of the enemy King! Notice how f4 is now open to the black Knight; a very common theme in King’s Indian positions.

26. Ng3?
Hoping for an exchange.

26. … Nf4
The end is nigh…

27. Bf1
Hoping for an exchange.

27. … Rc8! 28. Ne2 Nd3+ 29. Kd1 Bd7!!
The hemmed-in and backward “Grape” bishop (from the opening position) has now become, Abbadon, the ‘destroyer’!

30. Ng3
Hoping for…Rc1+

30. … Nf4! 31. Ne2 Ba4+ 32. Ke1 Nd3++
Staked in his (the King) bed! 0-1
Many reading this may ask, “Why does the author call this the “Grape”? I call this the “Grape” in honor of my friend, Ross Sprague, who stated when he first encountered it in OTB tournament play, “I’m going to crush that like a grape”; in that game, my “Grape” did all the crushing! So now, for about three years or so, I’ve been playing my “Grape” from both sides of the board with much fun and success. However, I’d like to note that there are some good answers to my system and that sometimes, my “Grape” falls flat and turns out to be a,…”Raisin”.

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