Getting Leela to analyse and play in the style you want! Part 3 – More adventures in Crazy Leela’s GROB Semi Slav?!?!

February 28, 2024 Matthew Sadler 4 comments

In this post, I continue my adventures with Crazy Leela’s Grob Semi-Slav! After being rather marmelised when taking the gambit pawn, I decided to refuse the offered pawn in a couple of games. Let‘s see how that went! A video of these games is available from my Silicon Road YouTube channel: while engine analysis of these games is available from the usual place:

The Crazy Leela Grob Semi-Slav: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 e6 5.g4!?!?

Game 4: Leela 100K nodes and WDL Contempt 400 ELO – GM Matthew Sadler

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 e6 5.g4 Nbd7

Position after 5…Nbd7

6.g5 Ne4 7.Qc2 Bb4

I was hesitating between 7…Qa5 and 7…Bb4. In the end I think I liked keeping an eye on the “Grob” g5–pawn with my queen!

8.a3 Qa5

Position after 8…Qa5


This had vaguely entered my thoughts but not as a serious option! Crazy Leela confuses me again!

9…Qxa1 10.Nxe4 dxe4 11.Nd2

Position after 11.Nd2

Potentially, White has some great compensation for the exchange: the two bishops, a plethora of weak dark squares to attack, and an extra pawn in compensation. However, reaching a position where those advantages are solidly embedded is a little way away. White’s position is in a little disarray – for example, White’s development is far from complete – so Black has a window of opportunity to make a few extra gains for the middlegame.


This seemed too obvious not to play. Black’s biggest problem potentially is that the pawn structure suits White’s minor pieces and two bishops better than the rooks. 11…a5 “nibbles” at White’s pawn structure (maybe snaffling an extra pawn on b4) and opens the a-file activating the rook on a8 and creating a path back to safety for the black queen.

12.Bg2 e3

I couldn’t resist throwing this one in! If it works then White’s structure is unpleasantly damaged.


I should have expected this from Crazy Leela!


13…exf2+ 14.Kxf2 0–0 15.Bd2 Qa2 16.bxa5 I wasn’t very sure about this, but castling seemed fairly likely to lead back into a position I was happy to play on the last move.


Position after 14.b5

I had not expected that! Suddenly I’m not going to get my queen out as smoothly as I’d hoped. I’ve got to watch out a bit!

A) 14.0–0 exf2+ 15.Kh1 axb4 looked fine to me

B) 14.fxe3 axb4 would transpose back into a possible line after the immediate 13.fe


I’ll play …Qa2 later to ensure my queen has an escape route


15.0–0 exf2+ (15…bxc4 16.Nc3 leaves the black queen without escape squares!) 16.Kh1 Qa2 was my plan.


Greedy I know… but I didn’t see why not particularly! Having the white king on f2 should present some additional chances for tactics based on random checks you would have thought

16.Kxf2 Qa2

Position after 16…Qa2

So I’m the exchange up, White’s pawn structure is somewhat splintered and his king is a little in the open. My queen is a little wayward but easily gets back if attacked… shouldn’t be bad for me at the very least right?


Well here we go! Rook’s pawn is coming! Actually, it also contains the poison of Rh3–a3 so Black’s queen can’t relax too much just yet!


Opens a path back for the queen to e6, opens the c8–h3 diagonal.

17…a4 18.Rh3 a3 19.h5 I couldn’t make this work! 19…Nb6 20.h6 axb2 21.Bxb2 Na4 22.Ra3


Relentlessly aggressive! It suddenly strikes you that playing …e5 is maybe not the brightest thing to do when h5–h6 is coming!

18.d5 a4 19.Rh3 a3 20.h5 Nb6 was the idea, trying to stack odds in my favour by opening the c8–h3 diagonal and hitting the rook on h3 on the way


Continuing with my idea for better or for worse. I couldn’t see any way to play solidly!]

18…f5 19.Nc3 wins the queen after 19…Qc4 20.Bd5+!


Position after 19.h6


I liked the idea of knocking the white queen off the b1–h7 diagonal and I thought I might get …Qxb5 and …Ra6 with some lateral defence…

20.Qc7 Qxb5 21.hxg7 Kxg7 22.Nf6 1–0 I’d seen enough!

Ever a glutton for punishment 😉 I gave it another go!

Game 5: Leela 100K nodes and WDL Contempt 400 ELO – GM Matthew Sadler

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 e6 5.g4 c5

Well, the Semi-Tarrasch is a pretty solid opening for Black normally… would an extra g4 really help White?

Position after 5…c5

6.g5 Ne4 7.Bg2 Nc6 8.Be3

Well that is a move I wasn’t counting on! (8.0–0 seemed normal to me). Time for a think!


I was anticipating White gaining an extra doubled c-pawn but that didn’t look too scary considering the weak pawn on g5. I have some experience playing the Grob as White 😉 I know how often the pawn wants to go backward in the middlegame!

9.dxc5 Nxc3 10.bxc3 0–0

Was Leela going to castle quietly or start motoring with h4? 😉


Position after 11.h4

I should have known! 11.0–0 Qa5 12.cxd5 exd5 13.Qxd5 Be6 14.Qe4 Bxc5 was my intention which seemed fine for the pawn to me: White’s queenside pawns are nice targets and the g5–pawn is an eyesore! (14…Rad8)


Too natural and obvious not to play… and actually I can’t think why it shouldn’t be good!


Wow! I needed a think here because I’d also noted the possibility that …d4 was possibly a threat afte 11…Qa5 so time to reflect on that and other moves!


With a little reflection during a brisk evening walk, I decided to go for it!

12…Qxc3+ 13.Bd2 Qxc4@ I couldn’t really see masses wrong with this to be honest, but 12…d4 was too tempting!


13.Nxd4 was my expectation. I was pretty surprised by 13.Bxd4

13…Nxd4 (13…Rd8 14.0–0 Qxc3 15.Nxc6 Rxd1 16.Nxe7+ Kf8 17.Rfxd1 Kxe7 18.c6 worried me) 14.Bxd4 (14.Qxd4 Rd8 15.Qe5 f6 wins) 14…Rd8

A) 15.Qb3 Rxd4

B) 15.h6 was a fascinating line I tried to make work but.. 15…e5 16.Bd5 exd4 17.Qxd4 Bf8 18.g6 would work in a true and just world, but lucky for me it isn’t! 18…hxg6 19.Bxf7+ Kxf7 20.Qxd8 Qxd8 21.h7 is funny but not good for White!

C) 15.f4Bxc5 16.0–0 (16.Qd2 Rxd4 17.cxd4 Bb4) 16…e5 17.fxe5 Qxc3 is the key idea 18.Bxc5 Rxd1 19.Raxd1 Be6 or somewhere else, and I thought that Black should emerge well from this in some way


Position after 13…Rd8

…e5 is a very strong threat


Yikes! I sort of spotted a possible idea behind this move. I’d been looking at lots of attempts to sacrifice the bishop on d4 with e3 and capture back on d4 but hadn’t been able to make them work. Now I realised Leela was going for something a bit different.

14…e5 15.Nxe5 Nxe5 16.Bd5

Position after 16.Bd5

3 doubled c-pawns for the piece! 🙂 My “total crapometer” is tooting and wailing and flashing red lights at this point but it’s not necessarily going to be easy against an engine!


is a good-looking move, keeping the knight on e5 on an active square, bringing the queen back into play and attacking c5 and g5. White will need something brilliant to make this work!


Position after 17.g6

I have to admit that by this stage I was getting a little confused! It’s hard to know quite from where the next blow is going to hit you! Imagine facing this over the board!


Keeping the kingside as closed as possible felt tempting after working through the other stuff!

A) 17…Bxc5 18.Bxe5 is the first line to avoid! 18…Qxe5 19.Bxf7+ Kf8 20.Qxd8+;

B) 17…Be6 18.gxh7+ Kh8 19.h6 Bf6 (19…g6 20.f4) 20.hxg7+ Bxg7 21.e4 was my most serious line to start with… quite like White though!;

C) 17…hxg6 18.hxg6 (18.Bxe5 Qxe5 19.hxg6 Be6) 18…Nxg6 looks rather scary for Black with both bishops pointing towards the king and the open h-file beckoning White’s queen. I’d rather avoid this if at all possible! 19.Qd3 is immediately very scary!


Yep didn’t predict that one! It’s annoying as White is stopping my light-squared bishop on c8 from developing freely due to the pressure against b7.


Threatening …f6 so I reckon White is forced to capture on f7… Then I will capture on c5 and get rid of f7. My king is still open so White definitely has play… The annoying thing is that when I play …Bc5xd4 and White plays cxd4, the white b1 rook can come into play via b3–f3/g3… From that point of view …Kh8 is probably safer than …Kf8

18…Kf8 19.gxf7 Bxc5 20.Rg1 Bxd4 21.cxd4 Nxf7 22.Rb3 with Rf3 to follow looks rather nasty!

19.gxf7 Bxc5

A little nervous of that f7–pawn but it looks manageable!


Position after 20.Rg1

It still looks tricky for Black to unravel – how I would like to tag-team Stockfish into the game 😉 This allows …Bh3+ but it’s not clear whether this is actually useful! There is actually a massive threat of Qd2xh6+ followed by Rg8+ and Be4+! However, I thought Black had time for one consolidating move before dealing with that threat… famous last words?


Freeing the bishop on c8 to move without fear of Rxb7


21.Qd2 Bf5 Blocking Be4+ at the end was my answer to the caveman Qd2xh6+!


Again trying not to hurry. Bringing the white queen to d4 after 21…Bxd4 feels wrong.]


Teeing up threateningly against h6! Qxh6+ is a threat now! It’s an interesting question whether to throw in …Bh3+ before I play e.g. …Bf5. In general, I think it’s useful: I feel the king is more in danger on e1 than f1 but it’s always a case of guessing at the specific tactics that will come in useful in this specific game! I can imagine a few sample lines with tactics in both scenarios…


22…Bxd4 23.Qxh6+

23…gxh6 24.Rg8+ Kh7 (24…Rxg8 25.fxg8Q#) 25.Be4+

25…Bf5 26.Bxf5+ Ng6 27.Bxg6# (27.hxg6#) ]

23.Ke1 Bf5

The bishop is too exposed on h3 (tricks such as Qe3) so the bishop covers g6 and h7 and also supports ideas like …Nd3+. I confess I’m not 100% confident of not dropping something somewhere!


Once again it’s safe to say that I had not expected this move! What on earth is Leela doing? On the other hand, how am I improving my position?! I was indeed thinking of …a6 and …b5 to undermine the bishop on d5 but a4 doesn’t really help to prevent that…

24.Qf4 Nd3+ is one reason to bring the white king to e1.


I was expecting 25.Rb3 b5 when 26.Bxc5 Qxc5 27.Qf4 is surprisingly hard to answer, However 27…Nxc4 was what I decided on after a late night of work! (real work, not chess!) 28.Qxf5 (28.Bxc4 Qxc4 29.Qxf5 Qxb3 30.Rxg7 Qxc3+) 28…Rxd5 (28…Qxd5 29.f8Q+) 29.Qg6 Rg5 30.Rxg5 Qxg5 Threatening …Qxc1+ mate thank goodness! 31.Qxg5 hxg5 32.axb5 axb5 33.Rxb5 Rf8 34.Rxg5 Rxf7 will end in a draw. However Leela played…


Position after 24.Rb4

Ah yep… hadn’t thought of that one! 🙂 🙂 I’m not going to take that one of course as White’s dark-squared bishop on d4 is a monster!

25…Qe7 is interesting too when 26.Rg3 looks best to cover f3 and d3. I wasn’t sure this had improved my position as I lose a lot of tactics this way.


Gives the white king an escape square to f2

26.Bxc5 Qxc5 27.Qf4 Rxd5 28.cxd5 (28.Qxf5 Nd3+) 28…Qxc3+ 29.Qd2 (29.Kf1 Bh3+; 29.Kd1 Bc2+) 29…Qa1+ 30.Qd1 Qc3+ was a draw by repetition I spotted! 31.Qd2 Qa1+


I wasn’t sure in what order to play this. In the end I decided to force the white queen to d4 and not give White a later possibility of cxd4]

27.Qxd4 Ng4 28.axb5

Position after 28.axb5

It seemed strange to also open the a-file: surely only Black can benefit?!

28.e4 bxc4 (28…Qxf4 29.exf5 Re8+ 30.fxe8Q+ Rxe8+ and other similar ideas look tempting but they don’t seem to work) 29.exf5 Nf6 was my idea when White’s king is open and Black’s king is safe (kinda!) 30.Rxb8 Qxb8 31.Qxf6 gxf6 32.Rg8+ Kh7 wins for Black!

28…axb5 29.Rxb5

Leela is going for a completely different plan, White now has 4 pawns for the piece but there are lots of open paths towards the white king


29…Rxb5 Weakening the support of the bishop on d5 was my first thought 30.cxb5 Qe7 A strong, harmonious square for the black queen: it covers f8 and also aims at h4, a3 and e3. …Nf6 is a threat. However, I became worried by the sudden availability of the b4–square for the white queen with which to support f8(Q). There were too many positions where this seemed to be relevant. For that reason, I decided to delay …Rxb5. There always seemed a possibility to play it later as Rxb8 conceding the b-file and an entry channel into the white position seemed unlikely.


Ah! That previous comment did not age well 😉

30…Rxb8 31.Rxg4

Not a total shock as I’d been mulling over such ideas before. But still shocking! 😉

31…Bxg4 32.Qe5

The king is safe from the checks in both directions: …Qh4+ and …Rb1+ eventually lead nowhere. I obviously felt very nervous about a move like 32…Qf8 because it’s totally unclear whether Black really has a follow-up.


My first thought was 32…Qxe5 33.fxe5 Bxh5 34.e6 Bxf7 (34…g5 35.e7 Kg7 36.e8Q Rxe8 37.fxe8Q Bxe8 looks like it might be equal if I could just stop that c-pawn but I didn’t think I could! 38.c5 Kf6 (38…Bd7 39.Bb7) 39.c6 Ke5 (39…Ke7 40.c7 Kd7 41.Bc6+) 40.c7) 35.exf7 g5

had been my idle thought in a similar line, but I was quite worried the more I thought about it. White plays the c-pawn to c6 and the other to c4 at some stage, The other white e-pawn goes to e5 and the white king tries to invade via e4–f5. If I push my pawns, I’m not sure I can hold them as I might end up in zugzwang (my rook needs to stay close to the c-pawn and my king has to cover the f7–pawn and prevent e7–e8.)

So I went for something different!

33.c5 Rb2

I agonised between this and 33…Bxh5… and I think I chose badly wrong!

33…Bxh5 34.Qxh5 Qxc5 35.Qe5 Qg1+

Position after 35…Qg1+

Does Black have perpetual? I thought so…but I was far from sure. In the end I thought 33…Rb2 was clearer!

36.Kd2 Rb2+ 37.Kd3 Qd1+ 38.Kc4 (38.Ke4 Rxe2+ 39.Kf5) 38…Qa4+ (38…Qb3+ 39.Kd4 Qd1+ 40.Kc5 (40.Ke4 Rxe2+ 41.Kf5 Rxe5+ 42.Kxe5 Qe2+ should draw) ) 39.Kc5 Surely Black should have something here! I wasn’t 100% sure and I thought I had something clearer (39.Kd3 Qd1+) ]


This move I had missed and it’s a nasty shock. A really nasty shock. I don’t have an obvious waiting / strengthening move for Black and c6–c7 is coming followed by Qe8

A) 34.Qe8 Rb8 Hitting h5 so White has to return with 35.Qe5 with a draw by repetition

B) 34.Qd6 Rb8 is the same story

C) 34.e4 Bxh5 35.Qxh5 Qxc5 with mate looming!

D) 34.Bc4 Rb7 35.Qe8 Rb8 is fine for Black: 36.Qxf8+ Rxf8 37.c6 Bxh5 38.c7 Bxf7 39.Bxf7 Rc8

After 34.e3, 34…Bxh5 35.Qxh5 Qxc5 which I had planned against 34.e4 is now met by 36.Qe5 and the queen is covering both e3 and c3 while the e3–pawn blocks the a7–g1 diagonal 36…Qf8 37.Kf1 Rb8 38.Kg2 Then king to g3 and push the c-pawn and it looks lost for Black! Noooo!


For want of anything better! And it felt like the end might be quite visual 😉


Hitting d7 and f8 which forces the exchange of queens.

35…Qxd6 36.cxd6 Rb8

The only move to stop f8(Q)


Position after 37.e4


37…g5 38.hxg6 Kg7 39.f5 was going to be enough I felt. The c-pawn is coming too!

38.c4 Bxh5 39.c5 g5 40.c6 1–0

And I resigned! The c- and d-pawns are going to touch down!

Simply amazing games and I don’t think I’ve enjoyed games of chess this much in years!

4 Comments on “Getting Leela to analyse and play in the style you want! Part 3 – More adventures in Crazy Leela’s GROB Semi Slav?!?!

  1. Hi Matthew. I never really played the Semi-Slav. However, i start studying it from some days ago and in the book i’m working with there is a chapter about 7.g4 (The Shirov-Shabalov attack – i’m not there yet). Does this line of Leena can have some similitudes ?
    Thanks and have a nice weekend.

  2. Many thanks Matthew.
    Your emails are easily the most welcome features of my inbox. Interesting games and brilliant analysis. Very instructive, with a great deal of food for thought.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.