Losing to a Legend: an interesting c3 Sicilian

This evening at the Marshall Chess Club, I had the pleasure of playing chess with IM Renato Naranja, former Champion of The Philippines, Pan-Asian Champion, World Championship candidate, 10 time Chess Olympian, and who drew Bobby Fischer in Palma de Mallorca.

For a while, he chatted with me amiably while I studied games from John Watson’s “Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy.” Playing through variations and discussing ideas, he illuminated concepts I would not have otherwise noticed, much less grasped. Many strong players refuse to play friendly games of chess, demanding money for their valuable time. This was not the case with Renato. He was as genial as he was genius, basically giving me a friendly chess lesson in exchange for nothing more than pleasant conversation.

After going over several games and discussing some thematic opening ideas with which I was not familiar, I asked if he wouldn’t mind playing a few games. The first game we played was a clear blowout, which I will post later, but the more interesting of the two games we played was a c3 Sicilian in which, remarkably, I won a pawn in the opening. For just a moment, I had a clearly better position. Naturally, I found a way to remedy this. After I made the mistake of not trading queens on move 15, he quickly blew me away with a direct attack on my king. After the game, he said that if I had traded queens on move fifteen, I likely would have had a straightforward winning ending based on my outside pawn majority. However, I’m confident that even if I had made the right move, he likely would have outsmarted me in a worse position and won anyway. Nonetheless, I include the game with parenthetical sidelines below.

Below, please find a by no means exhaustive list of IM Naranja’s notable games.