Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Reversed or Not?

I always have had a special interest in what you (a little pretentiously) may call ‘existential opening questions’. That is opening questions that may influence your entire understanding of the game of chess.

One such theme is the idea of playing reversed opening systems. At a theoretical level, this may tell something about the nature of White's initial advantage. Several sharp opening lines for Black would be virtually winning if he only had one extra tempo. The practical problem, of course, is that if you try to achieve this by obvious means, Black will play a quieter set-up and assume that he will still be at least equal.

The game below to some extent illustrates these ideas:

R.Gerbery (2307) - J.Tajti (2147) Zemplen Cup-A, Sarospatak 2000
1. a3
This is sometimes called Anderssen's Opening and is one of White’s most obvious ways of heading for a reversed opening with an extra move. The move isn’t really weakening (although White may not want to combine it with long castling) and quite useful in several of Black’s most popular defences (in particular the Sicilian comes to mind, where ...a6 is a regular ingredient in most lines).
I will return to Black’s other replies in a later entry. However, I have several places seen this move recommended as the best antidote to 1. a3, and indeed it appears logical. Black discourages 2.b4 while refusing to take on ‘white clothes’ as he would with 1...e5 or 1...d5. In most Pirc/King’s Indian systems a3 is a wasted (or at least harmless) move that contributes little to White’s queenside play.
2. e4!
In theory this position could also arise from the move-order 1.e4 g6 2.a3. I practice that rarely happens as White has many other tempting moves. The Modern Defence (1.e4 g6) is one of Black’s most challenging opening systems, but I am no great believer in its practical value. Black’s position tends to become somewhat cramped and with a few weaknesses. That may not be such a bad deal if you are genuinely stronger than your opponent and give priority to unbalancing the play. But against an opponent of equal strength I believe Black is handicapping himself. As a matter of fact I would be willing to meet 1.e4 g6 with 2.a3 on a regular basis if I knew that this would significantly increase my chances of meeting 1...g6!
The obvious move. 2... c5 is logical too, and leads to positions that have lately arisen frequently after 1. e4 c5 2.a3 g6. White has reasonable chances to gain an advantage after 3. b4 Bg7 4. Nc3.
3. Bc4

3.Nc3 may be a slightly more flexible way to play for the same positions that arise in the game (knights before bishops). But if White is to have any use of his a-pawn move, it seems that the bishop should take the a2-g8-diagonal.
3... c6 4. Nc3 probably would lead to a similar position.
4. Nc3 Nf6 5. d3 c6
It may appear that White after 5... c5 6.f4 would have an inferior version of a Sicilian Grand Prix attack, as White has spent a move on the quiet a3 in a position where he normally is in a hurry to attack on the kingside. But a3 is quite useful as it helps White keep his important light-square bishop and in addition there is a trade-off: a3 is slow, but so is ...d6, as ...e6 and ...d5 is an important counter-attacking idea against GP-Sicilians with Bc4.
6. f4
Now the position takes on distinct features from the Sicilian GP Attack, even with Black’s c-pawn still on c6.
6...b5 7. Ba2 Nbd7 8. Nf3 O-O

9. Qe2
In the similar Sicilian GP-attack positions, White usually plays 9. O-O followed by Qe1-h4 and f5. That might well have been a good plan here too.
9... Nb6 10. h3 a5 11. Be3 Ba6 12. Qf2 Nfd7 13. Rb1!?
The idea of this move would probably never have crossed my mind. But human minds work in different ways and that’s one thing that makes chess such a charming game.
13...b4 14. Ne2 Rb8 15. f5

Now the full force of White’s attack is obvious. The soon-to-be open f-file in combination with the diagonals a2-g8 and c1-h6 ensures White free access to Black’s kingside.
15...d5 16. fxg6 fxg6?
This recapture away from the centre weakens the e6-square. After 16... hxg6 White still has a promising kingside attack, but there is nothing concrete.
17. Ned4 Qc8 18. Ne6 Rf6 19. Nxg7 Kxg7 20. Qh4 e6?
This loses material. With 20... e5 21. O-O Qe8 Black could still have fought on from a difficult position. But without his dark-squared bishop it would probably be a hopeless task to defend his weakened king’s position in the long run.
21. Bd4 c5 22. Bxf6+ Nxf6 23. e5 Ng8 24. O-O c4 25. Ng5 Nh6 26. Rf7+!
This short combination decides immediately.


ejh said...

The obvious move. 2... c5 is logical too, and leads to positions that have lately arisen frequently after 1. e4 c5 2.a3 g6. White has reasonable chances to gain an advantage after 3. b4 Bg7 4. Nc3.

Well maybe, but I wonder if Black can't play 4...d5 and play what I think is a good version of the Caro-Kann/Scandinavian line with ....g6.

Kshorg said...

A)Hello from France, i play 1.a3 in blitz games and i'm happy to read your analysis on this opening, i have no much games about 1.a3 a6 but my only one i followed with 2.g3 but for now i think 1.e4 is interesting

1.a3 a6 2.e4 e6 3.d4 d5 4.e5 c5 5.Bd3!? seems a good move to me,

White doesn't have to play 5.c3, for example Black could follow with:

A)5...cxd4 6.Nf3
B)5...Da5+ 6.b4!?
C)5...c4 seems doubtful to me, after Be2 White has a good game

Well i think 5.Fd3 deserves attention