Friday, June 1, 2007

Learn from Your Books

Writing chess books is not very financially rewarding - at least not if you want to write a good one and in addition need to share your royalties with a co-author. It can be emotionally rewarding if you are happy with the result and the critics like it too. But how rewarding is it for your chess? I honestly don’t know. I am convinced I have learned a lot when writing my two previous books, and the third one looks very promising too. But writing takes time that could have been spent playing chess (among other things), and there is little doubt that the best I could do for my playing strength right now would be to play a bit more chess!

In a way co-authoring a book with a grandmaster is the perfect learning tool: First you do your very best to understand and systemize all available material on an opening and write it down. Then you have a strong player to answer your questions and point out your misunderstandings and the subtleties and move-order finesses you didn’t note. Finally - as a last check that everything is crystal clear - you have to verbalize it all as lucidly as possibly. So far everything seems perfect.

Unfortunately it doesn’t end there. Books usually are published and some of them even sell well. After a while you must suspect that your opponent has scrutinized your analysis and have some improvements ready. At this point you have to ask yourself if you learned something from the writing process that is not publicly available. And in my experience there usually are quite a few lines that did not quite make it to the book but are still eminently playable.

One such line that got only a passing mention in “The Ruy Lopez: A Guide for Black” is Kuzmin’s Closed Ruy Lopez variation:

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 b5!? (5...Be7 is the most common path to the Closed Ruy) 6.Bb3 d6!? (Dia.)

Black’s moves so far are not very committal and can be played with various ideas in mind. If allowed, Black would like to develop his kingside with ...g6, ...Bg7 and ...0-0 rather than the somewhat cumbersome ...Be7, ...0-0, ...Re8, ...Bf8, ...g6 and ...Bg7 which Black in the standard Closed Ruy Lopez lines often completes around move 20.

The most obvious question is what happens if White immediately attacks f7:

7.Ng5?!

This probably is too optimistic. The critical 7.c3 and some minor alternatives will be the subject of a future blog entry.

7...d5 8.exd5 Nd4 (Dia.)

This position should be compared to the one arising from the Fritz variation in the Two Knight’s Defence (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nd4!?). Despite Black's tempo loss (...d6 and ...d5) it's clear that Black's chances have been improved by the extra moves ...a6, ...b5 and Bb3. The essential difference is that Black now threatens to remove White's strong light-squared bishop.

9.Re1

This is the natural move, but White has also tried 9.d6, 9.c3 and the somewhat surprising 9.Qe1 which has been preferred by Kveinys among others.

9...Bc5!

This probably is even stronger than 9...Bd6 which however was good enough for Fuentes to beat Capablanca in a simultaneous exhibition in Madrid 1935.

10.Rxe5+?!

a) 10.Nf3?! Bg4 11.Rxe5+ Kf8 12.d3 Bd6 13.Rg5 Bxf3 14.gxf3 Qd7 15.Kh1 Qh3 16.f4 Nf3 17.Rg2 Re8 wins for Black. This is only semi-forced, but obviously difficult for White.

b) 10.h3 0–0 11.d3 Nxd5 12.Nc3 Nxb3 13.axb3 f6 14.Nge4 Nxc3 15.bxc3 Bb6 16.Ba3 += Prathamesh-Khruschiov, Moscow 2006

10...Kf8 (Dia.)

11.Nc3?

You may wonder how a player of Korchnoi’s caliber (oh yes, he was already a world class player 56 years ago!) could do such a horrible move. Most of the explanation probably is that White is more or less lost whatever he does:

a) 11.h3 Nd7 12.Nxf7 Qf6 13.Re3 Qxf7 14.c3 Nxb3 15.Rf3 Nf6 16.axb3 Qxd5 and Black had a piece for a couple of pawns and was probably winning in Deshmukh-Peng Xiaomin, Calcutta 2000.

b) 11.Re3 Bg4 12.Qe1 Nxb3 13.Rxb3 Qxd5 is also very difficult for White, e.g. 14.Nc3 Qxg5 15.d4 Qh4 16.dxc5 Re8 and Black should be winning again.

11...Ng4

Black is winning already.

12.Nge4 Qh4

This probably is a bit more exact than 12...Nxe5 13.Nxc5 which should also win.

13.Rh5

Don’t forget that the rook at e5 is hanging.

13...Qxh5 14.h3 Qh4 15.Nxc5 Qxf2+

Even stronger would have been 15...Nxf2! 16.Qf1 Nxh3+ 17.gxh3 Qg3+ 18.Qg2 Nf3+ 19.Kh1 Qe1+ with mate to follow.

16.Kh1 Qg3 17.hxg4 Bxg4 18.Qf1 Nf3! 19.gxf3 Bxf3+ 20.Qxf3 Qxf3+ 0–1 Korchnoi-Estrin, Chigorin Memorial (Leningrad) 1951.

5 comments:

Phil Adams said...

Interesting article, Sverre! Some related issues of Black's move order in the Closed Spanish are discussed in Soltis's new book "Transpo tricks in chess".

Sverre Johnsen said...

Hello,

Are you Phil Adams, the reviewer at the '3Cs Oldham' site? In that case let me congratulate you with your excellent service!

Anyhow, I am glad you liked my article. I hope to post the follow-up on 7.c3 some day quite soon now.

Thanks for the tip about the Soltis book. Soltis must be one of the most unpredictable chess authors of all times. Most of his opening monographs were sloppy work but with some good verbal advice thrown in. His other books, however, have generally been excellent (or at least interesting). Personally I have a weak spot for 'The Inner Game of Chess'.

Phil Adams said...

Yes, I'm the same Phil Adams. I don't think "Transpo tricks in chess" is one of Soltis's best books, but I found it quite interesting. I've inserted what Soltis has to say on this precise topic in the game below.

[Event "Hastings I"]
[Site "Hastings"]
[Date "1961.??.??"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Robatsch, Karl"]
[Black "Bisguier, Arthur Bernard"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C99"]
[Annotator "Soltis"]
[PlyCount "76"]
[EventDate "1961.12.??"]
[EventType "tourn"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "ENG"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "1999.07.01"]

1. e4 Nc6 2. Nf3 e5 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O b5 6. Bb3 d6 {Diagram # Arthur Bisguier once explained in Chess Review why he used 5...b5 6 Bb3 d6. First, he wanted to avoid his opponent's favourite Delayed Exchange (5...Be7 6 Bxc6)variation. Second, White 'couldn't be sure I would transpose into the main line and he felt compelled to analyze the complexities of 7 Ng5.' White eventually selected:} 7. c3 {and Black transposed after} Be7 8. h3 Na5 9. Bc2 c5 10. d4 {Diagram # but by then he had gained more than an hour (!) on the clock. That's an extreme case of 'giving them something to think about', Like other alternative routes to the Ruy Lopez tabia, this one comes with a price. White has saved a tempo compared with the usual main lines. He doesn't have to play Re1, since Bc2 protected the e-pawn. In other routes he can avoid h2-h3 since ...Bg4 is not a concern. Yet as we'll see, White may have to play h2-h3 and Re1 after all and give back the tempi. If he does, Black can derive some short-term gains through these alternative move orders.} Qc7 11. Nbd2 O-O ( 11... Bd7) 12. Re1 Bd7 13. Nf1 cxd4 14. cxd4 Rac8 15. Ne3 Rfe8 16. d5 g6 17. b3 Nb7 18. b4 Nh5 19. Bd2 f6 20. Rc1 Nd8 21. Bd3 Qb7 22. Rxc8 Qxc8 23. Nc2 Nf7 24. Nh2 Ng7 25. Na1 f5 $1 26. f3 Bh4 27. Rf1 Nh5 28. Qb1 Qd8 29. Qc1 Ng3 30. Rd1 f4 31. Nf1 Qb6+ 32. Kh2 Qf2 33. Nxg3 Bxh3 $1 34. Bf1 ({PA:} 34. Rg1 {is more stubborn.}) 34... Bxg3+ 35. Kh1 (35. Kxh3 Qg1 $19) 35... Ng5 36. Qa3 Bd7 37. Qd3 Nh3 $1 38. Be2 Qg1+ $1 ({í/\} 38... Qg1+ 39. Rxg1 Nf2#) 0-1

Soltis also briefly mentions Larsen's attempt to revive the original Chigorin move order of 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 Na5 9. Bc2 c5 10. d4 Qc7 which became discredited in the late 1930s following some games of Keres as White. Larsen tried answering the critical 11. a4 with 11..c4!?, later used by Kuzmin. If the line holds up, it has the virtue of allowing Black to dictate the structure, avoiding the Yates variation 8...0-0 9. d4.
I hope this is of interest.

Sverre Johnsen said...

This certainly is of interest!

Bisguier's reasoning is very pragmatic and definitely makes sense. Still the big question is whether Black can achieve something more than a lead on the clock by his move-order. Would you mind if I included some of this stuff in my entry on 7.c3 (with proper attribution to your post and Soltis' book of course)?

The original Chigorin move-order with 8...Na5!? is a separate topic to which I may well return some time. There seem to be some quite subtle points in that line that I have not yet grasped fully. In 'The Ruy Lopez: A Guide for Black' we suggest a closer study of Radulsky's games, and that's exactly what I plan to do when I can find the time for it. In addition I see there are 2007 games with the line by Rogic and Dobrev.

Sverre Johnsen said...

I took the liberty to 'clean up' the Bisguier game a little. I hope this is easier to read:
Robatsch - Bisguier, Hastings 1961
1. e4 Nc6 2. Nf3 e5 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O b5 6. Bb3 d6 Arthur Bisguier once explained in Chess Review why he used 5...b5 6 Bb3 d6. First, he wanted to avoid his opponent's favourite Delayed Exchange (5...Be7 6 Bxc6) variation. Second, White 'couldn't be sure I would transpose into the main line and he felt compelled to analyze the complexities of 7 Ng5.' White eventually selected: 7. c3 and Black transposed after 7...Be7 8. h3 Na5 9. Bc2 c5 10. d4 but by then he had gained more than an hour (!) on the clock. That's an extreme case of 'giving them something to think about', Like other alternative routes to the Ruy Lopez tabia, this one comes with a price. White has saved a tempo compared with the usual main lines. He doesn't have to play Re1, since Bc2 protected the e-pawn. In other routes he can avoid h2-h3 since ...Bg4 is not a concern. Yet as we'll see, White may have to play h2-h3 and Re1 after all and give back the tempi. If he does, Black can derive some short-term gains through these alternative move orders. 10...Qc7 11. Nbd2 O-O (11... Bd7) 12. Re1 Bd7 13. Nf1 cxd4 14. cxd4 Rac8 15. Ne3 Rfe8 16. d5 g6 17. b3 Nb7 18. b4 Nh5 19. Bd2 f6 20. Rc1 Nd8 21. Bd3 Qb7 22. Rxc8 Qxc8 23. Nc2 Nf7 24. Nh2 Ng7 25. Na1 f5 $1 26. f3 Bh4 27. Rf1 Nh5 28. Qb1 Qd8 29. Qc1 Ng3 30. Rd1 f4 31. Nf1 Qb6+ 32. Kh2 Qf2 33. Nxg3 Bxh3! 34. Bf1 (PA: 34. Rg1 is more stubborn.) 34... Bxg3+ 35. Kh1 (35. Kxh3 Qg1 -+) 35... Ng5 36. Qa3 Bd7 37. Qd3 Nh3! 38. Be2 Qg1+! (39. Rxg1 Nf2#) 0-1