Monday, June 25, 2007

A Wild Beast

A few years ago I wrote a small booklet on the line 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 a6!? (Dia.) with the title "The Tiger".
The title was inspired mainly by Rekom and Jansen's "The Lion" on the somewhat related line 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nbd7. My booklet was distributed mainly as pdf-files but a few printed copies were made on my job's printer. I played it in a few games myself and even a few of the readers were tempted to test it (with varying success).

Then a few things happened:
1) I started writing books for Gambit - an activity that took most of my chess time.
2) I more or less stopped playing tournament chess (I will be back!)
3) There appeared a book called "Tiger's Modern", which concentrated on the Modern opening 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 and after most moves (4.f4, 4.Be3, 4.Nf3) the challenging 4...a6!?.

My Tiger Files were put aside and I noted that whenever I decided to reopen them, I would have to decide on a new name. Since then not so much have changed; I still have no time to update my old manuscript. However, a few weeks ago I devoted a quiet evening to checking my databases for developments in this line (and a few other favorites) and noticed that Cicak, one of its strongest practitioners, now has had some success with it:

M.Meinhardt - Cicak, Stuttgart Ch. (Gerlingen) 2007
1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 a6!?
Black delays or omits the weakening ...g6. Against White's more timid set-ups he will probably play it after having first created some queen-side play with ...b5. Against others he will probably avoid it altogether, preferring a more solid set-up with ...e6 or ...e5 depending on circumstances.

This can hardly be the critical test but it's quite likely to bring the play back to Pirc waters.
a) 4.f4 e6 5.Nf3 c5 6.dxc5 Qa5 7.Bd3 Qxc5 8.Qe2 Nbd7 9.Be3 Qc7 10.Bd4 Nc5 11.0–0–0± Bartel-Cicak, Cork 2005
b) 4.Bg5 e6 and now:
b1) 5.Bd3 Be7 6.Nf3 Nbd7 7.0–0 h6 8.Bh4 Nxe4 9.Bxe7 Nxc3 10.Bxd8 Nxd1 11.Bxc7 Nxb2 12.Bxd6 Nxd3 13.cxd3 Nb6 =+ Galdunts-Cicak, Germany 2004.
b2) 5.Qf3 Be7 6.0–0–0 Nfd7 7.h4 Bxg5+ 8.hxg5 Qxg5+ 9.Kb1 Nc6 10.Rh5 Qe7 11.Qg3 g6 12.Rh6 Qf8 13.Rh4 Qg7 14.Nf3 Ne7 15.Qh2 += E.Berg-Cicak, Gothenburg 2006.
Now the game takes on Pirc characteristics. 4...e5 would also be perfectly sensible, reaching a position from the modern Philidor Defence with the added moves a4 and ...a6
This too looks fairly harmless.
a) 5.Nf3 would probably lead to a well known Classical Pirc position after 5...Bg7 6.Be2 0-0 7.0-0 b6.
b) One of my games went 5. Bc4?! Bg7 6. Qe2 Nc6 7. Nf3 Bg4 8. Be3 e5 9. dxe5 Nxe5 when I was already slightly better in V.Hansen-Johnsen, Norwegian Open
(Gausdal) 2000.
The obvious 5...Bg7 is also fine: 6.Bg2 0–0 7.Nge2 Nc6 8.0–0 e5 9.dxe5 Nxe5 10.h3 Re8 = L.Campos-Movsziszian, Albacete 2002.
6.Bg2 Bb7 7.Nge2 Nbd7 8.0–0 c5 9.Re1 cxd4 10.Nxd4 Rb8 11.h3 Bg7 12.Nd5 e5
Clearly Cicak isn't too obsessed with classical strategy. The hole at d5 and the backward d-pawn look ugly but doesn't actually bother Black much.
13.Nxf6+ Nxf6 14.Nb3 0–0 15.c4 Qc7 16.Nd2 Nd7 17.b3 Nc5 18.Nb1 f5 (Dia.)

From a slow start Black has now organized his forces and is ready to attack.
19.Nc3 f4 20.Nd5 Qf7 21.Ra2 Bxd5 22.cxd5 a5 23.Ba3 h5 24.b4 axb4 25.Bxb4 Bh6 26.Qc2 Rbc8 27.Qb1
Around here Black's position looks very promising.
27...Qe7 28.Ra3 fxg3 29.fxg3 Na6 30.Bc3 Qa7 31.Kh1 Rf2 32.Rf1 Qf7 33.Rxf2 Qxf2 34.Qf1 Qxf1+ 35.Bxf1 Nc5 36.Bg2 Bc1 37.Ra2 Nd3

Black's attack has disappeared but his pieces are clearly more active and White's pawns are vulnerable.

38.Bd2 Bxd2 39.Rxd2 Nc5 40.Ra2 Ra8 41.Rb2 Ra6
White's a-pawn is doomed anyway.
42.Rb4 Kf7 43.Bf3 Nxa4 44.Be2 Ra5 45.Kg2 Ke7 46.Kf3 Nc5 47.h4 Ra3+ 48.Kf2 Kd7 49.g4 Rh3
Now it's clearly decided.
50.Rxb6 Nxe4+ 51.Kg2 Rxh4 52.Rb7+ Ke8 53.gxh5 gxh5 54.Rh7 Nf6 55.Rh8+ Kf7 0–1

Obviously the result was not determined by the opening but that probably was what Black was hoping for anyway.

Could "The Panther" be a good name? I believe it quite fittingly is used mainly about the black variety of the big cats.


Anonymous said...

Mike Goeller has a few blog posts on another opening line which he has dubbed The Panther. See, for example:

Sverre Johnsen said...

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I have already enjoyed a few other articles at (which really is an excellent site), but I had obviously missed this subject. It's interesting to note that this Panther too is somewhat related to 'the Lion'.

I suppose I will have to go looking for alternative feline names - maybe 'the Lynx' is a good candidate?