Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Here is some fireworks for the new year:

Salaske-Leisebein, corr 1988

1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 Bxb4 3.Bxe5 Nf6 4.c4 0–0 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.Bb2 Re8 7.e3 d5 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.Be2 Rxe3!? 10.fxe3 Nxe3 11.Qc1 (Dia)

In earlier entries I have had a look at 11.Qb3. I assume I will have to return to 11.Qa4 some day.

11...Nxg2+

This is natural and probably more promising than 11...Bf5, e.g. 12.Kf2 Nc2 13.Rd1 Qe7 14.Nc3 Rd8 15.Na4 Nxa1 16.Bxa1 Re8 17.Re1 +/- Bungo-Le.Karlsson, corr 1990.

12.Kf2 Bh3

Again this seems to be the critical try. After 12...Nf4 13.d4 Nxe2 14.Kxe2 Bg4 15.Qf4 Bxf3+ 16.Kxf3 Qd5+ 17.Qe4 Qh5+ 18.Kf2 f5 19.Qd5+ White had a clear advantage in Engelhardt-Rollwitz, Berlin 1995.

13.Rg1! Qe7 14.d4 (Dia)

White may also try 14.Ba3 Re8 15.Bb5 Ne5 16.Rxg2 when Black has these options:

a) 16...Bxg2 17.Kxg2 Nxf3 18.Bxe8 Qe2+ 19.Kg3 h5 (19...Ne1 20.Bxf7+ Kh8 looks winning for Black) 20.Bxf7+ Kxf7 21.Qxc7+ Kg6 22.Qxb7 (22.Qd7 Kh6 23.h4 Nxh4 is no better) 22...Qxh2+ 0–1

b) 16...Qf6!? 17.Be2 Ng4+ 18.Rxg4 Bxg4 19.Bd1 Bxf3 20.Bxf3 Qxa1 21.Bxb4 Qd4+ 22.Kg2 Qxb4 –+.

Tilp-Hammerschmidt, corr 1988.


14...Re8 15.Bd3

15.Bb5 is met by 15...a6

15...Nh4

This looks sufficient for at least equality. Alternatives are:

a) 15...Be1+? 16.Rxe1 Nxe1 17.Qxe1 Qd7 18.Qd1 Nb4 19.Nc3 Nxd3+ 20.Qxd3 Qg4 21.Rg1 1–0 Woelfelschneider-Guenther, corr 1990.

b) 15...Ne3 16.Nc3 (16.d5 Nf5 17.dxc6 Bc5+ 0–1 Milligan-J.Svensson, corr 1995) 16...Ng4+ 17.Rxg4 Bxg4 18.Qf4 Bxf3 19.Kxf3 Bd6 20.Nd5 Bxf4 21.Nxe7+ Nxe7 22.Kxf4 Nd5+ 23.Kg4 g6 = Schuehler-Salaske, corr 1989.

c) 15...Qf6 16.Qg5? (16.Nbd2 Nf4 17.Bb5 Qf5 18.Bc4 Bg4 19.Rg3 h5 unclear) 16...Be1+ 17.Rxe1 Nxe1 18.Bxh7+ Kxh7 19.Qh5+ Kg8 –+ Frenzel-Nebe, corr 1989.

16.Qg5

16.Qh6!? Ng6 17.Qg5 may be an improvement.

16...f6 (Dia)


17.Qf4?!

This may hand Black the advantage, so White should investigate line c) below.

a) 17.Qxg7+? Qxg7 18.Rxg7+ Kxg7 19.Nxh4 Be1+ 20.Kf3 Bxh4 –+.

b) 17.Qxh4? Qe3+ 18.Kg3 Qxd3! 19.Qxh3 Bd6+ 20.Kh4 (20.Kg2 Re2+ 21.Kh1 Qxf3+! 22.Qxf3 Rxh2#) 20...Re4+ 21.Rg4 (21.Kh5 g6+ –+) 21...g5+ 22.Kh5 Rxg4 0–1 Dziel-Zarebski, corr 1993.

c) 17.Bc4+ Kh8 18.Qxh4 Qe3+ 19.Kg3 Bd6+ 20.Kxh3 Qxf3+ 21.Rg3 Bxg3 22.Nd2 and the position is unclear.

17...Nxf3 18.Kxf3 g5 19.Nc3 Qg7

Rybka's 19...Kh8! looks like a worthwhile improvement.

20.Nd5 gxf4 21.Nxf6+ Kf8 22.Rxg7 Re3+ 23.Kxf4 Rxd3 24.Rxh7 Bd2+ 25.Ke4 Re3+ (Dia)

The position is totally bewildering. I would be more worried with White than with Black. However, this was a correspondence game (as most other examples in this line) and it seems the players were able to handle it correctly.

26.Kf4 Rb3+ 27.Ke4 Bg2+ 28.Kf5 Ne7+ 29.Ke6 Rb6+ 30.Ke5 Nc6+ 31.Kf5 Rxb2 32.Rh8+ 1/2–1/2


Addendum January 27th
There are three quite interesting articles by Tim Harding on the Sokolsky and even this 9...Rxe3 variation on Chess Cafe:

How Sokolsky Played the Sokolsky
Significant Games in the Sokolsky Opening
Goodbye to the Friendly Orang-Utan

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Missing the Veresov

Opening preferences are not only a matter of analysis and preparations. At least for some of us personal preferences, practical considerations and even nostalgia come into consideration. For roughly ten years I almost exclusively played the Veresov Opening (1.d4 d5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bg5 or 1...Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Bg5) (Dia) with White.











Initially it worked great, and indeed there is a lot to be said in its favour:
  • White develops quickly and avoids any weakening pawn moves.
  • It has a certain surprise value and is somewhat underestimated by theory.
  • Play is often sharp with opposite castling.
  • The move-orders 1...Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 and 1...d5 2.Nc3 Nf6 are equally valid - making it an almost universal system.
However, I finally had to give it up. The main reasons were:

  • Thanks to ChessBase all my opponents started spending their evening before the game preparing for the Veresov and most of the surprise value was lost.
  • I started facing theoretical problems in several lines simultaneously and had no time to do the necessary repair between tournaments.
  • There were no top players employing the opening regularly, so the supply of high-level ideas were too small.
  • The good literature on the opening started to date and the new works were of low quality.
After I gave the Veresov up the situation has improved slightly with Miladinovic and Morozevich playing the opening relatively frequently (there are always some GMs employing it as a surprise weapon but their contributions are usually of a more practical than theoretical nature). There also appeared a book by Nigel Davies - 'The Veresov: Surprise Your Opponents with the Tricky 2 Nc3!' which contained quite a few interesting ideas. I will not say that it's a great book but it's well written and generally it's very decent workmanship as one has come to expect from Davies.

Yet I have not taken up the Veresov again. The main reason is that I have not found a line I am happy with after 3...Nbd7. It's really surprising that such a modest move should prove such a challenge. I used to play 4.f3 but have completely lost faith in that line. I also have experimented with 4.Qd2 which generally leads to the same kind of positions as 4.f3 and which 4.Qd3 which actually may give White a minimal advantage. Even 4.e4 I review from time to time. However, after reading Davies' book the move which interests me the most is 4.e3!?, planning a Stonewall set-up with f4, Nf3 and 0-0 against most of Black's replies. There is, however, one major problem: after the modest-looking 4...e6, Davies' suggestion 5.Qf3 seems to lead White into a difficult position after 5...Bb4 (Dia).

Eric Prie has something to say about this in his May column at Chess Publishing.

So I am still looking for something promising for White after 3...Nbd7. In the meantime I will improve my London-files in preparation for Bangkok Chess Club Open.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Return to Tournament Chess












In April I will play Bangkok Chess Club Open. This is Bangkok Chess Club's 9th international tournament and I am convinced it will be just as well organized as the two I have played previously. Also the accommodation offered at Aisawan Resort and Spa no doubt will be a pleasure (and a bargain for the players).

The fact that the prizes are higher than ever with a top prize of approximately 2.000 Euros is of no direct interest to me. I would be a very poor man indeed if my income depended on my tournament results. However, an indirect effect may be a stronger field than usual. There are already four GMs registered and no doubt the lower ranks will soon fill up. Due to no fault of the organizers in several previous tournaments it has been a problem that quite a few of the stronger participants have never arrived. First there was the Sars epidemic, then the next year - a few days before tournament start - a top Russian trainer died and most of the titled Russians canceled. Another year there was a problem with visas for Myanmar players (who had some very attractive Elo numbers) and so on. I really hope that this year the organizers will face no such problems!

This will be my first serious tournament for at least four years, so I am quite worried about my chess form. My online blitz ratings are quite worrying unless I count only the peaks and the few tournament games I have played have been of a general low quality. I promise to not turn this blog into one more of the training diaries that can be found everywhere on the net but the subject may pop up in future entries.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Leif Erlend Plays the Stonewall

During the eighties and nineties most Norwegian top players played the Dutch Stonewall. Headed by Agdestein, the GMs Djurhuus, Gausel, Tisdall and Østenstad, as well as some of the IMs and promising juniors all collected experience in this solid but unbalancing system. During the chess Olympiad in Dresden not only Carlsen but also another Norwegian GM took up the tradition:

Frhat - L.Johannessen, Olympiad Dresden 2008
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3
With 3.Nc3 White gets some extra options against the Triangle set-up as well as against the Queen's Gambit Declined.
3...c6

Via a slightly different move-order Johannessen arrives at the same position as Magnus got against Rowson. This is among Black's sharper options against 1.d4 as he may now consider capturing the c-pawn and try to keep it. Was this team preparation for the Norwegian boys?
4.g3
Rowson preferred 4.e3 after which Magnus went for the Stonewall with 4...Bd6 and 5...f5 anyway. Would 4.Qc2 have lead to the same reaction?
4...f5
Now it's a Stonewall structure. With White's knight already committed to f3, some quite critical lines with Nh3 are eliminated.
5.Bg2 Nf6
Just as Magnus, Leif Erlend avoids the attempts to give the position an independent twist with the ...Qf6 idea.
6.0–0 Bd6 7.b3
7.Bf4 is the principal alternative.
7...Qe7
(Dia)
This is one of the three or four main branches of the Stonewall and quite deeply investigated by strong Grandmasters. Although this as far as I know is Leif Erlend's first Stonewall game, he wasn't totally unprepared as he has been reviewing a copy of our manuscript for 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch'. I also think he got some advise from Simen Agdestein before the game - at least that's the impression I got when I had a few words with him on Tuesday.
8.a4
This is among the easier systems for Black to equalize against but possibly among the harder to play for a win against.
8...a5 9.Ba3 b6 10.Qc1

From this square the White queen can go to:
- a3, offering a queen exchange
- b2, fighting for control over e5
- f4, (as in the game) offering a change of pawn structure.
10...Bb7 11.Bxd6 Qxd6 12.Qf4!?
This seems to be a new move if not a new idea. Now we get a pawn structure normally arising from an exchange of bishops on f4. White gets total control over e5 but relatively few active possibilities.
a) 12.Na3 0–0 13.Nc2 Na6 14.Nce1 Nb4 15.Nd3 c5 16.Rd1 Rac8 17.Qb2 Ne4 18.Rac1 ½–½ Ustianovich-Hermanov, Lvov 2003.
b) 12.Nbd2 Nbd7 13.Qb2 0–0 14.Rac1 Rac8 15.Rfd1 f4 16.Ne5 fxg3 17.hxg3 Qe7 18.Nd3 Ng4 19.Nf3 Ba6 20.Qd2 h6 21.Bh3 Ndf6 22.Nf4 Ne4 23.Qe1 Rxf4 24.gxf4 Ngxf2 25.Bg2 ½–½ Donaldson-Herder, Vancouver 2000.
c) 12.Qa3 and now:
c1) 12...Ke7 13.Qb2 Rc8 14.Nbd2 Na6 15.Ne5 Rc7 16.h3 Kf8 17.g4 Kg8 18.e3 Rf8 = Yedidia-Vaisser, France 1996.
c2) 12...c5 13.cxd5 exd5 14.Nc3 Nc6 15.Qc1 0–0 16.Rd1 Nb4 17.Qf4 Qxf4 18.gxf4 Ne4 = Brito Garcia-Ulibin, Benasque 1992.
12...Qxf4 13.gxf4 Na6 14.Nbd2 Ke7 15.Rfc1 Rac8 16.e3 Rhd8 17.cxd5 (Dia)

17...cxd5
This is very sound and very equal. If Black is playing for more than a draw, 17...exd5 probably had to be tested. There is very little direct risk involved as White has no realistic target and no pawn breaks. But if Black plays for ...c5 or ...g5 White will get his share of the play.
18.Ne5 Nb4 19.Bf1 Rg8 20.Bb5 Kd6
This is roughly as good as any other move but there is an implicit draw offer. Normal (verbal) draw offers were only allowed after move 30.
21.Nf7+ Ke7 22.Ne5 Kd6 23.Nf7+ Ke7 24.Ne5 ½–½


Friday, November 28, 2008

Ruy Lopez meets Nimzo Indian

I have already mentioned that a lot of reviewers appear to have enjoyed Leif's preface to 'The Ruy Lopez: A Guide for Black'. Yesterday I noticed a small article which connects a very well known Fischer game to a game from this introduction. While not exactly a review I allow myself to consider this piece a recommendation of our book. The blog in general seems interesting so I added it to my favorite chess links list.

As for the theoretical part, I am no expert on the Nimzo Indian but it seems that the debate on Spassky's 13.fxe5 is closed in Black's favor. However, after 13.0-0 0-0 a few strong players still seem to believe in White's chances after 14.f5 or 14.Qe1. But the main reason that there are so few recent games seems to be that White's set-up with e3 and Nf3 isn't very popular for the moment.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Carlsen Plays the Stonewall

I did not have the time to follow the Chess Olympiad round by round. But this game I had to inspect. Seeing Norwegian top player Carlsen handle the Stonewall as Black obviously is obligatory for any self-respecting author of a Stonewall manual.
Rowson- Carlsen, Dresden Chess Olympiad 2008
1.d4
Rowson is one of my favorite chess authors - even though I can normally digest only a couple of his pages a day. Yet I must admit to never having studied his games.
1...d5
The Stonewall is more of an formation (or a 'system' if you like) than a specific opening line.
2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 e6 4.e3
In general Stonewall positions with e3, rather than the typical Dutch development with g3, are more attractive for Black, as there are some quite promising kingside attacking schemes available. However, this may be so mainly in amateur level chess as GMs generally know how to defuse the more direct attacking attempts.
4...Bd6 5.b3 f5 6.Be2 Nf6
(Dia)
Now we have a Stonewall position that could just as well have arisen from the Dutch. There also is an independent developing scheme with ...Qf6 and ...Nh6-f7 but this is less tempting when White has held back Nc3, so that he can play b3 and Ba3 without any artificial preparation.
7.0–0 Qe7!
This delays the exchange of dark-squared bishops which generally is considered favorable for White.
8.Bb2 b6 9.Qc1 Bb7 10.Ba3 Nbd7 11.Qb2?!
(Dia)
This must be an attempt to establish control over e5 but looks rather artificial. Probably 11.Bxd6 Qxd6 12.Qa3 would have been met by 12...c5 too but that position looks easier for White to handle.
11...c5!
Now White's bishop as well as his queen looks somewhat misplaced.
12.Nc3 a6 13.Rfd1 0–0 14.cxd5 exd5 15.g3 Rac8 16.Rac1 Kh8 17.Qb1 Ne4 18.dxc5 Nxc3 19.Rxc3 bxc5 20.Bf1 Nf6 21.Bg2 Ne4 22.Rc2 (Dia)
Sometimes when you watch Carlsen's games you get an impression that he plays more natural moves than his opponents. You may even think that this is his secret and conclude that chess actually is a simple game. What you should not forget is that in order to win by playing natural moves you need:
1) a strong belief in piece activity and a willingness to invest some material in order to achieve the kind of position you are looking for.
2) the ability to calculate accurately and quickly in order to confirm that your instincts are right
3) the tactical strength to actually exploit your good position when time has come.
22...a5
For the next few moves Carlsen seems content to simply improve his position in various small ways. That is slightly surprising as his advantage seems to consist more of better piece co-ordination than of a better structure. However, despite Black's slow play White seems unable to improve his position much.
23.Bb2 Rf7 24.Ba1 Re8 25.Qc1 h6 26.Ne1 Kh7 27.Nd3 Rc8 28.Nf4 Bxf4 29.exf4 Qf8 30.Qa3 d4 31.Qxa5
Not all players would have had the confidence to let that pawn go.
31...Rd7 32.Qb5 Qd6 33.Qd3 Ba6 34.Qf3 d3 35.Rcc1 d2 36.Rc2 Qg6 37.Bf1 Bb7 38.Qe3 Re8 39.Be5 Rxe5!
(Dia)
Time has come for Black to cash in his advantage. I haven't checked the game in detail with a computer but the exchange sacrifice seems fairly convincing.
40.fxe5 f4 41.Qe2 Ng5 42.Rc3?
White had to prevent Black's next with 42.e6. I assume Black must still be better, but I am not sure how big his advantage is.
42...Qc6 43.f3 Nxf3+ 44.Kf2 Ng5 45.e6 Ne4+ 46.Qxe4+ Qxe4 47.exd7 Qd4+ 48.Ke2 Ba6+ 0–1

Probably an instructive game. Maybe I can still squeeze it - or at least a fragment of it - into 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch' during the proof-reading stage?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Zwaig Variation III

The Norwegian Chess Federation (Norges Sjakkforbund) has opened a weekly column at their website , called 'Fra arkivet' (From the Archive) which I look forward to following. This week they offered a game which was new to me (although I believe I have the scanned magazine somewhere in my shelves):
S.Heim - A.Zwaig, Cht Norway 1975
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 b5 5.Bb3 Na5
The Norwegian variation.
6.0–0
Some day I will return to 6.d4!? which I feel may be underrated.
6...d6 7.d4 f6 8.Bxg8 Rxg8 9.b4

This is given as a novelty so I assume the game was played before Helmers-O.Moen from the same year. 9.a4 b4 10.c3 c5 11.cxb4 cxb4 12.Nbd2.
9...Nc4
9...Nc6 10.d5 Ne7 (10...Nxb4?? 11.a3+-) 11.a4 +=.
10.Nbd2 Nb6!? (Dia)
For 10...Nxd2 see 'Zwaig Variation II'
11.c4!
In 'Zwaig Variation II' I only gave Oim's 11.Qe2 which was the only example I could find in the databases. But even with more than 3 millons games the electronic sources cannot yet compete with paper when it comes to historical games (for ChessBase the critical point seems to be around 1985).
11...bxc4
Curiously Rybka for quite a long time like 11...Kf7?!. Should I re-install the program?
12.a4 Be6 13.a5?

Zwaig's suggestion 13.Qc2 indeed seems to offer White a plus.
13...Nc8! 14.Qc2 Rb8 15.Rb1 Na7 16.Nxc4 Qc8! 17.Be3?!
Zwaig mentions 17.Ne3 Qb7 and it seems Black is holding.
17...Nb5 18.Rfc1 Be7 19.Qd3 Qb7 20.Bd2?! (Dia)
I like this position! With the possible exception of his light-squared bishop, none of Black's pieces seems to be on a 'normal' square. Yet Black suddenly seems better. Zwaig suggests that 20.d5! is best (probably the position is then still '+=').
20...f5! 21.exf5 e4 22.Qe3
22.Qe2 Bxc4 23.Qxc4 d5 -/+.
22...Bxf5!
22...Bxc4 23.Rxc4 Qd5 (23...exf3 24.Re1 c6 25.Rxc6 unclear) 24.Re1 Qxc4 25.Qxe4 Qf7 26.Ng5 unclear.
23.Re1 Qd5! 24.Qf4! Bg6!
Actually 24...g5! 25.Ne3 gxf4 seems even stronger as 26.Nxd5 is fairly harmless.
25.Ne3 Qh5!
Zwaig discards 25...Qf7 26.Qxf7+ Kxf7 27.Nd5! e3 28.Rxe3 Bxb1 29.Rxe7+ Kf8 30.Ng5 Nxd4 31.Bc3 h6 32.Rf7+ with at least a perpetual for White but 32...Ke8 33.Nxc7+ Kd8 34.Bxd4 must be close to winning for White.
26.g4 Qh3 (Dia)

Somewhat surprisingly White is lost thanks to his trapped knight.
27.Nf5
27.Ng5? Bxg5 28.Dxg5 Sxd4 -+.
27...exf3! 28.Rxe7+ Kd8 29.Nh4?
29.Qg3 Qxg3+ 30.hxg3 Bxf5 31.Bg5 Bxb1 32.Rxg7+ is just as hopeless. Black escapes a piece up.
29...Kxe7 30.Qg5+ Kd7 0–1
Notes are based on Zwaig's for Norsk Sjakkblad.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Double Reversed Halloween Gambit

Forgive me for returning to 1.a3 and the Mengarini (1.e4 e5 2.a3) but you were warned in this previous entry.

1.a3 e5 2.e4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.Nf3 g6
This is a reversed version of Glek's Four Knight's line 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.g3!?.
5.Nxe5?! (Dia)

As you may or may not know the original Halloween Gambit arises after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nxe5?! which probably is incorrect for several reasons. What is most relevant in our context is the fact that after 4...Nxe5 5.d4, Black's most popular - and probably best - move is 5...Ng6.

Therefore clever players discovered the Reversed Halloween Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.g3 (Glek) 4...Nxe4?!) which almost certainly improves over the original. Not only has the knight's best retreat option been eliminated, there is also a couple of kingside weaknesses which at least outweigh White's extra tempo.
The diagram position shows the Double Reversed Halloween gambit which in reality is the original Halloween Gambit with the extra moves a3 and ...g6. Surprisingly it's almost as popular as the more normal looking 5.d4 exd4 6.Nxd4 Bg7 7.Nxc6 bxc6 with a relatively balanced position.
5...Nxe5 6.d4 Nc6
As already mentioned this is a less attractive square than g6.
7.d5 (Dia)

This is more promising than 7.e5 which was tried in one of the first games with the variation.
7...Nb8
Here we see another small point of 1.a3 - the knight cannot go to b4 (as in the parallel line 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nxe5 Nxe5 5.d4 Nc6 6.d5 Nb4). Black's other options are:
a) 7...Ne5 8.f4 Neg4 9.h3 looks promising for White (9.e5 Bc5!? is complicated).
b) 7...Bg7! 8.dxc6 bxc6 is the sensible man's move, transposing to the line 5.d4 exd4 6.Nxd4 Bg7 7.Nxc6 bxc6 mentioned above.
8.e5 Ng8 9.d6 (Dia)


This can be considered the critical position. White obviously has a certain amount of compensation for his piece.
9...cxd6
Black opens the centre. G.Jones-Bae, West Bromwich 2005 continued 9...c6 10.Bc4 Qh4 11.Qe2 Bh6 12.g3 Qh5 13.g4 Qh3 14.Bxh6 Nxh6 15.Ne4 Kd8 16.Nf6 b6 17.0–0–0 Qh4 18.Rhg1 Qg5+ 19.Kb1 Ng8 20.f4 Qxf4 21.Rgf1 Qg5 22.Bxf7 Ba6 23.c4 Nxf6 24.exf6 Kc8 25.Bg8 Rxg8 26.f7 Qd8 27.fxg8Q Qxg8 28.Qe7 Bxc4 29.Rf8+ Kb7 30.Qd8 1–0 .
10.exd6 Qf6 11.Nb5 Na6 12.Bc4 Bh6 13.Qe2+ Kf8 14.Be3 Bxe3 15.fxe3 Qh4+ 16.g3 Qh5 17.Qf2 Qf5 18.Qe2 Qh5 19.Qf2 Qf5 20.Qe2 Nh6 21.Rf1 Qh5 22.Qf2 Qf5 23.Qe2 Qe5 24.0–0–0 Kg7 25.Rd5 Qe8 26.Qd2 Rf8 27.Qd4+ f6 28.g4 b6 29.g5 Nf5 30.gxf6+ Rxf6 31.Rdxf5 gxf5 32.Rg1+ Qg6 33.Rxg6+ Kxg6 34.Bd5 Rb8 35.e4 Bb7 36.exf5+ Rxf5 37.Qg4+ Kf6 38.Qh4+ Kg6 39.Bc4 Nc5 40.b4 Ne4 41.Nc7 Nxd6 42.Qg3+ 1–0 Carlsen-Nyysti, Helsinki 2002.

I seem to remember an article about this variation in the Norwegian chess magazine 'Norsk Sjakkblad' by Stokke and Hjortås a few years ago. I will return with the year and issue number and possibly some more analysis whenever I find the relevant issue.

Happy Halloween!

Addendum November 27th
From Stefan Bücker, the editor of Kaissiber, I have received some additional information for those interested in this variation:
The game Carlsen - Nyysti, Helsinki 2002, was published in Kaissiber #20, page 34 (source: Suomen Shakki 2002), in the historical introduction to Maurits Wind's extensive analysis of the Halloween Gambit (pp. 22-51 of that issue). The article starts with Bücker's historical overview, showing that the 4.Nxe5 gambit was invented in 1873 (or earlier) by Dr. Carl Theodor Göring, who is better known as the inventor of the Goering Gambit. Later issues of Kaissiber contained refined analyses on the Halloween Gambit by Maurits Wind.

I can warmly recommend the magazine Kaissiber to anyone who can read German and who is interested in chess history or unorthodox opening theory.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Earth Defends Successfully

After the further moves 3...c5 4.e3 Nc6 5.Bb5?! Qa5+ 6.Nc3 Ne4 7.Bxc6+ bxc6 8.0–0 Nxc3 9.Qd2 Ne2+! we have reached this position:

It now seems clear that Earth has defended successfully against the attack from outer space. 5.Bb5 is a sensible move which was recently played by Kamsky (who lost against Gelfand) but not really in the London spirit. 5.c3 is the standard move and probably best.

I plan to leave the match here, trusting the kids at Stevenson Elementary School. After the likely continuation 10.Qxe2 Ba6 11.Qe1! (A better try than 11.Qd1 of Parreno Cueto-Bertona, Alicante 2001) 11...Qb6! 12.dxc5 Qb7! (12...Qxc5 13.c4 Bxc4 14.Qc3 is not so bad for White), Black will be an exchange up for little compensation.

Monday, October 6, 2008

London versus Earth

When I co-authored "Win with the London System" I never suspected that it might get used as a weapon against my home planet. But according to the USCF site that's what's happening right now.

After the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Bf4 (Dia), this is the position:

I am a little curious what will be the alternatives for Earth. Black's main options are 3...c5, 3...e6, 3...c6 and 3...Bf5 but also 3...g6 is a good move, and as far as I know nobody has come up with a fully convincing reply to 3...Nh5!?.

Maybe I will be following this game?


Update October 7th
Earth's alternatives now have been published. 3...e6 and 3...c5 were not surprisingly on the list. Also 3...Bf5 is a recognized system (but one which can easily lead Black into difficulties). Only 3...Nc6 was a surprise. It's a fairly rare move with a poor score (White scores 69% in MegaBase 2008) and until recently with no leading protagonist. However, it should be noted that Bareev recently won a game against GM opposition with the move. The position after 3...Nc6 more frequently arises from the move-order 2...Nc6 3.Bf4 Nf6.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Benjamin on the Harding Variation

The September column in Joel Benjamin's excellent 'Ask GM Joel' contains an interesting entry about the Harding variation in the Ruy Lopez Marshall which I discussed in my last July entry. Benjamin seems to agree that a reason why the line isn't played more often may be that Marshall players don't like putting their dark-squared bishop on f6 rather than on d6.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0–0 8.c3 d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5 Bb7 12.d4

This is the established mainline and seems to force Black to look for long-term compensation for his pawn rather than the quick kingside attacks which sometimes results from the 11...c6 lines.
12...Qd7 (Dia)

This may transpose to 12...Bf6 lines but must primarily be considered an attempt to play for a kingside attack.

a) 12...Bf6, the mainline to which I will some day return superficially appears less attractive as it generally is associated with a queenside initiative.

b) 12...Nf6!? is suggested by Eric J and gets an additional improvement by Benjamin. Surprisingly no mention is made of the transposition 11...Nf6 (Marshall's original attempt) 12.d4 (White's clearly most popular reaction) 12...Bb7!? (12...Bd6 is almost exclusively played) which leads to the same position without allowing 11.Qf3.

13.Nd2

a) 13.Qh5 Nf6 14.Qf5 Qxf5 15.Rxf5 Be4 16.Rg5 Bd6 17.f4 Rfe8 18.Nd2 Bb7 19.Nf1 Re1 20.Kf2 Rxc1 0–1 Gardner-Harding, corr 1975.

b) 13.h3 looks like a waste of time:

b1) 13...Bf6 seems somewhat inconsistent but sufficient for equality: 14.Re1 Rfe8 15.Bd2 Rxe1+ 16.Qxe1 Re8 17.Qf1 Ne7 18.Na3 c5 19.Rd1 cxd4 20.Be3 Nf5 21.Bxd4 Nxd4 22.cxd4 g6 23.Nc2 a5 = Krnan-Tseitlin, Montreal 2004.

b2) 13...Rfe8 14.Nd2 Bf6 15.Rxe8+ Rxe8 16.Nf3 Qd6 17.Bd2 c5 18.dxc5 Qxc5 19.Qc2 Re2 20.Be3 Rxc2 21.Bxc5 Re2?? (21...Rxb2 =) 22.Rd1+- Granada Velez-Hakimifard, Kemer 2007.

c) 13.Qf3 Rad8 looks like the principal alternative:

c1) 14.Nd2 c5 and now:

c11) 15.Qf5 Bf6 16.Qxd7 Rxd7 17.Re1 cxd4 18.Ne4 dxc3 19.Bxd5 Bxd5 20.Nxf6+ gxf6 21.bxc3 ½–½ Pieris-Sarfati, Dubai 1986.

c12) 15.dxc5 Bf6 16.Re1 Nxc3 17.Qg3 Na4 (17...Rfe8 18.Rxe8+ Qxe8 19.bxc3 Bxc3 20.Rb1 Bxd2 21.Bxd2 Rxd2 = Boguslavsky-Ketterer, Karlsruhe 2003) 18.Bxa4 bxa4 19.Nc4 Qd5 20.Nb6 Qxc5 21.Nxa4 Qc6 22.Nc3 Bh4 23.Qh3 Rd6 24.Bf4 Rf6 25.Ne2 g5 26.Bg3? (26.Rac1 Qb6 =+) 26...Bc8 0–1 Dimitrov-Hebden, Cappelle la Grande 1989.

c2) 14.Qf5 Qxf5 15.Rxf5 Bf6 (15...Rfe8 16.Be3 g6 17.Re5 f6 18.Re4 Kg7 19.Bd2 c5 20.Na3 Nc7 21.Re2 cxd4 22.Rae1 Bf8 23.Rxe8 Nxe8 = Harley-Hebden, Hastings 1988) 16.Bg5 Rfe8 17.Kf1 Bxg5 18.Rxg5 Nf4? (18...h6 or 18...Re7 look quite playable) 19.Bxf7+ Kxf7 20.Rf5+ Kg8 21.Rxf4 +/- Mihailov-O.Moen, Trondheim 2004.

13...Nf4 (Dia)

13...Bf6 still looks inconsistent but didn't work out too badly in Traut-Diaz Vega, corr 2002: 14.Re1 Rae8 15.Rxe8 Rxe8 16.Nf3 Qf5 17.Bc2 Qh5 18.Bd2 += .

14.Ne4 Bd6

This was Black's idea but it doesn't seem very tempting when White simply can capture the bishop. However, the knight on f4 is hanging so there are not many alternatives:

a) 14...Ng6 15.Nc5 Bxc5 16.Rxc5 Rae8 17.Be3 Kh8 18.Rh5 Be4 19.h3 Ne7 20.Re5 +/-Rogers-Djuric, San Bernardino 1988.

b) Benjamin mentions that 14...Nxg2 15.Kxg2 Bf6 16.Qf3 seems insufficient.

15.Nxd6 cxd6 16.Rg5 Ng6 (Dia)

17.Rg3

Benjamin only gives this move and concludes that White is better. 17.Be3 seems at least as strong. Henao-Djuric, Saint John 1988 continued 17...Rae8 18.a4 Be4 19.axb5 axb5 20.Bc2 d5 21.Bxe4 Rxe4 22.Qc2 f5 23.g3 += but it's easier for White to improve than for Black. One relatively obvious try is 20.Qh5.

17...Rae8 18.Bg5 Qf5

Or 18...Be4 19.h4 d5 20.h5 Ne7 21.Bh6 Nf5 22.Qg4 g6 1–0 Conquest-Lane, Cappelle la Grande 1990.

19.Bc2 Be4 20.Bxe4 Rxe4 21.a4 bxa4 22.Rxa4 +/- Kudrin-Hebden, Las Palmas 1989.

Conclusion:

12...Qd7 doesn't seem sufficient to turn 11...Bb7 into an attacking line and Black may as well admit that with 12...Bf6.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Another Claim to Fame

I have already demonstrated my longest chessgame. I also have a game in 'The Quickest Chess Victories of All Time' (Graham Burgess, Cadogan 1998). A very nice book in my opinion but I may be biased as I luckily am on the winning side:

Sv.Johnsen - G.Nesheim
Gausdal Open Ch NOR, 1985

1.e4 c5 2.c3 Nf6

Recently Tarrasch' old 2...Qa5 has had a small boost in popularity. After 3.Nf3 Nc6 some notable continuations are:
a) 4.Na3 e6 5.Nc4 Qc7 6.d4 cxd4 7.Nxd4 a6 8.Bd3 b5 9.Ne3 Nf6 = Alapin-Tarrasch, Vienna 1898.
b) 4.Bc4 d6 5.Qe2 Nf6 6.h3 e5 7.0–0 Be7 = Rainfray-Movsesian, France 2003.
c) 4.g3 Nf6 5.Qe2 d5 6.exd5 Nxd5 7.Bg2 Bg4 8.h3 Bh5 9.0–0 e6 = Rozentalis-Movsesian, Hastings 1996.

3.e5 Nd5 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nf3 Qa5?!
(Dia)

6.Nxd4
6.Qxd4 appears less logical. After 6...Nc6 7.Qe4 e6 8.Bd3 f5 9.Qe2 Qa4 10.h3 Nf4 11.Bxf4 Qxf4 chances were equal in Tzoumbas-Skembris, Liosia 1991.

6...e6

I think I had a faint hope of 6...Nc6 7.Nb3, which actually happened in Arslanov-Nozdrachev, Russian Ch U12 2004.

7.Nd2!

This appears more logical than 7.Bc4 Nb6 8.Bb5 a6 (8...Nc6 9.a4 Nd5 10.0–0 a6 11.Bxc6 bxc6 12.Na3 += Donets-Khatenever, St Petersburg 2005) 9.b4 Bxb4 10.cxb4 Qxb4+ 11.Qd2 Qxd2+ 12.Bxd2 axb5 13.Nxb5 Na6 14.Nd6 += Stojic-Edwards, Canberra 2003.

7...Nc6

Burgess notes that White is better after 7...a6 8.Nc4 Qc5 9.Qg4 as well as 7...d6 8.Nc4 Qd8 9.Nxd6+ Bxd6 10.Bb5+.

8.Nc4 Qd8 9.Nb5 Bc5

9...Be7 10.Nbd6+ Kf8 11.Qh5 g6 12.Bh6+ Kg8 13.Qf3 Bxd6 14.Nxd6 transposes to 9...Bc5 10.Nbd6+ Kf8 11.Qh5 g6 12.Bh6+ Kg8 13.Qf3 Bxd6 14.Nxd6 (note to Black's 11th move).

10.Nbd6+ Kf8 11.Qh5
(Dia)

11...Qe7?
This loses a piece. Black had to try 11...g6 12.Bh6+ (12.Qh6+ Kg8 13.Bg5 Qf8 14.Qxf8+ Kxf8 15.Ne4 Be7 16.Bh6+ Kg8 17.f4 is good too) 12...Kg8 13.Qf3 Bxd6 when Burgess considered 14.Nxd6 dubious because of 14...Nxe5 but actually 15.Qe4 Nc6 16.0–0–0 is very good for White. An important line is 16...Qe7? which surprisingly loses to 17.Rxd5! exd5 18.Qxe7 Nxe7 19.Bd3 when Black is helpless. Instead Black must try 16...f5 but 17.Qc4 Nf6 18.Be2 clearly is better for White. Thanks to Rybka for assisting me with these lines!

12.Bg5 f6 13.exf6 1–0

(after 13...Nxf6 14.Bxf6 gxf6, White picks up the loose piece with 15.Qxc5)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Defensive Resources

Probably the weakest aspect of my chess is my defensive skills. Not only have I problems with spotting my own defensive resources, I also miss my opponents' resources when I sacrifice material to get to his king. This weakness I know I have in common with many players. Computers on the other hand have no such difficulties; they calculate all moves with equal accuracy. Going through what you think was a nice attacking game with the newest piece of chess software can sometimes be a frustrating experience. Can it be that young players who grow up with Fritz as a correction to their optimistic sacrificial tendencies will develop a keener eye for defence and counter-attack? Time will show!

Nearly one year ago I wrote a small piece on a surprising tactics in the Alekhine's Defence. It's time to return and see what happens if White doesn't fall for the trick:

(1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.c4 Nb6 4.c5 Nd5 5.Bc4 e6 6.Nc3 Nf4!?)
7.d4! (Dia)

This is supposed to be the refutation of Black's unsound play. Whether White gets a major advantage or not is not entirely clear to me but it's absolutely clear that Black must show some defensive skill in order to survive the next dozen moves.

a) For the 'natural blunder' 7.Qg4? , see my entry of September 6th, 2007.

b) 7.g3?! is less useful than d4 and White must be careful not to have his extended centre annihilated. There are no high-level tests but 7...Ng6 8.d4 b6 9.cxb6 (9.Nf3!?) 9...axb6 10.Nf3 Bb7 11.h4 Nc6 12.h5 Nxd4 13.Nxd4 Bxh1 14.hxg6 hxg6 15.Be2 Bg2 =+ B.Seres-Braun, Hungary 2003 could be a starting point for further investigations.

7...Nxg2+

This must be the only critical line.

8.Kf1 Nh4 (Dia)

Now White can try:

a) 9.Ne4!? is the subject of the game below.

b) 9.Qg4 looks active but doesn't threaten anything particular. The only practical example was rather one-sided: 9...Nf5 (9...h5!?) 10.Nf3 b6 11.Ng5 Ba6 12.Nb5 (12.Bxa6 Nxa6 13.Rg1 h6 14.Nf3 bxc5 15.d5 Nb4 also looks good for Black) 12...Nc6 and Black was already clearly better: 13.Nxf7? Bxb5! 14.Nxd8 Bxc4+ 15.Ke1 (Black is clearly better after 15.Kg1 Rxd8 16.Bg5 Rb8) 15...Rxd8 16.cxb6 Nfxd4 0–1 Coupet-Westerinen, Metz 1985 (17.bxc7 Rc8 18.Be3 Nxe5! 19.Qh5+ g6 20.Bxd4 gxh5 21.Bxe5 Rg8 –+).

c) The normal developing move 9.Nf3! probably is best and deserves a separate entry - maybe next year?!

Wetzel-Aldrich, Minnesota 1997:

9.Ne4!?

This looks active and strengthens White's central grip but has only been tested in this relatively low-powered (but entertaining) game.

9...Nf5

Black is poorly developed but has no pawn weaknesses. 9...Nc6 seems playable too.

10.d5 d6

The game is quickly losing its theoretical significance. 10...Qh4!? may well be best. After 11.Qd3, 11...b6 as well as 11...Na6 are interesting options.

11.Bg5 Be7 (Dia)

12.dxe6!?

Both players are rated USCF 2000+ and could probably have played a better game if they had tried to keep things under control. Instead they are sharpening the game to a point where they lose control.

12...Bxg5 13.Qg4?!

Better is 13.Qh5 Bxe6 14.Bxe6 g6 15.Qxg5 fxe6 16.Qxd8+ Kxd8 17.exd6 Rf8 with roughly equal chances.

13...fxe6

13...Bxe6 14.Bxe6 fxe6 15.Nxg5 Qd7 16.cxd6 cxd6 =+.

14.Nxg5 d5 15.Bd3 0–0 16.N1f3 Nc6?!

This appears somewhat irrelevant to White's kingside attack. 16...h6 would have forced White to immediately demonstrate his idea.

17.Bxf5?!

This mainly helps Black defend. After 17.Qh5 Nh6 (17...h6? 18.Qg6 hxg5 19.Nxg5 Rf6 20.exf6 Qxf6 21.Qe8+ Qf8 22.Qh5 +-) 18.Bxh7+ Kh8, it seems White has a promising attack, e.g. 19.Rg1 Bd7 20.Rg3 b6 21.Bg6 and it seems White will break through.

17...Rxf5 18.Qh5 h6 19.h4 Nxe5?

19...Qf8 and 19...Bd7 are among the natural moves that probably win.

20.Nxe5 Rxe5?

Here the rook is very exposed. Far better is 20...b6 which allows a useful check on a6: 21.Qg6 hxg5 22.Ng4 (22.hxg5 Ba6+ –+) 22...Ba6+ 23.Kg2 Kf8 24.hxg5 Qxg5 25.Rh8+ Ke7 26.Qxg5+ Rxg5 27.Rxa8 Rxg4+ 28.Kf3 Ra4 29.b3 Ra3 30.cxb6 axb6 31.Kf4 unclear.

21.Qf7+ Kh8 22.Qg6?!

This wins but as the game develops it seems 22.Qf4 would have been a wiser choice with these typical variations:

a) 22...Re4 23.Qxe4 +-.

b) 22...Qf6 23.Qxe5 +-.

c) 22...Rf5 23.Qxf5 +-.

22...hxg5 23.hxg5+ Kg8 (Dia)

24.Rh7??

Probably both players thought this was winning. Correct would have been 24.Qh7+ Kf7 25.g6+ Kf6 26.Qh4+ Rg5 27.f4 Kxg6 28.fxg5 and Black is defenceless.

24...Qe7??

A computer would in a second have spotted the saving move 24...Qd7! exploiting White's exposed king 25.Qh5 (after 25.c6 bxc6 there is a bishop check on a6) 25...Qb5+ 26.Kg2 Rxg5+ 27.Qxg5 Kxh7 and White must be happy with a perpetual check.

25.Qh5 1–0.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Why Not the Slav?

This is the second part of an answer to why I didn't follow up 'Win with the London System' with a book on the Slav (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6).

The Slav and the London system are quite a popular pair of openings - frequently complemented by the Caro Kann against 1.e4. And if my first project had been on the Slav, quite likely the London would have appeared a natural continuation. However, with the London coming first, I didn't really consider following up with the Slav. This isn't quite as silly as it may sound:

While I enjoy playing a reversed opening with White (see my posts on 1.a3) - looking for a good way to use that extra tempo, I find it quite uncomfortable to go the opposite direction - taking an opening which I play with White and play it a tempo down. There certainly will be related lines but a tempo down they almost always are slightly worse.

In the case of the Slav compared to the London, this most clearly is illustrated with this position (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3):

a) 4...Bf5?! followed by ...e6 and a typical London position would be Black's preferred move if it was playable. However, very few strong players use this move regularly with Black - probably with good reason as White scores around 80% with 5.cxd5! cxd5 6.Qb3 (a database search hints that there may be more to this than is generally known so I may return to this subject).

b) 4...dxc4, which gives up Black's central foothold but wins some time for development, is Black's traditional main continuation. After 5.a4 Bf5 the position has some resemblance of a reversed London. However, the pawn exchange is generally considered undesirable and for London players mainly interesting as an example of how to handle the position if something goes wrong.

c) The Semi-Slav 4...e6, which locks in the light-squared bishop, can lead to very interesting positions if White plays ambitiously but isn't very similar to a London set-up.

d) 4...a6!? - the Chebanenko Slav - is a more recent try for Black. Now when Qb3 can be met by ...b5 or even the exotic ...Ra7, ...Bf5 becomes an option for Black in certain lines. This is a very interesting idea but seen in a London perspective not very attractive. While a3 frequently can be useful in London, it has quite low priority. Consequently Black is not just his normal tempo down - in many respects he is closer to two tempi behind a normal London line.

e) 4...Qb6!? has been played by many strong players, most recently by Kamsky. Black prepares ...Bf5 by defusing the Qb3 option but it must be admitted that this system is more solid than exciting and it seems that White has several paths to a small edge.

f) Black has other options like 4...Ne4, 4...Bg4 and 4...Nbd7 but none of them are very London-like.

Monday, August 25, 2008

London Stonewall Similarities

In a previous post I got a question about why I didn't follow up the London book with one on the Slav Defence. I am eventually going to say something more about that but first I would like to point out some similarities between the Dutch Stonewall and the London System:

  • The London as well as the Stonewall to a great degree are based on ideas rather than exact variations and involve a lot of possibilities for transpositions and move-order tricks.
  • In both openings you normally attempt to fortify a central bastion rather than create immediate central activity.
  • Both openings frequently allow you to switch to a kingside attack shouldn't your opponent play actively enough.
  • Both openings lead to characteristic pawn structures that can frequently be recognized even in the endgame.
  • There are certain London lines where White sets up a Stonewall formation (normally after the exchange of the light-squared bishops but not exclusively).
  • Both openings are in my opinion a bit underestimated.
A typical London position:















A typical Stonewall position:















See the similarity?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Simen Plays the Stonewall

I was very happy when I got Simen Agdestein on my team for 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch'. He is one of the real pioners for the modern version with ...Bd6 rather than Botwinnik's classical ...Be7 Stonewall. Simen is not as active on the tournament circuit as he used to be, and even though he has started well in Tromsø's Arctic Chess Challenge, he is most of all the head of NTG's delegation of young chess students. But Simen is still capable of beating almost anybody and he still plays the Stonewall forcefully:

M.Turner (2493) - S.Agdestein (2583)
Arctic Chess Challenge (5) 2008

1.d4 f5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 e6 4.Nf3 d5 5.0–0 Bd6 6.c4 c6 7.b3 Qe7 8.Bb2 b6 9.Qc1 Bb7 10.Ba3 Nbd7 11.Bxd6 Qxd6 12.Qa3 c5!?

Characteristically Simen goes for the sharpest solution.

13.cxd5 exd5 14.Nc3 0–0 15.Rac1 f4!

The name 'Stonewall' has tricked many white players. In Simen's hands, the wall is actually extremely mobile.

16.Rfd1 a6 17.dxc5 bxc5 18.Ng5 fxg3 19.hxg3 Ng4 20.Nf3 Rae8 21.Rd4?! (Dia)

White tries to fend off the attack by tactical means. It backfires badly but it seems White had serious problems anyway.

21...Nxf2!

This looks convincing, but I'd have to consult Fritz to be entirely sure.

22.Kxf2 Qe7 23.Rdd1 d4 24.Kg1 Qe3+ 25.Kh2 Nf6 26.Qxc5 Ng4+ 27.Kh3 Nf2+ 28.Kh2 Ng4+ 29.Kh3 Nf2+ 30.Kh2 Nxd1 31.Nxd1 Qh6+ 32.Kg1 Rc8 33.Ng5 Rxc5 34.Rxc5 Qd6 35.Ne6 Bxg2 0–1

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Marshall - Harding Variation

I note there is a new Everyman book on the Marshall on the horizon. The line has always fascinated me but the necessary preparation does not quite seem worth the effort - in particular because the Anti-Marshall 8.a4 is quite well motivated while 8.h3 and 8.a3 are very reasonable attempts to avoid the sharpest lines.

If I some day decide to take up the Marshall, I will seriously consider to adopt one of the minor lines for my first few games - most likely the 11...Bb7 variation. Here is the first part of an overview which may be a good starting point for serious analysis:

(1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0–0)

I feel fairly well prepared up to this point after having co-authored 'The Ruy Lopez: A Guide for Black' in 2007.

8.c3

I don't know in how many percent of the games this move is played but I suspect the number is decreasing the lower down the rating ladder you go.

8...d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5
Nxe5

Also the Herman Steiner variation, 10...e4!? could be a nice surprise weapon.

11.Rxe5
Bb7 (Dia)

This is an active developing move. Its main spokesman has been Harding but it has recently been played by Short and Kamsky. In some ways it's a more natural move than the modern mainline 11...c6. Marshall's original 11...Nf6, I think is now defused and Balogh's 11...Nf4 has never been fully satisfactory. It could however be that 11...Nb6!? is underestimated. The knight isn't very active but it prevents White's important freeing a4 lever.

12.Qf3!?

This has recently been the choice of Sutovsky and Ivanchuk and will be the subject of this post but I assume 12.d4 still must considered the mainline.

12...Bd6!

Thanks to a tactical point this move is playable after all. In the 12.d4 lines we will mainly see this bishop taking up a less threatening post on f6.

13.Bxd5 c6 (Dia)

White must save his rook so Black regains his piece.

14.Re2

This seem to be the most useful post for the rook, but the theory has not yet been cemented and alternatives have been played by strong GMs:

a) 14.Re3 cxd5 15.d4.

b) 14.Re1 cxd5 15.d4 Qc7 16.g3 Rae8 17.Rxe8 Rxe8:

b1) 18.Bd2 a5 19.b3 Qc6 20.a4 bxa4 21.Rxa4 Qb6 22.Qd1 Bc6 =+ A.Timoshenko-Mackintosh, corr 2002.

b2) 18.Be3 b4 19.cxb4 Qc2 20.Nd2 Bxb4 21.Qd1 Rc8 22.Nf3 += A.Sokolov-Yermolinsky, Vilnius 1984.

14...cxd5 15.d4 Qc7 16.g3 (Dia)

White seems a sound pawn up but his queenside is still undeveloped. The alternative 16.h3 Rae8 17.Nd2 b4 18.Nb3 Rxe2 19.Qxe2 bxc3 20.bxc3 Qxc3 21.Be3 Re8 was fairly equal in Szelag-Stern, Poznan 1999.

16...Rae8

16...Rfe8 may well be better. In Sutovsky-Short, Montreal 2007, the rook was useful on the queenside: 17.Be3 a5 18.Nd2 b4 19.Rc1 Qd7 20.Ree1 bxc3 21.Rxc3 Bb4 22.Rc2 Rac8 23.Rec1 Rxc2 24.Rxc2 a4 25.a3 Bxd2 26.Bxd2 ½–½ .

17.Nd2

It's worth noting that Ivanchuck preferred 17.Be3. Yet after 17...a5 18.Nd2 b4 19.cxb4 Bxb4 20.a3 Bd6 21.Ree1 Re6 22.Rac1 Qb6 23.Qd1 Rfe8 chances seemed balanced in Ivanchuk-Kamsky, Montreal 2007.

17...b4 18.cxb4 Qc2 19.Re3 Bc8

19...Bxb4 allowed White to keep a small plus after 20.Nf1 Rxe3 21.Nxe3 Qd3 22.Qd1 Qe4 23.f3 Qe6 24.Qb3 Rc8 25.Kf2 Qb6 26.Bd2 a5 27.Bxb4 axb4 28.Rd1 in A.Sokolov-Kharitonov, Vilnius 1984.

20.Nf1 Bxb4 21.a3 Ba5 22.b4 Bb6 23.Rxe8 Rxe8 24.Be3 Be6 25.Qd1 Rc8 26.Nd2
1/2–1/2 Anand-Short, Manila 1992.

Conclusion:

12.Qf3 shouldn't worry Black if he knows how to keep an initiative burning without a direct kingside attack.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Win With the Stonewall Dutch


It's official!


On Gambit's homepage, there is now a list of their forthcoming books, including 'Win With the Stonewall Dutch'.


As usual it took me a second look to fully appreciate the cover artwork - at first the dominating grey looked a little drab. But now I'm convinced it will stand out in a positive way in the book stalls. I assume the artist is Wolff Morrow as for my previous books.


The title was as expected (I assume Gambit would have contacted me if there had been a substantial change from the working title) but I was a little surprised by the author part. It says 'Sverre Johnsen and Ivar Bern With a contribution by Simen Agdestein' but in my opinion '...With contributions by Simen Agdestein' would better describe the reality.


Also the publishing date (February 2009) was slightly surprising. I was expecting December 2008 but I can understand Gambit's conservative target date as our agreed deadline now has been overstepped by more than three weeks and they still have not received any final manuscript. That also explains the sparse updates of this blog!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Reversed Kan Sicilian

There have been some months now since I had anything on 1.a3. I cannot promise this will be the last entry but right now I am not aware anything more of any importance missing.

1.a3 Nf6 2.e3 e5 3.c4

This position obviously can also arise from the move-orders 1.c4 e5 2.e3 Nf6 3.a3 or 1.e3 e5 2.c4 Nf6 3.a3.

3...d5!?

This enters an Open Sicilian position a move down and looks a bit too optimistic. However, the normal result of a correctly played Open Sicilian is a small advantage to White. It could well be that losing a tempo only leads to equality - which is an excellent result for Black.

4.cxd5 Nxd5 (Dia)

Now we have a Reversed Kan Sicilian on the board. With reversed openings it can sometimes be hard to say whether White has an extra move or Black has one less. But in this case it’s quite clear: White has got a free move. How can he best use it?

5.Nf3!?

a) I am confident that if this variation should ever become popular, 5.b4 would be one of the first moves to receive serious attention. So far I could find no practical examples.

b) 5.Qc2 is the main line in the comparable reversed position but could be too quiet to achieve anything against modest development by Black:

b1) 5...Bd6 6.Bd3 Qg5 7.Ne2 c6 8.Ng3 Bc7 9.0–0 Nd7 10.Nc3 N7f6 11.Nxd5 Nxd5 12.b4 h5 13.Bb2 Bh3 14.gxh3 h4 15.Be4 (15.Ba6) 15...hxg3 16.Bxd5 and White was clearly better in Rodriguez Lopez-Castillo Martinez, Mislata 2000.

b2) 5...Nc6 6.Nf3 a6 7.Nc3 Be7 8.Be2 0–0 9.h4 h6 10.b4 Be6 11.Bb2 Nxc3 12.Bxc3 Bf6 =+ Sattari-Cheparinov, Dos Hermanas Internet Blitz 2004.

5...Bd6

a) 5...Nc6 6.Nc3 (6.Bb5) 6...Be6 7.Qc2 a6 8.Be2 Be7 9.0–0 Qd7 10.b4 0–0 11.Bb2 Bf6 12.Na4 Qe8 13.b5 axb5 14.Bxb5 Bd7 (14...e4) 15.Nc5 Ncb4 16.axb4 Bxb5 17.Rxa8 Qxa8 18.Ra1 += W.Paulsen-Flechsig, Leipzig 1879.

b) 5...Nd7 6.Qc2 c6 7.Nc3 N5f6 8.Bc4 Bd6 9.b4 0–0 10.Bb2 Qe7 11.Ng5 Nb6 12.Ba2 g6 13.h4 Bf5 14.Nce4 Nxe4 15.Nxe4 Rad8 16.h5 Nd7 17.g4 Bxg4 18.hxg6 hxg6 19.Nc5 with a clear advantage to White in Schmittdiel-Medunova, Liechtenstein
1994.


6.Qc2

This is the normal Kan move but doesn't appear very threatening and may allow Black to reach an acceptable position with modest play. However, if Black plays modestly White's long-term advantages - in particular his central majority - may become an important factor. Alternatives include:

a) By parallel from the reversed lines, 6.Bc4 Nb6 7.Ba2 should be an important line.

b) 6.d3 Nc6 7.b4 a6 8.Bb2 Be6 9.Nbd2 0–0 10.Nc4 f6 11.Be2 Re8 12.0–0 Bf8 13.Rc1 Qd7 14.Qc2 Rad8 15.Rfe1 = Kunte-Suvrajit, Atul 2006.

c) 6.Nc3 Nxc3 7.bxc3 (7.dxc3 0–0 8.e4 a5 9.Bc4 a4 10.0–0 Bg4 11.h3 Bd7 12.Bg5 += Eichler-Baumgartner, Austria 2000) 7...0–0 8.d4 exd4 9.cxd4 c5 10.d5 Nd7 11.Bb2 Nf6 12.Bc4 a6 13.a4 Bf5 14.0–0 Rb8 15.a5 += Steinitz-Rosenthal, Vienna 1873.

d) 6.e4 Nb6 7.d4 exd4 8.Qxd4 0–0 9.Bd3 Nc6 10.Qc3 Re8 11.Bg5 f6 12.Be3 Ne5 =+ Symeonidis-Panagiotopoulos, Nikea 2004.

6...0–0 7.b4

White has also tried:
a) 7.d3 Re8 8.Nbd2 Bf8 9.Be2 a5 10.b3 a4 11.b4 c5 12.bxc5 Na6 13.Bb2 was very good for White in Bouhallel-Weemaes, Belgium 2003.

b) 7.Bc4 Be6 (7...Nb6 8.Ba2 Qe7 9.h4 N8d7 10.Ng5 Nf6 11.Nc3 Kh8 12.Ne2 e4 13.f3 Nbd7 14.fxe4 c5 15.d4 gave White the advantage in Bosboom-Ellenbroek, Enschede 1993) 8.Qb3 c6 9.Nc3 Nd7 10.d4 Rb8 11.e4 Nxc3 12.bxc3 Bg4 13.Be2 c5 14.d5 b5 =+ Pantsulaia-Dzagnidze, Istanbul 2006.

7...Nd7

Or 7...Bg4 8.Bb2 Nd7 9.Be2 Kh8 10.d3 f5 11.Nbd2 Qe7 12.h3 Bxf3 13.Bxf3 N7f6 = Bouhallel-Marchadour, Avoine 2006.

8.Bb2 Re8 9.Bc4 N7f6 10.d3 c6 11.Nbd2 Bg4 12.Ng5 h6 13.Nge4 Bf8 14.h3 Bh5 (Dia)

So far the play has looked rather calm and positional. Now White decides to use his active pieces, his central majority and his delayed castling in a kingside attack.
15.g4 Bg6 16.Rg1 Nxe4 17.dxe4 Qh4 18.Rg3 Rad8 19.Nf3 Qf6 20.h4


It's becoming clear that White's attack is very dangerous.

20...Qd6?

This fails for tactical reasons - the pin in the b1-h7 diagonal can be neutralized. After 20...Nb6 White's attack still seems promising but nothing is really decided.

21.h5 Bh7 22.g5 b5

Now 22...Nb6 is met decisively by 23.g6.

23.Bb3 hxg5 24.Nxg5 Be7 25.Nxh7 Nb6 26.Rg6 Qd3 27.Bxe5 Bxb4+ 28.axb4 Rxe5 29.Qb2 Kxh7 30.Qxe5 fxg6 31.hxg6+ Kh6 32.Rd1 Qxb3 33.Rxd8 Qxb4+ 34.Kf1 1–0 Kjartansson-Baldursson, Reykjavik 2006.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Another Shortest Proof Game

At Chess Publishing Forum, IM John Cox has suggested a new 'shortest proof game' task: What's the shortest game ending with '0-0, mate' or '0-0-0, mate'.

So far the best tries are:
1.d4 e6 2.Qd3 Ke7 3.Bg5+ Kd6 4.Na3! Kd5 5.Qf5+ Kxd4 6.0-0-0, mate


and:

1.f4 f6 2.Nh3 Kf7 3.e3 Kg6 4.f5+ Kxf5 5.Bc4 g6 6.d3 e5 7.0-0, mate.

Both achievements are quite good but I wouldn't be surprised if they can be improved upon.

One would think that short castling must take at least four moves: one knight move, one pawn move to open for the bishop, one bishop move and castling but that isn't necessarily so because Black can capture pieces too.
The same of course goes for long castling.

For those of you still toying with symmetrical mates from my blog entry of April 5th, here are some short games I found:

Knight: 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nge2 Nge7 4.g3 g6 5.Nd5 Nd4 (Dia)







6.Nf6
mate






Rook: 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.Ng5 Ng4 3.Nxh7 Nxh2 4.Nxf8 Nxf1 5.Ne6 Ne3 (Dia)







6.Rxh8
mate







Bishop: 1.b3 b6 2.Bb2 Bb7 3.f4 f5 4.e3 e6 5.Be2 Be7 6.Bxg7 Bxg2 (Dia)





7.Bh5
mate









Pawn: 1.g4 g5 2.f4 f5 3.gxf5 gxf4 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.Ne5 Ne4 6.f6 f3 (Dia)






7.f7
mate








King: 1.f3 f6 2.Kf2 Kf7 3.Kg3 Kg6 4.Kh3 Kh6 5.e3 e6 6.Bd3 Bd6 7.Bg6 Bg3 8. hxg3 hxg6 (Dia)






9.Kg4 mate.








Any better?

Addendum July 12th
There is a quite readable article on Shortest Proof Games at Chessville. It appears to be the first in a series.