Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Markovic' Defence

In an earlier entry I suggested the opening sequence 1.e4 c6 2.d4 Na6!? as an effective way to get a 'playable' position without having to learn much theory. Black gets some pieces into play without weakening his position. However, even this unorthodox opening is slowly developing a substantial body of 'theory'. I mentioned that the move had been played by the late Miles. He probably is the most prominent practitioner but far from the only one.

The oldest games with the opening in MegaBase 2008 are by American Theodore Dunst in the fifties but the opening is often named after the Belgian player Bernard de Bruycker who played it (and a few related lines) in the late seventies and early eighties. I wonder if he did anything to propagate the opening - published some analysis perhaps? A much more frequent practitioner is Serbian GM Miroslav Markovic who, as far as I can judge, must be the prime candidate for naming rights. MegaBase has 19 games where he plays 1.e4 c6 2.d4 Na6 with a decent score against strong opposition. I will return with a few of his efforts in the opening in later entries. Other strong players who have used the move more than once are in alphabetic order:
GM Igor Efimov
GM Lev Gutman
GM Todor Todorov
IM Juri Dovzik
IM Angus Dunnington
IM Renier Gonzalez
IM Esad Goric
IM Denis Shilin
IM Olivier Touzane
IM Dirk van Geet
IM Gerard Welling
IM Aleksandar Wohl

What I didn't fully realize in my previous post was the fact that this set-up is just as playable against 1.d4. This becomes instantly obvious once you have a serious look at it. If Black can survive 3.c4 in this line, then it's hardly likely that White can prove much after 1.d4 c6 2.c4 Na6. Actually transposition by 3.e4 (Dia) must be the only critical reply.

As a matter of fact only one of White's sensible move-orders may make it hard for Black to achieve his desired formation - namely 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3!? after which 2...Na6 can be met with 3.Bxa6!? ruining Black's queenside formation at the cost of the bishop-pair. After 3...bxa6 4.d4 we have this position: (Dia)

I am not a strong enough player to judge whether this exchange is advantageous for White or not. My feeling is that Black's chances should be OK if he makes the most out of his open b-file and his light-squared bishop.

This versatility - a close to universal system - clearly makes Markovic' Defence more attractive. Yet the main drawback remains: Black's modest developing scheme leaves White free to set up his position as he prefers. Obviously Black cannot prepare for all of these (except for practical preparation in the form of thousands of blitz games) For practical purposes Black probably should prepare for these replies (after 1.e4 c6):

A: 2.Nc3!?

B: 2.d4 Na6 3.c4

C: 3.f4?! (and the related 3.Nc3 Nc7 4.f4?!)

D: 3.Nf3 Nc7 (3...d5!? 4.exd5 cxd5 5.c4!) 4.Bd3

E: 3.Nc3! Nc7 4.Bd3

F: 3.Nc3! Nc7 4.Nf3!

Quite likely I will return with some more details on these lines in later entries.


Ed said...

There was an article years ago in the _Meyer's Openings Bulletin_ about the "de Bruycker Defense". If you don't have it, I can dig it up and post excerpts or something.

Sverre Johnsen said...

That would be much appreciated!

By the way, I had a quick look at your blog. It looks quite interesting. I will see if I can find the time to have a closer look some of the next few days.

Ed said...

Just an update--I've located the MOB issue in question (issue #25 (vol. 3 no. 1), JAnuary 1982). I had hoped to scan the article in this weekend, on my wife's computer, but unfortunately the scanner does not work since she upgraded to Vista. I'll probably type in the article later in the week, unless we get a new scanner first.

Sverre Johnsen said...


But please don't feel any time pressure. As you probably have noticed there tends to be a long time between entries on the same subject in my blog. And, coming to think of it, it might not be a bad idea at all for me to publish another entry before I see what has been written before. Sometimes authorities can be blinding.

So do whatever you find most comfortable. Had the subject been a bit more "useful" (as in point-scoring), typing the article into ChessBase or some othe chess software might even be quite rewarding. But as it actually is, waiting for an opportunity to scan it seems more sensible.

Ed said...


I have scans of a few articles up on my website (http://www.panix.com/~gaillard/chess/scans/):

Gerard Welling's article from the Myers Openings Bulletin #25 (vol 3., No. 1, Oct-Nov 1982), plus a supplementary historical article by Myers.

A followup by Welling on the subject from MOB #35 (vol 3, no. 11, Oct-Dec 1984).

Finally, part of Welling's article on rim-Knight systems from Rand Springer #37 (issue #1 of 1988). I scanned only the part about 1...Na6; it covers some of the same ground as the first two.



Sverre Johnsen said...

Thank you!

I just had a quick scan and this looks very interesting. I will have a closer look in a couple of days.