Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Markovic Triumph

There are very clear similiarities between the Gurgenidze System of my previous entry and the Markovic' Defence (or the De Bruyker's Defence).

The game below is long but it's not only one of the most high-powered recent games with the defence, it's also an excellent illustration of the positional ideas that make the defence attractive.

Eagle eyed readers may already have noticed that there now are some old but still interesting articles by Gerard Welling available as pdf-scans on Der Alter Gonif's blog:
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).
Part of Welling's article on rim-Knight systems from Rand Springer #37 (issue #1 of 1988).
These articles are 20 years old so I hope I don't infringe any copyright laws by linking to them.

Velimirovic - Markovic,
Valjevo 2000

1.e4 c6 2.d4 Na6!?

According to Stohl this is Kavalek's suggestion. That may well be the case but I could find no examples of him playing the line. What he has played is the related line 2...d5 3.e5 Na6. This is far behind 3...Bf5 in popularity but still fairly respected.

A typical continuation is 4.c3 Nc7 5.Bd3 g6 and now:

a) 6.Ne2 h5 7.0–0 Nh6 8.Nd2 Bf5 9.Nf3 Qd7 10.Ng3 Bxd3 11.Qxd3 Nf5 += Fedorov-Eliseev, Ekaterinburg 2002.

b) 6.Nd2 h5 7.Nf1 Nh6 8.Ne3 Ng4 9.Nf3 Nxe3 10.fxe3 Bf5 11.Ng5 e6 12.e4 += Van der Wiel-Kavalek, Wijk aan Zee 1982.

3.f4 (Dia)

Stohl considers this dubious. I don't entirely agree. It may not be White's best try for an advantage but I think Stohl's evaluation should be reserved for the related variation 3.Nc3 Nc7 4.f4?! d5 which may indeed give Black promising light-square play.

The difference is similar to the Gurgenidze system which is quite popular in the 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 g6 version but far less attractive after 3.Nd2!?.

3...g6 4.Nf3 d5 5.e5 h5 6.c3

This move which secures White's central pawn chain White cannot so easily play with his knight on c3.


Interestingly Black seems to have nothing against allowing Bxa6. There can hardly be anything wrong with 6...Nc7.


Stohl evaluates 7.Bxa6 bxa6 8.c4?! dxc4! 9.Qa4 Qb6 10.Qxc4 Be6 as slightly better for Black.

7...Nc7 8.Be2 b6 9.Nf1 Ne6 (Dia)

This knight employment is quite popular also in the Gurgenidze system - but usually only after having developed the light-squared bishop to f5 or g4. In that case it's frequently exchanged for a knight.

10.Ng3?! Ng7! 11.Be3 a5 12.b3 e6 13.0–0 Ng4 14.Bd2 h4 15.Nh1 Nf5 16.Qc1 Ba6

According to Stohl Black is already better.

17.Bxa6 Rxa6 18.h3?! Ngh6 19.Be1

More natural is 19.Nf2 Ng3 20.Re1 Nhf5 when Black may have a small advantage

19...Be7 20.Bf2 Ra8 21.Qd2 Rc8 22.b4 a4!

If you enjoy long pawn chains, slow manoeuvring and long plans, the Markovic (and the Gurgenidze) may be a good opening choice.

23.Rfe1 b5

Black is slightly better with his outpost on f5 and better bishop, but his chances to open the position with a timely ...f6 or ...g5 are rather vague and can hardly be realized without White's help.

White's knight in the corner looks strange but can relatively easily be extracted. Now an instructive manoeuvring phase begins. First both sides evacuate their kings from the possible scene of action.

24.Kf1 Kd7 25.Ke2 Ng8 26.Bg1 Rh5 27.Bh2 Ng7 28.Rf1 Nh6 29.Nf2 Nhf5 30.Ng4 Kc7 31.Rae1 Kb7 32.Kd1 Ne8! 33.Qe2 Nc7 34.Ne3 Rh8 35.Kc1 Na8

The battle spans the entire board; now it's a black knight in the corner!


A serious concession, now Black gets the open file he needs on a silver platter.

36...gxf5 (Dia)

37.Rg1 Nb6 38.Nd2 Qf8 39.a3

Later the pawn will be weak here and White can't let the knight to c4, so perhaps it was better to do without this move.

39...Qh6 40.Ref1 Rcg8 41.Rf3 Rg6 42.Kd1 Rhg8 43.Ke1 Bd8 44.Kd1 R8g7 45.Re3 Nd7 46.Qf3 Qh8 47.Ke1?!

White should have kept his king on the queenside, protecting c3. He can cover g2 by Re2. But even then a well timed ...f6 and ...fxe5 gives Black good winning chances.

47...Qg8 48.Kf1 f6! 49.Re2

White cannot allow 49.exf6? Nxf6 followed by ...Ne4.


The time was already ripe for 49...fxe5 50.fxe5 (50.dxe5?! Bb6 51.Rh1 c5 is no better) 50...Rg3! (50...Nf8 51.Qf2 Nh7 52.Nf3 and the knight won't get to e4 via g5) 51.Bxg3 Rxg3 52.Qf2 Rxc3 53.Re3 Rxe3 (53...Rc2 54.g4! unclear) 54.Qxe3 Bg5 55.Qd3 Bxd2 56.Qxd2 Qg3 and Black is clearly better as he is planning ...Nb6-c4.


50.Qf2 stops the sacrificial motif but Black is still better.

50...fxe5 51.fxe5 Rg3! (Dia)

For the exchange Black gets a dangerous attack.

52.Bxg3 Rxg3 53.Qf2 Rxc3 54.Re3 Rc2 55.Qf4

After 55.Rf1 Bg5 56.Rd3 Nb6 Black's pressure is unbearable.

55...Nf8! 56.Re2

56.Rd3 Ng6 57.Qf3 Bg5 is hardly any better, but now Black could have won by force.

56...Rc3 57.Re3 Rc2?

After 57...Ng6 58.Qf2 (58.Qf3 Rc1+ 59.Kf2 Rxg1 60.Kxg1 Bb6 –+) 58...Rc1+ 59.Ke2 Nf4+! 60.Qxf4 (60.Kf3? Qh5+ 61.Kxf4 Bg5#) 60...Rxg1 Black’s has a winning material and positional advantage.

58.Re2 Ra2?

For 58...Rc3 59.Re3 Ng6 see 57...Ng6.


After the loss of both queenside pawns White's position becomes untenable. After 59.Qf3 with the idea Qc3 and Nf3 it's difficult to see any advantage for Black.

59...Rxa3 60.Kf2 Rb3 61.Rc1 Rxb4

The rest is relatively simple.

62.Rec2 Rc4 63.Kf1 Qe7 64.g3 hxg3 65.Qxg3 Qa3 66.Kg2 Kb6 67.h4 Qb3

67...Qd3! is an immediate win.


68.Ne1 Rxc2+ 69.Rxc2 Qxg3+ 70.Kxg3 b4 also wins for Black.

68...dxc4 69.Rh1 Qc2+ 70.Kh3 a3 71.Qg7 Qf2 72.Ng5

72.Qxf8 Qxf3+ 73.Kh2 Qf2+ 74.Kh3 Qxh4+ 75.Kg2 Qe4+ would only prolong the hopeless struggle.

72...Bxg5 73.hxg5 f4 0–1

Annotation (in particular for the later stage of the game) is based on Stohl’s for ChessBase.


Anonymous said...

I have 2 questions.

When you decided to write a book on a defense to 1 d4, why did you decide on the Dutch Stonewall and not the Slav Defense, which is basically a black version of the London System.

What will your next chess book be about?

Sverre Johnsen said...

1) The relationship between the London and other openings - mainly the Slav - is an interesting question and I'm actually surprised to see that I so far have said nothing on the matter in my blog. I will save my answer for a full blog entry.

2) I am not at all sure what will be the subject of my next book. I have some ideas; there will in a not too distant future be a "Win with the ..." book for Black against 1.e4. I would also like to try writing an "impossible" book with a good complete repertoire for both colours in less than 200 pages. But that may be a hopeless dream.

However, it obviously is not only my decision. For a book, readers are just as important as the writer and all publishers are looking for subjects and titles that will sell well.

Now I feel that the most important step for me to take will be to write my own book - without any co-author. I will probably need a GM adviser but I hope that will be sufficient.