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.


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

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

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.


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.


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.


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...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 .


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.


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.


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?


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.


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


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.


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.


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.