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
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.
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
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?!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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...Nc6 10.d5 Ne7 (10...Nxb4?? 11.a3+-) 11.a4 +=.
10.Nbd2 Nb6!? (Dia)
For 10...Nxd2 see 'Zwaig Variation II'
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).
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...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.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.
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.
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.