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.


Anonymous said...

After 1 d4 d5 2 Nc3, is there anything wrong with 2...Bf5, playing a reversed London System/Pseudo-Chigorin with an extra tempo for White? What does Davies recommend here for White?

Sverre Johnsen said...

No, there is nothing wrong with the move at all. It was recommended by Alburt a long time ago and may well be Black's best move in this position.

White must choose between 3.Bg5, 3.f3 and 3.Nf3 which all have some drawbacks (3.e4?! may be possible too, if you are a BDG fan). Play probably will not have much of a 'London feel' but Black will have fine chances.

As a matter of fact, recently when playing blitz on ICC I tend to meet 1...d5 with 2.Bf4 and 1...Nf6 with 2.Nc3. This is mostly for variety but it also gives me a feeling of having the best from both worlds.

Anonymous said...

What is your handle on icc?

Sverre Johnsen said...

I prefer to keep my ICC handle a secret for several reasons. I can assure you that my games are of no theoretical value.

I only play 5-minutes blitz (not the 5 0 variety where you can pick your opponents) and my rating usually is in the low 2100 range - occasionally nearing 2200.