Monday, June 29, 2009

Repertoire Choices and Consistency

Sometimes interesting thoughts and debates deserving to be read 'get hidden' in the comments to old entries. In this blog entry one anonymous reader (it's hard to say how many of the 'Anonymous' are the same poster) is generally very positive to our book. However, he points out a missing move-order option and some related challenges.

Dealing with transpositional options is an eternal challenge for repertoire books. A good repertoire may well be inconsistent if you in a certain position have a choice between a move X that will lead to a position you have to face anyway (by transposition) and a move Y which may be better but takes some effort to analyse. Going for move X is rational as it saves you some labour but in chess your first priority should be to play the best move.

Whether you should go for the independent option (Y) or not, must depend on at least three factors:

  • How satisfied are you with the positions resulting from move X?

  • How much better can move Y really be?

  • How complicated are the variations following move Y?
Anonymous' main point occurs after the first moves of the mainline 1.d4 f5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 e6 4.Nf3 d5 5.0-0 Bd6 6.c4 c6: (Dia)

Here we mention 7.b3 Qe7 and now:
- 8.Bb2 (when play may continue 8...b6 9.Ne5) and
- 8.Ne5 (when 8...0-0 9.Bb2 b6 is a possibility).

However, there also is a related possibility:

- 7.Ne5 0-0 8.b3!? (when 8...Qe7 9.Bb2 b6 transposes to the lines above).

We agree that this is a natural move, and although it is very rare and not tested in high-level encounters, it deserved a mention. An author should not only look at what has been played by strong players but also scan the position for other 'normal looking moves', trying to foresee what his readers may wonder at.

The anonymous reader concludes that in order to have a consistent repertoire against all of White's various combinations of b3 and Ne5, it's necessary to play ...b6 lines against all of them. I disagree with that conclusion. A completely ...b6 based solution is certainly possible, and fully recommended if you trust your analysis after 7.b3 Qe7 8.Ne5 0-0 9.Bb2 b6!? 10.cxd5 exd5. However, this line is based on untested analysis and it's also possible to meet each of the three lines with a specific reply, even if only one of them involves an early ...b6:
a) 7.b3 Qe7 8.Bb2 b6 9.Ne5 Bb7! which has for a long time been considered fine for Black.
b) 7.b3 Qe7 8.Ne5 0-0 9.Bb2 Nbd7!? planning ...a5 (as Moskalenko does).
c) 7.Ne5 0-0 8.b3 Nbd7(!), securing an edge in development and planning ...dxc4 followed ...e5.

As a matter of fact, even if I am tempted to go for the ...b6 solutions, against line c) I would seriously consider 8...Nbd7 as it seems strategically simpler.

Lessons to be learned
  • Being 'too consistent' - trying to transpose whenever possible - may cost you some advantageous options.

  • Transpositions rarely are just transpositions; normally there is a trade of options. You stop some options and allow others.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Noteboom RAM

For several reasons (which I may disclose later) I have become interested in the Noteboom variation. The variation can occur from several move-orders but one of the more common is 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.Nf3 dxc4 5.a4 Bb4 6.e3 b5 7.Bd2 a5 8.axb5 Bxc3 9.Bxc3 cxb5 10.b3 Bb7 11.bxc4 b4: (Dia)
The position is extremely unbalanced and it looks like a position where a lot of RAM will be very useful. I suspect that objectively White is at least somwhat better. But in order to make use of his chances he must know what he is doing. Black scores very well in my database - probably because in most games he is the more experienced Noteboom player.

I am no expert on the line but would like to collect some essential games and annotate them on this blog. My annotations will mainly be based on van der Vorm and van der Werf's out-of-print monograph and Rybka's output.

Some candidate games so far are:
  • Kasparov-Tyomkin, Tel Aviv (sim) 1994 and
  • Oei-Van Wissen, Leeuwarden open 1993, illustrating White’s attacking possibilities supported by his huge pawn centre.
  • Lin Weiguo-Stangl, Beijing 1995, illustrating the power of Black’s connected queenside passers.
  • Thieme-Van der Worm, Leidschendam 1994, showing why White should be careful meeting ...e5 with dxe5.
Could any readers help me with more (or better) candidate games - in particular recent ones with at least one strong player involved?

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Stonewall Has Reached Norway

Finally I got my hands on a physical copy of 'Win With the Stonewall Dutch'!

It arrived in the mail today together with 12 other copies and looked exactly as well as I had hoped. Wolff Morrow's artwork on the cover adds considerably to the first impression. There's a tournament in my club so it didn't take me long to get rid of most of the copies. Now I have one for my own library and one for my mother's collection.

I have not yet had the time to check with our correction list but it seems that almost all of our last minute additions made it to the print files. Thanks to editor Graham Burgess and type-setter Petra Nunn!

I was not so happy to spot 3 typos. Fortunately they were all fairly minor and none of them will confuse the reader or influence his repertoire or understanding in any way. I have an agreement with Gambit not to publish any updates or corrections to the book so I will not disclose them now. However, one of them is quite annoying so I will ask the publishers to correct it in an entry here (in a suitable context). One of the typos was missed by all proof reading eyes. Another I believe made it to the printer outside the normal proof-reading process. The third and most annoying one probably crept into the book as a result of the proof-reading/final checking.

Monday, June 15, 2009

More Stonewall RAM

The Maroczy-Tartakower game was excluded from our Stonewall book mainly because it didn't really match our recommended repertoire. Today's game might have made it had it been in the databases (or had my memory been a bit more consistent). I only remembered it when annotating Tartakower's brilliancy. The reason it is missing in BigBase/MegaBase may be that the game information is unreliable. Different sources offer different years and different spellings for White's name. As for tournament/event I have no idea.

Glinksberg - Najdorf
Warsaw 1928

1.d4 f5 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e6 4.Nf3 d5?!
4...Bb4 is fine for Black.

As mentioned elsewhere 5.Bf4 is very good for White.

Black can more safely reach this position from the move-order 4.e3 d5 5.Nf3 c6.

6.Bd3 Bd6 7.0–0 0–0 (Dia)
This position is fairly attractive for Black who has won a number of short games.

This move has been criticized but probably wrongly so as Beliavsky has played it recently. Our book only mentions 8.b3 and 8.Qc2. Another option is 8.Ne5, planning the stodgy counter-Stonewall with 9.f4.

A more recent game went 8...Ne4 9.Ne1 b6 10.f3 Nf6 11.cxd5 cxd5 12.Bd2 Qd7 13.Rc1 Ba6 14.Qb3 Rc8 15.Rxc8+ Qxc8 16.Bb4 Bc4 17.Qa3 Bxb4 18.Qxb4 Nc6 and Black was fine in Beliavsky-Vydeslaver, Kallithea 2008. It is symptomatic that Beliavsky couldn't win against his presumably weaker opponent.

9.Ng5? Bxh2+!
This isn't quite as simple as it seems. Black must have calculated quite far or trusted that the neccessary resources would present themselves as play developed.

The obvious point was 10.Kxh2? Ng4+ and Black wins an important pawn. Now he threatens to trap the bishop with g3 as well as Nxe6.

10...Ng4 11.f4 Qe8 12.g3 Qh5 13.Kg2 (Dia)
White is now ready to pick up the bishop with moves like Nf3 and Rh1.
13...Bg1! 14.Nxg1
Any other capture loses immediately.
14...Qh2+ 15.Kf3 e5!
This is the key to Black's combination. The threat is ...e4 so White has no choice.

16.dxe5 Ndxe5+!
Remarkably Black succeeds in sacrificing all his minor pieces in this game which has been called 'The Polish Evergreen' (or Immortal or something like it).
17.fxe5 Nxe5+ 18.Kf4 Ng6+ 19.Kf3 (Dia)

In early calculations it may have been reassuring for Black to have a draw as a back-up. But does he actually have anything more than a repetition?
This obviously lets the light-squared bishop into the game. What's less obvious is that the rook too joins the attack.
20.exf4 Bg4+! 21.Kxg4 Ne5+! 22.fxe5 h5# 1–0

Lesson to be Learned:
Never underestimate Black's light-squared bishop in the Stonewall.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Another Stonewall Extract

I am scanning the web for reviews of our new Stonewall book. So far I have found nothing, and I don't really expect anything resembling a review for a couple of weeks yet. Nevertheless there turned up something interesting.

For some weeks now, Gambit has offered a pdf extract from 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch'. Today I noticed that Niggemann offers another extract from the book. I have not figured out how to link directly to the relevant page but if you go to their homepage, then choose Online-Shop and Neuigkeiten, scroll down to the Stonewall book, click it and then choose 'Katalog', you will find my entire Preface. The text is a bit confusing as there are first two paragraphs from the publisher's blurb and then my text starts without any heading or explanation. The extract from the Preface starts with the sentence: 'I have for a long time been fascinated and mystified by the Stonewall Dutch'.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Silly Little Move

From time to time I add another small chapter to my Veresov manuscript. Whether it will ever become a chess book I have no idea. One deciding factor will be the analytical conclusion of some critical lines. However, occasionally I start looking at moves that really don't belong in a serious chess book. That's when I turn to this blog.

A couple of days ago I started looking at 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Bg5 Nbd7 4.a3?!. (Dia)
The reason I even noticed the possibility was Giddins' very readable 'How to Build Your Chess Opening Repertoire' in which he mentions the line 4.f4!? e6 5.a3!?, a speciality of British correspondence expert A.M. Steward.

4.a3 appears a silly move but after 4...c5 5.dxc5 it’s not at all clear that Black can win his pawn back. The position arising after 4...e6 5.e4 (5.f4 transposes to Steward's line) 5...dxe4 6.Nxe4 Be7 7.Nxf6+ Bxf6 8.Bxf6 Qxf6 (Dia) must be worse for White than similar French lines (Burn and Rubinstein) but may still be somewhat easier to play for White:

a) 9.Qd2 c5 10.Nf3 0–0 11.0–0–0 cxd4 12.Qxd4 Qxd4 13.Rxd4 += Schinzel-Pinkas, Bydgoszcz 1976.
b) 9.Nf3 0–0 10.Qe2 (10.Be2 e5! is at least equal for Black) 10...c5 11.0–0–0 cxd4 12.Rxd4 e5 13.Rd2 Re8 14.Qe3 a6 15.Be2 Qe7 16.Bc4 h6 17.Re1 += Schweber-Quinteros, Villa Martelli 1996.

Whether you find such positions attractive or not is to some extent a matter of taste. From a practical viewpoint it must be taken into account that some black players may dislike them. Quite possibly Black must look into the untested 4...c6 or 4...h6 if he is looking for a more interesting path to equality.

Rubbish? I honestly don't know, but now I can with a clear conscience exclude these lines from my manuscript!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Another Step Forward

Today I noticed that 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch' has been promoted from 'Forthcoming Books' to 'New Gambit Chess Books'. There is no more information about distribution in Europe and the US, but I assume that will be added soon.
I really look forward to holding it my hands. Not only because I love books - and my own in particular - but also because I am curious how much of our last minute additions actually made it into the book.