Friday, January 29, 2010

A Line with Personality

For the time being one of the very few chess tournaments I play is the team tournament for companies in Oslo - 'Sjakkalliansen'. It's a relatively informal event but there are some GMs and IMs on the top boards. The games generally are of low quality as they are played on Wednesdays evenings after a full day's work and are unrated. However, sometimes I try to sit down and calculate variations in order not to completely lose touch with tournament chess. And sometimes the openings are interesting, hinting where I need to put in some work.

This Wednesday I was reminded of an opening line I considered adopting myself some years ago.

Sv.Johnsen-B.Byklum, Sjakkalliansen 2010

1.d4 d6

The Neo Old Indian.

Probably 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 dxe5 4.Qxd8+ Kxd8 is the line in which I have scored best with Black lately.
2...Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 (Dia)

This is an interesting idea. I have never liked 3...g6 (the Pirc), and 3...c6 (the Czech) seems to be in theoretical trouble. I am not 100% satisfied with 3...a6 (which I have recently renamed 'the Lynx') or 3...Nbd7 (the Lion).

4.Nf3 may be a more practical choice, but I am no longer well prepared for the Philidor mainlines.

4...dxe5 5.Qxd8+ Kxd8 6.Bc4
This must be best, developing a minor piece with a threat.


This is the move that gives the line its personality. 6...Bb4 is a different story leading to positions where Black is quite close to equality:

a) 7.Bd2 Ke7 8.a3 Bd6 9.Bg5 Be6 10.Nd5+ Bxd5 11.Bxd5 c6 12.Ba2 h6 (12...Rd8) 13.Bxf6+ Kxf6 14.0–0–0 Bc7 15.h4 += Smeets-Beliavsky, Amsterdam 2009.

b) 7.Nf3 Nbd7 (7...Nc6 8.Bxf7 Nxe4 9.0–0 Ke7 10.Nxe4 Kxf7 11.c3 Be7 12.Bg5 += Beliavsky-Solak, Murska Sobota 2007) 8.Bxf7 Nxe4 9.a3 Bxc3+ 10.bxc3 Ke7 11.Bb3 Ndc5 12.Nxe5 Be6 13.Nf3 Nxc3 14.Be3 N5e4 15.0–0 c5 16.Rfe1 ½–½ Rublevsky-Radjabov, Almaty blitz 2008.

7.Bxe6 fxe6 (Dia)

This is the big idea. Black somewhat downgrades his pawn structure but the pawns are in a closed file and not easy to attack, and he gets some compensation:

  • The e-pawns cover important central squares (e5, e4, f4 and f5) and allows Black to concentrate on flank play.
  • The open d- and f-files enhance Black's grip on e4 and f4.
  • Black's king is relatively safe and useful in the centre.
However, what's perhaps even more important in practical play is the fact that we have a somewhat unusual pawn structure with which Black is likely to have the more experience. Inexperienced players are quite likely to overestimate White's chances and may press too hard for an advantage which in reality is very small.

8.f3 Bd6

The main alternative 8...Bc5 9.Na4 Bd6 10.Be3 leads to a subtly different position. Probably the knight is better off on a4 than on c3:

a) 10...b6 11.Nh3 Ke7 12.Nf2 c5 13.b3 Nc6 14.Nd3 Nb4 15.Kd2 h6 16.Nab2 Nc6 17.Nc4 Bc7 18.c3 += Gomez Esteban-Zvjaginsev, Terrassa 1996.
b) 10...Nfd7 11.Nh3 Ke7 12.Nf2 Nc6 13.Nd3 Nb4 14.Nxb4 Bxb4+ 15.Ke2 b5 16.a3 Bd6 17.Nc3 a6 18.a4 += Vaisser-Epishin, Novosibirsk 1993.
c) 10...Nbd7 11.0–0–0 Ke7 12.Nh3 b5 13.Nc3 Rhb8 14.Nf2 b4 15.Ne2 a5 unclear Gipslis-Moskalenko, Alushta 1993.

9.Be3 a6

It was only after this move I fully realized that Black plans to expand with ...b5 and ...c5 rather than with ...c6 and ...a5-a4 as he usually does in similar positions with the pawn on f6 rather than on e6. 


I found this more flexible than immediately deciding where to develop my king's knight. However, transpositions are very likely:

a) 10.Nge2 Ke7 11.0–0–0 Nc6 12.Rd2 ½–½ Aroshidze-Gelashvili, Sort 2007.
b) 10.Nh3 Nc6 11.0–0–0 Ke7:
b1) 12.Nf2 ½–½ Aroshidze-Gelashvili, Benasque 2007.
b2) 12.Nb1 h6 13.Nd2 b5 14.c3 ½–½ V.Gurevich-Savchenko, Cappelle la Grande 1994.
b3) 12.Ne2 b5 13.Nf2 Rhf8 14.Nd3 Nd7 15.Kb1 Na5 16.b3 Nb7 17.Rhf1 Rf7 18.Bg5+ Kf8 19.Bc1 Kg8 20.Bb2 ½–½ Mamedov-Ftacnik, Saint Vincent 2005.

10...Ke7 11.Nh3
11.Rd2 Nbd7 12.Nge2 Rhd8 13.Rhd1 Bc5 14.Rxd7+ Nxd7 15.Rxd7+ Rxd7 16.Bxc5+ Kf6 of Beliavsky-Fridman, Enschede 2005 seems unclear to me (but may have been crystal clear for Beliavsky).
11...b5 12.Nf2 (Dia)


This may not be a big mistake but it reduces Black's options on the kingside so he will no longer be able to generate much activity himself.

After 12...Nbd7 13.Rd2 (13.Ne2!?) 13...Rhb8 (13...Nb6 14.b3 Rhb8 15.Kb2 Nfd7 16.Rhd1 h6 17.Ne2 Bb4 18.c3 Bd6 19.f4 exf4 20.Nxf4 += Nevostrujev-Zemerov, Novosibirsk 2002) some examples of play are:

a) 14.Ne2 a5 15.Kb1 h6 16.Rhd1 a4 ½–½ Ovetchkin-Maletin, Nizhnij Tagil 2007.
b) 14.Kd1 Nb6 15.Bxb6 Rxb6 16.Ke2 Nd7 17.Ncd1 Rbb8 18.Ne3 += S.Reppen-Markosian, Tromsoe 2007.
c) 14.h4 Nb6 15.b3 Nbd7 16.Kb2 a5 17.a4 bxa4 18.Nxa4 Nb6 19.Nxb6 cxb6 20.Rhd1 +/- Karjakin-Kodinets, Internet blitz 2003.

13.h4 Nc6 14.Nd3 Nd7 15.h5 Rhf8 16.Rh3 Rf7 17.Ne2

After Black's 12th move g6 is a weakness, so I was considering f3-f4.

17...Na5 18.Bf2

I like this retreat. The bishop cannot stay in both the attractive diagonals (a7-g1 and h4-d8) but at least it can threaten to enter both.

18...Raf8 19.c3 Nc6 20.Kc2 a5 21.b3 Ra8 22.Rg1 Raf8 23.Bh4+ Nf6 24.Bf2 (Dia)

In reality this is a draw offer. It suited me well, as I was tired and my opponent was clearly higher rated than me. So speculating how to proceed playing for a win is mainly an academic exercize:

a) Rybka initially likes 24.Rg3 (which was one of my ideas when playing 16.Rh3) but when I follow up Rybka's suggestions it doesn’t seem to lead anywhere.
b) In the post mortem I suggested 24.g4 but I quickly got a position without potential. I wish I could remember the lines because now, in company with Rybka, 24...Kd7 25.g5 hxg5 26.Bxg5 seems moderately promising.
c) My next post mortem suggestion was 24.Ra1 Ra8 and now 25.g4. This looks promising after 25...a4 26.b4 but 25...Kd7 26.a4 b4 must be OK for Black.

24...Nd7 25.Bh4+ Nf6 26.Bf2 Nd7 27.Bh4+ ½–½

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On the d-pawn specials forum under the post Problematic London System line, their has beeen a heated debate about the line 1 d4 d5 2 Bf4 Bf5 followed by 3...e6 and 4...Bd6. I was wondering what your thoughts are on this line.