Friday, July 30, 2010

A New Barry Idea

These days I am reading Cyrus Lakdawala’s “Play the London System”. It’s an interesting read and I will probably return to the subject.

Our understanding of one opening is often influenced by our understanding (or lack of such) of other openings. I was curious when I saw Lakdawala briefly discard Black’s traditional mainline in the Barry attack (1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 Nf6 3.e3 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Be2 0–0 6.Nc3 c5 is the relevant London move-order) with the explanation that ‘7.dxc5 transposes to a favourable Reversed Catalan’ and some relatively brief variations. I must admit that the Catalan is not my field of expertise so I had to take a closer look at his variations - in particular as I had explored this line when researching ‘A Killer Chess Opening Repertoire’ (and concluded that Summerscale’s 7.Ne5 probably still is White’s best try):


This is the most popular reply and the only one mentioned in the book although 7...Nbd7!? has been played by Khalifman among others.


The exclamation mark is by Lakdawala and the move probably is White’s best try.


This is clearly most popular. Somewhat mysteriously Lakdawala gives the rare 8...Ne4!? as his main line. After 9.Ncxe4 dxe4 10.0–0 Nc6 11.c3 f5 12.Nb3 of Hodgson-Gullaksen, Stavanger 1989 he concludes that Black doesn’t have enough for his pawn.

9.Nb3 Qb6 10.Nb5!

Again the exclamation mark is by Lakdawala. White has also tried 10.0-0, 10.a4 and 10.Nxd5?!.

10...Ne8! (Dia)

This is not mentioned in the book but has been played by Hebden and Lars Bo Hansen among others and is given an exclamation mark by Ftachnik in Megabase. Lakdawala only mentions 10...Na6 11.Be5! and White probably is better as ‘Bd4 is in the air’. The move is far from obvious but as there clearly are some threaths to c7 it's not particularly surprising either.


What else? Black was threatening ...e5 as well as ...Bxb2.

11...Bxb2 12.Rb1 Bg7 13.0–0 Nc6 14.c4 (Dia)

Not 14.N5d4? e5! 15.Nxc6 bxc6 and Black wins.

So far everything seems very natural if not entirely forced. Now it seems Black has at least two ways to equalize (as a matter of fact Rybka also thinks 14...a6!? and 14...e5 look OK):
A: 14...Bf5 15.Rbd1 Nf6

Or 15...Nb4 16.Qd2 Na6 17.Nc3 Nf6 18.Qc1 Rac8 19.Be5 Be6 20.Bd4 Qb4 = L.B.Hansen-Djurhuus, Reykjavik 1995.

16.Qc5 e5 17.Bg3 Ne4 18.Qxb6

Rybka claims that 18.Qa3 is equal. That may well be right; the position looks somewhat strange and I find it hard to evaluate.

18...axb6 19.Ra1 Rfd8  and in Akselrod-Salinnikov, Tomsk 2003 Black was clearly better thanks to his activity.

B: 14...Nf6 15.Qc5 e5! 16.Bg3 Ne4 (Dia)

This too looks fine for Black who is active and has the bishop pair.
a) 7.Qxb6 axb6 18.a3 Bf5 =+ Rogers-Fedorowicz, Groningen 1990.

b) 17.Qa3 and now 17...Nxg3 18.hxg3 Rb8 (18...Rd8?! 19.c5 +/- Klimets-Gerasimovitch, St Petersburg 2002) 19.c5 Qd8 20.Rfd1 probably is a little better for White. However, Rybka thinks that 17...Bf5 as well as 17...Be6 is at least OK for Black.

I have not found a path to advantage for White after 7.dxc5. That doesn't mean there isn't one, but Lakdawala's explanation clearly isn't sufficient for me. Maybe someone who knows more about the Catalan (and consequently more about the Reversed Catalan too) can point me in the right direction?


Alan said...

Maybe 14.c4 is a mistake, although it seems to be the main move that has been played here.

Instead both Fritz and Rybka prefer Qc5. With the pawn still on c2 then ...Bf5 can perhaps be met with Bd3.

Anonymous said...

great information you write it very clean. I am very lucky to get this tips from you.

Sverre Johnsen said...


Thanks for contributing!

You may be right. After 14.c4 Rybka gives the natural continuation 14...e5 15.Bg3 Bf5. Then the strange 16.Rfc1 is on top at 17 ply ahead of a number of other seemingly irrelevant moves like 16.a3, 16.f3 and 16.Rfe1. At roughly the same evalution (0.08) is the more natural 16.Bd3.

My (amateurish) evaluation: The position is roughly level but quite difficult to play for both sides.

woodm said...

Hey Sverre!

I'm trying to figure out a way to contact you, and this posting seems best for such a question.

You have contributed to or written books on two opening systems for white that I'm looking at adopting: The London system, and the 3 pronged system as described in "A Killer Chess Opening Repertoire".

I'm JUST getting into chess, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on the comparison between the two.

Also, I love reading the content on your blog. The tree of D-pawn openings you recently went through was beautiful, and I'm sure not only because I'm trying to piece together a "starting out" repertoire for white. Thanks for all the content!

Anonymous said...

Very Interesting!
Thank You!

Anonymous said...

I really liked all your books and in particular, your "Ruy Lopez a Guide for Black" and consider it the best book writen on a Spanish main line so far. It is curious that an old opening like the Ruy Lopez have so few great books writen so far. When can we hope to see another great Sverre Spanish book in another main line, maybe the Breyer? I heard that GM Kaufman is writing a second edition of his "Chess Advantage in Black and White" choosing the Breyer this time and would be great to see another great book of Gambit!

Zagreb 1959

Sverre Johnsen said...

Zagreb 1959,

I am glad you liked the Ruy Lopez Guide. The book is my favorite too and has had very good reviews but unfortunately isn't selling well. There isn't much money in authoring chess books anyway so you would think it doesn't really matter. However, an unfortunate side effect is that there will be no reprint, and therefore no opportunity to correct a few typos or add a missing line or so.

For the moment I am not very structured in my writings - mainly because I don't have a lot of time available. One of the projects I am working on is actually a Ruy Lopez book. However, it is on the Norwegian variation (3...a6 4.Ba4 b5 5.Bb3 Na5) and (at least the first edition) will be in Norwegian language too.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sverre,

Yes, I like it a lot and consider it the perfect format for presentation of an opening. Another book in the same format is "Understanding the Grunfeld"- J. Rowson. It´s a pity to know that it is not selling well or there will be no reprint, because in my view that book deserves to be a classic. Maybe people are afraid of sharp variations or having to know a lot of theory but the closed Lopez is an important opening that will last.

It´s good to know about your project in a Norwegian variation. About the language there is no problem since chess is a universal language and since they invented google translation tools! Very interesting! Thank you!

Zagreb 1959