Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Early London

ChessBase products like MegaBase and BigBase contain millions of games and are excellent tools for opening research. But for historical research they can still not compete with old-fashioned books and magazines. However, acquiring antiquarian chess books can be expensive and even shifting rapidly through them is a quite time consuming activity.

Fortunately my club, Oslo Schakselskap, has got a nice library with some good collections of books as well as bound magazines - primarily in German language. And from time to time I spend some hours browsing for games of interest. This old London game I found in Deutsche Schachzeitung 5/1915.

G.Lovas - L.Asztalos,Budapest 1915
1.d4 d5 2.Bf4!?
This is the London move-order that interests me the most.
2...c5!? 3.e3

3.e4!? is a more enterprising option.
3...e6 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nd2 Qb6 6.Qb1
For some reason this queen position is more common in the Torre than in the London.
6...Bd7 7.Bd3 Nf6 8.Ngf3 Be7 9.0–0

As the annotator points out, 9.h3 is probably more exact.

Here 9...Nh5 would have been critical.
10.Ne5 Rfd8 11.Ndf3 Be8 12.Ng5 h6??

Now it's a forced mate in seven:
13.Bh7+ Kf8 14.Ng6+! fxg6 15.Nxe6+ Kf7 16.Qxg6+! 1-0 (16...Kxe6 17.Bg8+ Bf7 18.Bxf7+ Kd7 19.Qf5 is mate)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Stonewall History

When writing a chess book I am always careful not to turn it into an academic exercise. Chessplayers are looking for points not education and they are definitely not paying for history lessons. However, as an author you are obliged to do at least some historical research - even if the result has to be condensed into a couple of paragraphs in the final manuscript.

One of my small side projects when preparing a manuscript on the Dutch Stonewall is to trace the origins of the name. For the moment I know next to nothing. For obvious reasons I assume the name is a de
scription of the pawn formation and not a family name or a place. I suspect the name may first have been used about a black set-up after 1.d4 d5 or quite possibly about the white system 1.d4 d5 2.e3.

The development of the Stonewall ideas is of course something entirely different. First of all one may note that the formation seems to be relatively old. Among ChessBase's older entries we find:

A White Bird Stonewall:
L.De Labourdonnais - A.McDonnell, London 1834: 1.f4 d5 2.d4 c5 3.e3 Nc6 4.Nf3 Nf6

A Double Stonewall:
G.Walker - P.De Saint Amant, London 1836: 1.d4 e6 2.c4 f5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 c6 5.f4 d5

An Anti Bird Stonewall:
P.De Saint Amant, - W. Fraser, Lo
ndon 1836: 1.f4 f5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 d5 4.c4 c6 5.e3 e6

The first modern looking example I have come across so far is half a century younger:

P.Lipke - C.Walbrodt, Vienna 1898
1.d4 f5 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nf3 e6 4.g3
This is the modern way to meet the Dutch. Now it will be a bit harder for Black to develop his queen-side.
After this move we have a genuine Stonewall Dutch.
5.Bg2 c6 6.0–0 Be7
This bishop development is how Botwinnik used to play the Stonewall. The modern interpretation is 6...Bd6 in order to meet 7.b3 with 7...Qe7, preventing the exchange of dark-squared bishops.
7.Qc2 0–0 8.Bf4 Ne4 9.Nc3 Nd7 10.Ne5 Nxe5 11.Bxe5


This was the classical way to bring the dark-squared bishop into the fight over the e5-square. P.Ricardi-M.Tempone, Buenos Aires 1999 continued 11...Nd6 12.b3 Bd7 13.Na4 Nf7 14.Bf4 g5 15.Bd2 with a small advantage to White.
12.Bxf6 Nxf6 13.e3
Only here does the game depart from the more recent encounter J.Grant-L.Haraldsson, Calvia 2006 which continued 13.Rad1.
13...Qe7 14.Qb3 Kh8 15.Rad1 Rb8 16.Rfe1 Bd7 17.Ne2 Be8 18.Nf4 Bf7 19.cxd5 exd5 20.Nd3 Nd7 21.Rc1 Qd6 22.Qa4 Ra8 23.Rc3 Qe7 24.Rb3 Rfb8 25.Rc1 Bh5 26.Rbc3 Be2 27.Nf4 Bc4 28.Qa3 Qxa3 29.Rxa3 Re8 30.h4 a5 31.Ra1 g6 32.Rc3 Nf6 33.b3 Ba6 34.f3 Kg8 35.Kf2 ½–½


The position is equal as Black's bishop is in no way inferior to its black counter-part. The g4-break achieves nothing for White as ...fxg4 and fxg4 will secure the e4-square for Black's knight.

Monday, June 25, 2007

A Wild Beast

A few years ago I wrote a small booklet on the line 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 a6!? (Dia.) with the title "The Tiger".
The title was inspired mainly by Rekom and Jansen's "The Lion" on the somewhat related line 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nbd7. My booklet was distributed mainly as pdf-files but a few printed copies were made on my job's printer. I played it in a few games myself and even a few of the readers were tempted to test it (with varying success).

Then a few things happened:
1) I started writing books for Gambit - an activity that took most of my chess time.
2) I more or less stopped playing tournament chess (I will be back!)
3) There appeared a book called "Tiger's Modern", which concentrated on the Modern opening 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 and after most moves (4.f4, 4.Be3, 4.Nf3) the challenging 4...a6!?.

My Tiger Files were put aside and I noted that whenever I decided to reopen them, I would have to decide on a new name. Since then not so much have changed; I still have no time to update my old manuscript. However, a few weeks ago I devoted a quiet evening to checking my databases for developments in this line (and a few other favorites) and noticed that Cicak, one of its strongest practitioners, now has had some success with it:

M.Meinhardt - Cicak, Stuttgart Ch. (Gerlingen) 2007
1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 a6!?
Black delays or omits the weakening ...g6. Against White's more timid set-ups he will probably play it after having first created some queen-side play with ...b5. Against others he will probably avoid it altogether, preferring a more solid set-up with ...e6 or ...e5 depending on circumstances.

This can hardly be the critical test but it's quite likely to bring the play back to Pirc waters.
a) 4.f4 e6 5.Nf3 c5 6.dxc5 Qa5 7.Bd3 Qxc5 8.Qe2 Nbd7 9.Be3 Qc7 10.Bd4 Nc5 11.0–0–0± Bartel-Cicak, Cork 2005
b) 4.Bg5 e6 and now:
b1) 5.Bd3 Be7 6.Nf3 Nbd7 7.0–0 h6 8.Bh4 Nxe4 9.Bxe7 Nxc3 10.Bxd8 Nxd1 11.Bxc7 Nxb2 12.Bxd6 Nxd3 13.cxd3 Nb6 =+ Galdunts-Cicak, Germany 2004.
b2) 5.Qf3 Be7 6.0–0–0 Nfd7 7.h4 Bxg5+ 8.hxg5 Qxg5+ 9.Kb1 Nc6 10.Rh5 Qe7 11.Qg3 g6 12.Rh6 Qf8 13.Rh4 Qg7 14.Nf3 Ne7 15.Qh2 += E.Berg-Cicak, Gothenburg 2006.
Now the game takes on Pirc characteristics. 4...e5 would also be perfectly sensible, reaching a position from the modern Philidor Defence with the added moves a4 and ...a6
This too looks fairly harmless.
a) 5.Nf3 would probably lead to a well known Classical Pirc position after 5...Bg7 6.Be2 0-0 7.0-0 b6.
b) One of my games went 5. Bc4?! Bg7 6. Qe2 Nc6 7. Nf3 Bg4 8. Be3 e5 9. dxe5 Nxe5 when I was already slightly better in V.Hansen-Johnsen, Norwegian Open
(Gausdal) 2000.
The obvious 5...Bg7 is also fine: 6.Bg2 0–0 7.Nge2 Nc6 8.0–0 e5 9.dxe5 Nxe5 10.h3 Re8 = L.Campos-Movsziszian, Albacete 2002.
6.Bg2 Bb7 7.Nge2 Nbd7 8.0–0 c5 9.Re1 cxd4 10.Nxd4 Rb8 11.h3 Bg7 12.Nd5 e5
Clearly Cicak isn't too obsessed with classical strategy. The hole at d5 and the backward d-pawn look ugly but doesn't actually bother Black much.
13.Nxf6+ Nxf6 14.Nb3 0–0 15.c4 Qc7 16.Nd2 Nd7 17.b3 Nc5 18.Nb1 f5 (Dia.)

From a slow start Black has now organized his forces and is ready to attack.
19.Nc3 f4 20.Nd5 Qf7 21.Ra2 Bxd5 22.cxd5 a5 23.Ba3 h5 24.b4 axb4 25.Bxb4 Bh6 26.Qc2 Rbc8 27.Qb1
Around here Black's position looks very promising.
27...Qe7 28.Ra3 fxg3 29.fxg3 Na6 30.Bc3 Qa7 31.Kh1 Rf2 32.Rf1 Qf7 33.Rxf2 Qxf2 34.Qf1 Qxf1+ 35.Bxf1 Nc5 36.Bg2 Bc1 37.Ra2 Nd3

Black's attack has disappeared but his pieces are clearly more active and White's pawns are vulnerable.

38.Bd2 Bxd2 39.Rxd2 Nc5 40.Ra2 Ra8 41.Rb2 Ra6
White's a-pawn is doomed anyway.
42.Rb4 Kf7 43.Bf3 Nxa4 44.Be2 Ra5 45.Kg2 Ke7 46.Kf3 Nc5 47.h4 Ra3+ 48.Kf2 Kd7 49.g4 Rh3
Now it's clearly decided.
50.Rxb6 Nxe4+ 51.Kg2 Rxh4 52.Rb7+ Ke8 53.gxh5 gxh5 54.Rh7 Nf6 55.Rh8+ Kf7 0–1

Obviously the result was not determined by the opening but that probably was what Black was hoping for anyway.

Could "The Panther" be a good name? I believe it quite fittingly is used mainly about the black variety of the big cats.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Learn from Your Books

Writing chess books is not very financially rewarding - at least not if you want to write a good one and in addition need to share your royalties with a co-author. It can be emotionally rewarding if you are happy with the result and the critics like it too. But how rewarding is it for your chess? I honestly don’t know. I am convinced I have learned a lot when writing my two previous books, and the third one looks very promising too. But writing takes time that could have been spent playing chess (among other things), and there is little doubt that the best I could do for my playing strength right now would be to play a bit more chess!

In a way co-authoring a book with a grandmaster is the perfect learning tool: First you do your very best to understand and systemize all available material on an opening and write it down. Then you have a strong player to answer your questions and point out your misunderstandings and the subtleties and move-order finesses you didn’t note. Finally - as a last check that everything is crystal clear - you have to verbalize it all as lucidly as possibly. So far everything seems perfect.

Unfortunately it doesn’t end there. Books usually are published and some of them even sell well. After a while you must suspect that your opponent has scrutinized your analysis and have some improvements ready. At this point you have to ask yourself if you learned something from the writing process that is not publicly available. And in my experience there usually are quite a few lines that did not quite make it to the book but are still eminently playable.

One such line that got only a passing mention in “The Ruy Lopez: A Guide for Black” is Kuzmin’s Closed Ruy Lopez variation:

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 b5!? (5...Be7 is the most common path to the Closed Ruy) 6.Bb3 d6!? (Dia.)

Black’s moves so far are not very committal and can be played with various ideas in mind. If allowed, Black would like to develop his kingside with ...g6, ...Bg7 and ...0-0 rather than the somewhat cumbersome ...Be7, ...0-0, ...Re8, ...Bf8, ...g6 and ...Bg7 which Black in the standard Closed Ruy Lopez lines often completes around move 20.

The most obvious question is what happens if White immediately attacks f7:


This probably is too optimistic. The critical 7.c3 and some minor alternatives will be the subject of a future blog entry.

7...d5 8.exd5 Nd4 (Dia.)

This position should be compared to the one arising from the Fritz variation in the Two Knight’s Defence (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nd4!?). Despite Black's tempo loss (...d6 and ...d5) it's clear that Black's chances have been improved by the extra moves ...a6, ...b5 and Bb3. The essential difference is that Black now threatens to remove White's strong light-squared bishop.


This is the natural move, but White has also tried 9.d6, 9.c3 and the somewhat surprising 9.Qe1 which has been preferred by Kveinys among others.


This probably is even stronger than 9...Bd6 which however was good enough for Fuentes to beat Capablanca in a simultaneous exhibition in Madrid 1935.


a) 10.Nf3?! Bg4 11.Rxe5+ Kf8 12.d3 Bd6 13.Rg5 Bxf3 14.gxf3 Qd7 15.Kh1 Qh3 16.f4 Nf3 17.Rg2 Re8 wins for Black. This is only semi-forced, but obviously difficult for White.

b) 10.h3 0–0 11.d3 Nxd5 12.Nc3 Nxb3 13.axb3 f6 14.Nge4 Nxc3 15.bxc3 Bb6 16.Ba3 += Prathamesh-Khruschiov, Moscow 2006

10...Kf8 (Dia.)


You may wonder how a player of Korchnoi’s caliber (oh yes, he was already a world class player 56 years ago!) could do such a horrible move. Most of the explanation probably is that White is more or less lost whatever he does:

a) 11.h3 Nd7 12.Nxf7 Qf6 13.Re3 Qxf7 14.c3 Nxb3 15.Rf3 Nf6 16.axb3 Qxd5 and Black had a piece for a couple of pawns and was probably winning in Deshmukh-Peng Xiaomin, Calcutta 2000.

b) 11.Re3 Bg4 12.Qe1 Nxb3 13.Rxb3 Qxd5 is also very difficult for White, e.g. 14.Nc3 Qxg5 15.d4 Qh4 16.dxc5 Re8 and Black should be winning again.


Black is winning already.

12.Nge4 Qh4

This probably is a bit more exact than 12...Nxe5 13.Nxc5 which should also win.


Don’t forget that the rook at e5 is hanging.

13...Qxh5 14.h3 Qh4 15.Nxc5 Qxf2+

Even stronger would have been 15...Nxf2! 16.Qf1 Nxh3+ 17.gxh3 Qg3+ 18.Qg2 Nf3+ 19.Kh1 Qe1+ with mate to follow.

16.Kh1 Qg3 17.hxg4 Bxg4 18.Qf1 Nf3! 19.gxf3 Bxf3+ 20.Qxf3 Qxf3+ 0–1 Korchnoi-Estrin, Chigorin Memorial (Leningrad) 1951.