Sunday, July 29, 2007

Chigorin or Zaitsev

The Chigorin or the Zaitsev - that's the question; at least if you have decided to buy a book on the Closed Ruy Lopez for Black.

While there certainly are other aspects to be taken into account, one main consideration when choosing a repertoire based theory book, is the quality of the recommended lines.

In my and GM Leif E. Johannesen's "The Ruy Lopez: A Guide for Black" we primarily recommend the Zaitsev variation, starting 9...Bb7 10.d4 Re8 11.Nbd2 Bf8.

In "A Spanish Repertoire for Black" on the other hand, GM Mihail Marin recommends the Chigorin variation, starting 9...Na5 10.Bc2 c5 11.d4 Qc7.

So, what is best - Chigorin or Zaitsev?

Obviously there is no definite answer to that question. Both lines have been played at absolute top-level and have withstood detailed computer assisted analysis. But there nevertheless are some differences that may help you decide:
  • Zaitsev development is quicker and more natural.
  • Black's knight on a5 tends to create problems in the Chigorin.
  • The Chigorin is the oldest line, and has developed a correspondingly larger body of theory.
  • The Zaitsev tends to lead to sharper lines where both players must follow a narrower theoretical path.
  • In the Zaitsev Black must worry about weaker players going for a repetition of moves.
  • In the Chigorin Black tends to be a little passive for quite a long time.
  • In the Zaitsev mainlines Black's kingside tends to come under fire.
  • Experience pays well in the Chigorin and your results are likely to improve over time.
  • Strategic ideas tend to be clearer and easier to understand in the Zaitsev.
  • Chigorin strategy tends to be extremely slow and often quite subtle.
  • In the Zaitsev mainline the centre frequently becomes quite open.
  • In the Chigorin White can close the centre permanently with d5.
If that didn't help, I suppose the best you can do is comparing the mainlines and try to decide what suits your style the best. For the Zaitsev you only need to check my entry "Worthy of Study" to find the critical position. It's a bit harder when it comes to the Chigorin - actually I think identifying the Chigorin mainline could be a nice topic for a future blog entry.

In the meantime it's nice to know that even if you should happen to choose the wrong line (it could even be that the Breyer variation is the line for you!), there will be very little work wasted. Your study of one Closed Ruy Lopez line is almost guaranteed to deepen your understanding of any other line within that complex. And whenever you decide to do a switch you will save a lot of time.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Hard-Core Opening Theory

That's what you can find in this article at Chessvibes. It refers to my and Leif Johannessen's book on the Ruy Lopez. If you want to keep up with developments this certainly is a game to be noted.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Stonewall around the Corner

Much of my attention is centered around the Dutch Stonewall these days. I was exited to see that there seem to be some progress with Jacob Aagaard's 'Die Stonewall Verteidigung II'. Quality Chess' home page has no new information but I found a new date and a picture at ChessWare Schachversand. It's a bit confusing to find it announced as 'new' when it appears to be available only from August 6th but there now seem to be good reason to believe it will soon appear.

I wonder how a competing book will influence the sale of my book for Gambit. It's not at all clear that potential customers will buy only one. Actually, based on my own experience I would expect most Stonewall players to want both.

By the way there seems to be no news about Collins' 'Attacking Repertoire for Black' for Batsford.

Update 2007-08-04
Expected arrival of Aagaards's book at Chessware is now August 10th. A new delay but nothing dramatic. Still no news about Collin's book, which is still announced for August 1st at Niggemann.

Friday, July 20, 2007

More Retro Challenges

Here are a few more reconstruction challenges. How did this happen?

First a simple one. I believe I took less than two minutes to solve it blindfolded (or at least without a board):

1) Black's 4th move is 4...Re1+.

The next one I believe is harder. But I may be mistaken, as it was one of the first I tried to solve:
2) White plays the moves 1.f3, 2.Kf2, 3.Kg3, 4.Kh4. Black's 4th move is to give mate.

The last one probably is the hardest. Some 15 years ago we were three players trying to solve it, one of us a future grandmaster. It turned out that it was the lowest rated - a 1700-player - who showed up in the chess club the next evening with the correct solution:

3) A game opens 1.a3. White's 5th move is to give mate with a rook.

Have Fun!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Kuzmin Variation

Having concluded in a previous entry that 7.Ng5?! is fairly harmless, or even weak, it's time to take a look at White's subtler replies.

After the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 b5 6.Bb3 d6, it seems that 7.c3! must be the critical test.


Now d4 is no longer available for Black's knight and 8.Ng5 is becoming more of a threat.

This is Black's most popular follow up and removes pressure from the sensitive f7-pawn. In a reply to my 7.Ng5 entry, Phil Adams brought to my notice that Soltis in his new book ' Transpo Tricks in Chess' (Batsford 2007) briefly discusses this move-order. Obviously Bisguier used it mainly as a confusing transposition tool against Robatsch in Hastings 1961, here playing 7...Be7. That allows White to look for ways to omit or delay Re1 (as the e4-pawn is already protected by Bc2), but the White rook will be nicely placed on e1 so it will normally quickly transpose to a mainline Closed Ruy Lopez.

I had a look at 7...g6 8.Ng5 d5 9.exd5 but did not find anything that really looked playable for Black.

7...Bg4 is another active move that keeps open the option to develop with ...g6. Unfortunately it seems White can keep an edge with little risk:

a) 8.Qe2 mainly has historical interest: 8...Be7 9.Rd1 Na5 10.Bc2 c5 11.d3 Nc6 12.h3 Bd7 13.d4 += Stoltz-Alekhine, Salzburg 1942.

b) 8.Re1 is the start of a familiar plan for most players of the white side of the Ruy Lopez. White hopes to demonstrate that the active bishop mainly is a target and will play d3, Nbd2-f1-g3 and only then put the question to the bishop with h3. A relevant game went 8...Na5 9.Bc2 c5 10.d3 g6 11.Nbd2 Bg7 12.Nf1 0–0 13.h3 Bd7 14.Bg5 h6 15.Bh4 Qc7 16.Ne3 Be6 17.d4 Nc4 18.Nxc4 Bxc4 19.d5 b4 20.cxb4 g5 (20...cxb4 21.Ba4 +=) 21.Bg3 cxb4 22.Qd2 with some advantage to White in Unzicker-Bisguier, IZ (Gothenburg) 1955.

8.Bc2 c5

This increases Black's central presence, allows him to support his central pawns with ...Qc7 and seems generally consistent with his previous move. Still, b4 doesn't seem to be much of a threat yet, so I wonder if 8...g6 9.d4 Qe7 may be a possibility.

9.d4 Qc7

This seems necessary in order to support Black's central presence (but seen in light of the further course of the game you may wonder if 9...Qe7, planning ...g6 is an option).



This appears to be the critical move, and only if Black can pass this test he needs to worry about the alternatives 10.Re1, 10.h3 and 10.a4.


Well, this bishop development was Black's main idea. However, it's worth noting that one of Kuzmin's latest games with the line went 10...cxd4 11.cxd4 Bd7 12.Bd3 Be7 13.Qe2 0–0 14.b3 Nc6 15.Bb2 Bd8 16.a4 bxa4 17.dxe5 Nxe5 18.Nxe5 dxe5 19.bxa4 Bg4 20.Qe3 Be6 when the players agreed a draw even if White had the more comfortable position in Kindermann-Kuzmin, Panormo 2001.


Only this non-stereotyped move can cast doubt on Black's idea. 11.a4 b4 12.cxb4 cxb4 13.b3 exd4 14.Nxd4 Bg7 15.Bb2 0–0 16.Rc1 Nd7 17.Bb1 Qb6 was fine for Black in Vasiukov-Kasparian, Yerevan 1955.

11...cxb4 12.cxb4 Nc6 13.Bb2 Bg7

Actually the optimistic 13...Nxb4 14.Bb1 Nc6 seems playable but after 15.Qc2 Qb6 16.dxe5 dxe5 17.Nxe5 Nxe5 18.Bxe5 Bg7 19.Nb3 0–0 20.Bd4 White's advantage is fairly obvious.




Black's queen is exposed in the open c-file so this is a natural reaction. Black has also tried:

a) 14...Bb7? 15.Bb3 Qe7 16.Rxc6! Bxc6 17.dxe5 Nh5 18.g4 Nf4 19.exd6 +- Bronstein-Evans, Moscow 1955.

b) 14...0–0 15.Bb3 += was our conclusion in 'The Ruy Lopez: A Guide for Black', but on closer inspection it seems that Black has some quite serious problems: 15...Qb6 16.dxe5 dxe5 17.Nxe5 Nxe5 18.Bxe5 Bg4 19.Qc2 Rae8 and now Suetin-Ragozin, (URS Ch) Kiev 1954 was drawn after the moves 20.Qc7 Qxc7 21.Bxc7 Bh6 (this position is equal) 22.Rc6 Bxd2 23.Rxf6 Be2 24.Bd6 Bg5 25.Bxf8 Bxf6 26.Re1 Rxe4 27.Bc5 Bc3 28.f3 Bxe1 29.fxe4 Kg7. However, after 20.Qb2 Black has problems freeing his position.

15.Bb3 Nxd4

15...Bb7 16.a3 0–0 17.d5 Nd8 18.Rc3 gives White a clear advantage.

16.Nxd4 exd4 17.Bxd4 0–0 18.Re1 Be6 19.Nb1

Or 19.Bxe6 Qxe6 20.a4 with a small plus for White.

19...Bxb3 20.axb3

Now White will have some pressure down the semi-open a-file but his b-pawns are weak. I am not sure why White preferred this over 20.Qxb3 which seems to preserve a small advantage.

20...Nh5 21.Bxg7 Kxg7 22.Rc6 Rfd8 23.Nc3 Nf6 24.Qa1 Qe5 1/2–1/2 Vasiukov-Arulaid, Voroshilovgrad 1955.


It seems Black has a slightly harder task to equalize after 6...d6 7.c3 than in the Closed Ruy Lopez mainlines, but that to some extent should be compensated by the element of surprise. It would also be interesting to see a high level game with 9...Qe7.

Sunday, July 8, 2007


I am quite frustrated now and may decide to let this blog die unless I find an acceptable way to publish it. For some months now I have not been able to log on to my account with Internet Explorer. After a few weeks I discovered that I could blog in using Firefox and found the situation a bit more acceptable (but far from all computers have Firefox installed).

Today I discovered that my last entry (posted with Firefox) cannot be seen using Internet Explorer. That is probably around 90% of the potential readers and not acceptable. I assume there is a way around the problem but I have no time or inclination to spend time looking for it. So unless these problems fix themselves or I by accident find an easy solution, this may be goodbye.

When I published this entry, my previous entry apparently were 'published for IE' too. This is an improvement but not really satisfactory. I assume I will try a few more posts just to see what happens.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Retro Games

I suppose everybody with any interest for retrograde games (or shortest proof games) now have had their time to solve the tasks I offered in my March 23 entry:

1) Nunn's ChessBase puzzle 7: Construct a legal game that ends with (the black move) 5...Rh1 mate. Note that the last move is not a capture: 1.g4 h5 2.Bg2 hxg4 3.Bxb7! Rxh2! 4.Nh3! Bxb7 5.0–0 Rh1 mate.

2) Construct a legal game that opens 1.e4 and ends with (the black move) 5...NxR (knight takes rook) mate: 1.e4 Nf6 2.f3 Nxe4 3.Qe2 Ng3 4.Qxe7+! Qxe7+ 5.Kf2 Nxh1 mate.

3) Construct a legal game that ends with this position after EXACTLY four moves (that is eight half moves, four by White and four by Black): 1.e4 e6 2.Bb5 Ke7! 3.Bxd7! (Dia.)

3...c6 4.Be8! Kxe8.