Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Here is some fireworks for the new year:

Salaske-Leisebein, corr 1988

1.b4 e5 2.Bb2 Bxb4 3.Bxe5 Nf6 4.c4 0–0 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.Bb2 Re8 7.e3 d5 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.Be2 Rxe3!? 10.fxe3 Nxe3 11.Qc1 (Dia)

In earlier entries I have had a look at 11.Qb3. I assume I will have to return to 11.Qa4 some day.


This is natural and probably more promising than 11...Bf5, e.g. 12.Kf2 Nc2 13.Rd1 Qe7 14.Nc3 Rd8 15.Na4 Nxa1 16.Bxa1 Re8 17.Re1 +/- Bungo-Le.Karlsson, corr 1990.

12.Kf2 Bh3

Again this seems to be the critical try. After 12...Nf4 13.d4 Nxe2 14.Kxe2 Bg4 15.Qf4 Bxf3+ 16.Kxf3 Qd5+ 17.Qe4 Qh5+ 18.Kf2 f5 19.Qd5+ White had a clear advantage in Engelhardt-Rollwitz, Berlin 1995.

13.Rg1! Qe7 14.d4 (Dia)

White may also try 14.Ba3 Re8 15.Bb5 Ne5 16.Rxg2 when Black has these options:

a) 16...Bxg2 17.Kxg2 Nxf3 18.Bxe8 Qe2+ 19.Kg3 h5 (19...Ne1 20.Bxf7+ Kh8 looks winning for Black) 20.Bxf7+ Kxf7 21.Qxc7+ Kg6 22.Qxb7 (22.Qd7 Kh6 23.h4 Nxh4 is no better) 22...Qxh2+ 0–1

b) 16...Qf6!? 17.Be2 Ng4+ 18.Rxg4 Bxg4 19.Bd1 Bxf3 20.Bxf3 Qxa1 21.Bxb4 Qd4+ 22.Kg2 Qxb4 –+.

Tilp-Hammerschmidt, corr 1988.

14...Re8 15.Bd3

15.Bb5 is met by 15...a6


This looks sufficient for at least equality. Alternatives are:

a) 15...Be1+? 16.Rxe1 Nxe1 17.Qxe1 Qd7 18.Qd1 Nb4 19.Nc3 Nxd3+ 20.Qxd3 Qg4 21.Rg1 1–0 Woelfelschneider-Guenther, corr 1990.

b) 15...Ne3 16.Nc3 (16.d5 Nf5 17.dxc6 Bc5+ 0–1 Milligan-J.Svensson, corr 1995) 16...Ng4+ 17.Rxg4 Bxg4 18.Qf4 Bxf3 19.Kxf3 Bd6 20.Nd5 Bxf4 21.Nxe7+ Nxe7 22.Kxf4 Nd5+ 23.Kg4 g6 = Schuehler-Salaske, corr 1989.

c) 15...Qf6 16.Qg5? (16.Nbd2 Nf4 17.Bb5 Qf5 18.Bc4 Bg4 19.Rg3 h5 unclear) 16...Be1+ 17.Rxe1 Nxe1 18.Bxh7+ Kxh7 19.Qh5+ Kg8 –+ Frenzel-Nebe, corr 1989.


16.Qh6!? Ng6 17.Qg5 may be an improvement.

16...f6 (Dia)


This may hand Black the advantage, so White should investigate line c) below.

a) 17.Qxg7+? Qxg7 18.Rxg7+ Kxg7 19.Nxh4 Be1+ 20.Kf3 Bxh4 –+.

b) 17.Qxh4? Qe3+ 18.Kg3 Qxd3! 19.Qxh3 Bd6+ 20.Kh4 (20.Kg2 Re2+ 21.Kh1 Qxf3+! 22.Qxf3 Rxh2#) 20...Re4+ 21.Rg4 (21.Kh5 g6+ –+) 21...g5+ 22.Kh5 Rxg4 0–1 Dziel-Zarebski, corr 1993.

c) 17.Bc4+ Kh8 18.Qxh4 Qe3+ 19.Kg3 Bd6+ 20.Kxh3 Qxf3+ 21.Rg3 Bxg3 22.Nd2 and the position is unclear.

17...Nxf3 18.Kxf3 g5 19.Nc3 Qg7

Rybka's 19...Kh8! looks like a worthwhile improvement.

20.Nd5 gxf4 21.Nxf6+ Kf8 22.Rxg7 Re3+ 23.Kxf4 Rxd3 24.Rxh7 Bd2+ 25.Ke4 Re3+ (Dia)

The position is totally bewildering. I would be more worried with White than with Black. However, this was a correspondence game (as most other examples in this line) and it seems the players were able to handle it correctly.

26.Kf4 Rb3+ 27.Ke4 Bg2+ 28.Kf5 Ne7+ 29.Ke6 Rb6+ 30.Ke5 Nc6+ 31.Kf5 Rxb2 32.Rh8+ 1/2–1/2

Addendum January 27th
There are three quite interesting articles by Tim Harding on the Sokolsky and even this 9...Rxe3 variation on Chess Cafe:

How Sokolsky Played the Sokolsky
Significant Games in the Sokolsky Opening
Goodbye to the Friendly Orang-Utan

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Missing the Veresov

Opening preferences are not only a matter of analysis and preparations. At least for some of us personal preferences, practical considerations and even nostalgia come into consideration. For roughly ten years I almost exclusively played the Veresov Opening (1.d4 d5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bg5 or 1...Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Bg5) (Dia) with White.

Initially it worked great, and indeed there is a lot to be said in its favour:
  • White develops quickly and avoids any weakening pawn moves.
  • It has a certain surprise value and is somewhat underestimated by theory.
  • Play is often sharp with opposite castling.
  • The move-orders 1...Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 and 1...d5 2.Nc3 Nf6 are equally valid - making it an almost universal system.
However, I finally had to give it up. The main reasons were:

  • Thanks to ChessBase all my opponents started spending their evening before the game preparing for the Veresov and most of the surprise value was lost.
  • I started facing theoretical problems in several lines simultaneously and had no time to do the necessary repair between tournaments.
  • There were no top players employing the opening regularly, so the supply of high-level ideas were too small.
  • The good literature on the opening started to date and the new works were of low quality.
After I gave the Veresov up the situation has improved slightly with Miladinovic and Morozevich playing the opening relatively frequently (there are always some GMs employing it as a surprise weapon but their contributions are usually of a more practical than theoretical nature). There also appeared a book by Nigel Davies - 'The Veresov: Surprise Your Opponents with the Tricky 2 Nc3!' which contained quite a few interesting ideas. I will not say that it's a great book but it's well written and generally it's very decent workmanship as one has come to expect from Davies.

Yet I have not taken up the Veresov again. The main reason is that I have not found a line I am happy with after 3...Nbd7. It's really surprising that such a modest move should prove such a challenge. I used to play 4.f3 but have completely lost faith in that line. I also have experimented with 4.Qd2 which generally leads to the same kind of positions as 4.f3 and which 4.Qd3 which actually may give White a minimal advantage. Even 4.e4 I review from time to time. However, after reading Davies' book the move which interests me the most is 4.e3!?, planning a Stonewall set-up with f4, Nf3 and 0-0 against most of Black's replies. There is, however, one major problem: after the modest-looking 4...e6, Davies' suggestion 5.Qf3 seems to lead White into a difficult position after 5...Bb4 (Dia).

Eric Prie has something to say about this in his May column at Chess Publishing.

So I am still looking for something promising for White after 3...Nbd7. In the meantime I will improve my London-files in preparation for Bangkok Chess Club Open.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Return to Tournament Chess

In April I will play Bangkok Chess Club Open. This is Bangkok Chess Club's 9th international tournament and I am convinced it will be just as well organized as the two I have played previously. Also the accommodation offered at Aisawan Resort and Spa no doubt will be a pleasure (and a bargain for the players).

The fact that the prizes are higher than ever with a top prize of approximately 2.000 Euros is of no direct interest to me. I would be a very poor man indeed if my income depended on my tournament results. However, an indirect effect may be a stronger field than usual. There are already four GMs registered and no doubt the lower ranks will soon fill up. Due to no fault of the organizers in several previous tournaments it has been a problem that quite a few of the stronger participants have never arrived. First there was the Sars epidemic, then the next year - a few days before tournament start - a top Russian trainer died and most of the titled Russians canceled. Another year there was a problem with visas for Myanmar players (who had some very attractive Elo numbers) and so on. I really hope that this year the organizers will face no such problems!

This will be my first serious tournament for at least four years, so I am quite worried about my chess form. My online blitz ratings are quite worrying unless I count only the peaks and the few tournament games I have played have been of a general low quality. I promise to not turn this blog into one more of the training diaries that can be found everywhere on the net but the subject may pop up in future entries.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Leif Erlend Plays the Stonewall

During the eighties and nineties most Norwegian top players played the Dutch Stonewall. Headed by Agdestein, the GMs Djurhuus, Gausel, Tisdall and Østenstad, as well as some of the IMs and promising juniors all collected experience in this solid but unbalancing system. During the chess Olympiad in Dresden not only Carlsen but also another Norwegian GM took up the tradition:

Frhat - L.Johannessen, Olympiad Dresden 2008
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3
With 3.Nc3 White gets some extra options against the Triangle set-up as well as against the Queen's Gambit Declined.

Via a slightly different move-order Johannessen arrives at the same position as Magnus got against Rowson. This is among Black's sharper options against 1.d4 as he may now consider capturing the c-pawn and try to keep it. Was this team preparation for the Norwegian boys?
Rowson preferred 4.e3 after which Magnus went for the Stonewall with 4...Bd6 and 5...f5 anyway. Would 4.Qc2 have lead to the same reaction?
Now it's a Stonewall structure. With White's knight already committed to f3, some quite critical lines with Nh3 are eliminated.
5.Bg2 Nf6
Just as Magnus, Leif Erlend avoids the attempts to give the position an independent twist with the ...Qf6 idea.
6.0–0 Bd6 7.b3
7.Bf4 is the principal alternative.
This is one of the three or four main branches of the Stonewall and quite deeply investigated by strong Grandmasters. Although this as far as I know is Leif Erlend's first Stonewall game, he wasn't totally unprepared as he has been reviewing a copy of our manuscript for 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch'. I also think he got some advise from Simen Agdestein before the game - at least that's the impression I got when I had a few words with him on Tuesday.
This is among the easier systems for Black to equalize against but possibly among the harder to play for a win against.
8...a5 9.Ba3 b6 10.Qc1

From this square the White queen can go to:
- a3, offering a queen exchange
- b2, fighting for control over e5
- f4, (as in the game) offering a change of pawn structure.
10...Bb7 11.Bxd6 Qxd6 12.Qf4!?
This seems to be a new move if not a new idea. Now we get a pawn structure normally arising from an exchange of bishops on f4. White gets total control over e5 but relatively few active possibilities.
a) 12.Na3 0–0 13.Nc2 Na6 14.Nce1 Nb4 15.Nd3 c5 16.Rd1 Rac8 17.Qb2 Ne4 18.Rac1 ½–½ Ustianovich-Hermanov, Lvov 2003.
b) 12.Nbd2 Nbd7 13.Qb2 0–0 14.Rac1 Rac8 15.Rfd1 f4 16.Ne5 fxg3 17.hxg3 Qe7 18.Nd3 Ng4 19.Nf3 Ba6 20.Qd2 h6 21.Bh3 Ndf6 22.Nf4 Ne4 23.Qe1 Rxf4 24.gxf4 Ngxf2 25.Bg2 ½–½ Donaldson-Herder, Vancouver 2000.
c) 12.Qa3 and now:
c1) 12...Ke7 13.Qb2 Rc8 14.Nbd2 Na6 15.Ne5 Rc7 16.h3 Kf8 17.g4 Kg8 18.e3 Rf8 = Yedidia-Vaisser, France 1996.
c2) 12...c5 13.cxd5 exd5 14.Nc3 Nc6 15.Qc1 0–0 16.Rd1 Nb4 17.Qf4 Qxf4 18.gxf4 Ne4 = Brito Garcia-Ulibin, Benasque 1992.
12...Qxf4 13.gxf4 Na6 14.Nbd2 Ke7 15.Rfc1 Rac8 16.e3 Rhd8 17.cxd5 (Dia)

This is very sound and very equal. If Black is playing for more than a draw, 17...exd5 probably had to be tested. There is very little direct risk involved as White has no realistic target and no pawn breaks. But if Black plays for ...c5 or ...g5 White will get his share of the play.
18.Ne5 Nb4 19.Bf1 Rg8 20.Bb5 Kd6
This is roughly as good as any other move but there is an implicit draw offer. Normal (verbal) draw offers were only allowed after move 30.
21.Nf7+ Ke7 22.Ne5 Kd6 23.Nf7+ Ke7 24.Ne5 ½–½