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?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Queen's Pawn Family 1 - Overview

I have somewhere promised an overview and comparison of the so-called Queen's Pawn Openings (also known as D-pawn Specials or even D-pawn Deviations). That is basically all White's alternatives to the Queen's Gambit and the Catalan. In this first part I will only give a list and some brief comments.
Group IA: 1.d4 d5, alternatives to 2.Nf3 and 2.c4

1...d5 is an older move than 1...Nf6, so this is the classical starting position for the Queen's Pawn Openings. By deviating at this early point White makes sure that the game will be played on his homeground.

a) 2.g3?! - A poor relative of the Catalan. Black can equalize by an early ...c6 and ...Bf5.
b) 2.e3 - Introduces the Stonewall Attack (Bd3+f4+c3). A critical line is 2...Nf6 3.Bd3 Nc6.
c) 2.Bf4!? - The Neo-London. By some experts considered to revitalize the classical London system.
d) 2.Bg5!? - The Hodgson Opening. Frequently used as a companion system to the Trompowsky.
e) 2.e4?! - The Blackmar Diemer Gambit (BDG). Not entirely correct but many prefers to decline the pawn offer with 2...e6 (French) or 2...c6 (Caro Kann).
f) 2.Nc3!? - Normally leads to the Veresov Opening after 2...Nf6 3.Bg5 but 2...Bf5 may be best.
g) 2.a3!? - The Prie Opening. White argues that 2...c5 is too risky and all D-Pawn Specials are inferior (the more so a move down).
h) 2.c3?! - A sly but slow move which may lead to the Colle, the London or the Torre. 2...Nf6 followed by 3...Bf5 should equalize.
i) 2.Nd2 - Normally leads to some kind of Colle after 2...Nf6 3.e3.
j) 2.b3 - May lead to a Colle Zukertort but I cannot see how White can benefit from delaying e3 and Nf3.
k) 2.h3?! - A joke move favoured by some London players who will follow up with Bf4 and reach an only slightly inferior London.
l) 2.f4?! - A too primitive attempt to play the Stonewall Attack. 2...Nf6 followed by 3...Bf5 at least equalizes.

Group IB: 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6, alternatives to 3.c4 and 3.e3

2.Nf3 is a sound and flexible move and the starting point of most Queen's Pawn openings. Black has a few interesting alternatives to 2...Nf6, such as 2...c5 and 2...Bf5!? but most alternatives, including 2...c6 and 2...e6 allow White to go ahead with his planned set-up.

a) 3.g3?! - An inferior version of the Catalan 3...Bf5 or 3...c6 followed by 4...Bf5 equalizes.
b) 3.Bg5?! - An inferior version of the Torre. 3...Ne4 equalizes.
c) 3.Bf4 - The classical London System. 3...c5 4.e3 Nc6 5.c3 Qb6 6.Qb3 c4 7.Qc2 Bf5 is probably equal.
d) 3.Nbd2 - A rare path to the Colle. 3...Bf5 probably equalizes.
e) 3.c3!? - Lakdawala's path to the London. The idea is to meet 3...c5 with 4.dxc5 and most other moves with 4.Bf4.
f) 3.Ne5 - A possibly underestimated attempt to reach a Stonewall Attack (with f4. White hopes to fight for an advantage after 3...Bf5 4.c4.
g) 3.a3 - A version of the Prie System.
h) 3.b3?! - Usually an attempt to reach the Colle Zukertort system. 3...Bf5 equalizes comfortably.
i) 3.Nc3 - Looks similar to the Barry Attack but is rather pointless as long as Black hasn't played ...g6.
j) 3.h3?! - Normally another way to reach a slightly inferior London system after a delayed Bf4.

Group IC: 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 c5, alternatives to 4.c4

After 3.e3 we are in Colle territory, and might reasonably stop at that, noting that 4.c4 would still be a (harmless) Queen's Gambit. However, the Colle comes in different flavours too:

a) 4.dxc5 - This is an attempt to play the Queen's Gambit accepted a tempo up but 4...e6 probably gives theoretical equality.
b) 4.b3 - This is not White's most promising variation of the Colle Zukertort. After 4...Nc6 5.Bb2 Bg4 Black is equal. Also Kaufman's 4...cxd4, taking advantage of the fact that Bc1 not can use two diagonals, makes sense.
c) 4.c3 - Heads for the (Classical) Koltanowski Colle. The interesting question is whether Black now should play the modest 4...e6 or the more ambitious 4...Nc6.
d) 4.Nbd2 - A seemingly sensible Colle move that isn't even mentioned in several works on the Colle.
e) 4.Bd3!? - A slightly provocative attempt to stop ...Bf5 and keep open both the b3 and c3 options. The critical reply of course is 4...c4!?
f) 4.a3!? - An attempt to reverse colours - perhaps planning dxc5 followed by b4 and c4. But is a3 really useful after 4...cxd4 5.exd4?
g) 4.Ne5 - White intends to follow up with f4, Bd3 and c3, reaching a Stonewall Attack.

Group ID: 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6, alternatives to 4.c4

This is the traditional starting position of the Colle. It should be noted that this position is at least as likely to appear from the move-order 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.e3 d5. White can still return to lines of the Queen's Gambit with 4.c4 but within the Colle there are these options:

a) 4.Be2 - A reversed Queen's Gambit Declined. Solid for Black but unambitious for White.
b) 4.b3 - Reveals White's plan to play a Colle Zukertort earlier than necessary.
c) 4.c3 - Reveals White's plan to play a Colle Koltanowski earlier than necessary.
d) 4.a3 - Attempts to play a Queen's Gambit Accepted a tempo or two up after 4...c5 5.dxc5 Bxc5 6.b4 but that's hardly sufficient for an advantage.
e) 4.Ne5 - White intends to follow up with f4, Bd3 and c3, reaching a Stonewall Attack. Probably more promising with Black's light-squared bishop locked in than the 3...c5 version.
f) 4.Nbd2!? - A seemingly sensible Colle move that isn't even mentioned in several works on the Colle.
g) After the main move 4.Bd3 and the extremely natural 4...c5 White has these options:
g1) 5.c4 - Still a Queen's Gambit (a rather harmless Tarrasch)
g2) 5.0–0 - A provocative attempt to keep options open. 5...c4 6.Be2 b5 is the critical line.
g3) 5.b3! - The Colle Zukertort, a legitimate try for an advantage even at GM level.
g4) 5.c3 - The Colle Koltanowski, actually a reversed Slav and quite dangerous for the unprepared.

Group IIA: 1.d4 Nf6, alternatives to 2.Nf3 and 2.c4

With his first move Black displays a less compromising attitude than 1...d5 does. This can be seen as a reason for White to avoid a theoretical confrontation. However, it must also be said that it is probably harder for White to fight for a real advantage without an early c4 if Black knows what he is doing.

a) 2.g3 - An inferior attempt to reach the Catalan. Black is equal after 2...d5 followed by ...c6 and ...Bf5.
b) 2.Bg5 - The Trompowsky. Now almost mainstream and occasinally tested at the highest level. White will frequently capture the f6 knight if that doubles Black's pawns but also setting up a Stonewall with pawns on c3, d4, e3 and f4 makes sense.
c) 2.c3 - Extremely flexible and extremely tame. One idea is to meet 2...g6 as well as 2...e6 with 3.Bg5 (which both may be categorized as Trompowskys).
d) 2.Bf4 - A somewhat experimental branch of the Neo London. 2...c5 and 2...d6 must be the critical lines.
e) 2.Nc3 - After 2...d5, 3.Bg5 is the Veresov Attack. Not very popular for the moment but that may be about to change.
f) 2.Nd2 - Used to be a favorite of Varga's. White to some extent threatens 3.e4 and after 2...d5 3.Nf3 we have a Colle (IBd).
g) 2.e3 - A possibly inferior version of the Stonewall Attack. 2...g6 is supposed to be strong but White can pretend he is playing a reversed French vs. King's Indian Attack.
h) 2.f4 - An ugly attempt to play the Stonewall Attack. 2...d5 followed by 3...Bf5 possibly is the simplest solution but also a plan including ...d6 and ...e5 looks tempting.
i) 2.g4 - The Gibbins-Weidenhagen Gambit. Almost certainly unsound but White has some practical chances after 2...Nxg4 3.e4.
j) 2.a3 - This attempt to reach a reversed QP opening doesn't make much sense after 2...g6.
k) 2.b3 - May lead to a Colle Zukertort but I cannot see how White can benefit from delaying e3 and Nf3.
l) 2.f3 - May lead to a Blackmar Diemer Gambit after 2...d5 3.e4 dxe4 4.Nc3. Probably 3...e6 is a simpler cure. 2...g6 3.e4 d6 is a Pirc.
m) 2.h3 - Looks rather pointless but if White follows up with Bf4 and Nf3 he will probably reach a playable London position.

Group IIB: 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6, alternatives to 3.c4 and 3.g3

Nimzo- and Queen's Indian players may have a tougher task against the D-pawn Specials, (in particular the Colle) than others. Against this move-order the Colle Zukertort probably holds prospects for a small advantage.

a) 3.e3 - White heads for some branch of the Colle but may need other ideas against 3...b6 and 3...c5.
b) 3.Bg5 - The Torre System
c) 3.Bf4 - An important branch of the London System
d) 3.c3 - A tricky move, keeping open options to enter the Koltanowski Colle, the London or the Torre.
e) 3.Nbd2 - Possibly an underestimated branch of the Colle. Black must decide whether he considers e4 a threat or not.
f) 3.a3 - Another branch of the Prie System. White takes on Black's role with a marginally useful extra tempo.
g) 3.b3 - Heads for a Colle Zukertort but White gains nothing by revealing his plan too early.
h) 3.h3 - Another joke path to a playable if uninspiring London set-up.
i) 3.Nc3 - Looks similar to the Barry Attack but is rather pointless as long as Black hasn't played ...g6.

Group IIC: 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6, alternatives to 3.c4 and 3.g3

The King's Indian is one of the toughest tests for any Queen's Pawn System. Black develops quickly and has various ways to challenge the centre. Lines with ...d6 followed by ...e5 or ...c5 probably are the most challenging but quieter lines with ...d5 are also available.

a) 3.e3?! - The Colle hasn't got a great reputation against the King's Indian, as Black can force ...e5 with relative ease. However, 3...Bg7 4.b4!? may well be OK for White.
b) 3.Bg5 - Purists will say that this isn't strictly speaking the Torre Attack. The Torre versus King's Indian (which it's sometimes called) probably is slightly less promising than the 2...e6 version.
c) 3.Bf4 - The third major branch of the London System.
d) 3.c3!? - Delays the decision of where (if?) to develop the dark-squared bishop but there is little to be gained as White will soon have to commit himself anyway after 3...Bg7 or 4...0-0.
e) 3.Nc3!? - introduces the Barry Attack after 3...d5 4.Bf4 (or a version of the 150-Attack after 3...Bg7 4.e4).
f) 3.Nbd2 - Heads for a Colle after 3...d5 4.e3 or a quiet Modern after 3...Bg7 4.e4.
g) 3.h3 - Once thought to be the most accurate move-order for White to play the London System against the King's Indian. However, the move is too slow to stop the ...Nfd7 and ...e5 plan.
h) 3.b3 - Has been played by Smyslov and Portisch but is mainly a modest way of getting the pieces out.
i) 3.b4!? - The Arkell System - at least if White keeps his c-pawn back and plays Nd2-c4, trying to restrain ...e5. I believe there is also a name for the more traditional approach with an early c4 but that line must belong to the King's Indian complex.

That's all folks! (well, I am sure I have forgotten something, so I expect to edit and update the overview)

The plan now is to take a closer look at some of the systems (mainly the Colle London and Torre), comparing them and perhaps suggest how some systems can be combined. I have also started collecting bibliographies.

Updated September 1st
I included some lines given by an anonymous reader.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Killer Repertoire in French

I must admit I was surprised today to discover that "A Killer Chess Opening Repertoire" has been translated to French.

The new title is "Répertoire d'ouvertures efficace" which I assume must mean "An Efficient Opening Repertoire". The subtitle "pour joueur d'échecs paresseux" I think must mean "for lazy chessplayers". A little less bloodthirsty than the original English title.

As you can see, also the cover is a little less aggressive. I prefer Wolff Morrow's artwork, but the French one is quite nice too, in a very different way. Can anyone tell me the name of the artist (I assume his signature can be seen below the drawing, but I am unable to read it)?

I am proud to now have been translated to two major European languages, and hope Gambit Publishing or the French publisher Olibris will be kind enough to send me a few copies.

Update July 21st
I found this advertisment which includes a review. My French is quite poor but I will try to translate the conclusion:

Autre atout de l'ouvrage, le choix des parties illustratives, jouées par des joueurs qui ne sont pas des grands-maîtres. Une autre bonne idée car c'est bien ce qui se passe pour la majorité des tournois d'échecs pour nous autres amateurs. Avouons-le tout bonnement, c'est une idée géniale !

Another asset of  the work is the choice of illustrative games, played by players who are not Grandmasters. This is a good idea because for us amateurs this is what occurs in the majority of chess tournaments. Let us acknowledge that this simply is a brilliant idea!

Well, I hope that isn't too inaccurate. Please inform me if you can improve the translation. Anyway, "Chess & Strategy" appears to also be a chess vendor, so the 'review' cannot be expected to be very critical and I will not read too much into it.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Chessville Reviews Win with the Stonewall Dutch

After a few long periods of dormancy, Chessville now seems to be fully activated again. Today I noted a review of 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch' by Bill McGeary.

As the reader can easily confirm, McGeary is fairly detailed and in general quite positive. I will just quote his conclusion:
I am sure that new ideas and valuations in lines have likely already come to light since the publication of this book, but it remains an excellent work for a player looking to bring the Stonewall into their armory. Because of the strength of the writers, and the complexity of material, this book might be a bit bewildering for players below the 2000 level, and even some above, yet it could well act as one of the steps along the road upward.

My apologies to my readers for letting this blog become a list of reviews of my books. Some genuine chess content will appear in the near future.