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Weird Ideas Concerning Normal Openings

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Among the many different Chess openings, there are some which, by some reason or another, lack the favour of the leading GMs.

If you read the opinions expressed by some GMs., it transpires that there are some openings (in this case, some defences) that are very comfortable for White and so very uncomfortable for Black. One of these defences is the Pirc and its sister system, the Modern. Nevertheless, this defence was played by, among others, Botvinnik, Petrosian, Nunn, Timman, Speelman (when the so-called “English Chess Explosion took place, this defence had its renaissance and was played by many English GMs who also produced books and magazine articles galore). The Pirc was played too, in the 1972 and 1978 World Championships (by Fischer and Korchnoi). It has never been favoured by players like Karpov or Kasparov though.

Another defence with a similar fate is the Alekhine. Of course you will always find GMs who have played it even as their main weapon (GM Alburt, for example), but this defence made a spectacular appearance when Bobby Fischer employed it against Spassky in the 1972 World Championship  match.

Other defences which may have been popular many years ago to nearly fall into oblivion now (I’m speaking of OTB top GM level) are the Dutch, the Volga Gambit, the Benoni, the Budapest Gambit, the Old Indian, the Latvian Gambit. Chess has changed, the chessplayers’ approach to Chess has changed too, fashions have also changed…

You may argue that the same can be applied to other openings like the Scotch (once favoured by Kasparov), the King’s Gambit, The Vienna, the Italian, the Four Knights and so on, And you are right.

I have thought a lot about this matter : are they really so inferior/bad??. . And what could be the cause of such effect?
(A curious fact is that in CC there has been a multitude of “thematic tournaments”  where all the players had to play the same opening/defence).I don’t know whether after the intrussion of the engines (“GMs” Fritz, Rybka et alii) this fashion continues because I have never been interested and I have never played in this type of events, but the characteristics of CC were and perhaps still are ideal to investigate apparently forgotten lines or simply less-played ones. And one of the debatable points is if  OTB GMs have ever studied CC games…).

As for the above-mentioned  “cause of such effect” I ,as ever, do not want to make definite statements. So some ideas, questions, suggestions,…

1.- Are there really bad,unplayable openings/defences?. Are openings like the Latvian Gambit  ( 1.e4 e5   2. Nf3  f5 ) , the Albin Counter Gambit  (1. d4  d5  2. c4  e5 ) , the Center Game  (1. e4 e5  2. d4  ed4  3. Qd4: Nc6 ), the Danish Gambit  ( e4  e5  2. d4 ed4  3. c3 ) , the Queen’s Pawn Counter Gambit   (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3  d5  ) really unplayable or really bad? (Note: bear in mind that there are different levels in Chess: what can ve valid for the strongest of GMs cannot be the same for lower levels. And the contrary is also possible)

2. Perhaps what happens is that they have not been analysed in depth… Once Kasparov devoted his time to the Scotch it seemed as playable as the rest, but then it fell into oblivion at very high level…

3.- Are there openings which due to the middlegames they lead to, only offer equality as White (so a very comfortable game to Black) or even an advantage to Black?

4.- Are there defences that allow White a freer hand and may easily lead to a huge White advantage either because Black static features cannot be easily exchanged for dynamic counterchances or because they give White too much space or too many developing tempi?

5.- Karpov “hate” the Grünfeld and once stated he would like to make it disappear  it forever from practice (perhaps because he got fed up with Kasparov’s Grünfelds in their never-ending encounters?). But at the same time he has never played the Benoni, the King’s Indian, the King’s Gambit, etc.. Then people say that that openings do not suit his style …

6.- If everything is so, now we should ask ourselves which is the ideal opening and defence, and the decide by ourselves. In this moment our style (approach to Chess) enters like the ghost of Hamlet’s father…

7.- Some defences seem to lead to too cramped positions with lack of dynamic chances (for instance some varations in the Benoni in which Black plays …e5, or the Old Indian 1. d4 Nf6/ 2. c4 d6/ in which Black does not play …g6).

8.- Some set-ups may allow the opponent a quick liquidation of forces taking all the dynamism out from the position.Other str-ups lack the possibility of provoking liquidations creating positions very hard to exploit.-Chess is very difficult to play, very difficult to understand and it is cannot be defined with strict rules.  It’s a vast infinity of exceptions to changing concepts)

In other cases the openings/defences imply the sacrifice of a Pawn and the ensuing positions do not offer clear compensations with the present state of Chess theory.

Apparently, having a particular style does not justify the use of openings labelled as dubious, and more among the elite.

But if we descent to club level I think most of those openings may be valid and useful. Sometimes players tend to neglect the study of them and though difficult to play if your opponent knows them, badly played by him/her may offer you good chances to get a good middlegame positions. I know of many club players who use these little tactics …

(As ever, please remember this is only my opinion. Every idea has counterideas, shades, etc. For instance, I have always been attracted by the Pirc. In CC I have played it on and off.In some cases I found no problems at all.In other cases I realized some lines need a whole reassessment and fresh new analysis. It’s a pity Kasparov didn’t had a try at it!).

The following game is a very complicated fight: some draws are more interesting and instructive than some decided games.

W.: B. Gelfand  1/2

B.: J. Speelman 1/2

Linares (Spain) 1992

1. e4 ,d6 (Yeah, a Pirc!) 2. d4 , Nf6  3. Nc3, g6  4. f4, Bg7  5. Nf3, 0-0  6. Be2,  Na6  7. e5, Nd7  9. 0-0 , c5  9. Be3, cd4  10. Qd4, b6 11. Rad1, Bb7  12. Qd2, Nde5  13.ed6, Qd6:  14. Qd6:,  ed6  15. Bd4, Bh6  16. g3, Nc7  17. Bf6, Rfc8  18. Rd6: Nd5  19. Rd5:, Bd5:  20. Bb5, Bb7  21. Be8:, Re8:  22. Kf2, Nc7  23. Bd4 , Bf8  24. Re1, Re1:  25. Ne1:  (White is a Pawn up. Between super-GMs is this enough?. No, things are not that easy because if no errors have been made the ability of a GM to defend a difficult position is astounding. Here GM Speelman has the Bishop-pair.What follows is absolutely instructive:) 

25. …,f6  26. Nd3, Kf7  27. Ke3, Ke6  28. Ne4, h5  29. h3, a6  30. c4 , b5 (the side with material advantage has to exchange pieces. The defending side has to exchange Pawns)  31. b3, bc4  32. bc4 , Kf5  33. Ndf2! (preventing the exchange of more Pawns), … a5  34. Nc3, Ke6  35.Nfe4, Kf5  36. Nd5 , g5  37. Nef6: (White things that with a second Pawn the victory is at hand, and it is not. Much better was 37. g4!)

37. …, gf4  38. gf4 , Nf6:  39. Nf6:, Ba6! 40. c5 , Bc5: 41. Nh5:, Ba3  42. Ng3 , Kg6  43. Bc3 , Bc4  44.Ba5: , Ba2:  45. f5 , Kh6  46. Ne4, Be7  47. Kf4, Kh5  48. Be1 , Bd8 49. Ke5, Bc7  50. Kf6, Bd8  51. Kg7, Bb1  52. Nd6, Be7  53.Nc8 , Bf5:  54. Ne7: ,Bh3: 55. Ng6, Kg5 56. Draw.

W.: G. Kasparov  (0)

B.: J. Speelman (1)

London 1989

1. d4  f5 (A bold decision. The Dutch is a complex line. Used by World Champions and top-GMs it appears and disappears from practice)

2. g3 Nf6  3. Bg2 g6  4. Nh3  Bg7  5. c4  d6  6. d5 0-0  7. Nc3 c6  8. Nf4 Bd7  9. h4  Bh8  10. e4 Na6  11. h5  g5  12. Ne6  Be6:  13. de6  Ne4:  14. Be4:  Bc3:  15. bc3  fe4  16. Bg5: Nc5  17. Be3  Nd3  18. Kf1  Rf3  19. Rh4  Re3:  20. Qg4  Kh8  21. h6  Qf8  22. Qg7  Qg7:  23. hg7  Kg7: 24. fe3  Rf8  25. Kg1 Rf3  26. Rf1  Rg3:  27. Kh2  Rf3  28. Rg1  Kf6  29. Rh6  Kf5  30. Rh7: Ke6:  31. Rg-g7  Ne5  32. Re7:  Kf6  33. Rb7:  Re3:  34. Rh6  Kg5  35. Rd6: Rc3: 36. Rb3  Rc2  37. Kg3  Ra2:  38. Rd4  Kf5  39. Re3  Ng4  40. Re-e4:  Rg3  41. Kh4  Nf2  42 Rf4  Ke5  43. c5  Rh3  44. Kg5  Re3  45. Ra4  Nh3  46. Kg4  Nf4:  47. Ra7: Ne6 / and White resigned.


(P.S. Don’t miss the next four post due to appear in July!)


Written by QChess

June 27, 2012 at 11:58 am

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