Sunday, 19 February 2017

013. Winning With Someone Else's Moves

White: paardesprong - thematic tournament,, 2005

One of the benefits of studying openings is that you can, very occasionally, win games with moves you've worked out entirely at home. Or even with someone else's moves that you've just remembered. My most notable instance was against Colin Crouch at the 1990 Nottingham Congress. In a sharp line of the French, Black answered a classic bishop sacrifice on h7 by giving up his queen for three pieces. This was reckoned at one time to offer Black good play but had since been refuted in the game S.Szilagyi-T.Harding, ICCF World Cup 1986. Colin helpfully played straight down this line, stopped, thought for an hour, and then resigned – and a move sooner than in Szilagyi-Harding, so I didn't have to think of a single move for myself.

This hardly ever happens to me in over the board chess anymore. For one thing, I mostly avoid theoretical main lines nowadays; and, for another, I usually find I've forgotten most of my home analysis, even in my own pet lines. In correspondence chess, it's a different matter. With everything written down (or entered on ChessBase), I do still win games where most of my moves have been worked out (and computer checked) in advance. And it's possible to win games with someone else's moves too.

When investigating the Calabrese Counter-Gambit (1 e4 e5 2 Bc4 f5!?) in the mid 1990s (see Game 009), I got round to considering what would happen if White replied with 3 f4!?. It seemed to me that 3...exf4 was the best response, transposing into a variation of the Bishop's Gambit: 1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4 3 Bc4 f5!?. Against this, theory recommended that White play 4 Qe2 Qh4+ 5 Kd1 fxe4 6 Qxe4+ Be7 7 Nf3 Qh5 8 Bxg8 Rxg8 9 Nc3 Nc6 10 Re1 d6 11 Nd5 Bf5 12 Qc4 Bxc2+ (intending 13 Kxc2 Qxd5! etc) 13 Ke2.

Here analysis by Igor Glazkov continued 13...Qg6 (L.Hoffer-Grischfeld, London 1882) 14 Kf2! Kd7 15 Rxe7+! and wins, or 13...Ne5 14 Qxc7 Qf7 15 Qxb7 Rd8 16 Kf1! with advantage to White.

But, as it happens, Eric Schiller had refuted all this in his (unfairly disparaged) little book Who's Afraid of the King's Gambit (Chess Enterprises 1989), where he gives 13...Bh4! 14 Nxc7+ (or 14 d4 0-0-0) 14...Kd7 15 Nxa8 Re8+ 16 Kf1 Rxe1+ 17 Nxe1 Qd1 18 g3 fxg3 19 hxg3 (or 19 Qxc2 Qxe1+ 20 Kxe1 gxh2+ 21 Ke2 Nd4+) 19...Bxg3 20 Qe2 Bd3 21 Qxd3 Qxe1+ 22 Kg2 Qf2+ 23 Kh3 Qh2+ 24 Kg4 Ne5+ and Black wins.

This was picked up later (2004) by Thomas Johansson, but did not make it into general circulation. For instance, the one-volume encyclopaedia Nunn's Chess Openings (Everyman, Gambit 1999) stops at 13 Ke2, with an exclamation mark and the symbol denoting that “White is much better”.

So, so far I've won three times as Black after 13 Ke2. The game below was the shortest – and in that one, too, I didn't have to think of a single move for myself.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

012. A Bust to the Bishop's Gambit

Black: tarby - thematic tournament,, 2015

I once wrote an article (again for the BCCA magazine) entitled “A Bust to the 7...Qc7 Winawer - ?”. It was based on my games with a home-made plan involving pushing the kingside pawns. My record over the board against the main line is indeed quite favourable: P41, W31, D9, L1 (grrrr). All the same, the title was a little joke, a nod to Fischer's famous “A Bust to the King's Gambit”, in which he proposed that 2...exf4 3 Nf3 d6! wins by force.

Actual busts of opening variations are pretty rare. Sooner or later someone usually finds a way to refute the refutation. In both the supposed “busts” above, theory has indeed moved on substantially. All the same, I think Black's position is objectively better against my line than White's position is against Fischer's – which is as you'd expect. Robert James Fischer, the 11th World Champion, was one of the strongest players in the history of chess. Naturally, therefore, his opinions (at least on chess) are going to worth more than mine, a mere correspondence IM (SIM) with a current, rather specious OTB rating of 219 ECF (roughly 2350 Elo).

GM John Shaw is also much stronger than me, with a current ECF rating of 237 (roughly 2500 Elo), but he is not Fischer either. In his recent megatome The King's Gambit (Quality Chess 2013), Shaw includes a chapter “The Refutation of 3 Bc4?!”, in which he recommends 3...Nc6 and claims a definite advantage for Black. Subsequent investigators have disputed this.

The critical line in question runs 1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4 3 Bc4 Nc6 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nc3 Bb4 6 Nge2 f3! 7 gxf3 d5 8 exd5 Nxd5 9 0-0 Nxc3 10 bxc3 Bd6.

Here Shaw writes: “What is good about White's position? Nothing, unless you think four pawn islands versus two is a plus. The following game confirms Black's superiority.” That was Belanoff-Simmelink, correspondence 2007, which continued 11 Ng3 0-0 12 Ne4 Be6 13 Bxe6 fxe6 14 Rb1 b6 15 d5 Ne7 16 dxe6 Qe8 17 Nxd6 Qg6+ 18 Kh1 Rad8 19 Ba3 cxd6 20 Qe2 Rf6 21 Rbe1 Nf5 and “Black eventually converted his advantage”.

Shaw also comments that “The simple 12...Be7 maintains an edge”. As it happens, I had previously lost a game following that very move: 12...Be7 13 Kh1 Na5 14 Bd3 f5 15 Ng3 c5 16 Rg1 cxd4 17 Rb1 dxc3 18 Nh5 Rf7 19 Bf4 g6 20 Be5 Bc5 21 Rg2 Qh4 22 Bxc3 Qxh5 23 Bxa5 Be6 24 Qf1 b6 25 Bd2 Bd5 26 Rg3 f4 27 Rh3 Qg5 28 Rg3 fxg3 29 Bxg5 Bxf3+ 0-1 tsmenace-Carpo, 2005.

There is nothing new in chess. In his earlier book The Fascinating King's Gambit (self-published 2004), Thomas Johansson, too, had flagged 6...f3! as “Black's best option” and continued the line to 12 Ne4, which he assessed as unclear, writing that “White's pawn structure may not be the healthiest, but on the other hand White still has more influence in the centre and a half-open g-file.”

So who is right? In my game, White might improve with 19 Qe1 or simply 17 cxd4, intending 17...Qxd4 18 Bh6 Rf7 19 Nxf5, but I'm not keen on the position after 12...Be6. Instead, on the ChessPublishing forum, Stefan B├╝cker proposed 11 Qd2 and 12 Qg5, writing that “When the queens are exchanged, there is not the slightest reason why Black's fewer pawn islands should be a factor. White's center may well be more important.”

Which brings us finally to the game below, where I had a chance to test Stefan's idea out. As you'll see, Black kept the centre pawns under control, but didn't manage to do much else. And another 2016 correspondence game quickly ended in a draw too. So it seems that, while Shaw's recommendation leads to a position that you might not want to play over and over again, White is probably not worse here.

Unless, of course, you know different...