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ND Update - February 2004

There were some interesting games with 1.e4 e5 in Gibraltar. Being on site is always a good way of picking up some of the latest fashions; I got the inside story on some of the games and was involved in a couple of others.

GM Nigel Davies

Download PGN of February '04 1 e4 e5 games

Mark Hebden is regarded as the UK's 1...e5 guru, with most British GMs paying special attention to what he says and plays. So it's always of interest when he runs into trouble and loses a couple of games. Against Danny Gormally in Hastings, he ran into trouble against 10.Be3:

Here, in Game one, he attempts to repair the hole and was doing OK until his blunder on move 24.

Grischuk - Sokolov is a recent example of how a super-GM handles 10.Be3 as Black. When someone of this strength plays subtle moves like 10...Bh5, it's clear he knows what he's doing. I wish I did; 10.Be3 has been very popular amongst Indians of late, so perhaps I should have expected it. Without having anything special in mind I played one of the 'approved' lines in Swathi - Davies. But I didn't know about some of the new fangled ideas of a certain Mr. Grischuk such as 13.h3:

The fact that I won this game had no direct connection with the opening.

A few strong players have played 10...Na5 (Gallagher - Vijayalakshmi) but I am somewhat distrustful of the move; White gets the two bishops without apparent compensation for Black. When Black tries to complicate matters she finds herself totally outgunned by the brilliant Gallagher. Those bishops count for a lot.

John Emms' experiences were interesting in this tournament, and it could be that he's about to move away from the Spanish. Played in the first round Emms - Short was the last to finish, a mighty Spanish battle between two experts in the opening. Short's excellent 14...Bg4!:

looks new, and gives Black good counterplay.

David Howell probably got the idea to play the Berlin after his 2002 match with Vladimir Kramnik and in Emms - Howell played a very solid game. In the light of this experience Emms opined that the Berlin looked something like a good version of the Exchange Spanish. There's a lot of truth in this, White would dearly love his e-pawn to be on e4 rather than e5 in these positions. Womacka - Harikrishna witnessed more Berlin boredom for White, whose kingside falls apart when he loses patience. 9...Bd7 was quite trendy in Gibraltar, for reasons which are beyond me:

It's interesting that Nigel Short avoids beating his head against the Berlin Wall in Short - Harikrishna and looks to play a chess game. Unless someone finds a weak spot in the Berlin fairly soon, we'll be seeing a lot more of 4.d3:

In the wake of his Berlin game against David Howell, Emms was becoming somewhat sceptical about White's prospects of an advantage in the Spanish. After thinking for some time about his second and third moves he played 3.Bc4 against me in Emms - Davies. The result was a Spanish like position, but without all the theory.

I'm not sure whether Short - Ganguly counts as a Moeller or an Archangel, it can arise via either a 5...Bc5 or 5...b5 move order. In either case this game looks like an interesting theoretical battle, the unusual 14.Ra4 being very adequately met by 14...Qe8:

Of course, Short is a very strong player and outplayed his opponent anyway.

See you next month.

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Nigel Davies