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1 e4 e5 January 2003

Welcome to my first 1 e4 e5 update! My style is very different from Paul's, but I hope you will find that it is just as interesting.

GM Nigel Davies

Scotch Gambit

Petroff Defence

Guioco Piano

Ruy Lopez

Download PGN of January '03 1 e4 e5 games

Scotch Gambit

Whilst the Scotch Gambit has been a popular choice at club level for many years, it has rarely been seen at GM level. The game Cobb - Adams is therefore something of an occasion in which Black eventually won a complex struggle. Though from a theoretical point of view it seemed to me that White was doing quite well....

Was Adams taken by surprise? Well in his book, Chess In The Fast Lane, he claims to have played the Scotch Gambit himself a couple of times ... in the British Under 11 Championships! But I tend to think that 10-year-olds know far less about the opening than some of their adult victims would like to pretend, and Adams may have been unaware of Peretz - Mikhalevsky. Black's 6...Bg4! is a major problem for White as Black keeps his pawn whilst developing his pieces:

Most of the important Scotch Gambit theory was developed by the likes of Steinitz and Blackburne. Blackburne - Gifford is an interesting example of the ancient 5.Ng5; this probably isn't an especially good move but Black needs to know what he is doing.

Petroff Defence - 5.Nc3!?

Getting to grips with the Petroff Defence is not an easy matter, especially with players such as Anatoly Karpov and Artur Yusupov showing the World how to play Black. In their efforts to find pastures new, several enterprising White players have recently rediscovered the old 5.Nc3!?. After 5...Nxc3 6.dxc3 White aims for fast development and queenside castling, with his king being quite well protected by the doubled c-pawn. A nice example of this is Shirov - Morozevich.

After 6...Be7 White tried to save a tempo with 7.Be3 in Bakhandi - Oza.

The approved 7.Bf4 is often followed by dropping the bishop back to e3 at a later date, though there is an important point behind this in that White temporarily prevents ...Nb8-c6-e5. In the event it seems that Black at least was unaware of both these subtleties and the less subtle 'Greek gift' combination with Bxh7+.

A few Black players have decided against the exchange on c3 and have instead dropped their knights back to f6. In theory this should be a reasonable plan because White's knight is not marvellously placed on c3. But in practice White's lead in development will probably amount to something, see Naiditsch - Koneru.

Guioco Piano

Several books have been written about Kramnik's White repertoire based on 1.Nf3, so he effectively scuppered sales by playing 1.e4 in the recent Corus tournament in Wijk aan Zee. To make matters worse he is quoted as having said that he would have liked to play 1.e4 in his match against Kasparov but did not have enough time to prepare it....

Given the amount of theory in the Ruy Lopez, many players have found the Guioco Piano rather tempting. One can find Kramnik games in this opening from the late 1980s with many of the positions being reminiscent of the Spanish. One of the big questions is whether or not Black can play ...d7-d5 and successfully free his game. In the Spanish this involves sacrificing a pawn in the Marshall Attack, and here too it is not altogether painless, see the game Kramnik - Krasenkow.

Ruy Lopez

After Kasparov unsuccessfully beat his head against Kramnik's 'Berlin Wall' (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nf6 4 0-0 Nxe4 5 d4 Nd6) in their 'Brain Games' match, this solid opening experienced an explosion in popularity. As the 'Wall' itself has been standing firm it was inevitable that somebody would get the idea to try and go around it. Thus 5 Re1 has been experiencing a surge in popularity and featured in McShane - Nielsen from the Hastings Premier.

Black's most popular treatment is to play 10...g6, though here too White enjoys the initiative after 11.Qf3! as in the brilliant encounter, Nezhmetdinov - Kotkov. The ball is in Black's court, can he discover a safe path to equality?

Karjakin - Flear is an interesting game for the theory of the Open Spanish in which Black gives 15...d4!? its first outing. On this occasion it was unsuccessful, but it may not be the last word on this line.

That's all for now folks! Enjoy the games and good hunting!
Nigel Davies