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This update looks at a number of lesser lines in the Spanish.

Since my last update I've had occasion to check my study for bugs! Whilst I was in the process of suggesting that Trifunovic's daring idea in the Berlin might be worth bringing back, Morozevich used this very idea against Peter Svidler in Wijk aan Zee!

Download PGN of March '05 1 e4 e5 games

Spanish - Berlin with 5...Be7

This game, Morozevich - Svidler, featured the critical 18.Ne5+ but then Svidler innovated with 22.Nd2:

Although Morozevich held his own I think Black can do better with 19...Qh4, getting the same kind of play but with his knight in the attack already.

Spanish - Bird's

Given Morozevich's opening predilections, one can hardly be surprised to see him take a fancy to the Bird as well. What is more surprising his choice of the highly provocative 5...h5 in the game Leko - Morozevich:

Actually it doesn't look that stupid, Black takes away the h5 square from White's queen and prepares to land a piece on g4 in some positions. Bird used to play it 100 years ago and more recently it has been taken up by Evgeny Najer.

Spanish - Steinitz Deferred

This brings us to other ...h7-h5 ideas for Black in the Spanish, which I vaguely touted in my video, Dirty Tricks I. The most 'respectable' of these is the Steinitz Deferred with 5.0-0 Bg4 6.h3 h5, which has attracted some attention of late:

The main exponent of this line is the Russian, Vladimir Yandemirov who after 7.d4 b5 8.Bb3 Nxd4 9.hxg4 has been playing 9...Nxb3:

Jon Speelman suggested this move whilst we were studying this line for possible use in his match against Jan Timman, but Jon went off the idea for reasons I now have difficulty recalling.

Smirnov - Yandemirov looks critical, with all hell breaking loose after 10.axb3 hxg4 11.Ng5 Qd7 12.c4 Rb8 13.Rxa6. White was better later in the game, but this all looks very murky to me. When Ivan Sokolov surprised Nick de Firmian with this line, Nick understandably headed for safety by exchanging queens with 13.Qd5. Unfortunately he got mated on the h-file anyway (de Firmian - Sokolov).

Alexei Shirov prefers to do the attacking himself, which explains his choice of 7.Bxc6+ bxc6 8.d4 in Shirov - Sokolov:

I'm not sure that Sokolov's 8...Qf6 was the culprit but I don't like 9...Be6. After 12.f4 it starts looking more like a King's Gambit!

Spanish - Krol Variation

Now for something completely different, the Krol Variation. The correspondence player Wladyslaw Krol has been playing 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Ng4?! at just about every opportunity, the idea being that after 6.h3 he wants to 'protect' the knight with 6...h5:

I'd like to say here and now that I think this is a load of rubbish, but Krol has been winning some games with it.

I suspect the main problem has been the apparent materialism of Krol's correspondence opponents, for example in Van Dijk - Krol he leaves pieces hanging all over the place before delivering mate.

I much prefer White's play in Stillerud - Kroll - he doesn't even think about taking the knight but gradually improves his position. I don't see much counterplay for Black and his pieces look very awkward, though I doubt this will stop other people following his example.

Spanish - Cozio Variation

Rozentalis - Roussel Roozman features a welcome return to sanity in another unusual defence, the Cozio Variation. This line came up during a newsgroup discussion I had with FIDE Master Eric Schiller, who maintains that it's a good line for young players to adopt. I'd certainly agree that it's better than teaching them crude strategies based on advancing their h-pawns, though in the lines with d4-d5 White has more space. This game isn't a refutation, but neither is it particularly pleasant for Black after, say, 14.b4

Next month I'll try to get back to planet earth.

Greetings from Mars, Nigel Davies

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Nigel Davies