ND Update - May 2004
It seemed like fate. Doug Schwetke asked my opinion about the variation 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.Nxd4 Nxe4 at almost the same time I got a game from my clubmate Phil Adams in exactly this line!
GM Nigel Davies
So is 5...Nxe4 playable?
The attempt at outright refutation seen in Bogoljubow - Schmid doesn't appear to work, Black holding his own with a fantastic series of desperado knight moves. After 14 moves the position is equal, but Bogoljubow's optimism gets the better of him.
The critical response is 6.Nxe4 Qe7 7.f3 d5 8.Bb5 Bd7 9.Bxc6 bxc6 10.0-0 dxe4 after which 11.Re1 has been White's usual move. Can Black play it this way, castling queenside despite his shattered pawns? Adrian Mikhalevski has been defending the Black side of this quite regularly for Black but some of the positions he's obtained do not inspire confidence. Zak - Mikhalevski is a case in point, with White having an excellent game until he throws it away in time-trouble.
Can White do even better than this? Maybe. In Adams - Marden we see another dangerous possibility for White in 11.fxe4 with Black going down in just a handful of moves. I suspect that Black has to play 11...c5, which doesn't look that clear to me. More tests required...
Another clubmate of mine, David Shaw, was involved in a game which I just had to include this month, despite the fact that he lost. In Shaw - Yeo we get an old-fashioned gambit game featuring the Wilkes Barre variation of the Two Knights. What's more White goes down the 5.Nxf7 slugfest line in which Black sacrifices a bundle of material to open up White's king:
In the midst of this chaos, 13...Qf3 is a theoretical novelty. I'm not sure how White can then defend himself.
Another of this month's requests asked me to cover the Kaufmann Variation of the Petroff Defence (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.c4) in more depth:
This actually looks like a very interesting way for White to play, one of the exponents of this line having been the great Paul Keres whilst now the flag is being flown by Russian GM, Semien Dvoiris. White stakes out some space early on without committing his d-pawn and it's by no means easy for Black to equalise.
In Nisipeanu - Motylev White meets the solid 5...Be7 with 6.Nc3, which after 6...Nxc3 would give him a slight initiative whilst the doubled pawns are not especially weak. Motylev's 6...Ng5 is probably more solid, though he should probably capture on f3 on move 9. A good alternative for White is 6.d4 as in Dvoirys - Prokopchuk. White was better early on, though this can only be described as a 'fluctuating struggle'.
5...Nc6 is one of the approved answers to 5.c4, with Black doing well after 6.d4 d5 according to the old theory. But it seems that Dvoirys's idea of 7.c5!? (Dvoirys - Mamedyarov) is very interesting; it's not clear whether its an edge for White but certainly it creates new problems.
A solid way to play it for Black is with 5...g6, a move that has been rather neglected by theory but which has done well in the games in which it has been played. Dvoirys - Hort looked fine for Black so White might do well to try Keres' 6.d3. It could be a slight edge for White, especially with 13.g4!?:
Another one of Black's main responses has been 5...d5, though one of the things that has bothered Black is White's treatment in the game Keres - Keller. Frankly I'm not at all convinced by this as it seems that Black can play 10...Re8+. I prefer 8.Qb3, which seems to cause more problems.
The move 5...Be6!? is an intriguing possibility which has thus far been neglected by theory. In Game ten we see an ingenious idea for Black in 6.Qb3 Na6!?, gaining a lead in development. When White tries to exploit the poor placement of the knight on a6 the position explodes in his face.
All in all it seems that the Kaufmann Variation offers fresh and interesting play, avoiding the hackneyed and highly analysed main lines. It looks like a good one for White to play, especially if he's armed with some home analysis.
See you next month.
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