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What's New - November 2003

As modern opening theory and computerisation produces an ever greater pile of data, there's a strong temptation to get away from it all. One method I like to use is examine the openings played by strong players prior to the information explosion. Very often you will find sound yet interesting variations which failed to stay in the limelight for no particularly good reason. And you can then revive them with good effect.

GM Nigel Davies

Bent Larsen has always played interesting games and much of the stuff he was playing in the 1960s and 70s is well worth reviewing. Another good source of ideas is the legendary Paul Keres, particularly in open games and the Spanish in particular. This month I'd like to show you some Keres ideas in a line he was playing in the years prior to his death in 1975, the Steinitz Deferred. It's sound and has a hint of dynamism and it helped me get the Grandmaster title in 1993.

Download PGN of November '03 1 e4 e5 games

Spanish Opening-Steinitz Deferred

From experience I can tell you that a lot of guys will meet the Steinitz Deferred (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6) with 5.Bxc6+, as this is supposed to be an easy way to some initiative. But after 5...bxc6 6.d4,

Keres had very few problems with 6...exd4. In Daskalov - Keres we get a beautiful illustration of how to win these positions if White plays too passively. Spassky, as you might expect, played better (Spassky - Keres) but he too failed to get anything like an edge as White.

The big problem with this line is supposed to be 7.Qxd4 c5 8.Qd3, so as to meet Black's ...Nf6 with e4-e5. But my own opponents have always seemed surprised when I refused to put the knight on f6 and instead played 8...Ne7!.

In Suess - Keres Black had no problems whatsoever and in fact soon siezed the initiative. Not even Mecking gets anything for White in Mecking - Keres, in fact I'd prefer to be Black in the final position. It looks to me as if Keres wanted the day off...

The other line I've tended to see a lot of is 5.0-0 Bd7 6.c3 Nf6 7.d4

once again Keres has been a rich source of ideas. Instead of 7...Be7 or 7...Qe7 followed by 8...g6 he was playing the immediate 7...g6:

Theory says this is wrong because of 8.Bxc6 and quotes an old Geller game (see the notes within Shamkovich - Keres), but Black looks fine to me. And once we're over this 8.Bxc6 issue it becomes clear that 7...g6 gives Blacks some extra possibilities, such as the option of meeting 8.Re1 with 8...b5 rather than 8...Qe7. In Shamkovich - Keres and Parma - Keres we see two strong GMs muster a draw and a loss with 9.Bc2.

Paul Petrovich and I also manage a win and a draw after 9.Bb3: in Matulovic - Keres White sees the danger coming after 12...Qc8 and 13...Nh5 and heads straight for simplification. In Fogarasi - Davies I sensed a certain frustration from White that he wasn't managing to butcher me in a Sicilian. 12.Nf1 and 13.cxd4 is an attempt to sharpen the play that backfires.

Once White has gone 8.Nbd2:

Black can switch back to the 8...Qe7 stuff without having to worry about things like 7...Qe7 8.Re1 Qe7(?!) 9.d5! followed by 10.Bxd7+, 11.c4 and 12.Nc3. This is what our hero did in Jansa - Keres and with have a further illustration of this line in Jansa - Psakhis. Now Jansa's a good player, but he couldn't refute this stuff after having had 16 years to think about it. Not bad for a forgotten line!

Happy hunting!

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Nigel Davies