What's New- May '01
First of all apologies for the long delay in getting the May update to you. All my time has been consumed in writing my latest book- a handbook that covers every variation of every opening. Believe me, that's an awful lot of variations and late nights. What saved me from madness was the fact that many of the principles behind the openings are the same.
Thus the Anti Sicilian is often the French in disguise. For example 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 e6 4 c3 Nge7 5 d4 cxd4 6 cxd4 d5 is a French where White has played Bb5 for some unknown reason, or 1 e4 c5 2 c3 e6 3 d4 d5 is either a French Advance after 4 e5 or a Tarrasch 3...c5 system after 4 exd5 exd5. Black also often responds to systems such as 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 c3 Nf6 4 Be2 by gradually edging forwards with e7-e6 and d6-d5.
Therefore if the riches of chesspublishing.com has encouraged you to take up a second defence to 1 e4 I would recommend the Sicilian as complementing the French nicely rather than a more obvious choice like the Caro-Kann.
Looking at theory as a whole, I have been astounded by Kasparov's genius which has pervaded a whole range of openings. In almost every game he plays he manages to find something new: in most cases it is a theoretical novelty, or a relatively little known move, which improves on previous games or sets the opponent fresh problems without changing the basic strategical plans for both sides. Sometimes however he can come up with an entirely fresh approach to a position: a way of handling it that has scarcely been noticed before. The two Kasparov games selected in this month's update illustrate Kasparov's creativity.
Well I guess you are eager to see some games, so let's begin with the Advance Variation.
This month there is more on the Nh6 debate. The fun begins after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nf3 Nh6 6.Bxh6 gxh6. Now previously we've looked at variations where White plays 7 dxc5 or by tranposition after 5...Bd7 6 Be2 Nh6 7 Bxh6 gxh6 the bishop ends up on e2: see the analysis in the game Wall-Lalic.
But what if 7 Bd3 straightaway?. Then if Black responds 7...f6 White is in effect a tempo up: in lines after Be2 White often redeploys the bishop to d3. This works perfectly for White in Afek-Vaganian: White scalps his very strong opponent in fine attacking style. If White can play 7 Bd3 then it's just great- we can all start playing 6 Bxh6 rather than 6 Bd3.
But there are some questions left unanswered. The main one for me is what if instead of 7...f6 Black plays 7...Qb6 and goes hunting the b2 pawn? Why did Vaganian avoid it? Click on Afek-Vaganian, MAY01/01, for my independent analysis.
After 4 Nf3 Nc6 both 5.Bd3?! Nb4 6.Be2 Bf5 or 5.c4 Bb4+ 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.Bg5 dxc4 8.Bxc4 Qe7+ would be pleasantly active for Black. The supposed drawback to the knight move has been the pin 5 Bb5 when if 5...Bd6 6.c4 dxc4 7.d5 forces Black to weaken his queenside pawns to save his knight. Previously this was thought to be slightly better for White, but the young Spanish GM Vallejo Pons has found an excellent improvement on theory for Black. If this neutralises 5 Bb5 then it's difficult to see how White can keep any advantage against 4...Nc6- which is good news for Black. Even if they are content with a draw most players of the Exchange Variation are looking to keep at least a tiny part of their opening advantage. Even if you don't play this line take a look at the simple but elegant way Black equalises the position in Luther-Vallejo Pons, MAY01/06.
There has been a big battle in this line at the Astana Super GM tournament between Shirov and Morozevich, two of the wildest players on Planet Earth. It reached a critical position after
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4 5.Nxe4 Be7 6.Bxf6 gxf6 7.Nf3 a6 8.c4 f5 9.Nc3 Bf6 10.Qd2 c5 11.d5 0-0 12.0-0-0
The story so far is that Shirov scored a crushing victory in Shirov-Topalov, then the line was revived very convincingly for Black by the prodigy Radjabov in NM229. Both these games featured 12...e5. This time Morozevich diverged with 12...Bg7. This begs the question, why was Moro afraid and what improvement did Shirov have in mind?
As subscriber Audrius "Odo" Avizienis remarks:
'it's not hard to imagine that Shirov had something vicious ready for [12...e5 13.h4 b5 14.d6] Be6 a la your suggestion of 15. g4!?, especially what with Shirov's famous 'hesitance' in pushing said g pawn. I guess I just wish I'd seen it, as I'm a big fan of this ...gxf6 line for Black.'
Exactly-it seems there may be an 'unexploded bomb' in the 12...Be6 line though at the moment it is only known to members of the 2740+ club: you are unlikely to face it on the Internet Chess Club! Or perhaps Moro simply wanted to play something different? If so then it was a poor decision, as he never really activates his game and is soon a pawn down in an endgame. He is tortured for a long time until Shirov gives him the chance to sacrifice his rook for stalemate- which he misses! You can see this eventful game by clicking on Shirov-Morozevich, MAY01/02.
The young Russian fared better in the 7...a6 line recently against Peter Svidler. The contrast with the Shirov game shows the importance of opening preparation at the highest levels of chess. Whether or not he had a new idea up his sleeve, Shirov came ready for a hard battle in the mainline: this no doubt played a part in unnerving Morozevich so that he avoided the critical line and played something inferior. Result: White wins a pawn in the opening! In contrast, Svidler is unwilling to enter the mainline as White and instead plays something offbeat and ineffective. Result: Black wins a pawn in the opening! However, to be fair to Svidler at least he does have new ideas in the opening and some are very strong- that's why he is rated around 2700! Have a look at Svidler-Morozevich, MAY01/07.
Here we look at Kasparov-Shirov from Astana. After 10 moves in a well known position, Kasparov comes up with a 'little' move which has been played much less often than the well established move. It may not be the best move; indeed it may not be as good as the move generally regarded as best. But it forces Shirov to think! He has to decide how much, if at all, the variations and ideas for both sides have been altered. And not just at move 10: after every subsequent move he has to reevaluate and check his ideas. Shirov thinks hard and then he comes up with a good solution: he builds up an impressive attack on the queenside to counter White's kingside assault. He plays excellently and has an easy draw and then....he suddenly blunders and falls into a very simple mate!! You wouldn't fall for it, I wouldn't fall for it, and Shirov wouldn't fall for it if he was playing you or me! So why did he succumb against Kasparov- is the World Number One simply luckier than we are? The answer can be traced all the way back to move 10. Shirov is a wonderful calculator of variations but he was put under just enough stress by the new move to collapse 25 moves later after an intense battle. Kasparov might never use this move again as it is no longer a surprise: but it has served its purpose in beating one of the top players in the world. Have a look at Kasparov-Shirov, MAY01/08.
Kasparov also demonstrated his creativity at Astana by offering to sacrifice a piece against Gelfand in a highly unusual variation of the Tarrasch. This game began:
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.Ngf3 cxd4 5.exd5 Qxd5 6.Bc4 Qd6 7.0-0 Nf6 and now rather than the universal 8 Nb3, the World Number One played 8.Re1!? Be7 9.Ne4 Nxe4 10.Rxe4 Nc6 11.Nxd4
Black can now win a piece with 11...e5 but White gets an attack after 12.Qf3 Nxd4 13.Qxf7+. Understandably, Gelfand declined the offer with 11...0-0 and although he held the draw with some accurate play was somewhat worse. Thus the critical variation has been left untested by the World elite, though it was tried once in the game Braig- Bibby at the Berne Open in 1991. In that game Black accepted the piece offer and won. Firstly I wonder if the sacrifice by White, an unrated player, was intentional or whether he just blundered the piece and secondly, would Simon Bibby have taken the piece if it was offered to him by Kasparov rather than an unrated player? In fact I think Gelfand was right to decline the offer- I've studied the sacrifical line and it looks very dangerous for Black. Have a look at the analysis in Kasparov-Gelfand, MAY01/03. This game could signal the birth of a new variation!
In a game from the recent Russian Championship we see once again the solidity of Black's system based on the moves e7-e6, c7-c5 and g7-g6. The fianchetto on g7 makes Black's kingside invincible against all White's efforts to attack it. Only when the moment is right does Black seize control of the centre with e6-e5! I find it a bit mystifying that this piece deployment isn't used more often at the highest levels against the KIA. Have a look at Chigvintsev-S.Ivanov, MAY01/05.
Finally, we examine a game in which White responded to the Winawer Declined 5....Ba5 with 6 Bd2. After 6...Nc6 he tries to combine the conventional way of handling the position with Nb5 with Kasparov's method against Khalifman with Qg4- see NM111. The result is a short but very sharp draw as Black proves alive to the tactical features of the position. Have a look at Shaposhnikov-Lastin, MAY01/04.
Well that's the end of the May Update. I hope you found something useful here. Good luck in your chess!