July '01- What's New
A few months ago I saw readers request for the line 1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d5!?. My first thought was to email the ChessPublishing admin to tell them that there was an error on the site - surely the move was 3...d6. But after first checking on my database I discovered that this is actually a real opening.
It turns out that 3...d5 was pioneered by the Finnish correspondence player Ahlback and has since attracted the attention of some strong over-the-board players. Britain's Matthew Turner and the Israeli (formerly Russian) Alek Vyderslaver have both given it a whirl, though neither of them with notable success. The real champion of this line seems to be the Portuguese player, Sergio Rocha.
White should of course capture on d5, not with the knight because of 4...c6, but with the pawn. Black should then play 4...Nf6, though Ahlback has manfully resisted attempts to lend his games any semblance or normality. In Torhola - Ahlback, JUL01/01 we see 4...a6!?? get an outing and recently he has been going 4...Nd7!?. Next time I see Heikki Westerinen, I'm going to make a point of asking him about the latest Finnish developments.
After 4...Nf6 the critical line is 5.Bc4, trying to hang on to the pawn at least for a while. Vyderslaver's 5...0-0 (Yudashin - Vyderslaver, JUL01/02) is far too casual - he should definitely take the pawn deficit more seriously with 5...Nbd7. In Campora - Rocha, JUL01/03 White tried to hold onto his ill-gotten gains but Rocha's artful treatment provided good compensation. From a practical point of view I prefer White's play in Klovans - Gurevich, JUL01/04, which seems to give White a comfortable edge without much trouble. The verdict is that 3...d5!? has plenty of shock value, but I wouldn't recommend that you play it all the time.
1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Be3
The second request I'm addressing this month is the so-called "150 Attack" against the Pirc. As a Pirc and Modern player myself I've found this line more than a little annoying, and it hasn't been very clear how Black should equalise. The first point is that 5...0-0 6.Qd2 Bg4 (one of the main arguments against White omiting h2-h3) is met by 7.Ng5! as in Khalifman - Adams, JUL01/05. Degraeve - Ponomariov, JUL01/06 is another dangerous line for Black, who only kept himself on the board with some careful and energetic play.
Recently there have been some promising developments as illustrated in games 7-10. First of all the move 6...a6 held up OK in Kozakov-Chernin, JUL01/07 though from Black's point of view I was more concerned about the implications of Emms' treatment against Pein, as given in the notes. Could White improve on this, with 13.Ne4 for example?
Gufeld's treatment against Benjamin, JUL01/08, looked pretty tough, and we will probably be seeing some more of this. After 6...e5 (Hebden - Sutovsky, JUL01/09) White should probably castle long with possible transposition into a Philidor Defence. Gulko's 6...d5 (Ye Jianchuan - Gulko, JUL01/10) also looks playable, though it could be a bit passive for the taste of most Pirc players.
If I had to choose between these ideas for Black, I might well go for the Gufeld line. If I manage to play a game with it I'll get back to you about how it works out...