Wednesday, 31 May 2017

A recent game in an unusual Morra Gambit Declined

I recently beat a higher rated player as White in an unusual line of the Morra Gambit Declined.

4...g6 looks like a slightly inferior way of declining the gambit, allowing White a classic two-pawn centre.  After 5.cxd4 the database gives 569 games with 5...Bg7 (probably best) when White is scoring 59.6%.

Over the board I spent a while deliberating over 5...d5 6.exd5 or 6.e5, and correctly selected exd5.  I was playing by analogy with some Göring Gambit Declined lines that I'd looked at before, where Black has to beware of the d4-d5 pawn push if White can get a knight out to c3 without it being hit by the pinning ...Bf8-b4.  I gave 6.exd5 Qxd5 7.Nc3 Qa5 in the notes, but most often played has been the retreat 7...Qd8, albeit with White still scoring a hefty 71.2%. 

I got very tempted by the possibility of trapping the black queen.  Fritz says that Black can survive, but admittedly has to walk a proverbial tightrope.  Overall I thought it was a pretty well-played game, though as usual at club level there were some mutual inaccuracies.

Meanwhile over at my gambits site I'm working on updating the Urusov Gambit coverage, as that is rather out of date at the moment.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Playing two sharp gambits in serious games for the first time- without knowing much theory!

I had a couple of recent serious games when, true to form, I played gambit lines, but it was the first time I had used them in serious games, and I haven't covered either of them at my website.  The games contain a fair number of mistakes, but they were 25 minute rapid games.

Game/Gambit #1 - The Geller Gambit

The more successful experiment was in the Geller Gambit (yes, I've also re-added 1.d4, 2.c4 lines to my repertoire, having been attracted to some of them back in my childhood).  1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 dxc4 5.e4 b5 is the normal move-order, but I stumbled into it via 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 dxc4 4.e4 b5 5.Nf3!? (5.a4 is the normal move, according to the database, where White generally regains the pawn) 5...Nf6.

I had a close look at this line with someone from my local chess club back in 2014, but have to admit that I don't recall much of the theory.  My 6.e5 Nd5 7.Ne4?! was clearly inferior to 7.a4 and 7.Ng5, but was not punished.  Also, I could have got a strong attack with 13.f5 or 14.Nxe6 (both of which I actually looked at during the game, but didn't see far enough ahead).  The experiment paid off in the end though, and I have every intention of continuing to try out these Queen's Gambit lines.

My impression is that the Geller Gambit has been held suspect for many years, but that "the Ginger GM" Simon Williams has advocated it in some recent videos of his.  I associate Simon Williams particularly with the Dutch Defence (1.d4 f5) and some crazy queen sacrifices, notably this one.  He also tried the interesting deviation 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 dxc4 5.e4 b5 6.Qc2 against Andrey Sumets at Hastings 2013, but lost.

Game/Gambit #2 - Rubinstein Four Knights

The line goes 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Nd4, from Black's point of view.  It's well-known to be a sound line for Black, where White often ducks out of the complications with 5.Nxd4 or 5.0-0.  I had recently taken this up in my online games, and sacrificed the pawn on e5 in several of them with good results.  However, I hadn't learnt many of the ideas behind the sacrifice of the pawn on e5, and so in this serious game played too "automatically" in the opening and didn't get enough compensation. Indeed, if I had found 10...Bg4! I would probably have gone on to win.

The games are available here:

Thursday, 16 February 2017

An End In Sight to the 2015/16 Hiatus

Hi all,

Apologies for the long period of time without any updates.  I also see that I've had several comments to my earlier blog posts, which I've neglected (during late 2015 and 2016).  I got a full-time job, lost the resolve to keep up what I'd previously been doing, and ended up leaving readers in limbo.

I am in the process of rebranding my site; the new address is at and has moved to a paid hosting service.

Over the past year I also experimented with producing my own PDF articles.  Here's one that I came up with on the "Anti-Max Lange", 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4.
The main source of inspiration for this was the old articles, particularly Tim Harding's often-excellent Kibitzer column.

As I felt I was able to express myself and my enthusiasm more through that type of article, I have a general idea of creating web articles in that sort of style with the aid of the new ChessBase dynamic diagrams, thereby allowing viewers to play through the lines or just generally experiment, without the need to be tied to the PGN format.  They also have a new game replayer which is good with PGNs with relatively short notes, but tends to be buggy if more than one replayer is used on a single web page.  But I'll need to experiment with this a bit.

I'm also preparing to move my chess blog to the new site, .  I hope to update that blog more frequently with other chess-related stuff as well as the progress on the openings/gambits articles, so that it doesn't go for long periods without any updates.

I expect progress on the chess gambits coverage to be quite slow this time around due to greater pressures on my time, but I haven't given up on it.  I am tempted to look into more in the way of 1.d4 lines, having played the Queen's Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4) from the white side quite a bit recently.

I'll have a look over some of the replies to my earlier articles over the weekend.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Alekhine-Chatard Attack coverage completeed

I have finally got around to covering all of the main variations of the Alekhine-Chatard Attack against the French Defence.

My opinion of the accepted lines of the gambit (6...Bxg5 7.hxg5 Qxg5) have changed quite a lot since examining the lines more closely.  I don't think the old main line, played by Alexander Alekhine against Fahrni, Mannheim 1914, with 8.Nh3 Qe7 9.Nf4, is very convincing.  I think Black can get quite a solid position with 9...Nc6 followed by ...g6, ...Nb6, ...Bd7 and ...0-0-0.  The move-order is quite important; if 9...g6 at once, then 10.Bd3 is quite dangerous for Black, threatening sacrifices on g6.  The lines with White sacrificing a knight on d5 after 10.Qg4 Nxd4 can easily burn out to a draw.  At club level most players won't play accurately, of course, but even so, I am not sure about White's practical chances.

But I believe that 9.Qg4 looks quite promising for White, attacking g7 immediately and planning to follow up with Nf3-g5 in most cases.  8.Nb5!?, which has been discussed briefly at the and also mentioned by John Watson, also looks quite promising.  The modern move 8.Qd3 aims for long-term positional compensation rather than a quick attack, but also appears to give White at least sufficient compensation for the sacrificed pawn.  The compensation persists even if Black engineers a queen trade with 8...Qg6 9.Qxg6 fxg6 (White can also consider 9.Qd2).

One common motif in the declined variations is that Black wants to get in ...c7-c5, undermining White's d4-pawn, without allowing White to get in Nc3-b5-d6.  Thus, ...a6 is often played, but I don't trust the immediate 6...a6 7.Qg4 for Black, despite its popularity.  6...c5 7.Bxe7 leaves Black with a choice between 7...Qxe7 8.Nb5, often involving an exchange sacrifice on a8, and 7...Kxe7, which gives up castling rights but aims for long-term queenside counterplay.  I think the 6...c5 line is better for White, but Black is not without chances.

Black's best declining moves are 6...Nc6 (which leads to positions with just a slight edge for White, and chances for both sides), 6...0-0, and 6...h6.  The last two give Black good chances of theoretical equality, though White often gets a slight "pull" in the middlegame.  In both cases, the positions tend to be double-edged with the kings castled on opposite sides of the board.

John Watson has recently written about some of these lines at Chesspublishing (though to see his full analysis requires a subscription).  In his latest update he says 6...h6 "seems to be more reliable than the others" and gives 7.Be3 an exclamation mark, rather than the exchange of bishops with 7.Bxe7.  He is a stronger player than I, but my investigations suggest that there is a strong case for his position.

I suspect that the Alekhine-Chatard with 6.h4 is not as likely to give White a theoretical advantage with best play as the standard 6.Bxe7, but it is a decent try for advantage, as well as increasing the payoff if Black goes wrong- White can sometimes pull off a quick attack and win very quickly.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Alekhine-Chatard Attack coverage underway

I've been busy recently, but started coverage of the Alekhine-Chatard Attack in the French Defence, 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e5 Nfd7 6.h4!?.

I find that the 3.Nc3 lines of the French Defence often lead to crazy and rich positions, although of course 3.Nc3 is one of the main lines, and many of the variations are quite theory-heavy.  The various attempts to steer play into a sort of pseudo Blackmar-Diemer Gambit with 3.Be3 and 3.c4 are not convincing, although there is a subvariation of 3.Nc3, 3...Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4 5.f3!?, which aims to transpose into a line of the Blackmar-Diemer (Euwe Defence) which probably gives White full compensation for the pawn.

The Alekhine-Chatard Attack is one of the soundest gambits that I've looked at so far; indeed French Defence guru John Watson considers that it is holding up well at high levels.  I've been a fan of this gambit for many years, and recall having quite a few nice wins with it as a junior in the late-1990s.

I have only got around to covering 6...c5 and 6...0-0 so far, but am trialing out a new way of displaying the coverage (sort of like a article but with the games still presented as replayable java games via ChessBase).

The coverage is here:
My overall assessments seem to broadly agree with Watson's comments on 6...c5 and also 6...Nc6, which I cover briefly as a sideline, although of course Watson will have gone into far more detail.

I had a recent game as White in the Alekhine-Chatard Attack but unfortunately lost the game score.  I managed to crash through on the h-file by putting rooks on h1 and h6 and a queen on h4, and breaking through on h7, and Black's counterattack ended up being a tempo too slow.  (If I remember rightly, Black met 6.h4 with 6...c5 7.Bxe7 Kxe7, and later moved the king over to the kingside to guard h7).

Meanwhile I've recently received my copy of Smerdon's Scandinavian.  It is refreshing to see a grandmaster frequently using and being enthusiastic about a line that is objectively of marginal soundness.  I'll be looking at his Caro-Kann transposition lines (1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.c4 c6 4.d4, involving an early ...g6) with some interest since I didn't look at those when I last covered the line.  Of course White should avoid 4.dxc6?! Nxc6 in that variation; I remember a few games when I tried that greedy variation as White at the local chess club just to see if it was really as bad as its reputation, and inevitably I got crushed every time.

Smerdon also recommends the Vienna Defence (1.e4 d5 2.d4 dxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.f3 Bf5) against the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, and is quite dismissive of White's chances.  Personally I always thought 4...exf3 5.Nxf3 Bf5 was a more serious test of the gambit, but I'll be looking at his lines more closely shortly to see if he's found any major improvements for Black over what I know of.