Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Göring Gambit Revisited

The Göring Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.c3, or 2.d4 exd4 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.c3 which tends to be my preferred move-order) is looking in quite a healthy state at the moment, in my opinion, as far as sub-master level play is concerned.

At my new chess site, I have published a series of articles covering all important lines of the gambit.  I have linked to my articles (which contain an introductory coverage of the key lines and ideas, and then annotated illustrative games).

For those who prefer the style of analysis at my old chess site, where I provided an analysis in PGN format, I have linked to that analysis too. 

But for those who just want a summary of the key points, here they are:

A) After 4...Nge7 White can get a small advantage with 5.Bc4 d5 6.exd5 Nxd5 7.0-0.

B) After 4...Nf6 5.e5 Ne4 White gets some advantage in a complicated position.  5...Nd5 is more solid, where in many lines White must settle for a small edge, with pawns on d4 and e5 and some chances of attacking on the kingside.

C) 4...d5 equalises, but White can avoid the irritating Capablanca Variation (5.exd5 Qxd5 6.cxd4 Bg4 7.Be2 Bb4+ 8.Nc3 Bxf3 9.Bxf3 Qc4) by playing 5.Bd3 (which often leads to White playing a gambit anyway), or by playing 7.Nc3, with the idea 7...Bb4 8.Be3 (suggested to me by Mark Nieuweboer).  Although the resulting positions are equal, White often scores well in practice.

D) After 4...dxc3 5.Nxc3 Bb4 6.Bc4 d6, 7.Ng5! gives White full compensation for the pawn (instead of the more popular 7.0-0 and 7.Qb3, which probably fall short).  Similarly, 6...Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 d6 is met by 8.Ng5!.

E) After 4...dxc3 5.Bc4 cxb2 6.Bxb2 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 Nf6, 8.0-0!? looks promising for White, and White can choose between following up with 9.Nd5, or 9.Qc2 first.

F) After 4...dxc3 5.Bc4 cxb2 6.Bxb2 d6 I think White has some improvements over John Watson's analysis of 7.Nc3, 7.0-0 and 7.Qb3, and all three lines are currently looking playable for White.

So, for those who have been interested in trying out the Göring but have been deterred by certain lines (most likely those stemming from either 4...d5 or 4...dxc3, which are the two theoretically best responses), I think it's well worth giving it a try.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

The Two Knights Defence with d4

Michael Goeller at his Kenilworthian blog has posted an article covering the line 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.e5 Ng4!?.  The position after Black's fourth move is important as it can also arise from the Scotch Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Nf6) and the Urusov Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nf3 Nc6).


In my most up-to-date coverage of the 5.e5 line, I also regarded 5...Ng4 to be a good response for Black, and Goeller's coverage, based on seven annotated games, has continued to reinforce that view.

But all is not lost for fans of the 4.d4 Two Knights lines or the Scotch or Urusov Gambits.  I feel that 5.0-0 gives White rather better practical chances at club level, and many of the 5.0-0 lines have been revived by Stefan Bücker and Lev Gutman.  For example see the article "A Rook With a View" which covers an interesting pawn sacrifice idea for White in the famous line 5...Nxe4 6.Re1 d5 7.Bxd5 Qxd5 8.Nc3.  Another important point is that the line of the Max Lange Attack with 5...Bc5 6.e5 d5 7.exf6 dxc4 8.fxg7!, with Re1+ and Bg5 to follow, is doing well for White.  My most up-to-date coverage of the 5.0-0 lines is available here.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Blackmar-Diemer Gambit Ziegler Defence

A while ago I wrote a blog article over at Chess.com about the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, Ziegler Defence, and the related O'Kelly Defence.

Stefan Bücker and Lev Gutman have already established that White is doing OK in the line 1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.f3 exf3 5.Nxf3 c6 6.Bc4 Bf5 7.Bg5 e6 8.Nh4!, for example see
Stefan Bücker's article http://home.lyse.net/chessmaster/StefanBucker_OKelly.pdf 

But what does White do against 7...Nbd7, intending to develop with ...Be7 and ...0-0?  Now 8.Nh4 doesn't work as well because of 8...Bg4, so White continues 8.Qe2 e6 9.0-0-0 Be7 (9...Bb4?! is met by 10.d5).  

Now Guido De Bouver's blog (well worth a look, btw, for fans of the Blackmar-Diemer) gives 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.d5 in his article, "Not yet equality, but close", but concedes that Black might be slightly better after 11...Qe7.

At move 10 I prefer 10.Rhf1, putting the rook straight onto the f-file, a line which I recall discussing with "ArKheiN" at the Chesspublishing.com forum (via the move-order 7.Bg5 e6 8.Qe2 Be7, but unfortunately Black has the strong 8...Bb4! in that move-order).  

I'm not 100% sure that White's compensation is objectively sufficient, but I would certainly fancy my chances with White in that final position.  The g and h-pawns come rolling forward in the direction of Black's king.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

King's Gambit, Allgaier Gambit

To give readers a taster of what is to come, I have published an article on the Allgaier Gambit, 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ng5, a dubious but tricky knight sacrifice, offering an analysis of the key lines and five illustrative games, which are also available for PGN download.
As with many such unsound lines, it may pick up a fair number of points in casual and rapid games, since White always appears to get some sort of attacking chances, even in the most critical variations. I have occasionally faced the Allgaier and related lines with Black, and know that Black's defence is not quite as easy in practice as it should be in theory.

In summary, White leaves the knight without a safe retreat square, and thus after 5...h6, White must sacrifice the knight on f7 and bring the black king out into the open.  The Hamppe-Allgaier Gambit (with 4.Nc3 Nc6 and then 5.h4 g4 6.Ng5) gives White rather better prospects.

For a second opinion on the Allgaier Gambit, Tim Harding's articles for ChessCafe.com, Kibitzer #78 and #79, are worth checking out, though he mostly reached similar conclusions.

5...f3!? (recommended by "micawber" at the Chesspublishing.com forum) is critical, since after 6.gxf3, cutting off the white queen's route to g4 and h5, Black can now get away with 6...f6.  However the main line is 5...h6 6.Nxf7 Kxf7.

Theoretically White is struggling to prove enough compensation for the knight after 7.Qxg4?! Nf6, 7.Bc4+ d5 8.Bxd5+ Kg7 9.d4 f3!, 7.d4 f3, and 7.Nc3 d5.  I tend to think that 7.d4 f3 8.Be3!?, preparing Qd2 and queenside castling, is White's best practical try, and 7.d4 also has the advantage that in practice Black often replies with 7...d5 or 7...Nf6, in which case White replies with 8.Bxf4 and may well get enough compensation for the sacrificed knight.

Meanwhile, here is an example of 7.Nc3:

Unfortunately for Allgaier Gambit fans, while the opening will always give practical chances, I don't think that it can be revived theoretically.  However, it's probably sound enough for some players to have a fair amount of fun with it in rapid and casual games.

In the next few weeks I intend to cover a range of King's Gambit lines, focusing mainly on approaches with an early Nc3 and d4 followed by g2-g3 against an early ...g7-g5 from Black, for I consider these to be more promising than the Kieseritzky (5.Ne5 instead of 5.Ng5, above) and the Hanstein (4.Bc4, which allows Black to set up a f4-g5-h6 pawn chain).  I am a bit busy with work right now, but will hopefully get a fair amount up in the next few weeks.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Garry Kasparov's 50th birthday

Garry Kasparov (known as Garry Weinstein in his childhood) was born on the 13th April 1963, and was FIDE World Chess Champion from 1985-1993 and PCA World Champion from 1993-1999.  In 1985, he was the youngest-ever world chess champion at the age of 22.

Although he isn't quite my all-time favourite chess player (I am a greater admirer of Nigel Short, Alexander Morozevich and David Bronstein for instance) he was certainly the player that I followed the most closely while he was active, partly because of how successful he was, partly because of his ruthless winning mentality, and partly because of his entertaining playing style.  Kasparov tended to favour unbalanced positions and played to keep the initiative, often at the cost of material.

He was a particularly strong exponent of the Sicilian Najdorf/Scheveningen formation, with the pawns on a6, d6 and e6, where White often gets attacking chances right from early in the game, but Black relies upon a structural advantage in order to hold the situation, while developing strong counterplay on the queenside, typically with ...Rc8 and ...b5-b4.  He was also very good at using the Queen's Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4) as a means of slowly developing a strong attack- take for example his 15th-round game against Nigel Short in their 1993 world championship match:

Although Kasparov mostly adopted positionally-sophisticated openings, as is a neccessity at Super-GM level where computer-assisted preparation makes it easier to equalise against those 19th-century gambits, he occasionally tried out some 19th-century gambits- take for example his crushing win over Anand in an Evans Gambit back in 1995:

One Kasparov game that I particularly recall was his sacrificial win over Topalov at Wijk aan Zee, 1999:

At one stage he was a rook and piece down, but he had correctly calculated that his attacking chances against Black's stranded king on the queenside were more than sufficient.  I particularly liked the retreat 36.Bf1!- it's surprising how often, amongst a series of checks, sacrifices and forcing moves, the key winning move is a quiet piece retreat that deflects an opposing piece away from a critical square.

Unfortunately during the latter stages of his career, some nervousness began to creep into Kasparov's play, which became evident in his 1995 match against Anand when he agreed draws in favourable positions in quite a few games.   He struggled to break down Kramnik during their 2000 world championship match, and ultimately opted to retire from professional chess in 2005, at the age of just 41.

As someone who also follows snooker, I've often felt that Kasparov's chess career has had a lot of parallels with that of seven-times snooker champion Stephen Hendry- both have relied upon an attack-minded approach and ruthless winning mentality for success but have proved less strong at defensive play, and both retired in their early forties while still playing to a high level, and took up commentary roles.  Kasparov's rivalry with British favourite Nigel Short also happened at around the same time as Hendry kept beating crowd favourite and entertainer Jimmy White.

For me, elite-level chess has never been quite the same since Kasparov's retirement, though there are signs that we're possibly moving towards a new "golden era" with the likes of Carlsen, Aronian, Grischuk, Nakamura and Radjabov battling it out with some long-term established players such as Anand, Kramnik and Ivanchuk, and there are strong signs that the trend is towards a unified world chess championship, following the damaging split between FIDE and the PCA.