Monday, 18 November 2013

Albin Counter-Gambit

The Albin Counter-Gambit is used against the Queen's Gambit and begins with 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5, intending 3.dxe5 d4 whereupon the d4-pawn has a significant cramping effect on White's position.  It can be seen as a sounder relative of the Englund Gambit (1.d4 e5) because White has weakened the b4 and d4-squares by playing c2-c4. 

Unlike with the previously-discussed Englund Gambit, I find it difficult to answer the question, "Is the Albin Counter-Gambit sound?", since objectively Black falls a little short of full compensation for the pawn, but on the other hand, 2...e5 is probably only marginally worse theoretically than 2...e6, 2...c6 or 2...dxc4, while often giving Black greater counterplay.

The format for the Albin Counter-Gambit coverage and the updated Englund Gambit coverage now features a brief discussion of the main lines and ideas, a 4-part series giving games and analysis and an index of variations, to make it easier to determine which games correspond to which variations.

In the Albin, I focus on White's attempts to get in an early e2-e3, with the aim of swapping off Black's d4-pawn, and then on the three most critical lines: (4.Nf3 Nc6) 5.g3, 5.a3 and 5.Nbd2.  I have chosen to give some coverage to all of Black's main approaches (...Be6, ...Bf5, ...Bg4 and ...Nge7) in each case, as theoretically some of the lines following 5.a3 and 5.Nbd2 are looking quite dicey and it is worth having alternatives to fall back upon.  This coverage might need a bit of expansion in the future as I realise that after 4.Nf3 Nc6 I haven't mentioned White's minor fifth-move options (e.g. the rare 5.Bf4 was covered by Tim McGrew in A Fistful of Novelties)

My overall assessments haven't changed much though- the approaches with ...Nge7, favoured by Alexander Morozevich, are generally soundest but there are certain White responses that make it hard for Black to generate much counterplay, while the approaches with ...Be6/f5/g4 give Black counterplay but are less likely to come close to fully equalising.  I find the approaches with ...Bf5 the most fun, as there are various tactics for White to watch for on c2 and d3 and they lead to some good kingside attacks if White goes g2-g3, although I have tried out some of the ...Nge7 lines as well.  

In the meantime, the Anand-Carlsen match has sprung into life and seen Carlsen pull out two of his typical endgame wins from equal or slightly better positions.  While I would like Carlsen to win the match as I consider him to be the better player, I'd like to see Anand at least win one game, as per my original prediction (+3 -1 =8) and I think he still has a chance of pulling that off, though his chances of winning the match are now pretty low.


  1. I remain somewhat amazed that few authors follow your line of thinking until it's very end: that 5.Nbd2 is more precise than 5.a3 exactly because 5.Nbd2 kills off both 5...Bf5 and 5...Nge7. IM Bronznik clearly states in his Beating the Guerilla's that after 5.a3 both 5...Be6 and 5...Bg4 are inferior because of 6.Nbd2. So if these moves are best after 5.Nbd2 then White plays 6.a3 and Black is worse than just "a little short of full compensation for the pawn".

    Btw you can find the Andrew Martin X-rated article here:

    It looks like you have to pay for it though.

  2. In the game Ding-Lin Chen Bronznik gives 8.Qa4 (iso 8.g3) O-O-O 9.b4 Nxe5 10.Nxe5 Qxe5 11.Bb2 and in Nielsen-Rasmussen, Silkeborg 2008 Black didn't last long.

    In the game Aleksandrov-Moiseenko Bronznik deviates with 10.Nd5 (iso 10.Nb5) following Hendricks-Finegold, Plymouth 1984.

    Of course Bronznik thoroughly analyses 15...Qh3, the improvement on Topalov-Morozevich. Though objectively White might be somewhat better I wouldn't mind to enter these complications as Black.
    So 5.a3 Nge7 6.b4 Ng6 7.Bb2 a5 and 5.g3 Bf5 (keeps three attractive options open: play X-rated chess with ...f6, castle queenside and hack with h7-h5-h4 or pull of tricks with ...Nb4 and ...d3) are fun and hardly worse than many well respected lines of the QGD indeed. 5.Nbd2 is the kill joy.

  3. You also should include a game on 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.e3. It's far from a refutation, but if Black wants to win he/she must know and understand a couple of lines.

  4. Thanks again for the feedback. I've uploaded a slightly-updated version of the coverage where in the notes to the first game with 5.g3 I've included some analysis on 5.Bf4 and 5.e3, including a sample game with 5.e3.
    I don't have Bronzniik's book which is why I missed some of his ideas.
    In Aleksandrov-Moiseenko 10.Nd5 is indeed a good alternative and another argument as to why Black should prefer 9...a6. (I once had a game in that line as Black and had counterplay but was worse for most of the game- since then I've preferred ...Nge7 over ...Bf5 against the a3, e3 approaches- however I still prefer ...Bf5 against the early g2-g3 approaches.)
    In Ding-Lin Chen 8.Qa4 O-O-O 9.b4 Nxe5 10.Nxe5 Qxe5 11.Bb2 should IMO be met by 11...a6 with the idea 12.b5 Qe6 (which I embedded into the notes) which improves on Moissenko's game although it is still tricky for Black to defend against the queenside attack.
    The reason for my relatively optimistic assessment was that I feel that, on the basis of what I've seen, 5.a3 Be6 and 5.a3 Bg4 with 6.Nbd2 aren't looking too bad for Black but it won't surprise me if Bronzniik found something that I missed. The idea after 5.a3 Be6 6.Nbd2 is 6...Nge7 7.Nb3 Nf5.

    On the downside from Black's point of view, after 5.a3 Nge7 6.b4 Nf5 7.Bb2 a5 8.b5 Ncxe5 White has 9.Qxd4 which leads to an endgame with a small niggling edge for White (I recall reading that Georgiev recommended this for White in his book Squeezing the Gambits).
    I have a copy of the "X-rated" article by Andrew Martin in an old issue of Chess Monthly- the problem was more that I couldn't refer readers directly to the article.

    1. After 5.Nbd2 Be6 6.a3 Nge7 7.Nb3 Nf5 Bronznik improves on Avrukh's analysis after 8.Qd3 a5 9.Bf4 (White has the fun of attacking) and after 5.Nbd2 Bg4 6.a3 Qe7 the game Nielsen-Rasmussen, Silkeborg 2008.

      "aren't looking too bad for Black"
      Too bad to my taste, I'm afraid.