Monday, 24 March 2014

Recent online games in the Göring Gambit

I've been having a spate of games in this gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.c3, or 2.d4 exd4 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.c3 which is how I more commonly reach it).  The opening is essentially a mirror-image of the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit which I have been discussing recently, but I think that the Göring is the sounder of the two gambits, especially in the version where White meets 4...dxc3 with 5.Nxc3.  However, my recent games with both White and Black have featured the more daring 5.Bc4 offering the second pawn on b2.  Most of them have then continued with 5...d6 6.Nxc3 although none have yet reached the notoriously complicated "tabiya" that arises from 6...Nf6 7.Qb3 Qd7 8.Ng5 Ne5 9.Bb5 c6 10.f4.

Here is one game that I played from the black side.

  I am aware that 5...cxb2 is the most theoretically critical test of 5.Bc4, but having had a few drubbings on the black side of that variation in casual games, I opted instead for 5...d6, with which I have had good practical results- settling for the one-pawn advantage still generates more than enough imbalance in the position to give both sides good winning chances.  In the above game, I think 7.Ng5 is a reasonable alternative to the main line with 7.Qb3 but the problems for White started at move 10, when 10.Qd4 and 10.Nf3 are both superior to 10.Qc2, which I think leaves White struggling to prove sufficient compensation for the pawn.

There was one online game where I played White and my opponent took me on with 5...cxb2 6.Bxb2 d6 (which, alongside 6...Bb4+, is one of the two most critical tests of 5.Bc4).  I then went 7.Qb3 (though I think 7.0-0 and 7.Nc3 may be of theoretically equal value).

But then the opponent blundered with 7...Qf6?? 8.Bxf6- that sort of thing sometimes happens in online games.  My current opinion is that 7...Be6 will usually transpose into 7.0-0 lines (here I suggest looking into defending the c4-bishop with 8.Na3 or 8.Nbd2, rather than the usual immediate bishop exchange on e6) while 7...Qd7 and 7...Nh6 (both suggested by John Watson in his review of Danish Dynamite) are quite testing but White has a few improvements over Watson's analysis which are probably sufficient to give two pawns' worth of compensation.

Finally, I have one online game which has been a convincing demonstration of why after 5...d6 6.Nxc3 Nf6 7.Qb3, Black should close off the a4-e8 diagonal with 7...Qd7, preparing ...Na5, rather than the 7...Qe7 played in the game, which continued: 8.0-0 Na5 9.Qa4+ Nc6 10.Bg5 h6 11.Nd5.

Ouch.  Black could have just about hung on with 11...Qd8 here, but Black is in a very bad way after 12.Bxf6 gxf6 13.Bb5 or 12.e5 dxe5 13.Nxe5.

The point of 7...Qd7 is of course that after 8.0-0? Na5, 9.Qa4 is no longer check and so White then has to accept the exchange of the important c4-bishop for Black's knight on a5, and this is why White normally increases the pressure on f7 with 8.Ng5, typically leading to the aforementioned line 8...Ne5 9.Bb5 c6 10.f4.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Critical lines of the Blackmar-Diemer Part 5 and Round-Up- 5...c6

In recent years the most critical response to the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit has generally been the line 1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.f3 exf3 5.Nxf3 c6, which is known as the Ziegler Defence.

Black sets up a Caro-Kann Defence formation and maintains the c8-bishop's flexibility, since 6.Bd3 can be met effectively by 6...Bg4 although White can then offer the unclear sacrifice of a second pawn with 7.h3!? intending 7...Bxf3 8.Qxf3 Qxd4 9.Be3.

More normal is 6.Bc4 Bf5 which I examined in a previous blog article and I don't have a great deal to add to what Stefan Bucker analysed in his article, How to Detect a Novelty.   My detailed analysis of the BDG main lines features a game in the line I gave in the other article, 7.Bg5 Nbd7 8.Qe2 e6 9.0-0-0 Be7 10.Rhf1 (Guido de Bouver has blogged about the interesting alternative 10.Bxf6, but I prefer the text move, bringing a rook to the half-open f-file) 10...Nd5 11.Bd2 Qc7 12.h3 0-0 13.g4 Bg4 14.h4.

This position led to a wild battle in P.Grott-W.Hort, email 2001, in which White missed a good opportunity to generate a strong kingside attack around move 22, instead grabbing a queenside pawn and losing.

Boris Avrukh gave one important line against one of Stefan's ideas: 7...e6 8.Nh4 (8.Qe2 is met by 8...Bb4! if Black goes for this move-order) 8...Bg6 (if 8...h6 9.Bxf6 Qxf6 10.Nxf5 Qxf5, then 11.Rf1 is quite promising for White) 9.Nxg6 hxg6 10.Qd3 Be7 11.0-0-0 Nbd7 12.h4 a5 13.Bb3 Nb6 14.a4 Nbd5 15.Kb1 Qd7.

Here Stefan Bücker gives 16.Rhf1 Nxc3+ 17.Qxc3 Ne4 18.Qe1 Nxg5 19.hxg5 Bxg5 20.d5! with dangerous compensation for two pawns, while I suggested 16.Ne2!?, aiming to create some trouble by landing the knight on f4.

Of course, at the club level, it is unlikely that either side will have a good enough memory or play accurately enough to head into these lines, and the 7...e6 8.Nh4 Bg6 line remains untested at high levels of play.  However, it seems to me that 5...c6 is not quite as big a challenge to White as previously thought.

So is Black's best bet 5...g6?  Maybe if White goes in for the Studier Attack (6.Bc4 Bg7 7.0-0 0-0 8.Qe1 Nc6 9.Qh4 Bg4) but in the line 5...g6 6.Bf4 Bg7 7.Qd2 0-0 8.0-0-0 a5 9.Bh6 a4, Mark Nieuweboer has provided some convincing analysis in support of 10.a3:

White blocks Black's a-pawn advance and refrains from making a premature exchange on g7, and as he pointed out, White is doing OK after 10...Bxh6 11.Qxh6, e.g. 11...Bg4 is simply met by 12.Be2, and in the line I briefly gave (10...Bf5) White could instead consider the standard plan of harassing the bishop with h3 and g4 followed by h3-h4-h5, e.g. 11.h3 Ne4 (anticipating the bishop being kicked) 12.Nxe4 Bxe4 13.h4.

Despite the loss of a tempo with h2-h3-h4, White has good attacking chances in this position.

The Summing Up

Therefore, my conclusion is that the most problematic line for White from a theoretical (and also practical) perspective in the Blackmar-Diemer is 5...Bf5 6.Ne5 (6.Bd3 Bxd3 7.Qxd3 c6, intending ...e6, ...Be7 and ...Nbd7) 6...c6 7.g4 Be6.  I have nothing to add to what I said in Part 3 of this coverage of the BDG and I am not as convinced by White's compensation here as in the 5...c6 and 5...g6 lines examined above.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Critical lines of the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit Part 4: 5...g6

We come to the penultimate part of my examination of the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit main lines.  The variation with 1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.f3 exf3 5.Nxf3 g6 sees Black opt for a kingside fianchetto with the aim of counterattacking in the centre and on the queenside, often with a quick ...c7-c5.

The most common response to this from White is the Studier Attack with 6.Bc4, followed by 0-0, Qe1 and Qh4 and Bh6.  Black normally "castles into it" and relies upon counterplay to defuse White's attack, since if Black leaves the king in the centre then White has tricks based on Nf3-e5.  However, after 6.Bc4 Bg7 7.0-0 0-0 8.Qe1 Nc6 9.Qh4 Bg4 I have been unable to find a good way for White to keep a strong attack going.

Black threatens to exchange bishop for knight on f3 and then take on d4, going a second pawn ahead and forcing the queens off.  White must back-pedal for a move to prevent this, with 10.Ne2 or 10.Be3, and this slows down the white attack.  My main problem with this system is that White is relying entirely on piece play to attack Black's king, and with the white king castled to the kingside, White cannot advance the g and h-pawns (the h-pawn hack is often very effective against the fianchetto formation, as seen in openings like the Sicilian Dragon, Yugoslav Attack) without exposing the white king.

Thus, 6.Bf4 is most likely a better bet for White, with the idea of Qd2 and 0-0-0, followed by Bh6 and h2-h4-h5 (it is important to play Bh6 before h4 in many variations to prevent Black from slowing down White's attack with ...h7-h5).  The bishop is better-placed on f4 rather than e3 or g5, to gain some control of the e5 and d6-squares.

In the Pirc Defence lines where White plays Be3/f4/g5, Qd2, 0-0-0, Bh6 etc., Black often delays castling and/or goes queenside in order to leave White's kingside offensive firing at nothing, but in this line, White's missing f-pawn helps White to generate tricks down the e and f-files and put pressure on f7.  If Black swiftly castles short and goes straight ahead with queenside counterplay, though, White's missing f-pawn is sometimes more of a hindrance than a help, because White cannot play f2-f3 to cover the e4-square and support g2-g4.  Thus, Black's most challenging continuation appears to be 6.Bf4 Bg7 7.Qd2 0-0 8.0-0-0 a5!?, which was suggested to me by Mark Nieuweboer, by analogy with Abby Marshall's article which suggested this approach against 6.Be3.

Black's idea is simply to cause disruption in the white queenside and encourage White to take time out to defend, thus slowing down the kingside attack.  The best response is probably 9.Bh6 a4 10.Bxg7 (White could also consider 10.a3 immediately, with the idea of getting in 11.h4 before exchanging off the dark-squared bishops, e.g. 10...Bf5 11.h4 Nbd7 12.Bxg7 Kxg7 and now the daring 13.h5 is one idea, though Black's control of the g4-square remains a problem.) 10...Kxg7 11.a3 (allowing Black to get in ...a4-a3 would force b2-b3, leaving White's queenside dark squares weak) 11...Bf5 12.Be2.  White has long-term kingside attacking chances with the idea of h2-h3 and g2-g4, chasing away Black's bishop on f5, followed by h3-h4-h5, but it is quite slow, so it is debatable whether White has enough for a pawn.

White doesn't have many problems getting enough compensation for the pawn against other lines.  I was recently involved in a discussion on the line 8...c5 9.d5 a6, intending ...b7-b5, but instead of Christoph Scheerer's hasty 10.d6 White can play 10.Be2 completing development and if 10...b5 11.Ne5 with good compensation for the pawn.

One popular continuation is 8...Bf5 whereupon the game Seidel-Wolczek, email 2008 continued with the fairly typical line 9.h3 Nc6 10.g4 Ne4 11.Qe3 Nxc3 12.bxc3 Bc8.

White now played 13.Be2, which should have allowed Black to get the upper hand with 13...Qd5, but Black missed the opportunity and a typically wild game followed with rival attacks, eventually ending in a draw.  Instead 13.d5 followed by Be2 with the idea of h3-h4-h5 would have given White sufficient compensation for the pawn.

Although I am not 100% convinced that White has full compensation for the pawn, I think that from a club player's perspective White's chances are quite good in the 6.Bf4 variation, but the Studier Attack approach following 6.Bc4 needs significant repair work.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Critical lines of the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit Part 3: 5...Bf5

The line with 1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.f3 exf3 5.Nxf3 Bf5 is generally known as the Gunderam Defence, in which Black tries to set up a Caro-Kann Defence type formation, where White has a move and a half-open f-file in return for the pawn.

Gunderam analysed many of the important lines of this defence, although the most critical line may well be one that, to my knowledge, he didn't analyse extensively.  White's most popular reply is 6.Ne5, preparing to expand on the kingside with g2-g4, and White can get sufficient compensation for the pawn if Black responds with the standard 6...e6 7.g4 Bg6 (after which White continues with Bg2 and h4, often transposing into 5...Bg4 lines), while the complications after 7...Be4 are also OK for White.  However, 6...c6 7.g4 Be6!, instead of ...Bg6, is hard for White to generate full compensation for the pawn against.  It looks odd, blocking in the e7-pawn, but from e6 the bishop is not vulnerable to pawn attacks and reinforces Black's control of the d5-square.

Since White gets nowhere after 8.g5 Nd5, I think 8.Bc4 is White's best bet, trading off the troublesome bishop.  Then one line which I feel may be critical is 8...Bxc4 9.Nxc4 e6 10.g5 Nd5 11.0-0 Be7 12.Qh5 0-0.

At club level I would be happy to take White in this position, as there are clearly practical chances here, but objectively I am not sure that White has enough of an attack for the pawn.  In particular the kingside is somewhat draughty.  The problem with castling queenside, which rather appeals to me in many analogous variations, is that Black gets various threats of ...Nd5xc3, ...Bb4 etc. if White tries to castle to that side.

Therefore in a discussion at the forum I advocated the rare 6.Bd3, inspired by an idea of Stefan Bücker in the Soller Gambit (1.d4 e5 2.dxe5 Nc6 3.Nf3 f6 4.exf6 Nxf6 5.Bf4 Bd6).  After all, it can't be too bad with an extra tempo, and White can usually castle safely to the queenside in this line, which leaves White freer to push the h-pawn.  Stefan himself was quite keen on the idea as well, but upon reflection I am not convinced that White can get full compensation for the pawn here either.  Black continues 6...Bxd3 7.Qxd3 c6 intending ...Nbd7, ...e6 and ...Be7 with a solid defensive formation.  One important continuation is then 8.Bf4 e6 9.0-0-0 Nbd7 10.h4 Be7 11.Rhf1 Qa5 12.Kb1.

 Black must be careful not to castle kingside too quickly in this variation since White has a ready-made kingside attack, by advancing the g and h-pawns, but if Black keeps White guessing for a while as to where Black puts the king, then it will be difficult for White to make much of having the superior piece activity.  

The line with 5...Bf5 is not a strong reason for club players to give up the Blackmar-Diemer, for even if, as I suspect, White's compensation for the pawn isn't quite enough, White's practical chances are still favourable enough to give good results and entertaining games.  However, it is one reason why the BDG is not likely to be as reliable at high levels of play as, say, the Evans or King's Gambits.