Monday, 14 April 2014

"Scandinavian gambits" following 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6, and news on upcoming updates to the Gambiteers Guild site

Black can play the Scandinavian Defence (or Centre Counter) as a gambit, with 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 (2.d4 transposes to the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, but taking on d5 is objectively best, for as noted in earlier blogs, the BDG is probably not 100% sound) 2...Nf6.


Black's main weapons here are the Icelandic or Palme Gambit with 3.c4 e6!?, and the Portuguese or Jadoul Gambit with 3.d4 Bg4!?.  I think that 3.c4 e6 is fully sound, while 3.d4 Bg4 probably does not give Black full compensation for the pawn, but both lead to similar play and can produce many entertaining victories.

The following game of mine in the 3.d4 Bg4 variation, however, was a disappointment, as I lost after spurning a couple of good chances:

This game followed one of the most critical lines for the assessment of the 3.d4 Bg4 variation, although Black can also consider meeting 6.c4 with 6...a6. I played 16...Kb8 to avoid any tricks involving snaring the black king with Bf2-g3, but 16...Bd6 would have been a better way of covering this threat, for while ...Kc8-b8 is often a good prophylactic move after castling queenside, in this particular position it left Black vulnerable to tactics on c6 and b7. Then I somehow missed 20...Nd2, which would probably have left White with insufficient compensation for being an exchange down. In general, White is slightly better in this variation but it is not a serious threat to the soundness of 3.d4 Bg4. As Stefan Bücker has noted, 5.g4 is more theoretically critical, but it takes some guts to play this way as White, as the plan of cramping Black by pushing the kingside pawns forward leaves White's king lacking pawn cover.

I have added an article on these variations at my Gambiteers Guild website at http://tws27.weebly.com/scandinavian-gambits.html and plan to expand on most of that site's openings articles to make them into more of a Wikipedia-style overview, to cater for those who would prefer to get a good overview without having to read through annotated games.  Although I have not got around to analysing any high-level games in these Scandinavian lines, I have added a PGN file containing 66 unannotated high-level games in the critical lines, to provide readers with good practical examples to browse through and reach your own conclusions about the practical chances that these lines offer..

I have started by expanding the discussion of the Albin Counter-Gambit at http://tws27.weebly.com/albin-counter-gambit.html.  There's nothing really new here in terms of analysis, although again, I have added a PGN file for the benefit of those seeking high-level practical examples in the important lines, this time containing 95 games.  It is an example of the sort of Wikipedia-style overview that I am thinking of.  I also removed the comment along the lines of, "just a small edge for White with counterplay for Black", because as Mark Nieuweboer pointed out to me a while ago, there is considerable room for argument with that statement, depending on how attractive or unattractive one finds Black's game in the lines following 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 d4 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.a3 and 5.Nbd2 (I believe that 5.Nbd2 is probably more accurate as 5...Nge7 and 5...Bf5 are both ineffective due to 6.Nb3, so Black should play 5...Bg4 or 5...Be6, whereupon 6.a3 follows, transposing back into 5.a3 lines).  However, I think it is harder to be dismissive of Black's practical chances in the 5.g3 variation following either 5...Bf5 or 5...Nge7.

In the coming months I expect to add some discussion on my Gambiteers Guild site of some other gambit lines, including some in relatively mainstream openings, e.g. I am interested in quite a number of pawn sacrifice lines in the Queen's Gambit, Ruy Lopez, French Defence and Open Sicilian, and I expect also to be adding an overview of the Morra Gambit (1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3) in the near future.  I am also still yet to address the glaring omission of the Evans Gambit, which has been played a lot with success by Nigel Short.  More offbeat stuff is likely too, e.g. I am envisaging covering the Latvian and Elephant Gambits at some stage (which, like the Englund Gambit, are theoretically bad, but have many followers who enjoy playing them and get good results despite their lack of soundness).  I have been playing a fair number of "thematic" online games at Chess.com recently and experimenting with different openings at the chess club which has got me more interested in a wider range of openings.  I doubt I will have the time to produce analysis of annotated games in many of those lines in the future (perhaps just the odd such article, like I did in the 5...Nxd5 line of the Two Knights Defence).  However, I intend to maintain all of the analysis that I've already done on illustrative games, and keep the associated links working, and also produce PGN files containing a wide cross-section of relevant high-level games as a starting point for those with database and/or PGN software.

7 comments:

  1. "a good overview without having to read through annotated games."
    If this is going to be your standard I think it's a pity. The combination of an introductory overview with those annotated games results imo in an excellent introduction to the opening, especially because your objectivity allows the reader to spot the critical stuff very quickly. So I sincerely hope you won't change this format. Adding pgn is fine for delving into detail of course, but can't replace your annotated games online. Moreover this format with annotated games allows you to incorporate new developments and insights relatively quickly.
    But if I misunderstand you (I'm rather tired at the moment of typing) and you mean to add an index of variations like on the Albin's page, yes, that's an excellent idea.
    Let me know if you plan to add a page on the Morra Gambit. I've done a lot of research on several important lines. Also I already have been investigating systematically the many transpositions if Black declines the gambit, something most books just ignore. Though my bibliography on this opening is far from complete (no Esserman, no Keilhack) I think I can save you a lot of time by sending you my stuff.

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    1. "I already have been investigating systematically the many transpositions if Black declines the gambit" since almost 30 years, when the Morra Gambit was part of my repertoire

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    2. Some good points there on the format. My main problem has been struggling with the limitations of software that generates HTML outputs from databases and/or PGN files, which have made providing easily-readable annotated games far more time-consuming than it should be.

      If I go through a lot of games, that soon becomes time-consuming, so I had the idea of going through relatively few games, but providing more notes and explanations, and more coverage of sidelines and references to other practical examples in the notes. That would be less time-consuming if it wasn't for the issue that all of the software that I've found defaults to scrunching all of the notes up (defaults that can't be changed, a common bane of mine with software) and so they increasingly resemble a mass of analysis that may be hard for some to digest, like in Danish Dynamite. A way around this is to manually edit the resulting HTML files to make them more readable, but again, it takes time to get all of that right. Of the options that I've tried (and there are many), Palview seems to offer the most control over the HTML (more so than ChessBase 11, certainly) but it is still quite tricky to get right.

      Hence my proposal at the end of the blog article, but you are right, while the static web page and overview format makes it far less time-consuming to get the web pages looking as I would like them, it doesn't come close to substituting for having annotated practical examples in the critical lines accompanied by an interactive chess board.

      This problem is the reason why I haven't been updating my site as often as I would like, and have tweaked the format more often than I would like. I don't know if you have any ideas on this, but I think I may also seek advice from others who write chess articles, as others are bound to have struggled with the same problems as I have.

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    3. For an example of my problem, when covering sidelines, I would ideally like to be able to label them as "A", "A1", "B" etc. (or maybe have sub-titles for them), and have a separate paragraph for each, as is common in many chess books, but when converting databases/PGN to HTML, the sidelines are automatically scrunched up into a single cluttered paragraph and it becomes difficult even for me to work out where "A" ends and "B" starts when I start editing the HTML manually.

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    4. "This problem is the reason why I haven't been updating my site as often as I would like,"
      Personally I think quality more important than quantity.

      " I don't know if you have any ideas on this"
      Unfortunately I'm totally ignorant on this problem.

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  2. If White heads for the Panov Black of course still can play gambit: 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.c4 c6 4.d4 cxd5 5.Nc3 g6, which is better than its reputation. Most problematic might be 4.Nc3 cxd5 5.cxd5.
    As you haven't annotated any games (yet?) I haven't much to comment. Moreover I haven't read FM Bücker's article on the Icelandic Gambit. I only can say that results after 5.Nf3 ... 7...Bf5 have been rather depressing.
    So I have switched my attention to 5.Nf3 c5 when White again can exchange queens with 6.d4 cxd4 7.Nxd4 (7.Qxd4 Nc6 gives Black the lead in development and already has destroyed White's centre, hence must be superior for Black compared to 5...Qe7) Bc5 8.Be3 Ng4 9.Nxe6 Qxd1+ 10.Kxd1 Nxe3+ 11.fxe3 fxe6 and this time White suffers from lack of coordination. Even in this simplified position Black should be able to initiate enough counterplay.
    So to achieve something tangible White should avoid exchanging queens and Black certainly won't mind that. I think 5...c5 worth considering.

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  3. I've tried out an altered format for two new articles, one on the Icelandic/Palme Gambit and one on the Portuguese/Jadoul Gambit.
    The links (now also provided at http://tws27.weebly.com/scandinavian-gambits.html ) are at http://tws27.50webs.com/chess/scandinavian/scandinavian.htm and http://tws27.50webs.com/chess/scandinavian/scandinavian2.htm

    The idea is to come up with something that I can motivate myself to keep going with, but without sacrificing quality. There's more emphasis on the "variation tree" type of format, including an index of variations at the beginning, but there are plenty of game references and the article finishes with an annotated example.

    The problem has always been the way that editing the HTML to get the pages laid out as I want tends to screw up the java replay boards- I think I'll need to edit out the move display below the java board, I think, as it is displaying the wrong moves, but the board is displaying the correct positions. The reason why I have been reluctant to try something like this is because if I then need to add further variations, I can't make them replayable on the java board without having to re-do all the HTML editing, but maybe I can add them as footnotes or reference them in other articles without sacrificing quality too much.

    If this works well then I'll go ahead with this rather than the trimmed-down version that I originally suggested, if not then I may need to think of more alternatives.

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