Friday, March 18, 2011

MCC Openings Group 16/3/2011

Every  fortnight on a Wednesday evening, a group of players meet at the Melbourne Chess Club to discuss issues relating to openings. The group is fairly new, and the subject for the night was pawn grabbing in the opening. The old maxim for new players is don't grab pawns in the opening until you are fully developed. However it seems that central pawns are good to grab, if it can be done safely.

Pawn grabbing is essentially a risky way of unbalancing the position, but then again so is the opposite measure of gambitting material, and we all love that. There are some very well known pawn grabs that have become part of respectable opening theory such as in the Sicilian Najdorf and French Winawer.

 Black's queen has flouted traditional opening lore to grab a pawn on b2. The Poisoned Pawn Variation of the Sicilian Najdorf has been a hot topic in opening theory for over 40 years.
White's queen goes a-pawn grabbing in the main line of the French Winawer. The resulting positions are wildly unbalanced but theory seems to be looking in white's favour recently.

The main part of the session involved looking at a pawn grab in an annoying anti-Sicilian variation. After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6, white can spoil black's countless hours of opening study by playing 3.Bb5+ and after 3..Bd7 4.Bxd7 Qxd7 he can set up a Maroczy Bind with 5.c4. The main variations now are hardly lively which may be what a black player wants if he's prepared to play the Najdorf or Dragon, so instead of fitting in with white's plans, there is the risky move 5..Qg4 forking 2 important pawns. The pawn on g2 is part of white's potential king's protection after he castles, while the one on e4 is his big central pawn. So which one should white part with? Even among our group there was debate about this, and in the games we played, both pawns were dropped.

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