Wednesday, March 30, 2011

MCC Openings Group 30/3/2011

Every second Wednesday the MCC hosts a night aimed specifically at issues surrounding the openings of games. Tonight we were looking at creating imbalances by exchanging a knight for a bishop in the opening. For many of us older players, this is something we were taught to be very wary of doing as conceding the bishop pair to an opponent early in the game offers them a long term advantage. So you'd want to get a definite positional concession from your opponent in return for giving up the bishops. These could include:

- pawn weaknesses that can be fairly easily targetted (such as in many lines of the Nimzo-Indian)
- closure of the centre to stifle the bishops (the Hubner Nimzo-Indian springs to mind see the game below from the first Fischer-Spassky match)
- a space advantage (like some Bb5/Bb5+ lines in the Sicilian)
- a supported outpost for one of the knights.

But the main interest for the evening came from the practical side, where we played games from a starting point. This was after a discussion surrounding the paradoxical issue of opening the position after giving up the bishop pair. Although an open position is supposed to favour the bishop pair, a speeding up of the position will favour the better developed side, which is often the one with the knights developed. The game we chose was from the Fischer-Spassky return match of 1992. The position our games started from was:

It is white to play his 7th move and there are a number of candidate moves available. Among the group, d3, and c4 seemed quite popular. You can see what Fischer chose below.

Fischer's energetic opening of the position seems to go against the old maxim that the bishop pair prefer the position to be opened, but of course, it is also the better developed side that wants to see the position opened, especially when there are definite targets to aim at. The following game is the famous 4th game of the first Fischer-Spassky match, where Fischer chooses a more conventional way of dealing with the bishop pair. Here, as black in a Nimzo-Indian, he closes the centre to limit the scope of the bishops, and white's light squared bishop in particular looks a very sorry piece.

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