Whether an article is too high brow, or the readers too lowly in expertise is an interesting philosophical issue, but not one we dwelt on. Instead it was decided that rather than buying openings works, it might be more interesting and useful to try to create one ourselves using the games played at the MCC. So that is what I did, and here it is: (feedback about what you'd lie to see in future copies would be appreciated - Thai Ly already suggested repertoire profiles for prominent players!)
MCC Openings Bulletin
- Retain the tension?
Young International Master James Morris decided against the more traditional clearing of the central tension against Jim Papadinis’s Colle set up.
The most popular move here is 7..cxd4. White scores a miserable 37% against this in big database 2010. The most popular reply is 8.cxd4 which seems natural but after 8..d5 9.e5 Ne4, black does not appear worse. So perhaps white could try 8.Nxd4, but after 8..Nc6 black again has nothing to worry about.
Taking that into account, why would an IM play 7..Bg4 in the above position? It has been played rarely and impresses the analysis engines less than 7..cxd4. But can a simple developing move really be that bad? Papdinis replied with the natural 8.0-0 and Morris dramatically changed the position by voluntarily exchanging his bishop, 8..Bxf3. This move is a novelty in the position though the other 3 games in Opening Encyclopedia 2011 all end up in white wins. (8..Nbd7 and 8..cxd4 have been played before) After 9.Bxf3 Nc6 10.d5 [10.dxc5 dxc5 11.Nc4 Qc7 12.Qe2 also has its points, opening the position for the 2 bishops] 10..Ne5 11.Be2 h6 12.Be3 and white enjoys a decent edge. Black’s knights are not secure in the middle of the board, and white can advance on the king side and in the centre quickly.
Costa,Paulo Cesar (2228) - Delai,Paula Fernanda (2014) [A48]
Sao Paulo-ch fin Serra Negra, 2002
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.d4 g6 3.Bg5 Bg7 4.Nbd2 0–0 5.e4 d6 6.Be2 c5 7.c3 Bg4 8.0–0 cxd4 9.Nxd4 Bxe2 10.Qxe2 Nbd7 11.N2b3 a5 12.Nb5 a4 13.N3d4 Nc5 14.f3 Qb6 15.Be3 Nfd7 16.Rab1 e5 17.Nc2 f5 18.exf5 gxf5 19.Rfd1 Rf6 20.Nb4 Rg6 21.Nd5 Qd8 22.b4 axb3 23.axb3 f4 24.Bxc5 Nxc5 25.b4 Nd7 26.Ra1 Nb6 27.Nbc7 h5 28.Qc2 Rg5 29.Ne6 1–0
Sosna,Jan (2416) - Nabaty,Tamir (2156) [A48]
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Bg5 Bg7 4.Nbd2 0–0 5.e4 d6 6.c3 c5 7.Be2 Bg4 8.0–0 cxd4 9.cxd4 Nc6 10.d5 Bxf3 11.Nxf3 Ne5 12.Nxe5 dxe5 13.Qd3 Ne8 14.f3 Nd6 15.Rfc1 Qd7 16.Rc5 Rac8 17.Rac1 Rxc5 18.Rxc5 Rc8 19.b4 f6 20.Be3 b6 21.Rxc8+ Qxc8 22.a4 Qc7 23.Bd1 Kf7 24.Qc2 Qc4 25.Qxc4 Nxc4 26.Bc1 Ke8 27.Be2 Nd6 28.Be3 Nf7 29.a5 Bh6 30.Bf2 Bd2 31.a6 Nd6 32.Bxb6 Nc8 33.Bb5+ Kf8 34.Bc5 Bc3 35.Bd7 1–0
Fedorov,Efim - Shpartko,Grigory (2019) [A48]
St Petersburg Winter op
05.02.2007 St Petersburg
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Bg5 Bg7 4.Nbd2 d6 5.e4 0–0 6.c3 c5 7.Be2 Bg4 8.0–0 Nbd7 9.h3 Bxf3 10.Bxf3 Rc8 11.Qb3 cxd4 12.cxd4 Qa5 13.Be3 Qc7 14.Rac1 Qxc1 15.Rxc1 Rxc1+ 16.Kh2 b5 17.Qxb5 Rb8 18.Qa6 Rb6 19.Qa3 Rc7 20.b3 Ne8 21.g3 Rb8 22.Nc4 e5 23.d5 f5 24.exf5 gxf5 25.Bh5 Ndf6 26.Bxe8 Nxe8 27.Qa6 Bf8 28.f3 Rbc8 29.h4 Rd8 30.Na5 Rc2+ 31.Kh3 Rxa2 32.Qxa7 Nf6 33.Bg5 Rd7 34.Qb8 Nxd5 35.Bh6 Rf7 36.Nc4 Nc7 37.Bxf8 Ra8 38.Qb4 Raxf8 39.Qxd6 e4 40.fxe4 fxe4 41.Qe5 Re8 42.Qg5+ Rg7 43.Qa5 Re6 44.Ne3 Rf7 45.b4 Rf3 46.Qxc7 Rxe3 47.Qc4 Kf7 48.Qc7+ Kg6 49.h5+ Kxh5 50.Qxh7+ Kg5 51.Qh4+ Kg6 52.Qg4+ Kf7 53.Qf4+ Ke7 54.Qxe3 1–0
2. Another g4 attack
20 years ago there was the “risky” Keres Attack and that was about it for g4 attacks. Now, the move g4 gets thrown in all over the place, but especially in the Sicilian. Anthony Hain used g4 in an unusual position against Malcolm Pyke.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 d6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nf6 6.Bc4 e6 7.Bb3 Be7 8.Be3 0–0
In this position, the move 9.g4 is a risk as black can win a pawn by force with the sequence 9..Nxd4 10.Bxd4 e5 when white’s g-pawn is doomed. I suppose the question is whether white is really bothered about losing his g-pawn in this position? It will open the g-file for attack. However, this still seems like a premature flank attack and white’s central king will need to get out of the way or it will become a target.
So should black accept the pawn?
A) 9..Nxd4 10.Bxd4 e5 11.Be3 [11.g5 Ng4 12.Be3 doesn’t look too appealing. Black can choose between 12.Nxe3 or 12.Bxg5] 11..Nxg4 [11..Bxg4 12.f3 Be6 might also be good for black. White will probably castle long and mass his forces on the king side for an all or nothing attack.] 12.Qf3 Nxe3 13.Qxe3 [13.fxe3 Bh4+ will keep white’s king uncomfortable for a while] 13..Bg5 14.Qg3 Bf4 15.Qg2 Be6 seems to leave black a solid pawn to the good, and with the safer king.
B) Malcolm Pyke decided on a safer method (and I must admit that without knowing this line, it would be a huge risk to open the g-file for white’s benefit) eliminating white’s light squared bishop and then meeting the premature flank attack with the classical response, a central reaction.
9..Na5 10.Rg1 [10.g5 seems more in spirit 10..Ne8 (10..Nd7? 11.Bxe6 fxe6 12.Nxe6 Qe8 13.Nc7 with an advantage to white; 10..Nxb3 11.gxf6 Nxa1 12.fxe7 Qxe7 13.Qxa1 again white looks good here) 11.Qd2 Nxb3 12.axb3 with a bit of a mess on the board. Black has some untangling to do but is solid, while white has weaknesses, but a lot of potential especially to mass a king side attack with the simple advance of the h-pawn. I’m not sure who I’d rather be here.
Anthony’s 12.g5 seems misplaced here as it seems more important to deal with the central tension. 2 moves come to mind:
B1) 12.exd5 I’m not sure that I’d be tempted to exchange in the centre with my opponent having 2 bishops and my king in the middle. However, after the exchanging sequence 12..Nxd5 13.Nxd5 Qxd5 and now 14.Qf3 white will be able to castle and his pieces will become quite active in the near future. Black is less developed and will have to defend for some time before his permanent advantages can be brought to the table.
B2) 12.e5 Nd7 13.f4
I am sure Malcolm would have accepted this sort of position as black having great experience with the French Defence. But perhaps this was Anthony’s best chance of a reasonable attacking game without the unnecessary risks he took during the game.
- Assess the Novelty
The position had occurred in a famous game, Fischer-Petrosian Herceg Novi Blitz 1970. In that game, the ex World Champion chose to play 9..Bc6 and didn’t castle king side at all:
Fischer,Robert James - Petrosian,Tigran V [C19]
Herceg Novi blitz Herceg Novi, 1970
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Qc7 7.Nf3 Ne7 8.a4 Bd7 9.Bd3 Bc6 10.0–0 Nd7 11.Ba3 h6 12.Re1 b6 13.Nd2 Bxa4 14.dxc5 bxc5 15.Qg4 Bc6 16.Qxg7 Rg8 17.Qxh6 Nxe5 18.Bxc5 d4 19.Be4 dxc3 20.Bxc6+ N7xc6 21.Ne4 0–0–0 22.Red1 Ng4 23.Qh4 Rxd1+ 24.Rxd1 f5 25.Nd6+ Kb8 26.Nb5 Qg7 27.Bd6+ Kb7 28.Rb1 Kc8 29.Qg3 Qb7 30.Nxc3 Qa6 31.h3 Nf6 32.Qh4 Nd7 33.Qh7 Rd8 34.Qf7 Qc4 35.Rb3 Qd4 36.Qxe6 Qf6 37.Qd5 Nde5 38.Nb5 Qf7 39.Qc5 Nf3+ 40.Rxf3 Kd7 41.Rd3 1–0
There have been a number of moves tried in the position:
9..Nbc6 (transposing to the main lines of this opening)
Of these moves, 9..Bc6 has been played the most often (not counting the transpositional 9..Nbc6) though Stockfish regards it as a bit dubious after 10.Ng5 h6 11.Qh5.
The powerful engine prefers a move which will not please French players, 9..c4. Closing the centre is not natural to French players and the bishop on d7 looks very sad. But after 10.Be2 Qa5 it looks as if black is winning a pawn either on c3 or a4
Of course, black has used up a lot of time to get this pawn, and white will be able to launch some king side activity, but black has a concrete plan of action, and a winning plan! Exchange, nullify any king side attacking threats, and push the passed a-pawn!
So what about young Zachary Loh’s novelty 9..h6? Well on first glance, it seems to be a waste of time. However, time is not the biggest issue in openings with a closed centre. Zachary obviously wanted to stop Ng5 and so his move is playable. The fact that a master could prove no advantage against it over the board shows it is definitely ok. Although Zac lost the game it wasn’t due to his new move.
Rujevic,M - Loh,Z [C19]
Open (1), 12.09.2011 Melbourne
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Qc7 7.Nf3 Bd7 8.a4 Ne7 9.Bd3 h6 [9...Bc6 10.Ng5 h6 11.Qh5; 9...c4 10.Be2 Qa5 11.0–0 Bxa4] 10.0–0 0–0?! [10...c4!? 11.Be2 Qa5 12.Rb1 Qa6 13.Ba3 Bxa4=] 11.dxc5 [11.Ba3! b6 12.a5] 11...Nbc6 12.Re1 Rac8 [12...Qa5 13.c4] 13.Be3 Rfd8 14.Bd4 White is a bit better 14...Be8 15.Nh4
15...Nxd4? 16.cxd4 White is a solid pawn to the good now, and close to winning 16...Nc6 17.c3 Qe7 18.Nf3 Nb8 19.Bc2 Nd7 20.Rb1 Nf8 21.Qd2 Bc6 22.g3 Qe8 23.a5 Bb5 24.Nh4 a6 25.f4 Ng6 26.Ng2 Ne7 27.Ne3 g6 28.Ng4 Qf8 29.Nf6+ Kh8 30.g4 Ng8 31.Re3 Nxf6 32.exf6 Rc6 33.Rh3 Kg8 34.Qe1 Rdc8 35.Qh4 Be2 36.Rxb7 R6c7 37.Rb6 Rc6 38.Kf2 Bb5 39.Qxh6 Qxh6 40.Rxh6 Rxb6 41.cxb6 Bc6 42.Ke3 Bb7 43.Kd2 Rc4 44.h4 Rc6 45.h5 gxh5 46.Bh7+ Kf8 47.Bd3 Kg8 48.gxh5 Rc8 49.Rh7 Rf8 50.Rg7+ Kh8 51.h6 Bc8 52.Kc2 Bb7 53.Bg6 fxg6 54.Rxb7 Rxf6 55.Rc7 1–0
- Odds and ends
Why is transposing to the Philidor better than playing the Philidor straight off?
Urban,S - Chmiel,R [C41]
Open (1), 12.09.2011 Melbourne
1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 4.Nf3 Nbd7 5.h3 Be7 6.Be3 c6 7.Bd3 Qc7 8.a4 a5 9.0–0 0–0 10.Nd2 exd4 11.Bxd4 d5 12.exd5 cxd5 13.Qf3 Rd8 14.Rfe1 Bf8 15.Nf1 Bb4 16.Ne3 Qd6 17.Nb5 Qc6 18.c3 Bc5 19.Nf5 Kf8 20.Qf4 Ra6 21.Qg5 1–0
Systemic chess…cop out or challenge? 2 games saw white choose a system. In the first the system was used aggressively, while in the second white took a more passive approach.
Dragicevic,D - Kovacevic,P [A08]
Open (1), 12.09.2011 Melbourne
1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.Ngf3 Nc6 5.g3 Nf6 6.Bg2 Bd6 7.0–0 Qc7 8.exd5 exd5 9.Re1+ Ne7 10.c4 0–0 11.d4 h6 12.b4 b6 13.dxc5 bxc5 14.Bb2 cxb4 15.Bxf6 gxf6 16.cxd5 Ng6 17.Rc1 Qd8 18.Nd4 Kg7 19.Qh5 Re8 20.Rxe8 Qxe8 21.Rxc8 Rxc8 22.Nf5+ Kg8 23.Nxd6 Rc1+ 24.Nf1 Qf8 25.Nf5 Kh7 26.d6 Rc5 27.d7 a5 28.d8Q Rxf5 29.Qxf8 1–0
Open (1), 12.09.2011 Melbourne
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.Nc3 d5 5.e3 0–0 6.b3 c5 7.Bb2 cxd4 8.exd4 Nc6 9.Be2 Bg4 10.0–0 dxc4 11.bxc4 Bxf3 12.Bxf3 Qxd4 13.Qe2 Qb6 14.Bxc6 Qxc6 15.Rac1 e6 16.Nb5 a6 17.Nd4 Qe4 18.Rfe1 Qxe2 19.Nxe2 Rfd8 20.Nc3 Rd2 21.Ba3 Ng4 22.Rf1 Bd4 23.Ne4 Re2 24.Rce1 Rxa2 25.Bc5 Bxc5 26.Nxc5 Rc8 27.Nxb7 Rxc4 28.h3 Nf6 29.Nd6 Rc6 30.Rd1 Kf8 31.Rfe1 Rcc2 32.Rf1 Ke7 33.Rd3 a5 34.Rf3 Kxd6 35.Rxf6 Rc7 36.Rb1 Ke7 37.Rf3 a4 38.Rb4 Ra7 39.Rff4 f5 40.g4 e5 41.Rfc4 Kf6 42.h4 e4 43.Rc5 a3 44.gxf5 Ra1+ 45.Kg2 a2 46.Rb6+ Kg7 47.fxg6 Rb1 0–1