Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Evans Gambit

I've never played the Evans Gambit with the white pieces. I really don't know why, as white seems to get excellent piece play for a minimal investment. And the resulting positions allow white an initiative while black has the difficult task of defending for a long time, not something that many players below GM standard really enjoy doing. And I suppose that when I was growing up the Evans was not a frequently played opening, even at club level (the King's Gambit was always more popular).

Then came the 1990's, and Kasparov started playing 1.e4 and among other strange, old forgotten systems he bashed out the Evans. Of course, Kasparov was not the only top player to try it out, but there couldn't have been anyone more high profile. Anyway, the children of Kasparov's revolution are far more comfortable with the Evans than my generation. But then again, it still has to be a certain style of player who gives the Evans a go, especially at the Grandmaster level.

One such player is Australian board 1 at the 40th chess Olympiad, David Smerdon. I'm never particularly surprised by what Smerdon plays anymore, I just expect the unexpected. I remember walking into the State Library of Victoria a few years back to browse through some of the books, and there was David Smerdon, checking out some theory on the Scotch Gambit....or was it the Max Lange?

Yesterday, Smerdon played board 1 for Australia in the Olympiad against a very solid Norwegian team amd with the white pieces went all out for activity, putting his 2498 rated opponent onto the back foot. After prolonged pressure, black finally broke and David was rewarded with the full point. For what it's worth, I think that Smerdon's plan of 13.Rd1 and 14.c4 has not been played before, though the idea has been suggested, eg by Costa in Opening Encyclopedia 2011.

Another solid performance by the men's team, with a 2-2 draw with 2014 hosts Norway (without Magnus Carlsen), while our women came on the wrong end of a very strong Indian team who beat us 3.5-0.5. This means the men have a pretty tough assignment in round 3 against Mongolia, while the women take on Macedonia. Good luck to all our players!

ps. this includes the youth players, who have started their tournament with a 4-0 win and followed it up with another win 2.5-1.5, but I'll get to the Junior event in another post :)


  1. Why would you be surprised that David Smerdon plays the Evans Gambit? It fits within his repertoire, just like the Scotch Main Line, the Scotch Gambit, the Max Lange Attack, the Italian and the Scotch Four Knights.

    What would be surprising would be if David played a main-line Ruy Lopez. I can't remember the last time he played that.

    Similarly, I would surprised if Smerdon played a main-line Sicilian. Why? Because the c3-Sicilian is a part of his repertoire.

  2. I believe Rd1 & c4 featured here:

    [Event "Riga, Tal's Memorial (4)"]
    [Site "Riga, Tal's Memorial (4)"]
    [Date "1995.??.??"]
    [Round "?"]
    [White "Garry Kasparov"]
    [Black "Viswanathan Anand"]
    [Result "1-0"]
    [WhiteElo "?"]
    [BlackElo "?"]
    [ECO "C51"]
    [EventDate "?"]
    [PlyCount "49"]

    1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Be7 6.d4 Na5 7.Be2 exd4 8.Qxd4 Nf6 9.e5 Nc6 10.Qh4 Nd5
    11.Qg3 g6 12.0-0 Nb6 13.c4 d6 14.Rd1 Nd7 15.Bh6 Ncxe5 16.Nxe5 Nxe5 17.Nc3 f6 18.c5 Nf7 19.cxd6 cxd6
    20.Qe3 Nxh6 21.Qxh6 Bf8 22.Qe3+ Kf7 23.Nd5 Be6 24.Nf4 Qe7 25.Re1

  3. The plan was used here where black hasn't castled, but has not been used against 12..0-0 where 13.Bh6 is a frequent choice.