Saturday, July 13, 2013

A couple of Ideas in the Opening

I've been easing myself into opening theory by looking at Michael Yip's Budapest Chess News (BCN). I've had a breeze through some games, and a couple of ideas have come to me from just looking briefly at his database.

The first position that grabbed my attention came from a Bird's opening. Now, I'll admit that I know very little about Bird's Opening (1.f4), but the game Capaliku-Hambleton Forni di Sopra 2013 needs very little theoretical knowledge. The game starts with the moves 1.f4 d5 (I'm with it so far) 2.b3 Nh6
For those of you who don't like the usual opening ideas, this should appeal! There have actually been some games played from a reverse position to this (ie, the Dutch) starting 1.d4 f5 2.Nh3. I admit to knowing nothing about this line either! Anyway, the Hambleton game continued 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.e3 Nf5 5.Bb2 e6 6.Be2 Nd7 7.0-0 Be7 8.Ne5 [8.c4 seems more in keeping with the Bird's generally] 8..Bxe2 9.Qxe2 Nxe5 10.fxe5 c6. Obviously, there could have been different moves up to this point, but this is the position that interested me.
So as white what should be played here? To me, white has 3 main options, 11.c4, 11.d4, or 11.e4. In the game 11.d4 was played, but I see more point in advancing on the central light squares. 11.c4 with the intention of developing Nc3 behind it seems a pretty reasonable idea. 11.e4 looks to undouble the central pawns. A sample line is 11..dxe4 12.Qxe4 Bc5 13.Kh1 Qg5 14.d4 Qe3 15.Re1 Qxe4 16.Rxe4 Rd8 17.c3 with a playable position for both sides.
Anyway, back to the game and after 11.d4 the game continued 11..0-0 12.Nd2, when Michael Yip suggests 12..Bg5 as an improvement over the game continuation of 12..Qa5.
I think it shows the strength of BCN that Michael Yip is prepared to stick his neck out, and try to improve on the games of strong players. Studying games, and by studying I mean critically analysing them, is the best way for players to improve their knowledge. It is hard work, but most rewarding. It is a good idea to work through some great annotated games so as to get an idea of what is expected in analysing a game. Try game collections by Botvinnik, Alekhine, or Karpov, or tournament books such as Zurich 1953, or Piatigorsky Cup 1966 to see some great annotations. When you've looked through games analysed by top players, then have a go at doing it yourself. The more you do it, the better you will get! Let's look at this move 12..Bg5!?

 - 13.Rf3 [Yip mentions this] 13..Qa5 [13..c5!?] 14.c4 f6 with advantage to black according to Michael, and I'm not arguing with him about this.

- 13.e4 [This is the move that interests me, because if white can rid himself of his weak e3 pawn, then his position shouldn't be that bad. Michael doesn't mention this move] 13..Ne3 [I don't think this is necessarily an easy move to find, but others don't impress: 13..Bxd2? 14.exf5 and white has great attacking chances on the king side; 13..Be3+ 14.Kh1 Nxd4 15.Qxe3 Nxc2 16.Qc3 Nxa1
and here, white has the excellent 17.Ba3!! (thankyou Stockfish) taking control of the key diagonal. In the case of 17.Rxa1, black has 17..Qe7 followed by c5; 13..dxe4 14.Nxe4 Nxd4 15.Qg4 Be3+ 16.Kh1 and white has great activity, especially directed at black's king in compensation for the pawn] 14.Rfc1 f5! [Trying to open the f-file now that white has taken his rook away] 15.exd5 Nxd5 16.Re1 Bxd2 17.Qxd2 f4
 So here's the end of my analysis line. Black is probably a bit better, because the knight seems better than white's bishop. Saying that, if white can manage a c4 and d5 type break then anything could happen. Of course, if white does play c4, then d5 will be almost obligatory, or the d4 pawn will be weak, but I think that both sides would feel they have a chance from this position.

 I have found Michael's analysis and work very useful as I ease myself into the crazy world of opening theory. In fact, I have to admit that it's a bit ironic that my interest in opening theory comes just after I give up playing internationally rated chess. Oh well, with some work on my openings I might be able to make a big come back at some stage :D

The Najdorf is a favourite with theorists, and as such is a nightmare for someone who is out of the loop. For example, the last time I looked at any Najdorf theory, the variation 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 Nbd7 was considered a bit dubious for black. Now it seems like a viable alternative. I seem to remember white plays 7.Bc4 hoping for possible sacrifices on e6, f7 or d5. So I was a bit surprised when the game Paravyan-Mekhitarian Golden Sands 2013 continued 7..Qb6 [I think 7..Qa5 is the main move here] 8.Qd2 Qxb2 9.0-0 e6
Here white has the thematic sacrifice 10.Bxe6 [Not played in the game, or mentioned by Micheal Yip] 10..fxe6 11.Nxe6 [when black must lose time as white threatens to fork on c7] 11..Kf7 [11..Qb6 is strongly answered by 12.Nd5 when black has the miserable choice between 12..Qa7 or 12..Nxd5 13.exd5 when white's rooks will come to the b and e-files with devastating effect]
And now white has the fantastic 12.a3!! threatening to trap black's queen.

Now I'll be honest, I didn't find the 12.a3 move but I did find 10.Bxe6 while looking at the game. I checked the move with my engine, which also liked it, and asked chessbase 12 to find the novelty in the position. To my delight, 10.Bxe6 has been played before in an online game on the playchess server. Amazingly, the white player did find the 12.a3 move in the game, though the 2600+ rating suggests he wasn't a patzer like me. Anyway, the moral of the story is that studying openings can be fun, is not necessarily about memorising ideas, but rather about finding themes, and tactical ideas which prevail in certain openings. Once this understanding has been mastered, or while it is being mastered, variations can be examined, and opening knowledge can be built up.

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