Friday, July 19, 2013

Hennig Schara Gambit

Everyone has favourite systems, and we all try to defend openings that get a bashing. Even some pretty decent openings come in for a bashing every now and again. Take the King's Indian Defence, or the Sicilian Dragon. Then again, if you're going to play a fighting opening, then you will also have to fight to defend your opening's reputation.

The system that I have a soft spot for is the Hennig Schara Gambit. When I was a young player, Kasparov was not yet World Champion and was playing the Tarrasch Variation of the Queen's Gambit (among other fighting systems). It was back then in the mid 80's that I first really became aware of the Tarrasch and the amazing piece play that black can generate at the expense of pawn weaknesses. Certainly at club level a player who is good with active pieces should consider openings such as the Tarrasch which offer excellent play for the expense of a pawn.

Black immediately challenges the centre, and after 4.cxd5 exd5 we will have a position where white can give black an isolated queen's pawn. In fact, positions with an isolated queen's pawn for black were those championed by Kasparov on his way to the World Championship in 1984. He successfully used the defence against Beliavsky, Korchnoi and Smyslov, and even used it against Karpov in their first match in 1984. Here is (essentially) the deciding game in the 1983 Candidates Final. It left Kasparov 8-4 ahead against Smyslov, needing only a draw to progress which he duly scored in the next game.

It wasn't until the 1990's that I became aware of an interesting sideline of the Tarrasch, the Hennig Schara Gambit. Instead of accepting an isolated queen's pawn, black sacrifices a pawn again for great piece play. I didn't really take it too seriously at first as I can't really say I am that inspired by gambit openings generally. I'm more the sort of player who grabs poisoned pawns and tries to hold on to them! However, I was fully converted by 2 articles written by Irish correspondence GM Tim Harding. Harding has been writing a monthly column at since the mid 1990's and many of his early columns were about odd openings that tend to crop up more often in correspondence play that over the board. His articles on the Hennig Schara (no 1, and no 2)were beautifully written and were good enough to make me believe in the opening. I've used it on a number of occasions, and have every intention of trying it out some more. As pawn sacrifices go, it is very enterprising, and there is no easy way for white to get anything out of the opening. The mainline goes 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4!? [The Gambit] 5.Qxd4 Nc6 [While white's queen grabs a central pawn, black is able to develop quickly and aggressively] 6.Qd1 exd5 7.Qxd5 [Now white will be a pawn up out of the opening, but with the centre wide open it's anybodys game] 7..Bd7 [Black can play a pawn down in a queenless position as well which is also interesting. 7..Be6!?] 8.Nf3 Nf6 9.Qd1
So here's the main tabiya. After 9..Bc5 black has excellent minor piece deployment, and to add a further random feature to the game, black most often castles queen side to whites king side castling. My own favourite game, a win against ex Australian Champion Doug Hamilton was in this opening, but rather than singing my own praises, take a look at this recent game where a 2600ish GM gets smashed by a 2300ish player. Enjoy :D

1 comment:

  1. Alas 9.Qd1 Bc5 10.e3 Qe7 11.Be2 O-O-O 12.O-O g5 13.a3 g4 14.Nh4!? looks good for White. The knight on h4 blockades the h7-h5-h4 advance and controls the important f5 square. Moreover White is ready to take over the initiative with b2-b4. Results have been encouraging for White.