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JOHN EMMS

GLENN FLEAR
ANDREW GREET

EVERYMAN CHESS
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EVERYMAN (HESS SERIES (formerly Cadogan Chess)


Chief Advisor: Byron Jacobs
Commissioning editor: John Emms
Assistant Editor: Richard Palliser

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Contents

Preface

Series Introduction

The Max La nge Gam bit

11

(1 e4 eS 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 BcS 4 0-0 Nf6 5 d4}


2

Reviving the Max La nge Attack

43

(1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bcs 4 o-o Nf6 5 d4 exd4 6 es ds


7 exf6 dxc4 8 fxgl)
3 Calming the Roma ntics

63

(1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bcs 4 c3 Nf6 5 d4 exd4 6 cxd4 Bb4+


7 Bd2 Nxe4 and 4 b4 Bxb4 5 c3 Bas)
4 L'Oiseau

85

(1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bbs Nd4)


5 Twenty Yea rs of Obscu rity

103

(1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bbs a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 o-o Bc5)


6 Facing up to the Excha nge Va riation

119

(1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bbs a6 4 Bxc6 dxc6 5 o-o Bel)


7 Denyi ng Black h i s Fun

(1 e4 eS 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 BbS Nd4 5 0-0)

132

8 Livening up the Three Knights and Scotch

152

(1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 g6 and 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 g6)


9 Don't be Boring against the Gori ng!

169

(1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 exd4 4 c3 Nf6 5 e5 Ne4 and


3 c3 Nf6 4 d4 exd4 5 e5 Ne4)
10 Fighting the Pseudo King's Ga m biteers

179

(1 e4 e5 2 Bc4 Nf6 3 d3 Bc5 4 Nc3 o-o)


11 The Vienna Poisoned Pawn

202

(1 e4 e5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 Qg4 Nd4}


12

Play like a Victorian: The Ki ng's Bishop's Ga m bit

216

(1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4 3 Bc4)
13 The Centre Ga me Revealed: Part I

234

(1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Nf6 5 Nc3 Bb4 main line)


14 The Centre Ga me Revealed: Pa rt II

275

(1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Nf6 5 Nc3 others)


15 The Centre Ga me Revea led: Part Ill

(1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 others)

304

Preface
Openings after 1 e4 e5 are amongst the first that every chessplayer encounters
when he or she is learning the game. They also have a longer history than other
major openings, with several lines having been analysed more than a hundred
years ago by some of the strongest players at that time.
In some ways finding suitable Dangerous Weapons after 1 e4 e5 represents quite a
test. It's true that there are a great number of sharp, ambitious or unusual lines
from which players can choose. On the other hand, many of these openings have
already amassed an astronomical amount of theory over the years, and some pos
sibilities had to be rejected due to this. Nevertheless, it has been a challenge Glenn
Flear, Andrew Greet and I have greatly relished, and I do hope you find within
this book plenty of new ideas for both White and Black, and have as much fun
trying them out in your own games as we have had researching, studying and
writing about them.
As to who wrote which sections, Glenn Flear was responsible for Chapters 3, 4, 5,
6, 9 and 12; Andrew Greet wrote Chapters 13, 14 and 1 5; and I contributed Chap
ters 1, 2, 7, 8, 10 and 1 1 .
Finally, I would especially like to thank m y co-authors for all their hard work
throughout this project. I would also like to give thanks to Stefan Bucker, John
Cox, Richard Palliser and Jonathan Tait for their invaluable advice and help.
John Emms,
Hildenborough, Kent,
February 2008

Series Introduction
The original concept behind Dangerous Weapons was to take a major chess opening
and approach it in a completely different way: to concentrate on variations that
are ambitious, sharp, innovative, disruptive, tricky, enjoyable to analyse; ones not
already weighed down by mountains of theory, and ones unfairly ignored or dis
credited. To me this seemed like an author's paradise, which I'm sure contributed
somewhat towards the inspiration behind this series!
The main motivation behind studying major openings in such a way is to be able
to present the reader (not forgetting the author!) with a considerable number of
fresh, hard-hitting opening weapons for both White and Black; in some cases to
create repertoires and in others to enhance and rejuvenate existing ones.

What is a Dangerous Weapon?


For the purpose of choosing opening variations for this series, usually a Dangerous
Weapon fits into one or more of these overlapping categories:

1) Moves that create complex, original positions full of razor-sharp tactics and rich
positional ideas where creative, attacking play is rewarded; moves which are new,
rare or very fresh, leaving plenty of scope for research.
It should be pointed out that even though mainline theory produces a vast num
ber of wonderfully complicated positions, these opening variations lose out heav
ily in the 'danger' stakes. No matter how sharp and difficult the position, the
opening phase is nowhere near as hazardous for your opponent if he is able to fall
back on that comfort blanket known as theory. I've played plenty of incredibly
sharp lines without any real fear simply because of reasonable book knowledge
and some solid home preparation. Thus in Dangerous Weapons the emphasis has
mainly been on non-theoretical lines, where your opponent is left to his own de
vices at a very early stage.

D a n gero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S

2 ) Moves that are highly ambitious; ones which aim for total domination.
Perfect for those not satisfied with a quiet theoretical edge as White and eager to
search for a big advantage or even a direct refu tation, albeit at some risk; or for
those as Black who prefer to strive for the initiative at any cost, preferring this
over a manageable disadvantage or sterile equality.

3) Moves that have been previously ignored, discarded or discredited by theory,


perhaps unfairly so or maybe for the wrong reasons.
Discredited lines can be especially dangerous - the psychological el ement cannot
be ignored . Facing an opening like this, I find myself asking the qu estion, 'Why is
he playing this variation if it is meant to be bad?' Often there is a very good reason
(a logical improvement, perhaps, which overturns a previous assessment), and in
any case how are you supposed to remember a hypothetical 1 5-move refutation
when you only browsed it in a book once, and that was a few years ago?

4) Moves that are visually shocking; moves which seem to contradict the laws of
the game.
Disregarding the qu estion of objective merit for the moment, there's no doubt that
a crazy-looking move has at the very least some psychological value. Unleashed
on an opponent, it can produce a range of emotions: uncontrolled laughter, per
haps followed by over-confidence; anger (at being insulted by such a move) fol
lowed by over-aggression; or perhaps discomfort, followed by timidity. Of course
you may instead encounter understanding fol lowed by objectivi ty - you have to
pick and choose your opponents.

Dangerous for Whom?


It would be difficult, probably impossible, to guarantee that every single variation
in this book is 1 00% sound. You have to und erstand that in some cases 'danger
ous' can mean 'dangerous for both sides'. What I do expect, however, is that your
opponent's ride throughout the opening should be far bumpier than yours!

Guiding You Through


Throughout the book there are various icons together with explanatory notes to
emphasize significant points. They should be fairly self-explanatory, but here's a
brief summary:

DANGEROUS WEAPON! This signifies a game, variation, sub


variation or position where the Dangerous Weapon has obvi
ously produced the desired effect.

Series I nt rod u ct i o n

BEWARE! Pointing out immediate danger for the player using


the Dangerous Weapon.
ROLL THE DICE! Signifying a variation or sub-variation which is per
haps more suited for games with short time-limits or for players
who enjoy taking risks.
TRICKY TRANSPOSITION: This indicates a transposition to a
different opening variation. Using different move orders to
reach a desirable position or to trick your opponent into
something with which he is unfamiliar is becoming a weapon of
increasing value.

As the title suggests, Dangerous Weapons may not be for the faint-hearted ! More
than anything, it is aimed at players of all levels who like to be entertained, those
who are happy to try out fun-to-play openings at their local chess club, on the
Internet, in tournaments, wherever they choose to play.
Good luck studying and playing your Dmzgerous Weapons!
John Emms
Everyman Chess

C h a pter One

The Max Lange Gambit

1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bcs 4 o-o Nf6 s d4!? (Diagram 1)

Diagram 1 (B)
Although this gambit has been around for a long time (the earliest game I have on
my database is one between Max Lange and Adolf Anderssen, from Breslau 1859),
it's stil l not that well known, at l east not in comparison to the likes of the Evans

11

Dangerou s Weapon s : 1 e4 e S
Gambit and all the main lines of the Two Knights Defence. I decided to look at this
line in depth for the first time while trying to find a suitable Dangerous Weapon for
White in the Giuoco Piano, and I think that it ticks the boxes. The positions
reached are sharp and littered with traps for the unsuspecting Black player, and
yet the theory is not yet set in stone - there's not really that much information
readily available for the d efender to fall back on. Things might have changed a bit
in recent years, but when I used to answer 3 Bc4 with 3 . . . Bc5, I can't remember
facing 4 0-0 Nf6 5 d4 a single time. So I do think there is a very good chance it will
surprise many opponents.
Opinion over the main line 5 d4 Bxd4 amongst opening analysts appears to be
quite divided. For example, in his book Italian Game and Evans Gambit, Jan Pinski
couldn't have been more dismissive: '4 . . . Nf6 can be met with another silly gambit:
5 d4?!, but after this risky move White is likely to have to fight for equality.' But he
only gives one line, and White doesn't play the most critical continuation. At the
other end of the spectrum, Romanian Grandmaster Mihail Marin says that White
has a 'strong initiative', 5 ... Bxd4 is 'risky' and Black should avoid the line com
pletely by transposing to the Max Lange Attack with 5 ... exd4 - quite a contrast!
Does the 5 d4 gambit have a name? Checking through one or two older sources, I
found names for some of the sub-variations, but strangely not one for 5 d4 itself.
Recently the German magazine Kaissiber (see below) called it the 'Max Lange
Gambit', which seems more than reasonable given that the German analyst was
one of the very first to play and study 5 d4, and he also played it with 5 ... Bxd4 6
Nxd4 Nxd4 7 f4 d6 8 fxe5 dxe5 9 Bg5 - the line we shall be concentrating on here.
So I've followed suit, even though this means we have a Max Lange Gambit and a
Max Lange Attack!
To begin with, here are a couple of miniatures which demonstrate the danger
lurking in Black's position i f he makes the slightest error.
D W.Spoelman C.Vandewalle
Hengelo 2000

1 e4 eS 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 BcS 4 0-0 Nf6 5 d4 Bxd4 6 Nxd4 Nxd4 7 f41
Being able to play this pawn break is the main idea behind the gambit. Black now
has to deal with the threat to e5, and capturing on f4 is of course impossible.

7... Nc6? (Diagram 2)


At first sight it looks sensible enough to retreat the knight to d efend e5, especially
since after 8 fxe5 Nxe5 Black gains a tempo by attacking the c4-bishop. Indeed,
some strong players have tried this move. But there is a fatal flaw ...
s Bxf7+! Kxf7 9 fxes Nxes 10 QdS+

12

T h e M a x La nge G a m bit

DANGEROUS WEAPON: White regains the piece and reaches an


overwhelming position. Black has no time to organize a proper
defence around his unsafe king.
10... Kf8
After 10 ...Ke8 11 QxeS+ Qe7 White should simply take the pawn with 12 Qxc7. In
the game K.Czerniecki-D.Shapi ro, Chicago 1989, Black restored material parity by
grabbing on e4, but after 1 2 ... Nxe4 1 3 Nc3 QcS+ 1 4 QxcS NxcS 1 5 NbS Ne6 16 Bf4
dS 1 7 Rae1 he wasn't able to survive.

11 Qxes d6 12 Qg3 (Diagram 3)

Diagram 2 (W)

Diagram 3 (B)

Whi te's plan is simple: Bg5, Nc3-d5 and possibly also Rae1 with e4-e5. It's not
much of a surprise that Black can do little to stop this.
According to my database, the strongest player to fall for this trap in a tournament
game is the 2600+ rated Alexej Aleksandrov. In his game White opted for the
equally good 1 2 Qd4, and following 1 2 ... Be6 13 Bg5 c5 1 4 Qe3 h6 1 5 Bxf6 gxf6 16
Nc3 Qe7 1 7 eS dxe5 18 QxeS (18 Ne4!) 1 8 . . . Bf7 1 9 Qxe7+ Kxe7 20 Rae1+ Kf8 21 Rxf6
White gained a winning advantage in G.Jacob-A.Aleksandrov, Senden 1999, al
though the Belarussian GM did manage to salvage a draw against his much
lower-rated opponent.

12 ...Qe7 13 Nc3 Be6 14 Bg5 Ke8


Or 14 ... Kf7 15 Rae1 Rhe8 16 eS dxe5 17 RxeS, and Ne4 is up next.

15 Rae1 Rf8 16 Nd5


16 eS dxeS 17 QxeS is just as good.

13

Dangero u s Wea po n s : 1 e4 e S

16 ...Qd8 17 e 5
And this is simply crushing!

17 ...dxe5 18 Rxes Qc8 19 Rxe6+! Kd7 20 Re7+ Kd8 21 Bxf6 gxf6 1-0
D T.Kelly G.Heron

Correspondence 1905
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 0-0 Nf6 5 d4 Bxd4 6 Nxd4 Nxd4 7 f4 d6!
The correct defence to 7 f4.

8 fxe5! dxe5 9 Bg5 (Diagram 4)

Diagram 4 (B)

Diagram 5 (B)

We've reached the starting point of the main line. For his pawn investment White
enjoys active piece play, a strong rook on the f-file, and a powerfu l pin on the f6knight. If White doubles Black's pawns with Bxf6, in many lines he can expect
long-term compensation because of Black's weakened structure.
I imagine this position might be a rather frightening prospect for some Black play
ers. The problem is that, due to the pin on the f6-knight, castling kingside is unde
sirable because it hands White a simple plan of attack. The obvious solution is to
try to arrange queenside castling, but this is not straightforward and there are a
few traps that need to be avoided along the way.

9...Qe7 10 Nc3
This works to perfection here, but I actually think it's not the best move. See the
theory section for more details.

10...Qc5?

14

The M a x La nge G a m bit


Incred ibly tempting given that Black threatens both the bishop on c4 and a deci
sive discovered check. But he suffers the same fate as in our previous game...

11 Bxf7+! (Diagram 5)
DANGEROUS WEAPON! This sacrifice, the consequences of
which were worked out by the likes of Steinitz and the German
player Walther von Holzhausen, is very strong - maybe simply
winning.
11 . Kxf7
..

After 1 l .. . Kf8 White need not fear the discovered check, as Black can do nothing
useful with it: 12 Bxf6 gxf6 13 Rxf6! and Black has got no chance of survival, e.g.
13 . . .Kg7 14 Rf2 Rf8 15 Qh5 Qd6 16 Rafl Bd7 17 N d5 followed by Rf6.

12 Qh S+ Ke6
White's attack also reaches decisive proportions after other king moves. For ex
ample, 12 . . . Kf8 13 Bxf6 gxf6 14 Rxf6+ Ke7 15 Nd5+ Kd8 16 b4!, forcing the queen
off the diagonal; 12 ... Ke7 13 Nd5+ Kd6 14 Bxf6 gxf6 15 b4! Qxc2 16 Qf7; and
12 ... Kg8 13 Bxf6 Bf5!? (13 ... gxf6 14 Rxf6) 14 exf5 gxf6 15 Ne4 Qb6 16 Rf2. In all
cases, something nasty is about to happen to Black.

13 Bxf6 gxf6 14 Nd5! (Diagram 6)

Diagram 6 (B)

Diagram 7 (B)

After 14 Rxf6+? Kxf6 1 5 Nd5+ Ke6 1 6 Qh6+ Kd7! 17 Qg7+ Ke6! White probably has
to take the perpetual check.

14... Rf8
14 ... Kd6 offers more resistance, but White should still win after 1 5 b4! - again we

15

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
see this idea. For example, 1 5 . . . Qc6 16 c3 Ne6 1 7 Rad1 ! .

1 5 Rxf6+! Kd7
After 15 . . . Rxf6 White wins with 16 Qe8+ Kd6 1 7 Qe7+ Kc6 18 Qxc7+ Kb5 1 9 a4+
Kc4 20 Ne3+ (but not 20 b3+?? Nxb3 check!) 20 . . . Kb4 21 c3+.

16 Qxh7+ Kd8 17 b4! (Diagram 7)


There is no way for Black's queen to stay protecting e7.

17 ... Nf3+ 18 Kh1 1-0


Black finally runs out of resources after 18 Kh1 Ng5 19 Qg7 Ne6 20 Rxe6.

Looking a Little Deeper


After I had completed my preliminary analysis of 5 d4, and also the Max Lange
Attack (see the next Chapter), I became aware of some significant articles on these
lines by Lev Gutman in Stefan Bucker's magazine Kaissiber, which included con
tributions by Bucker plus some thought-provoking feedback from readers.
Perhaps not all of you would have heard of this magazine. But for those who are
serious about exploring new ideas, especially ones in offbeat openings, this is
right up there with the very best and is thoroughly recommended. The analysis is
high quality, comprehensive and filled with original ideas. It obviously helps if
you understand the German language, but even if - like me - you don't, there is
much to be gained by looking through, especially since many of the annotations
are heavily based on variations and assessment symbols when the language bar
rier is not such a problem.
I found it really interesting to compare my analysis with that of Gutman and
Bucker's. I've tried to highlight places in the two chapters where I've turned to
their analysis when not completely satisfied with my own, as well as any signifi
cant amendments and disagreements. Kaissiber opted for complete coverage of all
lines, but given space constraints and the scope of a Dangerous Weapons book, I'll
concentrate mainly on a White repertoire whilst also highlighting what I believe to
be Black's best defences.

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 0-0 Nf6 5 d4 (Diagram 8) 5 ... Bxd4


This is Black's most common choice when faced with 5 d4, but there are two alter
native captures:
a) 5 ... exd4 6 e5 is the Max Lange Attack, which will be dealt with in the next chap
ter. The only point - a practical one - I would make here is that I imagine most
players who employ 3 . . . Bc5 are trying to avoid crazy l ines such as the Max Lange
Attack, whereas 3 . . . Nf6 players would be more likely to enjoy the complications.
This is probably a reason why 5 . . . Bxd4 is played more often.
b) 5 ... Nxd4?! 6 Nxe5 is known to be good for White. For example:

16

T h e M a x La n ge G a m bit
b1) 6 . . .0-0? 7 Be3! Ne6 8 Bxe6 Bxe3 9 Bxf7+ wins material.
b2) 6 . . . Ne6 7 Bxe6! fxe6 8 Nd3! Be7 (not 8 . . . Bb6?! 9 eS NdS? 10 c4! followed b y c5
winning a piece) 9 e5 NdS 10 QhS+ g6 11 Qf3! (Diagram 9) left Black awkwardl y
placed in D.Tyomkin-N .Noritsyn, Canadian Championship 2004. The game con
tinued 1 1 ... d6 ( 1 1 ... Rf8 looks stronger, but I sti ll prefer Whi te after 12 Qh3 Rf7 13
c4 Nb6 14 b3 or 12 Qe4) 12 Bh6! Bd7 13 Qh3 Rg8 1 4 Nd2 BgS 1 5 Ne4 Bxh6 16 Qxh6
Qe7 1 7 c4 and White won.

Diagram 8 (B)

Diagram 9 (B)

b3) 6 ... Qe7!? 7 Bxf7+ (7 Nxf7? dS is what Black wants) 7 ... Kf8 8 Nd3 Kxf7 9 eS d6
(9 . . Nd5 10 NxcS QxcS 1 1 Be3!) 10 exf6 Qxf6 1 1 NxcS dxcS 12 c3 Ne6 (Gutman/
Maurits Wind). I think White must be better here, if nothing else because his pawn
majority on the kingside is stronger than Black's on the queenside (Gutman sug
gests continuing with 13 f4).
.

6 Nxd4 Nxd4
6... exd4?! 7 eS! dS! (7 ... Nxe5? loses a piece to 8 Re1 d6 9 f4; 7 ... Ne4? 8 Qg4 is hor
rific for Black) 8 exf6 dxc4 9 Re1 + (Diagram 10) reaches a position very similar to
the Max Lange Attack, but with Black missing his dark-squared bishop and White
the f3-knight. I think this hurts Black more, and following 9 . . . Be6 10 fxg7 Rg8 1 1
QhS! White has some advantage; for example, 1 1 . . .Qf6 1 2 BgS Qg6 1 3 Qxg6 hxg6
14 Bf6 Nb4 1 5 Na3 c5 16 c3! and Black's pawn phalanx is broken up after 16 ... Nd5
17 BeS or 16 ... Nd3 17 Re4! Nxb2 18 cxd4.

7 f4 (Diagram 11)
7 Bg5 often transposes to the main line after, for example, 7 ... d6 8 f4 Be6 9 Na3 Qe7
10 fxeS dxeS. But I prefer the text move because it avoids the extra possibility
Black has in that line with 8 ...Bg4!?. Then 9 Bxf6 Bxd1 1 0 Bxd8 Rxd8 1 1 Rxd1 ( 1 1
Na3 Be2!) 1 1 ... Nxc2 12 Nc3 N x a 1 1 3 Rxa1 exf4 is certainly n o worse for Black, and

17

D a n ge r o u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
could be good for him, as one o r two games have shown.

Diagram 10 (B)

Diagram 11 (B)

7 d6!
...

7... Nc6? 8 Bxf7+! is virtually winning for Whi te, as we saw in the featured game
Spoelman-Vandewalle. Other alternatives to 7 .. d6 are also lacking:
a) 7... Nxe4? loses to either 8 Bxf7+ Kxf7 9 fxeS+, or even just 8 fxeS Ne6 9 Qf3!.
b) 7...d5 is met with by 8 fxeS! dxc4 9 exf6 gxf6 1 0 Nc3 followed by Be3, when
Black's position is a bit of a shambles.
c) 7 ...Qe7 8 fxeS! QxeS 9 Bf4 QcS 10 Bxf7+! (Diagram 12) (this trick again!) 10 ... Kxf7
1 1 Be3 d6 12 Bxd4 QgS 13 Nc3 with a clear ad vantage for White, V.Gorjatchev
A.Feoktistov, Moscow 1 996.

B fxes
White has also played 8 c3, a move advocated by the American IM George Kol
tanowski (he had this variation named after him). My own opinion is that the
closed position reached after 8 . . . Ne6! 9 fS NcS 1 0 Nd2 c6 is less di fficult for Black
to meet than the text, although White does have compensation in that l ine too.

B ...dxes 9 Bg5 (Diagram 13)


In this position Black faces a difficult choice, as there are qui te a few possibilities.
The main ones are the following:

A: 9 . Bg4
..

B: g Be6
...

C: 9 .Qe7
..

18

T h e M a x La n ge G a m bit

Diagram 12 (B)

Diagram 13 (B)

Here's a summary of Black's lesser-played options, some of which are quite im


portant:
a) After 9 ... 0-0 White can be sure of a long-term initiative on the kingside. There is
more than one reply, but the most tempting is 10 Nc3 when Black is faced with the
threat of Nd5. Here are some possible lines:
a 1 ) 10 ... Ne6 1 1 Bxf6 Qxd1 12 Raxd 1 gxf6 13 Nd5 and White regains his pawn with
a clear advantage, A.Miricanac-B.Langhammer, Reichenbach 1 996.
a2) 10 ... Be6 1 1 Nd5! Bxd5 ( 1 l .. .Nxd5 is enterprising, but probably not good
enough after 12 Bxd8 Ne3 13 Qd3 Bxc4 14 Qxe3 Bxfl and now 15 Bf6!) 12 exd5!
(Diagram 14) threatening c2-c3, planning Bd3 and leaving Black in some difficulty,
for example after 12 ... Qd6 13 Bxf6 gxf6 14 c3 Qc5 15 Qg4+ Kh8 16 Bd3 NbS+ 17
Kh1 Rg8 18 Qe4 Rg7 1 9 Rxf6.
a3) 10 ... c6 (this looks like the strongest defence) 1 1 Kh1 b5 ( 1 1 ... Be6 is met by 1 2
Bd3! with the idea o f Qe1-h4) 1 2 Bd3 Qd6 13 Bxf6 gxf6 (I.Hund-M.Holoubkova,
German League 1995) 14 Qh5 Kh8. Now Black just about survives after 1 5 Qh6
Rg8! 16 Rxf6 Qf8, but Gutman's 15 Ne2! is stronger, and better for White in my
view.
b) 9 ...Qd6!? (Diagram 15) breaks the pin and gets ready for . . . Be6 (or . . . Bd7, or
... Bg4) followed by . . .0-0-0, so I think this is a serious consideration for Black even
though it has been played very little. Here are two possible answers for White:
b1 ) 10 Bxf6 gxf6 1 1 Na3!? ( 1 1 Nd2 can be answered by 1 l . . .Be6! and now 12 c3 or
12 Rxf6 are both met by 12 ... 0-0-0!; and 1 1 c3 Ne6 12 Qxd6 cxd6 13 Rxf6 Ke7 14 Rfl
looks roughly equal) 1 1 ... Qb6 (1 l . . .Rg8!? is possible, as after 12 c3 Bg4 White has

19

Da nge r o u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
nothing better than a repetition with 13 Qa4+ Bd7 14 Qd 1 Bg4, while 12 Qh5 Rg6 is
unclear bu t looks okay for Black) 12 Kh1 Bd7 (12 . . .Qxb2 13 Qd3 offers compensa
tion) 13 c3 Ne6 (A.Toth-T.Weisz, Balatonlelle 2006) 14 Bd5 0-0-0 15 Nc4 Qc5 1 6
Rxf6 Bc6 1 7 b4 Qe7 1 8 Qf3 and maybe White i s a bi t better here, although i t re
mains very complicated and there are al ternatives for both sides earlier.

Diagram 14 (B)

Diagram 15 (W)

b2) 10 Na3!? is interesting. Kaissiber's main line runs 1 0 . . . Bg4 (10 ... Qb6 1 1 Bxf6 gxf6
reaches the previous note) 1 1 Qe1 Qb6 12 Kh1 0-0-0 13 h3 Bh5 14 Bd3! planning
Nc4 when White certainly enjoys some compensation.
c) 9 ... h6 gets rid of the pin on the knight, but spending a tempo to do so is clearly
risky given the nature of the position, especially since White often plays Bxf6 of
his own accord. That said, I can' t find an obvious refutation, although White
should keep an edge. After 10 Bxf6 gxf6 maybe White can try 1 1 Na3!? ( 1 1 c3 Ne6!
- not 1 1 . . .Be6?! 12 Na3! - 12 Qxd8+ Kxd8 13 Rxf6 Ke7 looks fairly level, still with
lots of play), and now one possible line is 1 1 ...Qe7 ( 1 1 . . .Be6 12 c3! is stronger now:
12 ...Bxc4 13 Nxc4 Ne6 14 Qb3 and Black is under some pressure) 12 Qd2!? Bd7 1 3
Qf2 (Diagram 16), planning to answer 13 ...0-0-0 with 1 4 c3! Nc6 1 5 Qxf6 when
White has some advantage.
d) 9 ... Bd7 (Black gets ready for queenside castling bu t doesn't yet commit his
queen) 10 Nc3 (Gutman gives 10 Qd3 Qe7 1 1 Nc3 intending 10 ...c6 1 1 Qg3, but
here I'm not sure what to do against the unlikely looking 11 ...Qb6!? planning 1 2
Qxe5+ Ne6+ 13 Kh1 Ng4!) 10. . .c6 1 1 Qd3 Qe7 1 2 Rf2! 0-0-0 1 3 Rafl Be6 14 Bxe6+
Nxe6 1 5 Bxf6 gxf6 16 Qf3 (16 Qe3!?) 16 ... Nf4 1 7 Ne2! Nxe2+ 18 Qxe2 Rd6 1 9 Qg4+
Kc7 20 Qg7 Rhd8 21 Rxf6 (Gutman). White has an edge here, as his pawn struc
ture is slightly better.
e) 9 ... c6!? has been played rarely, but there are some obvious uses to the move - it

20

The M a x La nge G a m bit


covers dS and opens up possibilities of ... bS and ... Qb6. Some lines:
e1) White shouldn't allow 10 Qd3?! bS! 1 1 Bb3 Bg4 (Gutman).
e2) 10 c3 is stronger, although 10 . . . Ne6 1 1 Qxd8+ Kxd8! (I prefer this to Gutman's
1 l . ..Nxd8) 12 Bxf6+ gxf6 13 Rxf6 Ke7 looks okay for Black.

Diagram 17 (B)

Diagram 16 (B)

e3) 1 0 Nd2!? (Diagram 17) is a move to consider if White wants to avoid exchang
ing queens. Then 10 ...Qb6 1 1 Bxf6 gxf6 12 Rxf6 Nxc2+ 13 Kh1 Nxa1 14 QhS is a fun
line, and White's attack does look to be worth a rook here. 1 0 ... Ne6 is safer for
Black, and now 1 1 Bxf6 gxf6 1 2 Kh1 prevents checks on the a7-g1 diagonal and
ensures typical compensation.
f) In this position Black's knight shouldn' t retreat from d4 without being forced:
9 ... Ne6 10 Qxd8+ Nxd8 (10 ... Kxd8 11 Bxf6+ gxf6 12 Nc3! c6 13 Rxf6 is good for
White because, with the back rank cleared, 13 ... Ke7 can be met by 1 4 Rafl !) 1 1 Bxf6
gxf6 1 2 Rxf6 Ke7 13 Rf2 Be6 1 4 Nd2 (Palkovi) is a good version for White of the
typical queenless middlegame position.

A) 1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 o-o Nf6 5 d4 Bxd4 6 Nxd4 Nxd4 7 f4 d6 8 fxes dxes
9 Bg5 Bg4
DANGEROUS WEAPON! 9 . Bg4 is a move Black would like to
play (indeed it has occurred in quite a few games). But it gets
hit by a tactic which should by now be familiar.
..

10 Bxf7+!
Black's idea was 1 0 Bxf6? Bxd1 1 1 Bxd8 Rxd8 12 Rxd1 Nxc2.

21

Da ngerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e s

10... Kxf7
1 0 ... Kd7!? 1 1 Qe1 !, planning 1 1 . ..Nxc2 1 2 Qg3, looks very dangerous.

11 Qxg4 Nxc2 12 Qh S+I (Diagram 18)

Diagram 18 (B)

Diagram 19 (B)

I really like this move, which forces the black king onto an awkward square. 1 2
Nc3 (Gutman) might also be strong, although 1 2. . .Nxa1 1 3 Bxf6 gxf6 1 4 Nd5 Rf8 is
not that clear, while 12 ... h5!? planning 13 Bxf6 ( 1 3 Qh4!?) 13 ... Qd4+ 14 Kh1 hxg4 1 5
Bxe5+ Ke6 1 6 Bxd4 Nxd4 is a possible resource for Black.

12 ... Ke7
Where else? 1 2 ... Kg8 1 3 Bxf6 gxf6 1 4 Nc3! intends to answer 1 4 ... Nxa1 with the
crushing 1 5 Nd5; or if 1 2 ... Kf8 1 3 Bxf6 gxf6 1 4 Nc3 wi th the same idea.

13 Nc3
With the obvious threat of Nd5+ looming, White has a powerful attack.

13 ... Nxa1
13 ... c6 doesn' t prevent 1 4 Nd5+!, which wins very nicely after 1 4 . . . cxd5 1 5 Rxf6!
gxf6 16 Bxf6+ Kxf6 1 7 Rfl + and White mates in a few moves.

14 Nd S+ (Diagram 19) 14 ... Ke6


Or 14 ... Kd6 1 5 Nxf6 gxf6 1 6 Bxf6 Qe8 1 7 Qd1+! Kc6 1 8 Bxh8 Qxh8 1 9 Qd5+ Kb6 20
b4 and Black cannot prevent mate.

15 Qh3+ Kd6
15 ... Kf7 1 6 Bxf6 gxf6 1 7 Qh6! wins.

16 Nxf6 gxf6 17 Qd3+ Ke6 18 Rxf6+1 Qxf6 19 QdS+! Ke7 20 Qxes+


. .and White wins.
.

22

The M a x La nge G a m bit

B) 1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 o-o Nf6 5 d4 Bxd4 6 Nxd4 Nxd4 7 f4 d6 8 fxes dxes
9 Bg5 Be6
This is Black's most commonly played move according to my database, and I
don't find this surprising at all given that 9 . . Be6 both neutralizes White's c4bishop and prepares to castle queenside.
.

10 Na3! (Diagram 20)

Diagram 20 (B)

Diagram 21 {B)

White is not unhappy with a bishop trade, but he wants to activate his knight on
c4 in the process. I think this is stronger than 10 Nd2 because in some lines it's
important for the d-file to remain unblocked. In particular, the queen on d1 often
prevents Black from castling queenside!

10...Qe7
After 1 0 . . . Bxc4 1 1 Nxc4 Qe7 Whi te reaches the main line by playing 12 Bxf6 gxf6
13 c3. If instead l l ... Ne6, then 1 2 Qxd8+ (12 Bxf6 gxf6 1 3 Ne3 is also interesting)
12 ... Rxd8 13 Bxf6 gxf6 14 Rxf6 Ke7 15 Rafl Nf4 16 RfS f6 17 g3 Ne2+ 18 Kg2 (Mik
halevski) reaches a nice endgame for White.

11 C3
11 Bxf6 gxf6 1 2 c3 is most likely to transpose to the main line after 1 2 ... Bxc4 13
Nxc4, but I think the text is slightly more accurate due to the next note.

11 ... Bxc4
After 1 l ...Nc6 I have found practical examples of 12 Bxe6 and 12 Kh1, but I prefer
12 Rf2! {Diagram 21) which acts as a prophylactic measure against . . . QcS and pre
pares in many lines to double rooks on the f-file. 12 . . . Rd8 appears to be a natural
response, but when White moves the queen - say 13 Qe2- Black can no longer

23

D a n ge r o u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
castle queenside and the position is starting to look more and more promising for
White. He might simply regain the pawn on f6 and enjoy an overwhelming ad
vantage; for example, 13 . . 0-0 14 Rafl Rd6 15 Rxf6 Bxc4 16 Nxc4 Rxf6 17 Bxf6 gxf6
18 Ne3 and now both Nf5 and Nd5 are threatened.
.

12 Bxf6!
TRICKY TRANSPOSITION: This move order nuance rules out the
possibility for Black after 12 Nxc4 Ne6 13 Bxf6 of playing
13 ...Qc5+!. After 14 Kh1 (or 14 Rf2) it has been shown that both
14... gxf6 and 14 ... Qxc4 are fine for Black.
For example, 14 Kh1 gxf6 15 Qb3 0-0-0 16 Rxf6 (D.Radovanovic-K.Georgiou, Cha
nia 2000) and now instead of the impu lsive 16 ... b5, Black can get on with kingside
operations with 16 ... Rhg8 planning to meet 17 Rxf7 with 17 . . . Ng5.

12 ... gxf6
12 ... Ne2+ 13 Kh1 gxf6 1 4 Nxc4 Nf4 1 5 Qa4+! c6 1 6 Rad1 looks good for White
(16 ... b5 is met by 17 Qa6).

13 Nxc4 Ne6
13 ...Qc5 14 cxd4 Qxc4 15 Rei (15 dxe5 fxe5 16 Rei also looks promising) 15 ... Qxd4+
(15 ... Qxa2 16 Rxt7 Qxb2 17 Rxf6 Qxd4+ 18 Qxd4 exd4 1 9 Rfxf7 reaches a position
where Whi te's two rooks on the seventh offer good winning chances) 16 Qxd4
exd4 17 Rxc7 0-0 18 Rxf6 d3 (Diagram 22) was played in R.Chenicek-R.Bayer, Kla
tovy 1995, and here instead of the game's 19 Rd7 Rfd8! which led to a draw, Gut
man shrewdly suggests activating the king with 19 Kf2. Whi te plans to answer
19 ... Rad8 with 20 Ke1, stopping the d-pawn and retaining winning chances after
20 . . . Rde8 21 Kd2 Rxe4 22 Kxd3 Rb4 23 b3.

Diagram 22 (W)

24

Diagram 23 (W)

T h e M a x La nge G a m b it
Returning to 13 ... Ne6 (Diagram 23), we reach a critical position which is typical for
this line. Black is a pawn ahead, but the weaknesses down the f-file are obvious,
and Black has some issues over king safety: castling kingside is unattractive, and
castling queenside is - for the moment at least - illegal. On the other hand, Black
may gain counterplay down the g-file with ... Rg8 and possibly ... Nf4. Both sides
must continue to play with precision, because seemingly minor inaccuracies can
quickly lead to a position deteriorating.
The f5-square can be an attractive place for the white knight in many lines, and so
the manoeuvre Ne3-f5 is very much at the forefront of White's thoughts over the
next few moves, while Ne3-d5 is also a consideration.

14 b4
Preparing Ne3 without having to worry about ... Qc5. White has a serious alterna
tive (see note 'b').
a) 14 Khl also plans Ne3, but 14 ... Qc5! prevents it and transposes to the note to
White's 1 2th move, which is considered to be okay for Black.
b) 14 Ne3!?, directly ai ming for f5 or d5, and not concerned about 14 ... Qc5, is
Gutman's choice. He and Bucker support this move with some powerful analysis
which includes a very clever queen manoeuvre (see note 'b4'). Here's the analysis,
with one or two additions and comments. 15 Qd2 Rd8 16 Qf2 Nf4 17 Khl (prepar
ing g2-g3) 1 7... Rd3 1 8 Rael Qc6 (Black seems to be very active, as well as a pawn
ahead, but appearances prove to be deceptive) 19 Qf3 f5! (after 19 ... Rg8, I like 20
g3 Ng6 21 Qf5) 20 Qg3! (Diagram 24) and now:

Diagram 24 (B)

Diagram 25 (B)

bl ) 20 .. .fxe4 is met by 21 Qg7! .


b2) 20... Qxe4 21 Qg7 Rxe3 22 Rxe3 Qxe3 23 Qxh8+ Ke7 24 Qxh7 Qd2 25 Qh4+ Ke6

25

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
26 Qf2 and White has a clear advantage.
b3) 20 ...Qg6 (I think this is Black's best) 21 exf5 Qxg3 22 hxg3 Nh5 23 Rf3 f6 24 Nfl
with an edge for White. I agree with this final assessment, but one move earlier
Black could consider the al ternative 23 . . . Kd7!? with the idea of answering 24 g4
Nf4 25 g3 with the trick 25 . . . Re8! 26 gxf4 exf4 winning back the piece.
b4) 20 . . . Kf8 21 Qf2! (the third 'economical' queen move in a row! ) 21 . ..Qxe4 (or
21 . . . Rg8 22 Nxf5 Rg5 23 Nh4 Qb6 24 Qc2! Rd6 25 g3 Nd3 26 Re2 and White is bet
ter - the positional advantages outweigh Black's temporary activity and you get
the impression that Black's position is one inaccurate move away from falling
apart) 22 Nc2 (Diagram 25) and despite the two extra pawns Black cannot hold his
position together. Gutman and Bucker give 22 ...Qxg2+ (22 ... Qd5 23 Nb4) 23 Qxg2
Nxg2 24 Kxg2 Rg8+ 25 Kh1 Rd2 26 Ne3 and White keeps the advantage.

14 Rg8
...

Here are some other possibilities, and there are several transpositions to watch out
for:
a) 14 ... Nf4 and now:
a1) 15 g3 Qe6 16 Ne3 Qb6 1 7 Qf3 Nh3+ 18 Kh1 Ng5 1 9 Qe2 0-0-0 20 Nd5 (Honfi) is
very good for White, but 16 ... Rg8! looks like an improvement to me as the obvious
1 7 Kh1 ? allows 17 ... Rxg3!.
a2) 1 5 Ne3 is possible, planning to meet 1 5 . . . Rg8 with 1 6 Kh1 transposing to the
main text.
a3) 15 Kh1 Rd8 (15 . . . Qe6 16 Ne3 Rg8 transposes to the text; 15 ... Rg8 16 Ne3 also
transposes, while White can also consider 1 6 Qa4+ planning 16 ...Qd7 1 7 Qxd7+
Kxd7 18 g3) 16 Qc2 Qe6 1 7 Ne3 (Diagram 26), and White is ready for g2-g3 fol
lowed by Nf5 or Nd5. Note that 17 . . . Rd3? can be answered strongly by 18 Nd5!.

Diagram 26 (B)

26

Diagram 27 (B)

The M a x La nge G a m bit


b) 1 4 ...Rd8 and now:
b1 ) Gutman gives 15 Qa4+ Qd7! 16 Qxd7+ (16 Qxa7 Qd3 17 Na5) 16 . . . Kxd7 1 7 Rxf6
Ke7 1 8 Rf3 f6 with an equal position.
b2) 15 Qc2! Nf4 16 Kh1 Qe6 17 Ne3 reaches the position discussed at the end of the
note 'a3'.
b3) 1 5 Qf3 Nf4 (15 ... Ng5 16 Qe2) 1 6 Ne3 is yet another interesting option for
White.
Returning to 14 ... Rg8:

15 Ne3 (Diagram 27)


Threatening Nd5, and thus more or less forcing Black's reply. 15 Kh1 Nf4 16 Ne3!
transposes to the main text.

BEWARE! But not 16 g3? Qe6! 17 Ne3? Rxg3!, as played in


Brussels-Ghent, correspondence 1935.
15 Qa4+!? is also possible: 1 5 ...Qd7 (15 ... Kf8 16 Ne3 Nf4 1 7 Kh1 Qe6 1 8 Rad1 is
similar to the main text, and White is better here) 1 6 Qxd7+ Kxd7 1 7 Rxf6 Ke7 18
Rf5 f6 19 Rafl (Gutman) with an edge for White, who is well coordinated in this
ending.

15 ...Nf4 16 Kh1
Now White threatens g2-g3 (the immediate 16 g3 would again be met by
16 ...Qe6!).

16...Qd7
Or:
a) 1 6 ... Qe6 can be met by 1 7 Qa4+!, intending 17 ... c6 1 8 Rad1 or 17 ... Qc6 1 8 Qxc6+
bxc6 19 g3. In both cases I prefer White.
b) 16 . . . Rd8 1 7 Qa4+! ? (17 Qc2 and 17 Qf3 also look promising, and may be even
stronger) 1 7... Qd7 1 8 Qxa7 Qc6 (18 ... Qd3 19 Rad 1 !) 1 9 Rad1 Ke7 (19 ...Qxe4 20
Rxd8+ Kxd8 21 Qa8+ Ke7 22 Qxg8 Qxe3 23 Qc8 with a clear plus) 20 Nf5+ Ke6 21
Qe3! and White is better, since 21...Nxg2 loses to 22 Qh3 and after 2 1 . ..Rxd1 22
Rxd1 Rxg2 White has 23 Qxf4!.
Returning to the position after 1 6 ... Qd7 (Diagram 28).
We have been following the game H.Maeder-A.Maier, correspondence 1 991 (al
though I've used a slightly di fferent move order). That game continued 17 Qxd7+
Kxd7 1 8 g3 Nh5 19 Nd5 Rg6? (19 ... c6 is what Black should play, al though after 20
Nxf6+ Nxf6 21 Rxf6 Ke7 22 Rafl Raf8 23 R6f5 f6 24 Kg2 the endgame is certainly
favourable for White) 20 Rad 1 ! Kc6 21 Ne7+ Kb6 22 Nxg6 hxg6 23 Rd7 and White
won.
Whi te can also consider the immediate 1 7 g3!?. Then after 1 7 ... Qh3 (17 ...Qxd1 18

27

Da ngerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
Raxd1 Nh5 19 Nd5 Rc8 2 0 Kg2 c6 21 Nxf6+ Nxf6 22 Rxf6 is a n even better end
game than the one after 1 7 Qxd7+) 18 Qf3 Nh5 19 Nf5 Rd8 20 Rfd1 (Diagram 29),
Black is on the edge of a precipice. For example, 20 ... Rxd1+ 21 Rxd 1 Nf4 (the only
move, as Whi te wanted to play Qd3) 22 Rd2! (intending Qd l or Rf2) 22 . . . Rg5 23
Rf2 Ne6 24 Qd3 (threatening Qb5+) 24 ... a6 25 Qd5 and Black's position is becom
ing untenable.

Diagram 28 (W)

Diagram 29 (B)

C) 1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bcs 4 o-o Nf6 5 d4 Bxd4 6 Nxd4 Nxd4 7 f4 d6 8 fxes dxes
9 Bgs Qe7 (Diagram 30)

Diagram 30 (W)

28

Diagram 31 (B)

The M a x La nge G a m bit


Some players, Gutman and Pinski included, believe 9 ... Qe7 to be Black's best
move, and it's not difficult to see its attractions. Black is one step closer to castling
queenside and retains flexibility on where to place his light-squared bishop: e6, d7
and g4 all come into the equation. Also, on e7 the queen is fairly well placed and
in some lines it threatens to hop to c5.

10 Na3
Just as against 9 ... Be6, I think this is White's strongest move. It's true that 1 0 Nc3
(Diagram 31) does look tempting, especially in view of the trap 10 . . . Qc5? 1 1 Bxf7+!
(see the featured game Kelly-Heron, earlier in the chapter). But 10 . . . c6! leaves
White's knight somewhat misplaced on c3: without the option of c2-c3 it's not that
straightforward for Whi te to play around the one on d4, and this is okay for Black.
10 ... Be6! has also been shown to be fine for Black, as 1 1 Bxe6 fxe6! improves(!)
Black's structure and allows him to castle kingside if he so wishes.

10 Bd7
...

I suspect that many Black players reaching this position would opt for 10 . . . Be6
because it's such a natural reaction to neutralize White's c4-bishop. If this happens
we simply transpose to Line B. 10 . . . Bd7 is bolder in the sense that Black is trying to
prove that his light-squared bishop can be just as important as White's.
Voluntarily retreating the knight with 10 ... Ne6 is risky, as Black seems to be a
tempo down on similar lines where White forces the knight move with c2-c3. The
continuation 1 1 Bxf6 gxf6 12 Qf3 looks better for White; for example, 12 . . . Nf4 (or
12 ... Bd7 1 3 Qxf6 Qxf6 1 4 Rxf6 Ng5 1 5 Bd3 Ke7 1 6 Rafl followed by Nc4) 13 Kh1
Rg8 14 g3, and now 14 ... Bg4? is answered strongly by 15 Qb3! .

11 Qd2!? (Diagram 32)

Diagram 3 2 (B)

Diagram 33 (W)

29

Dangero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
One advantage 1 0 Na3 enjoys over 10 Nd2 i s that White i s able to manoeuvre the
queen to f2 without any problems, since the knight covers the c2-pawn and
doesn't block d2.
Why is f2 a good square for the queen? Well, firstly, from this square the queen
adds more pressure to the f6-knight; secondly, it takes the sting out of ... Qc5 ideas;
and thirdly, it indirectly points at the a7-pawn, something Black has to consider
with his ambitions of castling queenside. With the g5-bishop about to depart at
any moment with a timely Bxf6, White is adopting the positional guideline that
states the queen should cover the opposite colour of squares to the remaining
bishop.
Gutman came to the same conclusion about where White's queen should go, with
the minor difference that he advocated 1 1 Qe1 followed by Qf2. As far as I can see,
the only way Black could consider exploiting this difference is with the paradoxi
cal and rather unlikely 11 ... Be6!? (Diagram 33). It looks bizarre, not to mention
risky, to play . . . Be6 only one move after ... Bd7, but there is in fact some sound rea
soning. White's most advantageous way of meeting . . .Be6, with c2-c3, is now ruled
out because c2 is no longer protected and Black has 12 c3? Bxc4 13 Nxc4 Nc2. The
immediate 1 2 Qf2? allows 12 . . . Nxe4!, so White should probably choose 1 2 Bxf6
gxf6 13 Qf2.
1 1 c3 is less effective here: 1 1 .. .Ne6 12 Bxf6 gxf6 13 Qf3 Nf4! 14 Kh1 0-0-0 15 g3
Nh3, and Black is better after either 16 Bd5 c6 17 Bb3 Ng5 18 Qxf6 Rhe8 (Gutman)
or 16 Qxf6 Qxf6 17 Rxf6 Bc6!.

11...0-0-0
DANGEROUS WEAPON! 11 ...Qc5 is tempting but this can be
met strongly by 12 Be31 (Diagram 34) when the pin on the d4knight causes Black some grief.
For example, 12 ... Qd6 (12 . . . b5 is met by 1 3 Bxf7+! Kxf7 14 c3, while 1 2 ... Nxe4 13
Bxf7+ Ke7 1 4 Qd3! looks promising for White too) 13 Bxd4! Nxe4! (13 ...Qxd4+ 1 4
Qxd4 exd4 1 5 e 5 ! is very strong) 14 Bxf7+ Kd8 1 5 Qe1 ! Qxd4+ 1 6 K h 1 N d 6 1 7 Rd1
Qxb2 18 Nc4 and White has a dangerous attack.
So 1 1 . ..Qc5 is probably a bad move, but there are two other possibilities for Black:
a) 1 l .. .Ne6 1 2 Bxf6 gxf6 13 Qe3 (or 13 Rad 1 ! ?, planning 13 ...0-0-0 14 Qf2) 13 . . .Qc5
(13 ... Nf4 is met by 14 Kh1 followed by g2-g3; or 13 ... Rg8 14 Kh1 Rg6 1 5 Rad 1 Qc5
16 Qc3! with compensation - the threat is 1 7 Bxe6) 1 4 Qxc5 Nxc5 1 5 Rxf6 Nxe4 16
Rxf7 Nd6 1 7 Rg7 0-0-0 1 8 Re1 is perhaps a bit better for White.
b) 11 ... Nxe4!? can be avoided if White plays 1 1 Qel . On the other hand, it might be a
good idea to tempt Black with this option! White should play 12 Bxf7+! (Diagram 35)
and now play continues 12 ...Qxf7 13 Rxf7 Nxd2 14 Re7+ Kf8 (14 ... Kd8 1 5 Rxg7+ Kc8
16 Bxd2 must be at least a bit better for White) 15 Rxd7 N2f3+ (15 ...Ne4 16 Rfl + Kg8

30

The Max La nge G a m b it


17 Bh4 looks no fun for Black at all) 16 gx3 Nxf3+ 1 7 Kg2 Nxg5 1 8 R1+ and White,
in spite of the temporary two-pawn deficit, is clearly in the ascendancy here after
either 18 ... Ke8 19 Rxc7 or 18 ... Kg8 19 Rxc7. It's more than likely that Black will end
up a pawn down by the time he has coordinated his forces properly.

Diagram 34 (B)

Diagram 35 (B)

12 Qf21 Qcs!
12 ... Kb8 also leads to a trade of queens, but I think that 13 c3 Ne6 14 Bxf6 gxf6 1 5
Qxf6 Qxf6 16 Rxf6 i s a better version for White than the m a i n text. It's worth not
ing here the continuation 16 ... Ng5 1 7 Re1 Bc6?!, which is refuted by 18 h4! Nxe4 19
Rxc6!.

13 Bxf6 gxf6 (Diagram 36)

Diagram 36 (W)

Diagram 37 (B)

31

D a n ge ro u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e s
Now White has a choice between two options:
a) 14 Kh1 Be6 15 Bxe6+ Nxe6 (15 .. .fxe6? 16 c3!) 16 Qxf6 Rhf8! with an equal posi
tion. Gutman continues the analysis with 17 RfS Qb4 1 8 RxeS Qxb2 19 Rxe6 Qxa3
20 Re7 Qd6 21 Qxd6 Rxd6 22 Rfl Kd8 23 ReS Re8.
b) 14 c3 Ne6 15 QxcS Nxc5 16 Rxf6 Nxe4 1 7 Rxf7 {Diagram 37) reaches an unclear
position where there is still plenty of play and White can fight for an advantage.
White's rook on the seventh is often a plus point, and in many si tuations it's unclear
whether Black's passed e-pawn will prove to be a strength or a weakness. Here are
one or two possible continuations: 17 ... Nd6 18 Rg7 Nxc4 (after 18 ...e4 19 Re1 Rde8
20 Bfl ! the a3-knight is ready to rejoin the action; this still might be a better option
for Black, no matter how tempting it might seem to grab the bishop) 19 Nxc4 e4 20
Rel BfS 21 Ne3 Bg6 (or 21 . ..Be6 22 b3 planning to meet 22 ... Rd2 with 23 Re7! Bd7 24
Rd1 ! Rxd1+ 25 Nxdl, with winning chances in the endgame) 22 h4! Rd2 23 Nc4 Rc2
24 g4! when White will pick up the e4-pawn and begin to attack the black king; e.g.
24 ... b5 25 Ne3 Rxb2 26 h5 Be8 27 NdS Rxa2 28 Rxe4 with dangerous threats.

Black Plays 4 d6
...

1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bcs 4 o-o d6


Even though in practice the most popular response to 4 0-0 has been by some dis
tance 4 ... Nf6, and 4 . . . Nf6 5 d4 is the main focus of the chapter, I do think it's worth
taking a look at Black's second plausible move: 4 ... d6. Although 4 ... d6 allows
White a free hand in that there is no immediate threat to the e4-pawn, it does have
the advantage of avoiding the Max Lange Gambit (5 d4? doesn't make any sense
now after 5 . . . Nxd4!). So White must adopt a different approach.

5 c3 (Diagram 38}

Diagram 38 (B)

32

Diagram 39 {W}

The M a x La n ge G a m bit
This move makes a lot of sense - if Black does nothing White will simply follow
up with d2-d4.

TRICKY TRANSPOSITION: S b4!? is possible, but s ... Bxb4! 6 c3 Bas


7 d4 Bb6 transposes to a harmless line of the Evans Gambit: 4 b4
Bxb4 s c3 Bas 6 o-o d6 1 d4 Bb6 (see Chapter 3).

I will just concentrate on Black's three main responses to 5 c3:

A: s ...Qf6
B: s ... Bg4
c: s

..

.Nf6!

A) 1 e4 e S 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc S 4 0-0 d6 S c3 Qf6 (Diagram 39)


This move has been played by some strong grandmasters, including Yusupov and
Rogers. Now if White wishes to play d2-d4, it must come as a sacrifice.

6 b4!
Gaining space on the queenside is logical here, and this is the most accurate way
to go about it. 6 d3 Bg4 and only then 7 b4?! seems like a less effective move order
on account of 7 . . . Bxf3 8 gxf3 Bb6 9 Be3 Nge7!, which turned out to be fine for Black
in J.Nunn-Y. Rantanen, Helsinki 1983 .

ROLL THE DICE! 6 d4 exd41 transposes to a line that can also be


reached via the Scotch Gambit: 1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 exd4 4 Bc4
Bc5 s o-o d6! 6 c3 Qf6. I'm not really convinced by White's
compensation, and Black has scored well in practice. But maybe I'm
missing something?

Here are one or two lines:


a) 7 BbS Bg4 8 Qa4 Nge7 9 Nxd4 0-0 10 Bxc6 Nxc6 was played in the game K.Kiik
O.Niemi, Jyvaskyla 2001 . White has regained his pawn, but can hardly claim any
advantage. In fact I prefer Black, especially since 1 1 Nxc6 bxc6 12 Qxc6?? loses to
12 ... Be2!.

b) 7 b4 Bb6 8 BgS (8 bS NeS) 8 . . . Qg6 9 cxd4 Nxd4 1 0 Nxd4 QxgS! (a big improve
ment over 1 0 ... Bxd4? 1 1 Qxd4 QxgS 1 2 f4 Qg6 13 Nc3 when White really does
have excellent compensation, H.Staunton-J.Cochrane, London 1 841) 1 1 Nf3
(B.Pusztay-J.Fekete, Hungarian League 2000) and if Black plays 11 ... Qg6 I'm find
ing it difficult to bel ieve in White's position.
c) 7 BgS looks to me like the best attempt to get this gambit to work. After 7 ...Qg6

(Diagram 40)

33

Dangero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S

Diagram 40 (W)

Diagram 41 (B)

White faces another choice:


c1 ) 8 cxd4 Nxd4! 9 Nxd4 QxgS again looks unconvincing. For example, 10 BbS+
Kf8 (or even 10 ... c6! 1 1 Nxc6 Kf8!) 1 1 Nb3 Bb6 12 Nc3 Nf6 1 3 Kh1? Ng4 14 f4 Qh4
0-1 H.Rossmann-S.Kostyra, Rostock 1 988.
c2) 8 BbS Bg4! (8 ... dxc3? 9 Nxc3 followed by NdS is just the sort of thing White is
looking for) 9 cxd4 (9 Qa4? is met by 9 ... Bxf3! 1 0 Bxc6+ Kf8!) 9 ... Bxf3 1 0 Qxf3 Bxd4
and I can't find anything for convincing for White, e.g. 1 1 eS dxeS 12 Nc3 Nh6!.
c3) 8 Re1 ! (Diagram 41), with e4-e5 in the air, might be the best way to cause some
confusion: 8 ... Bg4 (8 ... h6?! 9 Bh4 should help White since the bishop is no longer
en prise in many lines; 8 . . . Ne5!? planning 9 cxd4 Bxd4! is possible though) 9 eS!?
Bxf3 (9 ... Nge7 can be met by 10 Bxe7! Nxe7 1 1 cxd4) 10 Qxf3 dxeS! (10 ... Qxg5??
allows mate in three with 1 1 Qxf7+ Kd8 12 Qf8+ Kd7 13 e6) and now 1 1 BbS!? stil l
gives Black something t o think about.
In summary I'm not that confident about 6 d4, but it's tricky and maybe someone
can come up with an improvement for White in these variations.

6 ... Bb6 7 a4 a6
7... a5 is the other option for Black, and here 8 bS Nce7 (8... Nb8 9 d4 h6 10 Be3 Ne7
1 1 Nbd2 Bg4 1 2 Bb3 Nd7 1 3 Nc4 0-0 14 Nxb6 cxb6 15 h3 BhS? 1 6 g4! Bg6 17 gS 1-0
was the end of D.Pirrot-T.Bopp, St Ingbert 2000) 9 d4 h6 (9 ...Bg4 1 0 BgS! looks bet
ter for White) 1 0 Be3 Ng6 1 1 Nbd2 N8e7 12 Re1 gave Whi te an edge in D.Pikula
I.Rogers, Baden 1 998.

8 d3 Bg41
Adding pressure to the f3-knight does look like the logical follow-up to S ...Qf6.

34

T h e M a x La n ge G a m bit
8 ...Nge7 9 Bg5 Qg6 1 0 Nbd2 h6 11 Be3! is a nice idea to remember. If Black al lows
a capture on b6, his queenside structure is compromised - a direct consequence of
Whi te forcing . . . a7-a6. But capturing on e3 offers White possibilities due to the
half-open f-file. In J.Koziol-W.Brandhorst, correspondence 2001, Black chose the
second 'evil', and following 1 l . . .Bxe3 12 fxe3 Be6 13 Bxe6 Qxe6 14 d4! Nb8 1 5 Nh4!
0-0 16 d5 Qc8 1 7 Nf5 White was in control. No surprise then, that I think White's
best option after 8 . . .h6 is 9 Be3!.

9 Bg5 (Diagram 42)

Diagram 43 (B)

Diagram 42 (B)

White's bishop will often end up on e3, but first of all the black queen is budged
from the f6-square.

BEWARE! The 'automatic' 9 Nbd2 is not effective here, and


9 .. Nge7 10 h3 can even be answered by 10... h5!? (though
there is nothing wrong with 10 .. Bd7 either).
.

For example, 1 1 Qb3 Ng6 12 Bxf7+? (12 aS Ba7 13 b5 axb5 14 Qxb5 looks critical,
but 14 ... Nf4! 15 Qxb7 0-0! is scary for Whi te; one line given by Melao and Hin
demburg is 16 hxg4 hxg4 17 Qxc6 Ne2+! 18 Kh1 Qh6+ 19 Nh2 g3! 20 Ndf3 gxf2! 21
g4 Qh3 and Black wins!) 12 ... Qxf7 13 Qxf7+ Kxf7 14 hxg4 hxg4 1 5 Ne1 Rh5 16 g3
Rah8 and White was forced to give up a piece with 17 Nef3 to avoid mate in
I.Belmonte-H.Melao, Sao Paulo 1 999.

9 . Qg6
.

9... Bxf3? loses material to 10 Bxf6 Bxd1 1 1 Bxg7.


9...Qxg5 is possible, but I think that 10 Nxg5 Bxd1 1 1 Rxd 1 ! (not 11 Nxf7? Be2! 12

35

Da ngero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
Rei Bxd3!) l l . . .Nh6 1 2 aS Ba7 1 3 h3 offers White a small advantage - Black has to
decide what to do about his poorly placed knight on h6.

10 Nbd2 (Diagram 43)


I think there are ways for White to fight for the ad vantage here. For example:
a) After 10 ... Bh3?! (intending 11 gxh3? h6) White should just ignore the bishop and
get on with the action on the queenside: 1 1 aS Ba7 12 bS! Nce7 (or 12 ... axbS 13
BxbS, when aS-a6 ideas are very annoying for Black) 13 Qb3 and Black must deal
with the threat of bxa6 followed by Qb7.
b) 10 ... Nf6 1 1 Be3!? ( 1 1 aS Ba7 1 2 bS looks quite promising as an alternative; but
not 1 1 h3? Bxh3!) 1 1 . . .0-0 1 2 Qe2 (planning Bxb6 followed by Qe3) 1 2 . . . Bxe3
(12 ... Bh3 1 3 Nh4) 1 3 fxe3 and White can follow up with Qf2, Nh4 etc. It's not clear
that Black really wants his queen where it is.
c) 10...Nge7 1 1 Be3 (or 11 Bh4!?, as 1 1 ...0-0?? loses to 12 bS; 11 bS!? is also possible)
1 1 ...0-0 (l l . ..Bxe3 12 fxe3 0-0 13 Qel followed by Nh4) and now White can choose
between 12 Qe2 intending 1 2... Bxe3 13 fxe3, or the immediate 1 2 Bxb6 cxb6 13 Qe2.

B) 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 o-o d6 5 c3 Bg4 (Diagram 44)

Diagram 44 (W)

Diagram 45 (B)

As with S ...Qf6, Black is playing to prevent d2-d4. But White can aim to reach
quiet Giuoco Piano positions in which he hopes to prove that the bishop on g4 is
not ideally placed (see, for example, the note to White's 9th move below).

6 b4
Bucker and Gutman like this early queenside expansion, and I agree that it's
White's best chance to get an advantage.

36

T h e M a x La n ge G a m bit

TRICKY TRANSPOSITION: 6 d4 exd4! is another transposition to


the Scotch Gambit (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 exd4 4 Bc4 Bc5 5 o-o
d6! 6 c3 Bg41).
I've never been a fan of this line from White's point of view, especially if after 7
Qb3 Black chooses to play 7 ... Bxf3! 8 Bxf7+ Kf8. I t's very sharp, bu t whenever I've
studied it Black always seems to have most of the fun.
6 Qb3 Bxf3! 7 Bxf7+ Kf8 8 gxf3 is similarly complex, and this also appears to be
okay for Black. Gutman's main line runs 8 . . .Qg5+ 9 Kh1 Qf6 10 Bh5 g6! 1 1 Qxb7
gxh5 1 2 Qxa8+ Kf7 13 d4 Qxf3+ 14 Kg1 Qg4+ with a draw by perpetual check.

6 ... Bb6 7 a4 (Diagram 45) 7 a6


...

7 . . . a5 8 b5 looks favourable to White: 8 ... Nb8 (8 . . . Nce7? loses to 9 Bxf7+ Kxf7 10


Ng5+) 9 d4 Qf6?! (9 ... Nd7 is stronger, but still better for White) 1 0 dxe5 dxe5 1 1
Bg5! Qxg5 1 2 Nxg5 Bxd1 13 Bxf7+ Ke7 14 Rxd 1 and White has won a pawn.

8 d3
Bucker and Gutman make a convincing case for an early h2-h3, and 8 h3 Bh5 9 d3
certainly does prevent 9 . . . Qf6?? on account of 10 g4! Bg6 1 1 Bg5. Gutman also
gives 9 ... Nf6 10 Re1 h6 1 1 Nbd2 g5 12 Nfl g4 13 hxg4 Nxg4 (S.Levitsky
A.Aiekhine, St Petersburg 1913) and now 1 4 Ra2 with some advantage to White.
That said, there are also arguments for leaving the pawn on h2 for a while (for
example, there are Bxf7+ tricks after ... Nge7). Also, from a practical point of view
White has to consider that Black might adopt the move order 5 . . .Qf6 6 b4 Bb6 7 a4
a6 8 d3 Bg4 (see Line A).

8 Nf6
...

8 ... Qf6 transposes to Line A, while 8 . . . Nge7 9 Bxf7+! should now be a familiar
theme.

9 Nbd2!
White plans to play Re1 followed by the typical Nf1 -g3 (or e3) manoeuvre, with
h2-h3 probably thrown in at some moment. In this type of position, Black has to
be careful that his light-squared bishop doesn't become a victim in White's plan.

9. 0-0
..

Playing in the same fashion as Alekhine with 9 ... h6 1 0 Re1 g5 makes little sense if
White hasn't provided a hook with h2-h3. White continues 11 Nfl and keeps an
advantage after, say, 1 1 ...Qd7 12 Be3 Bxe3 1 3 Nxe3 - it's unclear how Black pro
ceeds from here.

10 h3 Bh5 11 Re1 (Diagram 46)


Now if Black does nothing White will eventually play Nfl-g3 and reach a very
nice position. So he aims to strike in the centre with ... d5, either immediately as in
the text or after some preparation.

11 ... d5

37

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e s
Alternatively:
a) 1 1 . ..Qd7 12 Bb2 (in many lines it's important to have c3 covered after ... dS; exdS
NxdS) 12 . . . Ne7 13 aS Ba7 14 Nfl Ng6 1S Ng3 Nf4 16 d4 and White is better,
T.Shaked-A.Sherzer, Philadelphia 1 993.
b) 1 l . ..Re8 12 Bb2 Qd7 13 Nfl dS!? 14 exdS NxdS 1S Ng3 Bxf3 (1S ... Bg6 16 bS!, and
eS drops) 16 Qxf3 Rad8 17 NhS!? (threatening 18 BxdS QxdS 19 Qg3) Re6 18 Qg4
g6 19 Ng3 and Black is beginning to feel the absence of his light-squared bishop,
'Gousgounis' -'Bill', Internet 2002.

12 exds Nxds 13 Ne4 Kh8


Getting the king off the a2-g8 diagonal in preparation for .. . fS. Instead 13 .. .f6 14 aS
Ba7 1 S Be3 B7 1 6 Bxa7 Nxa7 1 7 Qb3 c6 18 d4 exd4 19 Nxd4 gave White an edge in
Walter-Kuspiel, correspondence 1 989.

14 Bd2 f5 15 Negs Qd6 (Diagram 47)

Diagram 46 (B)

Diagram 4 7 (W)

We have been following the old game M.Najdorf-C.Maderna, Mar del Plata 1948,
which continued 16 NxeS! NxeS 17 QxhS Nf6 1 8 Qd 1 ?! Nxd3 with an equal posi
tion. But White can play 18 Qe2!, not worrying about 18 . . . Rae8 19 d4 Neg4 on ac
count of the brilliant 20 Bf4! Qxf4 21 N7+ Kg8 22 NeS+ Kh8 23 hxg4 fxg4 24 aS Ba7
2S Qc2, when White has some advantage since Black's bishop is for the moment
locked out of the game.
16 bS also comes into consideration; for example, 16 ... axbS 1 7 axbS Rxa1 ( 1 7 . . . NaS
1 8 NxeS!) 1 8 Qxa1 and the complications seem to favour White after, say, 1 8 ... e4 19
bxc6 exf3 20 BxdS! QxdS 21 Ne6 (threatening 22 c4) 21...Qxd3 22 Be3!.

38

T h e M a x Lange G a m bit

C) 1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bcs 4 o-o d6 5 c3 Nf61 (Diagram 48)

Diagram 48 (W)

Diagram 49 (W)

With this move Black allows d2-d4 but banks on the fact that White will have to
work hard to maintain his e4/d4 pawn centre. My feeling is that 5 . . . Nf6 has been
unfairly ignored or dismissed in some quarters. In fact I will stick my neck out
here and say 5 ... Nf6 offers the best chance of equality for Black.

6 d4
The most common choice, and a logical follow-up to 5 c3. Perhaps revealingly,
though, the majority of GMs reaching this position as White have opted for 6 d3
transposing to the positional d3/c3 main lines.

TRICKY TRANSPOSITION: White could consider 6 Re1 with the


idea of meeting 6 . 0-0 with 7 d4 Bb6. This reaches the main text
but does avoid the 6 d4 Bb6 7 Re1 Bg41? possibility for Black.
..

6... Bb6! (Diagram 49)


Strangely, to me at least, 6 . . .exd4 7 cxd4 and only then 7 . . Bb6 seems to have been
a much more common choice for Black. Conventional wisdom would lead to the
conclusion that White's imposing centre must promise an easy advantage. But it's
certainly not as clear as it first looks, and strong players (notably some Hungarian
GMs) have been willing to play this as Black, most usually under the move order 4
c3 d6!? 5 d4 cxd4! (here 5 ... Bb6? is bad on account of 6 dxe5!) 6 cxd4 Bb6 7 0-0 Nf6.
The pressure Black can generate against White's centre is seen in lines such as 8
Nc3 0-0 9 Be3 Bg4, 9 Bg5 Bg4, and finally 9 h3?! Nxe4!. Ironically, White's best
chance of gaining an advantage involves relinquishing the two pawns abreast
with 8 d5 Ne5 9 Nxe5 dxe5 10 Nc3.
.

39

Da ngero u s Wea pons: 1 e4 e S


But why shou ld Black give u p the centre so early? Why not wai t for a more oppor
tune moment?

7 Re1
7 dxe5 offers White very little after 7. . . Nxe5! 8 Nxe5 dxe5 9 Qxd8+ Kxd8, and here
10 Bxf7?! (10 Nd2 Ke7 1 1 b3 Bc5 is equal) 1 0 . . . Rf8 followed by ... Nxe4 is even better
for Black.
7 Bg5 h6 8 Bh4 Bg4 is fine for Black, and I also can't find anything convincing
against the pawn-grab 8 . . . g5! ? 9 Bg3 Nxe4.
Releasing the tension with 7 d5 is undesirable and Black is happy after 7... Ne7 White's c4-bishop is blocked whereas the one on b6 is very much alive.

7 ...0-0
Black also has options based on a quick ... Bg4:
a) 7... exd4 8 cxd4 Bg4!? 9 e5! ? (Diagram 50) (this looks critical) 9 . . dxe5 10 Nxe5
Nxe5 (1 0. . . Bxd l ?? loses a piece to 1 1 Nxc6+) 1 1 Qa4+! might offer White some
thing, e.g. 1 1 ... Kf8 12 dxe5 Qd4 13 Be3 Qxe5 14 Nc3 with excellent compensation.
.

Diagram 50 (B)

Diagram 51 (B)

b) The immediate 7. . . Bg4!? looks very logical, and I don' t think White has any ad
vantage here: 8 Bb5!? 0-0! (8 . . . exd4? runs into 9 e5!, planning to meet 9 ... dxe5 with
10 Nxe5!) 9 Bxc6 bxc6 1 0 dxe5 dxe5 1 1 Qxd8 Raxd8 1 2 Na3! (12 Nxe5 is very risky
on account of 12 ... Rfe8! 13 Nxc6 Nxe4! - Black meets 14 Be3 with 14 . . . Nxf2!, when
both 15 Nxd8 Nd3! and 15 Kxf2 Rd1 ! seem to work) 12 ... Nd7 13 Nc4 f6 with a
roughly level position.
But as I mentioned earlier, White could try to circumvent this problem by choos
ing 6 Rel .

40

T h e M a x La n ge G a m bit

8 h31 (Diagram 51)


It's very difficult for White to prosper without this move, and I think it offers
Black the biggest challenge. After 8 BgS h6 9 Bh4 Black can play either 9 ... Bg4 10
dS Nb8 followed by ... Nbd7, or perhaps more simply 9 . . . exd4 1 0 Nxd4 (10 cxd4
Bg4!) 10 . . . Ne5! 1 1 Bfl Ng6. In either case Black is fine.

8 exd4!
...

I think i t's now the right time for this trade. In practice Black has preferred 8 ... h6,
but this offers White a chance to consolidate his centre and thereby claim an edge:
9 Bb3! (eliminating ... Nxe4 tricks) 9 . . Re8 10 Bc2! and now 10 ... exd4!? 1 1 cxd4 Nb4
can be met by 12 Nc3 Nxc2 13 Qxc2 with a small advantage. 12 Ba4!? might be
even stronger, since 1 2 . . . Rxe4? 13 Rxe4 Nxe4 1 4 Qe1 ! forks the two knights.
.

The immediate 8 . . . Nxe4 9 Rxe4 dS gives White the chance to claim an advantage
with 10 BgS, e.g. 1 0 .. .f6 (or 1 0 ...Qd7 1 1 NxeS NxeS 1 2 Bxd5!) 1 1 dxe5 dxc4 1 2 Qxd8
Rxd8 13 exf6 Rd1 + 14 Re1 Rxe1+ 15 Nxel .

9 cxd4 Nxe4!
This typical fork trick considerably eases Black's position, and he must take this
window of opportunity. Loitering with, say, 9 ... Re8?! gives White all he wants
after 10 Nc3, and here it's already too late for 10 ... Nxe4?? 1 1 Nxe4 d5 because of
the tactic 12 Bxd5 Qxd5 13 Nf6+!.

10 Rxe4 d5 (Diagram 52)

Diagram 52 (W)

Diagram 53 (B)

11 Bxd5!
After 11 Bg5 f6! 12 Bxd5+ Qxd5 13 Nc3 Qf7 (Lukacs), Black's queen is well placed.

11 Qxd5 12 Nc3 QdB 13 d5 Bf5


...

41

Da ngero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e s
Lukacs prefers this to 1 3 ... Ne7 1 4 Bg5 f6 1 5 Be3! (White needs to trade Black's ef
fective bishop on b6). But I'm not sure there's any real advantage in this after
15 ...Bf5, and also Re2 is ruled out (see the next note).

14 Rf4
14 Rei ? Nb4 leaves White struggling to defend against . . . Nc2. However, 1 4 Re2!?
might be worth considering, as now 1 4 ... Nb4!? 15 Be3 Nd3?! 16 Bxb6 axb6 1 7 Rd2
forces the knight back.

14 Ne7 15 Be3 (Diagram 53)


...

(A.Horvath-A.Toth, Hungarian League 1995). This position offers level chances in


my view. White has more space, but Black is solid and i t's not clear whether the
d5-pawn wi l l prove to be a strength or weakness.

Conclusion
Judging from games and analysis, I think the Max Lange Gambit is an excellent
opening weapon for White. One practical advantage that shouldn't be underesti
mated is that there are quite a few nasty traps Black must avoid in the early
stages. But even if he successfully navigates to the main starting position after 9
Bg5, the battle is only just beginning and White has every chance to fight for the
advantage.
9 ...Qe7 followed by . . . Bd7 is probably the most reliable defence, though I expect
most players facing this line for the first time would opt for ... Be6 lines. Looking
from Black's point of view, those wishing to avoid complications should consider
4 ... d6, and here I can recommend taking a closer look at 4 ... d6 5 c3 Nf6!.

42

C h a pter Two

Reviving the
Max Lange Attac k
1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bcs 4 o-o Nf6 s d4 exd4 6 es ds 7 exf6 dxc4
8 fxg7 (Diagra m 1)

Diagram 1 (B)
After deciding to include 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 0-0 Nf6 5 d4 Bxd4 (see
Chapter 1 ), I realized it would be nice to find something for White in the Max
Lange Attack, which is reached after 5 ... exd4. Not only would this complete the

43

Da n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
mini-repertoire for 4 0-0 Nf6 5 d4, i t would also offer something to those who
reach the Max Lange via different move orders; the two most popular being 1 e4
e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Nf6 4 d4 exd4 5 0-0 Bc5 6 e5, and 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 exd4 4
Bc4 Bc5 5 0-0 Nf6 (5 ... d6!) 6 e5.
I must confess I wasn't initially that optimistic, chiefly because my recollections
based on my 2000 book Play the Open Games as Black were that Black was having
most of the fun in the main lines. Seven years is a long time, though, and my first
thought was to go through the chapter in my old book and also to see if there had
been any recent games of significance. While checking the very first page I was
struck by a comment I had made after 8 Re1 +: 'The universally played move, al
though perhaps White should look into the straightforward 8 fxg7 Rg8 9 Bg5.' The
idea of studying this line more closely became appealing, for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, 8 fxg7 is nowhere near as well known as 8 Re1 + (although my 'universally
played move' comment was probably a bit strong). Secondly, 8 fxg7 followed by
Bg5 just seems like a very logical way for White to play. In the main line with 8
Re1+ Be6 9 Ng5 Whi te has to burn his bridges and rely on the extreme complica
tions after 9 ... Qd5 10 Nc3 Qf5 1 1 Nce4 0-0-0 12 g4 Qe5. Looking at the moves with
a cold eye, it's almost as if there is a certain desperation to White's attack. In con
trast, White's play in the 8 fxg7 1 ines tends to be much more controlled, in many
lines aiming for a long-term initiative, and yet there are still a considerable num
ber of tactical tricks that Black has to watch out for.
My enthusiasm for 8 fxg7 went up a notch or two when I noticed a recent game in
which a well-known grandmaster employed the move with great success. Actu
ally this game is a bit of a landmark, because although the Max Lange Attack re
mains popular at club level, it's extremely rare to find it in grandmaster games,
unless of course the grandmaster has the black pieces.
D K.Muller M.Hoffmann

Germa n League 2007


1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bcs 4 o-o Nf6 5 d4 exd4 6 es ds 7 exf6 dxc4 8 fxg7 RgB 9
Re1+
9 Bg5 often reaches the same position. The differences between the two moves will
be explained in the theory section.

9 Be6 10 Bgs (Diagram 2) 10... Be7!


...

All the major alternatives before and after this point will be discussed later. I will
just say here that 1 0 . .Be7 is Black's only really good choice - other moves can lead
him into trouble. The fact that this retreat to e7 looks somewhat paradoxical al
ready identifies 8 fxg7 as an excellent practical weapon.
.

44

Reviv i n g the Max Lange Attack

DANGEROUS WEAPON: 10...Qd5 is the usual reply to 10 Ng5,


but against 10 Bg5 it's a big mistake: 10...Qd5? 11 Nc3! Qf5 12
Ne4 Rxg7 (12 ... Be7 13 Bxe7 Kxe7 14 Nxd4 is horrible for Black)
13 Nh4! (Diagram 3) traps the black queen in mid-board! This
has actually happened in quite a few games.

Diagram 2 (B)

Diagram 3 (B)

10 ... Qd6?! is also a poor move which runs into 1 1 Nbd2! followed by Ne4, and
here 1 1 . ..Qd5 12 Ne4 Be7 13 Bf6! looks very promising. That leaves 10 ...Qd7,
which isn't quite as bad, but 1 1 Nbd2 Rxg7 1 2 Ne4 still causes Black problems:
12 ... Be7 13 Bf6! (13 Bxe7 Kxe7!) 13 ... Rg6 (or 13 ... Rg8 14 Bxe7 Kxe7 15 Qd2! Rg7 16
Qf4 with good attacking possibilities on the dark squares) 14 Bxe7 Qxe7 (now
14 ... Kxe7 is met by 15 Nh4! - the reason behind 13 Bf6! - 15 . . . Rgg8 16 Nf5+ Kf8 1 7
Nf6) 1 5 Nxd4 Rd8 1 6 Nxc6!? (16 c3 is also good) 16 ... Rxd1 1 7 Nxe7 Rxa1 18 Rxa1
Kxe7 19 Re1 with a pleasant endgame for Whi te due to his superior structure. This
type of ending where White has a mobile majority on the kingside against Black's
immobile one on the other wing crops up frequently.

11 Bxe7 Kxe7
By recapturing this way, Black is able to hold on to his d4-pawn, at least for the
moment.

12 Nbd2
I think that a direct attack on the d4-pawn with 12 Re4! is objectively stronger.
Both moves are analysed in the theory section.

12 ...Qd5 13 b3 cxb3 14 axb3 Rxg7 15 Ne41 RagS 16 g3 (Diagram 4)


Black is a pawn ahead, but his position is not easy to play because he has a vul
nerable king and weaknesses on the dark squares, and White has various attack-

45

D a n ge rou s Wea p o n s :

e4 e S

ing possibili ties to try to exploit this. Black may we11 be able to defend with pre
cise play, but over the board this is a difficul t task, too difficult even for a strong
IM.

Diagram 4 (B)

Diagram 5 (B)

16 ... b6?!
Black immediately goes wrong - covering the c5-square is useful, but there are
more pressing concerns.
Black would like to retreat his king to d8 or f8, but at the moment this would al
low Nf6 winning the exchange. Thus 16 ... Rg6! covering the f6-square looks sensi
ble. White reacts with 17 Qd2, preparing to answer 17 ... Kf8? with 18 Nh4!, but
Black has a resource in 17 ... Rg4. Then the complications may continue with 18 c4!
dxc3 (18 ... Qd8? 19 b4! threatens b4-b5 and leaves Black in real trouble) 19 Qxd5
Bxd5 20 Nxc3+ Be6 (or 20 ... Kd6 21 Rad1 Nb4 22 Ne5) 21 NdS+ Kd6 22 Nf6 Bxb3 23
Nd2 with a complex ending which Gutman assesses as slightly better for White.

17 Ra4! Rd8
Black can't a11ow White to regain his pawn by capturing on d4. The move 17 ...b5
also prevented this, but only at a cost of another weakness, and 18 Ra6 Rg4 19 c4!
bxc4 20 bxc4 Qxc4 21 Ra4 Qd5 22 Nxd4 Nxd4 23 Rxd4 Qf5 24 Qa1 ! is a continua
tion which illustrates the continuing difficulties Black faces - there is absolutely no
hiding place for his king.

18 Qc1! (Diagram 5)
A powerful move. Now there's a new threat in 19 Qa3+, which would win the ex
change, and White's queen also eyes the dark squares on the kingside.

18 ...f6 19 Qf4 Rf7 20 c41 Qd7

46

R ev i v i n g t h e M a x Lange Attack
After 2 0. . . dxc3? 2 1 Nxc3 Qd6 the rook swings across to the e-fi le with 2 2 Rae4 and
Black loses a piece.

21 Ra2
Black's pawn on d4 may be passed but it's also vulnerable, especially since Black
is somewhat uncoordinated.

21 ...d3 22 Rd2 as
22 ... Nb4 seems to protect d3, but after 2 3 Re3 White can always play Nel xd3, or
Qh4 followed by Ne5. Here 23 . . . Nc2 24 Rexd3 Qxd3 25 Rxd3 Rxd3 26 Qxc7+ Kf8
27 Qf4 leaves White on top.

23 Qh4
23 Re3! intending 23 . Nb4 24 Qh4! followed by Ne5, or 23 . . . Nd4 24 Nc3! Nxb3 25
Nd5+, would have left Black in big trouble.
..

23 ...Qe8?
Black cracks under the constant pressure. 23 . . . Nd4! would have kept him in the
game, although 24 Rxd3!? Ne2+ 25 Rxe2 Qxd3 26 Re3 looks like a promising ex
change sacrifice.

24 Re3! (Diagram 6)

Diagram 6 (B)

Diagram 1 (B)

24 ... Qg8
Maybe Black had originally intended 24 ... Nd4, but this is strongly met by 25 Nxd4
Rxd4 26 Nxf6!.

25 Nc31
Suddenly Black's position collapses, as he cannot deal with the increasing number
of threats.

47

Dangero u s Wea po n s :

e4 e S

2 5 Kd7 2 6 Qe4 1-0 (Diagram 7)


...

It's time to resign. White has many winning lines, including 26 ... Qe8 27 Rdxd3+
Kc8 28 Rxd8+ Nxd8 29 Qa8+ Kd7 30 Nd4 Re7 31 Rd3.

Looking a Little Deeper


Recently 8 fxg7 has attracted some attention. It was analysed in great depth in
Kaissiber by Gutman and Bucker, plus one or two other contributors. I'd also like
to mention Michael Goeller, who provides some analysis in his excellent blog at
the Kenilworth Chess Club website. He calls 8 fxg7 the ' Modern Horowitz Varia
tion', in recognition of the well-known American chess player and author AI
Horowitz, who analysed this line in Chess Review.
Let's look at the opening moves:

1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bcs 4 o-o Nf6 5 d4 exd4 6 es (Diagram 8)

Diagram 9 (B)

Diagram 8 (B)
6...ds

This typical answer to e4-e5 has been accepted as best for a very long time.
6 ... Ne4? is clearly bad because the knight has no safe square from here, and fol
lowing 7 Re1 Black is already in big trouble.
6 ... Ng4 is playable though. After 7 Bf4! (I think this is best) Black can either castle
or challenge with his d-pawn. In either case I think Whi te has good chances of
gaining some advantage:
a) 7...0-0 8 h3 Nh6 9 Bxh6 gxh6 10 c3! is promising: l O . . dS 1 1 Bb3 BfS! (l l . ..dxc3 12
Nxc3 d4 13 NdS offers very good attacking chances) 1 2 cxd4 Bb6. A few games
have gone 13 Nc3 Be4!?, which is perhaps a touch better for Whi te, but I think
.

48

Revivi ng t h e M a x la n ge Attac k
Whi te shoul d consider the move 13 Re1 !? (Diagram 9).
Now 13 ... Be4 14 Nbd2! illustrates the advantage of delaying Nc3 - after 14 ... Bxf3
White can recapture with the knight. Also 13 ... Kh8 is met by 14 Nc3!, when there
is no longer the ... Be4 resource.
The tempting reply to 13 Re1 is 13 . . . Nb4, but 14 Qd2 Nd3 1 5 Rfl ! c5 16 dxc5 Bxc5
17 Nc3 looks strong, as does the exchange sacrifice 14 Nc3 Nd3 15 Nxd5! Nxe1 16
Qxe l .
b ) 7. . .d 6 (or 7 ... d5) 8 exd6 Bxd6 9 Re1 + Kf8!? ( 9. . . Be7 1 0 Bb5 0-0 1 1 h 3 Nf6 12 Bxc6
bxc6 13 Qxd4 looks better for White) 1 0 Bxd6+ Qxd6 1 1 c3! (Diagram 10) and now:

Diagram 10 (B)

Diagram 11 (W)

b1) 1 l . ..dxc3 12 Nxc3 Qxd1 1 3 Raxd1 looks very promising: a massive lead in de
velopment, with both c7 and f7 targets of attack.
b2) 1 l .. .Bf5 12 cxd4 Rd8 13 Bb5! (dealing with the threat of 13 ... Nxd4, which now
loses to 14 Qxd4 Qxd4 15 Nxd4 Rxd4 16 Re8 mate) 13 . . . g6 14 Bxc6 Qxc6 15 Nc3
with an edge to White, N.Rossolimo-A.O'Kelly de Galway, Trencianske Teplice
1949.
b3) 11 . . .Qc5 12 Nxd4! Nxd4! (after 12 ... Qxc4? 13 Nxc6 the knight cannot be recap
tured as mate with Qd8 is threatened) 13 Qxd4 Qxd4 14 cxd4 Bd7 15 Nc3 and
White has a small advantage.

7 exf6 dxc4 8 fxg7!


8 Rel + Be6 9 fxg7 Rg8 10 Bg5 transposes to our main line. But 8 Re1 + also gives
Black the opportunity to play 8 ... Kf8, which a few experts - including Gutman
believe to be Black's best move.

B... RgB (Diagram 11)

49

D a n gerous Wea p o n s :

e4 e s

Now we will study the following options for White:

A: 9 BgS
B: 9 Re1+

TRICKY TRANSPOSITION: 9 BgS aims to reach the main positions


in Line B while eliminating two possibilities for Black: 9 Re1+
Be7, and 9 Re1+ Be6 10 Bgs Be7 11 Bxe7 Qxe7.

Al though it's true Black loses these two possibili ties, this is counterbalanced by
the fact that he gains two new ones, both of which are important. At this moment
I'm not 100% sure which move order I prefer, so I've decided to include both.

A) 1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bcs 4 o-o Nf6 5 d4 exd4 6 es dS 7 exf6 dxc4 8 fxg7 Rg8 9
Bgs (Diagram 12)

Diagram 12 (B)

Diagram 13 (W)

9 .f6!?
..

Avoiding an exchange and giving the king the f7-square.


In practice 9 ... Be7 has been Black's most common choice: 10 Bxe7 (White has the
possibility of 10 Re1, transposing to Line A) 1 0 ... Kxe7 (10 . . .Qxe7?! 1 1 Nxd4! dem
onstrates an advantage of 9 Bg5 - without Re1 and . . . Be6 thrown in, Black has no
... Rd8 pinning the knight, and the position after 1 1 Nxd4 looks very good for
White) 1 1 Rei+, and now 1 1 . ..Be6 transposes to Line B. Indeed, this is what every
one seems to play. But Black also has the possibility of walking his king with

50

Reviv i n g t h e Max La nge Attack


l l . . . Kf6!? {Diagram 13), as advocated by Klaus Kogler in Kaissiber. Black has a
clever and economical plan of ... Kxg7 followed by ... Kh8, when he is getting close
to full coordination. Now I 2 c3!? is interesting: I 2 ... d3 (12 ... dxc3 13 Qcl Kxg7 I4
Nxc3 - Gutman - provides White with excellent compensation) 13 Na3 Be6 14 Re4
Kxg7 I 5 Nxc4 and White can hope to prove that king problems won't allow Black
to support the d-pawn sufficiently.
After the logical I2 Nbd2 Black has a choice:
a) 12 ... Be6 transposes to Line B, note ' a' to White's 12th move.

b) 12 ... Qd5? (Diagram 14) looks natural, but. .. 13 Nxc4! (Bucker also found this
very strong sacrifice) 13 . . .Qxc4 I4 Qd2 Kxg7 I5 Qg5+ Kf8 16 Re8+! Kxe8 1 7 Qxg8+
Kd7 (or 17 ... Ke7 I 8 Rel + Kd6 I 9 Nd2!) 1 8 Rel and White's attack is worth more
than a piece; for example I8 ... Qd5 (the threat was 19 Nd2 Qd5 20 Qe8+ Kd6 21
Ne4+) I9 Nd2! Ne7 20 Qf8 Qc5 2I Qxf7 and it's difficult to see how Black is going
to survive the onslaught.

Diagram 14 {W)

Diagram 15 {B)

c) 1 2 ... Kxg7! I 3 Nxc4 Kh8 I4 Nce5 Nxe5 I 5 Nxe5 (I5 Rxe5! ?) I 5 ... Qd5 I6 Qf3 Qxf3
17 Nxf3 c5 18 Re7 Kg7 1 9 Raei Kf6 20 Rc7 Bh3 21 g3 b6 with a complex ending,
T.Levholt-K.Kogler, Chessfriend.com 2004 (with the minor difference that White
played I 2 Na3 instead of I2 Nd2). White's rooks are very active, but Black has a
strong bishop and healthy queenside pawns.
Just tidying up, other options for Black against 9 Bg5 are less good: 9 ... Qd5 IO Nc3
Qf5 I l Ne4! Rxg7 I 2 Rei Kf8 (I2 . . . Be6 13 Nh4!) I 3 Bh6; and 9 ...Qd6 IO Rei + Be6 1 1
Nbd2, with a very good position for White i n both cases.
Returning to 9 ... f6:

10 Bh6!? (Diagram 15)

51

D a n ge ro u s Wea p o n s :

e4 e S

I think this move, originally analysed b y Horowi tz, forces Black to solve the most
problems. But White has two al ternatives worth mentioning:
a) 10 Nfd2!?, discovered by Maurits Wind, intends to meet 10 .. .fxg5? with 1 1 QhS+
Kd7 and now 12 Ne4! after which Black is in some trouble. Bucker's 10 ...Bf5 ap
pears to be a good answer, e.g. 1 1 Qf3 Qd7 1 2 Bxf6 Kf7 13 Bh4 Rae8 14 Nxc4 Rxg7
when Black's piece activity offers compensa tion for the pawn deficit.
b) 10 Re1+ Kf7 1 1 Bh6 ( 1 1 NeS+ Nxe5 1 2 RxeS Bd6 13 QhS+ Kxg7 1 4 Qh6+ Kf7 1 5
QhS+ Kg7 is a perpetual check that has been played more than once) 1 l .. .Kg6! (go
ing on the attack!) 12 Qcl QdS! (Volker Hergert) and it seems that White has no
obvious way to exploit Black's forward king; for example, 1 3 c3 d3 14 Nh4+ Kf7
with an unclear position.

10... Bg41?
This is an idea I overlooked in my initial analysis. Despite inviting tempting
checks, it might even be the best choice. Black plans ... QdS followed by . . .0-0-0,
with the bishop usually dropping back to e7 in the event of a check on the e-file.
Alternatives are important, and they illustrate how easy it is for Black to go wrong
here:
a) After 10 ... Kf7?! White doesn't expend a tempo with Re1 but plays 1 1 Nh4! plan
ning QhS+. This looks promising; for example, 1 l ...Ne5 (1 1 . . .Qd5? 12 Nc3!) 1 2
QhS+ Ke7 1 3 R e1 ! .
b) 10 . . . Bf5?! rather runs into 1 1 Nh4!. Black can hardly afford to lose control o f the
light squares, and 1 1 ... Bg6 1 2 Re1 + Kf7 1 3 Qf3 (amongst others) does look very
good for White.
c) White also has an effective way of meeting 10 ...Qd5 in 1 1 Re1 +! (Diagram 16).

Diagram 16 (B)

52

Diagram 17 (W)

Rev i v i n g t h e M a x La n ge Attack
For example, l l . . . Be6 ( 1 l . . . Kf7 12 Nc3 Qf5 13 Ne4 Bb6 1 4 Qe2, aiming to answer
14 ... Be6? with 1 5 Neg5+, is promising for Whi te; 1 l . ..Be7 12 Nxd4! Qxd4 13 Qh5+
Kd8 1 4 Rd 1 or 12 . . . Nxd4 13 Nc3! is good for White; and finally there's 1 l ...Ne7 12
Nc3 Qh5 13 Ne4! Qxh6 14 Nxc5 Qxg7 1 5 g3) 1 2 Nc3 Qd7 (12 ...Qf5? 13 Nh4!) 13
Ne4 Be7 (Diagram 17) 1 4 Nxd4! Nxd4 (14 ... Qxd4? loses to 1 5 Qh5+ Bf7 16 Qf5 Qe5
17 Nxf6+!), and now 1 was already happy with 1 5 c3, but discovered that Goeller's
15 Qh5+! Kd8 16 Nc5 Bxc5 17 Qxc5 is even stronger, when Black cannot avoid ma
terial loss.
d) 10 ... Be6 is Black's playable alternative: 1 1 Rel Qe7! (it's difficult for White to
exploit this self-pin if Black finds the exact defences; in contrast, 1 1 ...Qd7? 12 Qe2
Kf7 13 Ng5+! fxg5 1 4 Qh5+ Ke7 1 5 Qxg5+ should be winning for White, as 1 5 ... Kd6
16 Nd2! is crushing) 12 Qe2 Bf7! (I prefer White after 12 ... Kd7 13 Nbd2 Bd5 14 Ne4
Bxe4 1 5 Qxe4 Qxe4 16 Rxe4 Rae8 1 7 Rae1 - the g7-pawn is becoming a real nui
sance to Black here; 12 ... Bd5? looks desirable, but White has 13 Nxd4! and Qh5+)
13 Qd2 Be6! (13 . . . Ne5 14 Nxe5 fxe5 15 Bg5 Qe6 1 6 Qa5! is awkward for Black, as
16 ... b6? loses to 17 Qa4+ c6 18 Rxe5!) and now White can either accept the repeti
tion of moves or, if he is feeling brave, he could enter the unclear complications of
14 Qf4 0-0-0 15 Nbd2.
Returning to 10 . . . Bg4 (Diagram 18).

Diagram 18 (W)

Diagram 19 (W)

11 h3
1 1 Re1+!? Be7 12 h3 Bh5 13 g4! Bf7 1 4 c3 (Goeller) is an alternative that I think
White should consider; for example, 14 ... d3 15 Nbd2 Qd5 and now both 16 b3 and
16 Nd4!? are worth investigating. My feeling is that White has more chance of an
advantage in this line.

53

Da ngero u s Wea pon s : 1 e4 e s

11 Bh5 1 2 Qe2+ Qe7


...

12 ... Ne5!? is supposed to be bad on account of 13 g4 d3 14 cxd3 cxd3 15 Qe1 . But


not entirely convinced by this, and a bit nervous about 15 ... Qd5! 16 Nxe5 fxe5
17 gxh5 0-0-0. Despite the extra piece this doesn't look totally comfortable for
White, as Black has some awkward threats.
I'm

13 Qxc4 0-0-0 14 Nbd2 Bf7 15 Qd3 Bg6 (Diagram 19)


Goeller assesses this position as equal. If Whi te wants to avoid the repetition he
could try 16 Qb3 Bf7 1 7 Qa4, but objectively this might not be the strongest way to
continue - 1 1 Re1 + is probably the way forward.
In conclusion, if Black doesn' t want to transpose back to Line B, both 9 Bg5 Be7 10
Bxe7 Kxe7 1 1 Re1 + Kf6!? and 9 Bg5 f6 are just about okay. But there are plenty of
problems for him to solve and the path to reach a playable position is often a nar
row one.

B) 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 o-o Nf6 5 d4 exd4 6 e5 d5 7 exf6 dxc4 8 fxg7 RgB 9
Re1+ (Diagram 20)

Diagram 20 (B)

Diagram 21 (W)

9 Be6
...

According to my database this is by far the most common choice here, and that's
hardly a surprise given that there's a great temptation for Black to block the check
by developing his final minor piece.
But 9 . Be7 is a serious alternative (one that White can avoid by playing 9 Bg5 - see
Line A). The point behind 9 ... Be7 is that Black wants to keep the option open of
developing his light-squared bishop more actively, possibly on g4, or even h3 af..

54

R ev i v i n g t h e M a x La nge Attack
ter ... Rxg7. As far as I can see, White's most challenging move i s still 1 0 BgS, and
here 10 ... Be6 reaches our main line. But Black can also play 10 ... Rxg7!? 1 1 Bxe7
Nxe7 (Diagram 21), when White has a choice:
a) 12 Qxd4 Qxd4 13 Nxd4 Bh3 14 g3 Rd8! (White has more chances to keep an
edge after 14 ... 0-0-0 15 Rxe7 Rxd4 16 Nc3) 1 5 Nf3 Rg6! (Black's activity offsets his
structural disadvantage) 16 Na3 c3! 17 bxc3 a6 18 Nc4 Rc6 19 Ne3 Be6 with a level
position Oorg Simons).
b) 12 Na3 cS (12 . . . Bg4 1 3 Qxd4! Qxd4 1 4 Nxd4 offers White an edge) 13 Qe2 Bg4 14
Nxc4 Qc7 1 S QeS (if 1 S c3 0-0-0!, or 1 S Kh1 f6 16 h3 Bd7 1 7 b4!?) 1 S . . .QxeS 16 NfxeS
Bh3 17 Nd6+ Kf8 18 g3 again with a roughly level position.
c) 12 Qe2!? is interesting and Black must defend with precision: 12 . . . Be6! (12 . . .Bh3
13 g3 Qd6 14 Na3 d3 1S Qe3! - Bucker/Simons - looks promising for White, but I
think 12 ... Be6 is tougher) 1 3 Qe5 Rg6 14 Nxd4! (14 Nbd2 Nc6 intends 1S Qh8+ Kd7
16 Qxh7 Qg8!) 14 ... QdS 1S QxdS NxdS 16 Na3 c3 17 bxc3 Nxc3 18 f4!? (or 18 NabS
NxbS 1 9 NxbS 0-0-0! 20 Nxa7+ Kb8 21 NbS Bh3 22 g3 Rc6, with activity for the
pawn), and I think Black has adequate compensation for the exchange after either
18 . . .0-0-0 19 fS Rxd4 20 fxg6 hxg6 or 18 ... cS 19 fS cxd4 20 fxg6 hxg6.
So 9 . . . Be7 is playable, certainly more so than the unnatural 9 ... Ne7?. Against this
10 Nbd2 is very good for White after, say, 10 ... Bf5 (10 . . . Be6?? 1 1 Ne4!) 1 1 Nh4 QdS
12 QhS 0-0-0 13 Rxe7 Bxe7 14 NxfS Bf6 1S N f3.

10 Bg5 Be7
Other moves are inferior, and were seen in our featured game Mi.iller-Hoffmann.

11 Bxe7 Kxe7
Holding on to the d4-pawn. 1 1 ...Qxe7 is the other possibility White avoids with 9
BgS. After 12 Nxd4 (Diagram 22)

Diagram 22 (B)

Diagram 23 (B)

55

D a n gerous Wea pon s : 1 e4 e S


Black should certainly pin the knight o n d4, but which i s the best way to d o this?
a) 12 ...0-0-0 13 Nxc6! bxc6 14 Qf3 should be good for Whi te, as positionally Black
is struggling: 14 ... Bd5!? (14 ... Qg5 15 Nc3 Rxg7 1 6 g3 leaves White in control) 15
Qf5+! (15 Rxe7 Bxf3 16 gxf3 Rd 1 + 17 Kg2 Rxg7+ 18 Kh3 Rgg1 is difficult to assess)
15 . . . Qd7 16 Qf6 (16 Qxd7+ Kxd7 1 7 Nc3 Rxg7 18 g3 is also good) 16 . . .Qg4 1 7 f3
Qxg7 18 Qxg7 Rxg7 19 Kf2 Be6 20 Nc3 Rd2+ 21 Re2 Rxe2+ 22 Nxe2 with a very
unpleasant ending for Black to defend, M.Massoni-M.Campana, Porticcio 2005.
b) 12 ... Rd8! is stronger, when White replies with 13 c3 and then:
bl ) 13 . . . Rxg7 1 4 Qa4 Kf8 (14 . . .Qg5 1 5 g3) 1 5 Nxe6+! fxe6 16 Qxc4 should be good
for White. I don't think Black's activity quite compensates for his pawn deficit and
weak king.

BEWARE! After 15 Nxc6?? the computer quickly spots mate for


Black with 15 ... Rxg2+! 16 Kxg2 Qg5+ 17 Kf1 Bh3+ 18 Ke2 Qg4+
19 f3 Qg2+ 20 Ke3 Rd3+ etc.
b2) 13 ... Nxd4 14 cxd4 (Diagram 23)

.x#f

DANGEROUS WEAPON! M.Giazman-A.Saad, correspondence


2000, is a good illustration of how Black has struggled in prac
tice: 14...Qb4? 15 Nc3 Qxb2 (this pawn is truly poisoned!) 16
Qf3 Rxd4 17 Qf6! Qxc3 18 Rxe6+ fxe6 19 Qxe6+ Kd8 20 Qxg8+
and Black was forced to resign.

Of course Black should play simply 14 ... Rxg7. The old game G.Neumann
S.Winawer, Paris 1867, continued 15 Nc3 Qg5?! (it's tempting to show some ag
gression, but this move only loses time after Ne4) 16 Qf3! c6 17 Ne4 Qe7 18 Rad1
Kf8, and here 19 Qf4! would have highlighted the weaknesses on the dark
squares, with White intending to answer 19 ... Bd5? with 20 Nf6! Rxg2+ 21 Kfl fol
lowed by Qh6+. Trying to improve for Black, 15 . . . Kf8! looks stronger than
15 ...Qg5, although White can still fight for the advantage after, say, 16 Qf3 c6 17
Re4 followed by Rae l .

1 2 Re4!
My feeling is that Black faces more immediate problems if Whi te goes after the d4pawn straight away, and that for that reason I'll concentrate mainly on 12 Re4.
The alternative 12 Nbd2!? (Diagram 24) was analysed extensively in Kaissiber, and
here is a brief summary of the main lines with one or two comments:
a) 12 ... Rxg7 13 Nxc4 Kf8 14 Nce5 Nxe5 15 Rxe5 Bh3 16 g3 f6 17 Re4 c5 18 Qd2 Qd5
19 Rf4 with an edge for White - Gutman.
b) 12 . . .c3 13 Ne4 cxb2 14 Rb1 Rxg7 1 5 Qd3 Kf8 16 Rxb2 Rb8 17 c3 (Bucker) and

56

Revi v i n g t h e M a x La n ge Atta c k
White either regains the pawn with a small advantage with cxd4, o r enjoys a
strong attack after 17 . . . dxc3 18 Qxc3.
c) Against 12 ... Kf6 White can try 13 b4! ? (Diagram 25).

Diagram 24 (B)

Diagram 25 (B)

There are other moves White can play, but this looks the most challenging, and is
an idea worth remembering:
cl) 13 ... cxb3 1 4 Nxb3 Bxb3 15 axb3 Kxg7 16 Ne5 Nxe5 1 7 Rxe5 Qd6 18 Rf5 Rae8 19
Qf3 f6 20 g3 (Bucker) and White is better despite being a pawn down because
Black's position is full of weaknesses.
c) 13 ...b5! ? is another interesting suggestion from Kogler. Now 14 a4 Kxg7!
(14 ... a6? 15 axb5 axb5 16 Rxa8 Qxa8 1 7 Nxd4!) 15 axb5 Nxb4 16 Ra4 aS 17 Re4 d3
18 c3 Bd5! leads to fascinating complications. One of Kogler's main lines runs 19
Rg4+ Kh8 20 Rxg8+ Kxg8 21 cxb4 axb4 22 Rxb4 (22 Rxa8 Qxa8 23 Ne5 c3 24 Qg4+
Kh8 25 Qd4 f6 26 Nxd3 cxd2 27 Nxb4 Bb3 28 Qxf6+ is perpetual check) 22 ... c3 23
Rg4+ Kh8, when the two connected pawns combine with Black's forces to provide
a major threat. With this in mind, White should perhaps instead prefer 17 Ne4!?
(Diagram 26) targeting the d4-pawn; for example, 17 ... d3 18 cxd3 cxd3 19 Qa1+ Kf8
20 Qc3, or 18 . . . Nxd3 19 Qa1 + f6 20 Re3, with chances to pose Black continual prob
lems in both cases.
d) 12 ... Qd5 (the move Black has usually chosen) 13 b3 cxb3 14 axb3 (Kaissiber also
analyses 14 cxb3 and 14 Nxb3) 14 ... Rxg7 15 Ne4 Kf8 (in Miiller-Hoffmann Black
opted for 15 ... Rag8) 16 Qcl (threatening 17 Qa3+ Ne7 18 Rad 1, when the d-pawn
drops and Black's position is on the verge of collapse) 16 ...Qf5 17 Ng3 Qd5 (Dia

gram 27).
Now White can repeat the position with 18 Ne4 or try Gutman's 18 h3!?, prevent-

57

D a n ge ro u s Wea p o n s :

e4 e S

ing . . .Bg4 i n preparation for Qh6, which would cause Black some trouble. So
18 ... Bxh3 is critical: 1 9 Qa3+ Kg8 20 c4 dxc3 21 Rad 1 Qa5 22 Qxa5 Nxa5 23 gxh3
Nxb3 (Gutman) and then 24 Rd3 does look good for White (I prefer this to Gut
man's 24 Rb1 ). But I'd be a bit nervous if Black played 20 . . .Qd7! 21 gxh3 Qxh3.
Black has some dangerous possibili ties, and this makes me think that 18 Ne4 is
objectively the best move.

Diagram 26 (B)

Diagram 27 (W}

12 d3
...

Again this seems to have been Black's most common response. But there is an im
portant alternative in note 'c':
a) Giving up the d4-pawn without a fight is not a good idea: 12 ... Rxg7? 13 Nxd4
Nxd4 14 Rxd4 Qg8 (S.Kosrno-T.Nyland, Stockholm 2007) and now instead of 15
g3, simply 1 5 Qf3! c6 16 Nc3 leaves White in a dominating position.
b) 12 ... Qd5? is also bad : 13 Nc3 Qh5 14 Nxd4 Qxd1 + 15 Rxd 1 is a horrible end
game for Black, T.Hauge-M.Albano, Teesside 1974.
c) 12 ... f5!? was played in the stern game with 13 Re4, H.Fahmi-S.Tartakower, Ba
den-Baden 1914, and it remains critical today. Black's reasoning is that it's worth
weakening his position elsewhere in order to be able to keep his prize asset on d4.
White continues with 13 Rh4 and now:
cl) 13 ... Kf7 (preventing White from capturing on d4 as the rook would then be
hanging, so White takes the h-pawn instead) 14 Rxh7 Rxg7 15 Rxg7+ Kxg7 (Dia

gram 28}.
I rather superficially assessed this position as unclear in Play the Open Games as
Black, based on the Fahrni-Tartakower game, but it looks like I underestimated the
importance of the lack of cover around Black's king. White may well be better

58

Rev i v i n g t h e M a x La nge Attack


here, or at the very least the position is more difficult for Black to play. Here are
some variations:

Diagram 28 (W)

Diagram 29 (B)

el l ) 16 Nbd2 Qf6 1 7 Qe2 c3 1S bxc3 dxc3 1 9 Nb3 was the Fahmi-Tartakower


game. Instead of 19 ... ReS, which allowed 20 QbS! BcS 21 Nbd4!, Black should play
19 ... BdS!.
c12) 16 Na3!? has been played in recent years. Although there is always a danger
that the knight can get stuck on a3, this is often outweighed by the fact that it
doesn't obstruct White's other pieces. In particular White's queen will in many
lines sit very happily on d2, eyeing both the d4-pawn and Black's vulnerable
kingside: 16 ... QdS (Goeller gives the variation 16 . . .Qf6 17 Qe2 ReS l S Nxc4 Bf7 19
Qfl and White is better, particularly as 19 ... Nb4? can be met by 20 a3! when
20 ... Nxc2?? 21 Rcl traps the knight; White shoul d also be happy to see 16 . . . d3, for
example 17 Qd2 Qf6 1S cxd3 cxd3 1 9 NbS RdS 20 Nxc7 Bf7 21 Re1 and Black's ad
vanced d-pawn doesn't quite make up for the lost pawn) 17 Qd2 RgS 1S Re1 ! (Dia
gram 29) (lS Qf4 KfS 19 Rel Bf7 20 Qxc7 bS was better for White in M.Wurschner
V.Sapronov, correspondence 2001, but l S Rel allows less counterplay) 1S ...Bf7 19
b3! (if White gets the a3-knight into the game, he must be close to winning) 19 ... bS
(or 19 . . . c3 20 Qf4 Qd6 21 Qxd6 cxd6 22 NbS and d4 drops) 20 Qf4 and Black is un
der tremendous pressure. For example, 20 ... KfS 21 NxbS!! QxbS 22 Qh6+ Rg7 23
NgS (threatening 24 QhS+ RgS 2S Nh7 mate) 23 ... NdS 24 Nh7+ KgS 2S Nf6+ KfS 26
g3 (Black can do nothing to prevent White's threat, so a bit of tidying up first!)
26... d3 27 cxd3 cxd3 2S QhS+ BgS 29 ReS+ QxeS 30 NxeS Rh7 31 Qf6+ KxeS 32 Qg6+
Kf8 33 QxfS+ Rf7 34 Qxd3 and White should win.
c13) 16 Qd2!? Qf6 17 Qf4 Oude Acers) is also promising, with White planning to
follow up in most cases with Nbd2 and Rel .

59

D a n gerous Wea pon s :

e4 e S

c2) I 3 ... Rxg7!? I 4 Nxd4 a t first sight looks grim for Black, but the amazing re
source I4 ... Ke8! (Diagram 30), discovered by Kogler, leads to some fascinating
complications. Nevertheless, I think there is a route to an advantage for White
here: I5 Qh5+! (I5 Nc3!? Qxh4 1 6 Nxe6 Rd7 I 7 Qf3 Qg4 I 8 Qe3 Kf7 I 9 Rei Kg8 20
h3 Qh4 2I Qc5 Re8 22 Re3 Rde7 23 Rg3+ Kh8 24 Ng5 f4 25 Rg4 Qh5 26 Qf5, with
compensation, is a long line given by Bucker) I5 ... Bf7 I6 Qe2+ (I6 Nxc6? Qd5!)
I6 ... Kf8 (16 ... Qe7 I 7 Nc3 leads to a pleasant ending for Whi te) I 7 Nxf5 Rg5 (or
I7 ... Qg5 I8 Nxg7 Qxh4 I 9 Ne6+ Bxe6 20 Qxe6 Nd4 2I Qe5 Re8 22 Qc5+ Qe7 23
Qxe7+ Rxe7 24 Na3 c3 25 Kf1 cxb2 26 Rb1 with winning chances) and now:

Diagram 30 (W)

Diagram 31 (B)

c2I ) I 8 Ng3 Rd5! 1 9 Rxh7 Rdi + 20 Nfl Kg8 21 Rh3 Qd7 22 Re3 (Diagram 31), with
Kogler now suggesting either 22 ... Rd8 or 22 ... Re8, reaches a very strange position.
White is two pawns ahead and Black's king has absolutely no cover. But just as
importantly Whi te is playing without his queenside and he must deal with the pin
on the back rank. White's best chance may be to advance the h-pawn up the board
and then try a2-a4 followed by Raa3, but of course Black has some moves too!
c22) I8 Rf4! Qf6 (I8 ...Rxf5 I9 Rxf5 Nd4 20 Rxf7+!) I9 Qf3 Ne5 (I9 ...Qxb2 20 Qa3+
Qxa3 2I Nxa3 is better for White, for example after 2l ...Ne5 22 Nh6!) 20 Qa3+!
(Kogler gives 20 Qh3 Bd5 2I Qh6+ Qxh6 22 Nxh6+ Ke8 23 Nc3 Rxg2+ 24 Khi Bc6
25 f3 Rg6 26 Rei Rxh6 27 Rxe5+ Kd7, leading to equality) 20 ... Ke8 21 Qe3 (Diagram
32) 2l ...Rxf5 (2l .. .Rd8 22 Nc3 Rxf5 23 Rxf5 Qxf5 24 Rei wins back the piece wi th a
healthy extra pawn) 22 Rxf5 Qxf5 23 f4 Be6 (23 . . . Rd8?! 24 Nc3! and only then
24 ... Be6 allows 25 Re1 !; or 23 ... Kf8 24 fxe5 Re8 25 Nc3 Qxe5 and White can fight for
the advantage with 26 Qxa7 b6 27 h3 Qc5+ 28 Khi ) 24 fxe5! Qxc2 25 Nc3. With an
exposed king on e8, Black's position remains more difficult to play, at least from a
practical point of view.

60

Reviv i n g t h e M a x La n ge Atta c k

Diagram 32 (B)

Diagram 33 (B)

In conclusion, 1 2 ... f5 may well be Black's best move, but White can still hope to
claim some advantage, or at least force Black to play with great accuracy to main
tain the balance. Returning to 12 ... d3:

13 Nbd21
White has played others here, but targeting the c4-pawn causes most problems.

13 ... Qd5
Alternatives illustrate how difficult Black's position can become:
a) 13 ... Rxg7 14 Nxc4 dxc2 15 Qxc2 (Diagram 33), as played in A.Tadjerbashi
H.Greiff, Copenhagen 2004, is the sort of position Black must try to avoid at all
costs. His central pawn formation has been demolished and the only major factor
left in the position is his everlastingly vulnerable king.

b) Given the problems Black faces after allowing c4 to d rop, 13 ... b5 would seem
desirable, perhaps even essential. But against this White can attack on a new front
and Black's problems increase: 14 a4! a6 15 axb5! axb5 16 Rxa8 Qxa8 (or 16 ... dxc2
17 Qxc2 Qxa8 18 Re1 - threatening Qxh7 - 18 . . . Rxg7 1 9 Qf5 Qa6 20 Qc5+ Ke8 21
Ne4 Rg6 22 Nh4 and Black's position is collapsing) 17 cxd3 cxd3 18 Qcl ! Rxg7 19
Qc5+ Ke8 20 Qxb5 and with Ra4 is coming next, Black is really struggling.
c) Finally, 13 .. .5?! doesn't help Black either: 14 Re3 Rxg7 15 Nxc4 Qg8 16 Ne1 dxc2
1 7 Qxc2 and Black was unable to solve the problem of his weak king in C.Siefring
C.Thibodeau, correspondence 1 997.

14 Rxc41
Black's centre pawns must be eliminated!

14...Rxg7 (Diagram 34)

61

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S

Diagram 3 4 (W)

Diagram 35 (B)

15 cxd3
15 Rc3? contains a tactical flaw in 15 ... Rxg2+! 16 Kxg2 Rg8+ 1 7 Kh1 Bh3! (Goeller).

15 ...Qxd3
15 ... Rag8 1 6 g3 Qxd3 17 Rc3 QfS was V.Kirilloff-G.McDonald, correspondence
2001 . The game's 1 8 Nb3 wasn't bad, but I think 1 8 Qa4 is even stronger. The cen
tral pawns have vanished and, with his king lacking any obvious shelter, Black is
on the ropes. For example, 18 ... Rg4 19 Qa3+ Kd7 20 Re1 Kc8 (finally finding some
sort of haven, but. ..) 21 Rxc6! bxc6 22 NeS with a promising attack.

16 Rc3 (Diagram 35)


It seems sensible to drive the queen from this square. I stopped after 1 6 ...Qg6 1 7
g3 Kf8 18 Qa4, satisfied that White enjoyed a substantial advantage based on the
same reasoning given in the recent notes - the only truly important feature re
maining is Black's weak king. I discovered that Gutman and Bucker reached the
same verdict, and they go on to give some more variations, including 16 ...Qd5 1 7
Qe1 Rag8 18 g 3 Rg4 1 9 Qe3 QfS 2 0 R e 1 Kd8, when the exchange sacrifice 21 Rxc6!
bxc6 22 NeS is again very strong.
In any case looking at the position after 16 Rc3 it seems to me that White has won
the opening battle and Black needs to look more closely at a lternatives earlier on.

Conclusion
I believe that 8 fxg7 is an excellent choice for White in the Max Lange. There's a
good chance of obtaining some advantage, or reaching an unclear position which
is more familiar to you than your opponent; at the very least it presents Black with
a new set of problems. It will be fascinating to see whether grandmasters will fol
low Muller's lead and try to revive the Max Lange in over-the-board play.

62

C h a pter Th ree

Ca lming the Romantics

1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bcs 4 c3 Nf6 s d4 exd4 6 cxd4 Bb4+


7 Bd2 Nxe4!? (Diagram 1) and 4 b4 Bxb4 5 c3 Bas (Diagram 2)

Diagram 1 (W)

Diagram 2 (W)

The Giuoco Piano and Evans Gambit were popular in the so-called 'Romantic pe
riod', when attacking at all costs was the standard way of playing chess.
There are stil l a few out there who like to go for the attack even if it involves

63

Da ngerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e s
speculative gambit play. Their reasoning i s that opponents will be unfamiliar with
19th century theory and more often than not will go astray.
In this chapter I have outlined a repertoire for Black for the 21st century, based
largely on my own, with which I have scored wel l.
I don't believe that White should be able to obtain any advantage in these open
ings, although some of the variations are tricky if you haven't done your home
work. I'll start with three illustrative games that should whet your appetite for the
main lines.
D Fritz 6 V.Anand

Fra nkfurt (ra pid) 1999


This game was played at a time when the World's top players still felt that they
should be able to beat the World's best computers. However, they were starting to
find the going hard!
I remember reading an anecdote that Anand was worried about the computer's
knowledge in the main lines of the Giuoco Piano and asked Kasparov for his ad
vice. Kasparov told him to play 9 . . . Ne5 to get a good game without having to
learn much theory. It worked like a dream, as you'll see below.

1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 exd4 4 Bc4 Bcs 5 c3 Nf6


The Giuoco Piano move order is 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 c3 Nf6 5 d4 cxd4.

6 cxd4 Bb4+ 7 Nc3 Nxe4 8 o-o Bxc3 9 ds Ne S (Diagram 3)

Diagram 3 (W)

64

Diagram 4 (B)

C a l m i n g t h e R o m a ntics

BEWARE!... of blindly playing into your opponent's pet lines.

Various authors have di ffering opinions about the complications resul ting from
9 . . . Bf6. I would personally describe them as ' theoretical and dangerous', and de
spite the probability that Black is okay he'll have to play the type of positions his
opponent is seeking. All this stress is unnecessary because 9 ... NeS basically gives
Black a decent pawn-up position.

10 bxc3 Nxc4 11 Qd4 (Diagram 4) 11 ...0-0


I have only ever played this solid move, but there are a couple of al ternatives
one of which is playable, one of which is not!

It seems that l l ...fS 12 Qxc4 d6 is possible, as you will see later, bu t holding on to
the extra piece with 1 1 . . . Ncd6, however tempting, is definitely 11ot recommended.

BEWARE! ... of greed going to your head!

Look at all the trouble Black gets into: 12 Qxg7 Qf6 13 Qxf6 Nxf6 1 4 Re1+ Nfe4 1S
Nd2 0-0 (1S . . . fS 1 6 f3 0-0 17 fxe4 also leaves White with all the chances) 16 Nxe4
Nxe4 1 7 Rxe4 fS 18 Re3 bS (M.Cassella-M .Ri tter, Nassau 1 994) with a clear advan
tage for White, who has a lead in development and attacking chances.
Alternatives to 14 . . . Nfe4 are worse: 14 . . . Kf8 1 S Bh6+ Kg8 16 ReS Nde4 1 7 Nd2 1-0
J. Biauert-E.Schmi ttdiel, Konigslutter 1 988, is the sort of game that just encourages
White players to keep trying these gambit-style openings. Instead, according to
my database, 14 ... Kd8 hasn't been played over the board for over 400 years but I
don' t believe that it's qui te ready for a revival: 1 S BgS Nde8 16 Rxe8+ Kxe8 17
Re1 + Kf8 1 8 Bh6+ Kg8 1 9 ReS 1 -0 Greco-Anonymous, 1 S90.

12 Qxe4 Nd6 13 Qd3 (Diagram 5)


DANGEROUS WEAPON! Black has an extra pawn and a solid
position, whereas White is already struggling to find half
decent compensation.
13 ... b6
Black can also play 13 ...Qf6 here (see the theory section for more details).

14 Ba3 Qf6 15 Qd4 Qxd4 16 Nxd4 Bb7 17 Bxd6 cxd6 18 NfS g6 19 Nxd6 Bxds 20
Rfe1 Be6 21 f4 (Diagram 6)
ECO considers that White has compensation for the pawn. It's true that the well
posted knight stops Black's rooks using c8 or e8, but otherwise I wouldn't be that
happy if I had White. Just look at what happens in the game ...

65

Da ngerous Wea po n s : 1 e4 e S

Diagram 5 (B)

Diagram 6 (B)

21...a6!
The rook is heading for c7.

22 a4 Ra7 23 Reb1 RbB 24 aS


After the slower 24 Kf2 Black starts to take control with 24 . . . Rc7 25 Ra3 Rc6 26 Rdl
Kf8 followed by ... Ke7.

24... bs 25 c4 b4 26 Ra4 b3 27 Ra3 Rc7 28 Raxb3 Rxb3 29 Rxb3 Res!


Naturally not 29 ... Bxc4?? because of 30 Rc3.

30 Nb7
If 30 Ra3, then 30 . . . Kf8 and . . . Ke7 will lead to White losing his c-pawn.

30... Rxc4 31 Rb6 Rc2


White's kingside now comes under the cosh.

32 Nd6 KfB 33 Rxa6 BdS 34 g3 Rg2+ 35 Kf1 Rxh2 36 Ra7 Bc6 37 NcB Rg2 38 Nb6
Rxg3 39 Nxd7+ Bxd7 40 Rxd7 Ra3 41 Ra7 Rf3+ 42 Kg2 Rxf4 43 a6 Ra4 44 RaB+ Kg7
45 Kh2 hS 0-1
Does White have full compensation for his pawn in this l ine? I suspect not. In fact
in my experience White's 'compensation' is sufficient to give him drawing
chances, bu t no more.
White can try 7 Bd2 instead of 7 Nc3, as in the following game.
D G.Lee G.Fiear
British Championship, Torq uay 2002

1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bcs 4 c3 Nf6 5 d4 exd4 6 cxd4 Bb4+ 1 Bd2 Nxe41? (Diagram 7)

66

C a l m i n g t h e Rom a ntics

Diagram 7 (W)

Diagram 8 (B)

The main book move is 7. . . Bxd2+, and after 8 Nbxd2 dS 9 exdS NxdS 10 Qb3 Black
has a choice: he can offer a repetition with 10 . . . Na5 1 1 Qa4+ Nc6; or solidify his
hold on dS with 10 . . . Nce7, when White has some pressure that compensates for
the isolated pawn.
I don't consider Black's position to be bad but I prefer the game move, which of
fers more practical winning chances and of course takes White out of his comfort
zone.

8 Bxb4 Nxb4 9 Bxf7+ Kxf7 10 Qb3+ ds!?


A good try for the advantage.
I have also played the equal endgame after 10 ... Kf8 1 1 Qxb4+ Qe7 and tried to
grind away, but now I only reserve this for when I want to be very solid (see the
theory section for more details on this move).

11 NeS+ (Diagram 8)
This natural 'book' move is possibly an imprecision, but few can resist the tempta
tion of pushing Black's king about!
I consider 1 1 Qxb4 Re8 12 0-0 to be more prudent (as played in a game from the
J.Zukertort-W.Steinitz Breslau match from 1872), when play is about equal after
12 ... Kg8 1 3 Re1 b6 14 Qb3 Be6.

11. Ke61
..

BEWARE! ... of placing your king on the wrong square!

67

D a n ge r o u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
1 1 .. .Kf6 i s inferior due to 12 f3, a s the king blocks the d8-h4 diagonal and occupies
the natural retreat square for the knight.

12 Qxb4 c5! (Diagram 9)

Diagram 9 (W)

Diagram 10 (W)

Hitting back at the centre is the dynamic option. Instead 1 2 . . .Qf8 is playable, but
the resulting exchange of queens seems to give 'only' equality for Black, e.g. 1 3
Qxf8 Rxf8 14 f3 Nd6 1 5 Nc3 Nf5 1 6 0-0-0 c 6 1 7 Rhe1 Kd6, a s in N .Rossolimo
W.Addison, US Championship, New York 1 965.

13 Qa3
I had 13 Qb3?! Qa5+ in a rapid play game and, with White's king also stuck in the
centre, Black soon took control. Instead 1 3 Qa4 is well met by 13 ... Qb6!.

13 ...cxd4 14 Nf3 Qb6 15 0-0 Kf7


Threatening to evacuate the king into safety. In fact Black can even consider
moves such as 15 ... Kf6!? or 15 . . . Re8, as White isn't able to get at Black's king.

16 Nbd2
My opponent rejected 16 Ne5+ because of 16 . . . Kf6! (which is more ambitious than
the oft-quoted and not very convincing variation of Levenfish's that continues
16 ... Ke6 1 7 Nf3 Kf7), after which Lukacs adds 17 Nd3 Bf5 with an edge to Black.
Instead 16 Rd 1 is best (see the theory section).

16...Re8 (Diagram 10)


'-:.a
.

68

DANGEROUS WEAPON! With Black's king near to being tucked


away, the half-a-pawn advantage is becoming important.

Ca l m i n g the Roma ntics

17 Qb3
Krause gives 1 7 Nb3 d3 18 Rad 1 Bg4 19 Rxd3 Bxf3 20 Rxf3+ Kg8, with an edge for
Black.

17 ... Nxd2
Instead 18 Nxd2 al lows Black to reach a good ending after 18 . . .Qxb3 19 Nxb3 Re2.

18 Qxd5+ Be6 19 Qh5+ KgB 20 Nxd2 Qxb2


Demolishing White's queenside.

21 Nf3 Bxa2 22 Qas


Black would also have good winning chances after 22 Nxd4 Qxd4 23 Rxa2 a6.

22 ... Re2 23 Rad1 (Diagram 11)

Diagram 11 (B)

Diagram 12 (B)

Here Black has to find the right way.

23 ...Qc3
After 23 ... b6! I thought that 24 Qa6 would be annoying, but Lukacs points out that
24 ... Rf8 25 Qxa7 Bd5 would be very strong.
23 ... a6?, on the other hand, can be parried by 24 Nxd4 Re4 25 Rd2.

24 Qbs Bc4?
Black should play 24 . . . Rae8! 25 Rxd4 (not 25 Nxd4? Re1, or if 25 Qxb7 R2e7 and
. . . Bc4) 25 . . .Qc6.

25 Qxb7 RaeB 26 Qxa7!


After 26 Rcl Black keeps the advantage with 26... Rc2 (bu t not 26... Rxf2?? because
of the cool 27 Kxf2!) 27 Reel Rf8 28 Re7 d3.

26... R2e7 27 Qxd4 Qxd4 28 Nxd4 Bxf1 29 Rxf1 (Diagram 12)

69

D a n gerou s Wea po n s : 1 e4 e S
So Black emerges with an exchange for a pawn, but with a l l the pawns on one
wing a careful defender should be able to draw.

29 ... Rd7 30 Nf3 h6 31 h4 RedS 32 g3 Rd1 33 Rxd1 Rxd1+ 34 Kg2 Kf7 35 Ng1 Ke6 36
Nh3 KfS 37 Nf4 Ra1 38 Kf3 Ra3+ 39 Kg2 Ke4 40 Ne6 Ra7 41 Nf4 Rf7 42 Nh3 Kd3 43
Kf1 RfS 44 Kg2 Ke4 45 Kf1 RaS 46 Kg2 RbS 47 Nf4 RaS 48 Nh3 Ra2 49 Nf4 gS 50
hxgs hxgs 51 Ne6 Ras 52 g4 Res 53 f3+ Ke3 54 Ng7 Rds 55 Kg3 Ras 56 Ne6 Res 57
Ng7 Ke2 58 NfS RdS 59 Ng7! RaS
There is no joy for Black after 59 . . . Rd3 60 Ne6 Rxf3+ 61 Kg2 Rf4 62 Kg3!.

60 Kg2 ReS 61 NhS Ke3 62 Kg3 RaS 63 f4 Ra1 64 fxgS Rg1+ 65 Kh4 Kf3 66 g6 Rxg4+
67 Kh3 Rxg6 68 Kh4 Rg4+ 69 Kh3 Ra4 70 Nf6 Rf4 71 NhS Rg4 72 Nf6 Rg7 73 NhS
Rg4 74 Nf6 Rd4 75 NhS Rd6 76 Kh4 Rg6 77 Kh3 Yz-Yz

Fighting the Evans Gambit


The notorious Evans Gambit can be fun, if you have the Black pieces that is!
D D.Leygue G.Fiear

Cap d'Agde 2006


1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bcs 4 b4 Bxb4 5 c3 Bas 6 d4 exd4 7 o-o Nge7 8 cxd4 ds 9
exds Nxds 10 Ba3 Be6 11 Qb3 (Diagram 13)

Diagram 13 (B)

Diagram 14 (W)

11 ...Qd7!
1 1 . ..Bb4 is also reasonable; e.g. 12 Bxb4 Ncxb4 13 a3 Nc6 1 4 Qxb7 Na5 and now:
a) Marin judges 1 5 Qa6 Nxc4 16 Qc6+ Ke7 1 7 Qxc4 Re8 to be equal, whereas my

70

Ca l m i ng t h e R o m a n t i cs
computer prefers White, probably due to Black's slightly insecure king.
b) After 15 Bb5+ Kf8 16 Qa6 Nb3 1 7 Ra2 Nb6 (P.llczuk-L.Ostrowski, Polish Team
Championship 1 999), Black threatens ... Bc8, which White failed to notice in the
actual game! White should continue with 18 Be2! Nxd4 19 Rd2 Nxe2+ 20 Qxe2
Qf6, which Marin assesses as equal. While Black plays . . . g7-g6 and . . . Kg7 to sort
out his harmony, White has time to win back the pawn.

12 Nbd2
Marin quite likes White's chances after 12 Ne5 Nxe5 13 Qxb7 (Black is better fol
lowing 13 dxe5?! 0-0-0 14 Rd1 Qc6!) 13 . . . Qc8 (at this juncture, although 13 ... Nb6?!
14 Bxe6 fxe6 15 dxe5 c5 16 Qf3 Rc8 looks playable, Black's king is still a problem)
14 Bxd5 Qxb7 15 Bxb7 Rb8 16 Be4. But Black then has 16 .. .f5! and achieves com
fortable equality with 17 Bc2 Nc4 18 Bc5 Bb6.

12 ... Bxd2
It seems a good idea to exchange two pairs of minor pieces.

13 Nxd2 Na5 14 Qg3 Nxc4 15 Nxc4 f6! (Diagram 14)


This defends g7, covers e5, and gives the king a poten tial escape square on f7.

16 Qf3
Now I decided that f7 wasn't such a great square for my king after all!

16...0-0-0 17 Rfc1 Kb8 18 Rab1 Nb6 19 Nxb6 cxb61


-:..,.

'

DANGEROUS WEAPON I Black has emerged from the opening


with good winning chances.

I like this move, which takes the sting out of White's queenside initiative. Black's
king can hide behind the pawn mass and, with a light-squared blockade in pros
pect, Black can start to think about using his extra pawn.

20 h3!?
Provoking Black to capture the d-pawn and enter complications.

20...Qxd4! 21 Be7 (Diagram 15)


Having missed this move completely, I decided it was time to work out exactly
what was happening. In fact I was able to calculate to the end of the game as my
opponent played down the critical line, bu t it seems that Black's next move guar
antees an ad vantage against all continuations.

21... Rd51 22 Qg3+ Qe5


The king is not so well placed on a8, e.g. 22 . . . Ka8 23 Qxg7 Rg8?? 24 Qxg8+! .

23 Qxg7 Rg8 2 4 Qxf6


Winning back his pawns but a llowing Black a strong - and in fact decisive - at
tack.

71

Da ngerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S

24...Qe4 (Diagram 16) 25 f3

Diagram 15 (B)

Diagram 16 (W)

25 g4 allows a delightful finish: 25 . . . Rxg4+! 26 hxg4 Qxg4+ 27 Kfl Rd 1+! 28 Rxd1


Bc4+ 29 Ke1 Qe2 mate.

25 ...Qe2 26 Qf4+ Ka8 27 g4 Rd2 28 Qg3 Qe3+ 29 Kh1 Bd5 30 Rf1


So my opponent successful ly holds off the attack, but he failed to appreciate that
there is another threat ...

30 ...Qxe7 0-1
Whoops!

Looking a Little Deeper at the Giuoco Piano


1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 c3 Nf6 5 d4 exd4 (Diagram 17) 6 cxd4
White has a couple of noteworthy alternatives to this move:
a) 6 0-0 reaches a position that can arise from other move orders. Black has an easy
route to comfortable equality with 6 .. :Nxe4 7 cxd4 dS 8 dxcS dxc4 and now:
a] ) 9 Qxd8+ Kxd8! 10 Rd1 +! Bd7 1 1 Be3 Ke7! 12 Na3 Be6 (this little untangling ma
noeuvre yields a good game) 13 NbS Rhc8 1 4 NgS NxgS 15 BxgS+ f6 1 6 Bf4 Ne5 1 7
BxeS fxeS 1 8 Re1 Kf6 19 Re3 Bd7 and Black was somewhat better in
T.Thorhallsson-G.Flear, London 1 987.
a2) 9 Qe2 should be met by 9 . . . Qd3!, e.g. 10 Re1 fS 1 1 Nc3 0-0 12 Nxe4 fxe4 13 Qxe4
BfS 1 4 Qh4 Rae8 15 Bf4 Be4 16 Re3 Qd7 17 NgS Bd3 when Black is certainly not
worse, T.L.Petrosian-A.Grischuk, Internet blitz 2004.
b) After 6 eS dS 7 BbS Ne4 8 cxd4, I recommend keeping the tension with 8 ... Bb6!

(Diagram 18).

72

Ca l m i n g t h e R o m a n t i cs

Diagram 17 (W)

Diagram 18 (W)

BEWARE! I've had some bad experiences with 8 Bb4+ and


now understand that simplification favours White, who will
obtain the superior pawn structure after a timely Bxc6+.
...

After 8. . Bb6 9 Nc3 0-0 White has two main options:


.

b1) 10 Bxc6 bxc6 1 1 Be3 fS 12 exf6 Qxf6 13 Nxe4?! (better is 13 Qb3 Qg6 14 NeS
Qxg2 15 0-0-0 Nxf2 16 Rhg1 with a wild position that occurred in J.Rowson
l.Sokolov, Selfoss 2003; here the safest way to navigate the complications is with
16 . . .Qh3 1 7 Rg3 QfS which offers equality according to Sokolov) 1 3 . . . dxe4 14 Nd2
Ba6 15 Nxe4 BaS+ 1 6 Nc3 Bxc3+ 1 7 bxc3 Qg6 and Black's attack on the light
squares was very strong in B. Macieja-G.Vescovi, Bermuda 2004.
b2) Black has several options against 1 0 Be3, but the simplest is 1 0 ... Ne7, e.g. 1 1 0-0
c6 12 Bd3 Nxc3 1 3 bxc3 BfS 14 Nh4 Bxd3 1 5 Qxd3 Qd7 1 6 f4 Qg4 with a level posi
tion, B.Macieja-L.Aronian, Antalya 2004.
6 Bb4+
...

Now White has two sensible ways of parrying the check:

A: 7 Bd2
B: 7 Nc3
The third option is the dubious 7 Kfl ?!, which is best met by 7 . . . d5! 8 exdS NxdS 9
Nc3 Be6 1 0 Qe2 0-0. Comparing the respective king positions will explain why
Black is better here.

73

Da ngero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S

A) 1 e4 e s 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bcs 4 c 3 Nf6 5 d4 exd4 6 cxd4 Bb4+ 7 Bd2 Nxe41?
I'm recommending this rather than the main line resulting from 7 ... Bxd2+.

8 Bxb4 Nxb4 9 Bxf7+ Kxf7 10 Qb3+ (Diagram 19)

Diagram 19 (B)

Diagram 20 (W)

Here Black has two options, the solid and the ambitious.

1o...ds
This is the ambitious choice, with Black risking getting his king caught in the
crossfire.
The solid choice is 10 ... Kf8 1 1 Qxb4+ Qe7 12 Qxe7+ Kxe7 - the ending is equal and
rather dull. White can now castle or leave his king in the centre:
a) 13 Nc3 Nxc3 1 4 bxc3 d6 1 5 Kd2 has been played against me twice: 15 ... Bf5 16
Rhe1+ Kd7 1 7 Re3 Rhe8 1 8 Rae1 h6, P.Durbize-G.Flear, Villeneuve-Tolosane 1 997,
and 15 . . . Bg4 1 6 Rhel+ Kd7 1 7 Ng5 h6 18 Ne4 Rhf8 19 f3 Be6, C.Herbrechtsmeier
G.Flear, French League 2001, were both about equal.
b) 13 0-0 ReB 14 Re1 (14 Na3 d6 15 Rfe1 Kd8 16 Racl Bd7, as played in B.Gikas
K.Markidis, Athens 2005, doesn't change the assessment) 14 ... Kf8 15 Nc3 Nxc3 1 6
Rxe8+ Kxe8 1 7 bxc3 d6 1 8 Rei+ Kf8 (Diagram 20).
A key position. Objectively it is equal but the stronger player might be able to
generate some slight winning chances. For example, 19 d5 Bd7 20 Ng5 h6 21 Ne6+
Bxe6 22 Rxe6 Re8 (D.Leygue-G.Flear, Creon 1 999) and now 23 Rxe8+ should lead
to a draw.
Returning to 10 ... d5:

11 Ne5+
The sharpest. Otherwise White contents himself with a quiet game after 11 Qxb4

74

C a l m i n g the R o m a ntics
Re8 12 0-0 (Diagram 21).

Diagram 21 (B)

Diagram 22 (B)

Now the question is how to complete development. Although 12 . . . c6 13 Nc3 Nf6


14 Rae1 Qb6 1 5 Qxb6 axb6 16 Rxe8 Nxe8 1 7 Re1 Nd6 1 8 g4 was d rawn in
J.Zukertort-W.Steinitz, 3rd matchgame, Breslau 1 872, White can improve on this
with 13 Nbd2 N f6 1 4 Rae1 Qb6 15 Qc3, keeping a pull, as suggested by Steinitz
himself. So instead of 12 ... c6, more dynamic is 12 ... Kg8 1 3 Re1 b6 14 Qb3 Be6 with
a balanced and livelier position, as Black can play for . . . c5.

11 Ke6
...

The alternative 1 l . ..Kf6?! is bad as White can then seize the initiative with 1 2 f3!,
e.g. 12 ... Ng5 1 3 Qxb4 Qe7 14 Qd2 g6 1 5 Nc3 c6 1 6 0-0 Be6 1 7 Rael, S.Hmadi
J.Norri, Moscow Olympiad 1 994.

12 Qxb4 c5
12 ... Qf8 is equal, and is for those who are having second thoughts about walking
their king into the centre!

13 Qa3
13 Qa4?! Qb6! 1 4 b3 cxd4 leaves Whi te with a gaping hole on c3, and 13 Qb3?
Qa5+ 14 Kfl cxd4 favoured Black in a rapid play game of mine. (It might have been
against Leygue, Marseille 2004, but I'm not sure - my memory is about as trust
worthy as White's position!)

13 cxd4 14 Nf3 Qb6 15 0-0 (Diagram 22)


...

Now 15 ... Re8 is perhaps the most sensible move, developing and preparing to cas
tle by hand. Then 16 Qa4 Bd7 (16 . . . Kf7 1 7 Qxd4 Qxd4 1 8 Nxd4 Bd7 is more or less
balanced) 1 7 Nxd4+ Ke7 18 Qa3+ Kf7 19 Rd1 Rac8 (19 . . . Re5!? intending to double

75

Da ngerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e s
on the e-file i s more dynamic) 2 0 Nc3 Nf6 2 1 Nf3 Bc6 22 Rac1 Rcd8 i s equal,
A.Ansei-J.Muller, correspondence 2002.
In my game against Graham Lee I opted for 15 ... Kf7, when 16 Nbd2 proved to be
inadequate and the alternative 1 6 NeS+ Kf6! probably favours Black. Matters are
far less clear, however, after the best move 1 6 Rd l ; e.g. 16 ... d3 (bearing in mind
what follows, perhaps simplest is 16 ... Re8 1 7 Nxd4 Kg8 1 8 f3 Nf6 19 Nc3 Bd7
which looks about equal) 17 NeS+ Kf6 18 Nxd3 Bg4 1 9 Re1 Rhe8 20 Nc3 Nxc3 21
Qxc3+ d4 22 Qd2 Qd6 and here Palkovi suggests 23 h3 with an edge, whereas I
think that 23 f4 looks a little awkward for Black.
Probably both moves are okay, bu t the route to equality after 15 ... Re8 is clearer.

B) 1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 c3 Nf6 5 d4 exd4 6 cxd4 Bb4+ 7 Nc3


Developing the knight provokes complications by allowing Black to capture the e
pawn.

7 Nxe4 8 o-o Bxc3 9 d5 Ne51? (Diagram 23)


...

Diagram 23 (W)

Diagram 24 (W)

For many players 9 ... Bf6 is automatic, and you'll find pages of analysis in other
books. The text move ensures a good game without getting drawn into any home
preparation!

10 bxc3
10 Qe2!? comes to the same thing after 10 . . . 0-0 1 1 bxc3 Nxc4 1 2 Qxc4 Nd6.

10 Nxc4 11 Qd4 0-0


...

A worthwhile alternative is 1 l . ..f5!? 12 Qxc4 d6 1 3 Nd4 0-0 14 f3, although Black


has to be careful. For example, 14 . . . Nf6 1 5 BgS! (15 Re1 h6 16 Rb1 a6 1 7 Rb2 bS 18

76

Ca l m i ng t h e Roma ntics
Qd3 Nd7 1 9 Rbe2 NeS led to Black getting the better of the game in A.Zwaig
Y.Kraidman, Havana Olympiad 1966) 1 5 ... h6 1 6 Bh4 g5 1 7 Bf2 Kg7 18 Rfe1 Bd7
(C.Schlechter-P.Mei tner, Vienna 1 899) with pressure for the pawn after 19 Re2 fol
lowed by doubling on the e-file.
Simpler it seems is 14 . . . Nc5! 15 Ba3 b6 16 BxcS bxcS 1 7 Nc6 Qf6 18 Rae1 Bd7 1 9 Re7
Rf7 20 Rfe1 Raf8! (a logical improvement on some old games) 2 1 Rxf7 Rxf7 22
Nxa7 Re7 23 Rxe7 Qxe7 24 Kf2 with an equal position, as in A .Shpak-A.Gavrilov,
Vladimir 2004.

12 Qxc4 Nd6 (Diagram 24) 13 Qd3


Other squares for the queen have been tried but without success:
a) 13 Qf4 Re8 (I was successful with 1 3 . . . Ne8 in one game, bu t it looks a little pas
sive to me now: 1 4 d6!? Nxd6 1 5 Ba3 b6 1 6 Rad 1 Ba6 1 7 Rfe1 Re8 1 8 Bxd6 cxd6 1 9
Rxe8+ Qxe8 20 Re1 Qf8 2 1 Qa4 Bb7 2 2 Qxd7 Bxf3 2 3 gxf3 Qc8 24 Re7 Qxd7 25
Rxd7 Kf8 was better for Black in D.Leygue-G.Flear, French League 2003, and I
managed to win the ending) 1 4 Re1 Rxe 1 + 15 Nxe1 bS! (to control some key
squares and give Black some valuable breathing space) 1 6 Be3 Bb7 1 7 Rd1 Nc4 18
Nc2 d6 19 Bd4 f6 20 Ne3 Nxe3 21 Bxe3 Qd7 22 Qb4 aS and Black won in A .Zude
B.Spassky, German League 1 990.
b) 13 Qd4 NfS ( 1 3 ... Re8!? is also possible) 14 Qd3 d6 15 BgS f6 1 6 Bd2 Qe8 1 7 Rfe1
Qf7 1 8 c4 Bd7 19 Nd4 Qg6?! (instead 1 9 . . . Nxd4 20 Qxd4 b6 must obviously be a
little better for Black) 20 Ne6 and White finally has enough compensation,
S.Berezjuk-J.Sosna, Vsetin 1 997.

13 ... b6
This was Anand's choice, but it seems less precise than 1 3 . . . Qf6! (Diagram 25)
when I rea lly don' t think much of White's chances. For example:

Diagram 25 (W)

Diagram 26 (W)

77

Dangero u s Wea p o n s :

e4 e S

a ) 14 Ng5 Qg6 1 5 Qxg6 and Black can recapture either way with a good game;
b) 14 Bg5 Qf5 1 5 Qxf5 Nxf5 16 g4 Nh6 (or 16 . . . f6 1 7 Bf4 Ne7 18 c4 d6 19 h3 Ng6
with the advantage, D.Kornilovich-A.Sobolev, St Petersburg 1 997) 1 7 Bxh6 (17 Be7
Re8 18 Rfe1 fails to the quick-developing 18 . . . d6 19 Bxd6 Rxe1 + 20 Rxel Bxg4)
17 ... gxh6 18 Nd4 d6 19 f3 Bd7 20 Rael Rfe8 21 h3 c5 and Black took control in
S.lermito-J.Pierrot, Villa Ballester 2001 .
c) 14 Ba3 b6 transposes to the Fritz-Anand game, but without allowing the option
of 13 ...b6 14 Bg5 (see below).
d) 14 Rei b6 15 Bg5 Qf5 16 Qxf5 Nxf5 17 g4 h6 18 Bf4 Nd6 19 Bxd6 cxd6 20 Nd4
Bb7 21 Nf5 g6 22 Nxh6+ Kg7 23 g5 Bxd5 and yet again Black is much better,
V.Anicic-B.Abramovic, Bar Sozina 2005.

14 Ba3?1
Fritz 8 rightly prefers 1 4 Bg5! as this forces a concession from Black. This should
be enough to earn White equalizing compensation; e.g. 14 . . . f6 15 Bf4 Bb7 16 Rfe1
Re8 1 7 c4 Rxe1+ 18 Rxel Qf8 1 9 Bxd6 Qxd6 20 Nd4 g6 21 h4 Rf8 22 h5 and my op
ponent had just about enough play for the pawn in M.Vanderbeeken-G.Flear,
Montpellier 2005.

14...Qf6 (Diagram 26) 15 Qd4


White had absolutely no compensation after 15 Bxd6 Qxd6 16 Ng5 Qg6 17 Qxg6
hxg6 18 Rfe1 f6 19 Nf3 Bb7 in A .Kravchenko-I.Otroshenko, Kiev 2000.
After 15 Nd4 Re8 1 6 Rfel Bb7 1 7 Bxd6 Qxd6 18 c4 Ba6 1 9 Nf5 Qb4 20 Ne3 c6, Black
was ready to seize the ini tiative in }.Benito Imaz-G.Flear, Basque League 2002.

15 ...Qxd4 16 Nxd4 Bb7 17 Bxd6 cxd6 18 Nf5 g6 19 Nxd6 Bxds 20 Rfe1 Be6 21 f4 a6!
Black is somewhat better, Fritz 6-V.Anand, Frankfurt 1999 (see above for the rest
of this game).

What if White prefers the Evans Gambit?


It's impossible to give a whole repertoire in fine detail, bu t in some books I find it
annoying that every time I turn to a tricky move order it sta tes, 'this takes us out
side of the scope of this book' etc. White can avoid the Giuoco with the aggressive
Evans Gambit, but also with the prudent 4 d3, so it's worth having a look at both
of these.

1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 b4!? (Diagram 27)


The dangerous Evans Gambit is the ultimate Romantic opening, and it can lead to
wild positions. The Evans needs to be taken seriously, so don't underestimate it
and somehow believe that it's unsound. Instead, treat it just as you would any
other opening: it has its strong points and its d rawbacks, but if you prepare prop
erly you should be able to avoid any serious problems.
4 0-0 is discussed in Chapter 1 . The other main way for White to vary is with 4 d3,

78

C a l m i ng t h e Roma ntics
when after 4 . . . Nf6 he has two distinct systems.
a) 5 c3 is fairly popular amongst players who don't want a theoretical struggle and
like to build up slowly. Typical play continues 5 . . . a6 6 Nbd2 Ba7 7 Bb3 0-0 8 0-0.
Here the usual 8 ... d6 is well known and played rather frequently. However, if you
don't want to play a closed manoeuvring game then 8 ... d5!? (Diagram 28) is not
bad . For example, 9 Rei (instead 9 exd5 Nxd5 1 0 Nc4 f6 1 I Rei Kh8 offers chances
for both sides) 9 . . . dxe4 1 0 dxe4 Ng4 (10 . . . Qe7 1 1 Nfl Rd8 I2 Qe2 Be6 is solid) I 1
Rfl Qe7 I2 Qe2 Bd7 I 3 Nc4 h6 I 4 h3 Nf6 1 5 Ne3 Bxe3 I 6 Qxe3 Na5 I 7 Bc2 Bb5 was
equal in M. Klinova-N.Short, Gibraltar 2005.

Diagram 2 7 (B)

Diagram 28 (W)

b) 5 Nc3 d6 6 Bg5 is not dishwater dull, as Black can break the symmetry with
6. . . Na5! 7 Bb3 (7 Nd5 Nxc4 8 bxc4 c6, and 7 Bxf6 Qxf6 8 Nd5 Qd8 9 b4 Nxc4 I O
bxc5 c6!, both favour Black) 7. . .h6! (Diagram 29) which i s already equal i n my
opinion. S.Buckley-G.Flear, Hastings 200I /02, continued 8 Bd2 Nxb3 9 axb3 a6 10
Ne2 0-0 11 Ng3 d5 I 2 Qe2 Re8 13 0-0 dxe4 I4 dxe4 Bd7 I 5 Radi Qe7 and Black has
no problems. Other tries don' t offer White anything either: 8 Bxf6 Qxf6 9 Nd5 Qd8
1 0 0-0 0-0 I I d4 exd4 I 2 Nxd4 c6 13 Nc3 Qf6, T.Horvath-P.Lukacs, Hungarian
Championship I984; and 8 Be3 Nxb3 9 axb3 Bxe3 IO fxe3 0-0 1 1 0-0 as in F.Vallejo
Pons-A .Grischuk, Minorca 1 996, when a solid, but tension-retai ning way to equal
ize is 1 1 ... Re8 I2 Qe I c6.

4 Bxb4 5 c3 Bas (Diagram 30) 6 d4


...

The only troublesome move for Black.


The two main al ternatives, 6 Qb3 and 6 0-0, have limited effect:
a) 6 Qb3 Qf6 7 d4 can be met by 7... Nxd4 8 Nxd4 exd4 9 0-0 dxc3 10 e5 Qxe5 I I
Bxf7+ Kf8 I 2 Na3, as i n J.Wempe-A.Lytchak, Hengelo I 996. Now I 2 ... d6 1 3 Nc4

79

D a n ge ro u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
Qf5 leaves White's compensation looking distinctly vague, though Black must still
be a little careful about his vulnerable king.
Instead of 7 d4, John Nunn has tried 7 0-0; e.g. 7 ... Bb6 8 d4 d6 9 dxe5 Nxe5 1 0
Nxe5 dxe5 1 1 a4 a 6 12 K h 1 Ne7 1 3 f4 Be6! 1 4 a S Bc5 1 5 Qxb7 0-0 and Black was on
top in J.Nunn-R. Hi.ibner, Johannesburg 1 981 .

Diagram 29 (W)

Diagram 30 (W)

Some books quote Filip, who ana lyses 9 Ng5 (as an attempt to improve on Nunn's
9 dxe5), but I don' t agree with his conclusions: 9 . . . Na5 (I don't like this move) 10
Bxf7+ Ke7 1 1 dxe5 is assessed as 'unclear', but I prefer White, e.g. 1 1 . . .Qxe5 12 Qd1
h6 13 Nf3 Qf6 1 4 Bxg8 Rxg8 1 5 e5 etc.
After 9 ... Nh6 (best in my opinion) 10 f4, Filip again states that the position is 'un
clear', but 10 . . .exd4 almost certainly favours Black.
So 6 Qb3 is basically no good.
b) 6 0-0 is playable but a shade too slow: 6 ... d6 7 d4 Bb6 8 dxe5 dxe5 (Diagram 31)
9 Qb3 (the ending arising after 9 Qxd8+ Nxd8 10 Nxe5 Be6 has been known for
over a century to be slightly better for B lack due to his superior pawn structure)
9 ...Qf6 and now White has to try the following forcing variation: 10 Bg5 Qg6 1 1
Bd5 Nge7 12 Bxe7 Kxe7 13 Bxc6 Qxc6 1 4 Nxe5 Qe6 1 5 Nc4 (after 1 5 Qa3+ Qd6 1 6
Qxd6+ cxd6 Black's bishops should give him the advantage, e.g. 1 5 Nd3 Qxb3 1 6
axb3 Rd8 1 7 Nf4 c6 18 Na3 Bc7 1 9 Nh5 Be5 20 Racl Bg4, G.Vicente Haro-G.Flear,
Castellar 1996) 15 ... Rd8 1 6 Qa3+ Ke8 1 7 Nxb6 Qxb6 18 c4 Be6 19 Nc3 Rd3 20 Qa4+
Qc6 with an equal position, A.Kulashko-M.Sinclair, New Zealand Championship,
Hamilton 1998.

6 exd4 1 0-0
...

80

Ca l m i n g t h e Rom a ntics

BEWARE! White's most dangerous move, and one promoted by


Nigel Short, is 1 Qb3!? (Diagram 32).

Diagram 31 (W)

Diagram 32 (B)

Black should reply with 7 ... Qf6! (7. . .Qe7, recommended by some, is not as good in
my opinion) 8 0-0 Bb6 9 e5 Qg6 10 cxd4 Na5 1 1 Qa4 Nxc4 12 Qxc4 Ne7 13 Ba3 (or
13 a4 d5 14 exd6 cxd6 15 aS with compensation according to Lukacs) 13 . . .Qe6 14
d5 Qxd5 1 5 Qe2 with a murky position, N.Short-J.Piket, Zurich 2001 . This game
continued 1 5 . . . Ng6 (15 ...Qe6 16 Nc3 h6 is also possible) 16 Nc3 Nf4 17 Qb2 and
now 17 ... Qc4! (rather than the game's 17 ...Qd3) would have confirmed Black's ad
vantage.

7 Nge71 (Diagram 3 3)
...

8 cxd4
The alternative 8 Ng5 is more complicated . After 8 ... d5 9 exd5 NeS White must
make a decision:
a) After 10 Bb3 0-0 White has various ways to try and continue the attack:
a1) 1 1 Re1 N5g6 12 d6 cxd6 13 Qh5 h6 14 Nf3 Ne5 15 Nxe5 dxe5 16 Qxe5 Nc6 1 7
Qf4 Qd7 18 Ba3 Bc7 leaves Black o n top, a s in M .Comette-M.Ouakhir, V a l d'lsere
2004.
a2) 1 1 cxd4 Ng4 12 Ba3 (Morozevich has tried 1 2 Qf3 but calm play by Adams led
to a Black advantage following 12 . . . Nf6 13 Ba3 h6 14 Ne4 Nxe4 15 Qxe4 Re8 16 Bb2
Nf5 1 7 Qf4 Bb4 1 8 Na3 Bd6, A.Morozevich-M.Adams, Wijk aan Zee 2001) and
now 12 ... Nxd5! (Diagram 34) is a strong positional exchange sacrifice: 13 Bxf8
Qxg5 1 4 Bxd5 Qxd5 1 5 Ba3 Bd7 16 Nd2 Re8 1 7 Nb3 Bb6 with full compensation
for Black, A . Anderssen-S.Mieses, Breslau 1 887.

81

D a n g er o u s Wea pon s : 1 e4 e s

Diagram 3 3 (W)

Diagram 34 (W)

a3) 1 1 Nxh7 Kxh7 1 2 Qh5+ Kg8 1 3 Qxe5 Nf5 (Gutman analysed 13 ... dxc3 14 Ba3
Ng6 15 Qh5 as leaving White with the initiative, but Keene's idea 15 . . . Nf4! 16 Qf3
Qf6! gives Black great play) 1 4 Bd2 c5 1 5 dxc6 bxc6 16 Re1 Bc7 1 7 Qe4 Qf6 18 Bf4
and a draw was agreed in N.Short-M.Adams, Sarajevo 2000.
So Black should be able to weave a path through the complications after 10 Bb3
and not be worse. What about if White simply recaptures on d4?
b) 10 Qxd4 is usual ly met by 1 0 . . . f6 (Diagram 35) .

.
..

ROLL THE DICE! As there is a danger of a repetition after 10. ..f6,


and if you don't like early draws - even with Black - then you
could investigate 10. .. N7g6.

However, I think that White comes ou t on top in the complications following 1 1


Re1 0-0 12 Rxe5 Nxe5 1 3 Qxe5 Re8 1 4 Qf4 Re1+ 1 5 Bfl, e.g. 1 5 . . .Qxd5 1 6 Bd2 Rd1
17 Qa4!.
Returning to 10 . . .f6, White has three relevant moves:
b1) 11 Bb5+ c6 12 dxc6 bxc6 13 Be2 Bf5 is equal according to Lukacs.
b2) 1 1 Bb3 Bb6 is assessed as better for Black in an old reference work by Bilguer,
but I think that he has nothing better than a draw: 12 Qa4+ Bd7 (instead 12 ... Qd7
13 Ne4! isn't clear, but Black's pieces are the clumsier) 13 Qe4 Bf5 14 Qa4+ Bd7 1 5
Qe4 was a draw b y repetition in F.Zeller-O.Boguslavsky, German League 2005.
b3) 1 1 Re1 Bb6 12 Qh4! (Diagram 36) is surprisingly dangerous: 12 . . . Nxc4 (how
ever tempting it is, I just can't make 12 .. .fxg5 work - the line 13 Bxg5 N5g6 14 Qh5
Bc5 15 Nd2 Bd6 16 Rxe7+ Bxe7 1 7 Re1 is dangerous only for Black; also 12 . . . Nf5!?

82

C a l m i n g t h e Roma ntics
13 Qh5+ g6 14 Qe2 0-0 1 5 Ne6 Bxe6 16 dxe6 Nxc4 1 7 Qxc4 Qe7 18 Ba3 favours
White slightly) 13 Qxc4 fxg5 14 d6 (Marin correctly points out that White has no
other way to keep the attack going: 14 Bxg5 Bxf2+ 15 Kxf2 0-0+ 16 Kgl Qxd5, and
14 Ba3 0-0 15 d6+ Nd5 16 Qxd5+ Kh8, both favour Black) 14 . . . Qxd6 15 Bxg5 Be6 1 6
Qxe6 (not 1 6 Rxe6? because of 1 6 . . .Qd1+ 1 7 Qfl Bxf2+ 18 Kxf2 0-0+) 1 6. . .Qxe6 17
Rxe6 (L.Christiansen-M.Marin, CWN rapid 2002) and now Black should settle for
17 ... Bc5! 18 Nd2 Kf7 19 Rae1 Rhe8 (Marin) with approximate equality.

Diagram 35 (W)
a

...

Diagram 36 (B)

ds 9 exds Nxds 10 Qb3

After 10 Ba3 Be6, White can transpose with 1 1 Qb3. Instead 1 1 Nbd2 is comforta
bly met by l l ... Bb4!, bu t 1 1 Bb5 (Diagram 37) is the most challenging.

BEWARE! ... of blindly following old (especially pre-computer


age) analysis.
Now 1 l ...Bb4 is standard bu t not the best move, as 12 Bxc6+ bxc6 13 Bxb4 Nxb4 14
Qa4 Qd6 1 5 Nc3 0-0 16 Ne4 looks better for White. Levenfish gave this position as
equal, but later authors such as Chandler have challenged this and shown that
Black's defence is not so easy, bearing in mind that his extra pawn is useless.
More dynamic is 1 l . ..f6!, covering e5 and giving the king a flight square; e.g. 12
Qa4 Bb6 13 Bxc6+ bxc6 1 4 Qxc6+ Kf7 1 5 Nc3 ReB 1 6 Ne4 Nf4, as in K.Boyd
J.Sarfati, New Zealand Championship 1 991 .
10 Be6! 11 Ba3
...

Snatching the b-pawn with 1 1 Qxb7 is best met by 1 l .. .Ndb4 (Diagram 38) when
Black seems to be on top in the following complications:

83

D a n gero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S

Diagram 37 (B)

Diagram 38 (W)

a) 12 Bb5 0-0 1 3 Bxc6 Rb8 1 4 Qxa7 Nxc6 15 Qc5 Bd5 1 6 Nbd2 ReB leaves Black with
an edge, E.Sveshnikov-A.Graf, Kemerovo 1 995.
b) After 12 Ne5 Nxe5 (12 ... Nxd4 is also interesting) 13 Bxe6 Nec6 14 Bd5 0-0 1 5
Bxc6 Rb8 16 Qxa7 (N.Doghri-G.Flear, Jerba 1 998) Black shoul d try 1 6 ... Nxc6 1 7
Qc5 Qxd4 to obtain the advantage.
'-:.

DANGEROUS WEAPON! Black has a useful development


advantage in these lines.

Returning to 1 1 Ba3, Black can choose between 1 1 .. .Bb4 and 1 1 . . .Qd7!? which are
both discussed in the illustrative game Leygue-Flear.

Conclusion
I have played these systems against the Italian and Evans for several years, with
good results. Black avoids lots of tricky theory and yet obtains fairly comfortable
equality, as well as decent winning chances, with a series of logical moves.

84

C h a pter F o u r

L' Oiseau

e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 BbS Nd4 (Diagram 1)

Diagram 1 (W)
Is it a Plane? No!
Is it Superman? No!
It's the Bird!

85

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
Or something like that. . .
In fact the Bird Defence i s not named after ' a knight that flies to d4' o r ' a flight of
fancy' that this outrageous opening appears to be. A 1 9th century Englishman
called Henry Bird was an early practitioner, and has 3 . . . Nd4 (as well as 1 f4)
named after him. Nevertheless, my wife and I have always called this opening
l'Oiseau (which is French for ' the bird') so I've used this for my title.
I have played the Bird a few times over the years with fair results. Let's discuss its
attractions:
1) It avoids loads of theory;
2) There are no dull drawish lines to face such as the Exchange Variation;
3) It takes your opponent into unusual types of position;
4) It's lots of fun.
The main disadvantage is that Black loses a tempo for development. But with
3 . . Nd4 he has reduced the pressure of Whi te's Spanish bishop along the a4-e8
diagonal, so I don't think this is serious. Some commentators, however, believe
that White is better due to his lead in development and perhaps because Black's
pawn structure is slightly compromised. Another consideration is that the lack of
an eS-pawn allows White to obtain a pawn front with f2-f4 in many lines.
.

A fter looking through what other analysts have wri tten, I am confident that this
nifty little variation is as playable as more standard lines. I hope to demonstrate
this in what follows.
Let's start with a quick win for Black.

0 A.Anderssen M.Lange

2nd Matchga me, Bresla u 1859


1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bbs Nd4 4 Nxd4 exd4 5 Bc4 Nf6!? 6 es?! ds! 7 Bb3 Bg4? (Dia
gram 2)

ROLL THE DICE! This works very well in the game, but 7 . Ne4 is
correct.
..

8 f3 Ne4 9 o-o d3 10 fxg4?


A modern master would probably have found the refutation with 1 0 Qe1 ! .

10... Bc5+ 1 1 Kh1 Ng3+ 1 2 hxg3 Qg 5 1 3 Rfs (Diagram 3 ) 1 3 ... hsl

86

L'Oiseau

--:.
.

DANGEROUS WEAPON! It's very nice to be able to play such a


winning move!

14 gxh5 Qxf5 15 g4 Rxh5+


15 .. Qf2 is simpler.
.

16 gxh5 Qe4 17 Qf3 Qh4+ 18 Qh3 Qe1+ 19 Kh2 Bg1+ 0-1


A charming game, albeit one that is somewhat dated .

Diagram 2 (W)

Diagram 3 (B)

The next game is more recent and shows Black playing in a remarkable way with
his king which is not so unusual in the Bird. The game itself is something of a
swindle bu t has high entertainment value.
D L.Fressinet R.Fontaine

French C h a m pionship, Cha rtres 2005


1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nd4 4 Nxd4 exd4 5 o-o Bc5 6 d3 c6 7 Ba4
This is considered one of the most challenging lines for White.
Instead, after 7 Bc4 Black can react in the centre with 7 ... d5, e.g. 8 exd5 cxd5 9 BbS+
Bd7 1 0 Bxd7+ Qxd7 1 1 Nd2 Ne7 1 2 Nb3 Bb6 and, despite Black's doubled pawns,
White is unable to obtain an advantage: his pieces lack good central squares and
he cannot put the pawns under pressure (see the theory section for a closer look at
this).

7 ... d6 B f4

87

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
The sharpest option. The positional choice 8 Nd2 i s recommended i n ECO.
s f5l
...

If Whi te is able to advance further with f4-f5 Black generally becomes too
cramped, so this loose-looking move is really important.

9 Bb3 (Diagram 4)

Diagram 4 (B)

Diagram 5 (W)

The open a2-g8 diagonal gives Black a headache over his king.
g. Ne7?!
.

ROLL THE DICE! Fontaine prepares a daring king walk, but it


seems that g . . Nf6 is correct.
.

10 Nd2 Kd7!? 11 Kh1 Kc7


The king is not bad here, but Black cannot keep enough control of the centre.

12 c3 Ng6 13 cxd4 Bxd4 14 Nf3 Bb6 15 Bd2 fxe4 16 dxe4 Bg4 17 Qc2 Bxf3
Otherwise Nf3-g5 will be annoying.

18 Rxf3 Qe7 19 Rd1 Rad8 20 Rg3!


Black's position starts to creak due to the weakness of his g7-pawn.

20...Rde8 21 Bb4 Bc5 22 Bc3


22 Bxc5 dxc5 23 f5 Ne5 is less testing as Black would have chances of a blockade.

22 ...Qxe4 23 f5 Qh4 (Diagram 5)


A sneaky trap, hoping for 24 fxg6?? Qxg3 25 hxg3 hxg6 mate, a Ia Max Lange! It is
worth noting that 24 Rh3? Qg4 25 fxg6 would also be wrong due to 25 . . . Re2 26

88

L' O i se a u
Rg3 Qxg3 27 Qxe2 hxg6 28 h3 Rxh3+ etc.

24 Bxg7 Nes 25 Qe2 hs


Fontaine stays active despite the loss of the exchange.

26 Bxh8 Rxh8 27 Rg7+ Kb6 28 Rf1 Ng4 29 g3 Qf6 30 Qe7??


Fressinet miscalculates and blunders!
Instead 30 Rf7 Qd4 31 a4 is messy, bu t White should be able to keep the advan
tage.
30 Qxb2
...

... and White's king is the one in danger!

31 Qc7+ KbS 32 a4+ Kb4 33 Qxb7+ Bb6 0-1


The final illustrative game is in total contrast: a quiet game where Black's posi
tional trumps come to the fore.
D T.Ernst G.Fiear

Gausda l 1987
1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb S Nd4 4 Nxd4 exd4
Khalifman describes the pawn on d4 as 'rather a weak point' . This is less than
clear: Black may have to pay attention to defend this pawn, bu t it has an impor
tant cramping effect which shouldn't be underestimated.
5 o-o Bcs 6 d3 c6 7 Ba4 Ne7?! (Diagram 6)

Diagram 6 (W)

Diagram 7 (W)

89

D a n ge ro u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
I no longer recommend this move due to the possibility pointed out in the follow
ing note. For the precise move 7 ... d6!, see the theory section.

8 Qh5
Stronger here is 8 f4! fS 9 Bb3 dS 1 0 exdS NxdS l l Re1 + Kf7 1 2 Nd2 and White is
better, P.H.Nielsen-J . Kristiansen Danish Ch., Lyngby 1 991 . In this line 1 0 . . . cxdS 1 1
Nd2 0-0 1 2 Nf3 a S 1 3 a 4 Kh8 1 4 Bd2 Be6 1 S Re1 Bg8 1 6 NeS (V.Jansa-A.Delchev,
Copenhagen 1 99 1 ) is also very unpleasant for Black, who has too many holes. I
also suffered like this in a rapid play game and lost convincingly to a player 200
rating points lower than myself.

8...d5 9 Nd2 o-o 10 Nf3 f6 11 Bb3


ECO quotes the following: 1 1 exdS NxdS 12 Re1 Bd7 13 Bb3 Be8 1 4 Qh4 Bf7 1S Bd2
Ne7 1 6 Re4 Bxb3 17 axb3 Ng6 18 Qh3 with an edge to White, R.Lau-V.Anand,
Moscow 1 989. However, Black should have retaken the other way: l l . ..cxdS!, vol
untarily accepting doubled isola ted pawns as they control so many key squares.
After 1 2 Bb3 aS 1 3 a4 Be6 1 4 Re1 Qd7 1 S c3 Bf7 Black was fine in T.Ernst
Y. Kotronias, Gausdal 1 990 (see later for further examples of this pawn structure).
11 Be6 (Diagram 7) 12 e5?1
..

A positional error, after which Black's pieces prove to be the more active.

12 ...Qe8 13 Qxe8 Raxe8 14 exf6 Rxf6


Whi te has a kingside majority and Black a central pawn mass.

15 Bg5 Rff8 16 Rae1 Ng6

Jll,':.a.

DANGEROUS WEAPON! Note that of all the minor pieces,


White's bishop on b3 has the least scope.

17 h3
Al though 17 c3 frees the bishop, after 17 ... dxc3 1 8 bxc3 Bg4 Black has the more
comfortable position.

17 ... h6 18 Bd2 Bd7


Tame. Instead Black should play 1 8 . . . Rxf3! 19 gxf3 Nh4 20 Re2 Kf7 with fantastic
compensation.

19 Rxe8 Rxe8 20 Re1 Rxe1+ 21 Nxe1 Kf7 22 g4 (Diagram 8)


Trying to obtain some breathing space but weakening the f4-square.

22 ...Bd6 23 Nf3 Bf41 24 Bxf4 Nxf4 25 Kh2


2S Nxd4? loses a pawn after 2S ... Nxh3+ 26 Kg2 Bxg4.

25 ...c5
Now with d3 under pressure i t's hard to see how White can liberate his light
squared bishop.

go

L'O i sea u

26 Ne S+ Ke6 27 Nxd7 Kxd7 28 Kg3 g S 29 Ba4+ Ke7 (Diagram 9)


Consider the respective outlooks for the two minor pieces and you'll understand
why Black is winning this endgame.

Diagram 8 (B)

Diagram 9 (W)

30 h4 a6 31 hxgs hxgs 32 Bb3 bs 3 3 a3 c4 34 dxc4 dxc4 3 5 Ba2 Kf6 36 Bb1 c3 37 b3


Kes 38 Kf3 as 39 b4 a4 40 Kg3 Ke4 o-1
White is in Zugzwang.
Was the d4-pawn 'rather weak' or 'rather strong'?

Looking a Little Deeper


1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bbs Nd4 4 Nxd4

This is the only real test of Black's idea, but White can retreat his bishop to either
a4 or c4.
Following 4 Bc4 BcS (4 . . . Nxf3+ 5 Qxf3 Qf6 is also solid) 5 Nxd4 Bxd4 6 c3 Bb6 7 d4
White constructs his typical Spanish centre, bu t after 7 ... Qe7 8 0-0 Nf6 9 Rel d6 10
a4 a6 1 1 aS Ba7 1 2 h3 h6 1 3 Be3 0-0 (V.Zhidkov-V.Malaniuk, Kiev 1989) Black has
no particular problems. In fact the exchange of one pair of knights means that
White doesn' t get his usual pressure as Black has adequate space for his pieces.
The other retreat 4 Ba4 is probably also best met by 4 . . . Bc5 (Diagram 10).

DANGEROUS WEAPON! Now 5 Nxes? gets White into trouble


after s ... Qgs. This queen move is also how Black would react
to 4 Bc4 Bcs s Nxes.

91

Da ngerous Wea pon s : 1 e4 e s


White then has a wide choice:
a) 5 b4!? here, and in many other situations in Bird's Defence, attempts to random
ize events. Following the continua tion 5 . . . Bxb4 6 Nxd4 exd4 7 0-0 Ne7 8 Bb2 0-0 9
Bxd4 d5 10 a3 BaS 1 1 exd5 Qxd5, Black was fine in A.Kosten-G.Flear, Gausdal
1987.
b) 5 c3 Nxf3+ 6 Qxf3 Qf6 (also reasonable is 6 ...Qh4!? 7 d3 Nf6 8 Be3 Bb6 9 Bxb6
axb6 10 Bb3 d6 1 1 Na3 Bd7 12 0-0, as in B.Tuvshintugs-Z.Mamedjarova, Bled
Olympiad 2002, when simply 12 ...0-0 is equal) 7 Qg3 Ne7 also threatens to be
solid. White has the sharp try 8 d4?!, but 8 ... exd4 9 Qxc7 dxc3 10 Qxc5 cxb2 1 1
Bxb2 Qxb2 1 2 Qc3 Qxc3+ 1 3 Nxc3 a6 1 4 0-0-0 b5 left Black slightly better in Yang
Zi-Wang Zili, Chinese Championship 1987.

Diagram 10 (W)

Diagram 11 (W)

c) 5 d3 Qf6 (5 ... Qe7 6 Nxd4 Bxd4 7 c3 Bb6 8 Na3 c6 9 0-0 Nf6 10 Qf3 d6 seems to be
solid) 6 Nbd2 b5 (ambitious but somewhat weakening) 7 Bb3 d6 8 Nxd4 Bxd4 9
Nf3 Bg4 10 c3 Bb6 1 1 a4! and White is slightly better, N.Short-V.Kupreichik, Hast
ings 1 981/82.
Black is generally wise to avoid playing committal and potentially weakening
moves such as 6 ...b5 when behind in development. So I would prefer 6 ... Ne7!? 7
Nxd4 Bxd4 (or perhaps 7 ... exd4!? 8 Qh5 b6) 8 Nf3 Bb6 9 0-0 (9 Bg5 Qg6 10 0-0 f6 is
equal) 9 ... h6 followed by ... 0-0 with a solid position.

4...exd4 (Diagram 11)


Is this pawn strong or weak? My answer is that it is neither, but it certainly en
ables the position to have double-edged quali ties.

5 0-0
5 Bc4!? is an interesting investment of a tempo. Black cannot now place his bishop

92

L'O i se a u
o n the desired c5-square a s this move i s simply a blunder: i .e. 5 ... Bc5? falls for 6
Bxf7+ Kxf7 7 QhS+ and 8 Qxc5.
Some books recommend 5 . . . Nf6, which leads to 6 0-0 dS 7 exdS NxdS 8 QhS c6 9
Qe5+ Ne7, bu t this doesn't appeal to me. Instead, the move 5 . . . h5!? deserves a dia
gram (Diagram 12).

Diagram 12 {W)

Diagram 13 {W)

Following this move White will no longer be able to exploit a future ... BcS with the
same tactical sequence. Nevertheless, 5 . . . h5 does look a shade unusual!
My advice is not jump to conclusions before playing through the following varia
tions:
a) 6 c3 Bc5 7 d3 c6 8 0-0 dS (another line where Black is not afraid of the doubled
isolated d-pawns) 9 exdS cxdS 10 BbS+ Kf8! (this is not surprising - with Black
having already played ...hS, he wasn't going to castle anyway) 1 1 Nd2 Bg4 (mak
ing use of his fifth move) 12 Nf3?! (12 Qb3? a6 13 cxd4 Bd6 is good for Black, but
12 Qc2! with unclear play would be best) 12 . . .Qf6 1 3 Bd2 Ne7 14 h3 Bxf3 15 Qxf3
Qxf3 16 gxf3 Ng6 with advantage to Black, S.Vysochin-E.Najer, Internet blitz 2003.

DANGEROUS WEAPON I S h S Is more than just a joke move.

b) 6 d3 BcS 7 Nd2 c6 8 0-0 (or 8 Nf3 dS 9 exdS cxdS 1 0 Bb3 Qe7+ 1 1 Qe2 Qxe2+ 12
Kxe2 Ne7 with an equal position, Am.Rodriguez-W.Arencibia, Cienfuegos 1996)
8 ... d5 9 Bb3 Ne7 (also possible is 9 ... Nf6 10 Qe2 Bg4 1 1 Nf3 Qe7, as in V.Belov
E.Najer, Internet blitz 2004) 10 h3 Qd6 1 1 exdS cxdS 1 2 Nf3 Qg6 13 NeS QfS 1 4
Ba4+ Kf8 1 5 Re1 g S {Diagram 13) with murky play, R.Kalod-J.Jirka, Brno 2006.

93

Da ngerou s Wea pon s : 1 e4 e S


Now I ' m ready to discuss Diagram 1 2 . The centre i s likely to remain at least par
tially closed, so action on the wings is not so unusual. Black hopes for kingside
play and accepts that his king will go to f8, so 5 . . . h5!? is maybe not so crazy after
all. In fact, in my opinion 5 . . . h5 is perhaps the most awkward move for White to
face.
Another interesting try is 5 . . . g6!?, bu t it looks a little suspicious. For example, 6 c3
Bg7 7 Qb3 Nh6 (or 7 . . . Qe7 8 0-0 Nf6 9 cxd4 Nxe4 10 Nc3 Nxc3 1 1 dxc3 0-0 1 2 Bf4
d6 13 Rfe1 Qf6 14 Bg3 Rb8, as in V.Belov-P.Tishin, St Petersburg 2004, although
White is somewhat better here) 8 0-0 0-0 9 cxd4 Bxd4 10 Qg3 d5 11 Bxd5 Nf5 1 2
Qf3 Ne7 13 Bb3 Nc6 1 4 Nc3 h 5 with some practical compensation, A.Zatonskih
S.Sulskis, Port Erin 2005.

s BcS (Diagram 14)


...

Diagram 14 (W)

Diagram 15 (B)

6 d3
White has a couple of important alternatives that lead to rather different devel
opment plans. These are 6 Bc4 and 6 c3.
a) The retreat 6 Bc4 is recommended by some, including the influential Alexander
Khalifman. Following the normal reply 6 ... d6, the wild-looking 7 b4 has been
played a few times, when the calm reply 7 . . . Bb6 is called for. The exciting continuation 8 a4 a6 9 Ra3 Nf6 10 Rg3 Nxe4 1 1 Re1 ?! (a curious position arises after 1 1
Rxg7 d5 1 2 Qh5 Be6 13 Rxh7 Rxh7 1 4 Qxh7 dxc4 1 5 Qxe4 Qd6, but Black clearly
has compensation because of his bishops) 1 l . . .d5 12 Rxg7 Qf6 13 Rxe4+ dxe4 1 4
Rxf7 Qg6, a s played i n M .Zulfugarli-E.Najer, Bydgoszcz 1 999, strongly favoured
Black.
So White should reply to 6 . . . d6 with 7 d3, when I like 7. . . Ne7 keeping things flexi-

94

L'Oi sea u
ble (here 7 . . . Nf6 allows the awkward pin with 8 Bg5, as then advancing the king
side pawns to break the pin is not without risk). A critical variation runs 8 Bg5 0-0
9 Qh5 Be6 10 Qh4 (a slightly annoying move where White flexes his muscles to
show who has the initiative) 10 ... Re8 11 Bxe6 fxe6 12 f4 Qd7 13 Rf3 Ng6 14 Qh5

(Diagram 15).
This whole line has been considered favourable to Whi te by many on the basis of
a correspondence game. White is certainly forcing the pace, but Black's position is
fine as we shall see. Black shou ld play 14 ... Qf7! (this improves on 14 . . . Nf8 15 Nd2
a6 16 Raf1 d5 17 Rg3 Be7 18 Bh6 g6 19 f5 with advantage to Whi te, A.Brenke
G.Binder, correspondence 1994, but it's not surprising that someone could im
prove on Black's uninspiring play in that game), and now:
a1) 15 Rh3? is just shown to be bad by 15 ... h6.
a2) 15 Nd2 d5 16 Rafl Ne5 (taking the opportunity to exchange queens - one of
the latent threats behind 14 . . .Qf7) 17 Qxf7+ Nxf7 18 Bh4 Nd6 and Black has equalized. The stem game with 14 . . .Qf7 continued 19 exd5 Nf5 20 Bf2 exd5 21 Nb3 Bb6
22 g4 Ne3 23 Bxe3 dxe3 24 d4 Re4 (Diagram 16) and Black had good play in
V. Laznicka-J.Jirka, Cartak 2003.

Diagram 17 (W)

Diagram 16 (W)

a3) There has been a more recent try: 1 5 Rg3 Rf8 16 Qg4 Ne5 (16 ... Nxf4! 1 7 Bxf4 e5
is possible) 1 7 Qh3 Ng6 18 Nd2 Nxf4 19 Bxf4 Qxf4 20 Qxe6+ Kh8 (or 20 . . . Qf7) 21
Nf3 Rf6 22 Qe7 Rf7 23 Qg5 Raf8 24 Qxf4 Rxf4 with equal chances, E.Hossain-Al
Rakib Abdulla, Dhaka 2006.

DANGEROUS WEAPON! Many White players will believe that 6


Bc4 leads to an edge, but Jirka's 14 ... Qf7 shows that Black can
obtain full equality.

95

Da ngerou s Wea pon s : 1 e4 e S


b) Another plan for White involves exchanging the black d-pawn and then aiming
to obtain a preponderance of pawns in the centre: 6 c3 c6 (after 6 ... Ne7 White can
play the aggressive 7 Qh5 with gain of tempo) 7 Ba4 Ne7 (the direct way 7. . . Qh4!?
is interesting, e.g. 8 d3 Nf6 9 Nd2 dxc3 - threatening ... Ng4 and provoking White
into playing a dangerous pawn sacrifice - 10 Nf3 cxb2 1 1 Bxb2 Qh6 12 Rcl Be7 1 3
Nd4 g6 1 4 f4 with good compensation, N.Davies-S.Lorenz, Berlin 1987) 8 d3
(Apicella tried 8 b4 against me, bu t following 8 . . . Bb6 9 c4 d6 10 d3 0-0 1 1 Bb2 Ng6
1 2 bS cS I certainly wasn' t worse, M.Apicella-G.Flear, Montpellier 2000) 8 ... d5 9
Nd2 (Black's hold on the d4-point is under threat) 9 ... Bb6 1 0 cxd4 Bxd4 1 1 Kh1 0-0
12 f4 f5 13 e5 was played in R.Hiibner-J.Nunn, Brussels 1 986, and here Nunn gives
13 ... Bb6 and assesses the position as level.

6 ...c6 (Diagram 17)


Now White has to make a major decision:

A: 7 Bc4
B: 7 Ba4
A) 1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 BbS Nd4 4 Nxd4 exd4 5 o-o Bcs 6 d3 c6 1 Bc4
Against 7 Bc4 Black plays an immediate . . . dS:

7 ...ds 8 exds cxds (Diagram 18)

Diagram 18 (W)

Diagram 19 (W)

So Black has doubled isolated d-pawns. But are they really a weak strategic fea
ture? On the surface they are not that pretty, but beauty is in the eye of the be
holder and should in any case be deeper than just the skin!

96

L' O i s e a u
How does White attack them? What can White do about the following squares: c3,
c4, e3 and e4? All prime central locations that are out of bounds for White's pieces.
This 'barrier' gives Black a central space bind and doesn't allow White's pieces to
pass from one wing to the other.
Another problem for White is the future of his light-squared bishop. Should he
drop it back to b3 where it may exert influence along the a2-g8 diagonal, at the
risk of later being locked out of play? Or seek its exchange, hoping for a simplified
position where Black's rigid pawns may become vulnerable?

A1) 9 Bb3 Ne7 10 c4 (after 1 0 Bg5 f6 1 1 Bf4 0-0 1 2 Nd2 the move 12 ... Kh8 stops any
monkey business due to the pin along the a2-g8 diagonal, and following 1 3 Re1 aS
14 a4 Bb4 1 5 h3 g5 1 6 Bh2 Ra6, Black was fine in A.Beliavsky-V.Tseshkovsky,
USSR Championship, Kiev 1 986) 10 ... 0-0 11 Nd2 Be6 12 cxdS NxdS 13 Ne4 (or 1 3
Nf3 f6 1 4 B d 2 Bf7 1 5 Rcl Bb6 16 R e 1 Rc8, and in this equal position a draw was
agreed in V.Savon-V.Malaniuk, Warsaw 1 992) 13 ... Be7 14 QhS aS 1S NgS BxgS 16
BxgS Qd7 17 Qh4 a4 (Diagram 19) with a pleasant position and a full share of the
chances for Black, A.Filipenko-E.Najer, Pardubice 1996.

A2) After 9 BbS+ it's up to Black to decide whether or not to exchange bishops:
A21) 9...Bd7 10 Bxd7+ (10 c4!? Ne7 1 1 Nd2 0-0 12 Nb3 dxc4 13 Bxc4 Qc7 14 Bd2 Bd6
was more complicated but equally balanced in A.Vaulin-V.Orlov, St Petersburg
1 998) 10...Qxd7 11 Nd2 Ne7 12 Nb3 (or 1 2 Nf3 0-0 13 Bf4 Rfe8 1 4 Re1 f6 15 Qd2 Nc6
1 6 Rxe8+ Rxe8 1 7 Re1 g5 with an equal position, S.Megaranto-N.Short, Turin Olym
piad 2006 - even here White is unable to really pressurize Black's centre) 12 ...Bb6 13
BgS f6 14 Bd2 as 1S QhS+ g6 16 Qf3 o-o 17 Rfe1 Nfs ( 1 7 ... a4 is met by 18 Bb4!) 18 a4
and play is about equal. In L.Ljubojevic-V.Salov, Rotterdam 1 989, the further moves

18... Nh4 19 Qg3 NfS 20 Qg4 Kg7 21 Nc1 Rac8 22 c3 Rf7 23 Qh3 hS 24 Ne2 gS 2S Ng3
Nxg3 illustrate an interesting kingside expansion on Black's part.
A22) More ambitious is 9 ... Kf8!? (Diagram 20) leaving White with his loose bishop
on b5: 10 Ba4 Be6 (after 10 . . . h5 1 1 Re1 Bg4 12 Qd2 Ne7 13 b4 Bd6 14 a3 Qc7 15 h3
Be6, Black obtained an attack with ... Nf5 and . . . g5-g4 in L.Guliev-E.Najer, Moscow
1 996) 11 Nd2 Ne7 12 h3 NfS 13 Nf3 f6 14 Bf4 hS 1S Re1 Bf7 16 h4 Kg8 17 Qd2 a6 18
Re2 Kh7 19 Rae1 bS 20 Bb3 as 21 a3 a4 22 Ba2 ReB (Diagram 21) and Black was
comfortable and went on to win in M.Hennigan-G.Flear, Oakham 1 988. White's
light-squared bishop became more and more impotent as the game went on.
Bearing this problem in mind, Whi te could instead make immediate plans to ex
change off the d4-pawn and at the same time give the bishop a retreat square with
1 0 c3 (instead of 1 0 Ba4). With the centre opening up, Black has to be careful to get
his kingside organized. One continuation is 1 0 ... Ne7 1 1 cxd4 Bxd4 1 2 Nc3 g6!?, as
played in G.Sigurjonsson-V.Kupreichik, Winnipeg 1 986. A more aggressive ap
proach is 1 0 . . . Qh4!? 1 1 b4 Bd6 12 f4 Bg4 13 Qc2 a6 1 4 Ba4 Rc8 when Black was al
ready better in R.Pepic-J.Hector, Norrkoping 1 998.

97

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e s

Diagram 20 (W)

-.[ii

Diagram 21 (W)

DANGEROUS WEAPON! White players often fall into the trap of


underestimating the power of Black's doubled d-pawn centre.

B) 1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nd4 4 Nxd4 exd4 5 o-o Bcs 6 d3 c6 7 Ba4 d6 (Diagram
22)

Diagram 22 (W)

Diagram 23 (W)

The best move, not yet committing the king's knight.

8 Nd2
After 8 f4 the threat of f4-f5 (with a big bind) virtually obliges Black to play 8 . . .f5,

98

L'O i sea u
limiting White's potential space expansion and hitting back at the centre. But this
is at the risk of exposing his king and Black is also quite likely to lose control of
the a2-g8 diagonal. Play typically continues 9 Nd2 (9 Bb3 is covered above in
L.Fressinet-R.Fontaine, when 9 ... Nf6! is recommended) 9 ... N f6 10 Bb3 (after 10 e5,
played in L.Fressinet-G.Flear, Aurec 2001, my opponent felt that Black should
profit from the fact that the bishop isn't already on b3 to play 10 . . . Nd5!) 10 ... Ng4
(Diagram 23). Black temporarily delays the decision as to what to do about his
king in order to play something active. Whi te has tried three moves here:
a) 1 1 exf5 Bxf5 and now:
a1) The oft-quoted continuation 12 Re1 + Kd7 13 Nf3 Qf6 1 4 h3 h5 15 Ng5 Ne3 16
Qf3 Rae8 (M.Novik-Y.Meister, USSR Championship, Moscow 1 991 ) gives a taste
of what Black sometimes has to do with his king in this l ine. He has completed his
development and can look forward to the middlegame with confidence.
a2) With 12 Ne4 White is less interested in pushing Black's king where it's happy
to go. A couple of ideas are worth noting for Black: 12 ... Bb6 13 h3 Ne3 14 Bxe3
dxe3 15 Kh1 Bxe4 1 6 dxe4 Qe7 1 7 Qg4?! Qxe4! led to a Black win in Z.Markovic
A.Savanovic, Kladovo 1994; and 12 ...Qh4 1 3 h3 Bxe4 1 4 Qxg4 Qxg4 1 5 hxg4
yielded an equal ending in B.Jukic-R.Dabo Peranic, Croatian Ch., Porec 1 994. In
the game Black chose the suspicious-looking 15 ... Bd5, taking the Bird's Centre a
step further than usual! Although Black should stil l have drawn, 15 ... Bg6 1 6 Re1 +
Kf8 17 Bd2 Bf7 would have been a more conventional way to equalize.
b) Here's a recent game that illustrates some typical ideas: 1 1 Re1 Qh4 12 Nf3 Qf2+
13 Kh1 fxe4 1 4 Rxe4+ Kd8 1 5 f5 Bxf5 1 6 Bg5+ Kc7 1 7 Re7+ Kb6 18 h3 h5 19 Re2 Qg3
(Diagram 24) 20 Bh4 Qf4 21 Bg5 Qg3 with a d raw by repetition, W.Kobese
M.Rubery, Johannesburg 2007.

Diagram 24 (W)

Diagram 25 (W)

99

D a n ge ro u s Wea pon s : 1 e4 e s
c) 1 1 Nf3 fxe4 12 dxe4 Ne3 13 Bxe3 dxe3 1 4 Kh1 Bg4 1 5 Bf7+ Ke7 16 b4 Bb6 1 7 Bb3
Qf8 1 8 h3 and White is better, S.Marinkovic-D.Lekic, Yugoslav Ch., Nis 1 995.

BEWARE! This line can go badly wrong for Black!

Black has a possible improvement here in 14 . . .Qe7!, e.g. 15 Ng5 g6 ( 1 5 . . . Rf8!? 1 6


Nxh7 Rh8 i s definitely 'roll the dice' territory!) 1 6 Bf7+ Kd8 1 7 b4 Bb6 with . . . Kc7
in mind - 'unclear' is my assessment.
Black could of course vary earlier. One recent try was 10 .. .fxe4!? 11 Nxe4 Bb6 12
Nxf6+ (after 12 Ng5, the simple 12 ... d5 shuts the bishop on b3 out of play)
12 ... Qxf6 1 3 Qe1+ Kd8 1 4 f5 Kc7 1 5 Qg3 h6 (Fontaine could not take the plunge
with 15 . . . Bxf5? because after 16 Bg5 Qg6 1 7 Rxf5! Qxf5 1 8 Rfl , with Rf7+ coming,
Black would be sinking fast) 16 Be6 Re8 1 7 Bf4 Bc5 18 Rae1 and White was left
with the advantage in V.Saravanan-R.Fontaine, Cannes 2006.
So 10 . . . Ng4 1ooks the better try, when in my opinion Black shou ld be able to swim
happily enough, even if the waters are choppy.

8... Nf6 (Diagram 25) 9 h3


This is ECO's recommendation for an advantage. At least Whi te will n o longer be
bothered by . . . Ng4, but this is a tempo expended and Black now can proceed with
his development.
If White tries 9 f4 this can indeed be met by 9 . . . Ng4!. For example, 10 Nf3 Bb6 1 1
Bb3 (1 1 f5 would be the principled move, but after 1 1 . ..0-0 1 2 Bg5 Qc7 Black has
ideas such as ... d5 or . . . Ne3 and White doesn't retain control: e.g. 13 Kh1 d5, or 13
h3 Ne3 14 Bxe3 dxe3 15 Qe2 d5) 1 1 . . .0-0 (here, as Black hasn't needed to play . . . f5,
he can tuck his king safely away) 1 2 Qe1 d5 1 3 h3 Ne3 1 4 Bxe3 dxe3 1 5 Kh1 dxe4
16 dxe4 (Black is better after several reasonable queen moves) 16 ... Qe7 when
Black's bishop pair and safe king (for once!) gives him the advantage, D.Aidama
S.Mamedyarov, Bled Olympiad 2002.

9 0-0 10 C3
...

If White decides on 10 Bb3, Black should react with 10 ... d5. For example: 11 exd5
Nxd5 12 QhS Be6 1 3 Ne4 Be7 1 4 Bd2 aS 15 a4 f5 1 6 Ng5 Bxg5 1 7 Qxg5 Qxg5 18
Bxg5 Nc7, A.Aiavkin-Y.Meister, Saratov 1999; or 11 e5 Ne8 12 f4 f6 13 Nf3 fxe5 14
fxe5 Nc7 15 Qe1 Bf5 16 Bd2 Qe7, R.Fontaine-J.Jirka Yerevan 2000. Black has no
problems in either case, and the latter game may have influenced Robert Fontaine
to later play the Bird himself.

10...dxc3 11 bxc3 d S 12 es Ne8 13 d4 Be7 14 Bc2 (Diagram 26)


White has a nice view down the b1 -h7 diagonal and a space ad vantage in the cen
tre. ECO stops here, claiming an edge for White influenced by these factors and
perhaps by the result of the actual game that we now follow. But let's look a little

100

L'O i se a u
deeper!

14...f6! 15 Nf3
After 15 QhS, Black calmly plays 15 ... g6 as he isn't afraid of the sacrifice.

15 ...fxes 16 dxes
After 1 6 NxeS Bd6 I can' t see how White can really attack, al though Black still has
to be careful about bl -h7 diagonal.

16...Bf5
16 ... Nc7 is also possible, e.g. 1 7 Be3 Qe8 18 Rbl cS!? with sufficient control and
also certain ambitions for Black.

17 c4?! (Diagram 27)

Diagram 26 (B)

Diagram 27 (B)

More sensible is 17 BxfS RxfS 18 Qd3 Qc8 1 9 c4 Nc7, though Black holds the fort.

17...dxc4!
This refutes White's last wild move.
Instead 17 . . . Bxc2?! 18 Qxc2 Nc7 19 Rbl Qc8 20 Rei b6 21 e6! was the continuation
of P.Simacek-J.Jirka, Olomouc 2001, and now White really did have an edge and
went on to win. Black's previous few moves were rather passive.

18 Bxfs Rxfs 19 Qc2 Qd3


With advantage to Black.

Conclusion
In some variations I have recommended ... Ne7; in others ... d6 with ... fS; and at
times the immediate ...Nf6. I make no excuse for this slightly confusing state of

101

Da ngerous Wea pon s : 1 e4 e S


affairs. I n each case I have recommended the method that best meets the demands
of a particular position based on experience. One of the attributes of Bird's De
fence is its flexibility, and the development of Black's king's knight is fundamental
to this.
Whi te has several possible moments to play his light-squared bishop to the a2-g8
diagonal and Black has to react accordingly in each case. I suggest that, rather
than learning parrot-fashion the variations in this chapter, you go through them
again paying particular attention to how Black develops his king's knight. Try and
understand why I have recommended a certain way, and you will be well pre
pared to face any tricky transpositions that your future opponents may have up
their sleeves.

102

Cha pter F ive

Twenty Years of Obs c u rity

1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 BbS a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 o-o Bcs!? (Diagram 1)

Diagram 1 (W)
For a while in 1 987 I experimented with a slightly obscure line of the Ruy Lopez as
Black. I was in truth fairly successful, but because it looked suspicious to the cas
ual observer, it never caught on. In fact it is now so forgotten, it deserves a closer

103

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
look, particularly a s I believe it makes a n excellent surprise weapon.
We all remember some key games in our careers, and I chose to play this line in
one of mine when there was a lot at stake.
D M.Chandler G.Fiear

Bath Zonal 1987


1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 o-o Bc5!?
Even twenty years ago the Meller (how many of you even knew its name?) was a
largely unknown and unloved variation. I chose it because I needed to win with
Black against the World number 14 to get my final GM norm, and I decided that
surprise value was the order of the day. It has since become fashionable to play
S . . .bS, and to then meet 6 Bb3 with 6 . . . Bc5.

6 C3 Bb61? 7 d4
White builds his typical Spanish centre and Black needs to stop him from consoli
dating.

7 Nxe4 8 Re1 f5 (Diagram 2)


...

Diagram 2 (W)

Diagram 3 (B)

Defending the knight in this manner looks artificial, but it's no easy matter to re
fute this audacious plan, especially if you are unfamiliar with this type of position.

9 Nbd2
9 Rxe4! ? is tempting, but after 9 .. .fxe4 10 BgS Ne7 1 1 NxeS 0-0 the position is
rather unclear (see the theory section for details).

9 0-0 10 Nxe4 fxe4 11 Bg5 QeB 12 Rxe4 d6


...

104

Twe nty Yea rs of O bscu rity

DANGEROUS WEAPON! This sharp position is treacherous for


both players, and my opponent was using up a great deal of
time in order to navigate it correctly. Yet the complications
were only just beginning!
I already felt that my opening choice was justified.

13 Be3 (Diagram 3) 13 ... Bf5


A few months later I tried to improve with 1 3 ...Qg6 I 4 Bc2 Bg4, but this is dubi
ous. Following IS Rf4 QhS I6 Bxh7+! Kh8 (M. Hennigan-G.Flear, Hastings I 987/88)
White has the surprising I 7 Bg6!, which is actually very strong. Either check this
for yourselves, or alternatively wait for my explanation in the theory section be
low!

14 Rh4 Qg6 15 Bb3+ Kh8 16 Ng5 h6 17 g4!


I must admit that at the time I wasn't sure what was happening, but I knew that
with such complica tions and a big time advantage I had practical chances.

17 ...exd4! 18 cxd4
After 1 8 gxfS Rxf5 I9 cxd4?! RxgS+ 20 BxgS QxgS+ 21 Rg4 Qf6 Black has a danger
ous ini tiative on the dark squares. White's play can be improved with I9 Rg4, but
still i9 ... dxe3!? 20 N f7+ Qxf7 21 Bxf7 NeS offers plenty of compensation, while
19 ... hxg5 20 cxd4 QhS 2I Bc2 RbS is unclear.

18...Nxd4!
The only decent move. Bishop moves are bad: I8 . . . Bd7? would lose without a fight
to I9 Bc2 Qf6 20 Qd3, and 18 . . . Bd3 I 9 Nf7+ Kh7 20 Nxh6! would hardly be a picnic
for Black either!

19 Nf7+1
19 Bxd4? QxgS 20 RhS Bxg4! 2I RxgS Bxd i 22 Bxg7+ Kh7 leaves Black on top.

19 ...Rxf7 20 Bxf7 (Diagram 4) 20. Qf6?!


..

Rolling the dice!


Black obtains reasonable compensation for the exchange after 20 . . .Qxf7 21 Bxd4
Bxd4 22 Qxd4 Qg6 23 Rei Rf8 - he has one pawn, a decent bishop, and the rook on
h4 combined with a pawn on g4 leaves White with a clumsy-looking set-up.

21 g5!
The only good move.

21. Qe7
..

At the time, I didn't think much of Black's chances after 21 . ..Qxf7 22 Bxd4 Bxd4 23
Qxd4 Kh7 24 Rei , but the position might be playable even if this is less convincing
than in the note to Black's 20th move.

105

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S

22 Qh5
Here 22 Bxd4? would fail to 22 ...Qxg5+ 23 Khl Qxh4, when Black is on top.

22 ... Nc2 (Diagram 5) 23 Bxb6 cxb6

Diagram 4 (B)

Diagram 5 (W)

The alternative capture 23 ... Nxa1 ? is met by 24 Bd4, when White's attack is un
stoppable and the checks soon run out following 24 ... Qe1 + 25 Kg2 Be4+ 26 Kg3
Qgl+ 27 Kf4 etc.

24 Rc1?1
This is inaccurate. Instead 24 Rdl ! puts the rook on a better square, because i f
Black continues a s in the game (with 2 4... N e 1 2 5 B d 5 Nd3) there is n o tempo gain
on White's rook and a sensible move such as 26 Rd4 would see White well on the
way to consolidating his material advantage.
Not, however, 24 gxh6? as this is refuted by 24 . . . g6 25 Bxg6 Bxg6 26 Qxg6 Rg8.

24... Ne1 (Diagram 6) 25 Bd5?


Murray missed his best chance to punish me at this point, i .e. 25 Rf4! Nd3 26 Rxf5
Nxcl 27 gxh6 Qel + 28 Kg2 Qe4+ 29 Rf3! which was later analysed to a win by
Velickovic in Chess Informant 43.

25 ... Nd3 26 Rf1 RfB


Black is fully mobilized and the result is now very much in doubt.

27 Bg2 Ne1 28 Bd5


If 28 Be4!?, Black has nothing better than 28 ... Nd3. White could then eliminate the
pesky knight with 29 Bxd3 Bxd3 30 Rcl and must stil l be a bit better.

2B ...Bd3 29 gxh6 g6 30 Qg4 Bxf1 31 Qd4+ Kh7 32 Kxf1 Nd31

106

Twe nty Yea r s of Obscu rity


The knight keeps using improbable squares.
33 Qg7+ Qxg7 34 hxg7+ Kxg7 35 Rd4 Rxf2+!

Cheeky but correct. Black can indeed get away with grabbing the f-pawn, but not
with 35 ... Nxf2? because 36 Kg2 then leaves the knight stranded.
36 Kg1 Rd2 (Diagram 7) 37 h4?

Diagram 6 (W)

Diagram 7 (W)

Even worse is 37 Bxb7??, which loses to 37 ... Rdl + 38 Kg2 Nel+.


A better try is 37 Bb3, which can be met by 37... Ne5, though White sti ll has draw
ing chances after 38 Rxd2 Nf3+ 39 Kf2 Nxd2 40 BdS bS 41 Bxb7 aS 42 Bc6.
But best of all is 37 Kfl ! which seems to d raw: none of 37... Kf6 38 Bxb7, 37...a5 38
Bxb7 and 37 ...Rf2+ 38 Kgl offer Black any advantage.
37 ... Rd1+ 38 Kh2 Nxb2 39 Rxd1 Nxd1 40 Bxb7 as 41 Kg3 Nc3 42 a3 bs o- 1

Because of this game I became a grandmaster and qualified for the Interzonal
tournament. I was cool-headed during the final stages, but when I stood up after
the time control, my legs were like jelly and I almost fell down! This is the only
time this has ever happened to me.

Looking a Little Deeper


1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 o-o Bcs (Diagram B)

The surprising and forgotten Meller! Shirov popularized S ...bS 6 Bb3 BcS, a system
which has since become very theoretical. Black can then develop his l ight-squared
bishop actively to b7, but in return the pawn on bS can become a target for White
with a later a2-a4 and Nbl-a3.

107

D a n gerous W e a p o n s : 1 e4 e S
The main advantage o f the Meller i s that White players will be unfamiliar with the
position and be less confident in their choice of plan.
From here White's two most critical moves are:

Diagram 8 (W)

Diagram 9 (W)

A: 6 Nxes!?
8: 6 c3
Alternatively:
a) A natural reaction from someone who is already out of their book is 6 d3, when
play is similar to a number of quiet lines of the Italian or Spanish Game. Here is an
example of White following up with Bcl -e3: 6 ... d6 7 Be3 Bxe3 8 fxe3 0-0 9 Nc3 b5
10 Bb3 Na5 1 1 Qe1 c5 1 2 Bd5 Nxd5 1 3 exd5 f5 1 4 a3 Bd7 1 5 Kh1 Nb7 1 6 Qg3 Qe7
with chances for both sides, M . Illescas Cordoba-V.Malaniuk, Yerevan Olympiad
1996.
b) Another positional approach involves 6 Bxc6 dxc6 7 d3. For example, 7 ...Qe7 8
Nbd2 Bg4 9 Nc4 (after 9 h3 Bh5 1 0 Re1, Black could calmly castle - either way!
but Adams even suggests the ambitious 1 0 . . . g5!?) 9 ... Nd7 (Diagram 9). White now
has to decide which minor piece to place on e3:
b1) 10 Ne3 Bxe3 ( 1 0 ... Be6!? is also possible) 1 1 fxe3 f5 12 exf5 e4 13 dxe4 Qxe4 14
Ng5 Bxd1 (Adams prefers 1 4 ... Qxf5 15 Rxf5 Bxd1 16 Ne6, which he considers to be
unclear) 1 5 Nxe4 Bxc2 1 6 Ng3 (M.Adams-A.Shirov, Linares 1 997) and now
16 ... 0-0-0!? looks playable.
b2) 10 Be3 f6 1 1 Bxc5 Nxc5 12 Ne3 Bh5 13 Nf5 Qd7 14 Ng3 Bxf3 15 Qxf3 Ne6 with
a solid position for Black, L.D.Nisipeanu-V.Malaniuk, Cap d' Agde 2000.

108

Twe nty Years of Obscu rity

A) 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 o-o Bc5 6 Nxe5!?


This tempting move can lead to an interesting, sharp struggle, but it doesn't offer
anything more than equality for White.

6... Nxe5 7 d4 (Diagram 10)

Diagram 10 (B)

Diagram 11 (W)

TRICKY TRANSPOSITION: This position is known from another


variation: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nf6 4 o-o Bc5 (the Classical
Berlin) 5 Nxe5 Nxe5 6 d4 a6 7 Ba4, but in this line I believe that
White should retreat his bishop to e2 with chances of an
advantage.
Black now has two paths to a good game.

7... Nxe4
7. . . b5!? is also playable. Now 8 dxe5 Nxe4 9 Bb3 Bb7 1 0 Nc3 Qh4 1 1 Bxf7+ Ke7 12
Be3 Bxe3 1 3 fxe3 Nxc3 1 4 bxc3 (N.Short-A .Onischuk, Wijk aan Zee 1 997) should
give Black enough compensation, bearing in mind the state of White's pawn struc
ture. But 1 1 .. . Kxf7 is a simpler way to ' fully equalize', when best play is 12 Qxd7+
Kg6 13 Nxe4 Qxe4 14 Qe6+ Kh5 15 Qh3+ with a draw.

TRICKY TRANSPOSITION: 8 Bb3 Bxd4 9 Qxd4 d6 transposes to a


line known from Shirov's variation (which is basically a Mc&ller
with the moves ... b7-b5 for Black and Bb3 for White thrown in).
This is also considered satisfactory for Black, e.g. 10 c3 Bb7 11 f3
c5, or 10 f4 Nc6 11 Qc3 Bb7 12 e5 Ne4 13 Qe3 Na5.
8 Qe2 Be7 9 Qxe4 Ng6 10 f4

109

D a n ge ro u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
The critical move, whereas both 1 0 Nc3 0-0 1 1 Nd5 Bd6 1 2 c4 Re8 1 3 Qg4 b 5 1 4
cxb5 axb5 1 5 Bb3 Qh4 1 6 Qxh4 Nxh4 1 7 Bf4 Bxf4 18 Nxf4 Bb7 1 9 Racl Rac8
(B.Abramovic-L.Winants, Haringey 1 988), and 10 c4 0-0 1 1 Nc3 c6 1 2 Bc2 b5 1 3
Rei f5 14 Qd3 Bf6 1 5 Be3 d 6 1 6 Bb3 Kh8 (E.Prie-B.Jonsson, Reykjavik 1993), were
tense bu t equal.

10...0-0 (Diagram 11) 11 fS


With White already having played the committal move f2-f4 it seems normal to
continue with f4-f5, though some players have changed their plan at this point.
Following 1 1 Bb3 Bf6 12 Nc3 c6 13 d5 Re8 14 Qd3 d6 15 dxc6 bxc6 16 Bd2 d5 1 7
Rfel Qb6+ 1 8 Khl B d 7 (A.Galliamova-E.Ovod, Russian Women's Ch., Elista 1998)
I prefer Black, who has the more harmonious position.

11...ds 12 Qd3 Nh4! 13 g3


After 13 Be3? Bg5! Black takes the initiative, W.Shipley/S.Sharp-A.Alekhine, exhi
bition game, Philadelphia 1 924.

13 . . c5! (Diagram 12)


.

Diagram 12 (W)

Diagram 13 (W)

This counterthrust works for Black because the bishop on a4 is also in danger of
being trapped. How should White now proceed?
a) If 14 dxc5, then 14 ... Bxc5+ 15 Kh1 Qa5! 16 Bb3 Nxf5! saves Black, e.g. 17 Bd2 (17
Rxf5? is bad due to 17 ... Bxf5 18 Qxf5 Qe1 +; but 1 7 Bxd5! is okay as 1 7 ... Nd6 1 8 Nc3
Bh3 19 Rf4 Rae8 20 Bd2 Qd8 offers dynamic equilibrium) 1 7 ... Qb5 1 8 Qxb5 axb5 19
Nc3 (following 19 Bxd5 Rd8 20 Be4 Nd4, Black is the more active) 19 ... Nd4 20
Bxd5 Nxc2 21 Racl Nb4 and Black was better in A .Zapata-E.Torre, Thessaloniki
Olympiad 1988.
b) The most popular move is 14 gxh4, which is met by 14 . . . b5! (Diagram 13). Now

110

Twe nty Years of Obscu rity


White's best is certainly 15 Bg5! (the alternatives are lacking: 15 Nc3?! bxa4 16 Bg5
Bxg5 1 7 hxg5 Qxg5+ 1 B Qg3 Qf6 19 dxc5 Bb7 20 Rad 1 d4, I.Hakki-E.Torre, Calcutta
2001, and 15 Bb3?! c4 16 Qg3 Bxh4 17 Qf3 Bf6 1B c3 cxb3 19 axb3 ReB, E.Levi
G. Lane, Australian Ch., Adelaide 2003, both favour Black; and after 15 Be3?! c4 1 6
Qd2 bxa4 1 7 Bg5, a s in D.Collin-G.Flear, Le Touquet 19B7, Black can keep a clear
advantage with 17 .. . f6! 1 B Be3 RbB!) 1 5 . . . Bxg5 16 hxg5 Qxg5+ 17 Qg3 Qxg3+ 1 B
hxg3 bxa4 19 dxc5! (but not 1 9 Nc3? cxd4 20 Nxa4 ReB 2 1 Rad1 Re3 22 Rd3 as
Black was clearly better in A. Kovalev-K.Pinkas, Goch 2001 ) 19 . . . Bd7 20 Nc3 RacB
21 Rad1 Rxc5 22 Nxd5 ReB 23 Rf2 h5 with approximate equality, B. Perenyi
A.Mikhalchishin, Budapest 1 9BB.

B) 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 o-o Bc5 6 c3


The main move: White aims to construct a typical Spanish centre with d2-d4. It's a
logical plan, particularly as this will gain a tempo by attacking Black's bishop.

6 Bb6!?
...

A prophylactic retreat which is the best al ternative to l ines based on 6 ... b5, when 7
Bb3 transposes to Shirov's variation (though White can also play 7 Bc2 here).

7 d4
The overly-cautious 7 Bc2 d6 B h3 0-0 9 Re1 Ne7 1 0 d4 Ng6 1 1 dxe5 dxe5 12 QxdB
RxdB is equal, J .Sinowjew-G.Flear, Eichgraben 1 9B7.
1

...

Nxe4! (Diagram 14)

Diagram 14 (W)

Diagram 15 (B)

I have also played the Open Variation of the Spanish (5 ... Nxe4) for many years, so
there is something about grabbing the e-pawn that attracts me!

111

Dangero u s W e a p o n s : 1 e4 e S

8 Re1
I faced the previously unknown 8 dxe5 in one game, but was able to equalize after
8...0-0 9 Qd5 Nc5 10 Bc2 Ne7 1 1 Qc4 d5! (the freeing move) 12 exd6 Qxd6 13 Bf4
Qd5 1 4 Nbd2 Bg4, S.Terzic-G.Flear, Zenica 1 987.
White has another way to win back his pawn: with 8 Qe2. For example, 8 .. .f5 9
Nxe5 Nxe5 1 0 dxe5 0-0 1 1 Be3 Bxe3 1 2 Qxe3 d5 (again Black liberates) 13 exd6
Qxd6 14 Rd 1 Qf6 1 5 Bb3+ Kh8 1 6 Qf4 Nd6 1 7 Na3 Be6 with a level position,
P.Morris-G.Flear, Barbican Open 1987.
However, in this line White provides a tougher chal lenge by playing 9 Nbd2! (in
stead of 9 Nxe5) and play continues with 9 . . . 0-0 10 Nxe4 fxe4 1 1 Qxe4 d5 12 Bb3
Be6 13 Qe3 (Diagram 15).
Now Black has to cope with pressure against the centre.
a) One way is 13 . . .e4 14 Ng5 Qf6 but, al though this is playable, I prefer White
slightly after 15 Nxe6 Qxe6 16 Qg5 as he has the better minor pieces.
b) It is tempting to recommend the pawn sacrifice 13 . . .Qf6!?, especially in the con
text of a Dangerous Weapons book! Then the slow reaction 14 Re1 allows Black to
be very active with 14 . . . e4 1 5 Ng5 Na5 1 6 Nxe6 Qxe6 1 7 Bd1 Nc4 1 8 Qg3 c5. So
White should instead meet 13 ... Qf6 with 14 Nxe5 Nxe5 1 5 dxe5 (15 Qxe5 yields
nothing after 15 ... Qxe5 16 dxe5 Rf5). Following 15 . . .Qg6 16 Qe2 Rae8 17 Be3 c5, or
15 ... Qh4 1 6 Qe2 Rf5 17 Bc2 Rh5 1 8 Bf4 Rf8 19 Bg3 Qg5, there is enough compensa
tion for the pawn - Black's activity hampers White's attempts to consolidate.
c) A third possibility, 13 ...Rf5, places the rook on an unnatural-looking square, but
is nevertheless worth a closer look: 14 Ng5 Bf7! (the exchange sacrifice 14 ... Rxg5?!
15 Qxg5 Qxg5 16 Bxg5 exd4 1 7 Rad1 favours White somewhat, and 14 . . . Bc8? is just
bad after 15 Qe4!) 15 Qg3 Qf6 (here 15 ...exd4!? 16 Bc2 Bg6 17 Bxf5 Bxf5 18 Bd2 Qf6
is a more tempting way to cede the exchange) 1 6 Bc2 e4 1 7 Be3 Rf8 (Kotov sug
gests 17 ... Na5, but I prefer White after 18 f3!) 18 f3 was played in G.Kuzmin
N.Kirov, Sochi 1976, and White was better after the game continuation 18 ... Bg6 19
Rf2 h6 20 Nh3.
Testing old games with computers sometimes throws up hidden possibilities. For
instance, here Fritz suggests 18 ... Nxd4!? (rather than 18 . . . Bg6), when after 19 cxd4
Bxd4 20 Bxd4 Qxd4+ 21 Kh1 (or 21 Rf2 Qxb2 etc) 21 .. .Qxb2 22 Rfcl (22 fxe4 Rxfl+
23 Rxfl Qxc2 24 Qh3 h6 25 Nxf7 Qxe4 26 Nxh6+ seems to lead to a d raw) 22 . . .Qf6
23 Nh3, Black has enough for the piece.
So Black has a considerable number of possibili ties in this line, though further
tests are required to determine which is best.

B fs (Diagram 16) 9 Rxe4!?


...

Sacrificing the exchange to seize the initiative.

BEWARE! Black now has to walk a tightrope.

112

Twenty Yea rs of Obsc u r ity


The other main line continues with 9 Nbd2 0-0 10 Nxe4, but before delving into
this it's worth having a closer look at the sideline 10 Bxc6!? bxc6 (I don't rate
Black's position after 10 ... dxc6 1 1 NxeS Be6 1 2 Ndc4, or for that matter following
12 Nxe4 fxe4 13 Rxe4 cS 1 4 Ng6) 1 1 NxeS Qf6 1 2 Ndf3 d6?! 13 Nxc6 aS 14 b4 Bd7
15 bxaS BxaS 16 NxaS RxaS 17 Qb3+ Be6 18 c4 Raa8 19 Qc2 and Black never got
enough for his pawn in A.Antunes-J.Eslon, Sevi lle 1 990.

Diagram 16 (W)

Diagram 17 (W)

Black needs an improvement in this (probably on move 1 2), and so he could con
sider the stodgy 12 ... d5!? (Diagram 17) which, despite looking anti-positional, sta
bilizes the centre. I wanted instead to suggest the tempting try 1 2 . . . c5?, e.g. 13
Qb3+ (taking the bait with 13 dxcS BxcS 1 4 Rxe4!? fxe4 1 5 QdS+ Qe6 1 6 Qxa8
leaves White in big trouble after 16 ...exf3 1 7 Nxf3 Bxf2+ 18 Kh1 dS, and the solid
13 dS d6 14 Nc4 Bb7 is comfortable for Black) 13 ... Qe6 14 dS (14 Qxe6+ dxe6 is
equal) 14 ... Qd6 15 Be3 ( 1 5 Bf4? is strongly met by 15 ... c4) 15 ... Re8 with chances for
both sides. However, 1 3 NgS ! !, as suggested by Gawain Jones, looks simply too
dangerous.
If I had to choose, I would perhaps opt for the dynamic move 12 . . . Rb8!?, i mprov
ing the rook's position and keeping Black's options open. Here's a sample varia
tion: 13 Qd3 Re8 14 Bf4 Re6 1 5 Re2 Qe7 1 6 Rae1 Bb7 and Black is ready to hit back
with ... cS or ... d6. Similarly, the immediate 1 2... Re8!? followed by 13 ... Re6 comes
into consideration.
So I will now tum my attention to 9 Nbd2 0-0 10 Nxe4 fxe4 (Diagram 18).
Matsukevich once proposed that after 1 1 BgS!? Qe8 12 Rxe4, Black could try the
move 12 ...Qg6, but then White has a nice trick with 13 NxeS! as 1 3 ... Qxe4 fails to
14 Bc2 winning the queen(!) and 1 3 . . . Nxe5 1 4 RxeS d6 15 Bc2 RfS 1 6 BxfS BxfS 1 7
Qb3+ Kh8 1 8 RxfS QxfS 1 9 Be3 gives Black nothing for his pawn.

113

Da ngero u s W e a p o n s : 1 e4 e S
So Black should transpose back to note 'b' below with 1 2. . .d6, i .e. reaching the po
sition after 1 1 Rxe4 d6 1 2 Bg5 Qe8.

Diagram 18 (W}

Diagram 19 (B)

After 1 1 Rxe4 d6, White has two options:


a) 12 dxeS Bf5 13 Bg5 Qe8 1 4 Re1 Bg4 1 5 Bxc6 was played in E.Gufeld-J.Nogueiras,
Jurmala 1 978, and a draw was agreed just as things were hotting up. The alterna
tive 1 5 exd6!? is complicated, but Black is doing rather well after 1 5 . . .Qh5 1 6 Qd5+
Kh8 1 7 Bd1 h6 1 8 h3 Bxf3 1 9 Bxf3 Qxg5.
About the same time a correspondence game was played between A .Matsukevich
and D.Lyubomirov, but as different sources give varying dates for this postal en
counter between 1 977 and 1 979, it's not clear which was played first! That game
continued with 14 Rf4 (instead of Gufeld's 1 4 Re1 ) 1 4 . . .Qh5?! 1 5 Qd5+ Kh8 16 Bxc6
bxc6 1 7 Qxc6 Rab8 1 8 exd6 and White won easily enough.
Instead, Black should meet 1 4 Rf4 with 14 ... dxe5, when the most obvious move is
15 Qd5+ (Diagram 19). Here Matsukevich suggests that 15 ... Qe6 16 Qxe6+ Bxe6 1 7
Rxf8+ Rxf8 1 8 Bxc6 bxc6 1 9 Be3 leaves White with an edge, which seems to be true:
1 9 ... e4 20 Nd2 Bxe3 21 fxe3 Rb8 22 b3 Bf5 23 Rfl and Black will have to defend
carefully. White has another possibility in 1 6 Bb3!? Qxd5 ( 1 6 ...exf4? is bad because
of 1 7 Qd2, when Black won't get enough for his queen) 1 7 Bxd5+ Kh8 1 8 Rh4 Rae8
1 9 Re1 , but Black has two interesting ways to defend: 1 9 ...h6 20 Bxc6 bxc6 2 1 Rxe5
Rxe5 22 Nxe5 Re8 23 Bf4 Kh7 24 Bg3 Rd8 25 Kfl Rd2 26 Ra4 Rxb2 27 Rxa6 Rc2;
and 1 9 ...e4 20 Bxe4 Ne5 2 1 Kfl (after 2 1 Be3 Ng6 22 Bxf5 Nxh4 23 Nxh4 gS! Black
is doing well) 2l...Nxf3 22 gxf3 c6 (if 22 ... Bxe4 23 Rhxe4 Rxe4 24 Rxe4 Kg8 25 Ke2)
23 BxfS Rxe1 + 24 Kxe1 Kxf5 25 Kf4 Kxf4 26 Bxf4. After all this I have to admit that
I prefer White, but Black does have excellent drawing chances.

114

Twe nty Yea rs of Obscu rity


The same is true after 1 5 ... Qf7!? (Diagram 20).

Diagram 20 (W)

Diagram 21 (W)

For example, 1 6 Bxc6 (better than 1 6 Qxf7+ Rxf7 1 7 Rh4 h6 1 8 Be3 Bxe3 1 9 fxe3
Re8, which is equal) 1 6 ...exf4 1 7 Qxf7+ Rxf7 1 8 Bd5 (sacrificing the exchange with
18 Bxb7 Re8 19 Bxa6 can be met by either 19 ... Be6, or 19 . . . h6 20 Bxf4 Be6 21 Bg3
Ra8 22 Bd3 Rxa2, both of which seem acceptable for Black) 18 ... Re8 and now
Khalifman's 19 Re1 ! ( 1 9 Bxf7+ Kxf7 20 Bxf4 Re2 gives Whi te nothing), which cer
tainly kills off any prospects of Black winning. The resu lting ending after
1 9 ... Rxe1 + 20 Nxe1 c6 21 Bxf7+ Kxf7 22 Bxf4 Be4 23 Kfl Ke6 24 Ke2 is better for
White, though in my experience a d raw is the likely result, as there are serious
technical di fficulties in trying to exploit an extra pawn against a good bishop pair
in such positions.
So if Whi te is able to obtain Diagram 19 on the board, he can keep a pull even into
the ending, but Black is a strong favourite to draw. Although this is hardly a refu
tation, this annoying line significantly reduces Black's chances of turning the ta
bles.
b) 12 Bg5 Qe8 13 Be3 has been played against me twice:
b 1 ) 13 ... Qg6? 1 4 Bc2 Bg4 15 Rf4 Qh5 (Diagram 21) was my second attempt at trying
to salvage this line for Black. However, this allows White a delightful tactical se
quence: 16 Bxh7+! Kh8 (or 16 ... Kxh7 1 7 Rxg4) 17 Rxf8+? (my opponent only found
part of the solution; correct is 1 7 Bg6!! Qxg6 1 8 Nh4 Qh5 1 9 Qxg4 Qxg4 20 Rxg4
and Whi te emerges with an extra pawn) 1 7 ... Rxf8 1 8 Be4 exd4 19 cxd4 d5 20 h3
Bc8 21 Bd3 Bxh3 22 Nh2 Qxd 1 + 23 Rxd 1 Bf5 with a level position, M.Hennigan
G.Flear, Hastings 1 987/88.
b2) 13 ... Bf5 is best. Then 1 4 Rh4 Qg6 1 5 Bb3+ Kh8 1 6 Ng5 h6 1 7 g4! exd4! (Diagram

115

D a n gero u s Wea po n s : 1 e4 e S

22) was seen in the featured game Chandler-Flear. Just to recap, after 1 8 cxd4
Nxd4! 19 Nf7+! Rxf7 20 Bxf7, Black should play 20 . . .Qxf7! (instead my 20 . . .Qf6?!
should lead to a Whi te advantage) 21 Bxd4 Bxd4 22 Qxd4 Qg6 23 Re1 Rf8.

DANGEROUS WEAPON! This offers Black sufficient


compensation and therefore revives the whole variation from
a theoretical point of view.

Diagram 22 (W)

Diagram 23 (W)

9 .txe4 10 Bgs Ne7 11 Nxes o-o (Diagram 23) 12 Qg4


..

I once faced 12 Qh5. Best play is probably 1 2 ... c6 1 3 Qh4 transposing to the main
line. Instead I continued with 1 2 . . .Qe8?!, but after 13 Bb3+ d5 14 Qxe8! (this is bet
ter than 14 Qh4 Nf5 15 Bxd5+ Be6 1 6 Qxe4 Nd6, which is only equal) 14 ... Rxe8 1 5
Bxe7 Rxe7 1 6 Bxd5+ Kf8 1 7 Bxe4 g6 White had the advantage, al though he agreed
to a draw at this point in R. Evans-G.Flear, Leicester 1 987.
Whi te has a couple of other tries but these are fine for Black: 12 Bb3+ d5 13 Bxe7
Qxe7 14 Bxd5+ Be6 1 5 Bxb7 Rad8!, and 1 2 Bxd7 Bxd7 13 Qb3+ Kh8 14 Nf7+ Rxf7 1 5
Qxf7 Bc5! ( a nice resource) 1 6 dxc5 Be6 1 7 Qh5 Qd5.

12 ... c6!
White has a number of threats including a devilish mate with 13 Bb3+ Kh8 14 Bxe7
Qxe7 15 Ng6+ hxg6 1 6 Qh3+, but closing the a2-g8 diagonal immediately with
12 . . . d5? fails to 13 Qh4.
Here again 12 ...Qe8 is inferior, this time due to 13 Bxe7 Qxe7 1 4 Bb3+ d5 15 Bxd5+
Kh8 16 Qh5 with a vicious attack.

13 Qh4 ReB 14 Nd2 dS 15 Nxe41 (Diagram 24)

116

Twenty Yea rs of O bscu rity

Diagram 24 (B)

Diagram 25 (W)

Profiting from the fact that Black dare not open the a2-g8 diagonal.

BEWARE! Black's next move is critical.

15 ...Qc7!
This is my suggested i mprovement on a recent game annotated in Chess Informant
93. There 15 ... Bf5 was played, but I prefer White's chances (even worse is
15 . . . dxe4? 16 Bb3+, which is fatal for Black; and 15 ... Be6?!, as 16 Nf6+! yields a de
cisive attack for White). After 15 ... Bf5 play continues 16 Ng3 (16 Nf6+!? is less clear
here: 16 ... gxf6 17 Bxf6 Bg6 18 Qh6 NfS 19 Bxd8 - 1 9 QgS? fails to the remarkable
resource 19 . . .Qxf6! 20 Qxf6 Bd8 - 19 ... Nxh6 20 Bxb6 Nf7 21 f4 with adequate compensation for White but no more) 1 6 . . . Bg6 1 7 Bxc6! (a strong move that the analyst,
probably Valdes, claims is a novelty; alternatives offer no advantage for White: 1 7
f4 Qd6, or 1 7 Nxg6 hxg6 18 Bc2 Qd7 1 9 Bxe7 Qxe7 2 0 Qxe7 Rxe7 21 Bxg6 Re6)
17 . . .bxc6 18 Nxc6 Nxc6 (18 . . .Qd6?! 19 Nxe7+) 1 9 Bxd8 Raxd8 20 QgS (Y.Alonso
Lu.Valdes, Cuba 2005}, and I agree with the analyst in Chess Informant that White
is somewhat better.

16 Ng3
Alternatively, 16 Bf4 NfS (even the wild 16 ... dxe4 17 Nxc6 NfS comes into consid
eration) 17 QhS Qe7 18 Re1 Rf8 19 NgS g6 20 Qd1 Qf6 21 Ng4 Qd8 looks fine for
Black.

16 ... Nf5 17 Nxf5 Bxf5 18 Re1 Re6 (Diagram 25)


Black has fully equalized in my opinion.

1 17

Da ngero u s Wea pons: 1 e4 e S

Conclusion
I haven' t played 5 ... Bc5 6 c3 Bb6!? in a long time, as I considered it to be dubious.
However, having now looked through these old games with the help of an analy
sis engine I am confident enough to recommend this fun line. You never know, I
may even play it again, bringing it back into the limelight after twenty years of
obscurity.

118

C h a pter Six

Fac ing u p to the


Exchange Variation
1 e4 eS 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 BbS a6 4 Bxc6 dxc6 5 0-0 Be7!? (Diagram 1)

Diagram 1 (W)
One thing that deters some from playing the Black side of the Spanish is the
dreaded Exchange Variation. It's not that White gets any advantage from 4 Bxc6;
it's just that he gets Black away from his normal stuff and of course it can be

119

Dangero u s W e a p o n s : 1 e4 e S
rather boring!
The thinking from White behind this tension-sapping option is that if the game
remains calm White's superior pawn structure will be a bonus in any simplified
position. I personally like to think about Black's prospects more positively: he has
the bishop pair and, as White is not playing the best fourth move available, equal
izing shouldn' t be too difficult.
Let's examine meeting 4 Bxc6 dxc6 5 0-0 with the slightly unusual move 5 . . . Be7!?,
as shown in Diagram 1 . With 5 . . . Be7 Black in tum aims to take the game away
from his opponent's comfort zone and sets a challenge: if White captures the
pawn on e5 he will then be dragged into a sharper struggle than usual, whereas
calmer lines can often be met by . . . Bf6 followed by ... Ng8-e7-g6 with a solid posi
tion.
Here's an example of White taking up the gauntlet and snatching the e5-pawn.
D O.Lemmers I.Sokolov

Dutch League 2000


1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bbs a6 4 Bxc6 dxc6 5 o-o Be71?
Provoking White to capture the e-pawn.

6 Nxes
Taking the plunge!

6...Qd4 1 Qhs
The only move to trouble Black.

7 ...g61?
The sharpest reply. Black could instead opt for 7 ... Be6, when after 8 d3 Nf6 9 Nf3
he has the choice between two desperados: 9 . . . Qxf2+ 10 Rxf2 Nxh5, or 9 . . Qxe4 10
Qxf7+ Bxf7 11 dxe4 Nxe4. In either case Black recovers the pawn and a complex
queenless midd legame arises, and we'll take a deeper look at this in the theory
section.
.

8 Nf3 Qxe4 9 Qas (Diagram 2) 9 . Qxc2


.

No doubt fearing an improvement, in a more recent game Sokolov tried 9 . . b6, but
after 10 Qc3 Bf6 11 d4 Be6 12 Re1 Qd5 13 Qd3 Qf5 14 Qxf5 gxfS 15 Bg5 White en
joyed a positional advantage in A .Volokitin-I.Sokolov, Sarajevo 2005.
.

10 Re1 Qd3 11 Qxc7 QdB 12 Qf4! KfB 13 Nc3 (Diagram 3) 13 ... gs!?

..;.

120

ROLL the DICE I Sokolov plays in quite an aggressive fashion


despite not having completed development, nor being sure
about the safety of his king.

F a c i n g up to t h e E x c h a nge Va r i at i o n
In the theory section we' ll examine the consequences o f quieter development.

14 Qe3 Nh6 15 b3 Nf5 16 Qe2 h5 17 Bb2 g4


A provocative plan. Pushing up on the kingside looks optimistic when develop
ment is lacking.

Diagram 2 (B)

Diagram 3 (B)

18 Ne5 Nd4
Vacating the long diagonal with 1 8 . . . Rg8 comes into consideration.

19 Qdl?!
White should have preferred 19 Qe4!, when he seems to be on top; e.g. 19 . . .Bf6 (or
if 19 ... Bf5 20 Qf4 Bg5 then White has 21 Nd7+ Bxd7 22 Qxd4 Bf6 23 Qb4+ Kg7 24
Qxb7 h4 25 Nd1) 20 Na4 Ne6 21 Nxc6 bxc6 22 Bxf6 Qxf6 23 Qxc6.

19 ... Bf5?!
Better is the more solid 19 ... Bf6! followed by . . . Kg7 with dynamic equilibrium.

20 Ne21 C5
There is no mileage in 20 ... Nc2 because after 21 Ng3 White will seize the ini tiative
and not even lose the exchange, e.g. 2 1 . . .Bh7 22 Nxc6 bxc6 23 Bxh8 etc.

21 Bxd4 cxd4 22 Ng3 Bc8 23 Qc2 Qd5 {Diagram 4)


Black has two bishops but his king is somewhat loose.

24 Nc4 Qc6 25 Qb2


Missing his chance! The exchange sacrifice 25 Rxe7! Kxe7 26 Qb2 would expose
Black's king and give White a strong ini tiative: 26 . . . Be6 27 Qxd4 Rad8 28 Qe5 Kd7
29 Rei .

25 ...Bf6 26 Racl Be6 27 Ne4 Bg7 28 Ng5 Rh6

121

D a n gerous Wea pon s : 1 e4 e 5


White keeps pressing but Black i s able to defend. Slowly but surely Black's king is
given adequate cover.

29 Qa3+ KgB 30 Nd6 Qd7 (Diagram 5) 31 Ndxf7??

Diagram 4 (W)

Diagram 5 (W)

It's easy with the benefit of hindsight to see that 31 Nxe6 Rxe6 32 Rxe6 fxe6, with
equal chances, was more sensible.

31... Bxf7 32 Re7 Qfsl 33 Res


Unfortunately for Lemmers, 33 Nxf7 is met by 33 . . Rf6 threatening the knight as
well as mate in three.
.

33 ... Bd5 34 Ne4 Re6 35 Rcc7 BfB 36 Rxe6 Bxa3 37 Nf6+ 0-1
Black can play the calm 37 . . Kh8.
.

A question that the sceptic may well ask is: How does Black obtain winning
chances if White just plays solidly? Playing through the next game may at least
partially answer this question.
D C.Schreiber A.Mastrovasilis

Guarapuava 1995
1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 BbS a6 4 Bxc6 dxc6 5 o-o Be7 6 d3
White aims for a quiet game. Most of those who play 4 Bxc6 will want to stay in
control and so would generally opt for a positional line.

6... Bf6 7 Be3 Ne7 8 Nc3 Ng6

122

Fa c i ng u p to t h e E x c h a nge V a r i a t i o n
Black develops his kingside pieces onto their most effective defensive squares.

9 h3 0-0 10 Ne2 ReS 11 C3 b6 12 Qc2


White is about ready for d3-d4, so Black renders this unattractive.

12 ... cs 13 Rad1 Bb7 (Diagram 6)

Diagram 6 (W)
'-:.

Diagram 7 (W)

DANGEROUS WEAPON! Black has a comfortable game. Note


that he is solid everywhere and White lacks any convincing
pawn breaks.

14 Ng3 Qe7 15 Nh S
If Whi te does nothing, Black can aim to press along the d-file combined with a
queenside advance. He will then hope to create a chink on the light squares.

1S ... h6 16 Nxf6+ Qxf6 17 Qe2 Qe6 18 b3 fS I (Diagram 7)


It's also possible to play 18 . a5, bu t this is more incisive.
..

19 exfs Qxfs 20 Nh2 hs!


Preventing White from using the g4-square.

21 Rfe1 Re6 22 f3
Played in order to limit the scope of Black's superb bishop, but this is only effec
tive if Whi te can get his knight to the blockading e4-square. It soon becomes ap
parent that he doesn't have time to do this.

22 ... Rf8
Black is more active, but can he break through?

23 Nf1 Nh4!

123

D a n ge r o u s W e a p o n s : 1 e4 e S
A n annoying move to face.

24 Ng3
Instead 24 Qf2 is strongly met by 24 . . . Rg6! 25 Qxh4 Qxf3 when Black soon ma tes.

24...Qg6 25 Bf2 Nxg2!


Black is spoil t for choice, as 25 . . . Rxf3! 26 gxf3 Nxf3+ 27 Kfl h4 also wins.

26 Kxg2 h4 27 Kh2 Bxf3 28 Qe3 hxg3+ 29 Bxg3 Bxd1 30 Rxd1


Al though Black has won the exchange he doesn't give White time to organize any
resistance.

30...e4! 31 dxe4 Rxe4 32 Qd3 Qe6 33 Rg1 Re3 34 Qd1 Rf2+! 0-1

Looking a Little Deeper


1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Bxc6 dxc6 (Diagram 8)

Diagram 8 (W)

Diagram 9 (W)

5 0-0
The most popular move is 5 0-0, when because of tactics along the e-file, White
really is threatening the e-pawn. However, White does have two important alter
natives:
a) 5 Nc3 f6 6 d4 Bb4 7 dxe5 (Black is fine after 7 0-0 Qe7 8 a3 Bd6 9 d5 c5 10 Nd2
Nh6 1 1 Nc4 N f7) 7 ...Qxd 1 + 8 Kxd 1 Bg4 9 Bf4 0-0-0+ and Black obtains interesting
play for his pawn investment. The game I.Donev-T.Effmert, German League 1 998,
then continued 1 0 Ke2 Re8 1 1 h3 fxe5 1 2 Bh2 Bxf3+ 1 3 gxf3 Bxc3 1 4 bxc3 Nh6 1 5
Rhg1 g6 1 6 f4 exf4 1 7 Bxf4 Nf5 1 8 f3 Rhf8 1 9 Bh2 Nd6 20 Rad 1 Nc4 with a t least
equali ty.

124

F a c i n g u p to t h e E x c h a n ge V a r i a t i o n
b ) After 5 d 4 exd4 6 Qxd4 Qxd4 7 Nxd4, White hopes to have smooth develop
ment and a comfortable time with queens off the board. He is relying on his supe
rior majority to give him long-term chances of an advantage.
Black can equalize by castling long and pressurizing the kingside in general and
the e4-pawn in particular. For example, 7. . . Bd7 8 Be3 0-0-0 (Diagram 9) and now:
b 1 ) 9 Nc3 invites 9 . . .Bb4, when 10 Nde2 Re8 1 1 0-0-0 f5 12 Bd4 Re7 13 Ng3 Nh6 1 4
f3 Bd6 1 5 Kb1 Rhe8 (Kr.Georgiev-l. lbragimov, Heraklion 1 993) yields a comfort
able position for Black, and 1 0 0-0-0 Bxc3 1 1 bxc3 Re8 1 2 Nb3 b6 13 Bd4 f6 14 f3 c5
1 5 Bf2 Nh6 leaves Black with the better chances due to his more workable pawn
structure.
b2) 9 Nd2 avoids the pin, but White's pieces then lack bi te; e.g. 9 . . . Ne7 1 0 0-0-0
Re8 1 1 Rhe1 Ng6 12 N4f3 c5 13 h3 Bc6 14 Bg5 f6 15 Bh4 Bd6, A .Skvortsov
M.Sorokin, Russian Championship 1 996.
c) I recently faced an unusual move, 5 h3, when I preferred to place my bishop on
d6; i .e. 5 ... Bd6 6 d4 exd4 7 Qxd4 f6 8 Nc3 Be6 9 Be3 Ne7 10 0-0-0 (the point of
White's play is to castle long in a middlegame) 10 . . .0-0 1 1 g4 Ng6 1 2 Qd2 Qe8 13
Nd4 Rd8 with a double-edged struggle ahead, A .Gonzalez Blanco-G.Flear, Basque
League 2007.

s Be7 (Diagram 10)


...

Diagram 10 (W)

Diagram 11 (W)

Just about every expert has his own antidote for Black here. I have regularly
played 5 ... Bd6, (but I've used 5 ... Be7 as a surprise weapon), and there are ardent
supporters of 5 ... Bg4, 5 . . .f6 and 5 . . . Qd6.
One advantage of 5 ... Be7 (which is also recommended by the Greek GM Efstratios
Grivas) is that it is a decent alternative but much less well known. In reply White

125

D a n gerous W e a p o n s : 1 e4 e S
has just about tried all reasonable-looking moves. I shall be looking a t eight(! ) of
them, the two main ones being:

A: 6 d3
B: 6 Nxes
Here are the alternatives:
a) 6 Na3?! is asking for 6 . . . Bxa3, e.g. 7 bxa3 Bg4 8 h3 Bxf3 9 Qxf3 Qf6 10 Qxf6 Nxf6
1 1 d3 Nd7 1 2 f4 exf4 13 Bxf4 0-0-0 with an equal position (Grivas).
b) 6 Rei Bf6 7 h3 (7 d4 is well met by 7 . . . Bg4) 7. . . c5 8 c3 (after 8 b4? cxb4 9 Bb2 Ne7!
1 0 Nxe5 Ng6 was already favourable for Black in S.Gonzalez de Ia Torre-G.Fiear,
Elgoibar 2004) 8 . . . Ne7 9 d4 cxd4 1 0 cxd4 Ng6 1 1 d5 0-0 12 Be3 Be7 13 Qb3 Bd6
(Diagram 11) was level in L.D.Nisipeanu-J .Borisek, Nova Gorica 2003: White's ad
vance in the centre has enabled Black to straighten out his pawns and hasn't
caused him any particular inconvenience.
c) 6 Nc3 Bf6 7 Qe2 (after 7 d3 Ne7 8 Be3 0-0 9 Ne2 Ng6 10 Ng3 ReS Black had an
ideal set-up in A.Jurkovic-U.Krstic, Pula 1 993; compare this to Line A, where
White plays 6 d3) 7 ... Be6 (Grivas suggests 7 ... Bg4 8 Ndl Ne7 9 Ne3 Be6) 8 b3 b6
(less precise is 8 ... c5 9 Bb2 Qd6 1 0 Nd5! Bxd5 1 1 exd5 Qxd5 1 2 Bxe5, when White
kept an edge in V.Babula-M.Adams, Rethymnon 2003) 9 Bb2 (after 9 Ba3 Black
blocks the diagonal with 9 ... c5) 9 ... Ne7 1 0 d4 exd4 1 1 Rad1 (Diagram 12) and the
position becomes quite sharp. Grivas now analyses l l . ..Bg4! 12 e5 Bxf3 13 gxf3
Bg5 1 4 Ne4 Ng6 1 5 Rxd4 Qe7 1 6 Nxg5 Qxg5+ 17 Rg4 Qe7 as being unclear.

Diagram 12 (B)

126

Diagram 13 (W)

F a c i n g u p to t h e E x c h a n ge Variation
d) 6 c3 Bg4 (or possibly 6 . . . Nf6!?) 7 h 3 (G.Makropoulos-E.Grivas, Heraklion 1983)
should be met by 7 ... Bh5 8 d3 Qd6 9 Na3 b5 with equality, according to Grivas.
e) 6 d4 Nf6 7 Nc3 exd4 8 Nxd4 0-0 9 Nde2 Be6 10 Bf4 (B.Socko-K.Miton, Polish
Championship, Poznan 2005) and now Grivas suggests 10 ... Bc5 11 Qxd8 Raxd8 12
Rad 1 Bb6 as being best.
f) White can play his own game of provocation with the line 6 b3! ? c5 7 Nxe5 Qd4,
against which I lost an unfortunate game. Let's have a look at some details.
After 6 b3, I stil l consider 6 . . .c5 to be best (instead 6 ... Nf6 7 d3 Nd7 8 Bb2 f6 9 d4
exd4 1 0 Nxd4 Ne5 11 Qh5+ g6 1 2 Qe2 0-0, K.Valkesalmi-S.Djuric, Jarvenpaa 1985,
is given as equal by Grivas but I prefer White). Then White should probably cap
tu re on e5, because after 7 Bb2 f6 Black has a firm grip on the centre. So the critical
line is 7 Nxe5 Qd4 8 Nc4 Qxe4 (8 ...Qxa 1 ? loses the queen to 9 Bb2 Qxa2 10 Nc3) 9
Bb2 (after the moves 9 Nc3 Qc6 1 0 Ne5, I.Argandona Rivera-G.Flear, Montpellier
2005, Black can equalize with 10 ...Qd6! 11 Re1 Nf6) 9 . . . Nf6 10 Re1 Qg4 1 1 f3 Qh4
with complex play, A.Tzoumbas-E.Grivas, Ikaria 1 995. Instead of 1 0 Rel, tempting
is 10 Bxf6 gxf6 11 Nc3 Qd4 (Diagram 13), but Black's bishops should compensate
for his wrecked pawns.
Now we come to White's two principal tries:

A) 1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bbs a6 4 Bxc6 dxc6 5 o-o Be7 6 d3 Bf6


The normal move, but those seeking new vistas could also investigate 6 .. . f6 7 Be3
c5, and 6 ... Qd6 7 Nbd2 Be6.
After 6 ... Bf6 White has two popular ways of continuing:

A1: 7 Nbd2
A2: 7 Be3
White can sometimes try and change tack with a disruptive d3-d4, bu t this is gen
erally premature when Black has . . . Bg4 in reply. One example of this is 7 d4?! Bg4
8 dxe5 Qxd1 9 Rxd 1 Bxe5 10 Rd3 Bxf3 1 1 gxf3 (B.Filipovic-S.Djuric, Yugoslav Ch.,
Novi Sad 1 985) and now both 1 1 .. . f5!? and 1 1 . . .Rd8 1 2 Rxd8+ Kxd8 1 3 Nd2 Ne7 14
Nc4 Ng6 offer Black a good game.

A1) 7 Nbd2 was recently played in a high-profile game: 7 ... Ne7 8 Nc4 Ng6 9 b3 0-0
10 Bb2 Re8 11 h3 as 12 a4 c5 13 Kh1 b6 14 Bc3 Be6 15 Nh2 Bxc4 16 bxc4 Qd7 17
Qg4 and White retained a pull in P.Leko-L.Aronian, Dortmund 2006. I quite like
Grivas's suggested improvement in this: 14 ... c6! (Diagram 14) intending ...Qc7 and
to meet 1 5 Nh2 with 1 5 ... Bg5.

127

D a n gerous W e a p o n s : 1 e4 e S

Diagram 14 (W)

Diagram 15 (B)

Black can also defend even more solidly by playing his bishop to e6 and chopping
off any knight that dare visi t the c4-square: 7 . . . Be6 8 b3 (or 8 Nc4 Bxc4 9 dxc4 Qc8
10 a4 Ne7 1 1 aS 0-0 1 2 Ra3 Ng6 13 Qe2 Be7 1 4 Rb3 Rd8 1 S h3 Rb8 1 6 Be3 Qe6 with
equality, E.Rozentalis-A.Mastrovasilis, Athens 200S) 8 . . . Ne7 9 Bb2 Ng6 10 Nc4
Bxc4 1 1 dxc4 0-0 12 Qxd8 Rfxd8 proved to be level in J.Shaw-B.Lalic, Hastings
2003/04. Not very exciting, but effective.

A2) After 7 Be3 Ne7 8 Nbd2 Ng6 9 Nc4 Be6 10 b3 b6 11 a4 as 12 Bd2 Bxc4 13 bxc4
Be7 14 Bc3 Bb41 15 Bxb4 axb4 16 cs Qe7 17 cxb6 cxb6, Black had equalized in
S.Bryneii-E.Grivas, Leningrad 1989. Grivas now prefers l l .. .cS!, though I don' t
think this changes the assessment.
Another approach is 8 h3 (stopping the annoying ... Bg4) 8 ... Ng6 9 Nc3 0-0 10 Qd2

(Diagram 15).
The next two practical examples illustrate some ideas for Black:
a) 10 ... b6 11 Ne2 cS 12 Ng3 Be6 13 Rfd1 aS 1 4 c3 a4 with at least equality,
S.Sethurajan-S.Djuric, Dubai 200S.
b) 10 ... Qe7 1 1 Ne2 cS 12 Ng3 b6 13 NhS (the slight inconvenience of having the
queen on e7 is that White can force the exchange of the f6-bishop in this way)
13 ... Kh8 14 Rae1 Qd6 1S Nxf6 Qxf6 16 Nh2 Qd6 17 b3 fS! ? 18 exfS RxfS 19 f3 Bb7 20
Rf2 Raf8 21 Nfl RSf7 22 Ng3 was played in V. Egin-T.Gareev, Uzbek Champion
ship 2007. In comparison with the illustrative game (Schreiber-Mastrovasilis), here
White gets his knight to e4 and is able to hold his position together.
The advance d3-d4 is again premature: 8 d4?! (instead of 8 h3 or 8 Nbd2) 8 . . . Bg4 9
c3 Bxf3 1 0 gxf3 Ng6 and Black is better, R.Zelcic-U.Krstic, Pula 1998.

128

F a c i n g u p to t h e E x c h a n ge V a r i ation

B) 1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bbs a6 4 Bxc6 dxc6 5 o-o Be7 6 Nxes Qd4 7 Qhs (Diagram
16)

Diagram 16 (B)

Diagram 17 (W)

In my opinion, this is the position that will make or break 5 . . . Be7 in the long run.
Retreating is interesting but not favourable: 7 Nf3 Qxe4 8 Rei Qg6 9 NeS QfS 10 d4
Be6 1 1 Nc3 0-0-0 12 Ne4 hS 13 c3 h4 14 Qe2 BdS 15 f3 with unclear play, K.Van der
Weide-I.Sokolov, Dutch Ch., Rotterd am 1 998.
From Diagram 16 Black has two distinct approaches. The sharp line begins with:

7 ...g6!?
7 ... Be6 is the solid option. Then 8 d3 Nf6 9 Nf3 Qxe4 10 Qxf7+ Bxf7 1 1 dxe4 Nxe4
12 Re1 Bg6 13 Nbd2 came out in White's favour in the stem game S.Bryneii
J.Hector, Swedish Ch., Linkoping 2001, but there are plenty of ways for either side
to vary.
Grivas suggests 12 ... Nf6 (instead of 12 . . . Bg6), but this still looks more difficult for
Black after 13 b3 Kf8 1 4 Bb2. I suggest varying earlier with 9 ...Qxf2+! (rather than
9 . . . Qxe4) 1 0 Rxf2 NxhS 1 1 Be3 h6! (White keeps an edge after 1 1 . ..0-0-0?! 12 NgS)
12 Nc3 0-0-0 13 Ne2 cS (Diagram 17) and despite Whi te having more central
pawns, I believe that Black's position is fine.
White can avoid this with 9 QgS!? (rather than 9 Nf3). Then Black plays 9 ...Qc5! 10
Nc4 Bxc4! (10 . . . Qxg5 11 BxgS Nxe4 12 Bxe7 Kxe7 1 3 dxe4 Bxc4 1 4 Rd1 was the con
tinuation in H.Stevic-U.Krstic, Croatian Ch., Pula 2000 - White retains the supe
rior pawn structure and therefore a nominal pull) 1 1 dxc4 Nxe4, and if 12 Qxg7,
then 12 . . . 0-0-0 offers Black good compensation.

8 Nf3 Qxe4 9 Qas

129

Dangerous W e a p o n s : 1 e4 e s
White had nothing after 9 d3 Qf5 1 0 Qxf5 Bxf5 1 1 Rel f6 1 2 Nbd2 Kf7 in
D.Reinderman-J .Piket, Dutch League 1 999.

9...Qxc2 (Diagram 18)

Diagram 18 (W)

Diagram 19 (W)

Sokolov's recent experiment with 9 ...b6 wasn't successful from a theoretical point
of view. After 10 Qc3 Bf6 1 1 d4 Be6 12 Re1 Qd5 13 Qd3 Qf5 14 Qxf5 gxf5 15 Bg5,
the ending should be better for Whi te, taking into account the respective pawn
structures, A.Volokitin-I.Sokolov, Sarajevo 2005.

10 Re1
Otherwise 1 0 Qxc7 Qd3 1 1 Re1 simply transposes.

10...Qd3 11 Qxc7 QdB 12 Qf41


An improvement over 1 2 Qe5, when only in reply to 1 2 . . . f6 does Whi te place his
queen on f4: 13 Qf4. However, provoking ... f6 isn't necessarily such a good idea,
as Black is then able to reorganize his pieces accordingly: 13 . . . Kf8 1 4 b3 Kg7 1 5 Bb2
Nh6 1 6 Nc3 Rf8 with equal chances, as in O.De Ia Riva-M.Narciso Dublan, Barce
lona 1996. White can also keep his bishop on the cl -h6 diagonal and play 14 d4
(instead of 14 b3), when I suggest 14 . . . Kg7 (less good is 1 4 ...Qd6, which has al
ready been played, because of 15 Qh4!, which hasn' t!) 15 Nc3 Bd6 16 Qh4 h5! with
dynamic play.

12 ... Kf8 13 Nc3 Kg7! (Diagram 19)


This sober move makes more sense than 13 ... g5 14 Qe3 Nh6 1 5 b3 Nf5 16 Qe2 h5
17 Bb2 g4 18 Ne5, as played in our featured game Lemmers-Sokolov.

14 Ne4 Nf61
After 14 ... 5?! 15 Nc5 Bxc5 1 6 Qe5+ Nf6 1 7 Qxc5 Re8 1 8 Rxe8 Qxe8 1 9 d3, Black has

130

F a c i n g u p to the E xc h a n ge V a r i ation
weaknesses o n the dark squares.
Grivas instead recommends 14 . . . Bf5 15 b3 Bxe4, but I prefer White after 16 Rxe4
Bf6 1 7 d4 Ne7 (following 17 ... Qd5 1 8 Bd2 Black still can' t complete development
that easily) 18 Qh6+ Kg8 1 9 Bf4 NfS (19 ... Nd5 is met by 20 BeS with some pressure)
20 Qh3 QdS 21 Rae1 hS.

15 d3 (Diagram 20)

Diagram 20 (B)

Diagram 21 (W)

15 ... Nd5
BEWAREI 15 ...Qxd3?? allows 16 Qh6+ KgB 17 Nxf6+ Bxf6 18
ReB mate.
16 Qh6+ Kg8 17 Bg5 f6 18 Bd2 QfB! (Diagram 21)
Black frees up his position.

Conclusion
All in all, I don't believe that White can obtain any advantage against S ... Be7, and
his position is less easy to handle than in the main lines.

131

C h a pter Seve n

Denying B lac k his F un

1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 BbS Nd4 5 o-o!? (Diagram 1)

Diagram 1 (B)
Black has two main options when faced with the Spanish Four Knights: 4 ... Bb4
and 4 . . . Nd4. Against 4 . . . Bb4 White plays 5 0-0 0-0 6 d3 d6 7 BgS! and now, because
of the problem of facing NdS, Black usually reacts with 7 ... Bxc3 8 bxc3. Whilst it

132

Deny i n g B l a c k h i s F u n
shoul d be said that from a theoretical standpoint Black i s doing okay here, there's
also no doubt that White is in a good position to fight for an advantage. In the
main line with 8 ... Qe7 9 Re1 Nd8 1 0 d4 Ne6 1 1 Bel White's pair of bishops and
influence in the centre guarantees that it's no easy task for Black to equalize, de
spite the compensation offered by White's doubled c-pawn. There's also the prac
tical advantage that this line is not particularly theoretical, and to play this posi
tion White requires good understanding rather than memorization of variations.
Why then is the Spanish Four Knights relatively unpopular, especially when com
pared to the Ruy Lopez? I suspect it has something to do with the possibility of
4 ... Nd4!. It's not that 4 . . . Nd4 is necessarily a stronger move than 4 . . . Bb4 - al though
many believe this to be true. I think it's more a case of Black having most of the
fun in the cri tical lines, for example after 5 Ba4 BcS 6 Nxe5 0-0; or 5 Ba4 c6 6 NxeS
dS; or 5 Bc4 BcS 6 NxeS Qe7! . Okay, Whi te gets a pawn in the bank, but there are
many who feel uncomfortable handing over the initiative to Black at such an early
stage. It's seems okay to suffer with Black for the sake of a pawn, but not so much
fun with White!
Does White really have to spend time moving his bishop from bS? After all, it is
protected by the knight on c3. And the bishop and knight are both worth three
points, right? So why not get on with development and play 5 0-0, and let Black
have his bishops? That has been the philosophy of a few grandmasters who have
played the Spanish Four Knights, most notably Emil Sutovsky and Joe Gallagher,
and i t's what I've suggested here.
Let's begin by seeing how well S 0-0 can work in practice.
D Y.Shabanov A.Kirusha

St Petersbu rg 1998
1 e4 eS 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 BbS Nd4 5 0-0 NxbS
The temptation to grab the bishop pair has proven to be too great for most play
ers. Alternatives for Black will be studied in the theory section.

6 Nxbs (Diagram 2) 6 ... c6


It does look sensible to force the knight back, and gain the useful move ... c7-c6 in
doing so.

7 Nc3 d6
7 ... Qc7 is the only other sensible way of protecting the e5-pawn, but after 8 d4
Black doesn't really have anything better than 8 . . . d6 transposing to the game,
because 8 . . . exd4?! 9 Qxd4 just gives White what he wants.

8 d4!
Whi te must play aggressively in the centre to exploit his slight lead in develop
ment. 8 d3?! would offer no test at all to Black.

133

Dangerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S

8 Qc7
...

Diagram 2 (B)

Diagram 3 (B)

This is the most logical way to bolster e5. There are alternatives, but they all have
drawbacks (see the theoretical section).
After 8 ...Qc7 we have arrived at a position similar to one reached in the Philidor
Defence, with the difference that White enjoys a slightly bigger lead in develop
ment and Black has the bishop pair.

9 h3
Ruling out . . . Bg4 and thus challenging Black to find a useful role for his light
squared bishop - a task that's not entirely straightforward.
g Be7 10 a41 (Diagram 3}
...

White adopts typical restraining methods on the queenside. Black must now de
cide whether or not to prevent the possibility of this pawn advancing further.
1o as!?
...

Black's main alternative 1 0 ... 0-0 is covered in the theoretical section.


11 Be3

Eyeing the queenside and the newly-weakened b6-square in particular. That said,
looking at Black's options at move thirteen, there's a case here for White to de
velop more actively with 11 Bg5!?. After 1 1 ...0-0 12 Re1 Re8 13 Qd3, if Black goes
ahead with 13 . . .b6 then 14 d5! Ba6 1 5 Qd2 looks more effective with the bishop on
g5 rather than e3 (compare this with the note to Black's 13th move). In particular,
15 ... Rac8 1 6 dxc6 Qxc6 17 Rad1 looks pleasant for White.
In fact White doesn't have to move the bishop at all. In J.Gallagher-F.Sanchez Al
ler, Lisbon 2001, the former British Champion instead waited before committing,

134

Deny i n g B l a c k h i s F u n
and reached a dominating position after 1 1 Re1 0-0 1 2 Qd3 Nd7 ( 1 2. . .b6!? should
be considered) 13 b3 Bf6?! (and here 13 ...exd4!? looks better) 14 dS! Rd8 1S Be3 Nf8
16 Nd2 Ra6 1 7 Nc4 cS 1 8 NbS.

11 0-0 12 Re1 ReB


...

The game V.Vehi Bach-A.Chamba, Barbera del Valles 2007, is a powerful demon
stration of what can happen to Black if he is not careful: 12 ... Be6?! 13 Qd3 Rad8 1 4
d S ! Bc8 (14 . . . cxdS 1 S exdS exposes bS and b 6 a s real weaknesses, and after 1S ... Bd7
16 Nd2! - intending Nc4 - 1 6 . . . Rc8 17 Racl White will continue with 18 NbS) 1S
Qc4 Ne8 (1S . . . Nd7 1 6 dxc6 bxc6?? allows the devastating 17 NdS!) 16 Nd2! Kh8 17
Qb3! cS (Diagram 4).

Diagram 4 (W)

Diagram 5 (B)

Black's last move was pretty much forced, as otherwise Bb6 was coming, but now
his queenside structure looks ugly to say the least. After 1 8 NbS Qb6 19 Nc4 Qa6
20 Bd2 b6 21 Nba3! the b6-pawn was dropping followed by one on aS and Black's
position was already resignable.

13 Qd3 Bf8
Black continues his plan of adding pressure to the e4-pawn by clearing the e-file,
but this proves to be too slow.
13 ... b6! preparing ... Ba6 is logical and more challenging for White. It's true the
pawn is a weakness on b6, but Black should be willing to accept this because after
14 dS Ba6 1 S Qd2 cxdS 16 exdS Rac8 his active pieces provide considerable com
pensation.
White might do better with 14 Qd2 Ba6 1S BgS!? (this is why the immediate Bcl-gS
should be a consideration earlier on) and after 1S . . .Rac8 only then 16 dS!. The dif
ference here is that 1 6 . . . cxdS is met not by 1 7 exdS?! but instead 17 Bxf6! Bxf6 18

135

Dangerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e s
NxdS!, when the knight sits pretty on d S and White i s happy. Black can grab a
pawn with 18 ... Qxc2, but 1 9 Nxf6+! gxf6 20 Qh6 suddenly leaves Black struggling
against the basic mating idea of Nh4-fS. For example, 20 ... Bb7 21 Nh4 Bxe4 22
Rxe4! Qxe4 23 Ra3! followed by 24 Rg3+.

14 Rad1 h6 15 Nd2! (Diagram 5)


Unexpectedly Black has to do something about the idea of Nc4 and a possible in
vasion of b6.

15 ... Be6?l
It was not too late to play 1S . . .b6! . Black was probably concerned by 16 Nc4?, but
in fact this can be safely answered by 16 ... Ba6! as after 17 dxeS dxeS 18 Bxb6?? Qb7
White is in trouble - indeed he loses a piece following 19 Be3 Qb4 20 b3 Rad8! .
Probably White would have to change tack with 16 Qe2 Ba6 1 7 Qf3 (now Bxh6 is
in the air) 17 ... Be7 18 Nfl with the promising plan of Nfl -g3-fS.

16 d5!
DANGEROUS WEAPON! The opening has been an undoubted
success for White. Pressure is mounting on the queenside and
he now enjoys a clear advantage.
16 ... Bc8 17 Nc4 Ra6
After 17 ... cS 18 NbS Qd8 the most obvious way for White to increase the pressure
is with 19 f4!.

18 Rd2
Further protecting the c4-kn ight with 1 8 b3 might be stronger. Then after 1 8 . . . cxdS
19 exdS g6 20 Qd2! Kh7 21 NbS Qd8 22 f3 White is in control - one idea is Qf2 and
Bb6.

18 ...cxd5 19 exds g6 20 f3 Nh7


20... BfS looks better, although White keeps the advantage after 21 Ne4.

21 Nbs QdB 22 Qf1 (Diagram 6)


Again Qf2 is an idea.

22 ... Be7 23 f4 Bh4 24 Bf2 Bxf2+ 25 Qxf2 e4 26 Qd4


26 Qg3! Nf6 27 Qa3! would have been a nice way to win the d6-pawn.

26...fs 27 Re3 Nf6 28 Rc3 (Diagram 7) 28... Nh5?


Allowing a decisive tactical blow. However, even after 28 ...Kg7 29 Qe3! there is
little Black can do against the idea of Ncxd6; e.g. 29 ...Rf8 30 Ncxd6 Rxd6 31 Rxc8
Qxc8 32 Nxd6 etc (note that the immediate 29 Ncxd6? doesn't work due to
29 ... Rxd6 30 Rxc8 RxdS! 31 Rxd8 Rexd8).

29 Ncxd6! e3

136

Deny i n g B l a c k h i s F u n
29. . .Rxd6 loses to 30 Rxc8 Qxc8 3 1 Nxd6.

30 Rxc8 Qxc8 31 Nxc8 exd2 32 Qxd2 Rxc8 33 d6

Diagram 6 (B)

Diagram 7 (B)

Now Black's two rooks are helpless to prevent White's queen from running riot,
and the game is quickly over.

33 ... Nf6 34 Qe3 Ne4 35 Qb3+ Kg7 36 Qe6 Rf8 37 QeS+ Kg8 38 QdS+ Kh8 39 d7 Raa8
40 Nc7 Nf6 41 Qes Rad8 42 Ne6 1-0

Looking a Little Deeper


1 e4 eS 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 BbS Nd4
Although the main point of the chapter is to study the position after 4 ... Nd4 5 0-0,
there are a couple of alternatives to 4 . . . Nd4 and 4 . . . Bb4 I would like to look at
briefly:
a) 4 ... Bc5 (Diagram 8) is a very natural move and one I suspect that White players
would be likely to face, especially at club level. In fact I recommended 4 ... Bc5 as a
back-up line to 4 . . . Nd4 in Play the Open Games as Black, but more recently my en
thusiasm for this l ine has waned a bit. One reason for this is the mainline con
tinuation 5 0-0 0-0 6 Nxe5! Nxe5 7 d4 Bd6 8 f4 Nc6 9 e5 Be7 1 0 d5 Nb4 1 1 exf6 Bxf6,
when 12 Bc4!? (Diagram 9) is a fairly recent idea that has proved to be troublesome
for Black (12 a3 Bxc3 13 bxc3 Nxd5! 14 Qxd5 c6 is the old line and I think it's okay
for Black). Here are some possibilities after 12 Bc4:
a1) 12 ... d6 13 Ne4!? (13 a3 also looks reasonable) 13 ... Bf5 14 Ng3! Qd7 (14 ... Nxc2 is
critical, but 15 Nxf5 Nxa1 16 Be3 looks promising for White in view of 16 ... Bxb2 17
Bd4!) 1 5 Nxf5 Qxf5 1 6 c3 Na6 1 7 g4! Qd7 18 g5 Bd8 1 9 Be3 Nc5 20 Qf3 and Black is

137

D a n ge ro u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
becoming rather cramped for room, J.Gallagher-M.Sbarra, Geneva 2005.
a2) After 12 ... c6 I wouldn' t hesitate to continue with 13 d6!.
a3) 12 ...Qe7 (threatening 13 ... Qc5+) 1 3 Kh1 ! d6 (13 ... Qc5 1 4 Bb3 Bxc3 15 bxc3 Qxc3
16 Ba3! leaves Black with some problems, e.g. 16 ...a5 17 Rf3 Qf6 18 c3) 14 Rei Qd7
15 Ne4 Bd8 1 6 Bd2 and again Black is getting pushed back, Y.Shabanov-D.Frolov,
Smolensk 2000.

Diagram 8 (W)

Diagram 9 (B)

b) I still remember the shock I received when, reading through Jan Pinski's book
The Four Knights, I discovered that 4 ... Bd6!? (Diagram 10) was not only playable,
but had indeed been utilized by some strong grandmasters. Okay, the bishop
breaks a cardinal sin of blocking the d7-pawn, but there are also positives to con
sider: the e-pawn is protected in the event of Bxc6, which incidentally would re
lease the c8-bishop; in many lines Black has at his disposal the typical regrouping
plan of ... 0-0, ... ReB and ... Bf8; and the c8-bishop can often be developed via ... a6,
...b5 and ... Bb7. Having studied a few of the lines I believe White's best chance of
an advantage lies in continuing with 'normal' development. For example, 5 d3 (5
d4 Nxd4 6 Nxd4 exd4 7 Qxd4 Qe7! has proved to be fine for Black in a few games)
5 ... a6 (forcing the bishop to commit; after 5 ... h6 6 0-0 0-0 7 a3 White is ready to
meet 7... a6 with 8 Bc4!) 6 Ba4 h6 (Black usually expends a tempo here to rule out
the awkward Bg5 pin) 7 a3!? (Diagram 11).
I like this move, the main point being that after the sequence ...b5, Bb3, ... Na5,
White can preserve his bishop with Ba2. But there's also an idea behind delaying
castling for a move or two . . .

138

D e ny i n g B l a c k h i s F u n

DANGEROUS WEAPON! After 7 ...0-0 White could simply follow


suit, but I like 8 g4!? intending g4-g5 - an idea which has been
played in similar positions. This is an aggressive and a logical
way to try to exploit ... h6, and of course White would be very
happy to see B .. Nxg4? 9 Rg1 on the board.
.

Diagram 10 (W)

Diagram 11 (B)

7. . . b5 8 Bb3 Bb7 is a safer way for Black to play, waiting for White to castle before
doing so himself: 9 0-0 (9 h3 is possible, but I don't see the point in delaying cas
tling any further because Black can continue the waiting game with the useful
move 9 . . Bc5!) 9 ... 0-0 10 Be3!? (I like this idea of preventing . . . Bc5; instead 10 h3 Bc5
1 1 Nd5 Nd4! 12 Nxd4 Bxd4 13 c3 Ba7 was equal in H.Jonkman-I.Sokolov, Dutch
Championship 2002) 10 . . . Re8 1 1 h3 Bf8 and now White should play 12 Ba2! so that
... Na5 doesn't come with tempo. Black's idea of arranging ... d5 has been prevented
and White is a bit better here in a position that very much resembles an Anti
Marshall line of the Ruy Lopez. For example, 12 . . . d6 13 Nd5! Nxd5 14 Bxd5 Be7
(or 1 4 ... Rb8 1 5 c4!?) 1 5 Nd2 Qd7 16 f4!, as played in R.Gu tierrez Medina
H.Boschek, correspondence 2004.
.

5 o-o (Diagram 12)


In ascending order of populari ty, Black's three most important options are:

A: s ... Bcs
B: s ...c6
c:

s ... Nxbs

139

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
Rounding u p al ternatives:
a) S ... Bb4?! looks natural enough and has been tried by one or two strong players,
but White has a very strong answer to this: 6 Nxd4! exd4 7 eS! (Diagram 13)
7 ... dxc3 8 dxc3! and Black is already in real trouble here; e.g. 8 ... Bc5 9 BgS h6 (or
9 ... Be7 10 exf6 Bxf6 1 1 Re1+ Kf8 12 Bxf6 Qxf6 1 3 Bxd7, A .lstratescu-E.Liss, Rishon
Le Ziyyon 1991 ) 10 exf6 hxgS 1 1 fxg7 Rg8 1 2 Re1 + Be7 13 QhS, when there is no
reasonable defence to the devastating threat of Qh8.

Diagram 12 (B)

Diagram 13 (B)

b) S ... Nxf3+ 6 Qxf3 c6 7 Bc4 transposes to a position considered in Line B under the
move order S ... c6 6 Bc4 Nxf3+ 7 Qxf3.
c) S ... a6!? 6 Bc4 bS!? 7 Bb3 Nxb3 (7 ... Nxf3+ 8 Qxf3 d6 can be met by 9 NdS) 8 axb3
is similar to Line B, except that there is no ...Qc7 available to fortify the eS-pawn.
White looks a bit better after 8 . . . b4 9 NdS NxdS 10 exdS d6 1 1 d4, or 8 ... d6 9 d4 Bb7
10 BgS.

A) 1 e4 eS 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 BbS Nd4 5 0-0 BcS (Diagram 14)
This is the usual answer to 5 Ba4, bu t things aren' t quite the same if White hasn't
expended a tempo on the bishop retreat. Thus White should have no qualms
about snaffling the e-pawn:

6 Nxesl o-o
Grabbing the pawn back with 6 . . . Nxb5 7 NxbS Nxe4? can be punished by,
amongst others, 8 d4 Be7 9 Qg4.
6 ... c6 is more sensible, but after 7 Be2! White plans d2-d3 and Ne5-f3 consolidat
ing, and the onus is on Black to find some compensation.

140

Deny i n g B l a c k h i s F u n

BEWARE: 7 Ba4? d6! 8 Nf3 Bg4 is the kind of thing White


should be trying to avoid.
7 Bc4! (Diagram 15)

Diagram 14 (W)

Diagram 15 (B)

White's bishop needs to stay in touch with the e2-square (see later), but going
there immediately is premature and allows Black to equalize after 7 Be2 Re8 8 Nf3
Nxe4 9 Nxd4 Bxd4 10 Nxe4 Rxe4, as played in R.Spielmann-J.Perlis, San Sebastian
1912.

7 d6
...

There are some alternatives for Black here:


a) 7. . . d5!? 8 Nxd5 Nxe4 9 d3 Nd6 10 b4! Nxc4 1 1 dxc4 was much better for White
in D.Salvati-J.Moeckel, correspondence 2002.
b) 7. . . c6 8 Nxf7! Rxf7 9 Bxf7+ Kxf7 10 e5 Ne8 1 1 Ne4 Be7 12 c3 Ne6 13 f4 and again
White is doing very well, Z.Varga-G.Hernandez, Santiago 1 990.
c) Against 7. . .Qe7 I think for once the best retreat is 8 Nd3, because if Black plays
8 ... Bb6 then White responds with 9 e5! followed by Nd5.

8 Nf3 Bg4
Black has no compensation after 8 . . . Re8 9 Nxd4 Bxd4 10 d3 Bg4 1 1 Qe1 c6 1 2 Be3!,
e.g. 12 ... Bxe3 13 fxe3! d5 14 exd5 cxd5 15 Bb3 d4 16 Ne4!.

9 Be2!
This is the reason White refrained from playing d2-d3. Now Black must release
the tension because White is threatening to win a piece with 10 Nxd4.

9 Nxe2+ 10 Qxe2 (Diagram 16)


...

141

D a n ge ro u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S

Diagram 1 6 (B)

Diagram 17 (W)

Black is temporarily acti ve, bu t White's solid centre means that it's unlikely there's
enough for the pawn.

10. Nh5
..

Trying to open things up with . . .f5.


10 ... Nd7 1 1 h3 Bh5 12 g4 Bg6 13 d4 Bb6 14 Bg5 f6 15 Be3, as played in G.Braun
S.Lang, German League 1994, shows how easily Black can get driven back.
10 ... d5 should be answered by 1 1 d3 keeping the e-file blocked.

11 d3
BEWAREI 11 h3? is convincingly answered by 11.. Ng3!.
.

11 fs (Diagram 17)
...

We have been following the old game G.Gresser-K.Eretova, Oberhausen 1 966.


White played 12 exf5, but I think that 12 d4 is a stronger move. For example,
12 ... fxe4 (not 12 ...Bxd4?? 13 Qc4+!) 13 Qxe4 Nf6 (forced, as 13 . . . Bxf3 14 gxf3 wins a
piece due to 14 ... Bb6 15 Qd5+) 14 Qd3 Bb6 (or 14 . . . Bxf3 15 dxc5!) 15 Bg5 Bxf3 1 6
Qxf3 Bxd4, and now there's nothing stopping White from playing 1 7 Qxb7, espe
cially as 1 7... Rb8 1 8 Qc6 Rxb2?? drops the bishop to 19 Qc4+.
Overall it's difficult to believe that Black has enough compensation for the pawn
after 6 Nxe5.

B) 1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 BbS Nd4 5 o-o c6 (Diagram 18)


This move is very logical, even though - as I've already mentioned - the vast rna-

142

Deny i n g B l a c k h i s F u n
jority o f players faced with 5 0-0 have grabbed the bishop pair.

6 Bc4!?
Setting a particularly nasty trap, but both of White's alternatives are worth con
sideration too:

Diagram 18 (W)

Diagram 19 (W)

a) The position after 6 Ba4 is more commonly reached via the move order 5 Ba4 c6
6 0-0. Black has tried a few moves here:
a 1 ) 6 ... Bc5 7 d3 d6 8 Nxd4 Bxd4 9 Ne2 Bb6 10 h3 0-0 1 1 Ng3 ReS 12 Qf3 h6 13 N f5
with a small edge for White, M .Ferguson-M.Adams, Hastings 1995.
a2) 6 ... b5 7 Bb3 transposes to the main line. Indeed, this has been the more com
mon move order in practice.
c) 6 ... d6 7 Nxd4! exd4 8 Ne2 Qb6 (8 ... N xe4 9 Nxd4 threatening both Re1 and Nxc6
is awkward for Black) 9 d3 Be7 1 0 c3 dxc3 (A.Shirov-I.Sokolov, Madrid 1994), and
now Sokolov gives 1 1 bxc3 planning 12 Bc2 and 13 d4 with a clear advantage to
White.
d) Black's best reply to 6 Ba4 is considered to be 6 . . .Qa5! (Diagram 19). Black has
very good chances to equalize in this line: 7 Re1 d6! (7... Bb4 8 Nxd4 exd4 9 e5 Ng8
was L.Riemersma-E.Gausel, Gausdal 1 993, and now 10 Bb3!? dxc3 1 1 dxc3 Bc5 12
Qf3 looks very promising for White) 8 h3 (8 Nxd4 exd4 9 Nd5 Nd7 1 0 b4 Qxa4 1 1
Nc7+ Kd8 1 2 Nxa8 b6, S.Smagin-V.Malaniuk, Tilburg 1 993, is messy bu t probably
good for Black) 8 . . . Be7 (8 ... b5!? 9 Bb3 Nxb3 10 cxb3 b4 1 1 Ne2 c5 12 d3 Be7 13 Nd2!
Qc7 14 Nc4 0-0 1 5 f4 gave White an edge in A.Shirov-L.B.Hansen, Moscow Olym
piad 1 994) 9 d3!? (9 a3 0-0 10 b4 Qc7 was roughly equal in A.Shirov-J.Piket, Aruba
1995) 9 ... 0-0 (9 ... b5 might well be stronger; after 10 Bb3 Nxb3 1 1 cxb3 0-0 12 d4 b4
White should play 13 Na4, as opposed to the 13 Nb1 played in M.Mrva-J.Stocek,

143

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e s
Tatranske Zruby 2004) 1 0 Bd2! Qc7 (it's too late for 1 0 ...b5 on account o f 1 1 Nxd4
exd4 12 NdS! Qd8 13 Nxe7+ Qxe7 14 Bb3 when White is better) 11 Nxd4 exd4 1 2
Ne2 b S 13 Bb3 cS 1 4 a 4 b 4 1 5 Nf4 Bb7 1 6 NhS and White, with his strong bishop on
b3 and the possibility to expand with f2-f4, has the advantage, V.Vehi Bach
E.Sanchez Jerez, Barbera del Valles 2006.
b) From the handful of games that have occurred with S ... c6, White's most popular
response has in fact been... 6 Bd3!? (Diagram 20).

Diagram 20 (B)

Diagram 21 (B)

The argument is: 'if Black can block his d-pawn by playing 4 ... Bd6, why can't
White do the same?' In fact there is some sound reasoning behind 6 Bd3. By pro
tecting the e4-pawn White is preparing to capture on d4 and follow up with Ne2.
Usually Black avoids this by playing 6 ... Nxf3+ (6 ... d6 7 Nxd4 exd4 8 Ne2 looks a
bit better for White, e.g. 8 ... c5 9 c3 dxc3 10 dxc3 Be7 1 1 c4 0-0 12 Nc3) 7 Qxf3 reach
ing a position that should be okay for Black, but he still has to be careful. For ex
ample, 7... g6 8 Qg3 d6 9 Be2! Bg7 10 d3 0-0 1 1 Kh1 dS (Y.Shabanov-A.Karpatchev,
Moscow 2001), and now I'm unsure why White refrained from playing 1 2 f4!.

6... bs
DANGEROUS WEAPON! 6 . d5? has been played a few times
and is obviously a critical response to 6 Bc4. In practice White
has failed to come up with anything convincing, but I reckon
that 6 ds? virtually loses by force!
..

...

Let's see: 7 exdS cxdS (Black has to take his chances with 7 . . .b5, although 8 Bb3
Bg4 9 Qe1 ! looks good for White), and now I really like the piece sacrifice 8 NxdS!

(Diagram 21).

144

Deny i n g B l a c k h i s F u n
I think this move i s virtually decisive (in any case i t must be stronger than 8 Nxd4
dxc4 9 Nf3 Bd6 10 d3 Bg4, as played in M.Markovic-D.Gross, Valjevo 2000). In
deed, after 8 . . . Nxd5 9 Nxd4 exd4 10 Qh5 Black is in big trouble. For example:
10 ... Ne7 11 Qxf7+ Kd7 1 2 Rel and Black is unlikely to survive the attack after, say,
1 2 ... Qb6 13 Re6 Qc5 14 b4! Qxb4 1 5 c3!; or if 1 0 ... g5 1 1 Re1 + Be7 12 d3 Rg8 13 ReS!;
and finally 10 . . . Be6 11 Re1 (threatening to exploit the pins with 12 Rxe6+ and 12
Bxd4) 1 l . . .N f4 12 Bb5+ Ke7 13 Qg5+ winning.

TRICKY TRANSPOSITION: The position after 9 ...exd4 somehow


looks familiar to me, and I've realized that it is! It can be reached
via, of all things, the Sicilian: 1 e4 cs 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nd4 4 Bc4
e6 5 Nf3 Nf6 6 o-o ds? - a known mistake - 7 exds exds 8 Nxds!
Nxds 9 Nxd4 cxd4.
So 6 ... d5? is a move that White can look forward to, bu t Black does have a couple
of worthwhile alternatives to 6 . . .b5:
a) 6 . . . Nxf3+ 7 Qxf3 d6 is solid, but Black is usually reluctant to exchange on f3
unless he has to. White probably keeps an edge here; e.g. 8 d3 Be7 9 Bb3 0-0 1 0
Qe2! Be6 1 1 f4 exf4 1 2 Bxf4 Bxb3 13 axb3 d 5 1 4 e 5 Bc5+ 1 5 Kh1 Nd7 16 Rae1 Re8 1 7
Qg4, V.Akhmadeev-A.Afonin, Moscow 1999.
b) 6 ... d6!? is a reasonable move: 7 Nxd4 (otherwise ... Bg4 was coming) 7 ... exd4 8
Ne2 Nxe4! (8 ... c5 9 c3!) 9 Nxd4 d5 10 Bb3 Bc5 1 1 d3! Bxd4! ( 1 l . . .Nxf2? loses to 12
Qe2+ Ne4 13 c3; while ll ... Nf6?! 1 2 Re1 + forces Black into an awkward decision:
move the king or allow 12 ... Be7 13 Qe2) 12 dxe4 dxe4 13 Bg5! Qxg5 14 Qxd4 0-0 1 5
Qxe4 with a level position, K.Koegler-I. Antal, correspondence 2002.

7 Bb3 (Diagram 22)

Diagram 22 (B)

Diagram 23 (B)

145

D a n ge r o u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S

7 Nxb3
...

This is the consistent follow-up to 6 ...b5, with Black netting the two bishops. But
again there are other options:
a) White should again meet 7 . . . d6 with 8 Nxd4! exd4 9 Ne2 which should lead to
an edge; e.g. 9 ... c5 (after 9 ... Nxe4? 10 Nxd4 the threats of Re1 and Nxc6 are loom
ing) 10 d3 Be7 1 1 c3 dxc3 12 bxc3 0-0 13 Ng3 Bg4 14 f3 Bd7 1 5 d4 Be6 16 d5 Bc8 1 7
f4, T.Middelburg-K.Beaton, Groningen 1999.
b) My first impression of 7 ... a5!? was that it looked far too ambitious on Black's
part, but actually it leads to some very unclear positions:
b1) 8 Nxe5 Qe7 9 f4 (Malaniuk assesses 9 Bxf7+ Kd8 10 Nf3 Nxf3+ 1 1 Qxf3 Qxf7 12
e5 Qh5 13 exf6 Qxf3 1 4 gxf3 gxf6 1 5 d4 as an edge for White, but I admit I'm not
that convinced by this evaluation) 9 ... d6 10 Bxf7+ (10 Nf3!? also looks interesting)
10 ... Kd8 1 1 Nxc6+ Nxc6 12 Bd5 Nxd5 13 exd5 Nd4 14 d3 (Diagram 23) and White
has three pawns and a d isplaced black king to show for his piece investment,
F.Bachmann-K.Hallier, correspondence 1 986.
b2) 8 Nxd4!? exd4 9 Nxb5! cxb5 10 e5 Bb7! (10 ... Ng8? 1 1 Qf3 wins) 1 1 exf6 Qxf6 12
Qe2+ Be7 13 Qxb5 Bc6 14 Qh5 0-0 and this time it's Black who has the compensation.

8 axb3 d6
8 ... Qc7 9 d4 d6 comes to the same thing.
8 ... b4 has been largely ignored, but I don't think it can be discounted. Even so, 9
Na4 d6 (or 9 ... Nxe4 1 0 Qe2 Nf6 1 1 Nxe5 Be7 12 Re1 - planning to meet 1 2 . . . 0-0
with 13 Nxc6! - 1 2 . . . Nd5 1 3 c4 bxc3 14 bxc3 0-0 15 d4 and White enjoys the better
coordination) 10 d4! (I think White should avoid 10 Re1 c5!) 10 ... Nxe4 (10 ...Qc7 1 1
Re1 ) 1 1 Qe2 looks promising for White.

9 d4 (Diagram 24)

Diagram 24 (B)

146

Diagram 25 (B)

De nyi n g B l ack h i s F u n
Again White's only chance o f a n advantage i s t o advance in the centre. Black is
perfectly happy after 9 d3?!.

9 Qc7
...

9 . . . b4?! is less good here on account of 1 0 dxeS!.


9 . . .exd4 isn't much better and White enjoys a comfortable edge after 1 0 Nxd4 Bd7
1 1 Qf3, something which increases after 1 1 . . .Be7? 12 eS! dxeS 13 Nxc6.

10 Bg5
White isn't forced to play this move. The game A .Kveinys-Z.Gyimesi, Parnu 1996,
instead continued 1 0 Re1 Be7 1 1 Qd3 0-0 1 2 h3 a6 (12 ... b4!? may be better, and
now 13 Na4 aS 14 BgS Ba6 1S Qe3 or 13 Ne2 aS 14 Ng3 cS 1S dxeS dxeS 16 c4) 13
Ne2!? Rd8?! (13 ... Re8!) 1 4 Ng3 g6 1 S Bd2! Re8 1 6 BaS! Qb8 1 7 dxeS dxeS 18 Qc3
Bb7 19 b4 (Diagram 25) and White had Black in a real bind. The rest of the game is
well worth seeing, with White using his knight pair to great effect: 19 ... Bf8 20
Rad1 h6 21 Rd3 Bg7 22 Nd2 hS 23 Ngfl Qa7 24 Nb3 Bc8 2S Nfd2 Be6 26 NcS Nd7
27 Nxd7 Bxd7 28 Nb3 Bf8 29 Red1 Be6 30 NcS BxcS 31 bxcS Rab8 32 Rd6 Qb7 33
QxeS b4 34 Qf6 QbS 3S Bc7 Rbc8 36 Rd8 QxcS 37 BeS 1 -0.

10... Be7
10 . . .b4 can be met by 1 1 dxeS dxeS 12 Bxf6 gxf6 13 Ne2 followed by Ng3, when
White can hope to exploit Black's various structural weaknesses.

11 b41 (Diagram 26)

Diagram 26 (B)

Diagram 27 (B)

White may wish to play d4-dS and then contest the dS-square. The immediate 1 1
d S would certainly be answered by 1 1 . . .b4!, so this possibility i s ruled out.

11...exd4

147

Da ngero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
1 1 . ..0-0 1 2 Qd3 (or 1 2 dS!? Bb7 1 3 dxc6 Bxc6 1 4 Qd3 a 6 1 5 Rfd 1 ) 1 2. . . Be6 1 3 Rfcl ?!
Bc4 14 Qd2 aS! equalized for Black in the game J.Nunn-V.Malaniuk, Pardubice
1 993. But 1 3 dS looks more challenging to me; e.g. 13 ... cxd5 14 exdS Bd7 15 Ra6!
introducing ideas such as Rfa1 and NxeS followed by d5-d6.
1 1 . ..exd4 avoids those problems, but at the cost of giving up the centre.

12 Nxd4 a6 13 f4 h6 14 Bh4 0-0 15 Qd3 (Diagram 27)


White's extra space, active pieces and control of the centre promises him some
advantage, J.Nunn-J.Emms, Lloyds Bank Masters, London 1 993.

C) 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bb5 Nd4 5 0-0 Nxb5


It's hardly surprising that this has been Black's most common move - it's difficult
to resist the temptation of grabbing the bishop pair.

6 Nxb5 (Diagram 28)

Diagram 28 (B)

Diagram 29 (B)

6...c6
This is by no means forced, but it does make the most sense to me. Alternatively:
a) Of course White's e4-pawn is temporarily undefended, but 6 . . . Nxe4 is risky in
the extreme. 7 Re1 looks promising, and I also like 7 Qe2 dS 8 d3 a6 (8 ... Nf6?? 9
QxeS+ and c7 is hanging) 9 dxe4 axbS 1 0 NxeS when Black is losing a pawn.
b) After 6 . . . d6 i t's once again imperative for White to open up the centre: 7 d4!
(Diagram 29) 7 ... Nxe4!? (7 ... exd4 8 Qxd4 a6 9 Nc3 Be7 10 BgS 0-0 1 1 Rfe1 h6 12 Bh4
Be6 13 Rad1 offers White a typical edge due to his greater space and freedom of
movement, J .Gallagher-D.Lekic, Swiss League 2005) 8 Re1 (8 Qe2!?) 8 ... a6 9 Rxe4
axbS 10 dxeS Be6 1 1 BgS Qd7 1 2 exd6 Bxd6 was played in Y.Shabanov-I.Zaitsev,

148

Deny i n g B l a c k h i s F u n
Moscow 2000, and here 1 3 Nd4 0-0 1 4 Nxe6 fxe6 1 5 Qe2 would have given White a
weak e6-pawn to focus on.
c) 6 ... a6 is also possible, but after 7 Nc3 d6 8 d4! Black doesn't have an effective
way of protecting e5. So we get 8 . . . exd4 9 Qxd4 transposing to the Gallagher-Lekic
game from the previous note.

7 Nc3 d6
7 . . .Qc7 8 d4 d6 comes to the same thing.

8 d4 Qc7
White's position is very easy to play after 8 . . .exd4?! 9 Qxd4, e.g. 9 . . . Be7 10 Bf4 0-0
1 1 Rad 1 etc.
Looking at other ways to protect the e5-pawn: 8 ... Nd7 is possible but rather unde
sirable as it leaves Black with a question mark over the future of the c8-bishop;
and trading this bishop with 8 ... Bg4 9 dxe5 Bxf3 10 Qxf3 dxe5 is a further option,
but I suspect White can use his lead in development here to some effect, e.g. 1 1
Rd1 Qc7 1 2 Qg3!? g6 1 3 Be3 with the intention o f meeting 1 3. . .Bg7 with 1 4 Bc5!,
when Black must solve the problem of what to do with his king.

9 h3!? (Diagram 30)

Diagram 30 (B)

Diagram 31 (B)

9 h3 has replaced 9 Bg5 as White's main move here. After 9 Bg5 Be7 10 h3 h6 1 1
Bh4 Black demonstrated a good way to equalize i n the game E.Su tovsky
M.IIIescas Cordoba, Pamplona 1998: 1 1 . ..Nh5! 12 Bxe7 Qxe7 13 Nxe5 dxe5 14 Qxh5
exd4 1 5 Ne2 0-0 16 Nxd4 Qxe4.

9 Be7
...

If Black wants to play . . . b7-b5, now's the time to do it - before White prevents it

149

Da ngerous Wea pons: 1 e4 e S


with his next move: 9 ... bS!? 1 0 Qd3! (again w e see this idea o f rerouting the knight
to g3) 10 ... Be7 1 1 Ne2 0-0 12 Ng3 Rb8 13 b3! (Diagram 31).
The bishop is well placed on b2, and Black must do something about his e-pawn.
Now 13 ... Re8 14 Bb2 Bf8 lS Rfel aS 16 Radl (16 c4!?) 16 ... cS 17 dxeS dxeS 18 c4
bxc4 19 Qxc4 was a typical battle for control in J.Gallagher-M.Krasenkow, German
League 2003, with White's centralization just about balanced by the long-term
value of the bishops.

10 a4
I've only found a handful of games reaching this position, but White has scored
very well.

10... 0-0
lO ... aS was discussed in the illustrative game Shabanov-Kirusha. With 1 0 . . .0-0
Black shows that he is happy to allow White to gain more space with a4-aS.

11 Re1 ReB
After 1 1 ... h6 White can develop the dark-squared bishop to e3, but as we saw
against 9 ...bS a fianchetto is also possible. After 12 b3 exd4!? (or 12 ...b6 1 3 Bb2 Ba6
14 Qd2 followed by Rad l ) 13 Nxd4 QaS 14 Qd2!? QhS (the threat was l S NdS!) 1 S
Nde2 Qh4 16 Nf4 NhS 1 7 NxhS QxhS 18 Ne2 Rd8 1 9 c4! Bf6 2 0 Bb2 BgS 21 QaS
Qg6 22 Nf4! Qh7 23 NhS Qg6 24 Qc3 f6 2S Qf3 White was on top in T.Willemze
T.Mamedjarova, Hoogeveen 2006.

12 Be3
Or 12 aS h6 13 Be3 Be6 14 Qd3 (Black's a8-rook is rather tied down to the defence
of the a7-pawn, which can be attacked at any moment after dxeS or dS - this helps
to explain Black's committal response) 14 ... cS 1S NbS Qb8 16 dS Bd7 1 7 c4 (Dia
gram 32) with a healthy space advantage for White. M.Chandler-Li Ruofan, Kuala
Lumpur 2007, continued 17 ... a6 18 Nc3 bS 19 axb6 aS (19 ... Qxb6 is met by 20 b4!
intending 20 ...Qxb4?? 21 Rebl) 20 Ra2 Bd8 21 Real Bxb6 22 Nd2 Re7 23 Nb3 and
Black was facing problems over his vulnerable aS-pawn.

12 ... Bf8 13 aS g6 14 Qd2 NhS 15 Bh6 (Diagram 33)


The trade of dark-squared bishops benefits White: Black will lose one of his prize
bishops and the remaining one is unable to offer any protection to the dark
squares on the kingside.
We have been following the game Y.Shabanov-K.Igudesman, Pardubice 1 998.
White is a bit better here, one of the reasons being that Black has still not found a
useful role for the c8-bishop. The remainder of the game is worth seeing, with
White slowly building up his advantage before crashing through Black's weak
ened kingside: 1S ... Bxh6 1 6 Qxh6 Nf4 1 7 Ne2 Nxe2+ 18 Rxe2 f6 19 Qd2 Be6 20 Re3
Rad8 21 Qc3 cS? (21 ...Rd7!) 22 b4! Rc8 23 bxcS Bf7 24 Rbl Kg7 2S Qb2 exd4 26 cxd6
Qxd6 27 Nxd4 Re7 28 Nf3 ReS 29 Rbe1 RxaS 30 eS! fxeS 31 NxeS Qb6 32 Qc3 ReS
33 Nc4+ 1 -0.

1 50

Deny i n g B l a c k h i s F u n

Diagram 3 2 (B)

Diagram 33 (B)

Conclusion
While it's true that 5 0-0 doesn't appear at first sight to be too threatening, I'm
convinced it's a viable try for an advantage. It certainly prevents Black from play
ing in his normal gambit style - a major practical consideration - and there are
some problems for him to solve in the main line with 5 ... Nxb5. Black can also play
5 . . .c6, which looks reasonable, although here he must avoid falling into the trap 6
Bc4 d5? 7 exd5 cxd5 8 Nxd5!.

151

C h a pter Ei g ht

Livening u p the
Three Knights and Scotch
1 e4 e s 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 g6!? (Diagram 1) and 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 g6!?

Diagram 1 {W)
Those wanting to reach complex positions at all costs with Black are often left dis
appointed when facing 3 Nc3. True, the Spanish Four Knights (3 ... Nc6 4 Bb5) can
be answered by 4 . . . Nd4! . But there's always a worry that a spoilsport will wheel

1 52

Live n i n g u p t h e Th ree K n i ghts a n d Scotch


out the tedious line 5 Nxd4 exd4 6 e5 dxc3 7 exf6 Qxf6 8 dxc3 Qe5+ 9 Qe2 - a tacit
draw offer which Black can only decline if he is happy to grind away in a fairly
lifeless ending.
One way to avoid this possibility is to choose 3 ... g6! ? (Diagram 1). The attraction of
the fianchetto is not hard to see: if Black is allowed another move then ... Bg7
clamps down on the centre and makes it very difficult for White to arrange d2-d4.
Another positive is that the sting is completely taken out of 4 Bb5, as Black can
simply defend e5 with 4 ... Bg7 and follow up with . . . Nge7, . 0-0 and . . . d7-d6, be
fore possibly attacking on the kingside with the desirable break . . . f7-f5. Generally
speaking, if Black is able to develop in this manner, a full-blooded battle should
follow in which White won't be able to simplify the position like he can in many
lines of the Four Knights.
..

All good news so far, but in truth the reputation of 3 . . . g6 lives or dies by the
evaluation of the positions arising after White's most natural move, 4 d4. Gener
ally, theory has assessed this to be better for White, but I'm not totally convinced.
And in any case the positions reached are certainly complex enough to reward
those playing Black who are well prepared, even if it does turn out that White has
a so-called theoretical edge. In the following game, for example, Black crushes an
international master in just 17 moves, with White being left totally bamboozled by
the complications.
D V.Siovineanu C.Santos

Panormo 2001
1 e4 e S 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 g6 4 d4
This is by far the most popular choice, according to my database nearly five times
more common than the next on the list (4 Bc4). It's easy to understand why, given
that other fourth moves for White (d iscussed in the theory section) allow Black to
prevent d2-d4, at least for the time being, with ... Bg7.

4...exd4 5 Nxd4
5 Nd5 is a serious al ternative for White (see the theory section).

s ... Bg7 6 Be3 Nf6


6... Nge7 is also possible, but with 6 ... Nf6 Black ambitiously plans to create pressure against White's e4-pawn.

7 Qd2
Playing in 'Yugoslav Attack' style, as if facing the Dragon Sicilian or the Larsen
Variation of the Philidor, is very tempting and has been played many times by
strong players.

7 0-0 8 0-0-0 ReB I


..

8 ... d6 would directly transpose to the Larsen Variation of the Philidor.

153

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S

9 f3 dSI (Diagram 2)

Diagram 2 (W}

Diagram 3 (W}

This is the point! 9 ... d6 would again reach the Larsen Variation, but instead Black
borrows an idea from the Accelerated Dragon (1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4
g6 5 Nc3 Bg7 6 Be3 Nf6 7 f3?! 0-0 8 Qd2 d5!) to reach a kind of Accelerated Larsen!
Of course the 8 ... d5 advance in the Accelerated Dragon virtually kills off that line
for White (he must play an early Bc4 to avoid it). Here 9 ... d5 doesn't have quite
the same impact, but it's still critical and, in my opinion, more difficult for White
to face than 9 ... d6.

10 Bb S
White can also play 1 0 exd5 or 1 0 Nxc6 (see later), but pinning the c6-knight is
what White has chosen to do most often.

10 Bd7! 11 exds Nxd4 12 Bxd4 Bxbs 13 Nxbs Qxdsl (Diagram 3)


...

If this move didn't work, the whole line would be unplayable. But I think this ex
change sacrifice is quite sound.

14 Nxc7 Qxa2 15 c3!


15 b3?? loses to 1 5 ... Rec8! 16 Nxa8 Bh6!.

15 Rec81
...

15 ... b5 16 Nxa8 b4 1 7 Rhe1 Rxa8 gave Black some attacking chances in I.YagupovE.Vasiukov, Moscow 1 996. But Yagupov's suggested 16 Nxe8! Rxe8 1 7 Rde1 !, in
tending to run with Kd1 -e2-f2, looks like a good idea for White.

16 NxaB?I
This is tempting of course, but it seems to me that 16 Bxf6 is safer, although even
here Black can stir things up (see note 'b'):

154

Live n i n g u p t h e Th ree K n i ghts a n d Scotch


a) 16 ... Rxc7 1 7 Bxg7 Kxg7 18 Qd4+ Kg8 19 Rhe1 Rac8 was equal and soon drawn in
V.Malakhov- E. Geller, St Petersburg 1 994.
b) If Black wants to keep things going he can try 16 . . . Bxf6!?, answering 17 Nxa8
with 17 ...b5! (Diagram 4).

Diagram 4 (W)

Diagram 5 (W)

Black is a whole rook down, but ... b4 is in the air and it's not at all easy for White
to consolidate.

DANGEROUS WEAPON I There are some nice winning lines for


Black; for example, 18 Rhe1? b41 19 Qd7 Rxc3+! 20 bxc3 b3
and White's two extra rooks are not enough to prevent mate.
Or 18 Qd5? Qa1+ 19 Kc2 and now Black mates with 19...Rxc3+!
20 bxc3 Qxc3+ 21 Kb1 Qb2.
White can only stay in the game with 18 Kc2!. After 18 ... Bxc3 (18 ...b4!? 19 Ra1 Qe6)
19 Qxc3 Rxc3+ 20 Kxc3 Qc4+ 21 Kd2 Qd5+ 22 Kcl Qxa8 the endgame shou ld
probably be drawn, but maybe Black can push a li ttle here.

16 ... Nd5! (Diagram 5)


Ignoring the knight in the corner, Black presses on with the attack. White has to be
very careful now.

17 Bxg7??
17 Qc2?? also loses: 17 ... Bh6+! 18 Rd2 Nb4 19 Qb1 Qb3! 20 f4 Na2+ 21 Qxa2 Qxa2
22 Kc2 Rxa8 23 Rhd 1 Bxf4 and White resigned, Z.Jovanovic-I.Khmelniker, Par
dubice 2007.

155

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
The only way to avoid defeat i s with 1 7 b4! Qa1 + 1 8 Kc2. Now Black can either
take the perpetual on offer with 18 ...Qa2+ 19 Kcl Qa1 + 20 Kc2 Qa2+, or try for
more with 18 . . . Qa4+!? 19 Kb2 (19 Kd3?? loses to 19 ... Bxd4 20 Kxd4 Qb3 21 Qd3
Nf4) 19 ... Nxc3! 20 Qxc3 (20 Bxc3?? Qxb4+) 20 ... Rxc3 21 Kxc3 aS! when White still
has to be careful, for example 22 Bxg7 Kxg7 23 Kd3 QbS+ 24 Ke3 a4! etc.

17 ... Qa1+1 0-1


A dramatic end. Black's remaining pieces combine to deliver mate after 18 Kc2
Nb4+ 19 Kb3 Qa2+! 20 Kxb4 Rc4+ 21 KbS Qa4.

,Jjj DANGEROUS WEAPON! White's first 14 moves of this game


were very natural, and yet he found himself in a tricky position
where it was easy to make a fatal mistake. This is a sign of a
good practical weapon for Black.

Looking a Little Deeper


1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3
TRICKY TRANSPOSITION: If Black makes 3 ...g6 his choice against
the Three Knights, he could consider 'doubling up' by playing 3
d4 exd4 4 Nxd4 g6!? (Diagram 6), which would offer an extra
option against the Scotch.

Diagram 6 (W)

Diagram 7 (W)

This sounds very feasible given that in practice the majority of White players go 5
Nc3 here (or 5 Be3 Bg7 6 Nc3}, simply transposing back to our main line. In any
case alternatives are not overly threatening to Black:
a) 5 Nxc6 bxc6 6 Qd4!? should be met by 6 ... Qf6; for example, 7 eS (7 Qxf6 Nxf6 8

156

L i ve n i n g u p t h e Th ree K n i ghts a n d Scotch


Nc3 d6 is equal) 7 ... Qe6 8 Bd3 f6! 9 f4 Bg7 10 0-0 Ne7 11 exf6 Bxf6 1 2 Qb4 aS,
D.Koestinger-S.Djuric, Lucerne 1999.
b) S Bc4 Bg7 6 Nxc6 bxc6 7 0-0 Ne7 8 Nc3 d6 followed by . . . 0-0 and possibly ... Be6
looks playable for Black.
c) After S c4 Black must be prepared to play King's Indian-style positions with
...exd4. That said, most opponents playing 1 e4 wouldn't necessarily be overly keen
on playing King's Indian positions themselves, which probably helps to explain
why S c4 is rare. Also, Black might be able to exploit the fact he hasn't yet moved his
d-pawn. For example, S ... Bg7 6 Be3 (6 Nb3 aS!? 7 a3 d6 8 Nc3 Nf6 9 Bd3 0-0 10 0-0
Nd7 1 1 Be3 a4 12 Nd2 NcS left Black well coordinated in H.Nakamura
E.Perelshteyn, New York 2001) 6... Nf6 7 Nc3 0-0 (or 7... Ng4!? 8 Qxg4 Nxd4 9 Qd1
and now perhaps 9 ... cS 10 Bd3 0-0 11 0-0 d6 followed by ... Be6) 8 Be2 Re8 9 f3. Now
9 ... d6 1 0 0-0 NhS transposes directly into the Glek Variation of the King's Indian, but
Black can also consider accelerating the ... NhS-f4 idea with 9 ... NhS 10 0-0 Nf4!?.

3 g6 (Diagram 7) 4 d4
...

Here's a summary of the alternatives:


a) 4 Bc4 is a sensible developing move, but now Black is able to get that grip on
the d4-square: 4 . . . Bg7 S d3 Nge7 6 NdS!? (6 0-0 0-0 7 Be3 d6 8 h3 NaS forces the
trade of White's light-squared bishop, after which Black aims for an eventual ... fS;
while 7 a3 d6 8 Be3 Nd4 clamps down on the d4-square) 6 . . . NxdS 7 BxdS (7 exdS
Ne7) 7 ...0-0 8 BgS Qe8 9 Qd2 d6 10 h3 Be6 1 1 Bxe6 Qxe6 12 Bh6 dS was comfort
able for Black in D.Bronstein-O.Romanishin, Vilnius 197S.
b) 4 h4! ? (Diagram B) is an interesting attempt to disrupt Black's development.
4 ... Nf6 is a logical response, bu t I also don't see a problem with encouraging the
pawn forward: 4 ...Bg7!? S hS d6 and now 6 Bc4 Bg4!, or 6 d3 Nge7 7 h6 Bf6 8 Be3
dS!, both look okay for Black.

Diagram 8 (B)

Diagram 9 (B)

157

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
c) 4 Nd5 Bg7 5 c3 ( 5 d 4 exd4 transposes to Line A below) 5 ... Nce7! 6 Ne3 Nf6 7 d3
d6 8 g3 b6 9 Qa4+ Bd7 1 0 Qc2 c5 1 1 a4 0-0 12 Bg2 Bc6 with an equal position,
B.Kurajica-A.Beliavsky, Novi Sad 1979.
d) Playing as in the Spanish Four Knights with 4 Bb5 (Diagram 9) is harmless here:
4 ... Bg7 5 0-0 Nge7 6 d3 0-0 7 Be3 d6 (7 ... Nd4!?) 8 h3 (8 d4 Bg4) 8 . . . Nd4 and Black
can plan for either . . . d5 or . . .f5, F.Terzian-H.Camara, Nova Fribu rgo 1980.

4...exd4
Now we will look at two moves for White:

A: 5 Nd517
B: 5 Nxd4
A) 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 g6 4 d4 exd4 5 Nd5!? (Diagram 10)

Diagram 10 (B)

Diagram 11 (W)

This is a very tricky move, and B lack must tread carefully.

5 ...Bg7 6 Bg5 Nce71


Blocking the g7-bishop with 6 ... f6?! looks ugly, and White must be better after 7
Bf4 d6 8 Nxd4.
By retreating the c6-knight to e7, Black is ready to d isturb White's knight on d5 by
playing . . .c6. It's vital to get rid of this annoying piece, and in any case...

BEWARE! 6 ... Nge7?? loses, and its refutation is worth


remembering: 7 Nxd41 Bxd4 8 Qxd4!! Nxd4 9 Nf6+ Kf8 10 Bh6
mate I Don't become a victim of this miniature!

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7 Nxd4
White's normal move, although he isn' t forced to recapture on d4. For example:
a) 7 Qd2 h6 8 Bh4 c6 9 Nxe7 Nxe7 10 Nxd4 transposes to the main line.
b) 7 Bc4 c6 8 Nxe7 Nxe7 9 0-0 h6 10 Bh4 0-0 11 Nxd4 d5 12 exd5 g5 13 Bg3 Nxd5 is
roughly equal, K.Honfi-C.Radovici, Kecskemet 1 962.
c) Against 7 e5!? Black should reply 7 . . . h6! (Diagram 11). White must simplify to
some extent: 8 Bxe7 (8 Bf6?! Bxf6 9 Nxf6+ Nxf6 1 0 exf6 Nc6 1 1 Qd2 Qxf6 1 2 0-0-0
Kf8! followed by . . . Kg7) 8 ... Nxe7 9 Qxd4 Nxd5 10 Qxd5 0-0 1 1 0-0-0 d6! (Black of
fers a pawn to free both his bishops) 12 Bc4 (12 exd6 Be6 13 Qa5 Qf6! is promising
for Black, e.g. 14 c3 cxd6 1 5 Qa4 Rfc8 16 Rxd6 b5 17 Bxb5 Rxc3+ 18 bxc3 Qxc3+ 19
Kd1 Qa1 + 20 Ke2 Qxh1, J.Kwasniewski-R.Grabczewski, Lublin 1969) 12 . . . Be6
(12 ... Bxe5 1 3 Nxe5 Qg5+ 14 Qd2 Qxd2+ 15 Rxd2 dxe5 1 6 Re1 Re8 17 Rde2 Bd7 18
Rxe5 Kf8 was dead equal in E.Mnatsakanian-G.Ravinsky, Leningrad 1957) 13 Qe4
Re8 1 4 Rhe1 Qd7 with level chances, L.Hanke-C.Werner, Badenweiler 1985.

7 c6 8 Nxe7
...

Both 8 Nf4?? and 8 Ne3?? drop the bishop after 8 ... Qa5+, but 8 Nc3 has been
played quite a few times. After 8 ...h6 White has tried three bishop retreats:
a) 9 Bh4 d5! 1 0 exd5 Qb6! 1 1 Nb3 Qb4! hits both c3 and h4. Black is doing well
here, for example 12 Bxe7 Nxe7 1 3 Qd2 Bxc3 14 bxc3 Qe4+ 15 Be2 Qxg2 16 0-0-0
Qxd5, M.Czerniak-Y.Porat, Netanya 196 1 .
b ) 9 Bf4 d5 1 0 Qd2 Nf6! 1 1 0-0-0 Nxe4 1 2 Nxe4 dxe4 1 3 Bc4 N f5! 1 4 Nb3 Qxd2+ 1 5
Nxd2 b 5 and it's White who is trying t o equalize, H.Lehmann-P.Keres, Hamburg
1960.
c) 9 Be3 (Diagram 12) has been the most common choice for White.

Diagram 12 (B)

Diagram 13 (W)

159

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S

BEWARE! 9 ...ds?! looks natural, but 10 exds Nxds 1 1 Nxds


Qxds 12 NbS!! (I.Ney-Helle, Finland 1968) is a very strong
answer by White.
The problem is that 12 . . .Qxd 1 + 13 Rxd1 cxbS? runs into big trouble after 14 BxbS+
Ke7 1 5 BcS+ Ke6 1 6 Bc4+, when Black's king is caught in the crossfire. Something
has to give; for example, 16 ... Kf5 sees Black's king coming to a sticky end after 1 7
RdS+ Ke4 (if 1 7. . .Ke6 1 8 Kd2! and Rei+; o r 1 7. . . Kf6 1 8 Bd4+) 18 f3+ Kf4 1 9 g3+ Kxf3
20 0-0+ Kg4 21 Rf4+ Kh3 22 Bfl mate.
In view of this, 9 . . . Nf6! is a much safer way for Black to play, and it looks very rea
sonable: 10 Bc4 (10 Qd2 dS 1 1 exdS NexdS 12 0-0-0 Nxe3 13 Qxe3+ Qe7 holds no
fears for Black) 1 0 ...0-0 1 1 Qf3? (a mistake, although 1 1 eS Ne8! 12 Qd2 dS 13 exd6
Nxd6 14 Bb3 NefS 15 NxfS NxfS was still a bit better for Black in U.Tarva-P.Keres,
Parnu 1 971 ) 1 l . . .d5! 1 2 exdS cS! (Diagram 13) and White is in real trouble because
of his unsafe queen. E.Gufeld-T.Petrosian, USSR Ch., Moscow 1 969, continued 13
NdbS (13 Nde2 Bg4 1 4 Qf4 gS 1 5 QeS Nh5 1 6 Qe4 BfS 1 7 Qf3 g4, as given by Petro
sian, traps the queen) 13 . . . a6 14 d6 (14 Na3 Bg4) 14 ... Nf5 1 5 Nc7 Nxd6! 16 0-0-0
(after 16 Nxa8 Nxc4 White is unlikely to save his knight on a8, but this was a bet
ter try) 16 . . .Qxc7 1 7 Bf4 Bg4 and Black won.

8... Nxe7 9 Qd2


'-:..a
.

DANGEROUS WEAPON! 9 Bc4?? loses a piece to 9 ... Qa5+! 10


Bd2 Qcs.

'

9...h6 10 Bh4
10 Be3 dS 1 1 exdS NxdS 12 0-0-0 Nxe3 13 Qxe3+ Qe7 is okay for Black. Following
14 Qxe7+ Kxe7 1 5 Bc4 Rd8 16 Rhe1+ Kf8 1 7 c3 Bd7 there is nothing wrong with his
position, and he might well be able to take advantage of his bishop pair in the
long run.

10...d5 11 o-o-o! (Diagram 14)


The critical move, against which Black must act carefully. Black enjoyed an edge
after 1 1 exdS?! gS ( 1 1 . . .Qxd5 12 Bxe7 Qxd4 is also slightly better for Black) 12 Bg3
Qxd5 13 c3 0-0 14 Nb3 aS in H.Karlsson-E.Geller, Reykjavik 1 986.

11...0-0
1 l ...g5!? 1 2 Bg3 dxe4 has been played more often, and here White's initiative after
13 Qe3 (Diagram 15) must be taken seriously:
a) 13 ... Qb6 14 Qxe4! is good for White. The point is that 14 ... Bf5? can be answered
very effectively by 15 Qxe7+! Kxe7 16 NxfS+ Ke8 (or 16 . . . Kf8 17 Bd6+ Kg8 18 Ne7+
Kh7 19 Bd3+ and mate next move) 17 Nxg7+ when White's three minor pieces out-

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class the black queen, G.Kovalenko-A.Gorelikov, correspondence 1978. Instead,
14 . . . f5 appears to trap the g3-bishop, but after 15 Qe2! f4 (15 ... Bxd4 16 Rxd4 Qxd4
1 7 BeS QdS 18 Bxh8 Qxa2 19 QhS+ Kd7 20 Qxh6 is good for Whi te) 16 QhS+ Kf8 1 7
Bc4 N d S 18 Rhe1 Bd7 (Blatny) 1 9 Bxf4! gxf4 2 0 Re4, Black is corning under a fierce
attack.

Diagram 14 (B)

Diagram 15 (B)

b) 13 ...Qa5! looks like the move Black should play: 14 Bd6 (14 Bc4 Qb4 15 Be2 0-0
16 a3 Qb6 1 7 Qxe4 NfS! favoured Black in A .Vinokurov-V.Kozlov, Riazan 1975; 1 4
a3 0-0 1 5 Qxe4 NfS also seems fine for Black) 1 4 . . .Qxa2 1 5 Qxe4 (15 Bxe7 Kxe7 16
Qxe4+ Kf8 - Blatny - is better for Black) 1 5 . . . Be6 (after 1 5 . . . Qa1 + 1 6 Kd2 QaS+
White might well agree to a perpetual check with 17 Kcl Qa1 +, since 1 7 c3 Qd8
looks satisfactory for Black) 1 6 Bxe7 Bxd4! 17 Ba3?? (after 1 7 Qxd4 Kxe7 White
shoul d take the perpetual check with 18 Qd6+ Kf6 19 Qd4+ Ke7 20 Qd6+) 17 ... Bc3!
(Diagram 16) 18 bxc3 Qxa3+ 19 Kd2 0-0-0+ 20 Bd3 and Black has a winning advan
tage, T.Stanciu-J.Barle, Bucharest 1 976.
If this all holds up, and I don' t see a reason why it shouldn't, then 1 l .. .g5 offers a
good, fighting alternative to the text.

12 exds
12 Qe3 should be met by 12 ... Re8!.

12 ...gs
Accepting the IQP is also interesting, as Black's bishop on g7 ensures that he ob
tains enough counterplay on the queenside. For example, 1 2 ... cxd5!? 1 3 Qb4 ReS
14 BbS Bd7 1 5 Rhe1 g5 16 Bg3 Nc6 1 7 Rxe8+ Qxe8 1 8 Bxc6 bxc6 1 9 Re1 Qc8 20 Nb3
aS 21 QcS a4 22 Nd4 a3, F.Cleto-J.Goncalves, correspondence 1 993.

13 Bg3 Qxds 14 c4 (Diagram 17)

161

Dangero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
Now:

Diagram 16 (W)

Diagram 17 (B)

a) 14 ...Qe4 1 5 f3 Qg6 16 Bd3 Qf6 1 7 Rhe1 Ng6 18 Bxg6 Qxg6 19 Be5 was a touch
better for White in H.Jonkman-M.Krasenkow, Wijk aan Zee 2002.
b) 14 ...Qxd4 is safer, and 15 Qxd4 Bxd4 16 Rxd4 Nf5 1 7 Rd2 Nxg3 18 hxg3 Kg7 19
Be2 Re8 20 Rhd 1 ReS 21 Kc2 Bf5+ was equal in K.Fahrner-G.Ciolac, Werfen 1991 .
c) If Black wishes to keep the tension for a bit longer, then 14 ...Qd7!? preparing
... Rd8 is certainly worth considering. For example, 15 h4 (15 Qe3 Rd8!, or 15 f3
Rd8 16 Bf2 Qc7!) 15 ... Rd8 1 6 Nb3 Qxd2+ 17 Rxd2 Rxd2 18 Nxd2 Nf5! and after an
exchange on g3 Black can hope to make use of his bishop pair in the endgame.

B) 1 e4 es 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 g6 4 d4 exd4 5 Nxd4 Bg7 6 Be3 (Diagram 18)


6 Nxc6 bxc6 offers Black counterplay with his g7-bishop plus the opportunity to
use the half-open b-file, rather like in g3 Vienna lines, but with colours reversed .
After 7 Bc4 Black could continue with ... Ne7, . . . d6, . . .0-0 etc, but in H.Reefschlager
M.Steinbacher, German League 1 994, Black went for a more Dangerous Weapons
approach with 7 . . .Qh4!? (Diagram 19).
The game continued 8 Qf3 Nf6 9 Bf4 0-0 10 0-0 (10 Bxc7 d5!?) 10 . . . d6 1 1 h3 Nd7! 12
Qe3 Qh5 13 Be2 Qc5! with good play for Black.
The only other move that has been played with any seriousness is 6 Nde2, protect
ing c3 and planning to develop with g2-g3 and Bg2. This shouldn't cause Black to
worry unduly, and I particularly like the plan used in Ligterink-Donner, Amster
dam/Drachten 1982: 6 . . . Nf6 7 g3 0-0 8 Bg2 d6 9 0-0 Nd7!? 10 b3 Nc5 1 1 Bb2 f5! 12
exf5 Bxf5 1 3 Rb1 Qd7 1 4 Nd5 Bxb2 1 5 Rxb2 Rae8 when Black's pieces were on
very active squares.

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Liven i n g u p t h e T h ree K n i ghts a n d Scotch

Diagram 18 (B)

Diagram 19 (W)

6 ... Nf6 7 Qd2


This is the move to play if White is going for the standard attack against the fi
anchettoed bishop, just as in the Dragon, Pirc etc. But quite a few alternatives have
been played, the most important of which is covered in note 'e'.
a) After 7 Bc4 0-0 8 0-0 Black should hit the e4-pawn straightaway with 8 ... Re8. For
exam ple, 9 Re1 d6! (it's premature to grab the e4-pawn with 9 ... Nxe4?!, on account
of 10 Nxe4 Rxe4 1 1 Bxf7+! intending 1 l .. . Kxf7? 12 Qf3+ Qf6 13 Qxe4 Nxd4 14 Bxd4
Qxd4 1S Qe8+ Kf6 16 Qe7+ KfS 17 Rad 1 ) 10 f3 a6 11 Nxc6 bxc6 12 Qd2 Be6 13 Bxe6
Rxe6 14 Rad1 Nd7 1 S b3 Qb8! 16 Ne2 Qb7 1 7 Bd4 BeS 18 Qc3 Rae8 with equal
chances, Hort-Keres, Moscow 1 963. Just like in the Dragon Sicilian, the idea of Be3
and f2-f3 doesn' t really fit in with kingside castling.
b) 7 Be2 is quiet and absolutely harmless. Black again has a straightforward plan
of hitting the e4-pawn: 7 ... 0-0 8 0-0 Re8! 9 Nxc6 (9 f3 should be met by 9 ... dS!, and
9 Bf3 by 9 ... NeS! ) 9 ... bxc6 10 Bf3 Bb7 1 1 Qd2 d6 12 Bh6?! (Milic suggests 12 Rad1 or
12 Bf4) 12 ... Bxh6 13 Qxh6 ReS! 14 Rael cS 1S Re3 Qe7 16 Rfe1 Re8 (Diagram 20)
when the pressure on e4 promised Black an edge in B.Spassky-B.Larsen, Malmo
1968.
c) 7 g3 0-0 8 Bg2 NeS!? (more active and stronger than 8 ... d6 - Black still has ambi
tions of playing . . . dS in one jump) 9 h3 Nc4! 10 Bel Re8 1 1 0-0 c6! 12 b3 Nb6 13 Bb2
dS! 14 exdS NfxdS 1 S NxdS NxdS with no problems for Black, J.Benjamin
R.Henley, New York 1977. In fact White has to be careful about the pressure on
the diagonal, and in the game Black gradually gained the advantage after 16 Qcl
QaS 1 7 c4 Nf6 1 8 Bc3 Qb6 1 9 Qb2 Ne4! 20 Rfe1 BfS 21 Bxe4 Bxe4 22 Re3 Rad8 23
NbS Bh6 24 Bd4 Rxd4 2S Nxd4 Bxe3 26 fxe3 Qc7.

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D a n g e ro u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
d) 7 f3 0-0 8 Qd2 transposes to the note to White's 8th move. Trying to prevent
... dS by playing 8 Bc4 ReB and only then 9 Qd2 (Diagram 21) doesn't succeed in i ts
aim: 9 ... dS! (9 ... NaS 1 0 Be2 dS! is also good) 1 0 Nxc6! (captures on dS are disas
trous: 10 exdS Nxd4 1 1 Qxd4 Ng4, or 10 NxdS NxdS 1 1 BxdS Nxd4 12 Bxd4 QxdS)
10 ...bxc6 1 1 0-0-0 Qe7 12 Bb3 dxe4 13 fxe4 Be6 with excellent counterplay for
Black.

Diagram 20 (W)

Diagram 21 (B)

e) 7 Nxc6!? is White's most dangerous alternative, but only if followed up after


7 ...bxc6 by 8 eS! forcing the black knight away (8 Bc4 0-0 9 0-0 Re8 holds no fears
for Black). Black should reply 8 ... Ng8 (some have tried the pawn sacrifice 8 ... NdS
9 NxdS cxdS 10 QxdS Rb8 1 1 0-0-0 0-0, but it's not easy to see where Black's com
pensation is coming from after 12 c3) and now White has tried all three of the ob
vious ways to protect eS:
e1) 9 Bf4 Qe7 10 Qe2 Rb8! 1 1 b3 ( 1 1 0-0-0? is met by 1 1 ...Qb4! hitting f4 and b2)
1 1 . ..d6! (exploiting the unprotected knight on c3) 12 0-0-0 dxeS 13 Bg3
(A.Felsberger-H .Baumgartner, Austrian League 1 996) and now just 13 ... Nh6 fol
lowed by ... 0-0 looks good for Black.
e2) 9 Bd4 Qe7 (9 ... f6 10 exf6 Nxf6 11 Qe2+ Kf7!? 12 0-0-0 dS followed by ... Re8 is an
option for those looking to avoid the exchange of queens) 10 Qe2 f6 1 1 exf6 Nxf6
leads to a queenless middlegame which theory has assessed as slightly better for
White, although in practice Black has not fared badly from this position. 12 0-0-0
Qxe2 13 Bxe2 Kf7 1 4 Rhe1 d6! (14... dS 1 S BeS!) 1 S Bf3 Bd7 1 6 Ne4 Rhe8 1 7 b3 aS
(Diagram 22) was played in D.Marciano-V.Popov, Paris 1 996, and it looks like
Black has solved his problems. Indeed, he went on to win after 18 Nxf6 Bxf6 19
Rxe8 Rxe8 20 Kb2 cS 21 BdS+ Kg7 22 Bxf6+ Kxf6 23 Rd3 Bg4 24 h3 Be2! 2S Rc3 gS
26 Ka3 ReS 27 Bc6 RfS 28 f3 Bfl 29 g4 Rf4 30 Re3 Bxh3 31 Be4 Bg2 32 Ka4?? dS! 0-1 .

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Diagram 22 (W)

Diagram 23 (W)

e3) 9 f4!? is White's most ambitious move, against which Black's safest reply is
9 ... d6. Instead 9 .. . f6 10 Qd2! fxeS 11 fxeS BxeS 12 0-0-0 is known to give White ex
cellent compensation for the pawn, and I can't even recommend this as a ' roll the
dice' option. However, the flexible 9 ... Ne7 looks like a reasonable alternative.
M .Palac-J.Barle, Geneva 1999, continued 10 Bc5!? 0-0 1 1 Bc4 d6! 12 exd6, and here I
think Black should try 1 2 ... N f5!, not fearing 1 3 d7 Bxd7 14 Bxf8? on account of
14 ...Qh4+!.
Returning to 9 ... d6 (Diagram 23), White has a choice of moves. For example:
e31 ) 10 Bc4 Nh6 (f5 will be a good square for the knight; 10 . . . Ne7!? has the same
idea but with the advantage of protecting c6) 1 1 Qf3 0-0!? 12 0-0 (12 Qxc6 Bd7 13
Qf3 Bg4 1 4 Qf2 Be6 offers Black some play for the pawn) 1 2 ...Nf5 1 3 Bf2 dxe5 14
fxeS BxeS 1 5 Rad1 (B.Podlesnik-D.De Val, Nova Gorica 1999) when White has
some compensation for the pawn, but nothing particularly concrete after 1 5 ... Qf6
16 Ne4 Qe7 1 7 Bc5 Nd6.
e32) 10 Qf3 Ne7 1 1 0-0-0 0-0 12 Bc5!? Nd5 (12 ... Be6!?) 13 Nxd5 cxd5 1 4 exd6 and
now instead of 14 ... c6 1 5 Qa3 Rb8 16 c3, which was better for White in G.Jones
F.Castaldo, Italian League 2004, Black cou ld consider 14 . . . Rb8, e.g. 1 5 c3 cxd6 16
Bd4 (or 1 6 Qxd5 Be6 1 7 Qxd6 Qa5) 1 6 . . .Qa5 1 7 a3 Bf5 18 Bxg7 Be4! 1 9 Qf2 Kxg7 20
Bd3 Rb3 (Diagram 24).
In many cases, such as this one, Black enjoys sufficient counterplay on the queen
side against White's king to make up for his inferior pawn structure.
e33) 10 exd6 in my opinion liquidates too soon, and 10 ... cxd6 1 1 Qd2 Ne7
( 1 1 . ..Nf6!?) 12 0-0-0 0-0! looks fine for Black. Now 13 Be2?! (13 Qxd6 Qxd6 14 Rxd6
Bxc3! 15 bxc3 Nf5 16 Rd3 Ba6 wins material; best is 13 Bd4! Bxd4 14 Qxd4 Bg4,

165

D a n gerous Wea po n s : 1 e4 e S
which looks level) 1 3 ... Nf5 1 4 Bf2 Qa5 1 5 g4 Rb8! 1 6 Bc4 ( 1 6 gxf5 Rxb2!) 1 6 ... d5 1 7
Bb3 Nd6 (Diagram 25) reached a d ream position for Black i n M.Hennigan
F.Rayner, Wrexham 1994: his pieces are active and he has an obvious plan of at
tack. The game continued 18 Rhg1 Rb4 19 Rde1 Nc4 20 Qd3 Ba6 21 Qg3 d4 22 Nbl
and here 22 . . . d3! would have been decisive, as 23 c3 loses to 23 ... Rxb3 24 axb3 d2+
25 Nxd2 Qa1+.

Diagram 24 (W)

Diagram 25 (W)

7 0-0 8 0-0-0
...

8 f3 is sometimes played (maybe ou t of fear of ... Ng4). In this case the obvious an
swer is 8 ... d5! and now:
a) 9 0-0-0 ReB reaches the main line, while 9 . . . Nxd4 10 Bxd4 dxe4 1 1 fxe4 Be6 and
9 ... dxe4 10 Nxc6 Qxd2+ 1 1 Rxd2 bxc6 12 fxe4 Re8 both look like reasonable alter
natives for Black.
b) 9 Nxc6 bxc6 10 0-0-0 Re8! transposes to note 'a' to White's l Oth move.

8...Re8 (Diagram 26)


I'm not keen on Black's position after 8 ... Ng4 9 Bg5! f6 (9 ... Bf6 10 Nxc6 bxc6 1 1
Bxf6 Qxf6 1 2 f3 Ne5 1 3 f4 looks good for White too) 1 0 Bf4, or 1 0 Nxc6 bxc6 1 1 B4.

9 f3
9 Nxc6 bxc6 1 0 Bg5 Rb8 1 1 Re1 d6 (or 1 1 .. .Qe7!? planning to answer 1 2 e5 with
12 ... Qb4!) 12 Bc4 Be6 13 Bb3 Qc8 14 Kb1 c5! gave Black typical counterplay in
I.Abdelnabbi-J.Nikolac, Bahrain 1 990.
9 Bd3 should also be answered by 9 ... d5.
g ...d51 10 Bb5

White has some important alternatives here:

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a) 10 Nxc6 bxc6 11 Bh6 (Diagram 27) is given as +/= by ECO, bu t I'm not totally
convinced by this assessment: 1 1 . . .Bh8! (Black should keep his prize asset if possi
ble! 1 l ...Be6 12 Bxg7 Kxg7 13 exd5 Bxd5 14 Bd3 was a bit better for White in
V.Malakhov-L.Zsinka, Oberwart 1999) 12 exd5 (or 12 Bc4 Be6 13 Bb3 Qe7) and
now:

Diagram 26 (W)

Diagram 27 (B)

a 1 ) 12 ... cxd5!? 1 3 Nxd5 (or 13 Bb5 Re6 1 4 Nxd5 Rd6! 1 5 Nxf6+ Qxf6 1 6 Qc3 Rb6!
intending 17 Bc4 Qh4!) 13 ... Nxd5 14 Qxd5 Rb8!? (14 . . .Qf6 15 c3 Be6 16 Qg5 Bxa2 is
equal) 15 c3 ( 1 5 Bb5? Qh4! 16 Bg5 Qb4 wins) 1 5 . . .Qh4 16 Bg5 Qf2 (16 ... Qa4!?) 1 7
Qd2 Qc5 and with ... Be6 coming next, Black has good compensation here.
a2) 12 ... Nxd5 13 Bc4 (13 Nxd5 cxd5 14 Qxd5 transposes to the previous note)
13 ...Be6 14 Nxd5 cxd5 15 Bxd5 Bxd5 16 Qxd5 Qh4 1 7 Bg5 Qb4 18 Qb3 Qc5 19 Rd5
Qc6 20 Qd3 Rab8 21 b3 (P.Svidler-E.Geller, Moscow 1 992) and now Black could
have played 2 l . . .Re2!.
b) After 1 0 exd5 Nxd5 11 Nxc6 (11 Bg5 Qd7!) 11 ... bxc6, White has tried two moves:
b1) 12 Bd4 Bxd4!? (I suspect the ending with 12 ... Nxc3 1 3 Bxc3 Qxd2+ 14 Bxd2 is a
shade better for White) 1 3 Qxd4 Rb8 (or 1 3 . . . Qg5+!? 14 Qd2 Qxd2+ 15 Kxd2 Rb8 16
b3 Bf5) 1 4 Nxd5 cxd5 1 5 Qxd5 Qe7 with compensation, e.g. 16 Qa5 Bf5 1 7 Bc4 Rb4
18 Bb3 Qg5+ 19 Rd2 Rd4.
b2) 12 Nxd5 cxd5 (12 ... Qxd5!? 13 Qxd5 cxd5 1 4 Bd4 Bxd4 15 Rxd4 Re1+ 16 Rd1
Rxd1+ 17 Kxd1 c5 provided an alternative solution for Black in V.Zivkovic
F.Berebora, Pula 1997 - I can't see anything wrong with this at all) 13 Bd4 Bxd4 14
Qxd4 c6! (14 ...Be6 1 5 h4! planning h5 gave White an edge in M.Chandler-Geller, Til
burg 1992) 15 h4 Qb6 looks okay to me; e.g. 16 Qf6?! (White should probably not
avoid the trade of queens) 16 ... Bf5 17 h5 Qe3+ 18 Kb1 Re6! 19 Qh4 g5 20 Qg3 Rae8.

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D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
c) 10 Nxd5 Nxd5 1 1 exd5?! ( 1 1 Nxc6 bxc6 1 2 exd5 transposes to the previous note)
1 1 ...Qxd5 12 c4 Qc5! planning to meet 13 Ne6 with 13 . . . Bxb2+! 14 Kxb2 Qe5+.

10... Bd7 11 exds


I don't see a good way for White to keep the tension any longer.

11... Nxd4 (Diagram 28)

Diagram 28 (W)

Diagram 29 (W)

12 Bxd4
Against 1 2 Bxd7 Black has the zwischenzug 12 ... Nxf3!, and 1 3 gxf3 Qxd7 1 4 h4 Qf5
15 Bg5 Nh5 16 Qd3 Qxd3 1 7 Rxd3 h6 was fine for Black in A.Dries-H.Holscher,
correspondence 1 969. Those weak pawns on the kingside are always a long-term
concern for White.

12 ...Bxbs 13 Nxbs Qxdsl (Diagram 29)


Now 14 Nxc7 Qxa2 was covered in our featured game Slovineanu-Santos. On a few
occasions White has opted to bottle out of the complications by playing 14 Nc3,
which objectively speaking must be equal. But it's the type of position where Black
could easily outplay his opponent. For example, 14 ... Qc6 (14 ... Qc4!?) 15 Qg5 Rad8 16
Bf2 a6 1 7 Rxd8 Rxd8 18 Re1 Re8 19 Rxe8+ Qxe8 20 Qe3 Qc6 21 Qd3 h5 22 Bg3 Qc5 23
Qd8+ Kh7 24 Qd1 (24 Qxc7 Qe3+) 24 ...b5 25 Kb1 b4 26 Ne2 Nd5 27 Qd3 aS and
Black's initiative was beginning to show in G.Braun-E.Geller, Dortmund 1992.

Conclusion
Judging from the analysis in this chapter and the way White has tended to react in
practice, overall I feel that 3 Nc3 g6 (or 3 d4 exd4 4 Nxd4 g6) is a good practical
weapon - especially as a way to liven up proceedings against opponents who
would otherwise insist on playing the most boring variations of the Four Knights!

168

C h a pter N i n e

Don't be Bo ring
a gainst the Go ring !
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 exd4 4 c3 Nf6 5 e5 Ne4!? and the Ponziani:
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 c3 Nf6 4 d4 exd4 5 e5 Ne4!? {Diagram 1)

Diagram 1 (W)
I hold my hands up: I have to admit that in recent years I have tended to play it
safe against both the Goring Gambit and the Ponziani Opening: meeting 1 e4 eS 2
Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 exd4 4 c3 with 4 . . . d5 5 exdS QxdS 6 cxd4 Bg4 7 Be2 Bb4+ 8 Nc3 Bxf3 9

169

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e s
Bxf3 Qc4 1 0 Bxc6+ bxc6, and 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 c3 with 3 ... Nf6 4 d 4 Nxe4 5 d5
Ne7 6 Nxe5 Ng6. In both cases Black equalizes but the resulting positions can be a
shade dull.
In my youth, I was influenced by fellow Leicester player Mark Hcbden's advocacy
of a more ambitious line for Black. We both played this line a few times with
mixed results. I noticed recently that Muller and Voigt summarize the theory as
being better for White, and I decided it was worth a closer look.
So this chapter will be dealing with the position from Diagram 1 which occurs
from two move orders: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 and now 3 d4 exd4 4 c3 (the Goring
Gambit) 4 . . . Nf6 5 e5 Ne4, or 3 c3 (the Ponziani) 3 ... Nf6 4 d4 exd4 5 e5 Ne4.
First of all, here's a game of Hebden's in which he was successful with this line.

D T.Upton M.Hebden

British C h a m pionship, Blackpool 1988


1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 c3 Nf6 4 d4 exd4 5 e5 Ne4 6 Qe2 f5 7 exf6 d5 8 Nbd2 Qxf6 9
Nxe4 dxe4 10 Qxe4+ Qe6 (Diagram 2)

Diagram 2 (W)

Diagram 3 (B)

The endgame arsing from this position is sometimes considered to be better for
White, but Hebden shows that Black can also have pretensions of winning.

11 Bd3 dxc3 12 o-o Qxe4 13 Bxe4 Bd7 14 Bxc6


Also critical is 14 bxc3 (see the theory section).

14...Bxc6 15 Re1+ Kd8 16 Bg5+?1 Kc8 17 bxc3 (Diagram 3)


Material is equal, but there is some imbalance: Black possesses the bishop pair

170

Don't be Bori n g aga i n st the G o r i n g !


plus the better structure, while White i s ahead i n development.

17 ... Ba3! 18 Rad1 Bxf3!


One of the advantages of having the bishop pair is that you can often choose the
right moment to give one up.

19 gxf3 Bd6 20 C4 b6
'-:.(jj

DANGEROUS WEAPON! White's 'active' pieces have nothing to


bite on and his inferior structure is becoming a problem.

21 Re4 Kd7!
Centralizing the king is even more ambitious than the obvious 2 l . . .Kb7.

22 Be3
One point behind Black's previous move is that 22 Re7+ Kc6 23 Rxg7? loses mate
rial to 23 ... Rag8, due to the pin down the g-file.

22 ... Kc6 23 Bd4 RhfB (Diagram 4)

Diagram 4 (W)

Diagram 5 (W)

24 Kg2
White should try and complicate matters with 24 Bxg7!?, as 24 ... Rg8 can be met by
25 Rg4. So Black should settle for 24 . . . Rxf3, keeping an edge.

24... Rf5!?
24... Rf7 and 24...g6 are simpler options.

25 Rde1
But not 25 Bxg7?? due to 25 ... Rg8 26 Rg4 h5 27 Rg6 Rf7.

171

D a n gerous Wea pon s : 1 e4 e S

2 5... Raf8 2 6 R1e3 Rg5+ 27 Kh1


White's chances look grim after 27 Rg4 Rxg4+ 28 fxg4 Rf4.

27 ... Rh5?1 (Diagram 5)


More precise is the slower 27 . . . g6! .

28 Be5?
Basically simplifying into a horrible endgame.
The only chance was to finally capture on g7: 28 Bxg7! RffS (28 . . .Rxh2+ 29 Kgl Rg8
30 Rg4 hS 31 Rg6 Rh4 is not that clear after 32 Re4) 29 Bd4 Bxh2 (29 . . . Rxh2+ 30 Kgl
RfhS can be met by 31 f4) 30 Kg2 Bd6, when Black retains a clear advantage but
there would be chances for Whi te to hold.

28... Bxe5 29 Rxe5 Rxe5 30 Rxe5 Rxf3 31 Kg2 Ra3 32 Re7 Rxa2 33 Rxg7 Rc2 34 Rxh7
Rxc4 35 Kg3 as 36 Re7 a4 37 h4 a3 38 Re2 Ra4 39 Ra2 b5 40 h5 b4 o-1
That was comfortable enough for Black, so what is it about this line that theory
thinks is better for Whi te? Let's take a closer look!

Looking a Little Deeper


1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 exd4 4 c3 Nf6 5 es Ne4
This isn't Black's only move here. Of the al ternatives, S ... Qe7? is bad because after
6 cxd4 d6 7 BbS Bd7 8 0-0 dxeS 9 dxeS Black has all sorts of problems. However, a
possibility that seems quite solid is S ... NdS!? 6 cxd4 Bb4+ 7 Bd2 Bxd2+ 8 Nbxd2
0-0. In fact S ... NdS is the more popular knight move these days.

6 Qe2 (Diagram 6)

Diagram 6 (B)

17 2

Diagram 1 (W)

D o n 't be B o r i n g a ga i n st t h e Gori n g !

6...fs
Now there is no option - this is Black's only playable move.
Old books show tha t 6 . . . d5?! is dubious: 7 exd6 f5 8 Nxd4 Nxd4 9 cxd4 Bxd6 10 f3
Qh4+ (or 10 ... Bb4+ 1 1 Nd2 Qxd4 12 fxe4 and, to quote Botterill and Harding.
'Black is devoid of compensation' for his piece) 1 1 g3 Bxg3+ 1 2 hxg3 Qxh1 13 fxe4
Qxe4 1 4 Qxe4+ fxe4 1 5 Bf4 c6 16 Nc3 Bf5 1 7 Bg2 0-0 1 8 0-0-0 and White has a clear
positional advantage as the two pieces are worth more than a rook, R.Sanguineti
E.Reinhardt, Mar del Plata 1958.

7 exf6
The main move, al though 7 Nxd4 is occasionally seen. Then 7 ... Bc5 8 Be3 Nxe5?! is
tempting but too risky, e.g. 9 f3 Qh4+ 10 Kd1 with advantage to White, l.Zaitsev
E.Zayac, Moscow 1 998, as 1 0 ... Ng3 can be favourably met by 1 1 Qe1 ! Nxf1 12
Qxh4 Nxe3+ 1 3 Kd2 when Black doesn't have enough for the queen.
So Black should settle for 7 ... Nxd4! 8 cxd4 Bb4+ 9 Nd2 Qe7 with an equal position,
as pointed out by J .Boey as far back as 1976. Then after 10 a3, either retreating or
capturing on d2 seems to be playable for Black.

7 ...ds (Diagram 7) B Nbd21


The only challenging move. Alternatives yield nothing or even less.

DANGEROUS WEAPON! Pawn grabbing here with B fxg7? is a


recipe for disaster: B ... Bxg7 9 Nxd4 0-0 10 Be3 Nxd4 11 cxd4
Nxf2! 12 Bxf2 ReB and Black won quickly in A.Casa-J.Boey,
Lugano Olympiad 196B.
8 Nfd2 fails to impress: 8 . . .Qxf6 9 f3 d3 10 Qe3 Qg5 (Lasker) and Black saves his
piece and reaches a good position.
Following 8 Nxd4 N xd4 9 cxd4, Black has a choice:
a) 9 . . .Bb4+ is solid, and 10 Bd2 Bxd2+ 11 Nxd2 0-0 12 Nxe4 Re8 13 f7+ Kxf7 1 4
Qh5+ Kg8 1 5 0-0-0 Rxe4 1 6 f3 Re6 led t o approximate equality in C.Hartman
M.Hebden, Copenhagen 1 985.
b) However, there is a more dynamic option in 9 ... Kf7!? (Diagram B).
For example, 10 fxg7 Bb4+ 1 1 Kd1 Re8 12 Be3 Kg8 1 3 Qh5 Be6 1 4 Bd3 Qd7 1 5 h3
Bf5 1 6 Bc2 (D.Levy-J.Boey, Siegen Olympiad 1 970), and now 16 ... Ng3! gives Black
more than enough compensation.

B .. Qxf6
.

The unfortunate move 8 ... d3? was recommended by Boey, but i t isn't very good.
Once I even naively followed this recommendation myself and lost a bad game. I t
just helps White develop: 9 Qe3 Bf5 1 0 Bxd3 Bc5 1 1 fxg7 Rg8 12 N d 4 Rxg7 1 3 0-0
Bxd4 14 cxd4 Qh4 1 5 Nf3 Qh3 16 Ne1 and Black never recovered from being a

173

Dangero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
pawn down in D.Bryson-M.Orr, Scottish Championship 1981 .

Diagram 8 (W)

Diagram 9 (B)

BEWARE! ... of blindly believing without thinking. What you


read in books may be 95% accurate, but open your eyes to try
and recognize the erroneous 5% and you'll avoid accidents!
9 Nxe4 dxe4 10 Qxe4+ Qe6 11 Bd3
Instead 1 1 Qxe6+?! just eases Black's development problems: 1 1 . ..Bxe6 12 Nxd4
Nxd4 13 cxd4 0-0-0 14 a3 (14 Be3 Bb4+ 15 Ke2 Bc4+ doesn't favour White)
14 ... Rxd4 with comfortable equali ty, P.Kranzl-H.Rolletschek, Linz 1995.

11...dxc3
Otherwise 1 1 . . .Qxe4+ 12 Bxe4 dxc3 13 0-0 transposes.

12 0-0 Qxe4 13 Bxe4 (Diagram 9) 13 ... Bd7


Mark and I preferred this move, but it's not the only way to play the position.
However, the greedy 13 ...cxb2? 14 Bxb2 Bd7 1 5 NgS shou ld be avoided, as White
has too much play.
It seems that the plausible 13 ... Bd6 is not quite adequate: 14 bxc3 0-0 15 NgS g6 16
BdS+ Kg7 1 7 Ne4 Ne7 1 8 Bb3 BeS 19 f4 and White was better in M .Al Modiahki
J.Curdo, Bermuda 2003.
The bishop defends the c-pawn and is less exposed to a knight attack after
13 ... Bb4!? (Diagram 10).
White has tried three paths:
a) Firstly, 14 a3 BaS 15 b4 Bb6 16 Bxc6+ bxc6 17 Re1+ Kf7 18 BgS Re8 (A.Diickstein
Xie Jun, Vienna 1993) seems to be good for Black, because of the bishop pair and

174

D o n 't be Bori n g a ga i n st t h e G o r i n g !
the advanced passed c-pawn.
b) 14 bxc3 Bxc3 15 Rb1 is reasonable, when White has enough for the pawn deficit:
15 . . . 0-0 16 Be3 Re8 1 7 BdS+ Be6 1 8 Bxe6+ Rxe6 1 9 Rxb7 BaS 20 Rb3 Bb6 21 Rcl Rae8
22 Kf1 NeS was equal in M .Schaefer-E.Van den Doe!, Bundesliga 2000, and this
seemed solid enough for Black.

Diagram 10 (W}

Diagram 11 (B)

So far so good, but variation 'c' is probably White's best try:


c) 14 Bxc6+ bxc6 1 5 Rel + Kf7 1 6 NeS+ Kg8 (instead 16 ... Kf6 1 7 Nxc6 is slightly
awkward as the king is tactically suspect on a dark square) 17 Re4 cS (more solid
is 17 . . . Bd6 1 8 bxc3 Bf5 19 Re1 c5, when Whi te has a nominal edge) 18 Re3 cxb2 1 9
Bxb2 Bf5 (19 . . . Be6 2 0 Nc6 Bf7 21 Re7 also favours White) 2 0 R d 1 c4 21 Nc6 and
White went on to win in G.Makropoulos-L.Kokkinos, Greek Championship 1980.
So 13 ... Bb4 looks playable, even if it doesn't quite equalize.

14 Bxc6
Simply recaptu ring on c3 has i ts supporters.

BEWARE! 14 bxc3 requires an accurate response.

After 14 bxc3 Muller and Voigt suggest 14 . . . Bd6, but I'm not keen on this move: 1 5
NgS g6 (objectively better is 1 5 . . . h6 1 6 Bg6+ Ke7 1 7 N f7 Rhf8 1 8 Nxd6 cxd6 1 9 Re1+
Kf6, but White retains an edge due to the bishop pair in an open position) 16 Rb1
0-0 17 Rxb7 (M.Hrabinska-E.Matseyko, Dnipropetrovsk 2004) and Black had a
very bad position.

175

Dangero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
What else can Black do? If 1 4. . .Be7? then 1 5 Rei ! and Black i s badly tied up. S o this
leaves us with 14 ... 0-0-0, which was played in M .AI Modiahki-A.Kharlov, Dubai
2001 : 15 Ng5! (the only move to test Black) 15 . . . Re8 16 Bxh7 Bd6 17 h3 (Diagram
11). Now the game continued 17 ... Ne5 18 Bc2 Bc5 1 9 Bf4 Rhf8 20 Bg3 Bf5, when
Black had some compensation for the paw,n but White was stil l somewhat better.
I prefer instead 17 ... Be5! 18 Bd2 Bf6 19 Bc2 (or 19 Bd3 NeS 20 Be2 Bf5 21 Rad l Nd3
with enough activity to compensate for the pawn) 19 ... Re2 20 Ne4 Rh4! (ra ther
than 20 . . . Bxc3?! 21 Bxc3 Rxc2 22 Rfcl Rxcl + 23 Rxcl Re8 24 f3 when, despite the
presence of opposite-coloured bishops, White is better) 21 Nxf6 Rxd2 22 Nxd7
Rxc2 with an equal position, although there is still plenty of play.
White has another intriguing possibility in 16 Nf7 (instead of 16 Bxh7), which ac
tually wins the exchange. Then 1 6 ... Rxe4 17 Nxh8 (Diagram 12) doesn't at first
sight look at all promising for Black, but in fact he may well have ample compen
sation: the knight isn't quite trapped but needs some attention; Black has active
pieces; and White's pawns are vulnerable. All this blurb is meaningless of course
unless it holds up to analysis, so here are some sample l ines: 17 . . . Be7!? 18 Nf7 (or
18 Bd2 Re2 19 Rfdl Bf6 20 Nf7 Be8 21 Ng5 Rxd2 22 Rxd2 BxgS with a double
edged material balance) 18 ... h6 19 Be3 Bf6 20 Racl Be6 21 Nh8 g5 and now the
knight really is trapped!

Diagram 12 (B)

Diagram 13 (W)

So after all that, I believe 1 4 bxc3 can be confidently met by 1 4 ... 0-0-0!.
Returning to 1 4 Bxc6:

14 ...Bxc6 15 Re1+ Kd8! (Diagram 13)


Experience has shown that Black's best plan at this point is to move his king away
from the centre towards the queenside.

176

Don't be B o r i n g a g a i n st t h e G o r i n g !
Instead the stem game i n this variation continued 1 5 . . . Kf7 1 6 NeS+ Kf6 1 7 Nxc6
bxc6 18 bxc3 BcS?! (the superior 18 ... Bd6 keeps White's advantage down to a
minimum) 1 9 BgS+! Kf7 20 ReS Bd6 21 RfS+ Kg6 22 RaS with a significant posi
tional advantage for White, D.Velimirovic-H.Ree, Amsterdam 1 976.

16 Ne5
As 16 BgS+ only pushes Black's king to where it wants to go, it isn't really winning
a tempo. See how Black won the ending in the featured game Upton-Hebden.

16... Be8 17 bxc3 Kc8


After 1 7...b6 18 Bf4 Kc8 19 Nf3 Kb7 (this seems to be the key idea: getting the king
out of harm's way before developing the bishops) 20 Nd4 {Diagram 14) we arrive
at a typical position: White has the more harmonious development, but Black pos
sesses the bishop pair plus the better pawn structure. So if Black can avoid short
term problems getting his pieces developed, he has chances of a long-term advan
tage.

Diagram 14 {B)

Diagram 15 {B)

The game D.Velimirovic-M.Hebden, Metz 1988, continued 20. . . Bd7?! (the bishop is
too exposed here) 21 Rad1 Ba4 22 Rd3 BcS 23 Ne6 with a clear ad vantage to White.
Instead 20 . . . Bf7! is correct, e.g. 21 Ne6 (after 21 a4 Black simply plays 21 ...a6)
21 . . .Bxe6 (or 21 ...Re8 22 Nxf8 Rhxf8 with equality) 22 Rxe6 BcS 23 Rae1 Rhf8 and
Black shouldn't be worse.

18 Be3 {Diagram 15)


This position arose in the game D.Chevallier-G.Fiear, French League 1989. The
assessment of Diagram 1 4 applies here too. In both cases White needs a target in
Black's camp to keep his opening initiative alive.

177

Da ngerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S

18... b6
Developing too hastily(!) can make White's task easier: 1 8 ... Be7?! 19 Bd4 (19 Rad 1
Bf6 20 f4 b6 doesn't lead anywhere for White) 1 9 ... Bf6 (19 . . . c5? is even worse after
20 Nd3) 20 Nf3! Bxd4 2 1 Nxd4 and Whi te is better as he has possibilities to invade.
In the game I tried the subtle 18 . . . Rg8!? 19 Nd3 (again after 19 Radl b6 White's
pieces lack targets to bite on) 19 . . . Bd6 20 Bd4 Bf7 21 Ne5 Bd5 and as Black was
starting to get his pieces organized, my opponent understood the long-term dan
ger and bailed out with a drawish line: 22 c4 Bxe5 23 Rxe5 Bxc4 24 Re7 Rd8 25
Bxg7 and a draw was agreed.

19 Rad1 Kb7 20 Rd2 Be7


Black enjoys full equality and long-term potential!

Conclusion
I still consider the whole variation with 5 ... Ne4 to be perfectly satisfactory for
Black. If White varies early on he can get into trouble, whereas if he is able to find
the right path, a double-edged queenless middlegame arises. There White obtains
a lead in development (which is why some books prefer White), but against accu
rate defence this should fizzle out. Later on, if White isn't careful, the two bishops
and superior pawn structure can lead to Black gradually taking over.
Despite the early exchange of queens, the position can be complex and offers
chances for both sides. So 5 ... Ne4 is more dynamic than some of the better known
equalizing variations against these openings.
Another advantage for Black is that there is not much to learn, so it doesn't re
quire much effort to stop being boring against the Goring!

178

C h a pter Te n

Fighting the
Pse u d o King' s Gambitee rs
1 e4 es 2 Bc4 Nf6 3 d3 BcS 4 Nc3 0-0!? (Diagram 1)

Diagram 1 (W)
This is a weapon against the Bishop's Opening and the Vienna Game. More spe
cifically, i t's something interesting to play against those who want to reach the
2. . Bc5 lines of the King's Gambit Declined - arguably a promising line for White .

179

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
but are reluctant to face the consequences o f 2 f4 exf4!. I n fact, i n m y experience
the majority of those who play the Bishop's Opening and Vienna Game have this
transposition in mind, so let's put a spanner in the works.
4 ... 0-0 is very rarely played, especially when compared to the main move here
the non-commi ttal 4 . . . d6. Maybe some players are put off by the thought of com
mitting their king so early, which is not always advisable in certain 1 e4 e5 open
ings. But whereas in one way you lose flexibility by castling on move four, in an
other way you gain. By delaying . . . d6 Black keeps the option of striking in the cen
tre with ... c6 and . . . d5, or even in some circumstances ... d5 without support from
its neighbour. If White is thinking about playing f2-f4, then surely this counterat
tack in the centre must be worth considering? I confess that in my old book A ttack
ing with 1 e4 I concentra ted on the main lines and overlooked 4 . . . 0-0. Hopefully I
can redress the balance here.
We begin with a nice win from the Macedonian GM Nikola Mitkov. It's interest
ing that he has chosen to try out 4 ... 0-0, not least because he also has a great deal
of experience from the White side of the Vienna Game and Bishop's Opening.
Sometimes it can be quite revealing to check out what experts play against thei r
own pet lines.
D Y.Miellet Bensan N.Mitkov

Bergen 2001
1 e4 es 2 Bc4 Nf6 3 d3 Bcs 4 Nc3 o-o
4 ... d6 has been the main move in practice, and following 5 f4 Nc6 6 Nf3 we have
reached the King's Gambit Declined lines with 2 ... Bc5. Instead, 5 ... Ng4 looks at
first sight very promising for Black, but in fact 6 f5! Nf2 7 Qh5 has scored incredi
bly well for White. One possible line is 7 ... g6 8 Qh6 Nxh1 9 Bg5! f6 10 fxg6! fxg5 1 1
g7 Kd7 1 2 Qe6+ Kc6 1 3 Qd5+ Kd7 1 4 Qf7+! Kc6 1 5 Bb5+! Kb6 16 Be8!! and White
wins on account of 16 ... Qxe8 17 Qb3+ Ka6 1 8 gxh8Q Qxh8 19 Qb5 mate.

5 f4
White goes ahead as planned - according to my database this is the move Black
has faced most frequently after 4 ... 0-0. We'll check out alternatives in the theory
section .

s ...exf41
5 ... d6 6 Nf3 Nc6 again reaches the King's Gambit Declined.

6 Bxf4 c6! (Diagram 2)


This is the point: Black has given up the centre with . . .exf4 but plans to strike back
immediately with ... d5, opening the position up. This idea is particularly appeal
ing given that White's king is still stuck in the centre (and with the bishop stand
ing on c5, some work is required before White can castle kingside).

7 Bb3 d5 8 d4 Bb4 9 e5

180

F i g h t i n g t h e Pse u d o K i n g ' s G a m b iteers


Keeping the centre blocked, but pretty much killing the bishop on b3, which now
hits a brick wall of c6 and d5. But it's hard to suggest alternatives: Black can meet
9 exd5?! with 9 . . . Re8+! when it's not easy for Whi te - 1 0 Nge2? Bg4 is basically
very unpleasant.
g... Ne4 (Diagram 3) 10 Qf3

Diagram 2 (W)

Diagram 3 (W)

After 10 Nge2 Black quickly steps up the pressure with 1 0 . . . Bg4!. It seems to me
that 1 1 Qd3 is forced, bu t Black is better here; for example, after l l ... a5 ( 1 l .. .c5!? 12
dxc5 - or 1 2 0-0 c4 - 1 2 . . . Bxe2 1 3 Kxe2 Bxc3 1 4 bxc3 Na6 followed by . . . Naxc5 also
looks promising, despite allowing the b3-bishop back into the game) 12 a3 Bxe2 13
Kxe2 Bxc3 1 4 bxc3 a4 1 5 Ba2 b5.

10...Qh4+! 11 g3
After 1 1 Kfl Bxc3 12 bxc3 Black has a few enticing ways to continue, one of which
is 12 ... g5!? 13 g3 (the bishop must keep an eye on d2, but 13 Be3?? loses the queen
in another way: 13 . . . Bg4!) 1 3 . . . Qg4 14 Be3 and now 14 .. . f6! opens up the position to
Black's advantage.

11 ... Qg4 12 Qxg4 Bxg4 13 h3


13 Nge2 may be better, al though 13 . . . Bxe2 (13 .. .f6!? could be even stronger) 14
Kxe2 Nxc3+ 15 bxc3 Bxc3 16 Rad1 b5 leaves White with insufficient compensation.

13 ... Be6 14 Nge2 aS! (Diagram 4)


DANGEROUS WEAPON! Black has clearly won the opening
battle here. White's main problem is that terrible bishop on
b3. It's struggling to make any impression, it's in danger of
being trapped, and its life is about to turn a whole lot worsel

181

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S

1 5 a 3 Bxc3+ 16 Nxc3 Nxc3 1 7 bxc3 a4 18 Ba2 Nd7 19 Rb1 b5


For all the good it does, the bishop on a2 may as well be a pawn. Black is effec
tively a piece ahead here and Mitkov soon makes his 'material advantage' count.

20 Kd2 f6! 21 exf6 Nxf6 22 Rbe1 RaeB 23 Kc1 Bf5 24 Be5 Ne4 25 g4 Bg6 26 h4 h6
0-1 (Diagram 5)

Diagram 4 (W)

Diagram 5 (W)

Perhaps resignation was a trifle prema ture, but with either . . . Rf3 or . . . Rf2 up next,
I can understand White wanting to end his misery.

Looking a Little Deeper


1 e4 e5 2 Bc4
The typical Vienna Game move order to reach this position would be 2 Nc3 Nf6 3
Bc4 BcS 4 d3 0-0. We'll look at earlier deviations at the end of the chapter.

2 ...Nf6 3 d3 Bc5 4 Nc3 o-o (Diagram 6)


In descending order of populari ty, White's three main moves are the following:

A: 5 f4
8: 5 Bg5
C: 5 Nf3
Black doesn't face any real challenges against alternatives. Here are three possi
bilities:
a) 5 Be3 can be met by S . . . Bxe3 6 fxe3 and now 6 . . . c6!; for example, 7 Nf3 dS 8 Bb3

182

F i g h t i n g t h e Pse u d o Ki ng's G a m biteers


dxe4 9 Nxe4 (or 9 Nxe5 exd3 1 0 cxd3 Qe7 1 1 d4 Nbd7 and White can't hold his
position together) 9 . Nxe4 10 dxe4 Qe7 1 1 0-0 Nd7 and Black will follow up with
12 ... Nc5.
..

b) 5 Nge2 can be met in a few ways, but it does rather invite 5 . . . Ng4! 6 d4 (6 0-0??
Qh4! is a good way to lose quickly as White) 6 . . . exd4 (Diagram 7) and now:

Diagram 6 (W)

Diagram 7 (W)

b1) 7 Nxd4 d5! is a kind of 'super Fried Liver Attack', bu t with colours reversed: 8
exd5 (if 8 Nxd5 c6!, or 8 Bxd5 c6!) 8 ... Nxf2 9 Kxf2 Qf6+ 1 0 Ke3 ReB+ 1 1 Ne4 Bf5 and
Black wins.
b2) 7 Na4 d6 8 Nxc5 dxc5 9 0-0 Nc6 and i t's unlikely that White has enough for his
pawn.
c) Tracking down the c5-bishop with Nc3-a4 is a common theme, but it's usually
no good when the bishop can retreat to e7. Thus 5 Na4?! Bb4+! 6 c3 Be7 merely
leaves White's knight on a4 awkwardly placed and prone to attack after, for ex
ample, 7 Nf3 c6! followed by 8 ... b5.

A) 1 e4 es 2 Bc4 Nf6 3 d3 Bcs 4 Nc3 o-o 5 f4 exf4


Another ambitious move for Black here is 5 . . . d5? (Diagram 8).

BEWARE! I was going to put this move in the 'Roll the Dice'
category, but upon reflection I've found that I can't
recommend it all.
The refutation seems to be 6 Nxd5! (6 exd5? Re8! would totally justify Black's
play) 6 ... Ng4 7 f5! ! (rather than 7 Nh3? c6 8 Nc3 Qh4+ 9 Kfl Nf2 10 Qe1 Bxh3 1 1

183

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
gxh3 Qxh3+ and Black i s winning, D.Kuchta-A.Kohut, Warsaw 1 999) 7. . . Nf2 8 Qh5
and now:

Diagram 8 (W)

Diagram 9 (B)

a) 8 .. . Kh8 9 Nf3 b5 (or 9 ... Nxh1 1 0 Ng5 h6 1 1 f6 and there is no good defence to
White crashing through with 1 2 fxg7+ Kxg7 1 3 Nxf7 Rxf7 14 Qxh6+ Kg8 1 5 Nf6+)
10 Ng5 h6 1 1 f6 Qd7 12 fxg7+ Kxg7 13 Nxf7 1 -0 P.Delekta-D.Dumitrache, Cappelle
Ia Grande 1992.
b) 8 ... Nxh1 loses to 9 Bg5 Qd6 10 f6 Bxg1 - what else? - 1 1 Ne7+ Kh8 12 Nxc8! Qc6
(or 1 2. . . Rxc8 13 fxg7+ Kxg7 1 4 Qxf7+) 13 Ne7 Qb6 1 4 fxg7+ Kxg7, and now 1 5 0-0-0
looks good enough, but much more fun is 1 5 Bh6+ Kh8 1 6 Qg5! Qf2+ 17 Kd1 Qfl+
18 Kd2 Qf2+ (or 18 . . .Be3+ 19 Qxe3! - but not 19 Kxe3?? Qf2 mate - 1 9 ... Qxa1 20
Bg7+) 19 Kc3 Qd4+ 20 Kb3 Qb6+ 21 Ka4 (Diagram 9).
White's king is quite safe on a4; the same cannot be said about Black's on h8!

6 Bxf4
Played almost without exception, but is it White's best move?
6 d4?! Bb4 7 e5 Ne4 8 Qf3 d5! is clearly good for Black. But I think 6 Nf3!? deserves
serious consideration, if only because in some lines Whi te can play d3-d4 followed
by 0-0, only recapturing on f4 when his king is safely tucked away. After 6 ... c6 7
d4 (7 e5 is met by the typical counter 7 ... d5!, and now 8 Bb3 Nh5 or 8 exf6 dxc4 9
d4 Re8+ 1 0 Ne2 Bd6 1 1 fxg7 Qe7 looks promising for Black), I actually think Black
should go for 7 ... Bb6 (7 . . . Bb4 8 e5 d5 9 Bd3 Ne4 10 0-0 may be playable, but there's
no doubt that White is active). For example, 8 Bxf4 (8 e5 is met by 8 . . . d5 9 Bd3 Nh5
10 0-0 f6) 8 ... d5 (8 ... Nxe4!? 9 Nxe4 d5 10 Qe2 dxc4 1 1 0-0-0 Be6 is also possible) 9
exd5 cxd5 10 Be2 (if 10 Bd3 Bg4!, or 1 0 Bb3 Re8+ 1 1 Ne2 Qe7!) 1 0 . . . Ne4 1 1 0-0 Nc6
with a roughly equal position.

1 84

F i g h t i n g t h e Pse u d o K i n g ' s G a m biteers

6 ... c6 (Diagram 10)

Diagram 11 (W)

Diagram 10 (W)
7 d4!?
White must make another difficult choice here:

a) 7 Nf3 dS 8 Bb3 (8 exdS Re8+!) 8 . . . Bg4 looks comfortable for Black.


b) 7 Bb3 dS 8 d4 Bb4 was studied in the illustrative game Miellet Bensan-Mitkov.
Instead 8 eS Bg4 9 Qd2 NhS 10 d4 Bb4 looks better for Black - White has again
been left with his light-squared bishop bashing its head against a brick wall.
c) 7 eS dS! 8 Bb3 transposes to the previous note, and 8 exf6 is answered by
8 . . .Qxf6!.

7 Bb4 8 es
...

White can also decide to gambit the e4-pawn. 8 Qf3 Nxe4 (or even 8 . . .d5!) is not
the way to do this, but there are a couple of interesting tries:
a) 8 Nf3 Nxe4 9 0-0 and now the safest approach for Black is probably 9 . . Bxc3 10
bxc3 dS 11 Bd3 BfS.
.

b) 8 Nge2 Nxe4 9 0-0 dS!? (9 . . Bxc3 10 Nxc3 Nxc3 1 1 bxc3 dS 12 Bd3 offers White
compensation) 10 Nxe4 dxc4 1 1 c3 Be7 1 2 N2g3 QdS leaves White's pieces massing
on the kingside, but Black plans ... Be6 and ... Nd7 and it's unclear whether White
has enough compensation or not.
.

8.. d5! (Diagram 11)


.

I prefer this to 8 ... Ne4 9 Qf3 dS 10 exd6! Nxc3 1 1 bxc3 Bxd6 12 Ne2, which might
be a bit better for White.

9 Bd3

185

D a n g e ro u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
This compares favourably to Miellet Bensan-Mitkov because White's l ight
squared bishop is a whole lot happier on d3 than on b3. That said, I still think this
position is fine for Black.
9 exf6 is a critical al ternative: 9 ... dxc4 10 fxg7 (or else Black simply captures on f6
with the queen) 1 0 ... Re8+ 1 1 Kf2! ( 1 1 Nge2? loses to 1 l ...Bg4) 1 1 . . .Qf6 ( 1 l . . .c5!?) 12
Qd2 with a very complex and I think dynamically equal position. White obviously
has problems to solve regarding his king, and Black is qu ite active. On the other
hand, Black has permanent weaknesses on the kingside. One possible continua
tion is 12 ... Bg4 13 Nf3 Nd7 14 Rhe1 Kxg7 with a roughly level position.
9 exd6 can be answered by the surprising zwischenzug 9 . . b5 (Diagram 12),
.

Diagram 12 (W)

Diagram 13 (W)

which forces Whi te to commit his bishop at a time when he doesn't really want to:
10 Bb3 is met rather obviously by 1 0 ...Re8+! intending 1 1 Nge2 Bg4!, while 1 0 Bd3
can be answered by 10 ... Nd5!.

9... Ne4 10 Nge2


10 Bxe4 dxe4 1 1 Nge2 Bg4 promises Black counterplay on the light squares, for
example after 12 0-0 Bxc3 13 bxc3 QdS. Even so, perhaps this is a better bet for
White than 10 Nge2 because he soon has to capture on e4 in any case.

10...Qh4+1 11 g3
The only option, as 1 1 Bg3 Nxg3 12 Nxg3 f6! blows open the position to Black's
advantage.

11 ...Qh3 (Diagram 13) 12 Bxe4


This looks best. Black was threatening ... Bg4, and 12 a3 could be answered by
12 ...Qg2!.

186

F i g h t i n g the Pse u d o Ki n g ' s G a m biteers

12 ...dxe4 13 Qd2 Bg4 14 0-0-0 Nd7


With good play for Black, who has possibil ities such as ... Bf3, ... Bxc3, . . . QhS, and
. . . Nb6 followed by . . . NdS or ... Nc4.

B) 1 e4 e5 2 Bc4 Nf6 3 d3 Bc5 4 Nc3 o-o 5 Bg5 (Diagram 14)

Diagram 14 (B)

Diagram 15 (W)

This is the second most likely move Black must be prepared to face. It's easy to see
its attraction: Black has castled early and so the pin on the knight becomes more
effective - breaking it with ... h6 and . . . gS clearly entails more risk now. Even so, I
don't think Black has too much to worry about if he knows what he is doing.

5 ... h6 6 Bh4
Capturing on f6 is possible in many similar positions where White subsequently
gains time on the queen with NdS (see Line C), but here it makes less sense. After
6 Bxf6 Qxf6 7 Nf3 Black simply prevents NdS by playing 7. . . c6!, and following 8
0-0 bS 9 Bb3 aS it is White who must look to equalize.

6...c6! (Diagram 15)


It's vital to play this move early: it prevents NdS, sets up the possibility of ... d7-dS
and also offers the dark-squared bishop a route to c7 via b4 and aS in the event of
Na4.
6 . . . d6 is playable but riskier because it doesn't address these issues. That said, 7
Na4 Bb4+ 8 c3 BaS 9 b4 Bb6 1 0 Nxb6 axb6 1 1 Qf3 Be6! 1 2 Bxf6 Qxf6 1 3 Qxf6 gxf6 14
Ne2 Nd7 1 S Kd2 fS! was fine for Black in A.Kogan-I.Sokolov, Canada de Calatrava
(rapid) 2007. If White goes for 7 NdS!?, this should be met by 7 ... Nbd7! (7... gS 8
Bg3 NxdS 9 BxdS looks better for Whi te, who has the option of h2-h4). Then 8 Ne2

187

Da ngerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
c6 9 Nxf6+ Nxf6 1 0 0-0 Bg4, and 8 Nf3 c6 9 Nxf6+ Nxf6 1 0 0-0 Bg4, both seem okay
for Black.

7 Nf3
DANGEROUS WEAPON! 7 Qf3? looks plausible but can be met
by 7 ...gsl (one good reason for inserting s ... h6} 8 Bg3 dS!
(Diagram 16}, when White is already in some trouble.

Diagram 16 (W}

Diagram 17 (W}

For example, 9 BxeS (9 exdS? Bg4!, trapping the queen, is the point behind Black's
play) 9 ... Nbd7!? (9 ... Ng4 might also be good) 10 Bxf6 Nxf6 1 1 Bb3 Bg4 12 Qg3 Bd6
and White's queen is really getting pushed around. After 13 Qe3 Black has more
than one promising continuation: 13 . . . Bf4 and 13 ... Bb4 threatening ... d4 comes to
mind .
I haven't found any practical examples of 7 f4!? but I don't think it can be dis
missed too lightly. Black can ei ther enter the complications with 7. . . exf4!?, e.g. 8 d4
Bb4 9 eS QaS! ? 10 exf6 Bxc3+ 1 1 bxc3 Qxc3+ 12 Kf2 Qxc4 13 fxg7 Re8, or else opt
for the safer 7... d6 8 Nf3 Nbd7 and try to prove that the bishop on h4 is actually
misplaced after, say, 9 Qe2 bS 1 0 Bb3 aS 11 a3 a4 12 Ba2 Qb6.
If White plays 7 Nge2 Black can of course respond positionally with 7. . . bS 8 Bb3 aS
9 a3 d6, and there's nothing wrong with this. But those who want to take more
risks could opt for 7 . . . dS!?, intending to meet 8 exdS with 8 ... gS 9 Bg3 cxdS 10 Bb3
Nc6. It's true Black has weakened himself on the kingside but he does have a nice
centre to compensate.

7 ...d6 (Diagram 17)

188

F i g h t i n g t h e P s e u d o K i ng's G a m biteers
Black intends to play in the same fashion as White does in the quiet lines of the
Giuoco Piano. Thus one idea is the typical manoeuvre ...Re8 and ... Nbd7-f8-g6 nulli
fying the pin on the h4-d8 diagonal. Indeed this plan can often expose BgS (or ... Bg4
answered by Nd2-fl-g3) as being premature, though of course a lot depends on
concrete considerations. So, for example, after 8 h3 (to prevent ... Bg4) Black can continue 8 ... Nbd7 9 0-0 bS 1 0 Bb3 Re8 followed by l l . ..Nf8 and 12... Ng6.

8 d4!?
This ambitious move forces Black to cede the centre, but on the other hand he will
be guaranteed counterplay by being able to pressure the e4-pawn.
If White plays 8 0-0 then Black can still reply with 8 . . . Nbd7, bu t there's a definite
temptation to play 8 . . . Bg4!?. The game A.Carrettoni-R.Espirito Santo, correspon
dence 2003, continued 9 h3 BhS 1 0 g4 Bg6 1 1 Qd2 Nbd7 1 2 Bb3 aS 13 Rae1 bS 14 a4
b4 1S Nb1 ? (1 S Ne2 had to be played, when the position looks roughly balanced)
1S . . . Re8 1 6 gS?! hxgS 1 7 QxgS Nf8! 18 Qg2 Qe7 19 Nbd2 Ne6 20 Qg3 Nf4 and Black
had established a monster of a knight on f4.
8 Na4 chases the bishop, but it has a way out: 8 ... Bb4+! 9 c3 BaS 10 b4 Bc7 1 1 Bb3
(Black was threatening ... bS) 1 1 ...Nbd7 and Whi te has achieved less than nothing
on the queenside - in fact Black might well strike back with . . .bS and/or ... aS.

8 ... exd4 9 Nxd4 (Diagram 18)

Diagram 18 (B)

Diagram 19 (W)

9... Nbd7

..

'

ROLL THE DICE! If Black is feeling brave he can grab a pawn by


playing 9 ... bsl? 10 Bb3 g5 11 Bg3 b4 12 Na4 Nxe4, though it's
clear White has some compensation after, for example, 13 Qd3
d5 14 0-0-0.

189

D a n gero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S

10 0-0 NeSI
A good move - with the e5-square available there is no need for ... Re8 and ... Nf8.
Indeed, this way the knight gains a tempo by hitting the c4-bishop.

11 Bb3 Ng6
I've found two practical examples of this move, which chases the bishop off the
diagonal and thus releases the pin. However, it's possible that the more flexible
1 1 .. .Re8! ? is even stronger. The point is that after 12 Re1 Black doesn' t transpose
with 12 ... Ng6 but instead plays 12 ... Bg4! {Diagram 19) which is very annoying for
White as the variations demonstrate: 13 Qd2 Nxe4! 14 Rxe4 Qxh4 15 h3 d5 1 6 Rf4
Qh5 17 hxg4 Nxg4 18 Rxg4 Qxg4 with an advantage to Black; or even worse, 1 3
f3? Bxf3! 1 4 gxf3 Bxd4+ meeting 1 5 Qxd4?? with 1 5 . . .Nxf3+.
12 f3 avoids a catastrophe, but now Black can divert his attention to the queenside:
12 . . . b5! ? 13 Khl (13 f4 Ng6 exposes the e4-pawn; maybe 13 a3 should be played)
13 . . .b4 with the intention of meeting 14 Na4 with 14 ... Bxd4! 15 Qxd4 c5 followed
by ... Ba6 and ... c4 winning the b3-bishop.

12 Bg3 ReS 13 Re1 (Diagram 20)

Diagram 20 (B)

Diagram 21 {W)

Black was very happy to receive a free pawn after 1 3 Kh1 ? Nxe4 1 4 Nxe4 Rxe4 in
J.Portela-L.Cooper, Benasque 1 997.
With 13 Re1 we have been following the game R.Tischbierek-J.Hjartarson, New
York Open 1 994. The Icelandic GM now carried out an imaginative idea on the
kingside: 13 ... a6 (to offer the bishop an escape route to a7) 14 h3 Nh7!? 15 Qd2 Qf6
16 Rad1 Ng5 1 7 Kh1 (after 1 7 h4!? Black must avoid 1 7. . . Ne6 18 e5! dxe5 19 Ne4
Qe7 20 Nf5, but 17 ... Nxh4 1 8 Bxh4 Nh3+ 19 gxh3 Qxh4 gives him reasonable prac
tical compensation) 17 ... Nxh3!? 18 gxh3 Bxd4 19 Qxd4 Qf3+ 20 Kh2 Bxh3 21 Rg1 !,

190

F i g h t i n g t h e Pse u d o K i ng's G a m biteers


although objectively Black probably doesn't have quite enough here.
A more direct possibility is 13 . . . d5 planning to meet 14 e5 (14 exd5 loses a piece to
14 . . . Rxe1+ 1 5 Qxe1 Bxd4) with 14 ... Bxd4 1 5 Qxd4 Nh5 (Diagram 21), which looks
okay for Black, e.g. 16 f4 Qb6! 17 Qxb6 axb6 18 Rfl Nxg3 19 hxg3 b5 . Black can
also delay the advance in the centre: 13 . . . a6 14 h3 and only now 14 ... d5 15 e5 Bxd4
16 Qxd4 Nh5. In this case White has the possibility of 17 Bh2, bu t after 17 ... Qg5!
Black shouldn't mind too much as he is starting to gain play on the kingside.

C) 1 e4 es 2 Bc4 Nf6 3 d3 Bcs 4 Nc3 o-o 5 Nf3


This move is much rarer than 5 f4 and 5 Bg5, but in my opinion it's not necessarily
weaker. Indeed, one advantage it has over 5 Bg5 is that Black is not able to organ
ize both ... d7-d6 and ... c7-c6 together - keeping his dark-squared bishop - because
of the immediate threat to e5.

s ... Nc6 (Diagram 22)

Diagram 22 (W)

Diagram 23 (W)

After this move we transpose to a quiet line of the Giuoco Piano, but one where
Black has castled early (usually . . . d6 is played instead). Having looked through
the possibilities I think this is a perfectly okay way for Black to play.
With 5 ... d6 Black plans to follow up with ... c7-c6 as in Line B. I think White's only
real chance to gain an advantage here is with the i mmediate 6 Na4!. Following
6 ... Nbd7 White must play accurately, but 7 Nxc5 Nxc5 8 b4! (otherwise ... Be6 is
coming) 8 ... Ne6 9 0-0 Qe7 10 Rel, as played in M.Thirion-W.Bor, Antwerp 2000,
offers some sort of edge if nothing else because of the two bishops. Going back,
maybe Black should try 6 ... Nc6 and then 7 0-0 Bg4 8 Nxc5 dxc5 9 c3 Qd6 looks
okay.

19 1

D a n gero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
I f Black plays 5 . . .c6 White should g o ahead and grab o n e5: 6 Nxe5! d5 7 d 4 dxc4 8
dxc5 Qxd 1 + 9 Kxd 1 Rd8+ 1 0 Ke2 Re8 1 1 Nxc4 Nxe4 1 2 Be3 Nxc3+ 1 3 bxc3 was bet
ter for White in I.Nei-R.Nezhmetdinov, Kharkov 1 956.
Beliavsky has tried 5 ... Re8 bu t I'm not convinced by Black's position after 6 Ng5!
Re7 7 0-0 (7 Nd5!?) 7 ... h6 8 Nf3 c6 9 d4! exd4 10 e5!, V.Arapovic-A.Beliavsky, Sarajevo 1982.

6 BgS
After 6 0-0 Black has the possibility of ruling out the Bg5 pin forever with 6 ... h6!?

(Diagram 23), which has been played by one or two grandmasters and looks okay
for Black. For example:
a) 7 Be3 Bb6 (7 ... Bxe3 8 fxe3 d6 9 Qe1 is probably a bit better for White, but there's
no need to give him the f-file for free) 8 Nd5 (or 8 d4 exd4 - 8 ... d6!? - 9 Nxd4 Re8
with counterplay against e4) 8 ... d6 9 Nxb6 axb6 10 h3 Be6! and Black equalizes
after, for example, 1 1 Bb3 d5 12 exd5 Nxd5, M.Wittwer-P.Cladouras, Lienz 1983.
b) 7 h3 a6!? (or 7 ... d6 8 Na4 Bb6 9 c3 and again Black negates the looming bishop
pair advantage by playing 9 ... Be6!) 8 Be3 d6! (retreating to b6 is much less desir
able now, but al lowing an exchange on c5 is fine here) 9 Bxc5 (or 9 d4 exd4 1 0
Nxd4 Ne5! 1 1 Bb3 Re8 intending 1 2 f4 Nc6 1 3 Re1 Na5!?) 9 ... dxc5 (Diagram 24)
when Black's strong clamp on the d4-square makes up for his split pawns, and he
has a full share of the chances. B.Larsen-L.B.Hansen, Aarhus 1 999, continued 1 0 a3
(Bb5 would have been a nice option to have - this is a hidden point behind Black's
7 ... a6! - while 10 Bd5 with the same idea of Bxc6 can be met by 10 ... Nb4!) 10 ... Qd6
11 Nh4 Be6, and now the Danish legend erred with 12 Nf5?!, a llowing Black to
seize the initiative after 1 2 ... Bxf5 1 3 exf5 Nd4! 1 4 Ne4 Qc6 1 5 Nxf6+ Qxf6 16 g4 b5
17 Bd5 Rad8 18 Be4 c4! .

Diagram 2 4 (W)

192

Diagram 25 (W)

F i g h t i n g t h e Pse u d o K i n g ' s G a m biteers

6...h6 7 Bh4
7 Bxf6 is playable now that White can follow up with Nd5, but Black should be
okay. Following 7 ... Qxf6 8 Nd5 Qd8 9 c3 (or 9 0-0 d6 10 c3 a6 1 1 d4 Ba7) 9 ... a6!? 10
d4 exd4 1 1 cxd4 Ba7 12 0-0 d6, i t's true Whi te has the centre, but it needs some
protecting and Black enjoys the long-term prospects of the bishop pair. Overal l it
must be fairly equal; for example, 13 h3 Ne7 1 4 Rcl Nxd5 1 5 Bxd5 c6 16 Bb3 Qf6
1 7 Rc3 Re8 18 Re1 Be6 19 Bxe6 Qxe6, B . lvanovic-J.Timman, Zagreb 1985. Black has
traded one of his bishops, but he is still perfectly okay, and in the game Timman
even secured an edge in the endgame after 20 d5 cxd5 21 QxdS Qxd5 22 exd5 Bc5
23 Rxe8+ Rxe8 24 Kfl Re4.

7 . . Be7! (Diagram 25)


.

I think this, rather than 7 ... d6, is the way to make the early . . . 0-0 line playable for
Black. It does at first sight seem strange to expend a tempo playing ... Bc5-e7, but
Black has the time available because White's set-up not threatening. It could be
argued that with the bishop on e7, White's on h4 is no longer in an ideal position.
For example 8 Qd2 is met by 8 . . . Nxe4!, when the benefit of ... Be7 is seen very
quickly!

8 0-0 d6
Now Black is ready to play ... Bg4 or . . . Na5. White can take steps against either one
of these, but crucially doesn't have the time to prevent both.

9 h3
9 d4 is met by 9 ... Bg4!. This pin is also annoying for White after 9 a3 Bg4! and he
can only really deal with it at the cost of weakening his king after 10 h3 Bh5 1 1 g4
Bg6.
g .. Nas! (Diagram 26)
.

Diagram 26 (W)

Diagram 27 (W)

19 3

D a n ge ro u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
Naturally Black takes the opportunity to grab the bishop pai r.

10 Bb3 Nxb3 11 axb3 c6 12 d4


We have actually reached a position with si milari ties to one discussed in Chapter
7 (Line C). Now Black chooses the same idea seen in Sutovsky-IIIescas in that line:

12 ... Nh5!
This equalises. White maintained an edge in D.Sermek-L.Gostisa, Slovenian
League 2002, after 12 . . . Qc7 1 3 Bg3! Nd7 14 Qe2 Bf6 1 5 Rfd 1 Nb6 16 Rd3 Re8 1 7
Rad l .

1 3 Bxe7 Qxe7 (Diagram 27)


Black has kept his centre solid, and can anticipate some action on the kingside in
volving ... Nf4 and/or . . . f5. The game A.Horvath-L.Vajda, Kiskunhalas 1 995, saw
Black develop an initiative after 14 Ne2 f5!? 15 dxe5 dxe5 16 Qd3 Qf6 17 Rae1 fxe4
1 8 Qxe4 Bxh3! 1 9 Qxe5?! (19 Nxe5 is equal) 1 9 . . . Qg6. After the further mistake 20
Ng3?, allowing 20 . . . Rxf3! 21 gxf3 (21 Qxh5 Rxg3!) 21 ...Nf6, Black was definitely
better, and his ad vantage then reached decisive proportions when White blun
dered with 22 Re2?? Re8!.

An Earlier f2-f4
White normally plays Nc3 before venturing f2-f4, but I did think it was worth
checking out what happens if White tries it a move earlier. It's very rarely played
on move four, and it can lead to great complications.

1 e4 es 2 Bc4 Nf6 3 d3
3 f4 exf4 transposes to the King's Bishop's Gambit, but Black has a much stronger
option in 3 ... Nxe4!, e.g. 4 Nc3 (4 d3 d5!) 4 . . . Nxc3 5 dxc3 c6 and Black will follow up
with . . . d5 (6 fxe5?? loses to 6 . . .Qh4+).

3 ... Bc5 4 f41?


4 Nf3 will transpose to the Giuoco Piano if Black plays 4 ... Nc6, but Black can also
keep his options open with 4 . . . d6 after which he may choose to play with . . . c6,
... Nbd7 etc. For example, 5 c3 Bb6 6 Bb3 Nbd7 7 h3 0-0 8 0-0 c6 9 Be3 d5 1 0 Bxb6
Qxb6 with a level position, V.Bologan-V.Anand, Geneva (rapid) 1 996.

4... dsl? (Diagram 28)


This is the logical way to try and exploit the absence of Nc3. It can lead to very
unclear positions in which White must be willing to give up his rook in the h1corner!

194

ROLL THE DICE! If Black is looking for another independent


move (4...d6 will reach the King's Gambit Declined) then
4...0-0!? might be worth investigating.

F i g ht i n g t h e Pseu d o Ki ng's G a m biteers


I can't find a single game reaching this position, so this is all just analysis. The idea
is to meet 5 fxe5 (5 Nf3 d5! 6 exd5 e4! ) with 5 ... d5, and claim some compensation
after 6 exd6 Qxd6, or 6 exf6 dxc4 7 fxg7 Re8 8 Nf3 Bg4 9 Nc3 Nc6. Objectively it
might not be enough, but Whi te certainly has some over-the-board problems to
solve.

Diagram 28 (W)

Diagram 29 (W)

5 exds
5 fxe5? is a blunder, and after 5 . . . Nxe4! White is already in serious trouble.

s ... Ng4
If Black doesn't want to take the rook on h1 then 5 . . .e4!? (Diagram 29) makes a lot
of sense as an alternative. One game continued 6 d4 Bd6 7 Ne2 h5! ? (interfering
with White's plan of Ng3, which would now be answered by ... h4) 8 Nbc3 a6 9 a4
h4 10 0-0 h3 1 1 g3 (A.Strikovic-F.Bellia, Vinkovci 1 989), and now instead of the
game's 1 l ...Bg4 which allowed 12 f5!, Black should probably play 1 l ...Bf5 and fol
low up with 12 ... Nbd7, 13 ...Qe7 etc.
5 ... 0-0!? is also possible, and after 6 fxe5 Ng4 7 Nf3! (if 7 d4 Nxe5!, or 7 Qe2 Nxe5!)
7 ... Nf2 8 Qe2 Nxh1 9 Be3! (9 d4? Bxd4! 10 Nxd4 Qh4+) 9 ... Bxe3 10 Qxe3 we reach a
similar line to the main text, a lthough I think a slightly less favourable one for
Black.

6 Nf31
I can only find three examples of this position in my database, though one of those
games does involve two very high-profile players. L.Aronian-V.Anand, Monte
Carlo (rapid) 2006, continued 6 d4 Bxd4 7 Nf3 Bf2+! (7. . . N f2!? is also playable, as
8 Qe2 Nxh1 9 Nxd4 0-0 1 0 fxe5? runs into 10 ... Qh4+) 8 Kfl and now, instead of
Anand's 8 ...Bb6, I suspect that Black is doing pretty well after the simple 8 ... exf4,

195

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
e.g. 9 Bxf4 0-0 1 0 Nc3 Be3! with the intention o f meeting 1 1 Bg3? with 1 1 . . .Bb6
when an accident is about to happen on e3.

6 ... Nf2 (Diagram 30)

Diagram 30 (W)

Diagram 31 (W)

If Black plays 6 ...0-0!? White must reply 7 fxeS! Nf2 8 Qe2, reaching the note to
Black's 5th move.

7 Qe2 Nxh1 8 d4 Be7 9 dxes o-o 10 Be3 bS! (Diagram 31)


It's important to break up White's centre, otherwise he will continue with Nc3,
0-0-0 and Rxh1 and reach an excellent position. Now the game M.Schoeneberg
J.Vatnikov, East Germany 1969, continued 1 1 BxbS QxdS 1 2 Nbd2 Bg4 13 Bc4 Qb7
14 0-0-0 Nd7 1 5 Rxh1 Rab8 with an unclear position and roughly equal chances.

4 f4 in the Vienna
Let's take a quick look at the Vienna Game move order:

1 e4 es 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Bc4 Bcs


Now White normally plays 4 d3 and we reach our position. But what about if
White advances his f-pawn straightaway?

4 f4!?
This is very rare when compared to 4 d3, but it was once played by Nigel Short
against Jonathan Speelman, who settled for transposing to the King's Gambit De
clined with 4 ... d6. What should Black play if he is feeling more ambitious?

..

4...dsl? (Diagram 32)

196

ROLL THE DICE! Black can again play 4 ... 0-0!?, although it does
seem to be a risky choice.

F i g h t i n g t h e Pse u d o Ki n g ' s G a m biteers


The point is that 5 fxe5 can be answered by 5 ... Nxe4! 6 d4 (6 Nxe4? Qh4+ 7 Ng3
Qxc4 8 Nf3 Nc6 was good for Black in l.Strehle-E.Zickelbein, German League
1999) 6 ... Bb4 7 Nge2 d5 8 Bd3 Bg4, which looks fine for Black.

Diagram 32 (W)

Diagram 33 (B)

Instead, 5 d3 exf4 transposes to Line A, but I think 5 Nf3! is more challenging. For
example, 5 ... d5 6 Nxd5! (6 exd5 e4!) 6 ... Nxe4 7 Qe2 exf4!? (7 ... Nf2 can be met by
the paradoxical 8 0-0!, not fearing a discovered or double check) 8 d4 Re8 9 dxc5
(9 0-0!?) 9 ... Nf6 10 Ne3 Nc6 1 1 0-0 fxe3 12 Bxe3 with an unclear position which
might be favourable to White. Note here than 12 ... Ng4? 13 Bxf7+! Kxf7 14 Qc4+
Be6 1 5 Ng5+ Kg8 1 6 Qe4 is certainly good for White.
Returning to 4 . . . d5:

5 exd5!
DANGEROUS WEAPON! It's easy for White to go wrong: 5
Bxd5? Bxg11 6 Rxg1 Bg4 7 Ne2 Nxd5 8 exd5 Qxds is already
nearly winning for Black.
5 Nxd5 is much more interesting, but as far as I can see it still looks quite promis
ing for Black after 5 ... Nxe4! (5 ... Nxd5 6 Bxd5 c6 7 Bb3 Bxg1 ! 8 Rxg1 Qh4+ 9 Kfl Bg4
10 Qe1 Qxh2 1 1 Qf2 0-0, as in B.Tregler,B.J.Vavra, Czechia 1997, is a playable al
ternative), although I have no practical games to back up this assessment - it's all
just analysis. For example, 6 Qe2 (or 6 Qh5 0-0 7 Nf3 - 7 fxe5 Be6 - 7 ... c6 8 Nc3 Nf6
9 Qh4 exf4 1 0 Qxf4 Re8+) 6 ...Qh4+ 7 g3 Nxg3 8 Qxe5+ (after 8 Nf3 Nxe2+ 9 Nxh4
Nd4 10 Nxc7+ Kd8 1 1 Nxa8 Nxc2+ 12 Kd1 Nxa1 i t's very complicated but Black
looks to be better) 8 ... Kf8 9 Nf3 (Diagram 33) 9 . . .Bf2+!! (otherwise Black would be
struggling) 10 Kx2 (10 Kd1 Bg4 1 1 Be2 Nxe2! is good for Black, as 12 Nxh4 allows

197

Dangerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
double check and mate with 12. . . Nc3) 10. . .Nxh1 + 1 1 Kg1 Qf2+ 1 2 Kxh1 Qxf3+ 1 3
Kg1 Nc6 and Black has emerged from the complications with a clear advantage.
This could certainly do with a test though.

5 ...e41
TRICKY TRANSPOSITION: Black transposes into a favourable line
of the Falkbeer Counter-Gambit (1 e4 e5 2 f4 d5 3 exd5 e4 4 Nc3
- 4 d3 is normal - 4... Nf6 5 Bc4 Bc5).
6 d4
After 6 Nge2 0-0 I don' t think White has anything better than transposing with 7
d4 exd3 8 Qxd3.

6...exd3 7 Qxd3 o-o (Diagram 34)

Diagram 34 {W)

Diagram 35 (B)

8 Nge2
8 Bd2 Re8+ 9 Nge2 Ng4! 10 Nd1 (10 Ne4? Bf5!) 1 0 ... Qh4+ 1 1 Qg3 Qxg3+ 1 2 hxg3
Bf5 promised Black excellent piece activity for the pawn in R.Jones-R.Dodington,
Swansea 1999. That game continued 13 b4 Bd4 14 c3 Bf6 1 5 Nf2 Nd7 1 6 Rcl Nb6
17 Bb3 Rad8 1 8 c4?, and now 1 8 . . . Bd4! would have won after 19 Nxg4 Bxg4 20 Bd1
Rxe2+! 21 Bxe2 Re8.

B ... ReB
8 ... Ng4 9 Qf3 Re8 10 h3 Ne3 1 1 Bxe3 Rxe3 also offers Black good compensation,
B.Spassky-P.Tumurbator, Leningrad 1 960.

9 h3 a6
9 ... c6!?, planning to meet 10 dxc6 with 10 ...Qe7!?, looks interesting too.

198

F i g h t i n g t h e Pseu d o K i ng's G a m biteers

10 a4 Qe7 11 Bd2 c61 12 dxc6 Nxc6 13 0-0-0 Nb4 14 Qf3 (Diagram 35)
Black's more active pieces and safer king add up to ensure him of excellent play
for the pawn, In the game G.Chepukaitis-B.Spassky, Minsk 1952, Black upped the
stakes with 14 . . . b5!?, and following 15 Qxa8 bxc4 16 Qf3 Bf5 17 Rhe1 Qd7 18 Ng3
Bxc2 White was facing a strong attack on his king.

A Second Solution: Black plays 4 c6


...

Although I'm recommending 4 . .0-0 as an ambitious way of dealing with the idea
of 5 f4, those who wish to really discourage f2-f4 can also consi der another solu
tion:
.

1 e4 es 2 Bc4 Nf6 3 d3 Bcs 4 Nc3 c6 (Diagram 36)

Diagram 36 (W)

Diagram 37 (B)

Now White's normal reaction is 5 Nf3 d6, transposing again into what I would call
a reversed Giuoco Piano. Although this gives Black no real problems, it may actu
ally be White's best course, or at the very least his safest.
Let's see what happens if White insists on playing f2-f4:

S f4
As well as this and 5 Nf3, Whi te can try:
a) 5 Bg5 d6 6 Nf3 (6 Nge2? Bxf2+! is a useful trick to remember!) 6 ... h6 7 Bh4 0-0
transposes to Line B, although Black could also consider delaying castling here.
b) 5 Qf3!? (Diagram 37) prevents ... d5 and also makes use of the fact that there is
no longer the possibility of . . . Nc6-d4. Even so, I don' t think Black has any worries
here; for example, 5 ... d6 6 h3 (6 Bg5 Bg4 7 Qg3 Nbd7) 6 . . . Be6! 7 Bb3 Nbd7 8 Nge2
aS 9 0-0 0-0 and Black will continue with ... b5, I.Rogers-D.Barua, Cebu 1992.

19 9

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S

s ...dsl?
I confess I overlooked this move in A ttacking with 1 e4. Instead I gave 5 ... exf4 6
Bxf4 (6 e5 again must be answered by 6 ... d5!) 6 ... d5 (6 . . . 0-0 transposes to Line A) 7
exd5 cxd5 8 Bb5+ Nc6 9 d4 Bb6 1 0 Nf3 0-0 1 1 0-0 which was roughly level in
T.Jaksland-L.Cooper, Hastings 1995.

6 exds
The ' main' move (al though we are only talking a handful of games), bu t White's
resu lt have been shockingly bad. 6 fxe5 is possible, but I think Black is at least
okay after ei ther 6 ... dxc4 7 exf6 Qxf6 8 Nf3 Bg4 or 6 . . . Bg4 7 Nf3 Nxe4!? 8 dxe4 dxc4
9 Qxd8+ Kxd8.

6 Ng4 7 Ne4
...

7 Qe2 isn't much better, and 7 ... 0-0! looks promising for Black after, for example, 8
Nf3 (8 fxe5 Nxe5!) 8 . . . cxd5 9 Bxd5 exf4 1 0 Bxf4 Re8 1 1 Be4 f5.
White can again offer the rook in the corner by playing 7 Nf3!? Nf2 8 Qe2 Nxh1,
although I think this is a favourable version for Black when compared to similar
lines discussed earlier. After 9 fxe5 (9 d4 Bb4) 9 ... Bg4 10 Be3 Bxe3 11 Qxe3 Bxf3 12
Qxf3 0-0 Black is ready to meet 13 0-0-0 with 13 ... Qg5+ 1 4 Kb1 Qxe5. Even so, from
White's point of view this remains sufficiently complicated for the result to remain
in doubt.

7 Bxg11 (Diagram 38)


...

Diagram 38 (W)

Diagram 39 (W)

8 dxc61
8 Rxg1 ? loses immediately to 8 . . . cxd5 9 Bb5+ Kf8 10 Nc3 d4 (G.Priadko-L.Sommer,
correspondence 1 990) as White drops a piece due to the subsequent check on aS.

200

F i g h t i n g t h e Pse u d o K i n g's G a m biteers

8 Nxc6!
...

White's idea is to answer 8 . . Bb6? with 9 cxb7! Bxb7 1 0 Qxg4.


.

9 Rxg1 Qh4+ (Diagram 39)


We have been following the game M .Maros-R.Rysan, Slovakian League 1994,
which continued 1 0 g3 Qxh2 1 1 Kfl and here simply 1 1 ... f5 looks as though it
wins. Running away with 10 Kd2 is probably a better bet for White, but Black
must still surely have some advantage after 10 . . . 0-0.

Conclusion
It seems to me that 3 ... Bc5 followed by 4 ...0-0 is a promising way for Black to play,
especially from a practical viewpoint, given that 5 f4 has been White's most popu
lar response. In that case I think the plan of ... exf4 followed by a quick ... c6 and
... d5 assures Black of good counterplay. While it's true that variations with 5 Bg5
and 5 Nf3 are not quite as much fun, they don't really look that threatening to
Black either.
Earlier f2-f4 ideas are rare and some of the variations are very interesting, but this
also looks okay for Black. And finally, answering 3 . . . Bc5 with 4 ... c6 is a worth
while alternative which in practice has discouraged White from playing f2-f4.

201

C h a pter E l even

The Vienna Poisoned Pawn

1 e4 eS 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 Bc4 BcS 4 Qg4 Nd4!? (Diagram 1)

Diagram 1 (W)
One of the main attractions of the Vienna Game and Bishop's Opening is the pos
sibility of playing a number of tricky lines which, especially against unsuspecting
Black players, can result in quite a few easy points. One of these is 1 e4 e5 2 Nc3

202

T h e V i e n n a Poisoned Pawn
Nc6 3 Bc4 (or 2 Bc4 Nc6 3 Nc3). If Black now maintains the symmetry with 3... Bc5
(and what could be more natural?), White can - and generally does - unleash 4
Qg4!?, a move which is not easy to meet, especially for the unprepared. When as a
youngster I played the Vienna/Bishop's Opening more or less all the time, I en
joyed considerable success with this idea. I have particularly fond memories of the
following game, in which I was able to checkmate an international master in un
der twenty moves.

D J.Emms J.Hawksworth

British C h a m pionship, Southa m pton 1986


1 e4 es 2 Bc4 Nc6 3 Nc3 Bcs 4 Qg4 Qf6?
This move is very tempting, tempting enough to have been played on countless
occasions by players of all strengths. But 4 . . .Qf6 is a mistake, mainly because the
threat on the f2-pawn is not such a threat after all. White can choose to ignore it,
and even encourage i ts capture!
Looking at alternatives for Black (excluding 4 . . . Nd4, the main subject of this chap
ter), Black can defend against the threat of Qxg7 easily enough, bu t not without
making some sort of concession. For example:
a) After 4 ... g6 White can hope to exploit the newly weakened dark squares on the
kingside, something that was achieved following 5 Qg3 Nf6 6 Nge2 d6 7 d3 Nh5 8
Qf3 Qf6 9 Qxf6 Nxf6 1 0 Bg5! Nh5 1 1 Nd5 Bb6 1 2 Ng3! (Diagram 2) in
A.Stripunsky-N.Tolstikh, Volgograd 1994. This position is very promising for
White, especially since the capture 1 2 . . . Nxg3 can be met by an annoying
zwischenzug 13 Nf6+.

Diagram 2 (B)

Diagram 3 (B)

203

Da ngerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
b) 4. . .Kf8 avoids weakening the dark squares, but for obvious reasons this is
hardly what Black wants to play either. In practice White has enjoyed some suc
cess from this position; one game continued 5 Qg3 (5 Qf3 is also okay) 5 . . . Nf6 6
Nge2 d6 7 d3 h6 8 Na4 Bb6 9 Nxb6 axb6 1 0 f4 when it was clear that things had
already gone wrong for Black in I.Rogers-G.Olarasu, Saint Vincent 2001 .
Even so, 4 ... g6 and 4 ... Kf8 (and even 4 . . . Bf8, which should be met by 5 Qg3) are
stronger than 4 ... Qf6?, because of. . .

5 Nd5! (Diagram 3)
I imagine this comes as a nasty shock for most players who try 4 ... Qf6. White
gambits his f-pawn, wi th check!

5 Qxf2+
...

5 ... Bxf2+? 6 Kfl is even worse.

6 Kd1
At first sight Black's queen looks like it's in a menacing position, but in reality
Black hasn't got anything here and in fact the queen is in danger. Black also needs
to do something about the threat of Qxg7, not to mention Nxc7+.

6...g6
The other way to defend g7 is with 6 . . . Kf8, but Black is in some trouble here too: 7
Nh3 Qd4 8 d3! (threatening to trap the queen with c2-c3 - a very common theme)
8 ... d6 9 Qg3 Bxh3 (Black plans an escape via ...Qf2) and now, instead of recaptur
ing on h3, White plays the calm 10 Rfl ! (Diagram 4), preventing ... Qf2. The re
newed threat of c2-c3 is devastating, and White won after 10 ... Be6 1 1 c3 Qxc4 12
dxc4 in U.Schminke-H.Wundt, correspondence 1989.

Diagram 4 (B)

204

Diagram 5 (W)

T h e V i e n n a Poisoned Pawn
6 ... Nf6 should fail, and did in P.Leisebein-K.Andre, correspondence 1 980, after 7
Qxg7 Nxd5 8 exd5 Bf8 9 Qxh8 Qxg2 10 dxc6 Qxh1 1 1 Qxe5+ Be7 1 2 Qg3 Qxc6 13
Qg8+ 1 -0.

7 Nh3!
Much stronger than 7 Nxc7+? Kd8 8 Nxa8 d5.

7...Qd4 8 d3!
As in the variation with 6 ... Kf8, the threat is c2-c3 trapping the queen.

8... Bb6
I think it's already got to the stage where nothing can help Black. For example,
8 . . . d6 9 Qf3 Bxh3 1 0 Rf1 ! (we've already seen this idea) 1 0 ... f5 1 1 gxh3 (threatening
c2-c3) 1 l ...Bb6 1 2 c3 Qc5 13 b4 Nxb4 1 4 cxb4 Qc6 1 5 exf5 and White won, E.Ford
S.Blackburn, Bruges 1999.

9 Qf31
Now Whi te might simply capture on b6 and f7.

9...f6
Black can hardly hope to survive after 9 ... f5 1 0 exf5 either.

10 Rf1 d6 (Diagram 5) 11 c3
White can also win with 11 Nxf6+ Nxf6 12 Bf7+!. But 11 c3 nets a piece, keeps the
attack going and is more than adequate.

11...Qc5 12 b4 Nxb4 13 cxb4 Qd4 14 Rb1 hs 15 Nxf6+ Nxf6 16 Qxf6 Bg4+ 11 Kc2
Kd7 18 Qg7+ Kc6 19 bS+ Kc5 20 Ba3 mate (1-0)

Meeting Fire with Fire


In 2003 I became aware of another option for Black, one that had never crossed my
mind until I saw it suggested in Gary Lane's 'Opening Lanes' column on
Chesscafe.com. A reader (Garth Sylbing) posed the question of what should White
do when faced with 4 ... Nd4, which was actually the choice of the computer engine
Fritz. I was curious, even though I was no longer playing the Vienna with Whi te,
and after a quick look at the position and at Gary Lane's response to the query it
did seem to me that this pawn sacrifice was playable for Black. More recently I've
taken a closer look, and I'd like to share some analysis here. I would also like to
mention that 4 . . . Nd4 has been discussed by several players at Chesspublish
ing.com, which has a forum I can really recommend to those interested in discus
sion, opinion and advice on chess openings.

1 e4 e5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 Bc4 BcS 4 Qg4 Nd4!7 (Diagram 6)


Go on, take my pawn!

5 Qxg7
It's true that this capture is not completely forced, but on the other hand I don't

205

D a n ge ro u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
find alternatives to be that inspiring for White:
a) 5 Bb3?! is meek and can be appropriately punished with 5 . . . Nxb3 6 axb3 Nf6!,
planning to meet 7 Qxg7? with 7 . . . Rg8 8 Qh6 Bxf2+!.
b) 5 Kd1 g6 simply leaves White's king on a duff square without any real compen
satory factors. Black can be very happy with his position after, for example, 6 Qg3
d6 7 Nge2 Nf6 8 d3 Be6, intending to answer 9 Bg5 with 9 ... Bxc4 1 0 dxc4 Ne6!.
c) Gary Lane suggested 5 Nd5, when 5 ... Nxc2+ 6 Kd1 Nxa1 ? 7 Qxg7 leaves Black
in some trouble. But 5 . . . g6 is much stronger here than on move four, as now White
must do something about the c2-pawn whilst also bearing in mind the idea of . . .c6
followed by ... d5. So there follows 6 Qd 1 c6 7 Ne3 (Lane), and now I think that
7... d5!? (Diagram 7) is a promising gambit: 8 exd5 cxd5 9 Bxd5 (9 Nxd5 b5!) 9 . . . Nf6
and Black is very active here.

Diagram 6 (W)

Diagram 7 (W)

d) 5 Nf3!?, offering the rook on a1, is the most interesting alternative to 5 Qxg7,
although White's compensation after 5 . . . Nxc2+ 6 Kd1 Nxa1 does seem rather
speculative at best:
d 1 ) 7 Qxg7 Qf6 8 Bxf7+ Kd8! 9 Qg3 Qxf7 10 Qxe5 Nf6 1 1 Qxc5 d6 12 Qd4 Bg4
should be winning for Black. Here 13 Nd5 can be answered by 13 ... Bxf3+ 14 gxf3
Nxd5! 15 Qxh8+ Kd7 1 6 Qxa8 and now a rather neat mate with the queen and two
knights: 16 ... Qxf3+ 17 Ke1 Nc2+ 18 Kfl Qxh1 + 19 Ke2 Nf4.
d2) 7 Nxe5 d5 8 Qh5 (or 8 Qxg7 Qf6 9 Qxf6 Nxf6 1 0 Nxd5 Nxd5 1 1 Bxd5 f6 1 2 Nf3
c6 13 Bc4 b5 14 Be2 Be6) 8 ... g6 9 Nxg6 fxg6 1 0 Qe5+ Qe7 1 1 Qxh8 Bg4+ 1 2 f3 0-0-0
13 Nxd5 Qxe4 and Black is winning.

s Qf6
...

This is forced, of course.

206

T h e V i e n n a Poisoned Pawn

6 Qxf6
DANGEROUS WEAPON! 6 Bxf7+? Qxf7! 7 Qxh8 Nxc2+ 8 Kd1
Nxa1 9 QxeS+ Be7 is probably just good for Black. Added to
this, 7 ... d6! (Diagram 8), as suggested by 'Willempie' at
ChessPublishing.com, may be even stronger, or at the very
least cleaner.

Diagram 9 (W)

Diagram 8 (W)

Black maintains all his threats, and Whi te's queen is in serious danger of being
trapped. For example, 8 Rbl Bg4 9 f3 (threatening 9 .. Nxc2+ 10 Kfl Qxf2 mate)
9 0-0-0 10 fxg4 Nh6 1 1 Qxd8+ Kxd8 with a clear advantage to Black.
.

...

6... Nxf6 (Diagram 9)


What does Black get in return for his pawn?
1 ) A lead in development, which will be increased as White must deal with the
threat to c2;
2) Active pieces;
3) Use of the half open g-file.
Is this sufficient? Only analysis will decide. One point to bear in mind is that, at
the moment, White has no permanent weakness in his position, so Black must
play very actively, trying to utilize the initiative in order to create something tan
gible.

7 Bb3
In deciding how to defend the c2-pawn, this looks like the first move White would

207

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
consider, because i t neither eliminates the possibility o f castling (as White does
with 7 Kd1 ) nor blocks the d-pawn (the problem with 7 Bd3). But having analysed
the variations I'm not sure it's the best move. Let's check out the two alternatives:
a) 7 Kd1 should be answered by 7 . . . Rg8!, trying to provoke a weakness on the
kingside:
a1) After 8 g3 Black could consider 8 ... d6 or 8 ... c6, but 8 . . . d5!? has its attractions,
with Black hoping to exploit the light-squared weaknesses with ... Bg4+. Here's a
possible sequence: 9 exdS (9 NxdS? Nxe4! 1 0 Nxc7+ Kd8 1 1 Nxa8 Nxf2+ 1 2 Ke1
Nxc2+ sees Black picking up both rooks in the corners!) 9 ... Bg4+ 10 Nge2 Bf3 1 1
Rfl ( 1 1 Re1 ? Ng4!) 1 1 .. .0-0-0, and with . . . Ng4 looming Black is having a lot of fun
in this position.
a2) 8 Bfl !? (Diagram 10) is a retreat suggested by Mark Morss at Chesspublish
ing.com. It would certainly take some bravery to play this non-developing move
over the board ! But it may well be stronger objectively than 8 g3. White is relying
upon the fact that he doesn't actually have any weaknesses, and if Black doesn't
play forcefully White can eventually unravel. Some possibili ties: 8 ... d5!? 9 exdS (if
9 d3 Be6 10 Be3 0-0-0 with compensation; 9 NxdS? Nxe4!) 9 .Ng4 1 0 Nh3 (10 Ne4?
BfS!) 10 ... Nf6!? when maybe White shou ld offer a repetition of moves with 1 1 Ng1,
as Morss suggests, as alternatives are risky: e.g. 11 d3 Bg4+! 12 f3 Nxf3.
..

Diagram 10 (B)

Diagram 11 (W)

b) Of course 7 Bd3!? wouldn't appeal to everyone since the bishop commits the sin
of blocking the d2-pawn, but White plans to develop with b2-b3 followed by Bb2,
so this move has to be taken seriously. It seems right to flick in 7 ... Rg8 again, and
now 8 g3 c6 (8 . . . d6?! 9 Na4! - as suggested by 'Chessy' on ChessPublishing.com
gets rid of Black's bishop and prepares c2-c3; 8 . . .b6!? 9 b3 Bb7 followed by ... dS
looks interesting, though) 9 b3 (9 Na4 Be7) 9 ... d5 1 0 exdS (10 Bb2!?) 1 0 ... cxd5 1 1

208

T h e V i e n n a Poisoned P a w n
Bb2 Bd7 1 2 f4!? e4 1 3 Nce2 Nxe2 (13 . . . Nc6!?) 14 Bxe2 d 4 was played in
C.Chambers-M.Barkwell, Internet 2003, with the strong central pawn duo ensur
ing Black of enough compensation. This was one of only two games I could find
on my database where Black had been bold enough to try 4 ... Nd4!.

7... Rg8 (Diagram 11)


As I've mentioned already, it does seem sensible to force White either to play Kfl
or else weaken the light squares on the kingside with g2-g3.

8 Kf1
8 g3 is met by 8 . . . c6! with similar variations to the main line, e.g. 9 d3 aS 10 Be3
and now I like 1 0 . . . Ng4!.

8...c6!
DANGEROUS WEAPON! This ambitious plan of attacking on the
queenside with ... bs and ... as-a4 looks particularly attractive
given that White's bishop on b3 is very much in the firing line.
8 . . . d6 with the idea of . . . Be6, preparing to hike up the pressure on c2, is also possi
ble, but it seems a shame to let the b3-bishop escape via a trade.

9 d3
After 9 Nge2? Black can simply regain his pawn with a good position after
9 . . . Nxe2 10 Nxe2 Nxe4.

9 .. asl (Diagram 12)


.

Diagram 12 (W)

Diagram 13 (W)

Now ...b5 followed by . . . a4 is looming. White could hold back the onrushing

209

Dangero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
pawns by playing a2-a3 o r a2-a4, but after a n exchange on b3 he would have to
recapture cxb3, leaving both his b3-and d3-pawns very weak.

10 Nf3
It's not easy to find a convincing route for White to take, as the following varia
tions demonstrate:
a) 10 a4 d5! 1 1 Nge2 Nxb3 1 2 cxb3 Ng4! 13 Nd1 dxe4 1 4 dxe4 Be6 and White is in
some trouble.
b) 10 Nge2 b5 1 1 a4 ( 1 1 Nxd4 exd4! ) 1 1 ...Nxb3 12 cxb3 b4 13 Nd1 Ba6!.
c) 10 Na4 Ba7 11 c3 loses to 11 ... Nxb3 12 axb3 b5. White can play 1 1 c4 to avert the
threat of losing a piece, but his minor pieces are a bit of a shambles.
d) 10 Be3 b5 1 1 a4 Nxb3 12 cxb3 Bxe3 13 fxe3 b4 14 Nd1 Ba6 15 Nf2 and now Black
has 15 ... Nxe4! .

10 .d6
..

10 ... Nxf3?! doubles White's pawns but relieves a lot of the pressure, and after 1 1
gxf3 b5 1 2 a3 White i s beginning t o secure his position .

11 Be3
1 1 Nxd4 exd4! 12 Na4 Ba7 leaves White with no real answer to the threat of ... b5.

11...Ng41 (Diagram 13)


Threatening 12 ... Nxe3+ 13 fxe3 Nxf3 1 4 gxf3 Bh3+ 15 Ke1 Bxe3. Black has kept his
initiative going and White experiences some di fficul ties consolidating. For exam
ple:
a) 12 Bxd4 exd4 13 Na4 ( 1 3 Ne2 a4 wins a piece) 13 ... Ba7 and the threat of ... b5
hangs over White. He can play 14 c3, but I prefer Black after 14 ... b5 15 cxd4 bxa4
16 Bxa4 Bd7.
b) 12 Re1 b5 (12 ... Nxf3 13 gxf3 Nxe3+ 14 fxe3 Bh3+ 15 Ke2 Rg2+ 16 Kd1 Ke7 also
looks promising) 13 a4 (13 a3 is met by 13 . . . a4 14 Ba2 Nxc2) 13 ... Nxb3 14 cxb3
Nxe3+ 1 5 fxe3 b4 1 6 Nd1 Be6 1 7 Nd2 Kd7 followed by ... Raf8 and . . . f5, or simply
... d5, with more than sufficient compensation for the pawn.

White Avoids 4 Qg4


For those looking to play this line of the Vienna Game as Black, it's worth check
ing out al ternatives for Whi te at move four, and also the Bishop's Opening move
order.

1 e4 eS 2 Nc3
2 Bc4 Nc6 3 Nc3 BcS reaches the same position via the Bishop's Opening, but what
happens if White plays something else on move three?
a) 3 f4!? exf4 is the King's Bishop's Gambit (see Chapter 12), bu t 3 ... Nf6! is an
effective alternative, as I don' t think Whi te can 'consolidate' into a King's Gambit

2 10

T h e V i e n n a Poisoned Pawn
Declined. For example: 4 Nf3!? Nxe4 5 Bd5 and now 5 . . . Nb4!? 6 Bxe4 d5 is very
interesting; 4 d3 d5 5 exd5 Nxd5 6 fxe5 Bc5 7 Nf3 Bg4 is a promising gambit for
Black; and 4 Nc3 Nxe4! is known to be at least equal for Black, e.g. 5 Nf3 Nxc3 6
dxc3 Qe7! (preventing 0-0 on account of . . .Qc5+) 7 b4 d6 8 0-0 Be6 9 Bxe6 Qxe6 10
b5 Nd8 11 fxe5 dxe5 12 Nxe5 Bd6 1 3 Nf3 0-0 when White has regained his pawn
but still stands worse on account of his poor pawn structure, A.Kuindzhi
Y.Razuvaev, Tbilisi 1973.
b) 3 d3 Bc5 4 Nc3 d6 reaches our main line. 4 f4!? has been played very rarely but
it deserves attention. The point is that after 4 ... Bxg1 !? 5 Rxgl Qh4+ 6 g3 Qxh2, it's a
help for White that he has played d2-d3 instead of Nc3 because 7 Be3 is now
available and White has genuine compensation for the pawn - he may even follow
up with Nd2-f3 (compare this with the note to White's fourth move below).

BEWARE! 3 ... Na5? 4 Bxf7+! is known to be a good piece


sacrifice for White, and 4...Kxf7 5 Qh5+ Ke6 6 Qf5+ Kd6 7 d4
certainly doesn't look worth all the hassle for Black!
2 ... Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 d3 (Diagram 14)

Diagram 14 (B)

Diagram 15 (W)

Most players are too tempted by the delights of 4 Qg4 not to take up the challenge.
Those who don't go for it are most likely to settle for 4 d3, as alternatives are ei
ther risky or uninspiring.

DANGEROUS WEAWPONI 4 f4?1 tries to reach a King's Gambit


Declined after 4...d6 5 Nf3 etc, but Black doesn't have to agree
to this. Instead 4 ... Bxg1! 5 Rxg1 Qh4+ (Diagram 15) is a major
problem for White.

211

Da ngerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
For example, 6 Kfl (or 6 g3 Qxh2) 6 . . . Nf6! (this i s better than 6 . . . Qxf4+ 7 Qf3) 7 d3
(or 7 NbS!? 0-0! 8 Nxc7 Nd4! with a strong attack) 7 ... Nd4! with the strong idea of
... Ng4.
4 Nf3 is possible, transposing after 4 . . . Nf6 5 d3 to a quiet line of the Giuoco Piano
(see Chapter 3).

4 d6
...

Black keeps the symmetry going. 4 . . . Nf6 5 f4 is the King's Gambit Declined.

. A

ROLL THE DICE! If Black wants to avoid the symmetry then


4 Na5!?, preparing to trade off White's light-squared bishop,
is an interesting but risky alternative.
...

Black has no problems after 5 Nge2 Nxc4 6 dxc4 d6 7 0-0 Be6 8 b3 Ne7!? with the
idea of . . .0-0 and . . . fS. Or 5 Nf3 Nxc4 6 dxc4 d6 7 Bg5 f6 8 Bd2 Be6 9 Qe2 Qd7 10 0-0
Ne7 and again Black will eventually aim for .. . f5, R.Schreiner-J.Schoellmann, Ger
man League 1 995.
The problem comes with 5 Qg4! (yes, with 4 d3 White hasn't totally given up on
this idea!) 5 . . .Qf6 (5 . . . Nxc4 is answered by 6 Qxg7!, but 5 . . . g6 6 Qg3 Nxc4 7 dxc4 d6
might not be so bad for Black) 6 Qg3 c6 7 Bg5 Qd6 8 Nf3 and Black was struggling
to coordinate his pieces in A. Van de Oudeweetering-J .Smeets, Hengelo 2002.

5 Na4! (Diagram 16)

Diagram 16 (B)

Diagram 17 (W)

White can fight for an advantage only after this move, which exploits the negative
feature of 4 ... d6 - Black is forced to trade his dark-squared bishop. Wannabe
King's Gambiteers will play 5 f4, but Black can still put a spanner in the works

212

T h e V i e n n a Poiso ned Pawn


with 5 ... Bxg1 ! 6 Rxg1 Qh4+ (Diagram 17).
The slight difference that both d-pawns have moved doesn' t, to my mind, alter the
assessment that Black is more than okay here:
a) 7 Kfl Bg4 8 Qe1 Qxh2 9 Nd5 0-0-0 10 f5 Nge7 1 1 Be3 Nxd5 12 Bxd5 Nd4 13 Qf2
Ne2 and Black went on to win in R.Eales-P.Atanasov, Graz 1972.
b) 7 g3 Qxh2 8 Be3 Nd4! 9 Bf2 Nf6 (threatening 10 ... Bg4) 10 f5 h5! (and now the
idea is 1 1 ...Ng4!) 1 1 Nd5 Ng4 12 Rfl c6! 1 3 Nc7+ (13 Bxd4 exd4 1 4 Nc7+ Kd8 1 5
Nxa8 allows mate with 1 5 . . .Qxg3+ 1 6 Ke2 Qe3) 13 ... Kd8 1 4 Nxa8 Nxf2 1 5 Rxf2
Qg1+ and Black wins because 16 Rfl Qe3+ is mate next move.
5 Nge2 has also been played. Black can reply with either 5 ... Nf6 or 5 . . . Nge7, while
5 ... Qh4! ? (Diagram 18), interfering with White's development, is quite enticing: 6
Ng3 (6 0-0 is met by 6 . . . Nf6! intending 7 h3 Bxh3! 8 gxh3 Qxh3 with the deadly
threat of . . . Ng4) 6 . . . Bg4 (6 ... Nf6!?) 7 f3 Be6 was fine for Black in P.Rezzonico
A.Delanoy, Mendrisio 1 989.

Diagram 18 (W)

Diagram 19 (W)

s Bb6 6 Nxb6
...

6 a3 Nf6 7 Nxb6 axb6 transposes to the next note - White has to take on b6 at some
point.

6...axb6 7 f4
The alternative is to create a haven for the bishop with 7 a3, neutralizing the posi
tional threat of ... Na5. Black replies with 7 ... Nf6 (Diagram 19) and now White has a
choice:
a) 8 Bg5 h6 9 Bh4 Be6! (an important equalizing idea) 10 Bxe6 fxe6 1 1 Ne2 Qd7 12
f3 d5 1 3 0-0 0-0 1 4 c3 Ne7 1 5 Qc2 c5 with no problems for Black, A.Noskov-

213

D a n gero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
A.Gelman, Kstovo 1994.
b) 8 Ne2 Be6! 9 Bxe6 fxe6 10 0-0 0-0 with perhaps a slight edge for White but noth
ing more, L. Evans-W.Add ison, New York 1 969.
c) 8 f4 Bg4!? (or 8 ... exf4 9 Bxf4 Be6! 10 Bxe6 fxe6 11 Nf3 e5 12 Bg5 0-0 13 0-0 h6 with
a level position, V.Srebrnic-J.Barle, Slovenia 1 995) 9 Nf3.

TRICKY TRANSPOSITION: With 9 Nf3 we have transposed to a


line of the King's Gambit Declined, but one where White has
played the sub-optimal a2-a3: 1 e4 es 2 f4 Bcs 3 Nf3 d6 4 Nc3
Nf6 5 Bc4 Nc6 6 d3 Bg4 1 Na4 Bb6 8 Nxb6 axb6 9 a3 (9 c3! is
better).
Following 9 . . . exf4! 1 0 Bxf4 Nh5! 1 1 Be3 (or 1 1 Bg5 Bxf3! 12 Qxf3 Qxg5 13 Bxf7+ Ke7
14 Qxh5 Qe3+ 15 Kd1 g6 1 6 Qd5 Nd4!) 1 1 .. .Ne5 12 Bb3 Qf6 Black enjoys good
counterplay.
] NaSI? (Diagram 20)
...

Diagram 20 (W)

Diagram 21 (B)

7... Nf6 8 Nf3 Bg4 reaches the King's Gambit Declined (9 c3!), but 7 . . . Na5 looks like
a good way for Black to diverge because Whi te cannot now keep hold of his light
squared bishop.

8 Nf3
White must avoid 8 fxe5? Nxc4 9 dxc4 Qh4+! .

8 Nxc4 9 dxc4 exf4


...

Black is happy to agree to this capture now that White's pawns in the middle are
split - the one on e4 is a long-term weakness.

214

T h e V ie n n a Poisoned Pawn

10 0-0
Or 10 Bxf4 Be6 1 1 Qd4 f6 12 0-0 Ne7 followed by ... 0-0 and ... Nc6 (or ... Ng6) with a
solid position.

10 8e6 11 Qd3 (Diagram 21)


...

We have been following the game N.Mitkov-R.Camejo Almeida, Arnhem 1990.


Black now greedily tried to keep hold of the f4-pawn with 1 1 ...Qf6?, but after 12
Nd4! gS 13 Bd2!, planning Bc3 with NbS or NfS, White was gaining the upper
hand. Instead of 1 1 .. .Qf6 I think Black should play the simple l l . . Ne7! 12 Bxf4 0-0
with a roughly level position. Black is very solid and can hope to exert pressure on
the c4- and e4-pawns.
.

Conclusion
4 ... Nd4 undoubtedly qualifies as a Dangerous Weapon, and i n my view it's just the
sort of move that would knock a White player out of his stride. White is preparing
to attack with 4 Qg4, and psychologically it might take some adjustment handing
over the initiative and trying to consolidate in a queenless middlegame.
Is 4 ... Nd4 1 00% sound? It's difficult to say, at least at the moment given the scar
city of actual games with the move, but so far I haven' t been able to find a refuta
tion. In fact, it looks like Whi te must play with some care in this line, or else he
could regret grabbing that ' poisoned pawn'.

215

C h a pter Twe lve

Play l i ke a Victo rian:


The King' s Bisho p ' s Gambit
1 e4 e s 2 f4 exf4 3 Bc4!? (Diagram 1)

Diagram 1 (B)

. . JJj,

'W'
216

ROLL THE DICE! This whole variation is Speculative with a


capital S.

P l ay l i ke a V icto r i a n : T h e Ki ng's B i s ho p's G a m bit


The heyday of the King's Bishop's Gambit was a century or more ago, and many
of the quoted games and analyses are so old that at first sight they are hard to take
seriously. However, if I have learned one thing from researching this chapter it is
that we can indeed stil l learn from ancient games. Furthermore, a fair proportion
of our forefathers' analyses stil l hold up to scrutiny.
The gambit i tself is one of the most surprising ways to hit a l . . .eS player early in
the game. Your opponent may never have played against this line before and may
soon be confused by a myriad of tricky tactical variations.
There is obviously risk involved i.n sacrificing a pawn and weakening your king
right from the off, but there is also a buzz from playing chess like a gladiator.
Objectively, though, it is sound enough for players like Ivanchuk and Short to
give it a go occasionally, as you will see if you play through the examples that I
have outlined below.
I suppose no section on the King's Bishop's Gambit would be complete without
including the 'immortal game' . This is basically how the Victorians played chess...

D A.Anderssen L.Kieseritzky

London 185 1
1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4 3 Bc4 Qh4+ 4 Kf1 b5 5 Bxb5 Nf6 6 Nf3 Qh6 7 d3 Nh5 8 Nh4 Qg5 9
Nf5 c6 10 g4 Nf6 11 Rg1 cxb5 12 h4 Qg6 13 h5 Qg5 14 Qf3 NgB 15 Bxf4 Qf6 16 Nc3
Bc5 17 Nd5 Qxb2 18 Bd6 Bxg1 19 e5 (Diagram 2)

Diagram 2 (B)

Diagram 3

19 ... Qxa1+ 20 Ke2 Na6 21 Nxg7+ Kd8 22 Qf6+ Nxf6 23 Be7 mate (Diagram 3)
Now we all like the idea of playing such a swashbuckling game and producing a

217

D a n ge ro u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
juicy checkmate, but modem chess rarely throws u p such games even with this
opening!
I prefer to give this game without annotations, because if we start to go into detail
we might see that behind the charm the game wasn't that accurate!

Here is a more modern handling: White completes development before pressing


on the kingside.

D A.Kislinsky S.Pavlov

Kiev 2005
1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4 3 Bc4 Nf6 4 Nc3 Nc6 5 Nf3 Bb4 6 o-o
6 Nd5 is instead recommended by many theorists (see the ' Looking a Little
Deeper' section).

6 0-0 7 e5 Ng4 8 d4 d6 9 h3 Bxc3 10 bxc3 Ne3 11 Bxe3 fxe3 12 Qe1 dxe5 13 dxe5
Qe7 14 Qxe3 Be6 (Diagram 4)
...

Diagram 4 (W)

Diagram 5 (W)

White's pieces are slightly more active, but he has inferior pawns. Chances are
balanced.

15 Bd3 Rad8 16 Rae1 h6?1


A natural-looking move, but this gradually leads to problems on the kingside.
Better is 16 . . Bd5 intending . . . Bxf3 with a good game.
.

17 Kh1 Rfe8 18 Qe4


Probing for weaknesses.

18 ... g6 19 Qe3 Kg7 20 Nd4 Nxd4

218

Play l i k e a V i cto r i a n : T h e K i n g ' s B i sh o p ' s G a m bit


Exchanges often help the defender, but this allows White to consolidate his centre
as a prelude to pressing against Black's king, so 20 . . . Bd5 should have been pre
ferred.

21 cxd4 cs 22 dxcs ReS 23 Rf6 Rxc5 24 Qg3


Threatening to sacrifice on g6.

24 ... g5 25 Ref1
White's control of the key f-file makes all the difference - one of the ideas behind
his second move!

25 ... Bxa2 26 Qf2 Be6 27 Qe2 Rd8 28 Qhs Rh8 (Diagram 5) 29 Qg6+! 1-0
29 Rg6+ also wins, even though Black could then struggle on with 29 ... Kf8.
After 29 Qg6+, 29 .. . fxg6 (or 29 ... Kf8 30 Rxe6) 30 Rxg6+ Kh7 31 RxgS+ BfS 32 BxfS is
mate.
Most of the time, however, modern games aren't decided by a direct attack. In fact
the opening can be quite positional:
D P.Charbonneau T.Roussel Roozmon

Montrea l 2004
1 e4 es 2 f4 exf4 3 Bc4 Nf6 4 Nc3 c6
This is often given as Black's best defence.

5 Bb3 d5 6 exd5 cxd5

d4 Bb4

Black can also consider 7 . . . Bd6 (see the theory section below for coverage of this
move).

8 Nf3
Another idea is 8 Bxf4!? 0-0 9 Nge2 Bg4 10 Qd3 (D.Reinderman-M.Okkes, En
schede 1990) when, despite the pins and Black's aggression, the position is far
from clear.

8...0-o 9 o-o Bxc3 10 bxc3 Qc7 11 Qe1 Nc6 12 Ne5


12 Qh4 was played in the high-level encounter A.Morozevich-V. Anand, Moscow
(rapid) 1995. Here 12 ... Ne7 13 Bxf4 Qxc3 14 Bd2 Qc7 1 5 Ne5 led to a complicated
game that White won, but because there is some doubt as to whether White really
has enough for his pawn, a few commentators have suggested the move played
by Charbonneau as a possible improvement.

12 ... Nxe5 13 Bxf4 Qc6 14 Bxe5 Ne4 {Diagram 6)


15 Rf4!?
Otherwise there is 1 5 c4 dxc4 16 Bxc4 Qxc4 1 7 Qxe4, when the opposite bishops
may offer White some attacking chances.

219

D a n ge r o u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S

15 ... Be6
Stronger is 1 5 ... Nxc3!, when I'm not sure Whi te has anything better than 16 Rf3
Ne4 1 7 c4 dxc4 18 Bxc4 Qxc4 1 9 Qxe4. Black has pocketed a pawn and shouldn't
be too worried by White's threatening pieces after 19 .. . f6!.

16 c4 dxc4 17 Qxe4 Qxe4 18 Rxe4 cxb3 19 axb3 Bf5 20 Re2


White has a slight edge due to his passed pawn and central pawn mass.

Diagram 6 (W)

Diagram 7 (B)

20... Rfe8 21 Rf2 Bg6 22 c4 a6 23 Bc7 Re3 24 dS Rae8


If 24 ...Rxb3, then 25 Rdl might prove awkward for Black - the d-pawn is difficult
to stop.

25 Raf1 f6 26 Rf3 Kf7 27 Bb6 Rxf3 28 Rxf3 Ke7 29 Kf2 Kd7 30 Rg3
Black's king is now able to keep the d-pawn in check, but Charbonneau keeps
some vague pressure by tying Black down to the sensitive g7-point. This shouldn't
be enough, however, against any player who has plenty of time on the clock.

30...Rg8 31 Ke3 ReB+ 32 Kd2 Re4 33 BaS Rh4 34 h3 Rf4 35 Bb4 Ke8 36 Bd6 Re4 37
Kc3 Kf7
Not 37... Kd7? because of 38 Bf8.

38 Kb41 (Diagram 7)
The last chance to increase the pressure is to use the king!

38 ...Re2 39 Kcs bs 40 Bf4 Be4 41 Kd6 gs


Finally taking care of the weakness, bu t at a price . .
.

42 Re31 Rxe3 43 Bxe3 bxc4 44 bxc4


Connected passed pawns will win the day unless they can be blockaded.

220

Play l i ke a V i ct o r i a n : The K i n g ' s B i shop's G a m bit

44... Bd3
Or 44 ... Bxg2 45 Kc7 Bxh3 46 d6 and White is too fast.

45 cs Be4 46 g3 h5 47 c6 as 48 Kcs!
Now the d -pawn is ready to advance.

48... Ke8 49 d6 Bf5 50 Kb6 Kd8 51 Bd4 Bxh3 52 Bxf6+ Kc8 53 Bxg5 a4 54 Bel Bg4 55
Kb5 1-0

Looking a Little Deeper


1 e4 es 2 f4 (Diagram 8)

Diagram 8 (B)

Diagram 9 (B)

2 ... exf4
This move occurs in about two-thirds of all King's Gambit games. Black captures
the offered pawn; in return White hopes to gain more influence in the centre and
pressure along the f-file.
The main alternatives are 2 . . . Bc5 and 2 ... d5. I can't cover these in any detail here,
but I suggest that the reader investigates the fol lowing ideas which I consider
amongst the most dangerous for Black in the King's Gambit Declined. Against
2 . . . Bc5 I suggest that King's Gambi teers have a good look at 3 Nf3 d6 4 c3! ? fol
lowed by d2-d4 when White's centre can give Black a hard time. Also, after 2 ... d5
3 exd5 e4 (or 3 . . . c6 4 Nc3 exf4 - 4 ... cxd5?! is unconvincing after 5 fxe5 - 5 Nf3 Bd6 6
d4 Ne7 7 Bc4 cxd5 8 Bxd5, when the position is unclear) 4 d3!? Nf6 5 dxe4 Nxe4 6
Be3 Bd6 7 N f3 0-0 8 Bd3 Re8 9 0-0, the onus is on Black to prove that he has
enough play, e.g. 9 ... Nf6 can be met by 1 0 Ne5 ! .

3 Bc4 (Diagram 9)

221

D a n ge r o u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
The bishop goes to the most aggressive square.
There isn't any consensus over what Black's best move is here. Your opponent
may already be ou t of his book and thinking, 'Ooh, I don't know that one! Which
move looks playable and might surprise White back?'
In fact I will investigate the 12 (yes, twelve!) most plausible replies, which in prin
ciple should mean that you will be ready for whatever your opponent plays!

A: 3 ...g5
B: 3 ... b5
C: 3 ... Nc6
D: 3 ...f5
E: 3 ... Ne7
F: 3 ...c6
G: 3 ... Be7
H: 3 ... h6
I) 3 ... Qh4+
J) 3 ... d6
K) 3 ...d5
L} 3 ...Nf6
A) Although 3 ... g5 is one of Black's best defences against 3 Nf3, here the g-pawn is
just a target: 4 h4 d5 (or 4 ... g4 5 d4 etc) 5 exd51 (Capablanca tried 5 BxdS in some
simultaneous games, but without success against 5 ... Nf6 followed by ... NxdS; with
Black's kingside structure looking shaky there's no reason not grab the pawn)
5 ...Bd6 6 Qe2+ KfB 7 hxg5 Qxg5 8 Nf3 Qg3+ 9 Qf2 Bg4 10 d4 Nd7 11 Nc3 ReB+ 12
Kf1 Ngf6 13 Qxg3 fxg3 14 Bh6+ KgB 15 Bb3 (Diagram 10) and White has a posi
tional advantage, R.Cseke-F.lvanics, Hungarian League 2001 . In the further course
of the game Black's king rook was unable to come into play until it was too late.

B) Throwing the other knight's pawn forward is a somewhat optimistic counter


gambit: 3 ... b5?1 4 Bxb5 Qh4+ 5 Kf1 (Diagram 11).
Here are three examples which suggest that White retains the advantage from this
position:
a) S ... gS 6 Nc3 Bg7 (or 6 . . . Bb7 7 Nf3 QhS 8 d4 Bg7 9 Be2 Ne7 1 0 NbS Na6 1 1 dS,
with an edge to White) 7 d4 Ne7 8 Nf3 QhS 9 h4! (a typical method to bite back at
Black's kingside edifice) 9 ... h6 10 eS NfS 1 1 Kg1 Ng3 12 Rh2 Qg6 13 NdS Kd8 1 4
hxgS hxg5 1 5 Rxh8+ Bxh8 16 NxgS! QxgS 1 7 Bxf4 Qh4 1 8 Bxg3 Qxg3 19 QhS Qg7
20 Qh4+ 1-0, A.Anderssen-J.Li::iwenthal, 9th matchgame, London 1 85 1 .

222

Play l i ke a V i ctori a n : T h e K i n g' s B i s h o p ' s G a m bit

Diagram 10 (B)

Diagram 11 (B)

b) 5 ... f5 6 Nc3 c6 7 Ba4 fxe4 8 Nxe4 Nf6 9 Nf3 Qh6 1 0 Qe1 Nxe4 1 1 Qxe4+ Kd8 12
d3 Bd6 1 3 Bd2 was better for White in R.Swiderski-G.Mar6czy, Vienna 1 903.
c) 5 . . . Nf6 6 Nf3 Qh6 7 Nc3 g5 8 d4 Bb7 9 h4 Rg8 10 Kg1 gxh4 1 1 Rxh4 Qg6 1 2 Qe2
Nxe4 1 3 Rxf4 f5 14 Nh4 Qg3 1 5 Nxe4, N.Short-G.Kasparov, London theme match
(rapid) 1 993, and Black resigned due to 1 5 . . . Bxe4 1 6 Rxe4+ fxe4 17 Qxe4+ Kd8 1 8
N f5 Qg6 19 Qxa8.
'-._(jj

DANGEROUS WEAPON! It seems that 3 ... bs?! not only gives


away a pawn, but any tempo or two gained for development is
more than outweighed by a serious self-weakening effect.

C) There is no easy way for White to keep the ini tiative after 3 ... Nc6, and several
typical White ideas just seem downright bad. For example, 4 d4?! Nf6 5 e5 d5! 6
Bb3 (other bishop moves are not much better either) 6 . . . Bg4! 7 Qd3 Ne4 and Black
is already better.

BEWARE! . . of taking 3 ... Nc6 too lightly.


.

So I suggest this as a reasonable way to play: 4 Nf3 (a slight cop-out, as this posi
tion can arise from the King's Knight's Gambit) 4...g5 (following 4 ... d6 5 d4 Bg4 6
Bxf4, after 6 . . . Bxf3 7 gxf3 White has the centre and the bishop pair, while 6 ... Nf6 7
Nc3 Be7 8 Qd3 0-0 9 0-0-0 left White with the more comfortable game in
H.Westerinen-Y.Kraidman, Gausdal 1 996) 5 Nc3 Bg7 6 NdSI? d6 7 d4 h6 8 c3 Nf6 9

h4 (Diagram 12).

223

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S

Diagram 13 (B)

Diagram 1 2 (B)

There have been only a couple of examples from this position, but White has so
far been successful from a theoretical point of view: 9 . . . g4 10 Nd2 Nh5 1 1 Nfl Bf6
12 Bxf4 Nxf4 13 Nxf4 Bxh4+ 1 4 g3 Bg5 1 5 Ne3 Bxf4 16 gxf4 h5 1 7 Nxg4! left Whi te
with an edge in H.Pillsbury-C.Schlechter, Vienna 1 903; and 9 . . . Nxe4 1 0 hxg5 hxg5
1 1 Rxh8+ Bxh8 12 Qe2 f5 1 3 Nd2 Kf8 14 Qh5 Kg7 1 5 Nxe4 fxe4 16 Bxf4 gxf4 1 7
0-0-0 was even worse for Black a s Whi te has a winning attack, A .Reprintsev
A.Melnichenko, Alushta 1 998.
Pillsbury's early Nb1 -c3-d5 idea is frankly lacking practical tests, but is the sort of
Dangerous Weapon manoeuvre that can catch an opponent out. Furthermore, there
is a certain logic in placing a knight on d5 in a variation where Black doesn't have
. . . c6 readily at his disposal.

D) A violent way of hitting back is the wild-looking ...


3 f5 4 Nc3!
...

Although 4 Qe2 is recommended in many books, the latest analysis seems to show
it to be fine for Black. As for 4 Nc3, developing rapidly has its points!

4... Qh4+
Or:
a) 4 ... d5 is best met by 5 exd5!, when Black's pawn doesn't look right on f5.
b) 4 ... Nf6 5 d3 c6 6 Bxf4 d5 7 exd5 cxd5 8 Bb3 Bb4 9 Qe2+ Kf7 10 Nf3 Re8 1 1 Ne5+
Kf8 12 d4 Nc6 13 0-0-0 Bxc3 1 4 bxc3 (H.Westerinen-J. Kiltti, Jyvaskyla 1 994) reaches
an unclear position. Instead 1 0 Qf3! Re8+ 1 1 Nge2 looks slightly better for White.

5 Kf1 fxe4 6 Nxe4 (Diagram 13) 6 Be7


...

2 24

P l ay l i ke a V i ctori a n : T h e K i n g s B i s h op's G a m bit


'

6 ...c6 can be met by 7 Qe2!. For example, 7 ... Kd8 8 Nf3 Qh5 and now the most am
bitious is 9 Neg5!? d5 10 Ne5 f3 1 1 Nef7+ Kc7 12 Qxf3 Qxf3+ 13 Nxf3 dxc4 14 Nxh8
with unclear consequences. 9 Bxg8 is safer, with chances of a slight pull after
9 . . . Rxg8 10 d4 d5 1 1 Neg5 Bg4 12 Bxf4 Kc8 13 Rel .

7 d4 Nf6
Most commentators dismiss 4 Nc3 because of the following game: 7 ... Nh6 8 Nf3
Qh5 9 Bxf4 d5 1 0 Ng3 Qf7 1 1 Bb5+ c6 12 Bxh6 cxb5! and Black was already better
in G.Mar6czy-G.Marco, Vienna 1903. However, in this line Whi te can improve by
playing 1 0 Bxh6!, e.g. 10 . . . gxh6 1 1 Ng3 Qf7 12 Bd3 (12 Bb5+!?) 12 . . . Nc6 13 c3 Bg4 14
h3 Be6 1 5 Qc2 0-0-0 1 6 Re1 with a complex position where I have a certain prefer
ence for White, whose structure is sounder.

8 Nf3 Qh6 9 Qe2 (Diagram 14)

Diagram 14 (B)

Diagram 15 (W)

8... Nc6
9 ... Rf8 is met by 10 Bd2, when Re1 is in the air.

10 Bd2 d6 11 Re1 Bg4 12 Nf21


In this interesting position White has full compensation for his pawn.

E) 3 ... Ne7 is a practical and modern approach. After 4 Nc3, as Black cannot imme
diately play . . . d5, the knight is generally used to defend the f4-pawn with 4...Ng6.
Here is one example from grandmaster praxis: 5 Nf3 Be7 6 0-0 0-0 7 d4 c6 8 Bb3 as
9 a4 d6 10 Ne2 Be6 11 c3 Qb6 12 Bc2 Bc4 13 Bd3 Bb3 (Diagram 15).
Then after 14 Qe1?! Ne5 Black equalized in M .Adams-I.Sokolov, Koge 1 997. Soko
lov instead suggests 14 Qd2!, e.g. 14 ... Ne5 15 Nxf4 Nxd3 16 Qxd3, and he then pre
fers White.

225

D a n ge r o u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e s
Adams's Nc3-e2 hitting f4 i s noteworthy. I n general, if Whi te can regain the pawn
he may just enjoy a safe edge as Black is unable to seriously counter his centre.
Black can also try 4 . . . c6, which transposes to Fl .

F) With 3 ...c6 Black shows his intention to play for ... d5. After 4 Nc3 (Diagram 16),
the most natural reply is 4 ... Nf6 which transposes to Line L (3 . . . Nf6 4 Nc3 c6), per
haps Black's best defence of all. There are, however, a couple of noteworthy alter
natives:

Diagram 16 (B)

Diagram 17 (B)

F1) The cautious move 4... Ne7 also has a transpositional character, this time from
Line E (3 . . . Ne7 4 Nc3 c6), but this is less trustworthy: 5 Qh5 Ng6 6 d4 Be7 7 Nge2
b5 8 Bb3 b4 9 Nd1 Ba6 10 Nxf4 d5 11 exd5 o-o 12 Nxg6 (12 Nd3 also looks promis
ing) 12 ... hxg6 13 Qf3, and White was somewhat better in J.R.Koch-L.Fressinet,
French League 2006.
F2) More aggressive is 4 ... d5 5 exd5 Qh4+ 6 Kf1 f3, but despite White's shaky
looking king I believe that he can retain an advantage, for instance: 7 d3 fxg2+ 8
Kxg2 Nf6 9 Qe2+ Kd8 10 Qe5! (Diagram 17), and now both 1 0 . . .Qg4+ 1 1 Qg3, and
10 ... Qf2+ 1 1 Kxf2 Ng4+ 12 Kg2 Nxe5 1 3 Bf4, V.lvanchuk-J . Piket, Linares 1997,
leave White on top due to his lead in development.

G) I know that after 3 ... Be7 some players may be happy to transpose to the 'nor
mal' King's Gambit with 4 Nf3, but the following line gives an original flavour
and is perhaps more in the spirit of the present chapter: 4 d4 Bh4+ 5 Kf1 Nf6 6 Qf3
0-0 7 Bxf4, though Whi te has other ideas such as 7 Nc3, or 7 g3 d5 8 exd5 Bf5 9
Nc3 Bg5 with unclear play.

226

Play l i ke a V icto r i a n : T h e K i ng's B i shop's G a m bit


As White's king has been forced to move Black players might be tempted to open
lines with 5 ... d5 (rather than 5 ... Nf6), when I prefer 6 exd5 (after the plausible 6
Bxd5 Nf6 7 Nc3 Nxd5 8 Nxd5 0-0 9 Nf3, I like Black's chances due to 9 .. .f5!?)
6... Ne7 7 Nf3 (or perhaps 7 Qf3!?) 7 ...Bf6 8 Nc3 Ng6 9 Qe2+ (Diagram 18), which
favours White, e.g. 9 ...Qe7 10 Qxe7+ Kxe7 1 1 h4 h5 12 Bd3.

Diagram 19 (B)

Diagram 18 (B)

These lines are far from exhaustive, but should point you in the right direction.

H) After 3 ... h6 4 Nc3 d6 5 d4 Ne7 6 Bxf4 and then 6 ... Ng6 7 Qf3, M.Lanzani
L.Haraldsson, Cal via 2006, White has a dream position. Instead, Black can play
more resolutely with 6...Qh4+ 6 Kf1 g5?!, but then White has 7 Nd51 Kd8 8 Be2 c6 9

Bd2! (Diagram 19).


,,a

DANGEROUS WEAPON!: The threat to trap the queen puts


Black's whole strategy in doubt. White is punishing Black for
daring to put his queen over therel

In the game B.Mazurchak-A.Solomoha, Kiev 2006, White instead continued with


7 Nf3 QhS, and only then 8 Nd5, but this was less clear: 8 ... Kd8 9 h4 (9 Qe1 Bg4 10
Qa5!? b6 11 Qa3, or simply 9 Kf2, is also possible) 9 . c6 10 Nc3 Bg7 1 1 e5 d5 12 Be2
Qg6 13 Bd3 Bf5 and now White obtained wild and unclear play after 14 g4!?.
..

It seems to me that ... h6 is rather slow. If White reacts with an early Ngl-f3, then
Black can possibly justify his play by continuing with . . . g5. However, White isn't
afraid of facing . . .Qh4+ and can get on with other useful developing moves in
stead.

227

D a n gero u s Wea p o n s :

e4 e S

I) This now brings us to the question o f this tempting queen check which, as we've
seen in a number of these lines, Black can often throw in at various points in the
proceedings.
White has to move his king, but is Black's queen really at ease on h4? In any case
playing this as early as move three is considered to be one of Black's best defences.
After 3 ...Qh4+ 4 Kf1 (Diagram 20),

Diagram 20 (B)

Diagram 21 (B)

Black has a wide choice:

11) 4...g5 5 Nc3 Bg7 6 g3!? (not the only way, bu t quite a good option; also danger
ous is 6 d4 d6 7 Nf3 Qh5 8 h4 h6 9 e5! with serious threats) 6 ...fxg3 7 Kg2 Qh6 8
hxg3 Qg6 9 d4 d6 10 Nf3 h6 11 e5 favoured Whi te in O.Wuefling-G.Schultz,
Dusseldorf 1862.
12) 4... Nf6 5 Nf3 Qh5 was tried with success in a fairly recent Vietnamese Champi
onship game: 6 Nc3 Bb4 7 e5 Bxc3 8 dxc3 Ng4 9 Bxf4 Nc6 10 h3? (an improvement
would be 10 g3! 0-0 1 1 Kg2, when White is surely better with his bishops and
fairly safe king) 10 . . . Qf5! 11 Qd2 Ngxe5, and Black exploited the pin on the f-fi le to
escape with a pawn in Nguyen van Huy-Nguyen Thai Binh, Dalat 2004.
BEWARE! ... of tricks against the potentially vulnerable white
king.
White actually has a promising alternative even as early as move six: 6 Qe1!?.
J.Nielsen-H.Edvardsson, Copenhagen 2003, continued 6...d6 7 e5 dxe5 8 Nxe5 Be6
and now 9 Nxf7! (Diagram 21).
Ouch!

13) After 4 ... Ne7 5 Nf3 Qh5 6 Nc3 d6 7 d4 g5 8 h4, White again has good chances on

228

Play l i ke a V i ct o r i a n : T h e K i n g' s B i s h o p ' s G a m bit


the kingside.

14) A complex mix of ideas can be seen after 4...d5, when Black wants to speed his
development in order to consolidate his kingside. Following 5 Bxd5 Black has a
couple of ways of trying to do this:
a) First of all, 5 . . . Bd6 6 d4 Ne7 7 Nf3 Qh5 8 Bc4 f6 9 Nc3 c6 10 e5 fxe5 1 1 Ne4 Bc7 12
dxe5 Bxe5 13 Nd6+ Bxd6 1 4 Qxd6 Qg6 1 5 Bxf4 proved to be very good for White
in S.Freiman-M.Lowcki, Opatija 1912. However, Estrin and Glazkov recom
mended 9 . . . Bg4! as being better. Then I suggest 1 0 NbS! (Diagram 22).

Diagram 22 (B)

Diagram 23 (B)

Now 10 . . . g5 1 1 Kg1 Nbc6 12 h4 offers White excellent compensation, and 1 l .. .Bxf3


12 Nxd6+ cxd6 13 Qxf3 Qxf3 14 gxf3 yields an interesting position where the pair
of bishops should fully compensate for Black's two knights plus pawn.
b) The immediate 5 ... g5 is very provocative: 6 g3! (Diagram 23) 6 ... fxg3 (6 ...Qh6 7
d4 Nf6 8 Qf3 Nxd5 9 exd5 Bd6 1 0 c4 b6 1 1 h4 was much better for White in
O.Duras-R.Spiel mann, Opatija 1912) 7 Qf3 g2+ 8 Kxg2 Nh6 9 Qg3 (or alternatively
9 d4 Bg7 10 c3) 9 ... Bd6 10 Qxh4 gxh4 1 1 d4 Rg8+ 12 Kfl Rg6 13 e5 Be7 14 Be4 Nf5
(M.Chigorin-G.Mar6czy, Vienna 1 903), and now ei ther Estrin and Glazkov's 15 c3,
or my 15 Ne2!, leaves White with an edge.

15) Possibly the best of the bunch is 4 ...c6! 5 Nf3 Qh5 6 Nc3 Nf6 7 d4 d5 8 exd5 cxd5
9 Bb5+ Nc6 10 Bxf4 Bb4 with near equality, J.Arnason-J .Hjarta rson, Kopavogur
(rapid) 2000. Perhaps then 11 Bg51? is a good practical move to keep some tension.
16) 4...d6 5 d4 transposes to Line J (see below).
It's not really possible to give a definitive judgement on 3 ...Qh4+. The type of posi
tion and the evaluation depend very much on the follow-up, but Line 15 looks a
reasonable way to seek equal chances for Black.

229

D a n ge r o u s Wea p o n s :

e4 e S

J ) The modest move 3 ...d6 puts off committing Black for another move, bu t after
4 d4 (Diagram 24) he needs to make a decision:

Diagram 24 (B)

Diagram 25 (B)

J1) 4 ... g5?! is dubious, as after 5 h4 Black's structure will be compromised.


J2) 4... Nf6 5 Nc3 Be7 (otherwise 5 . . . Nxe4!? comes into consideration: 6 Qe2 f5 7
Bxf4 Nd7 8 Nf3 - 8 Nxe4 fxe4 9 Qxe4+ Qe7 is less challenging - 8 ... Ndf6 9 Ng5 Qe7
10 Ngxe4 Nxe4 1 1 Nd5 Qd8 12 0-0-0 c6 13 Nc3 Be7 14 Nxe4 fxe4 1 5 d5 and White
was slightly better in N . Vlassov-V.Vorotnikov, Moscow 1995) 6 Bxf4 and here
6. . . Be6 7 Bxe6 fxe6 8 Qe2 0-0 9 0-0-0 (V.Kupreichik-V.Komliakov, Koszalin 1999)
and 6. . . 0-0 7 Qe2 (M.Spaan-N.Hauwert, Haarlem 2003) are both worth a slight
edge to White.

J3) Naturally 4...Qh4+ bears similari ties to Line

1: 5 Kf1 Be6 (5 . . . g5 6 Nc3 Bg4 7 Qd3


Ne7 leads to White obtaining a good game after 8 g3!, as played by A.McDonnell
in a 1830 simul (yes, you read it correctly!), with the idea of 8 . . . fxg3 9 Kg2) 6 Qd3

Nf6 7 Nf3 Qg4 8 Nc3 Be7 9 h3 Qg6 10 Bxf4 0-0 11 Re1 Nh5 12 Bh2 Ng3+ 13 Bxg3
Qxg3 14 Ne2 Qg6 15 Nf4 and White had some pressure in V.lvanchuk-P.Nikolic,
Antalya (rapid) 2004.

K) 3 ...d5 4 Bxd5 Nf6 is an overrated idea (perhaps Black's best option here is to
transpose to Line 14 with 4 . . . Qh4+!?, which is messy): 5 Nc3 Bb4 6 Nf3 Bxc3 (even
worse is 6 ... 0-0 7 0-0 Bxc3 8 dxc3 c6 9 Bc4 Qb6+ 10 Kh 1 Nxe4 1 1 Qe1 Re8 12 Bxf4
Nd6 13 Bxd6! with a winning attack, R.Fischer-W.Nyman, Cicero simultaneous
1964) 7 dxc3 c6 8 Bc4 Qxd1+ 9 Kxd1 0-0 10 Bxf4 Nxe4 11 Re1 (Diagram 25).
Now 11... Nc5 12 Re7 Be6 13 Bxe6 Nxe6, O.Jackson-J.Rowson, British Champion
ship, Plymouth 1992, is given as equal by ECO. But White is surely better, for in-

230

Play l i ke a V i cto r i a n : T h e K i n g' s B i sh o p ' s G a m bit


stance after the game continuation 14 Be3 b6 15 Ke2 cs 16 Nes.
A more recent game varied with 1 l .. .Bf5 12 Kcl Nf6 13 b4 Nbd7 1 4 Kb2, but this
also left White with an edge in A.Mikhalchishin-D.Pavasovic, Sibenik 2002.
So if Black really insists on sacrificing his pawn back with 3 ... d5, he would be ad
vised to follow up with 4 ... Qh4+!? rather than the tame 4 ... Nf6.

L) So we finally get to the main line!


3 ... Nf6 4 Nc3 (Diagram 26)

Diagram 26 (B)

Diagram 27 (B)

4. c6
..

Black has two alternatives that are worthy of merit: 4 . . . Bb4 and 4 ... Nc6.
a) After 4 ... Bb4 the main line goes 5 eS dS 6 BbS+ c6 and now:
al) The little-played 6 ... Nfd7!? has recently come to the attention of theorists: 7
NxdS BaS 8 Nxf4 QgS (8 ... c6 9 Be2 NxeS 10 c3 0-0 1 1 d4 Ng4 1 2 Nf3 also looks
about equal) 9 Ngh3 QxeS+ 1 0 Qe2 c6 1 1 QxeS+ NxeS 1 2 Be2 was close to being
equal in H.Si.ichting-I.Gunsberg, Hanover 1902. With the pawn structure being
asymmetric there are chances to create some play . In the game White continued
with b2-b3, Bb2 and 0-0-0 and obtained pressure, but Black should have defended
more carefully, for instance by starting with 12 ... Bg4!.
a2) 6 ... c6 7 exf6 cxbS 8 Qe2+ Be6 9 QxbS+ Nc6 1 0 Nf3 (or perhaps 1 0 fxg7!? Rg8 1 1
Nf3! Rxg7 12 0-0 Qd7 13 d 4 0-0-0 1 4 Bxf4 when, although Black had some practical
compensation in M .Chigorin-B.Englisch, Vienna 1882, a pawn is a pawn! )
1 0 ...Qxf6 (10 ... Bxc3 1 1 bxc3 Qc7 is given a s unclear b y some sources, but m y com
puter prefers White) 1 1 Qxb7 Rc8 12 NxdS! {Diagram 27), as played in L.Paulsen
I.Kolisch, London 1 861, is considered by some as being good for White, but this is

231

D a n ge r o u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e s
actually far from clear. It's true that the complications o f the game did go White's
way: 12 ... Qf5 1 3 Nc7+ Rxc7 1 4 Qxc7 Qe4+ 15 Kd 1 0-0 16 d3 Qg6 17 Qxf4 and Black
had little to show for his heavy material investment.
However, in this line Black can improve with 13 ... Kd8! . Best play appears to be 1 4
Nxe6+ Qxe6+ 1 5 Kd1 ! Qg6!, when White's three main tries don't seem to yield
more than equality:
a21) 16 Qa6?! Re8 17 Qd3+ Qxd3 18 cxd3 Bd6 favours Black, whose active pieces
are more important than White's nominal material advantage.
a22) 16 Qb5 Qxc2+ (1 6 . . . Qxg2 17 Qd3+ Kc7 1 8 Rg1 Qh3 19 Rxg7 Rcd8 20 Qe2 Rhe8
21 Qg2 Qe6 22 c3 Bf8 23 Rxh7 is decidedly murky) 17 Kxc2 Nd4+ 18 Kd3 Nxb5 19
b3 Re8 20 Bb2 f6 21 Rac1 Kd7 with a balanced endgame in prospect.
a23) 16 Re1 Qxg2 (or 16 . . . Rb8 17 Qa6 Kc7 1 8 Qf1 Rhe8 1 9 Rxe8 Rxe8 20 c3 Bd6 21
d3 and the complex struggle continues) 17 Ne5 Rc7 1 8 Nxc6+ Qxc6! (18 ... Rxc6?! 19
Qb8+ Kd7 20 Qxf4 looks promising) 19 Qxb4 Qf3+ 20 Re2 Qh1+ with a draw.
b) 4 ... Nc6 5 Nf3 Bb4 6 Nd5 0-0 7 0-0 Nxe4 8 d4 Nf6 (8 ... Be7 is slow, and after 9 Bxf4
d6 10 Qd3 Nf6 1 1 Ng5 g6 12 Nxe7+ Nxe7 13 Rae1 White has a strong initiative) 9
Nxb4 (Bogoljubow's suggestion 9 Ng5 Nxd5 1 0 Nxf7 Rxf7 1 1 Bxd5 looks a bit op
timistic after 1 1 ...Qe7 1 2 Bxf4 Nd8) 9 ... Nxb4 1 0 Bxf4 d5 1 1 Bb3 Ne4 12 Nd2 Ng5?!
(after 12 ... Nxd2! 13 Qxd2 Nc6 White has decent practical compensation, but no
more) 13 Qh5 Ne6 14 Be3 Nc6 15 c3 Ne7 16 g4 g6 (16 ... c6 is no good, as following
17 Bc2 Ng6 18 Rf3 Qb6 19 Rh3 h6 20 Bxh6! White crashes through) 17 Qh4 f5 1 8
Bh6 with good attacking chances, R.Spielmann-E.Bogoljubow, Triberg 1921 .

5 Bb3 dS 6 exds cxds 7 d4 Bd6


For the equally viable 7 ...Bb4, see the game Charbonneau-Roussel Roozman.

8 Nf3 (Diagram 28)

Diagram 28 (W)

232

Diagram 29 (B)

Play l i ke a V i ctor i a n : T h e K i n g ' s B i s ho p ' s G a m bit


Nigel Short has favoured this move over the older 8 Nge2.

8...0-0
This is considered to be the most precise. Instead 8 . . . Nc6?! 9 0-0 Be6 10 Ng5! h6 1 1
Nxe6 fxe6 1 2 Bxf4 Bxf4 1 3 Rxf4 0-0 1 4 Qd3 Qd6 1 5 Rafl gave White an edge in
N.Short-P.Nikolic, Wijk aan Zee 1 997.

9 0-0
Now after 9 ... Nc6 Black has to contend with the cheeky 10 Nxd5 Nxd5 1 1 Bxd5,
e.g. 1 1 . ..Bf5 1 2 c3 Qf6 13 Bc4 g5 14 Bd3 Bg6 1 5 Bxg6 hxg6 1 6 Nd2 with better
chances for White, who has the more secure majori ty, A. Reprintsev-G.Kuzmin,
Debrecen 1 989.

9... Be6 1o Nes


As Black's king is safely tucked away, 10 Ng5 can be comfortably met by 10 ... Bg4.

10... Nc6
10 . . . Bxe5 has also been played a few times; e.g. 1 1 dxe5 Ng4 12 Nxd5 Nc6 13 Bxf4
Bxd5! 14 Qxg4! (14 Qxd5? Qb6+! ) 14 . . . Bxb3 1 5 axb3 Qd4+ 16 Kh1 Nxe5 17 Qf5 with
a small pull for White, B.Biankenberg-F. Kahl, correspondence 1 999.

11 Bxf4 ReB 12 Kh1 a6 13 Nxc6 bxc6 14 Bgs Be7 15 Qd3 as 16 Rae1 Nd7 17 Bxe7
Qxe7 18 Na4 (Diagram 29)
Whi te is slightly more active, N.Short-A.Karpov, Buenos Aires 2000.

Conclusion
Despite the plethora of variations (some admittedly being a bit hairy!) there are
only a small number that allow Black to get a decent position. Even grandmasters
seem confused about how to meet this pesky little variation, but Line L seems the
safest way to try and equalize.
Summing up then, although the King's Bishop's Gambit doesn't ensure an advan
tage, it virtually guarantees making your opponent feel uncomfortable.
So go on, I dare you ... Roll those dice and play like a Victorian (well, at least you
can try!).

233

Cha pter Th i rtee n

The Ce nt re Game Revealed :


Part I
1 e4 es 2 d4!? (Diagram 1)

Diagram 1 (B)
When John Emms first invi ted me to contribute to this book, it occurred to me al
most immediately that the Centre Game (which I will henceforth abbreviate to
CG) would make an ideal subject of discussion. If you glance back to the introduc-

2 34

T h e C e ntre G a m e Revea l e d : P a rt

tory 'What is a Dangerous Weapon?' section, I think you will agree that the CG
matches most, or arguably all of the criteria listed. Here is a brief summary of
what I consider to be the key features of this opening:
1) White plays actively and ambitiously from an early stage. He intends to de
velop his pieces rapidly and will typically castle on the queenside. After that he
will usually aim for a rapid attack on the kingside and/or in the centre.
2) The CG carries only a small fraction of the theoretical baggage of more main
stream systems such as the Ruy Lopez, Scotch, Four Knights and 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4,
not to mention the Petroff, an opening for which 1 e4 eS 2 Nf3 players must also
prepare. Nevertheless, 1 must stress that a certain amowzt of theoretical preparation is es

sential in order to play this open in with success, as several lines can become extremely
sharp at an early stae. The good news is that, due to the CG's lack of popularity, you
can bet that a large proportion of your opponents will know very little about it.
3) As early as the third move, White positively flies in the face of one of the fun
damental principles of classical opening play. Not only does he move his queen
before any of his other pieces, he also allows it to be attacked immediately, forcing
Her Majesty to expend a further tempo. Thus, after four moves White will have
moved his queen twice, without yet managing to develop a single minor piece!
Although we must of course recognize the negative aspect of this point, I would
also like to highlight a potential positive, namely the quite realistic possibility of
many players underestimating White's opening.

DANGEROUS WEAPON! To recap these three points: the CG is a


relatively (by comparison with the aforementioned major
systems) easy-to-learn, non-theoretical, unusual, provocative
yet at the same time highly aggressive and ambitious opening
system, which many Black players are likely to underestimate.
Without wanting to go overboard with the preliminary propaganda,
we can already identify it as an ideal choice for a Danerous Weapon!

think that

4) A final positive point is that White gets to implement his idea as early as the
second move. Thus, i f you decide to incorporate the CG into your repertoire, you
will have the opportuni ty to play it in virtually every single game in which your
opponent meets 1 e4 with 1 . . . e5. The only exceptions would be those rare cases in
which Black meets 2 d4 with something other than 2 . . .exd4, but if Mea Database
2007 is anything to go by this is only likely to occur in approximately one ou t of
every eight games.

0 A.Shabalov A.lvanov
US C h a m pionsh ip, Key West 1994

Alexander Shabalov is a successful and highly respected grandmaster. Originally

235

Dangero u s Wea po n s : 1 e4 e S
from Latvia but now residing in the United States, h e is renowned for his exciting
attacking style. According to my database he employed the CG six times over the
period 1994-96, scoring 4/4 against human opponents and a less successful 0/2
against computers. Several other grandmasters have used it as an occasional (and
often effective) surprise weapon, the most famous being Judit Polgar and Alexan
der Morozevich. In the last two years its most noteworthy adherent has been the
young Russian GM Nepomniashchy, who has employed it against some ex
tremely tough opposition. We will see more of all these names over the course of
the next three chapters, but for the time being let us see Shabalov in action against
a fellow naturalized American, Alexander Ivanov, who was unquestionably the
strongest of Shabalov's CG victims, with a rating of 2575 at the time of the present
game.

1 e4 es 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Nf6


This is the most natural and popular move, although Black has at his disposal an
abundance of playable alternatives. These, along with his second and third move
deviations, will form the subject of Chapter 1 5 .

5 Nc3 Bb4 (Diagram 2)

Diagram 2 (W)

Diagram 3 (B)

Once again this is an active and obvious move, and quite possibly the strongest in
the position. Black intends . . .0-0 and . . . Re8, pressurizing e4 and hoping to make
the white queen feel uncomfortable. 5 ...Be7 is the main alternative, and will be
discussed in Chapter 14, along with a few minor 5 . . . Bb4 lines.

6 Bd2 0-0 7 0-0-0 ReS


Black plays very logically, and if the reader is playing through these moves for the
first time he may be forgiven for wondering how on earth White can hope to jus-

236

T h e C e nt re G a m e Revea l e d : Part I
tify his opening play! But after his next move the plot begins to thicken . . .

8 Qg31 (Diagram 3)
Offering a pawn sacrifice! Instead 8 f3 dS! already leaves Black well placed, while
8 Bc4 d6 9 f3 NaS! is also known to be pleasant for Black. Aside from being
White's only really challenging continuation, the text is also wonderfully thematic
for the CG in that the active queen expends yet another tempo in the early stages!
I cannot assure you of the absolute theoretical soundness of the pawn sacrifice
seen in the game, but what I can guarantee is that it will lead to interesting posi
tions in which your opponents will be confronted by difficult and largely unfamil
iar problems - an ideal scenario for Dangerous Weap01zs practitioners.

B . Rxe4!
..

This is the main line, though the move may not appear immediately obvious. On
closer inspection, however, it becomes clear that White would be ill-advised to
capture the rook. 8 . . . Nxe4 is another way of accepting the pawn sacri fice, and will
be discussed later in the theoretical section. Of course Black is not forced to accept
the offer and options such as 8 . . . d6 will be covered in Chapter 1 4, along with a few
minor alternatives on moves 6-8.

9 a3!
Posing an immediate question to the bishop.

9 Bd6
...

This has been Black's most common choice in the position. The bishop retreat
gains time by attacking the white queen, but blocks the d-pawn and thereby re
tards the development of his queenside. Once again there are numerous playable
alternatives, all of which will be considered in due course.

10 f4!
The alternative 1 0 Qh3 enables Black to obtain a good game after 10 . . . Re8. Perhaps
White can still try to rustle up some attacking chances, bu t the bottom line is that
the text is a far more challenging move. Now Black had better remember that his
rook really is en prise!

10... Re8
lO . . BcS!? has been seen in a couple of encounters, although in both cases play
quickly transposed to the present game after 1 1 Bd3 Re8 12 Nf3.
.

11 Bd3
I have taken a small liberty with the move order, as in the game itself Shabalov
chose 11 N3 BcS 12 Bd3. Indeed, in the overwhelming majority of games the pre
cise sequencing of White's next two moves has tended not to matter, with trans
positions almost always occurring. In the game Zhang Zhong-H.Koneru, Wijk aan
Zee 2003, however, Black carne up with the interesting idea of meeting 1 1 Nf3
with l l . . NhS!? 12 Qg4 N6 inviting a repetition with 13 Qg3. Zhang Zhong
.

237

Da ngero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
avoided this with 1 3 Qh3 and went o n to win, but the evaluation o f the opening
was far from clear. This may not be such a bad position for White, but why worry
about it at all when we can just play the 1 1 Bd3 move order and avoid the issue
altogether? Over the course of this and the two accompanying chapters you will
find plenty of fascinating and complicated variations to analyse, so it makes sense
to lighten the workload in any way we can.

11 Bc5
...

Black logically makes way for the d-pawn to advance, thereby enabling his other
bishop to participate in the game. The other main move, 1 L.Bf8, will be discussed
later, along with a few more less common deviations.

12 Nf3 d5
12 ... d6 is an important alternative which will also be considered in the theoretical
section.

13 Rde1! (Diagram 4)

Diagram 4 (B)

Diagram 5 (B)

13 Rhel looks more obvious, but Shabalov evidently - and, in my view, correctly
felt that it was better to keep a rook on the kingside, just in case there arises an
opportunity to open a file there. The following note will demonstrate such an ex
ample.

13 ... Rxe1+
In the subsequent encounter J.Remis Fernandez-F.Cottegnie, correspondence 2003,
Black deviated with 1 3 . . . Ne7!?, obtaining a more than satisfactory position after 1 4
h3?! Bb6 (presumably White's idea was 14 ... Nf5 1 5 Qh2) 1 5 NeS NfS 1 6 Qf3 Nd4 1 7
Qg3 BfS which he later converted t o victory. White's 1 4th looks rather slow to me,
and I would instead propose 14 ReS!? as a more promising alternative. There

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T h e C e nt re G a m e Revea l e d : P a rt I
might follow 14 . . . Bd6 15 Rg5!, when at the very least White has reasonable practi
cal attacking chances. A sample continuation might be 15 . . . g6 (15 . . . Ng6 is also
possible) 16 h4! h6 17 h5! (Diagram 5) obtaining a powerful attack, while providing
a perfect illustration of why White may prefer to keep a rook on hl . A plausible
continuation might be 17 ... hxg5 18 hxg6 Kg7 (18 . . . fxg6 1 9 Qxg5 Kf7 20 Nxd5! gives
White a huge attack, while 18 . . . Nxg6 19 Qh2 is also very dangerous) 19 Nxd5! Rh8
(not 19 . . . Nfxd5?? 20 Rh7+, or 19 . . . Nexd5?? 20 Qxg5) 20 Rxh8 Qxh8 21 Nxf6 with
dangerous threats, while Black obviously cannot contemplate taking on f6.

14 Rxe1 Ne7 15 Nh4


With hindsight, I suppose the immed iate 15 Ne5 would have been preferable.

15 ... Ng6
Aside from this Black might also have considered a waiting move such as 15 ... Bd7.
Presumably he was concerned about 16 f5.

16 Nf3 Ne7 17 Ne5


17 Nh4 would have repeated the position, but Shabalov is playing for the win.

17 ... Bf5
1 7... Nf5!? was an interesting and possibly superior alternative. Horvath gives 18
Qf3 (18 Qh3?! Ne3 19 g4 Bxg4 would probably lead to a repetition after 20 Qg3
Nf5 21 Qg2 Nh4 22 Qg3 Nf5, but 19 ... Nexg4! 20 Nxg4 Bxg4 21 Bxh7+ Nxh7 22
Qxg4 looks good for Black) 18 ... Nd4 1 9 Qfl Bf5 20 Bxf5 Nxf5 21 Qd3 reaches the
game (except that both sides have played two addi tional moves), although it may
be possible for either side to pursue an independent course.

18 Bxf5 Nxf5 19 Qd3 Ne7 20 g4! (Diagram 6)

Diagram 6 (B)

Diagram 7 (B)

2 39

Dangero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
White is a pawn down, but he does have a n extra rook participating i n the main
field of action. This dynamic advantage is not going to last forever, so Shabalov
must play energetically in order to make his temporary initiative count.

20...c6 21 g5 Nd7?!
An ambitious choice, but also a very risky one. Perhaps the best practical decision
would have been liqu idation to an (admittedly inferior) ending with 2l...Ne4!? 22
Nxe4 dxe4 23 Qxe4 Qd5 24 Nd3 Qxe4 25 Rxe4 with a slight edge to Whi te accord
ing to Blatny. I agree, and would only add the further sample continuation
25 . . . Bd6 (this move is forced) 26 c4! Nf5 27 Bc3 Rd8 28 Kc2 when White is more
active.

22 Ng41
White should preserve this knight for attacking purposes. Besides, the black
pieces are rather tripping on each another's toes, so he should definitely not be
granted the relief of exchanging them.

22 ... Nb6
22 ...Qf8 23 f5 f6 24 g6 is given as unclear by Horvath, while Fritz prefers Black after 24 ...hxg6 25 fxg6 f5! . Instead, it looks more promising for White to try an al ter
native suggestion from the machine, namely 24 Na4!? Bd6 (or 24 . . . fxg5 25 f6! with
a dangerous initiative, e.g. 25 . . . gxf6?! - perhaps 25 ... Ng6!? is the best chance - 26
Qe2! when the threats of Nxc5 and Qe6+ leave Black unable to prevent the loss of
a piece) 25 Re6! Be5 26 Bb4 Re8 27 Kbl !, avoiding any bishop checks and leaving
Black very awkwardly placed.

23 f5 Qd7 24 Rf11 (Diagram 7)


Calmly supporting the f-pawn and waiting for a suitable moment to strike.

24... Bd6
Horvath suggests the 'improvement' 24 . . . Nc4, evidently overlooking the decisive
25 Ne4! threatening both Nxc5 and a fork on f6.

25 Qh3!
Shabalov conducts the final phase of the game with great skill. Now that all the
pieces are in position he finally threatens f6.

25 ... Kh8
25 ... Nxf5 allows 26 Rxf5 when the rook cannot be captured. Still, it is a measure of
Black's plight that the computer considers this to be Black's best (which is, of
course, very much a relative term! ) choice.

26 f6! gxf6
Now Nxf6 will no longer come with check, but White has a far stronger recapture.

27 gxf61 Ng6
27... Ng8 allows Whi te to clinch the win after 28 Qh5 Nc4 29 Rf3! (Diagram 8).

240

T h e C e ntre G a me Reve a l ed : P a rt I

Diagram 8 (B)

Diagram 9 (B)

Horvath analyses 29 ... Nxd2 30 Rh3 Nb3+ (or 30 ... h6 31 QgS! Bf8 32 Nxh6 mating
quickly) 31 Kb1 ! Nd2+ (or 31 . . .h6 32 QgS) 32 Ka2 h6 33 QgS when Black faces a
choice between imminent checkmate, horrendous material losses, or the third,
final and least humiliating option of immediate resignation.

28 Bh6!
Threatening mate in two.

28 ... Bf8
This loses quickly, bu t there was nothing else.

29 Bg7+ Bxg7 30 fxg7+ Kxg7 31 Qh6+ Kh8 32 Nf6 1-0 (Diagram 9)


Black resigned in view of 32 ... Nf8 33 Rg1 when mate is unstoppable.

DANGEROUS WEAPON! This was an energetic yet finely


controlled attacking performance by Shabalov, who provided a
compelling demonstration of White's chances even when he
remains a pawn down for some length of time.

Looking a Little Deeper


1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Nf6 5 Nc3
BEWARE! The inaccurate 5 Bd2?! is occasionally used by players
looking to 'move order' their opponent out of the 5 Nc3 Bb4
lines, but this approach has two drawbacks:

241

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
1 ) If Black so wishes, he can just play 5 . . . Bb4!? anyway, after which it i s highly
doubtful that White has anything better than 6 Nc3 transposing back to the line
White was hoping to avoid. Instead 6 Bxb4 Nxb4 is nothing for White, while 6 c3
Be7 would deprive the b1 -knight of its most natural square.
2) If Black intends to play 5 ... Be7 then White has a problem because the standard 6
Nc3 would lead to a position from the 5 Nc3 Be7 variation in which White has
played 6 Bd2?!, a move which I consider to be inferior for reasons that will be ex
plained on page 291 in Chapter 1 5.
In conclusion, this move order 'finesse' only harms White's chances, and should
definitely be avoided as it has no redeeming features whatsoever as far as I can
see.

s Bb4 6 Bd2 0-0 7 0-0-0 ReB B Qg31


...

Now we face an important parting of the ways. The present chapter is devoted to
the two most critical lines in which Black accepts the pawn sacrifice:

A: B ... Nxe4
8: B ... Rxe41
As was mentioned previously, deviations such as 8 . . d6 will be considered in
Chapter 14, along with the major alternative of 5 ... Be7.
.

A) 1 e4 es 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Nf6 5 Nc3 Bb4 6 Bd2 o-o 1 o-o-o ReB B Qg3
Nxe4 9 Nxe4 Rxe4 (Diagram 10)

Diagram 10 (W)

242

Diagram 11 (B)

T h e Ce ntre G a m e Revea l e d : Pa rt I
8 ... Nxe4 is seen less frequently than 8 ... Rxe4, despite being the option that would
almost certainly seem like the most natural choice to a typical player seeing the
position for the first time. Compared with Line B below, the removal of a pair of
knights leaves Black's kingside somewhat bereft of defenders. For that reason I
would rate this variation as a rather more hazardous choice which demands a
high degree of accuracy from the second player. The forthcoming pages will re
veal numerous examples of imprecise defence being punished by a devastating
kingside assault.

10 c3! (Diagram 11)


10 Bf4?! is sometimes played, but the text is far more dangerous. White intends to
follow up with Bd3, gaining additional time by attacking the rook. A subsequent
Nf3-g5 will then force some sort of kingside pawn weakening, after which the fun
can really start! Black, for his part, must make two major decisions. To begin with,
he must decide on a suitable retreat square for his bishop. His next task will be to
determine how best to react to the forthcoming Bd3. I suspect that most of us
would tend instinctively to retreat the rook to e8. However, it is also possible to
swing the turret to an aggressive post on a4, while a few players have even ex
perimented with an exchange sacrifice, simply leaving the rook to be captured on
e4 and hoping for positional compensation. We will consider each of these options
over the course of our investigation.
For convenience, I have d ivided the material according to the three major bishop
retreats:

A1) 10 Bf8
...

A2) 10 Be7
...

A3) 10 Bd6
...

Others can be dealt with quickly:


a) To my knowledge. the decentralizing 10 ... Ba5? has never been played, with
good reason. Following 1 1 Bd3 White continues in the same vein as in the main
lines below, with considerably improved chances due to the inability of the way
ward bishop to partake in kingside defensive duties.
b) 10 ... Bc5 is only seldom seen. A few games have continued 1 1 Bd3 Re8 (perhaps
Black could consider 1 1 ...Ra4!?) 12 Nf3 (Diagram 12) and now:
b1) In I.Fliter-T.Mietzner, Wilhelmshaven 1 995, Black followed 12 . . . d6 13 Ng5 with
the hideous-looking 13 .. . f5?, which should have been swiftly punished by 14 Bc4+!
d5 15 Bf4! with powerful threats. Obviously 1 3 . . . h6 should have been preferred,
after which 14 Ne4 still leaves White on top; e.g. 14 ... Kh8 (the primary threat was
Bxh6) 1 5 Nxc5 dxc5 1 6 Bb1 Qf6 17 Qd3 g6 18 Bxh6 Qxf2 19 Rhfl with a strong ini
tiative.

243

Da ngero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
b2) I n the subsequent encounter F.Zuazua Iglesias-E.Couceiro Perez, Gijon 2002,
Black decided that his bishop would be better off on the kingside after all, and
opted for the tempo-losing 12 ... Be7 which can hardly inspire confidence. After the
typical attacking move 13 h4! (planning Ng5) Black panicked with the suicidal
13 . . . f6? and was swiftly demolished after 14 Bh6 (14 Ng5! is also crushing) 14 ... Bf8
1 5 h5! (Diagram 13) 1 5 . . . d5?! (or 1 5 . . . Re7 16 Bc4+ Kh8 1 7 Bf4! d6 1 8 Nh4) 16 Bxg7
Bxg7 17 h6 Re7 18 hxg7 Rxg7 19 Bxh7+ 1 -0. Obviously 13 ... d6 would have been
better, al though even here 14 Ng5 h6 1 5 Bh7+! Kf8 1 6 Bc2 gives Black plenty of
kingside worries.

Diagram 12 (B)

Diagram 13 (B)

DANGEROUS WEAPON! Although the above game references


feature substandard defence by Black, they serve to provide us
with an early illustration of White's considerable attacking
potential based on the simple plan of Bd3 and Nf3-g5.
A1) 1 e4 es 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Nf6 5 Nc3 Bb4 6 Bd2 o-o 7 o-o-o ReB 8 Qg3
Nxe4 9 Nxe4 Rxe4 10 c3 BfB
This retreat is sound, but somewhat passi ve, and White should have little diffi
culty in generating an attack.

11 Bd3 (Diagram 14)


11 ... Re8
The usual move, al though practice has occasionally seen:
a) 1 1 . ..Re6 12 Nf3 h6 was F.Marshall-H.Pillsbury, Buffalo 1 901, and now White
should have played 13 Rhe1, intending to meet 1 3 . . . d6 with 1 4 Rxe6 Bxe6 15 Bxh6,

244

T h e C e ntre G a me Revea l e d : Part I


regaining the pawn and, just as importantly, damaging the enemy kingside.
b) In M.Valverde Lopez-E.Palezkis, correspondence 1 989, Black preferred the
more aggressive 1 l . . . Ra4!?, and soon gained the advantage after 12 Kb1 d6 13 Bc2
Rg4 14 Qd3 g6 1 5 g3 Bf5. Instead it looks more enterprising for White to ignore the
a-pawn with 12 Nf3!? d5 (12 . . . Rxa2? leads to disaster after 13 Bxh7+! Kxh7 14 Ng5+
Kg8 15 Qh4) 1 3 Ng5 (now 13 Bxh7+? Kxh7 14 Ng5+ Kg8 leads nowhere: Qh4 is not
possible and, even if it were, Black would have the defensive resource of ... Bf5
avai lable) 1 3 . . . g6 14 h4! ? with good attacking chances.

Diagram 14 (B)

Diagram 15 (B)

12 Nf3 d6
For an illustration of how a single error can lead to a swift disaster for Black, we
need look no further than the game V.Zatonskih-A.Ipatov, A lushta 2005: 12 . . . g6?!
13 h4! (Diagram 15) 13 . . . Bg7 14 h5 Ne5 15 Nxe5 Bxe5?! (not a good decision, al
though even after the superior 15 ... Rxe5 there follows 16 hxg6 hxg6 17 f4 and f4-f5
f5 with a huge attack) 16 f4 Bg7 1 7 hxg6 hxg6 1 8 f5! . Black could have resigned
here, but apparently was determined to make it past move 20. The game finished
18 . . . gxf5 19 Bg5 f6 20 Bc4+ Kf8 21 Rh8+ 1 -0.
From Diagram 1 5, Black has also tried 13 ... d6. Now E.Mukhortova-E.Ovod, Ufa
1996, continued 1 4 h5 Ne5 1 5 Nxe5 Rxe5 16 hxg6 hxg6, at which point White
should have played 17 f4! with a huge advantage; e.g. 17 . . . Rc5 (no better is 17 . . . Ra5
18 c4, while 1 7... Re8? 18 f5! is crushing) 1 8 Be3 etc. Black is unable to safeguard his
rook while simul taneously preventing the lethal f4-f5.
'-:.(jj
-

DANGEROUS WEAPON! These examples show how frightfully


easy it can be for Black to be annihilated on the kingside.

245

Da ngero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
I would be the first to admit that White's pawn sacrifice woul d be unlikely to suc
ceed against a strong computer program. But we humans are fallible, error-prone,
emotional creatures who often falter when confronted with unfamiliar problems,
such as those faced by Black in the present variation.
Retu rning to the main line of 12 ... d6, White's attack proceeds like clockwork after
the standard . . .

13 Ng S g6 14 h4! NeS
If Black attempts to prevent the ad vance of the h-pawn with 14 . . . h5??, as in
E.Behnick-E.Sprang, German League 1996, then 15 Nxf7! wins almost immedi
ately. I would advise the reader to make a mental note of this theme, as the same
pattern can crop up in numerous variations after 8 ... Nxe4.

15 Bc2 h S
Black cannot just sit and wait for the h-file to be opened, so he needs to choose
between the text and the alternative of 15 ... h6. In the latter case, the game
R.Mesias-E.Castro, Santiago 2004, continued 16 f4! hxg5 17 fxe5 Rxe5, and now
White could have obtained a very strong attack with the instructive 18 h5! (Dia
gram 16), when Black will be hard pressed to defend his kingside.

Diagram 16 (B)

Diagram 17 (B)

16 Rhe1
White could also consider shifting his attention to f7 with 16 Bb3!?.

16... Bg7
We have been following the game O.Buechmann-A.Palant, Neumuenster 1 999,
which continued 1 7 Bf4 Qf6 1 8 Ne4 Qe6 19 Bb3 Qg4 20 Ng5? (20 Qh2! would have
kept things unclear) 20 ... Be6? (Black could have obtained a big advantage with

246

T h e C e ntre G a me Revea l e d : Part I


20 . . . Qxg3!, e.g. 21 Bxf7+ Kh8 22 Bxg3 Nd3+!) 21 Bxe6 fxe6 when a draw was
agreed. Rewinding a few moves, Whi te could have played far more energetically
with 17 f4! (Diagram 17) 11 ... Ng4 18 Rxe8+ Qxe8 19 Bb3! Nh6 20 Re1 Qc6 (or
20 ...Qf8 21 Nxf7! Nxf7 22 Qxg6 followed by fS with unstoppable threats). Now 21
Re7 NfS 22 Qe1 Nxe7 23 Qxe7 BfS 24 Qxf7+ Kh8 25 Qg8+ Rxg8 26 Nf7+ Kh7 27
NgS+ is an amusing draw, but Whi te has something much better. . .

DANGEROUS WEAPON! In the position after 20...Qc6 White can


absolutely demolish the black kingside with 21 Nxf7! Nxf7 22
Qxg6 d5 23 Qxh5 Be6 (the only way to defend d5) 24 f5 Bd7 25
Rf1!? threatening f6, which can be further prepared by g4-g5 if
necessary. Black is completely helpless.
So far, so good ! This section has convincingly demonstrated the potency of
White's attacking resources. We now turn our attention to a few of the other ways
in which Black may attempt to thwart our ambitions.

A2) 1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Nf6 5 Nc3 Bb4 6 Bd2 o-o 7 o-o-o ReB 8 Qg3
Nxe4 9 Nxe4 Rxe4 10 c3 Be7!? (Diagram 18)

Diagram 18 (W)

Diagram 19 (B)

This has been seen rather less frequently than 1 1 .. .Bf8, but has yielded an excep
tional statistical score of 83% for Black. The move contains some rather sophisti
cated ideas, one example being to meet the natural 1 1 Bd3 with 1 1 .. .Bh4! 12 Qf3
Re8 or 1 2 ... Ra4. In that case the white queen would deprive the g1-knight of its
most natural square, while the h4-bishop can always retreat to f6 or e7 if attacked.

247

D a n ge r o u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
All this need hardly b e fatal for Whi te, but o n balance it seems preferable to pre
vent Black's idea while developing the knight to an active location. I therefore rec
ommend . . .

11 Nf3!?
... as a logical solution. Now White plans to continue with Bd3, followed by the
usual kingside attack. Despite the logicality of this approach, I was amazed to find
only a single game to have reached this position. B.Knoeppei-A.Hoogendoorn,
correspondence 2002, continued :

11 ...d6
The other major candidate move is 1 1 . . . d5, with which Black prepares to meet 12
Bd3 with 12 ... Rg4! 13 Qh3 h6, when the white queen is uncomfortably placed.
White should therefore prefer 12 Bf4!, hitting the pawn on c7 while also blocking
the rook's path to g4, and thus preparing Bd3.

12 h3!?
Once again 12 Bd3 Rg4! looks decent for Black after 1 3 Qh3 g6 or 1 3 ... h6.

12 ... Bf6
Creating an escape route for the rook.

13 Bd3 ReB 14 Rhe1


White is fully mobilized, and can now start looking for attacking ideas. 14 h4?!,
intending Ng5, would be a reasonable plan were it not for the annoying 14 ... Ne5!,
forcing simplifications. On the other hand, readers who are dissatisfied with the
outcome of the main line may wish to investigate the immediate 1 4 Ng5!?, e.g.
14 ... h6 1 5 h4! with unclear play.

14... Be6 15 Ngs Bxgs 16 Bxgs f6 17 Qh41? (Diagram 19)


Other attacking ideas do exist, but I was unable to find anything completely con
vincing.
The game continued with 17 ... Kf8?! 18 Be3 Bxa2, at which point 19 Qxh7 (rather
than the slightly odd 19 Bxh7?!) would have been quite uncomfortable for Black,
who should instead look for an improvement on move 17:
a) I will briefly mention the obvious point that 1 7...h6?! would be very dangerous
for Black after 18 Bxh6!.
b) 17.. . fxg5! is rather more of a challenge. After 1 8 Qxh7+ Kf8 (but not 18. . . Kf7?? 19
Bg6+ Kf6 20 Re3! with a winning attack) 19 Qh8+ Kf7 20 Qh5+ Kf8 (20 ... Kg8? 21
Re3) White can easily force a draw with 21 Qh8+, but I have not been able to find
anything better thus far.
Summing up, 10 . . . Be7 seems like a playable option, al though Whi te retains his
typical attacking chances. It would be interesting to see further practical tests of 1 1
Nf3, but in the meantime the above analysis should serve a s a reasonable guide in
the unlikely event that you encounter this rare variation.

248

T h e C e ntre G a m e Revea l e d : P a rt I

A3) 1 e4 es 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Nf6 5 Nc3 Bb4 6 Bd2 o-o 7 o-o-o ReB 8 Qg3
Nxe4 9 Nxe4 Rxe4 10 c3 Bd6
This has been Black's most popular choice, having been played in almost 50% of
games after 10 c3! . Black obstructs his d-pawn, but forces Whi te to spend a tempo
dealing with the attack on his queen.

11 f4! (Diagram 20)

Diagram 20 (B)

Diagram 21 (W)

This is almost always played, and is clearly the most promising move. For the
time being the queen is ideally placed on g3, and in some variations the f-pawn
can make an important contribution to White's attacking plans.

11 Qf6
...

The usual choice, although Black sometimes elects to relocate his bishop, believing
White's extra f2-f4 to be more of a hind rance than an asset. I remain sceptical of
this approach, and would point to an example such as V.Francisco-W.Embrechts,
correspondence 2004, which saw 1 1 . . . Bc5 12 Bd3 Re7 13 Qh3 g6 14 f5! when the f
pawn became a real thorn, and after 1 4 ... Re8 (Black was concerned about Bg5) the
straightforward 1 5 Nf3 intending Ng5 would have brought White a venomous
attack.
On the other hand 1 l . . .Bf8!? deserves to be taken more seriously, as it can lead to
rather a unique possibility. Following the standard developing move 12 Bd3 a
couple of games have seen the ingenious 12 . . . d5!? (Diagram 21), offering an ex
change sacrifice. Apart from being an objectively sound continuation, the text
makes considerable sense from a psychological standpoint. If White has shown a
readiness to sacrifice a pawn in return for the initia tive, what could make more
sense than offering a counter-sacrifice to turn the tables? 13 Bxe4 dxe4 14 Be3 Qe8

249

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
1 5 Ne2 Be6 certainly yielded Black fair compensation in C.Ferron Garcia
J.Gonzalez Coto, Catalonian Team Ch. 1 997. This may explain why, in
Y.Nepomniashchy-A.Raetsky, Biel 2007, the world's highest-rated regular CG
practitioner preferred the simple developing move 13 Nf3!? threatening Ng5.
Black responded in consistent fashion with 13 ... h6!?, at which point White decided
to take the material with 14 Bxe4 dxe4 15 Be3 Qe8 16 Nd4 (16 Ne5!?) 16 . . . Na5!?
which led to a highly unbalanced game. White eventually won, but for a long time
the game was unclear and at this stage I would actually regard Black's position as
easier to play. Furthermore, it should be noted that 16 ... Nxd4!? was also a promis
ing continuation, e.g. 17 Rxd4 c5 with excellent compensation.
With that in mind I would like to propose a di fferent solution in the form of the
untested 13 Nh3 ! . The idea, just as with 13 Nf3, is to prepare Ng5. The difference
here is that the response 13 . . .h6 looks less appealing than in Nepomniashchy
Raetsky, as after 14 Bxe4 d xe4 the knight is not under attack, and White should be
a little better following 15 Be3 intending Nf2. Black could also switch plans with
13 ... Ra4, but this approach carries its own risks after 14 Ng5 g6 15 h4!; e.g.
1 5 ... Rxa2 16 Kb1 Ra5 1 7 h5 Bg7 1 8 Nxh7! (Diagram 22) 18 ... Kxh7 19 hxg6+ Kg8 20
gxf7+ Kxf7 (20 ... Kf8?? 21 Rh8+) 21 Rh7 Qf6 (if 21 . . . Qg8 22 Qg6+ Kf8 23 Re1 Qf7 24
Rxg7! or 23 ... Bd7 24 f5! with overwhelming threats) 22 f5! (intending Bg5 or Bh6)
22 ... Bxf5 23 Rfl Bxh7 (or 23 ... d4 24 cxd4) 24 Rxf6+ Bxf6 25 Qxc7+ Ne7 26 Bxh7 with
a big advantage.

Diagram 22 (B)

Diagram 23 (B)

After that extended, though necessary diversion, we return to the main line of
1 1 ...Qf6.

12 Nh31
Developing while guarding the f-pawn.

2 50

T h e C e nt re G a m e Reve a l e d : Pa rt I

12 ... Ra4!
The consistent move. Black's last couple of moves both created threats against dif
ferent points in the white position, and now he turns his attention to the pawn on
a2. A couple of other examples:
a) 12 . . . a5? soon led to a disaster for Black in G.Souleidis-G.Pons Boscana, Binissa
lem 2004, after 13 Bd3 Re8 14 Ng5 h6 15 Ne4 Qd8 16 Nxd6 cxd6 17 Bc2 Qf6 18 Qd3
g6 19 h4! b5 20 h5 Kg7 21 hxg6 fxg6 22 g4 1 -0.
b) C.Eissing-G.Meyer, Dortmund 1998, saw 12 ... Na5 13 Bd3 Ra4 1 4 Rhe1 ! (14 Bc2?
looks superficially tempting, but White is in for a nasty surprise after 14 ... Rxa2! 15
Kb1 Rxb2+! 16 Kxb2 Nc4+ 1 7 Ka1 Be5! with dangerous threats) 14 ...g6 (14 ...Be7
could be met by 1 5 Qg5!? or 1 5 Ng5), and now 15 Re8+ Kg7 16 Kb1 ! Nc4 17 Bel
leaves Whi te with at least a pawn's worth of compensation.

13 Bd31 (Diagram 23)


The key word for White in this position, and for these pawn-sacrificing variations
generally, is development. 13 Kb1 has been seen in a few games, but I find the text
to be much more in the spirit of the CG. Whi te simply gets on with his own plans
and dares Black to take on a2. We will now follow the game T.Crispin-I.Datu,
Hawaii 1998; the only game on my database to feature 13 Bd3!.

13 ... Be7!
Certainly the safest continuation, intending to catch up on development. Never
theless, we must also ask ourselves the important question of how to meet
13 ... Rxa2. With the white pieces so well mobilized on the kingside, I cannot help
but feel sceptical towards this show of gluttony. In the first instance it is important
for White to play 14 Kb1 !, preventing Black from exchanging any rooks, before
turning his attention to the kingside. Now it is worth briefly mentioning that the
tactical shot 1 4 . . . Nb4? can be refuted by 1 5 Ng5!, not only attacking h7, but also
threatening Ne4 followed by cxb4. That leaves Black with two sensible rook re
treats:
a) 14 ... Ra4 15 Ng5 with a further split:
a1) 15 ... g6 16 Qh3 (but not 16 h4? Bxf4) 16 ... h5 (or 16 ... Qg7 1 7 Rhe1) and now both
1 7 f5 and 1 7 Ne4 maintain White's initiative.
a2) 15 . . .h6 16 Ne4 Qe6 1 7 Nxd6 Qa2+ (or 17 ... Qxd6 1 8 Rhe1 with a massive devel
opment advantage) 18 Kcl ! cxd6 1 9 Rhe1 Kf8 20 f5! (threatening both f5-f6 and
Qxd6+) 20 . . . Ne5 (Diagram 24) 21 Rxe5! dxe5 22 Bxh6! with a mating attack, e.g.
22 ... gxh6 23 f6.
b) 14 ... Ra5 15 Ng5 with a similar division:
b1) 15 ... h6? leads to disaster for Black after 16 Rhe 1 ! Be7 (or 16 ... hxg5 17 Re8+ Bf8
18 fxg5 Qd6 19 Bf4 Qc5 20 Bxc7! with the decisive threat of Bd6) 17 Nh7! Qd6 18
c4! with decisive threats.
b2) 15 ... g6 1 6 h4! (more energetic than 16 Rhe1 ) 16 ... h5 (Black ought to prevent the

251

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
opening o f the h-file) 1 7 Rhe l ! (only now shoul d White play this move, having
provoked an additional weakening of Black's kingside; instead 17 Ne4? could lead
to a perpetual after 17 . . .Qe6 1 8 Nxd6 Qa2+ etc) 17 ... Be7 1 8 c4! (Diagram 25) .

Diagram 24 (W)

Diagram 25 (B)

The threat is not so much 19 BxaS, but rather 19 Bc3! followed by the devastating
Nxf7! . After the forced 18 ... d5 (there is nothing else), White crashes through with
19 Rxe7! (even better than 19 BxaS NxaS 20 cxdS Bg4 21 Rcl ) 19 ... Qxe7 20 Rei Qd6
21 Re8+ Kg7 22 BxaS NxaS 23 cxdS threatening a lethal queen transfer to c3.

14 Ng5
14 fS and 14 Rhel are both possible, but I doubt that ei ther is any better than the
text.

14...g6
1 4... h6! ? remains untested.

15 f51?
We have reached a critical position, at which my first impression was that 15 h4
ought to be a highly promising continuation for White. This would indeed be the
case were it not for a very precise tactical defence (or more precisely, counterat
tack!), for which I must 'thank' the silicon monster. Black should play 15 . . . Rxa2! 16
Kb1 (16 hS? Nb4! 1 7 Bbl Ral wins for Black) 16 . . . Nb4!. This is the key move! I f
Black were forced to retreat his rook then h e would be i n big trouble, much a s i n
the 13 ... Rxa2?! variation analysed previously. The position is extremely compli
cated, but with precise play it appears that Black can emerge with the advantage.

15 ... Ne5 (Diagram 26)


Black continues to defend well.

252

T h e Ce ntre G a m e Reve a l ed : Pa rt I

16 Rhf1! Nxd3+
16 . . . Rg4!? is playable, though not altogether clear after 17 Qxg4! Nxg4 18 fxg6 Nf2
19 gxf7+ Kg7 20 Bxh7, with compensation for the queen.

11 Qxd3 ds
In case of 1 7. . . Rxa2 18 fxg6 Qxg6 1 9 Qxg6+, White maintains some irritating
threats in the endgame after 19 ... fxg6 20 Nf7, or 19 ... hxg6 20 Nxf7 Bf8 21 Kbl .

18 Nxh7 Qa6 (Diagram 27)

Diagram 26 (W)

Diagram 27 (W)

Now the featured game Crispin-Datu saw 19 Qe3? Re4 20 Qg3 Kxh7 21 fxg6+
Qxg6 22 Qxc7 Bf5 23 Qxb7 Rd8 when Black was winning.
Instead, it was time for Whi te to bail out with 19 Qxa6! Rxa6 20 Rde1 Bxf5 (no bet
ter is 20 ... Kxh7 21 fxg6+ Kxg6 22 Rxe7) 21 Rxe7 Kxh7 22 a3, leading to an equal
endgame after 22 ... Rc8 23 Rxf7+ Kg8 24 Re7 Re6.

Conclusion

...

Nxe4

From Black's point of view this variation can be summarized in eight words: theo
retically playable, but offering scant margin for error. I have strived to make the
above analysis as objective as possible, and have made no attempt to conceal those
lines in which I have found no more for White than perpetual check or an equal
endgame, as well as those cases in which Black successfully repels the kingside at
tack and emerges with the advantage after walking a tactical tightrope. For the pur
poses of most readers these limitations should be of little concern. Very few players
(apart from those who have read and memorized the contents of these pages!) are
likely to be able to reproduce, in an over-the-board encounter, the level of accuracy

253

Dangero u s Wea po n s : 1 e4 e S
required in order to reach a satisfactory outcome. In the majority o f cases White's
position is by far the easier and more enjoyable to play, and CG players armed with
a reasonable understanding of the attacking methods shown in these pages have
every right to feel confident when they encounter 8 .. Nxe4 over the board.
.

B) 1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Nf6 5 Nc3 Bb4 6 Bd2 0-0 7 0-0-0 ReB 8 Qg3
Rxe4!
There is no doubt in my mind that the text must represent the acid test of the CG.
Compared with Line A the presence of a knight on f6 should, in principle, help
Black to protect himself against some of the unpleasant attacking ideas we wit
nessed over the course of the previous section. On the negative side, the rook on
e4 - while immune from capture for the time being - will be requ ired to move
again in the nearest future.

9 a31 (Diagram 28}

Diagram 28 (B)

Diagram 29 (W}

We have already encountered this important move in Shabalov-Ivanov. There


now follows an important divarication at which Black may choose from a quintet
of possibilities:

B1: g ... Bc5


B2: g.. Ba5
.

B3: g Bxc3
...

B4: 9 ... Rg4


B5: g . Bd6
..

2 54

The Ce ntre G a m e Reve a l ed : Part I


All are playable, and each carries its own advantages and d rawbacks which will
become apparent over the course of the ensuing pages.

81) 1 e4 es 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Nf6 5 Nc3 Bb4 6 Bd2 o-o 1 o-o-o ReS 8 Qg3
Nxe4 9 Nxe4 Rxe4 9 a3 Bcs (Diagram 29)
This has not been seen too often, but has been tried by a few strong players.

10 Bg S !
BEWARE! The rook is still off-limits; 10 Nxe4? Nxe4 11 Qf4
Nxf2 was a disaster for White in A.Serras Uria-M.Rada Equiza,
Pamplona 2001.
10... Re8
10 ... Rd4 was seen in F.Ped ro-J.Bibiloni, Buenos Aires 2003, and now instead of the
cooperative 1 1 Rxd4, it looks better for White to avoid the exchange with 11 Re1 !,
when the black rook is misplaced and will be forced to waste further time after the
imminent Nf3.

11 Bd3
At first glance 11 Nd5 appears tempting, but in D. Von Wantoch Rekowski
A.Karlovich, Litohoto 1 999, Black easily solved his problems by means of 1 1 . . .Ne4!
(1 1 .. .Be7? 12 Nxe7+ Qxe7 13 Qxc7 is clearly better for White thanks to his bishop
pair and the weakness of the isolated d-pawn) 12 Bxd8 Nxg3 13 fxg3 Rxd8 14
Nxc7 Rb8 1 5 Nf3 d6. White may be able to improve slightly with 13 hxg3, but even
here 13 . . . Rxd8 14 Nxc7 Rb8 15 Rd2 reaches an endgame in which Black's isolated
pawn is fully compensated by his pair of bishops.

11 ... Be7
1 1 . . .d5? loses to 12 Nxd5.

12 Nh3!
I consider this original suggestion to be more promising than the stereotyped 12
Nf3, after which 1 2 ... d6 13 Rhe1 Be6 was less than impressive for White in
S.Gonzalez de Ia Torre-A.Rizouk, Andorra 2002.

12 ... d6 13 Rhe1 (Diagram 30)


Threatening Rxe7!. The main justification for White's twelfth can be seen after
13 . . . Be6?! 14 Nf4.

13 ... Ng4!?
It is not so easy to find a convenient method of defence for Black. The text appears
critical, and can give rise to some amazing variations as we will shortly see.

14 Nds!?

255

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
I t i s not often that one can permit the opponent to capture a piece with check! The
text may appear crazy, but I have not been able to find a refutation.

14... Bxg5+
The attempt to play solidly with 14 . . . f6 runs into 1 5 Bxf6!, when 15 ... Bxf6 (or
15 . . . Nxf6 16 Rxe7 Rxe7 1 7 Nxf6+ Kh8 18 Nxh7 with excellent attacking chances) 16
Rxe8+ Qxe8 1 7 Nxc7 Qd8 18 Nxa8 looks better for White. Black will have a hard
time rounding up the knight on aS without making some sort of concession else
where. One sample variation might be 18 ... Be6 (not 18 . . . Bd7? 19 Qxd6) 19 Nf4 Bg5
20 Kb1 Bxf4 21 Qxf4 Qxa8 22 Bxh7+! Kxh7 23 Qe4+ Kh8 24 Qxe6 with a decisive
advantage.

Diagram 30 (B)

Diagram 31 (B)

15 Nxgs Rxe1
15 . . .Qxg5+ 16 f4 Qd8 1 7 Rxe8+ Qxe8 18 h3 regains the piece (bearing in mind that
Black must worry about c7 as well as the knight on g4) while maintaining some
initiative.

16 Rxe1 Qxgs+ 17 f4 Qd8 18 Qh4! (Diagram 31)


The tactics just keep on coming! The text targets the sensitive back rank while also
threatening h7. Black's reply is forced.

18... Bf5 19 Qxd8+ Rxd8 20 BxfS Nf6 21 Nxc7


White has an enduring endgame advantage thanks to the strong bishop and iso
lated d-pawn.
9 . . . Bc5 is unlikely to become popular, despite having scored quite well for Black.
In the event that you encounter this rare variation I think you can have a lot of fun
testing 12 Nh3!.

256

T h e C e nt re G a m e Reve a l e d : Part I

82) 1 e4 es 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Nf6 5 Nc3 Bb4 6 Bd2 o-o 7 o-o-o ReB 8 Qg3
Rxe4 9 a3 BaSI? (Diagram 32)

Diagram 32 (W)

Diagram 33 (W)

This move preserves the important bishop while maintaining the indirect defence
of the rook on e4. The drawback is that the bishop runs the risk of being sidelined
on aS, and will have great difficulty assisting with the defence of his kingside.

10 Be2!?
10 Bd3 is the move which most immediately comes to mind, but unfortunately
10 . . . Rg4! leaves White struggling for compensation.
10 h3!?, intending Bd3, is untested. This may appear a little sluggish, but may
nonetheless be playable.

10 Nd41?
...

This is the most critical try, though it may not necessarily be best. Alternatively:
a) 10 . . . Re8 allows 11 Bh6, forcing the concession 1 l . . .g6. This becomes especially
undesirable for Black when you take into account the distant position of his
bishop on the opposite flank, and White should waste no time in accentuating the
point with 12 h4! obtaining excellent attacking chances.
b) A few other games have seen the sophisticated 10 . . . Re6!? intending 1 1 Bc4 (un
fortunately 1 1 Bh6? achieves nothing after 1 1 ... Nh5! 12 Bxh5 Rxh6) l l . ..Re8 (Dia
gram 33), when Black claims that the white bishop is worse on c4 than e2. Here
White's ideas include:
a) 12 Bh6?! is well met by 12 . . . Nh5! (12 ... g6?! 13 Bg5 looks awkward) which cer
tainly demonstrates one advantage for Black in provoking Bc4. Following the
natural 13 Qf3 (there is nothing better) 13 ... Qf6! 1 4 Qxh5 Qxh6+ 1 5 Qxh6 gxh6 16
Nd5 Kg7 Black's extra pawn gives him the better chances, notwithstanding his
fractured kingside.

257

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
b) I n R.Oortwijn-T.Thomson, correspondence 1 999, Whi te played the superior 1 2
Nf3, but achieved little after 1 2. . .d6 13 Rhe1 Be6 1 4 Bxe6 Rxe6 1 5 Rxe6 fxe6 when
Black was fine and went on to win. Perhaps 13 Ng5!? would have been a better
try, intending 13 . . . Ne5 14 Ba2, maintaining some practical compensation after
14 ...h6 15 h4 or even 15 f4!? hxg5 16 fxe5 Rxe5 1 7 Rdf1 .

11 Bd3 Rg4!?
No-one seems to have tried 1 1 . . .Re8 which might be met by 12 Bh6 Ne6 (no better
is 12 ... Nh5 13 Qg4) 13 Nge2, or 12 Qh4!? Ne6 1 3 g4!?.

12 Qh3 d5 13 f3 (Diagram 34)

Diagram 34 (B)

Diagram 35 (W)

13 ... Re4?!
Unfortunately for Black this visually attractive move carries a tactical flaw.
Y.Gorlin-J.Jackova, Athens 2001, saw the superior 13 ... Rg6, but this still left the
rook looking rather odd after 1 4 g4 (but not 1 4 Qh4? Nf5). Here Black attempted a
creative tactical solution with 14 ... Ne4!? (Diagram 3 5), when there followed 1 5
Nxe4 dxe4 1 6 Bxe4 Bxd2+ 1 7 Rxd2 Rh6 18 Qg3 Rd6 with equality.
Rewinding a few moves, it is clear that the critical variation must be 1 5 fxe4, when
there could follow 1 5 ... Bxg4 16 Qfl Bxd1 (after 16 . . . dxe4 17 Be2 I would prefer
White's piece over Black's three pawns) 17 Qxd1 Bxc3 (or 17 . . . dxe4 18 Bxe4) 18
Bxc3 Qg5+ 19 Kb1 Qg2 20 Ne2 dxe4 21 Bxe4 Qxe4 22 Nxd4 Rd8 23 Re1 reaching a
position that is hard to evaluate. Black has a slight material advantage of rook and
two pawns versus two minor pieces, which would soon become decisive if only he
were able to force a queen exchange. As long as queens remain on the board,
however, Black's king is unlikely to feel safe. This fact, combined with White's
excellent piece coordination (after he improves the position of his queen) leads me

258

T h e Ce ntre G a m e Reve a l e d : Part I


to prefer White's chances slightly.

14 g41 (Diagram 36)

Diagram 36 (B)

Diagram 37 (W)

14 ... Rxg4?
Consistent, but bad . 14 ... Re8 or 14 . . . Re5 would have been better, though both of
these can be met by 15 Qh4 when Black must worry about the threat of g5.

15 fxg4 Bxg4 (Diagram 37)


This position was reached in I.Smirnov-D.Kaiumov, Alushta 2002, in which White
played 16 Qh4 and won thirty moves later. However, Lukacs has pointed out a
much faster route to victory: 16 Bxh7+1 KfB (16 ... Nxh7? 1 7 Qxg4 leaves Black a
whole rook down, while 16 . . . Kh8 1 7 Qh4 Bxd1 18 Bd3+ Bh5 19 Qxd4 sees White
emerge with an extra piece) 17 Qd3 Bxd1 18 Qxd4 Bb6 19 Qh4 Bg4 20 Bg5 and
Black can resign.
9 ... Ba5 is playable, but it seems to me that the decentralization of the bishop repre
sents something of a concession. In simple terms, we can say that the inability of
this piece to assist with kingside defensive duties has the potential to create seri
ous problems for Black. Perhaps this explains why several players have opted for
the risky plan involving 10 ... Nd4!? and 1 l . . .Rg4!?, plunging these pieces into ac
tive, if unstable positions. Fortunately for White, the above analysis has demon
strated that this plan is not without its d rawbacks either.

82) 9 . Bxc3
.

This continuation does not enjoy the best reputation, although it has been used by
a few strong grandmasters. The general consensus seems to be that White's strong

259

D a n ge r o u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e s
bishops (especially the unopposed one) are likely to provide ongoing compensa
tion in the middlegame and perhaps even the endgame. The one redeeming fea
ture of Black's ninth is that it avoids the loss of time inherent in most other con
tinuations, in which Black must not only retreat his bishop but also his rook from
the vulnerable e4-square. Thus we may anticipate an unbalanced middlegame in
which White's advantage of a supremely powerful dark-squared bishop is pitched
against Black's extra pawn and rapid development.

10 Bxc3 (Diagram 38)

Diagram 38 (B)

Diagram 39 (B)

Note how well the bishop combines with the queen on g3 to generate awkward
and ongoing pressure against f6 and g7, squares which can no longer be defended
by a black bishop. At this point Black must decide whether to advance his d-pawn
one or two squares.

1o ds
...

In my opinion this looks like the most challenging move, hoping to neutralize
White's dominant bishop with the aid of a timely . . . d4. The alternative 10 . . . d6 has
actually been the more popular choice, bu t has yielded a significantly lower statis
tical score. One interesting example was E.Handoko-E.Ilfeld, Los Angeles 2003,
which continued 1 1 Bd3 ReS 1 2 h4! ? Bd7 1 3 f4!? (13 Nf3 also looks promising)
13 . . . Rb8 14 Nf3 bS 1 5 NgS b4 16 Bxh7+! (Diagram 39) 16 . . . Kf8 (16 . . . Nxh7? is refuted
by 1 7 Ne6!) 17 axb4 Nxb4 18 Kb1 ! (calmly preventing . . . Na2+ and thus preserving
the all-important bishop) 1 8 . . . Ng4? (under pressure, Black falters; 1 8 . . . Bg4 would
have been more resilient) 19 fS! NeS 20 f6! gxf6 (20 . . .Qxf6 21 Rhfl wins), and now
21 Ne4! would have maintained a very powerful attack.

11 f3

260

T h e Centre G a me Reve a l e d : Part

Probably best. 1 1 Bd3 is the move that White would ideally like to play, and the
game V.Papin-D.Mu rin, St Petersburg 1 999, turned out very well for him after
1 1 ...Re6 12 Ne2 Qd6 13 Nf4 Re8, at which point White could have played 14
Bxh7+! Kxh7 1 5 Rxd5! with a vicious attack. Unfortunately, Black can do much
better with 1 1 ... d4! 12 Bxe4 Nxe4 13 Qf3 Bg4! leading, after 14 Qxg4 Nxf2 15 Qe2
Nxd1 1 6 Bd2 Ne3 1 7 Bxe3 dxe3 1 8 Qxe3, to a position in which Black is a pawn up
for nothing.

11 Re6!?
...

Hoping to utilize the rook on the d-file. The most natural-looking alternative is
1 1 ... Re8 12 Ne2, when Black may try:
a) 12 . . . Be6 13 Nf4 a6?! 1 4 Bc4 d4 1 5 Nxe6 fxe6 16 Rhe1 Nd5?! (16 ... Qd7 was better,
although 1 7 Qh3! Kh8 18 Bxe6 Qd6 19 Bd2 leads to a position in which the two
bishops should count for slightly more than Black's extra central pawn) 17 Bxd4
Nxd4 18 Rxd4 c6 (Diagram 40). Black managed to hold the draw in O.Perez
R.Hernandez, Havana 2005, but this is certainly not a position he should be aim
ing for out of the opening.

Diagram 40 (W)

Diagram 41 (B)

b) In A.Greet-V.Georgiev, Hastings 2007/08, my opponent, a very strong grand


master with a rating of 2576, opted for 1 2 . . . Bf5. Having researched the CG exten
sively over the course of writing these three chapters, I decided before the game
that this encounter would be an ideal opportunity to test the opening for myself
before the publication of these pages revealed my analysis to the entire chess
world . In retrospect it is also interesting to assess the reaction of a top-class player
on being surprised by this opening. The game continued 13 Qf4 Bg6 14 g4 d4!?
(faced with the prospect of a kingside attack Black opts for simplifications at the
cost of returning his extra pawn) 1 5 Nxd4 Nd5 16 Nxc6 bxc6 (16 ... Nxf4? 1 7 Nxd8

261

D a n ge r o u s Wea pon s : 1 e4 e S
Raxd8 18 Rxd8 Rxd8 19 Be5 Ne6 2 0 Bc4 would leave Black with a depressing
struggle to hold the endgame) 17 Qd4 Nxc3 18 Qxc3 Qg5+ 19 Kb1 Qe3 (also possi
ble was 19 . . . Re3!? intending 20 Qxc6 Rb8, when White must avoid 21 Qxc7? Reb3!;
instead 20 Bd3 is better, with a slight edge - Black's shattered queenside means
that most endgames will be bad for him) 20 Qxc6 Rab8 21 Bd3 Rb6 22 Qxc7 Reb8
23 b4! (Diagram 41) when Black's counterplay had amounted to nothing and he
was left with a two-pawn deficit and a weak back rank. The remaining moves
were 23 . . .Qe8 (23 . . . Rxb4+? 24 axb4 Rxb4+ 25 Ka2 wins easily, while 23 . . .Qxf3 is not
much better after 24 Rhfl Qxg4 25 Bxg6 hxg6 26 Qxf7+ Kh7 27 Rd7) 24 Rhe1 Qf8
25 Qe7 Qc8 26 Bxg6 hxg6 27 Rd7 Rf6 (27 ...Qc4 28 Rd8+ wins) 28 Red1 Kh7 29 Rd8
Qb7 30 Qe8 1 -0. Summing up, this Dangerous Weapon brought me a perfect result
against a formidable adversary.
We now return to the main line of 1 l . ..Re6. At first sight it may seem peculiar to
restrict the bishop on c8, but Black's idea is to transfer the rook to d6, blocking the
'x-ray' attack down the d-file while also preparing to mobilize the d-pawn.

12 Ne2 (Diagram 42)

Diagram 42 (B)

Diagram 43 (B)

I cannot overstate the importance of White's queen's bishop in the 9 ... Bxc3 varia
tion. This unopposed ruler of the dark squares is perfectly positioned on the long
diagonal, casting its watchful eye over the black kingside and coordinating per
fectly with the queen on g3. It follows that White must strive at all costs to prevent
the black d-pawn from advancing to d4. A good rule of thumb for this variation is
as follows:

If White can maintain his bishop 011 c3, then he can expect to retain excellent compensa
tion for his missing pawn. lf Black succeeds in achieving the ... d5-d4 advance, thereby
shutting this bishop out of the game and forcing it to waste further time, he will usually

262

T h e Ce ntre G a m e R evea l e d : Part I

obtain the advantage.


We now follow the instructive game J .Polgar-V.Hort, Prague 1995.

12 d4?
...

The veteran GM attempts a tactical solution, but has underestimated White's re


sources. In the subsequent game M.Paragua-M.Solleveld, Groningen 1999, Black
improved with 12 ... Rd6!, after which he really was threatening . . . d4. Play contin
ued 13 Nd4?! Nxd4 14 Bxd4 Bf5 1 5 Qf4 Bg6 16 g4 c5! 17 Be5 (after 17 Bxc5? Rc6 the
bishop is skewered to the c2-pawn) 1 7 . . . Re6 18 h4 Qe7 1 9 Bc3 d4 20 Bd2 Nd5 when
Black, having achieved his principal strategic aim, stood clearly better and went
on to win convincingly.
White's main problem in this game was that the exchange of knights enabled
Black to mobilize his c-pawn with powerful effect. Thus, going back to move 13,
I would propose the more subtle 13 Qf2!? (Diagram 43) as an improvement. The
idea is to restrain the black d-pawn while avoiding the knight exchange, at the
same time preparing g2-g4 and a kingside attack. True, Black could nevertheless
try 13 . . . d4!?, when 14 Nxd4 reaches an inferior (from White's point of view) ver
sion of Polgar-Hort in which we have substituted the less accurate 14 Qf2 for the
game's 14 Qh4!. Still, after 14 ... Nd5 15 Bd2 Nxd4 16 Qxd4 White does maintain the
advantage of the two bishops, and one could argue that the onus is on Black to
demonstrate compensation before White completes his development. At the mo
ment it is hard to see any particularly useful discovered attacks with the knight, so
Black should probably prefer 16 ...Bf5 17 Be2 with an unclear position. The bishop
pair is a genuine long-term asset, but for the time being Black enjoys slightly supe
rior development and piece coordination, so I doubt that White can claim any real
advantage at this stage.

13 Nxd4 Rd6 14 Qh41 (Diagram 44)

Diagram 44 (B)

Diagram 45 (B)

263

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
This precise move secures White some advantage, and was almost certainly
missed by Hort. The inferior 14 Qf4? NdS and 14 Qf2 NdS 1S Nxc6?! (1S Bd2!
reaches the previous note) 1S ... Nxc3! (Blatny) are the type of outcomes for which
Hort would doubtless have been hoping.

14... Be6
The alternatives also fail to solve Black's problems:
a) 14 ... NdS gives Whi te an easy life after 1S Qxd8+ Nxd8 (no better is 1S ... Rxd8 1 6
Nxc6 bxc6 1 7 Bd4 - Blatny) 1 6 NbS (or 1 6 BaS keeping the bishop pair) 1 6. . . Nxc3
17 Rxd6! cxd6 18 Nxc3 with a clear advantage due to the weak d-pawn.
b) 14 . . . NeS would have been slightly more challenging, but White can still main
tain a clear plus with 1S Qe1 ! (an easy move to miss, given that White's previous
move saw the queen move along the same diagonal but in the opposite direction!)
1S ... Ng6 16 Bc4 when the two bishops are a potent force.
c) Finally, after 14 ... BfS!? 1 S BbS Nxd4 16 Bxd4 c6 1 7 Bc4 NdS (Blatny) 18 Qxd8+
Rdxd8 (not 18 ... Raxd8? 19 Bxa7 b6 20 Bb3, when Black cannot trap the bishop and
White can easily improve his position) 19 Rhel the bishop pair ensures White's
advantage in the endgame.

15 Be2 Nd5 16 Qxd8+ Raxd8 17 Nxe6


Now White will have two bishops against two knights.

17 ... Rxe6
17 . . . Nxc3? loses after 18 Nxd8 Nxe2+ 19 Kbl Nxd8 20 Rxd6 cxd6 21 Rei .

18 Bc4 Red6 1 9 Bd2 (Diagram 45)


Now Polgar provides a textbook example of how a pair of bishops can dominate.
The remaining moves were: 19 . . . Nb6 20 Ba2 Nd4 21 Rhel NfS 22 b4! c6 23 c3 h6 24
Bb3 R6d7 2S a4 NdS 26 aS a6 27 Re4 gS 28 g3 Nd6 29 Rd4 NbS 30 Rd3 Ndxc3? (fed
up with suffering in a position with no prospects, Hort loses patience) 31 Rxc3
Nxc3 32 Bxc3 Rxd l + 33 Bxdl RdS 34 Bc2 Kf8 3S Be4 Rd7 36 BfS Rd8 37 g4 Ke7 38
Kc2 f6 39 Kb3 Re8 40 Kc4 Kd6 41 Be4 Re6 42 Bel ! Re7 43 Bg3+ Kd7 44 KcS Kd8 4S
Kb6 Rd7 46 BfS Rd4 47 Bel 1 -0.
This game and the accompanying notes demonstrate quite effectively the strategic
risks incurred by the move 9 ... Bxc3. In the majority of cases White's powerful and
unopposed bishop should enable him to count on long-lasting compensation,
though it should be noted that - as long as Black really knows what he is doing
the cri tical line wi th 12 . . . Rd6! shoul d enable him to count on a satisfactory game.

84) 1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Nf6 5 Nc3 Bb4 6 Bd2 o-o 7 o-o-o ReB 8 Qg3
Rxe4 9 a3 Rg4!?
This has been Black's second most common move in the posi tion, as well as a high
scorer with an impressive 62%. Personally, I find this slightly surprising as it is

264

T h e Ce ntre G a m e Revea l e d : Part I


easy to imagine the rook becoming a target for White's kingside activities.

10 Qe3 (Diagram 46)

Diagram 46 (B)

Diagram 47 (W)

This has been White's most popular choice and, after researching the different
options, I consider it to be the most challenging.

10 Ba5
...

The most common choice and probably best, though all four of the playable alter
natives have been tried:
a) The rare 10 ... Bxc3 11 Bxc3 Qe8 (O.Buechmann-S.Buhlmann, Neumuenster 1999)
looks rather peculiar and could even be met by 12 Qxe8+!? Nxe8 13 Nf3, when
White's compensation carries through to the ending.
b) 10 ... Bf8 is rather passive and 1 1 h3 Rg6 (Varavin mentions 1 1 . . .Rd4?! 12 Nf3 Rd6
13 Bc4 when White is better thanks to his superior development and coordination)
12 Bd3 leads to a position in which Black must sacrifice an exchange, ei ther with
or without gobbling the g2-pawn:
b1 ) In Xie Jun-G.Flear, Hastings 1 996/97, Black chose to take the pawn with
12 . . . Rxg2, but after 13 Nge2! (intending Nf4) 13 . . . d6 (13 . . . Bd6 could be met by 14
f4!? intending Qf3) 14 Nf4! Rg5 15 Ne6! Bxe6 (or 15 .. . fxe6 16 Qxg5) 16 Qxg5
White's position deserved preference. Material is approximately equal, but the
open g-file gave White good attacking chances, which she later exploited in fine
style.
b2) In the subsequent encounter V.Varavin-A.Gusev, Tula 2001, Black refrained
from taking on g2, instead preferring to concentrate on development with 12 ... d5.
There followed 13 Bxg6 hxg6 1 4 Qe2 Be6 1 5 Nf3 a6 16 Bg5 b5 (Diagram 47), at
which point I rather like the computer's suggestion of 1 7 h4!, threatening to open

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D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
the h-file and not fearing 1 7. . .b4 on account o f 1 8 axb4 Bxb4 1 9 Nxd5! Bxd5 20 c4.
c) 1 0... Be7 looks a little clumsy and Whi te can easily proceed with the standard
plan of attacking the misplaced rook. K.Georgiou-A.Hadzimanolis, Patras 2000,
continued 1 1 h3 Rd4 12 Nf3 Rd6 (if 1 2 ... Nd5 13 Nxd5 Rxd5 14 Bd3 threatens Qe4
or Bxh7+, and after 14 ... Rd6 15 h4! ? Re6 16 Qf4 White has a very strong initiative
with Ng5 being the principal threat) 1 3 Bc4 Na5 14 Ba2 (Diagram 48).

Diagram 48 (B)

Diagram 49 (B)

Now, in view of the imminent threats against f7, Black already felt compelled to
give up the exchange with 14 ... Re6 1 5 Bxe6 fxe6, after which Whi te could have
obtained a clear advantage after 16 Qd3! (the simplest way of preventing . . . Nc4);
e.g. 16 . . . d6 1 7 Rhe1 Nc6 (not 1 7 . . . e5? 18 Nd5! Nc6 19 Ng5!) 18 Ng5! Ne5 (still not
18 ... e5? 19 Nd5!) 19 Qe2 when the threat of f4 is hard to parry.
d) 10 ... Bd6!? looks odd when there is no attack on the white queen, but the move
still deserves to be considered. White's most aggressive continuation is 1 1 f3 (1 1
g3 is also possible, preventing any ... Bf4 ideas and intending the typical kingside
play) 1 l . .. Rh4 12 g4 Rxh2 (otherwise the rook will be trapped) 13 Rxh2 Bxh2 14 g5
NhS 15 Nge2! (Diagram 49), threatening f4, when Black's kingside pieces will be in
jeopardy. A plausible continuation might be 1 5 . . . Bd6 ( 1 5 . . . d5 allows 16 Nxd5! due
to the weakness of the back rank) 16 f4 Bf8 17 Bg2 g6 18 Bf3 Ng7 1 9 Nd5 N f5 20
Qf2 with a strong initiative, whilst Black's extra pawns are not making their pres
ence felt in the slightest.

11 f3
1 1 h3?! looks less accurate. Apart from attacking the rook the text also monitors
the e4-square, whilst allowing the h-pawn to contemplate a more ambitious ad
vance in the near future.

266

T h e C e ntre G a m e Revea l e d : P a rt I

11... Rg6
Once again this is far being from the only playable move:
a) There is little point in Black playing the zwischenzug 11 . . . Bb6 here.
A.Dimovska-K.Ozturk, Dresden 2004, continued 12 Qe1 Rd4 13 Bd3, at which
point Black might have considered 13 . . . Rxd3!? 14 cxd3 d5 with decent compensa
tion. However, 13 Nge2 looks better, after which 13 . . . Rd6 (or 13 ... Rc4 14 g4) 14 Nf4
still leaves Black facing the problem of how to develop his queenside.
b) 1 1 ...Rh4?! 12 g4 left the black rook very awkwardly placed in S.Pi tkanen
K.Marjamaki, Finnish League 2004, and after the further moves 12 . . . d5 13 Qf2
Nxg4 1 4 fxg4 Bxg4 1 5 Nf3 Rh5 16 Qg3 White was winning.
c) 11 ... Rd4!? 12 Bd3! Bxc3 13 Bxc3 Nd5 saw Black simplifying the position in
D.Campora-F.De Ia Paz, Decameron 2003, although he still suffered from a slight
lag in development and coordination. After the game continuation of 14 Qe1 Nxc3
15 Qxc3 Rh4 16 Ne2 d6 17 h3!? Rh6 1 8 Rhe1 Bd7 1 9 Be4 Qh4 20 Nd4 Nxd4 21 Rxd4
Qg5+ 22 Kb1 c6 23 Qb4 (Diagram 50)

Diagram 50 (B)

Diagram 51 (B)

White's pressure had paid off - he was regaining the sacrificed pawn by force,
while remaining with the more active position. Perhaps frustrated at the outcome
of the middlegame, Black now self-destructed with 23 ... d5? 24 Qxb7 Rd8 25 Bxd5!
Be6? 26 Bxe6 fxe6 27 Qxc6 1 -0.

12 h4!
The only dangerous move, intending to harass the rook. Instead the feeble 12 Bd3?
Rxg2 13 Nge2 d5 gave White very li ttle to show for her two pawns in A.Rapcsak
A.Karlovich, Tallinn 1997.

12 ... Bb6

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D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
12. . . Nh5 13 Ne4 Bxd2+ 1 4 Qxd2 d 6 1 5 g4 Nf6 16 Ng3! saw White gaining time for
his kingside assault in T. Lagemann-J.Ball, Internet 200 1 . The game continued with
16 ...Ne8, and here 17 N 1 e2!? looks sensible, intending further molestation of the
rook by Nf4, in conjunction with the planned pawn storm.
12 ... d5 13 h5 Rh6 (13 ... d4 14 Qe1 Rh6 15 Bxh6 gxh6 didn' t give Black enough for
the exchange in A.Kislinsky-M.Kukawski, Warsaw 2006) 14 Qe1 ! ? (Diagram 51)
14 ... Bxc3 (14 ... Rxh5 would have been inferior: 15 Rxh5 Nxh5 16 Nxd5! Bxd2+ 1 7
Rxd2 Be6 18 Nb6) 1 5 Bxc3 Be6 16 g 4 d4 1 7 B d 2 Qd5 18 Bxh6 Qa2 and now, instead
of 19 Bg5?! Nd5! when Black went on to win in O.Dolzhikova-V.Romanov, Kiev
2002, White should have preferred the more aggressive 19 Qh4!?, forcing Black to
consider the safety of his own king and leading to fascinating complications in
which I would prefer White's chances.

13 Qe1 d6 14 h5 Nxh5 15 Rxh5 Bxg1 16 Bd3 Bc5


A subsequent game, A.Seiler-A.Fedorko, correspondence 1998, featured a possible
improvement in 16 ... Bd4!? 17 Bxg6 fxg6 18 Rh1 Bd7 19 Nd5 Rc8, at which point a
draw was agreed. Material is approximately equal, although Black's ability to
fight for the central squares may be affected by his less than ideal kingside struc
ture. Both sides have chances, but if pushed to make a choice I would prefer White
after 20 Be3.

17 Qh1
17 Bxg6 fxg6 1 8 Rh1 was also possible, leading to something resembling the above
note.

11 ...h6 (Diagram 52)

Diagram 52 (W)

Diagram 53 (B)

We have been following the game A.Shabalov-Comp Socrates 4.0, Boston 1994. At

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T h e C e ntre G a me Reve a l ed : P a rt I
this point the American GM opted for the aggressive 18 Ne4!? and was able to
whip up quite an impressive attack before a l ater error cost him the game. The
remaining moves were 18 ... Bb6 1 9 Kb1 NeS 20 Bxh6 gxh6 21 Rxh6 Rxh6 22 Qxh6
Ng6 23 Bc4 BfS 24 Rh1 (24 NgS!?) 24 . . .Qe7 25 g4? (better was 25 NgS!, when it is
not at all easy for Black to deal with the threat against f7; e.g. 25 . . . Be3 26 Qh7+ Kf8
27 Re1 ! ) 25 ... Be6 26 Bd3 Bd4 27 NgS Bg7 28 Qh7+ Kf8 29 RhS Bd7 30 Bxg6 Qf6 0-1 .
It would, of course, seem reasonable to assume that this sacrificial approach
would have yielded greater chances of success against a carbon- rather than sili
con-based adversary.
Returning to Diagram 52, White also possesses a second attractive option, namely
a transition to a favourable endgame with 18 Bxg6 fxg6 1 9 RxcS! dxcS 20 Bxh6 Nd4
(20 ...Qf8? is too risky after 21 Be3 b6 22 Ne4 with a very dangerous attack) 21 Be3
BfS 22 Qfl Qf6 23 Bxd4 cxd4 24 Qc4+ Be6 25 Qxd4 Qxd4 26 Rxd4 (Diagram 53),
when White has a pleasant advantage thanks to his active rook and Black's com
promised kingside structure.
In conclusion, it is clear that 9 ... Rg4!? is a challenging option which demands con
siderable accuracy from White. At the same time, we have seen that the rook's
active yet unstable placement on g4 has the potential to cause just as many prob
lems for Black as for White.

B5) 1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Nf6 5 Nc3 Bb4 6 Bd2 o-o 7 o-o-o ReB B Qg3
Rxe4 9 a3 Bd6
Finally, we consider the main line as seen in the introductory game.

10 f4 ReB 11 Bd3 (Diagram 54)

Diagram 54 (B)

Diagram 5 5 (B)

2 69

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e s

11 Bf81?
...

Sensibly placing the bishop in a defensive position. The main alternative is


1 1 . ..Bc5, after which 1 2 Nf3 dS was covered in Shabalov-Ivanov, but we also need
to consider the consequences of the more restrained 12 ... d6!?. A few games have
continued with the natural 1 3 Rde1 (13 fS! ? is also interesting) 13 ... Rxe1+ 14 Rxe1
Ne7, at which point I propose the logical novelty 15 Ne4!? (Diagram 55), as the
alternatives have not proven too convincing.
The idea of the text is very simple: White exchanges his opponent's best defensive
piece while preparing the strong attacking move Bc3. A highly plausible continua
tion would be 15 ... Nxe4 (after 15 ... Ned5 16 Nxf6+ Nxf6 1 7 Bc3 White is very active)
16 Bxe4 d5 (no better are 16 ... Bf5? 17 Bc3, or 16 ... Nf5 1 7 Qh3! Nh6 18 f5) 17 Bc3 Ng6
18 Bxg6 hxg6 19 Ng5 (threatening Qh4) 19 .. .f6 (after 19 ... Be7 20 Rxe7! Qxe7 21 Qh4
Qe3+ 22 Kb1 Kf8 23 Bxg7+! Ke8 24 Nf3! Black is unlikely to survive for long).
In the position after 19 .. . f6 (Diagram 56)

Diagram 56 (W)

Diagram 57 (B)

White can generate a ferocious attack with 20 Bxf6! gxf6 (20 ... Qxf6? 21 Qh4 wins)
21 Ne6 with very dangerous threats. The main line of my analysis runs 2 l . . .Bxe6
22 Qxg6+ Kf8 (or 22 ... Kh8 23 Rxe6 Bd4 24 c3) 23 Rxe6 Be7 (no better is 23 ... Bd4 24
c3 Qd7 25 Qf5!) 24 f5! (24 h4 Qd7 25 f5 Re8 is less conclusive) 24 ...Qd7 25 Qh7!,
followed by advancing the kingside pawns. Black is powerless to resist; e.g.
25 ... Rd8 26 h4 d4 27 h5 Qe8 28 h6 Qf7 29 Qh8+ Qg8 30 Qxg8+ Kxg8 31 Rxe7 with
an easily winning rook ending.

12 Nf3
12 Nh3?! has also been tried, but after 1 2 ... d5 it is hard to believe that the knight
can be any better on h3 than on f3.

270

T h e C e ntre G a m e Reve a l ed : Pa rt I

12 d5!
...

This looks to me like Black's best move, utilizing the extra pawn with a view to
controlling some key central squares. If I had to compile a list of Black's most chal
lenging responses to the CG, then the present variation would have to rank pretty
highly. After the playable, though less ambitious 12 . . . d6 White can obtain interest
ing chances with 13 fS! ? (Diagram 57), and now:
a) With 13 ... dS!? Black claims that the move f4-fS reduces White's chances by
comparison with the main line. There are arguments both for and against this as
sertion, although if I were given the black pieces I think I would prefer 12 ... dS on
the previous move. Whatever, the high level encounter Y.Nepomniashchy
P.Harikrishna, Moscow 2007, continued 14 Rhe1 (14 BgS!? looks interesting, with
ideas of Bxf6 and NxdS, not to mention Bc4 or NbS) 14 ... Bd6 Rxe1 1S Rxe1 d4 16
NbS a6 1 7 Nxc7 Bd6 1 8 Bf4 Bxf4+ 19 Qxf4 Ra7 20 g4 h6 21 gS hxgS 22 QxgS Qxc7
23 Rg1 Ne8 24 Re1 Nf6 2S Rg1 Ne8 26 Re1 Nf6 at which point a draw was agreed.
b) In the game S.Bazaj Bockai-R.Pokorna, Krk 2004, Black preferred the more natu
ral 13 . . . NeS 14 NxeS RxeS (14 ... dxeS? 1S BgS! leaves White with excellent compen
sation). Now instead of the game's slow 1S Rhfl ?!, I would suggest the immediate
1S Qf4!, intending to launch the g-pawn without delay and obtaining attacking
chances somewhat reminiscent of those seen in Shabalov-Ivanov at the start of the
chapter.
Returning to 12 ... dS!, Whi te has a few interesting methods of handling the posi
tion. If a final verdict on this variation is ever uncovered, then I would not be sur
prised to learn that - with perfect play - Black possesses enough resources to con
solidate his material advantage. This should be of no great surprise, nor indeed
should it concern us; after all, I am not suggesting that you employ the CG as your
primary weapon in a World Championship match or in high-level correspondence
play. Let us see how we may continue to stir up trouble against Black's solid de
fensive set-up.

13 Rhe1 (Diagram 58)


I regard this as the most logical and accurate continuation. As I explained in the
notes to Shabalov-Ivanov, I would usually consider it more important to keep the
king's rook on h1 in case there arises an opportunity to open a kingside file. In the
note to Black's 1 3th of that game I offered a sample variation in which White exe
cuted the manoeuvre Rde1 -eS-g5, meeting ... g7-g6 with h4-hS to exploit the place
ment of the king's rook on its original square. In the present position Black's
bishop on f8 negates any such ideas, thus making the i mminent opening of any
kingside files highly improbable. That is why, on this occasion, I prefer to central
ize the king' s rook.
CG players have experimented with a few al ternative plans here, but I don't really
believe any of them. After the text Black normally responds with the logical re
grouping ... Ne7, either with or without a preliminary rook exchange.

271

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S

Diagram 5 8 (B)

Diagram 59 (W)

13 ... Rxe1+
This is the main line. Instead, the immediate 1 3 . . . Ne7 soon led to a win for White
in M.Lazic-A.Pihajlic, Vrnjacka Banja 1996, after 14 Qf2 Bf5? 1 5 Rxe7 Bxe7 1 6 Bxf5,
but Black's 1 4th was a blunder. 1 4 . . . c6 looks better, after which White should play
15 h3! followed by g4 with reasonable attacking chances.

14 Rxe1 Ne7
This is the usual choice, although 14 . . . d4!? is also interesting. T.Papatheodorou
P.Nielsen, Panormo 2002, continued 15 Ne4 Bf5 1 6 Nfg5 Nxe4 1 7 Nxe4 Be7 18 Qf3
Qd7 19 h3 Be6 20 Qh5 g6 21 Qh6 Qd5 22 Ng5 Bxg5 23 fxg5? Qa2 24 Kd1 Re8 25 h4
Bg4+ 26 Be2 Qbl + 27 Bel d3 28 cxd3 Qxd3+ 29 Bd2 Rxe2 0-1 . At first Black's vic
tory appeared rather worryingly one-sided, but on closer inspection I discovered a
few interesting potentia l improvements for White. One possibility was 20 Ng5!?
Bxg5 21 fxg5, when the strong bishops provide fair compensation for the pawn.
Alternatively, 22 f5!? could have provided decent attacking chances after 22 . . . Bxf5
23 Ng5 Bxg5 24 Bxg5, when Black's vulnerable dark squares will give him plenty
to think about.

15 Ne5 C5
The game S.Kapnisis-N.Lemos, Greek Junior Ch. 2001, saw another natural con
tinuation in 15 ... Bf5. Following the logical sequence 16 Bxf5 Nxf5 17 Qd3 Ne7 1 8
g4 c6 19 g5 Nd7 (Diagram 59), White could have obtained a very dangerous initia
tive with 20 Nxf7!? Kxf7 21 Qxh7 followed by f5 with powerful threats. Instead he
opted for 20 Ng4, but still managed to build up a promising attack after 20 . . . g6 21
h4 Bg7 22 h5 Nf5 23 Qh3, which he later converted to victory.

16 Qf2 Nc6 17 Qh4 Be6 18 f5 Bd7 (Diagram 60)

272

T h e C e ntre G a m e Revea l e d : Part I

Diagram 60 (W)

Diagram 61 (W)

We have been following the game A.Kislinsky-D.Shilin, Kiev 2004, which contin
ued 19 Ng4 Nxg4 20 Qxg4 c4 21 Bfl d4 22 Bxc4 Qf6 23 Ne4 Qxf5, when White was
struggling for compensation, although he eventually managed to draw. Clearly a
different approach is required, and we should return to the position in Diagram
60 in our search for something more inspiring.
Now that Black has succeeded in mobilizing his d- and c-pawns, it really is 'make
or break' time for White's attack. With that in mind I propose a violent solution in
19 Nxf7! Kxf7 20 Nxd S !, when Black must be extremely careful as both 20 ... Kg8?!
21 Bg5 and 20 ... Nxd5?! 21 f6! ? (or 21 Qxh7) 21 . . .Qxf6 22 Bg5 are very dangerous for
him. Unfortunately for us, he can escape with 20 ... Bxf5! 21 BxfS (21 Bc4 Nxd5 22
Qh5+ Kg8 23 Qxf5 Nce7 24 Rxe7 Bxe7 25 Bxd5+ Kh8 does not give White enough
for the exchange) 21 ... Qxd5 22 Be6+ Qxe6 23 Rxe6 Kxe6 (Diagram 61). The reward
for Black's accurate defence is an endgame in which he enjoys a potentially deci
sive material advantage of rook and two knights versus queen. His only weakness
is the exposed position of his king. From White's point of view, he has no chance
of mating the black king, so at this stage in the game he should be content with a
draw if he can achieve it.
(For any readers groaning in disappointment I must remind you that the CG is not
in fact a forced win for Whi te! For Black to have reached Diagram 61 he will have
to have played a long sequence of accurate moves both in the opening and the
midd legame, withstanding White's most violent attacking efforts such as the tacti
cal storm initiated by his 19th. If an opponent is playing well enough to perform
such feats of calculation, then a draw against them is probably not such a bad re
sult after all ! )
Checking should commence with 2 4 Qh3+. After 2 4... Ke7 (not 2 4. . . Kf7?? 2 5 Qb3+

273

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
followed b y 26 Qxb7 and wins) 25 Qe3+ Kd8 (obviously Black can take a d raw if
he wants it, but I will assume he is playing for a win) 26 Qd3+ Ke8!? (or 26... Kc8 27
Qh3+ with a probable draw by perpetual, as 27 ... Nd7 allows 28 Qxh7, while
Black's coordination problems remain) 27 QbSI (checking would lead nowhere
now, but the text exploits Black's lack of development and poor coordination)
27 ... Rb8 28 Bf4 Rd8 29 Qxb7 Nd4 30 Qa6 the position is not at all clear. Black main
tains a material advantage bu t his king is exposed and his pieces are uncoordi
nated. In such situations the relative strength of the queen increases dramatically,
and all three results are now possible.
9 . . Bd6 is Black's most popular move in the 8 ... Rxe4 variation, and can lead to
some fascinating complications, as we have seen. At times White must play with
tremendous ingenuity in order to justify his earlier pawn sacrifice, whilst Black
must also defend with great precision in certain cri tical lines.
.

Conclusion
It is often said that if you are contemplating the addition of a new opening to your
repertoire, you should study the most critical responses before moving on to any
thing else. In this, the first instalment of our CG tri logy, we have examined Black's
strongest and most principled retort to our queen's early excursion. If there exists
a way to refute the CG, then rapid development followed by capturing a central
pawn would surely be the way to do it.
Is White's pawn sacrifice completely sound? I doubt i t - although I have not yet
discovered a definitive refutation. But does it matter anyway? Personally I
couldn't care less about the 'absolute' merits of an opening, as long as I can use it
to beat my opponents! The notion of perfection in chess is insignificant next to the
true art of winning games.
In my opening preamble I set out the case for the CG making an ideal Dangerous
Weapon. I hope you will agree that the contents of the present chapter, peppered
as they are with checkmating attacks, sacrificial combinations and various obscure
tactical motifs, have substantiated my initial optimism. So why not join me in add
ing this exciting opening to your repertoire?

274

C h a pter Fou rtee n

The Cent re Game Revea led :


Pa rt I I
1 e4 es 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Nf6 5 Nc3 (Diagram 1)

Diagram 1 (B)
In the previous chapter we examined the most theoretically cri tical battlegrounds
of the CG, in which Black developed actively and accepted the gambit pawn on
e4. While there is no doubting the overall soundness of this scheme, nor the rich

275

D a n ge r o u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
complexity o f the resulting positions, there are many players who feel - not alto
gether unreasonably - that such an approach rather plays into White's hands by
bringing about the kind of unclear complications in which most CG players are
likely to thrive. Therefore they conclude that it makes better practical sense after
4 ... Nf6 to refrain from snatching the e4-pawn and instead concentrate on sound
development. The present chapter will demonstrate the methods through which
White can fight against those unsporting adversaries who seek to deprive us of
our fun.
I have divided this chapter into two discrete sections. The lion's share of the space
is devoted to Part 2, which pertains to the important variation S . . Be7, along with a
few unusual fifth move alternatives. But before our migration to this new terri
tory, we must first conclude our study of S ... Bb4 by examining those variations in
which Black refrains from capturing the e4-pawn on move 8, as well as a few mi
nor deviations on the previous two moves.
.

Part 1

Minor s Bb4 lines


...

1 e4 es 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Nf6 5 Nc3 Bb4 6 Bd2 (Diagram 2)

Diagram 2 (B)

Diagram 3 (B)

6 0-0
...

This is almost always played, and I will not cover the obscure alternati ves in detail
as there are plenty of more i mportant lines on which we had better focus our at
tention. Suffice to say that Black very occasionally tries 6 . . . d6, hoping to prepare
long castling after 7 0-0-0 Be6 (7 . . 0-0 would reach note 'a' to Black's 7th move), to
which White should probably reply 8 f4 with an active position.
.

7 0-0-0 ReB

276

T h e C e ntre G a me Revea l e d : Pa rt I I
Again this i s Black's most natural and principled move, which is played i n around
90% of games featuring the position after 7 0-0-0. A few other minor possibilities
include:
a) I will not examine 7 ... d6 at length here as the positions are rather similar to
those found in the main line with 8 ... d6, and transpositions are quite possible if
Black decides to play ... Re8 over the next few moves. White's strategy will as
usual be to attack on the kingside, in much the same style as we will see later. One
example was I.Morovic-J.Garcia Padron, Las Palmas 1 991, which continued 8 Qg3
Ne5 (for 8 ... Re8 see the main line - 7. . . Re8 8 Qg3 d6) 9 f3 c6 1 0 Nge2 b5 1 1 Bg5!
(Diagram 3) 1 1 . . .Qe7 12 f4 Ng6 13 f5 (13 h4! ? also looks promising) 13 ... Ne5 14 Nf4
a6?, at which point White could have obtained a big advantage with 15 Ncd5! (or
15 Nfd5! ) 15 . . . cxd5 16 Nxd5 Nxd5 17 Bxe7 Nxe7 18 f6 N7g6 19 h4! . Despite the fact
that Black has three pieces for the queen, his vulnerable kingside renders his posi
tion highly problematic, e.g. 19 ... h5 20 fxg7 Kxg7 21 Be2 Bg4 22 Bxg4 Nxg4 23 Rd5
Nf6 24 Rf5 with ongoing pressure.
b) In the unlikely event that Black tries 7. . .Qe7 (it is hard to believe that this can
possibly be an i mprovement over 7... Re8) White's most straightforward response
seems to be 8 Nd5! (8 f3 d6 9 g4 is also possible), angling for a favourable end
game after 8 ... Nxd5 (8 ... Bxd2+ 9 Qxd2 Nxd5 10 exd5 reaches the line 8 . . . Nxd5 9
exd5 Bxd2+ 10 Qxd2) 9 exd5 Qxe3 (9 . . . Bxd2+ 10 Qxd2 Ne5 1 1 d6 favours White) 10
Bxe3, when J.Havasi-I.Balvanyos, Hungarian League 1 998, continued 10 ... Ne5 11
a3 Be7 1 2 h3 f5 13 f4 Nf7 1 4 Nf3 Nd6 1 5 Bd3 with a distinct advantage.

8 Qg3 d6
If Black prefers to decline the gambit pawn, then this is clearly the most natural
way of doing so. At the risk of stating the obvious, I will briefly mention that
8. . .Bxc3? would be senseless, as after 9 Bxc3 (Diagram 4)

Diagram 4 (B)

Diagram 5 (B)

277

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
Black cannot play the forking 9. . .Nxe4?? due to mate o n g7. Therefore he has noth
ing better than 9 ... Rxe4, when we arrive at a Line A3 of the previous chapter 8 ... Rxe4 9 a3 Bxc3 1 0 Bxc3 - in which Whi te has practically saved a tempo by omit
ting a2-a3, and after 1 0 Bd3 Re8 1 1 Nf3 his initiative is quite potent.
I could very well imagine 8 ... d6 being the choice of someone who may not be too
familiar with the CG, who starts out by playing all the natural moves but is then
taken aback by White's 8th. When i t becomes obvious that Whi te is offering to
gambit the e-pawn, many players could well become nervous about the complica
tions and instead decide on the more prudent text move. I should add that 8 ... d6
has been played by several strong GMs, including no less than Anatoly Karpov, so
it certainly deserves to be treated with respect.

9 f3 (Diagram 5)
Of course the drawback to Black's last is that White now has time to stabilize his
centre. His next job will usually be to commence kingside operations. One of the
most salient features of the black position is the remoteness of his king's bishop
which is currently marooned on b4, far away from its monarch. With that in mind,
it is eminently logical that White's kingside play should be focused against the
sensitive dark squares such as f6, g7 and h6. There are two principal plans from
which he can choose:

1) Playing with pawns


One logical and dangerous plan involves the advance of White's h-pawn, which
will, if permi tted, go all the way to the sixth rank. Black would be ill-advised to
allow this, as the standard blocking move . . . g6 would be met by Bd2-g5 with a
lethal pin. Instead, Black must devise some countermeasu res, the most typical
being to meet h4 with ...Kh8, and a subsequent hS with ... h6 to contest the dark
squares (the preliminary king move is essential, otherwise White could play
Bxh6). In that case White will attempt to pursue the attack by means of g4-g5, ex
ploiting the newly created weakness on h6, and Black must either find some way
of hindering this plan, or come up with a way of generating counterplay on the
queenside and/or in the centre.

2) Playing with pieces


The pinning move Bg5 can often prove highly uncomfortable for Black, due to the
unavailability of the desirable ... Be7. Whi te may look to augment the pressure on
f6 through various means, including Ng1 -e2-f4-h5 (or -d5), Qg3-h4 or even f4 and
e5 in some positions (this is assuming that Black has the sense to take precautions
against the much more obvious Nc3-d5!). It is tough for Black to break the pin, as
a plan such as ... Kh8 and ... h6 can, in certain positions, be countered by h2-h4.
Please note that the move Bg5 will usually be prefaced by Nge2 in order to pre
vent any damage to White's queenside structure; besides, the knight will often

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T h e Ce ntre G a me Revea l e d : P a rt I I
play a key role i n White's subsequent play so its preliminary development on e2
can hardly be viewed as a waste of time.

Which plan is more effective?


The answer will of course depend on the specific features of a given position, but
against the majority of black responses I have decided to recommend the second
strategy: a timely Bd2-g5 combined with a piece-based pursuit of the ini tiative.
The main reason is that I genuinely consider this plan to be quite troublesome for
Black, as well as a relatively straightforward concept to understand and to imple
ment. Furthermore, I also feel it is slightly safer from a strategic point of view. By
adopting a plan based on active piece play, White is, to a certain degree, insuring
himself against any sudden opening of the centre. If, on the other hand, White has
been moving pawns around on the kingside and then suddenly finds the centre
opening up, he may face more difficult problems. At the same time I realize that
my preference is to some extent a subjective one, and so I will also provide some
examples of the first strategy so that you, the reader, will be able to decide for
yourself how you would prefer to conduct the position.
Let's return to the position after 9 f3.
g Nes
...

This has been the main line, although plenty of other moves have been tried.
a) 9 . . Rb8 (Diagram 6) looks strange, but has been played by no less than Ivan
Sokolov in his encounter with G.Souleidis from Rethymnon 2003.
.

Diagram 6 (W)

Diagram 7 (B)

The game continued with the typical sequence 10 h4 Kh8 1 1 h5 h6! ( 1 l .. .Be6? 12 h6
g6 13 Bg5 would leave Black in big trouble) 12 Qh2 intending g2-g4 with double-

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D a n g e ro u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
edged play. My own preference would have been for 1 0 Nge2!, when 1 0 . . . b5?!
(the preparation of which was, presumably, the point of Black's last) looks far too
slow after 1 1 Bg5, when Black is already faced with difficult problems.
b) 9 ... Qe7 has been played by a few strong players, most notably the Hungarian
legend Lajos Portisch. In K.Haznedaroglu-L.Portisch, Warsaw 2005, Black was
able to justify his 9th after 10 h4 Qe5! 1 1 Qxe5 Nxe5 12 h5 h6 leading to approxi
mate equality and a d raw in 42 moves. Instead White can improve with 10 Nge2!
(Diagram 7) and now:
b1) 10 ... Qe5?! was K.Kulaots-T.Vaatainen, Hyvinkaa 1 996, at which point I rather
like the look of 1 1 Bg5! when White's ideas include f3-f4, or simply Qxe5 followed
by Bxf6 and N d5. Black's safest continuation must be 11 ...Qxg3, but after 12 hxg3
White enjoys a substantial advantage in the queenless position, as the change in
the pawn structure is a major boon for him. The open h-file is an obvious asset,
while Black will also be hard pressed to find a satisfactory solution against the
Bxf6/Nd5 plan.
b2) 10 ... Ne5 looks a bit more sensible, although White still remains on top after 1 1
Bg5. A.Karlovich-S.Bezgodova, S t Petersburg 2004, continued 1 l . . .c6 (White was
threatening Nd5) 12 h4 Kf8 13 Nf4 h6? 14 Nfd5! (Diagram 8) 14 . . . cxd5 15 Bxf6 Qxf6
16 Nxd5 Qd8 1 7 Nxb4 Be6, and now 18 c3 would have been one relatively simple
solution, while 18 Bb5! looks even stronger after 18 . . .Qa5! ? (or 18 . . . Re7 19 f4) 19
Bxe8 Qxb4 20 f4! (even better than 20 a3) 20 ... Nc4 21 Qb3 Qxb3 22 axb3 Ne3 23 BbS
Nxd1 24 Rxd 1 , when Black has zero compensation for the pawn and little chance
of saving the ending.

Diagram 8 (B)

Diagram 9 (B)

c) 9 ... Be6 has been the second most popular move for Black, although it has only
yielded a rather demoralizing score of 28% for the second player. The pinning

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T h e C e n t re G a m e R evea l e d : Part I I
plan has proved highly effective from this position, and so once again I suggest
that you play 1 0 Nge2! (Diagram 9) when a few possible continuations include:
cl) 10 ... Ne5 1 1 BgS Ng6 12 f4 Bd7?? (12 ... Bc4 was essential, though Black's position
still looks decidedly dodgy) 13 Bxf6! Qxf6 (or 13 ... gxf6 14 fS) 14 NdS Qd8 15 Nxb4
Rxe4 (G.Di Lazzaro-A.Barletta, Rome 2004) 16 NdS with an easy win.
c2) 10 ... a6 looks like a very slow way of generating counterplay. P.Pullicino
L.Moylan, Ginninderra 1 994, continued 1 1 h4 ( 1 1 BgS!? looks attractive here as
well) 1 l .. .b5 12 hS Bxc3 13 Nxc3 b4 and now 14 NdS! would have brought Whi te a
large advantage.
c3) 10 ... Nh5!? may be Black's best bet, avoiding the troublesome pin. P.Fontaine
P.La mby, Belgian League 2000, continued 1 1 QgS (also possible is 1 1 Qf2 BcS 12
Be3 Bxe3+ 13 Qxe3 followed by g2-g4 with the makings of a strong attack)
1 1 . . .Qxg5 12 BxgS h6, and now I think White should have played 13 Bd2!? with a
slight advantage. The queens may be off, but a kingside pawn advance could still
prove troublesome for Black. The plan is g2-g4, followed by h2-h4 or perhaps Nf4
with the intention of ei ther eliminating the e6-bishop or occupying dS.
After the main move 9 ... Ne5 I offer coverage of two alternatives:

A: 10 h4
B: 10 Nge2!?
These directly correspond to the contrasting attacking plans described earlier.

A) 1 e4 es 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Nf6 5 Nc3 Bb4 6 Bd2 o-o 1 o-o-o ReB 8 Qg3
d6 9 f3 Nes 10 h4 (Diagram 10)

Diagram 10 (B)

Diagram 11 (B)

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D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
This has been White's most popular choice, intending to march the pawn all the
way up to h6.

10... Kh8
By evacuating his king from the g-file Black prepares to meet h4-h5 with ...h6.
Others are less promising:
a) It is worth acknowledging the playabili ty of 10 . . . h6!?, by which Black tries to
tempt his opponent into snatching the h-pawn.

BEWARE! The point is revealed after 11 Bxh6?1 Nh5 12 Qg5


Qxg5+ 13 Bxg5 Bxc3 14 bxc3 Ng3 15 Rh2 Nxf1 16 Rxf1 Be6
with good compensation for the pawn.
Apart from this tactical justi fication, however, Black's 1 0th has little to recom
mend it. For one thing, White can easily strengthen the threat with 1 1 h5, leaving
Black with nothing better than 1 1 . . . Kh8, transposing to the main line - 10. . . Kh8 1 1
h5 h6. But given the premature na ture of the move ... h6, it may be more promising
to switch plans with the immediate 1 1 Qh2!? intending g4-g5.
b) With 10 ... c6?! Black tries to prepare central counterplay, but the position after 1 1
h5 (Diagram 11) has not been a successful one for him:
b1 ) The well-known game A.Morozevich-M.Hebden, London Lloyds Bank 1 994,
continued 1 1 ... d5 1 2 Nge2!? Nc4 13 h6 g6 1 4 Bg5 Qb6 1 5 Na4 Qa5 1 6 Bxf6 Qxa4 1 7
Nc3 Bxc3 1 8 Bxc3 Ne3 (after 18 ... Qxa2? 1 9 Bxc4 Black would have been swiftly
murdered on the dark squares) 19 b3 Qxa2 20 Rd2 Qa3+ 21 Bb2 Qe7 (after
2l . ..Nxf1 22 Rxfl Qe7 there is no immed iate win, but Black's kingside is a perma
nent problem and the opposite-coloured bishops help White greatly) 22 Be2 dxe4?
(this is hardly the time for pawn grabbing!) 23 fxe4 Qxe4 24 Qg5! Nd5 25 Rxd5!
Qxd5 26 Qf6 Kf8 27 Bc4 1 -0.
b2) In T.Leosson-J. Hjartarson, Gardabaer 1996, Black tried to improve with
1 1 ...Qe7 1 2 Nge2 N fd7 1 3 Nd4 Nb6. Now I think White's best was 14 h6 g6 15 a3!,
when the loss of Black's dark-squared bishop would have rendered his position
quite uncomfortable after 15 . . . Bxc3 16 Bxc3, or 15 ... Bc5 16 Nb3.
c) 10 ... Nh5 1 1 Qh2 Bc5 was seen in K.Kulaots-O.Sepp, Tallinn 1997, when White
played the cautious 12 Be2. However, on closer inspection there was nothing at all
wrong with 1 2 g4! (Diagram 12).
Both players were apparently convinced that 12 ... Bxg1 would have been good for
Black, but it turns out that White can actually feel very happy after 13 Rxg1 (even
13 Qg2!? is possible, e.g. 13 . . . Bc5 14 gxh5 with material equality and an open g
file) 13 ... Nxf3 14 Qg2 Nxg1 15 gxh5 Qxh4 16 Qxg1 Qxh5 17 Be2 Qg6 18 Qf2. Black
has a rook and three pawns for White's two minor pieces; a significant material
advantage to be sure. But the real question is whether he will survive long enough
to use them in the ending. I seriously doubt it, as White's pieces are perfectly

282

T h e C e ntre G a m e Reve a l ed : Pa rt I I
placed to carry out a devastating attack, with Rg1 the first move on the agenda.

Diagram 12 (B)

Diagram 13 (W)

11 h S
This is the most obvious and consistent move.

BEWARE! In A.Shirov-A.Karpov, Dos Hermanas 1995, White's


kingside play soon hit a stumbling block after 11 Nh3 Nhs!? 12
Qh2 c6 13 a3 Bas (Diagram 13).
The game continued 14 Be2?! (perhaps Whi te needed to consider the awkward
looking 14 Ng1 ! ? in order to facilitate the advance of his pawns) 14 ... Bxh3! 1 5
Qxh3 Bxc3! 1 6 bxc3 (the point of Black's play is that 16 Bxc3?? loses to 1 6 ... Nf4)
16 . . . Nf6, when White's bishop pair was not enough to offset his shattered queen
side pawns, and Black soon went on to win.

11... h6
Now White should look to prepare g4-g5, while Black must either aim to establish
a blockade of that square or organize counterplay in another area.

12 Qh2 (Diagram 14)


Keeping the queen out of harm's way.

12 ...c6!
Black should prepare central counterplay as quickly as possible. Instead the super
ficially sensible developing move 12 . . .Be6?! would be too slow here. Black will
soon have to reckon with an avalanche of white pawns on the kingside, and he
needs to organize central counterplay at the earliest convenience. In C.Cruzado

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D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
Duenas-S.Salzmann, correspondence 2003, White developed a crushing attack
after 13 g4 Nh7 1 4 Qg3 Nc4 15 Bxc4 Bxc4 16 f4! f6 (or 16 ... Bxc3 17 Qxc3! Rxe4 18
g5) 17 Nf3 Bf7 1 8 g5 fxg5 19 fxg5 Bxc3 20 Bxc3 Nxg5 21 Rdg1 .

13 g4 Nh7 14 Qg3
Once again this is the consistent move, clearing the way for the g-pawn.

14... d5! (Diagram 15)

Diagram 14 (B)

Diagram 15 (W}

We have been following the game A .Solomaha-V.Rogovski, Kiev 2005. Black has
adequate counterplay, but there was no need for White to err with 15 f4?! Nxg4 16
e5 d4 when Black was already better. 1 5 exd5 cxd5 1 6 Bb5 Bd7 1 7 Bxd7 Qxd7 also
looks favourable for the second player who threatens . . . Nc4, but the possible im
provements 15 Nh3!?, 15 a3!? and 1 5 Be2!? all deserve attention.

B) 1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Nf6 5 Nc3 Bb4 6 Bd2 o-o 7 o-o-o ReB 8 Qg3
d6 9 f3 Ne5 10 Nge21?
According to my database this has only been played three times, but personally I
rather like the idea.

10 Nh5! (Diagram 16}


...

In my opinion this is Black's most pragmatic response; the threat of Bg5 really is
too awkward for him to ignore. Of course the knight will not be able to stay on h5
forever, but at least Black will avoid the problems evident in the following varia
tions.
a) 10 ... c6 should, as usual, be met by 1 1 Bg5 with difficult problems for Black.
b) After 10 ... Kh8 the game J . Rudd-A.Khandelwal, British Ch., Swansea 2006,

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T h e C e ntre G a me Revea l e d : Pa rt I I
continued 1 1 h4! ? Bd7?! (this i s rather slow; the immediate 1 1 . . .c6 looks like a
better bet) 12 Bg5! c6 13 a3! posing a difficult question to the bishop. Black tried
the spectacular but unsound 13 . . .Qa5? (13 ... Bc5 14 Na4! is awkward, but 13 ... Ba5
was preferable as 14 Rxd6? - 1 4 f4!? is better - is well met by 14 ... Bc7, or even
14 ... Bxc3! 1 5 Nxc3 Qc7! when rook moves are met by . . . Nd3+ winning the queen
on g3) 14 axb4 Qa1 + 15 Kd2 Nc4+ 1 6 Ke1 Qxb2 but soon lost after 1 7 Bxf6 (17 h5!
looks even better) 17 ... gxf6 1 8 Qf4 f5 1 9 Kf2 Ne5 20 Rxd6 Qxb4 21 Qd2 Qb6+ 22
Nd4 fxe4 23 Nxe4 Bf5 24 Ng3 Be6 25 Qf4 Bd5 26 Qf6+ Kg8 27 Ngf5 1 -0.

Diagram 16 (W)

Diagram 17 (B)

Going back, i t seems to me that the immediate 1 1 Bg5! ? (Diagram 17) was also
very tempting; e.g. 1 1 ... Bc5 (1 l . . . h6 ?? must be avoided due to 12 Bxf6 gxf6 12 ... Qxf6 13 Nd5 - 13 Nd5 Bc5 14 Qh4 Kg7 15 Ng3 when Black is already busted)
12 f4 with the makings of a strong initiative. 12 ... Neg4 13 e5?! can be met satisfac
torily by 13 ... Nh5! followed by ... f6, but 13 Nd4! maintains White's superiority.
Alternatively, 12 ... Ng6 runs into the straightforward 13 h4! h6 14 h5 Nf8 15 Bh4
with a clear advantage.
After 10 . . . Nh5! play continues with . . .

11 Qg5
It would be more consistent with the Dangerous Weapons ethos to keep the queens
on with 1 1 Qf2. Unfortunately it presents Black with the opportunity for 1 l . . . Nc4!
intending to remove White's powerful bishop, and if 12 Bel then 12 . . . Bc5 13 Nd4
Qg5+ sees Black becoming quite active.

11 ...Qxg5
The computer mentions the almost unbelievable l l . ..Nc4?! (Diagram 18), when
White gains nothing by 1 2 Qxh5? in view of 1 2 . . . Re5! . Now the queen is trapped,

285

Dangero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
so White has nothing better than 13 Bg5 Rxg5 1 4 Qh4 Be6 when Black is doing
well. Fortunately White can do much better with 12 Qxd8 Rxd8 13 Bg5! f6 14 Bh4
Ne3 15 Rd3 Nxfl 16 Rxfl with a clear advantage thanks to the lead in develop
ment and better coordination.

Diagram 18 (W)

Diagram 19 (B)

12 Bxgs h6
Now R.Siuka-B.Macieja, Zlin 1995, continued 13 Bh4 BaS, when Black seemed to
be okay and the game was eventually drawn.
In my opinion 13 Be3! ? (Diagram 19) looks better, keeping the bishop centralized. I
feel as if White ought to have an edge in this queenless middlegame, mainly be
cause of his space advantage, al though Black does remains solid enough. White is
threatening Nd5, and 13 ... Nc4 is nothing to worry about, as 14 Bf2 just leaves the
knight on an unstable square. The regrouping 1 3 . . . Nf6 is more sensible, against
which 14 Bd4 looks like a most straightforward choice, settling for a slight space
ad vantage. Black ought to be able to hold the position with accurate play, but in
my opinion he still has some way to go before he can claim full equality.

Conclusion

...

Bb4

In this section we have examined a selection of lines after 5 . . .Bb4 in which Black
refrains from capturing the gambit pawn on e4, of which the most important is
undoubted ly 8 . . . d6. This is a sound enough approach, but I think CG players
should be fairly happy if their opponents choose to play in this way. Black's main
problem is that his dark-squared bishop is unable to participate in the defence of
his kingside. Furthermore, it may even prove to be an obstruction for Black's own
attacking plans such as ... b5-b4.

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The C e nt re G a me Reve a l e d : Part I I


Personally, i f I were to play the 4. . .N f6 line with Black against the CG, I would do
one of two things. If I wanted to react in the most principled way possible, then I
would play 5 . . . Bb4 followed by a subsequent 8 . . . Nxe4 or 8 . . . Rxe4, taking the pawn
and hoping to consolidate my material advantage. If, on the other hand, I did not
wish to accept any gambit pawns, I would just play 5 . . . Be7 so that the bishop
would be available to defend my kingside if needed (as in the following section).
In my opinion there seems an air of inconsistency about combining the active
moves 5 . . . Bb4 and 7. . .Re8 with the less principled 8 . . . d6.
To summarize, there is no doubt that the 8 ... d6 variation is theoretically playable
for Black. Nevertheless I would say that it is generally the second player who
needs to be slightly more careful in the ensuing middlegame, mainly due to the
vulnerabi lity of his dark squares on the kingside.
White can attempt to build an initiative in a couple of d ifferent ways. Line A fea
tured an outwardly aggressive approach, advancing the h-pawn and avoiding any
queen exchanges for the time being. Black can probably obtain an approximately
equal position if he plays accurately, but the game remains complicated and quite
suitable for Dangerous Weapon players. Line B showed what I consider to be a
promising, yet simple plan of Nge2 intending Bg5, when Black's best response
seems to be to head for a slightly worse queenless position with a timely ... Nh5. If
he fails to do this then his position can easily become very unpleasant, as we have
seen from the numerous examples.

Part 2

...

Be7 and other fifth move alternatives

Here we move on to those variations involving 4 . . . Nf6 in which Black follows up


with something other than 5 . . . Bb4. By far the most common of these options is
5 ... Be7.

D A.Shabalov I.Shliperman

New York 1995


1 e4 es 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Nf6 5 Nc3 Be7 6 Bc41
I believe this to be White's most promising move here, for reasons that will be
explained in the theoretical section.

6 ... 0-0 7 Bd2 d6 8 0-0-0 (Diagram 20) 8. Ne5


..

A natural and active move, targeting the c4-bishop. The main line of 8 ... Be6 will
also be examined in the theoretical section, along wi th Black's other al ternatives
on both this and the previous few moves.

9 Bb3 Be6
A few other moves have been tried, but it looks very logical for Black to continue
developing.

287

D a n ge ro u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S

10 f4 Nc4 1 1 Bxc4 Bxc4


White does not need to worry too much about the bishop pair. Instead, Shabalov
is much more interested in completing his development and starting an attack.

12 Nf3 c6
Shliperman deviates from the earlier game A.Shabalov-Comp WChess, Boston
1994, in which the computer opted for 12 ... Re8 (Diagram 21). The game proceeded
with the rather sluggish 13 h3?!, which was strongly met by 13 ... b5! 14 b3 b4 1 5
bxc4 bxc3 16 Bxc3 Bf8 (16 . . .Qc8!? m a y be even better}, when Black h a d good com
pensation for the pawn and went on to win.

Diagram 20 (B)

Diagram 21 (W)

Instead, I believe White should concentrate on the speedy mobilization of his


forces, and to this end 13 Rhel ! looks correct. Following the natural 1 3 ... Bf8 White
can choose between:
a) The patient 14 Qf2, vacating the e-file and intending a piece attack similar to
that seen in the main game.
b) The more aggressive 14 e5! ?, plunging the game into unclear complications
after 14 ... Ng4 15 Qe4 or 15 Qd4.

13 Nd4!
Shabalov intends to carry out an attack using his pieces, which in this position
seems like a more effective plan than the slow h2-h3 which he employed against
the computer.

13 ... Re8 14 Qg3 Bf8 15 Rhe1 Qc7 16 b3 Ba6?!


Evidently Black wished to preserve his bishop pair, although there is an obvious
risk of this piece becoming isolated . 16 ... Be6 looks safer.

288

T h e C e nt re G a me Revea l e d : P a rt I I

17 Nf5 Qd7 18 Qg51 (Diagram 22)

Diagram 22 (B)

Diagram 23 (B)

Preparing to mobilize a rook along the third rank. Shabalov continues to bring all
his pieces to attacking positions, and Shliperman seems to be stuck for ideas.

18 ... Re6
If 18 . . . b5?!, then 19 e5 is very strong.

19 Re3 Kh8 20 Rh3 Rae8 21 Be31 (Diagram 23)


White's play is completely logical and easy to understand. The text prepares to
transfer the bishop to its best diagonal.

21 ... Ng8
2L.Nxe4? 22 Nxe4 Rxe4 23 Rxd6! is lethal.

22 Bd4 Rg6
If 22 .. .f6 23 Qh5 h6 then 24 Nh4! is hard to meet, the main threat being a knight
check followed by Qf5.

23 Qh4 h6 24 g4! Be7 25 g5 Qe6 (Diagram 24)


26 Nxg71
There are several ways to win, but Shabalov's chosen method is the most elegant
and efficient.

26 ...Rxg7 27 f5 Qd7 28 gxh61


This queen sacrifice is the point of White's play.

28 ... Bxh4 29 hxg7+ Kh7 30 Rxh4+ Nh6 31 Rg1


Despite Black's extra queen he has no good defence against Be3.

31 ... Rg8 32 Bf6 d5 33 Rxh6+! 1-0 (Diagram 25)

289

D a n ge ro u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
This final mini-combination forced Black's resignation, a s 33 ... Kxh6 3 4 Rg4 leads
to imminent mate.

Diagram 24 (W)

Diagram 25 (B)

DANGEROUS WEAPON: This game was a model demonstration


of the attacking chances White can obtain in the CG. The
kingside assault was relatively simple both to prepare and to
implement, and Shabalov went on to crown his skilful play
with a perfectly executed combinational finish.

Looking a Little Deeper


1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Nf6 5 Nc3 (Diagram 26)
5 ...Be7
At first sight this move may appear rather passive, but we will soon see that it
carries certain advantages over the more active-looking S ... Bb4.
Alternatives to these two bishop moves are seldom seen. I will briefly mention
that 5 . . . Nb4!? 6 Qe2 transposes to the variation 4 . . . Nb4 ! ? 5 Qe2! ? Nf6 6 Nc3 consid
ered in the following chapter (see page 324), while S . . . d6 6 Bd2 (6 b3! ?) hardly
leaves Black with anything better than 6 . . . Be7 7 0-0-0 0-0. Here White can of course
play 8 Bc4 transposing to the main line below, a lthough now that . . . dS is less of a
threat one could also make a case for the commencement of immediate kingside
activities with 8 f3!?, 8 f4! ? or 8 h4! ?.

6 Bc4! (Diagram 27)


I believe this to be White's only realistic try for an advantage. One of the points in

290

T h e C e ntre G a me Revea l ed : Pa rt I I
favour of Black's restrained bishop development on e7 can be seen after the rou
tine 6 Bd2?! dS!. (The reader may recall that on page 242 of the previous chapter
I was quite critical of the inaccurate move order 5 Bd2?!. It is at precisely this mo
ment that we see the evidence for the second of my stated objections.) Play may
continue 7 exdS NxdS (7 . . . Nb4!? is also interesting) when Black is already com
fortably equal. White's best is probably 8 NxdS QxdS when he has no chance of an
advantage, but can probably hold the balance - hardly a satisfactory outcome after
just eight moves for a 'Dangerous Weapon'!

Diagram 26 (B)

Diagram 2 7 (B)

BEWARE! Unfortunately if White tries to play ambitiously with


8 Qg3?1, then Black has the very strong option of 8... Ncb41 as
recommended by Emms in Play the Open Games as Black. 6
Qg3 ds! also leaves White struggling after only six moves.
In light of these possibilities, the rationale for my chosen recommendation be
comes obvious. White is clamping down on the dS-square, and intends to follow
up with Bd2 and 0-0-0, reaching a typical position in which he can aim to attack
on the kingside.
After 6 Bc4, 6 . . 0-0 is the main line, but I would say that the following options all
deserve individual consideration:
.

A: 6 ... Nb4!?
B: 6.. 0-0
.

C: 6 ...d6

291

Dangero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
Other possibili ties include:
a) 6 ... Ne5 has never been seen in practice, although in his TWIC Theory article John
Paul Wallace offers the sample variation 7 Bb3 0-0 8 f4 Neg4 9 Qf3 Bc5 10 e5!? (or
10 Nh3) 10 ... Nf2 1 1 Na4 leading to White's advantage, as the knight is unlikely to
escape from h 1 .
b) 6 . . . Na5?! is a thematic move in the CG, but i t can hardly be justified at this early
stage. White replies 7 Be2 (as usual, this is the best retreat square for the bishop)
and then:
b1) In J . Laplaza-M.Martinez Lizarraga, Mallorca 2004, Black tried the i mmediate
7... d5 which should have been met by 8 e5!, not fearing 8 ... d4 9 Qg5! as it looks to
me like Whi te has the better of the complications; e.g. 9 . . . dxc3 (9 ... Nc6 1 0 Nb1 0-0
1 1 exf6 Bxf6 12 Qd2 is surely not enough for a piece) 10 exf6 Bb4 1 1 Qe3+ Be6 12
fxg7 cxb2+ 13 c3 bxa1Q 1 4 gxh8Q+ B8 (Diagram 28) reaches an amazing position,
but one in which White is clearly for choice after 1 5 Nf3.

Diagram 28 (W)

Diagram 29 (W)

b2) 7. . 0-0 8 Bd2 was J.Novy-M.Hrabal, Klatovy 2003, at which point Black should
have settled for the inferior but playable position he would have obtained after
8 ... d6 9 0-0-0. Instead, he proceeded with the careless 8 . . . Re8? allowing his knight
to be trapped after 9 e5! . The game continued 9 . . . Bd6?! (9 . . . Bf8?! 10 Qg3 is also
hopeless, but even after the superior 9 . . . d5 1 0 exf6 Bxf6 1 1 Q3 Black has nowhere
near enough for the piece) 10 f4 Nc6 1 1 0-0-0 Bb4 12 Qd3 Nxe5 13 fxe5 Rxe5 and
now 14 Nf3 would have been best, with an easily winning position.
.

c) In C.Pace-J .Graff, correspondence 2000, Black was successful with the creative
6 ... Ng4!? 7 Qg3 Nce5! ?, defending g4 and attacking c4 while also menacing ... Bh4.
White responded with the resolute 8 Bxf7+!? Kxf7 (8 . . . N xf7 9 Qxg4 0-0 10 Qh5

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T h e Ce ntre G a me Revea l e d : P a rt I I
does not give Black enough for a pawn) 9 h3 Nxf2!? 1 0 Qxf2+ Ke8 followed by
...Rf8, leading to an unclear game in which Black eventually emerged victorious.
In my view it seems better for White to avoid these complications with 7 Qe2,
when there might follow 7 ... Nge5 8 BdS! (this looks preferable to 8 Bb3 Nd4)
8 ...0-0 (Diagram 29), at which point White may choose between the relatively quiet
9 Be3 d6 10 0-0-0, or the more ambitious 9 f4! ? Nd4!? (9 . . Ng6 10 Nf3 is very pleas
ant for White) 10 Qd1 Nec6 1 1 Be3 BcS 12 Kf2! (defending against Nxc2+), when
Black must be careful as his minor pieces lack stabil ity.
.

A) 1 e4 es 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Nf6 5 Nc3 Be7 6 Bc4 Nb41? 7 Bb3 ds
This is Black's most principled attempt to validate his unusual 6th move. Instead
J.Ball-J .Meyer, Internet 2001, saw 7 . . . d6 8 Bd2, when 8 . . . Be6 9 0-0-0 Bxb3 10 axb3
0-0 would have justified Black's play. I think White should have preferred either 8
a3 Nc6 (8 . . . Na6!?) 9 Nf3 Be6 10 NdS!?, or 8 Nf3 Be6 9 Qe2, with a small edge in
both cases.

8 Nf3!
Taking on dS gets White nowhere, so he should instead focus on developing as
rapidly as possible.

8 dxe4
...

8...0-0!? reaches the game R.Pokorna-A.Srebrnic, Dresden 2007, which arrived at


this position via the move order 6 . . .0-0 7 Nf3 (later I recommend 7 Bd2) 7. . . Nb4!?
(7 . . . d6 should be good enough for equali ty) 8 Bb3 dS. There followed 9 0-0 dxe4
10 Nxe4 reaching a position from the main line below.

9 Nxe4 0-0 (Diagram 30)

Diagram 30 (W)

Diagram 31 (W)

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D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
The central pawns have been liquidated, so White must rely o n piece activity i f he
is to obtain any advantage from the opening. In L.Mikhaletz-K.Pinkas, Swidnica
2000, he tried 10 Bd2 and although this was enough for a satisfactory position, I
would be tempted to forgo the standard plan of long castling in favour of an im
mediate evacuation of the king with ...

10 0-01?
...when we have in fact transposed back to Pokorna-Srebrnic.

1o...Nbds
It should be noted that the attempt to exploit the position of Whi te's queen with
10 ...Re8? is refuted by 1 1 Nfg5!, when Black has serious problems with f7 and his
kingside in general . For example: 1 l . ..Nfd5 12 Qf3! f6 (or 12 ... Rf8 13 a3) 13 Rd1
fxg5 14 Bxd5+ Nxd5 15 Rxd5!; or 1 1 ...Rf8 12 Nxf6+ Bxf6 13 Nxf7! Rxf7 14 Bxf7+
Kxf7 1 5 Qb3+ Nd5 1 6 Rd1 c6 1 7 c4 and wins; or finally 1 l . . .Nbd5 1 2 Qd3! (with
veiled threats against h7) 12 ... g6 (12 ... Nxe4 13 Nxf7! Kxf7 1 4 Bxd5+ Kf8 15 Qxe4
Bf6 16 Qc4 with an extra pawn and a strong initiative) 1 3 Nxf6+ Bxf6 14 Nxf7! Kxf7
and White can choose between being a pawn up in a middlegame or an endgame.

11 Nxf6+
1 1 Qd4!? is worth considering, maintaining a slightly more active position.

11 .. Nxf6 (Diagram 31)


.

Also playable is 1 l . . .Bxf6!? 1 2 Qe4 Be6. Then 13 Nd4!? secures the two bishops and
a slight but enduring advantage, and should probably be preferred over 1 3 Rd1
Nc3! 14 Rxd8 Nxe4 15 Rxa8 Rxa8 1 6 Bxe6 fxe6 which is only marginally better for
White.
After l l ... Nxf6, in Pokorna-Srebrnic Whi te forfei ted any real chance of an advan
tage with the torpid move 12 c3?!. Instead, it was obviously better to continue de
veloping with 12 Bd2 or 12 Re1, maintaining some initiative.
6 ... Nb4!? is seldom seen, but I could easily imagine it appealing to creative players
who like to pose original problems to their opponents, just like the related
4 ... Nb4!? of the following chapter. Nevertheless, as long as White reacts precisely I
feel he should be able to obtain a pleasant position.

B) 1 e4 es 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Nf6 5 Nc3 Be7 6 Bc4 o-o 7 Bd2 (Diagram 32)
Preparing long castling, as is customary for the CG.

7 ... d6
This is the most natural and popular move, although al ternatives are seen from
time to time, including:
a) 7 . . .Re8 8 0-0-0 d6 reaches a position considered under the move order 7. . . d6 8

0-0-0 ReS.
b) Against 7 ... Na5 I would suggest the usual retreat 8 Be2!, with the better position

294

T h e Ce ntre G a me Reve a l ed : P a rt I I
as Black i s not yet ready for ... dS.
c) 7 ... Ne5 8 Bb3 d6 9 f4 Ng6 (9 ... Neg4 leaves the knight misplaced after 1 0 Qe2
threatening h3 and g4) 1 0 0-0-0 c6 1 1 N f3 aS 1 2 fS Ne5 1 3 NxeS dxeS 1 4 g4 bS 15 gS
(15 a4!?) 1 5 ... a4 1 6 gxf6 Bxf6 (Diagram 3 3) was I.Smirnov-S.Fedorchuk, Alushta
2001, and here White could have obtained a clear advantage with 17 BdS! Bb7!?
(17 ... cxd5 18 NxdS B7 1 9 Rhg1 reaches the same position) 18 Rhg1 cxdS (or 18 . . .b4
19 Bc4 bxc3 20 Bxc3) 19 NxdS BxdS 20 Bb4!.

Diagram 32 (B)

Diagram 33 (W)

d) Black's most important alternative at this juncture is 7 ... Ng4!?, which should
probably be met by 8 Qe2! ? (8 Qf4!? is playable, but not too frightening in my
opinion). I regard this as the most accurate and principled retreat. White tucks his
queen out of danger and challenges Black to find a use for his knight on the king
side. The second player now faces a choice:
d1) A fter the natural 8 ... Nge5, the stereotyped 9 Bb3 allows Black to obtain a fine
position following 9 ... Nd4! 10 Qe3 Nxb3 1 1 axb3 fS!?. Therefore White should pre
fer 9 0-0-0!?, not fearing the loss of the bishop after 9 . . . Nxc4 10 Qxc4. Al ternatively,
9 ... Nd4 1 0 Qfl is unclear according to Varavin; it is hard to see what the black
knight is doing on d4.
d2) 8 ... Nd4!? (Diagram 34) leads to highly unclear play. 9 Qxg4! (9 Qd3? is well
met by 9 ... Bc5! - Varavin) 9 . . . d5 10 QhS! (the only critical move; 10 Qd1 dxc4 looks
fine for Black), with another choice for Black:
d21) V.Varavin-A.Tjurin, Voronezh 2001, continued 10 . . . d xc4 1 1 0-0-0 cS 12 Nf3
(or 12 Be3!? bS 13 Nf3) with a slight advantage to White.
d22) Instead 10 ... N xc2+! ? is critical, when 1 1 Kd1 (not 1 1 Kfl ? dxc4 12 Rd1 Nb4)
l l ... Nxa1 (1 l . . .dxc4? 12 Kxc2 Qd3+ 1 3 Kc1 Qfl + 1 4 Qd1 ! Qxg2 15 Nf3 is practically

295

Dangero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
winning for White) reaches a complicated and unbalanced position. White will
obviously aim to capture the knight on a1, when he will enjoy a potentially deci
sive material advantage. But in the meantime his king is misplaced, and Black can
attempt to throw various obstacles in the way of White's planned knight-trapping
operation. Varavin gives 12 Qxd5 Be6 13 Qxd8 Raxd8 14 Bxe6 fxe6 15 Nf3 (but not
15 f3? Bg5 16 Nb1 Rd6) 1 5 ... g5 16 h3 h5 as unclear. Personally I think I would pre
fer 12 exd5! (Diagram 35), keeping the d-file closed.
Here it looks quite difficult for Black to oppose the plan of Kc1 -b1, picking up the
knight. Still, it is necessary for White to be accurate in certain places. By the way,
please do not be alarmed if your analysis engine shows a heavy plus to Black here.
The computer sees that White is an exchange down with his king in the centre,
and for the time being the loss of the black knight is beyond its 'horizon'. By way
of illustration, I offer a sample continuation in which I have deliberately selected
Fritz's top move for Black on every turn, in order to show how the computer's
verdict can slowly be reversed: 12 ... g6 13 Qf3 c6 (Black must try to open a file or
two for his rooks) 14 Kc1 Bg5 (14 ... Bf5 15 Bd3 Bg5 16 Bxf5 Bxd2+ 17 Kxd2 Qg5+ 18
Kd3!? Qcl 1 9 Qd 1 Qxb2 20 Nge2 gxf5 21 Qcl ! is clearly better for White; Black
faces the choice between a bad ending, or a midd legame with a very exposed
king) 15 Nge2! Bxd2+ 16 Kxd2 b5 1 7 Bd3 b4 1 8 Na4 Qa5 1 9 b3 Nxb3+ 20 axb3 cxd5.
Black is materially slightly ahead, but his kingside is slightly vulnerable and his
extra pawns are securely blockaded by the white pieces. I would definitely prefer
White after 21 Qf6.

Diagram 34 (W)

Diagram 35 (B)

Of course this is far from an exhaustive analysis, but I hope it will shed some l ight
on the possibilities available to both sides in this obscure variation.
We now return to the main line of 7 ... d6:

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T h e Ce ntre G a m e Reve a l e d : Part I I

8 o-o-o Be6!
This is the main line and is usually considered to be the most solid, al though as
usual a variety of alternatives have been tried . 8 ... Ne5 was seen in the illustrative
game Shabalov-Shliperman; other possibilities include:
a) 8 . . . Na5?! 9 Be2 is slightly better for White, as was noted in the variation

6 . . Na5 ?! 7 Be2 0-0 8 Bd2 d6 9 0-0-0.


.

b) 8 ... Ng4?! 9 Qe1 Nge5 is wel l met by 10 Be2! (Diagram 36), preparing f4 to drive
the knight away. I believe that this simple plan exposes Black's knight manoeuvre
as a waste of time which only succeeds in presenting a target for White's kingside
pawns. Please note that 10 . . . Be6? 11 f4 Nc4 just loses material for Black after 12 f5!
Nxd2 13 fxe6. In G.Paolinelli-B.Kharchenko, Herceg Novi 2005, he attempted to
justify his play with 10 ... f5!?, but after 11 f4 Ng6 the knight was less than opti
mally placed, and White's kingside attack soon gathered momentum after 12 exf5
Bxf5 13 g4 Bh4 14 Qfl Bd7 1 5 f5 Nge5 16 Qf4 Kh8 1 7 Nf3 (the point of Black's last
was to meet 1 7 g5 with 17 ... Ng6! without allowing a check on c4) 17 ... Nxf3 18 Bxf3
Bf6 19 Be4 wi th advantage to White, whose kingside pawns make a strong im
pression.

Diagram 36 (B)

Diagram 37 (B)

c) Oddly enough, the natural 8 ... Re8 has been seldom seen, yet it is quite logical
for Bl ack to try and exploit the opposition of heavy pieces on the e-file. I believe
9 f4! to be White's most active try. The consistent continuation would be 9 . . . Bf8 10
Nf3, and now:
cl) Black can initiate complications with 10 . . . Nxe4!? 1 1 Nxe4 d5 but the tactics
work out well for White after 12 Bxd5 Qxd5 13 Nf6+! gxf6 14 Qxe8 Qxa2 15 Bb4!
(Diagram 37) 15 ... Bd7! ( the only chance, as 1 5 . . . Nxb4?? 16 Rd8 wins immediately)

297

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
16 Qxa8 Nxb4. Black's attack looks dangerous, but White can obtain a big advan
tage by returning one of his extra exchanges with 17 Rxd7! Qa1+ 18 Kd2 Qxh1 19
Ne1 ! Qxh2 20 Rd8 Qxf4+ 21 Kd1 Qg4+ (or 21 . ..Qh6 22 Qxb7) 22 Nf3 Qg7 23 Qxb7
Qxg2 24 Rxf8+ Kxf8 25 Qxb4+ with a winning ending.
c2) 10 . . . Be6 is safer, but White can remain on top after 1 1 Bxe6 Rxe6 (or 1 1 .. .fxe6
12 eS with the initiative) 12 Rhel, completing the mobilization of his forces. The
critical move must be 12 . . . d5, but White has an excellent response in 13 NgS!
(Diagram 38). T.Thiel-J.Cornelisse, Amsterdam 2006, continued 13 ... Re8 (in case
of 13 ... d4 14 Qh3! Black cannot take the knight as 14 . . . dxc3?? 15 Bxc3 threatens
Bxf6 when recapturing would al low mate on h7, and after the forced 14 . . . Re8 both
15 Be3 and 15 eS! ? look tempting) 14 NxdS! NxdS (14 ... Nxe4 may have been a bet
ter try, e.g. 15 Nxc7 Qxc7 16 Nxe4 Rac8 although it is hardly enough for the pawn)
15 Qb3 Nd4 16 QxdS Qxd5 1 7 exdS when White was a clear pawn up.

Diagram 38 (B)

Diagram 39 (W)

d) With 8... a6 (Diagram 39) Black intends to start advancing his queenside pawns
a sensible plan, especially with the white minor pieces on c4 and c3 acting as targets.
However, in K.Novacek-D.Mlcoch, Frymburk 2002, White was successful with 9
h4!? b5 10 BdS NxdS 1 1 NxdS NeS 12 Bc3 Nc4 1 3 Qg3 f6 14 b3 NeS 1 5 f4 Nd7 16 hS
(16 BaS!?) 16 ... h6? (White was already better, bu t this additional weakening proves
fatal) 17 Nf3 Rf7 1 8 Nd4 NcS 19 Nc6 Qe8 20 Ncxe7+ 1 -0.
Returning to 8 ... Be6:

9 Bxe6
I took a good look at 9 Bb3, avoiding strengthening Black's centre (9 NdS is also
nothing special), but the move is rather slow and Black seems fine after something
like 9... Ng4 10 Qf4 NceS 1 1 h3 Ng6 12 Qf3 N4e5.

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T h e Ce ntre G a m e Reve a le d : Part I I

9 fxe6
...

Now a few games have continued 1 0 Qh3 Qc8 with good play for Black. One ex
ample was N.Borge-L.Hansen, Danish Ch. 1996, which saw 1 1 Nge2 b5! 12 Ng3
Ne5 13 Bel Kh8 14 Nce2 c5 15 Nf4 Nfg4 1 6 Nge2 b4 when Black was already better
and went on to win with a crushing attack. An important point in these positions
is that Black is already in an ideal position to begin counterplay with . . .b7-b5! as
the reply Nxb5 would leave the e4-pawn hanging; clearly a good trade for Black.
With that point in mind, I would instead like to recommend the al ternative:

10 f4!? (Diagram 40)

Diagram 40 (B)

Diagram 41 (B)

It seems to me that White's most powerful piece should remain at her central loca
tion for the time being. I have only managed to track down a single game refer
ence with this move, which I find rather surprising as - while hardly threatening
the survival of Black's defensive system - it at least seems to offer a better shot at
an advantage than the decentralizing queen move. Here is a summary of what I
consider to be the most salient characteristics of the position after 1 0 f4!?:
1) The two kings have castled on opposite flanks. Both sides can look to develop
attacking chances, and a full-scale checkmating race is a realistic possibility.
2) For the time being White controls more space, as well as possessing a mobile
kingside pawn majority.
3) Black has a useful extra central pawn, which can be mobilized by means of
... d6-d5.
My impression at this stage is that the chances are approximately equal, although
the position contains enough imbalances to ensure an rich battle. Further practical
tests would obviously help to shed more light on the position, but for the time

299

Da ngerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
being I offer the following sample variations:

B1) T.Lagemann-U.Fakler, Internet 2001 , saw the continuation 10...Qe8 1 1 Nge2


a6 12 h3?! b5 with adequate counterplay for Black. Instead, I believe White can do
better with the more natural knight development 1 1 Nf3, while 11 Qh3!? also de
serves attention; e.g. 11 ...e5 ( 1 1 . . .Qc8?! would leave Black a full tempo down on
the usual l O Qh3 1ines, and White is clearly better after 1 2 Nf3 b5 1 3 Ng5! b4 1 4
Ne2), and now the simplest option is 12 fsl? (Diagram 41) when White has the
superior bishop and an obvious plan of g4-g5. Black can, and probably should,
aim for queenside counterplay with 12 ... bsl?, but 13 Qd3 keeps control, preparing
to meet ... b4 with a knight hop to d5. I prefer White here.
The remaining variations are comprised entirely of my own analysis. It would be
almost impossible to provide a comprehensive review of every plausible line, es
pecially in what is at this stage an open-ended, non-forcing position. Nevertheless,
I hope that the following analysis will serve to illustrate some of the important
positional themes and typical motifs available to both sides.

B2) 10 ... b5?! begins the standard counterplay, but the big difference compared
with Borge-Hansen is that with the queen still on e3 White can seriously consider
taking this pawn with 11 NxbSI and putting the onus on Black to demonstrate
compensation. A plausible continuation would be 11 ...Qb8 12 Nc3 Qb7 13 Kb1
Rab8 14 Bc1 (Diagram 42), when Black has an open b-file, but is it really enough
for a pawn? I remain sceptical.

Diagram 42 (B)

Diagram 43 (B)

B3) After the logical move 10 ... d5, attempting to utilize the extra central pawn,
White can choose between:
a) 1 1 e5 leads to complicated play after 1 l . . .Nd7 (but not 1 l ...d4? 12 Qh3! dxc3 1 3

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T h e C e ntre G a me Revea l e d : Pa rt I I
Qxe6+ followed by 1 4 Bxc3 and exf6, when White will have a safe extra pawn) 12
Qh3 Nc5 13 Be3, or 1 1 . . .Ng4 1 2 Qg3 (12 Qh3!? N2 1 3 Qxe6+ Kh8 is unclear)
12 ... Nh6 13 Qh3 Qd7 14 Nf3.
b) 1 1 Qh3!? dxe4 12 Nxe4! deserves attention; e.g. 12 ... Qd5!? (12 ... Nxe4 13 Qxe6+ is
White's idea, regaining the piece and keeping an extra pawn) 13 Ng5 e5 (13 ... Qxa2
14 Qxe6+ Qxe6 15 Nxe6 Rf7 1 6 Nf3 looks pleasant for White) 14 N l f3 (Diagram 43)
14 . . . Qxa2 (14 ... Bd6 1 5 Kb1 threatens Bc3, with a strong initiative) 15 Qe6+ Qxe6 16
Nxe6 sees White emerge with an active position.

B4) 10. .Qd7 looks more solid, connecting the rooks and refraining from any pawn
lunges for the time being. After the natural 11 Nf3, the logical 11.. Rab8 prepares
.

. . .b5 without sacrificing anything just yet. Now 1 2 e5 dxe5 1 3 Nxe5 Nxe5 14 Qxe5
Bd6 is nothing special for Whi te, who should instead prefer one of the two al ter
nati ves. 1 2 Rhe1 b5 13 e5!? leads to complicated play, while 12 h3 is a sensible
continuation, intending g2-g4 while refraining from any central action for the
moment. Play may continue 12 ... b5 13 g4 b4 14 Ne2, at which point 14... d5 looks
logical now that the knight has been driven away from the centre. White should
respond wi th 1 5 Ng3! (Diagram 44), when there might follow 1 5 ... a5 (15 . . . dxe4 16
Nxe4 looks good for White after 1 6 . . . Nd5 1 7 Qd3, or 1 6 . . . Qd5 1 7 Neg5 e5 18 Qb3
Qxb3 1 9 axb3) 16 Qd3 a4 17 e5 Ne8 18 f5 b3 19 axb3 axb3 20 c41? (Diagram 45)
20... Nd8 21 cxd5 exd5 22 f6! gxf6 23 Nf5 with good attacking chances, al though
the position remains highly unclear.

Diagram 44 (B)

Diagram 45 (B)

In these pages I have barely scratched the surface of the position and I have no
doubt that there must be innumerable improvements and new ideas waiting to be
uncovered. Nevertheless, I hope that at this stage the ideas and analysis contained
within these pages will have equipped you with sufficient tools to handle this

301

Da ngero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
variation with confidence should you encounter i t i n your own games.

C) 1 e4 es 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Nf6 5 Nc3 Be7 6 Bc4 d61?


This is far less common that castling, bu t I have included it after the main line as
the ideas can best be understood in the light of the variations we have witnessed
in Line B.

TRICKY TRANSPOSITION l in this line White must always keep in


mind the possibility of 0-0, transposing to Line B. At the same
time, he should be aware that the same moves which worked
well in that variation could prove less effective when Black has
not yet castled.
...

In short, 6 . . . d6 is quite an attractive line for Black. He is carrying out the same plan
as seen in the previous section, but hopes to gain added flexibility by maintaining
the option of castling on either side of the board. There is considerable logic be
hind this approach, and White will have to react quite precisely if he is to hope for
any sort of advantage.

1 Bd2 Be61? (Diagram 46)

Diagram 46 (W)

Diagram 41 (B)

Of course 7 . . 0-0 8 0-0-0 reaches Line B.


.

8 Bxe6 fxe6 9 0-0-0


9 f4?! dS! represents an improvement for Black over the analogous variation from
the main line in which . . .0-0 and 0-0-0 were played . One reason is that Qh3-xe6
will no longer come with check, while another is that 1 0 eS? is simply unplayable
due to 10 . d4! .
.

302

The C e ntre G a m e Revea l e d : P a rt I I


9 Qd7!?
...

Once more 9 . . . 0-0 reaches Line B.


It cannot be good for Black to deprive his central pawns of their dynamism with
9 . . . e5?! and White should be a little better after 10 Nge2 0-0 1 1 Nd5, not fearing
1 l . . .Ng4 12 Qb3! Kh8 13 Qxb7 Qe8 14 f3! Nf2 1 5 Qxc7 when he will have two
pawns for the exchange, along with secure outposts for his minor pieces.

10 Nge2!? (Diagram 47)


Once again 10 f4 d5!? is quite reasonable for Black, who may be tempted to follow
up with long castling.
We have been following the game I.Ascic-A.Giavas, Pula 2001, which continued:

1o es?
...

Again this leaves Black with a rigid pawn structure and cannot be recommended.
Better was 10 ... 0-0 1 1 Nf4 (intending Qh3) 1 l .. .e5 12 Nd3 (but not 12 Nfd5? Ng4!)
with chances for both sides.

11 Nd5 RfB
Now instead of the game's 1 2 h3, I would suggest 1 2 f3 as the optimal way of cov
ering g4 while also stabilizing White's centre. In case of 1 2 ... 0-0-0 there is the sim
ple plan of 13 Qa3!, followed by Be3, Rd3 etc, with excellent chances to mount a
successful attack.
6 ... d6 is only seldom seen, but CG players who encounter this move will certainly
need to keep their wits about them. In fact one could very well argue in favour of
6 ... d6 being slightly more accurate than the standard 6 . . .0-0, as Black gains some
useful bonus options while always maintaining the possibility of a transposition
to Line B with a subsequent ... 0-0. By following the recommended solution White
can avoid the pitfalls while steering the game towards a doubled-edged middle
game with mutual chances.

Conclusion
The variations contained within the present chapter present a somewhat different
set of challenges to those found in the previous one. In most cases, however, we
have seen that White will still be able to achieve broadly the type of middlegame
he desires, with opposite-sided castling and realistic attacking prospects. Let us
also not forget that this was also achieved without having to resort to any pawn
sacrifices - a definite boon, to be sure!

303

C h a pter Fifteen

The Cent re Game Revealed :


Part I l l
1 e4 es 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 (Diagram 1)

Diagram 1 (B)
In this, the concluding chapter of our CG trilogy, we will consider each of Black's
major deviations on moves 2-4. I ardently believe the main line of 2 ... exd4 3 Qxd4
Nc6 4 Qe3 Nf6 5 Nc3 Bb4 to be Black's objectively strongest answer to the CG

304

T h e C e nt re G a me Revea l e d : Pa rt I l l
(S ... Be7 would probably be m y number two choice). A t the same time we have
seen that the resulting positions are by no means easy for Black to handle, and in
practice it is hardly surprising that many l ..eS players - perhaps taking into ac
count the extreme rarity with which they are likely to be confronted with the CG
are attracted by the prospect of a relatively non-theoretical sideline.
.

From White's perspective, I would like to emphasize the positive point that, while
all of Black's early deviations require accurate handling from White, none of them
are as theoretically critical as 4 ... Nf6. On the slightly negative side, I must forewarn
you that Black has at his disposal a considerable number of playable sidelines.
Given that White has flouted the classical principles of opening play by virtue of
his early queen moves, it is hardly surprising that Black also possesses a certain
amount of leeway for non-standard interpretations of the opening. The good news
is that, with the help of some accurate opening play, White should have good
chances to obtain the ini tiative against all of these 'creative' approaches. Over the
course of this chapter I hope to arm you with enough theoretical firepower to
meet each one of Black's early deviations with confidence.
Our coverage begins with the fianchetto variation which, unsurprisingly, starts
with the move 4 ... g6. This is the most popular and respectable of Black's fourth
move alternatives. Over the course of the chapter we will also consider, in roughly
descending order of importance, the variations 4... Nb4!?, 4 ... Bb4+, 4...b6?1 and
4 ... fsl?, before finishing with a brief review of Black's alternatives on moves 2
and 3.

Black Plays 4 g6
...

Our introduction to the fianchetto defence comes in the form of a game played
half a century ago between two Argentine IMs.
D J.Emma J.Bolbochan

Buenos Aires 1958


1 e4 es 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 g6
The fianchetto system is a reliable way for Black to achieve a playable position
while avoiding the heavy complications of Chapter 13. It has received the stamp
of approval from Mihail Marin in Beati11g the Open Games, as well as Nigel Davies
in Play 1 e4 e5! and John-Paul Wallace in his TWIC Theory article.

6 Bd2 Bg7 6 Nc3 (Diagram 2)


Unlike the 4 ... Nf6 variation, the order in which White develops his queenside
pieces makes little d ifference here, although in my mind it somehow would have
felt more 'correct' to begin with 5 Nc3 followed by 6 Bd2. Let us note briefly that
6 Bc3 achieves little after 6 ... Nf6.

305

D a n ge r o u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S

6 Nge7?1
...

This looks like a natural enough move, and the exact same pattern of development
can be found in numerous other openings. However, with all due respect to Davies
who offers this as his principal recommendation against the CG, I consider it to be
a poor relation to 6 . . . Nf6 in the present variation. Not only does the knight on e7
fail to exert any pressure against the white centre, it also blocks the e-file thereby
rendering a subsequent . . . Re8 far less effective.
The main line is, unsurprisingly, 6 ... Nf6, while 6 ... d6 (intending ... Nf6 without al
lowing e4-e5) is also considered in the theoretical section.

7 0-0-0 0-0
7... d6 reaches Line B of the theoretical section - 6 ... d6 7 0-0-0 Nge7.

8 Bc41 (Diagram 3)

Diagram 2 (B)

Diagram 3 (B)

This is a typical move in the 4 ... g6 variation, as well as several other branches of
the CG, most notably after 4 ... Nf6 5 Nc3 Be?. The bishop comes to an active square
on a diagonal opposite the enemy king, while also inhibiting the . . . d5 break.
s Nas?l
...

This is a common theme in many variations of the CG, but in this position it fails
to achieve the desired effect. Relatively best is 8 ... d6 which can be found in Line A
of the analysis section.

9 Be21
Once again e2 provides the optimal retreat square for the bishop. Davies only
mentions 9 Bd3 when Black at least gets to play 9 ... d5.

9 Re8
...

306

T h e C e ntre G a me Revea l e d : Pa rt I l l
Black i s evidently hoping to create some kind of tactical counterplay along the e
file, perhaps involving ... d5. A noble aim, though one cannot help but remark how
much more effective this plan might have been had his knight been positioned on
f6 instead of the passive e7-square. Alternatives are no better:
a) 9 ... d5?! is premature, and after 10 exd5 Nxd5?? 1 1 Qc5! White won a whole
piece in A.Piroth-D.Leygue, French League 2003.
b) Against 9 . . . c6 I would suggest the typical lunge with 10 h4!, e.g. 10 . . . h5 1 1 g4!?
with a very dangerous attack after 1 1 ... hxg4 (or 1 1 . . .d5 12 gxh5! d4 13 Qg5) 12 h5
d5 13 h6! Be5 (if 13 . . . d4? 14 Qf4, or 13 ... Bf6 14 Qf4) 14 exd5 f6 15 f4!?.
c) After 9 . . . d6 White can proceed in similar fashion to the main game with 10 h4!
and now:
cl ) 10 ... h5 1 1 Qg5!? (or the immediate 1 1 g4) 1 1 . . . Nac6 12 g4! Bxg4 (if 12 . . .hxg4 13
h5, or 1 2 . . . f6 13 Qb5) 1 3 Bxg4 hxg4 1 4 h5 with a strong attack.
c2) 10 ... Be6 1 1 h5 Nc4 12 Bxc4 Bxc4 13 hxg6 hxg6? (13 .. .fxg6 would keep Black's
disad vantage within reasonable bounds) 14 Qh3 f6 15 Bh6 Bxh6+ 16 Qxh6 Kf7 17
Nf3 Qc8 18 Qf4! b5 was E.Behnick-W. Huisl, Hessen 1998, and now 19 Rh7+ Ke8 20
Nd5! would have been the quickest route to victory.

DANGEROUS WEAPON! The above variations perfectly


illusrate what can happen to Black if he handles the
fianchetto variation imprecisely. White's play is simple, direct
and easy to understand: just h4-h5 and hack on the kingside!
10 h41 (Diagram 4)

Diagram 4 (B)

Diagram 5 (B)

307

Dangero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e s
Once again the direct attack i s White's simplest and strongest plan. Compared
with the ... Nf6 lines Black is doing very little in the centre, and so White has every
right to adopt a caveman-like approach on the kingside.

10...d6
Perhaps rattled by Emma's fearless show of aggression, Bolbochan decides not to
pursue any central counterplay after all. l O . . . dS would be consistent with Black's
previous two moves, and it is slightly strange that Bolbochan rejected this course
of action. At least the opening of the centre might cause Whi te some sort of dis
traction from the smooth execution of his attack. That being said, Black's trouble
are far from over after 1 1 hS! . At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Black's
counterplay is seriously hampered by the poor positioning of the e7-knight. Play
might continue 11 ... dxe4 ( 1 1 . . . d4 can simply be met by 12 Qg3 with ideas of hxg6,
Bf4 or even NbS, as 12 . . . dxc3? 13 Bxc3 just loses material for Black) 12 hxg6 hxg6
13 Bel ! Bd7 14 Qd2! BfS (other bishop moves would be met by 1S QgS! with a
double attack against d8 and aS) 1 S Qf4 Qc8 1 6 g4 Be6 17 Nxe4 (Diagram 5) with a
huge initiative.

11 h5 Be6 12 hxg6 hxg6 13 g4


Preparing to transfer the queen to the h-file.

13 ...f6
Hoping to hide the king on f7, but White can easily bludgeon his way through this
flimsy barrier.

14 f41
Preparing to open even more l ines.

14 ... Nc4 15 Bxc4 Bxc4 16 f5 Bf7?


This only makes things worse, although Black's position was thoroughly wretched
in any case.

17 Qh3 g5 (Diagram 6) 18 e51


The final, decisive breakthrough.

18 ... dxe5
18 .. .fxeS loses even more quickly after 19 BxgS.

19 Bxg5 fxg5
Black cannot save the queen, as 19 ... Qc8 20 Qh7+ Kf8 21 Bh6 woul d completely kill
the game.

20 Rxd8 Raxd8 21 Nf3


Barely 20 moves have been played, and the game is already over as a contest.
True, Black's material disadvantage of rook and minor piece for a queen need not
necessarily be fatal. The real problem is that White's kingside attack is still run
ning on ful l steam.

308

T h e Ce ntre G a m e Reve a l e d : Part I l l

2 1... Nd5 2 2 Ne4 KfB 2 3 Nfxg5 (Diagram 7)

Diagram 6 (W}

Diagram 7 (B)

Winning another pawn. Black's position is utterly hopeless, and he will soon be
crushed by the f- and g-pawns. The last few moves were:

23 ... Nf4 24 Qa3+ KgB 25 Nxf7 Kxf7 26 Qb3+ KfB 27 f6 Bh6 28 g5 Rd4 29 Nc3 1-0
DANGEROUS WEAPON! This game saw White executing an
easy-to-handle yet extremely powerful kingside attack, with
which he convincingly demolished a titled opponent. In short exactly the type of performance we are looking for in this
opening.

Looking a Little Deeper


Obviously Black can do better than the above game, and we will now examine
some of his more promising methods of handling the fianchetto variation.

1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 g6 5 Nc3


Spatial constraints prevent a full discussion of the truly offbeat 5 f4! ? Bg7 6 Nf3,
al though this could be worth investigating if you like this sort of thing.

5 ... Bg7
5 ... Bh6?! 6 Qg3 Bxc1 7 Rxcl just left Black with weak dark squares in A.PirothM .Toma, French League 2005. The game continued 7 . . . d6 8 Nd5 Nce7?!, at which
point 9 Qc3! Nxd5 10 Qxh8 Ndf6 1 1 Bd3 wou ld have been very good for Whi te,
as Black is highly unlikely to be able to trap the queen.

6 Bd2

309

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S

ROLL THE DICE! 6 h41? Nf6 1 hsl? (Diagram 8) is an aggressive


sideline which could certainly be worth an occasional punt,
especially in blitz or rapidplay.

Diagram 8 (B)

Diagram 9 (B)

I.Sofronie-T.Kostiuk, Predeal 2006, resulted in a White victory after 7 ... Nxh5 8 g4


(8 RxhS?! is probably a step too far; but 8 Bd2!? is also possible) 8 ... Nf6 9 gS Ng8
(Wallace suggests 9 ... Ng4 without further comment) 10 Bd2 d6 1 1 0-0-0 h6 12 Qg3
hS 13 Nge2 Nge7 1 4 Nf4 NeS 1 5 f3 Bd7 1 6 NfdS NxdS 1 7 NxdS c6 18 Nf6+! Bxf6 19
gxf6 Qc7 20 f4! Ng4 21 Bc4 Rf8 22 Qa3 Nf2 23 eS dS?? 24 Qe7 mate. Obviously
Black will have numerous improvements along the way, but 6 h4! ? certainly looks
like a reasonable way of achieving a complicated game while avoiding practically
all known theory.
Returning to 6 Bd2 (Diagram 9), Black must decide between three principal ways
of developing his kingside. The first decision concerns the placement of the g8knight which could go to e7 or the more active f6. The former, 6 .. Nge7, was of
course seen in Emma-Bolbochan, and in Line A we will conclude our coverage of
this variation by examining the move 8 ... d6, which at least looks like a better at
tempt than Bolbochan's 8 ... Na5?! .
.

If Black intends to develop his king's knight on f6 (a more promising location than
e7, for reasons explained in the notes to Emma-Bolbochan), he must decide
whether or not to include the preliminary 6 ...d6 (Line B). Some players opt for this
approach in order to safeguard the knight against harassment by e4-e5. Still, it is
far from clear whether this is such a great idea for White, and the majority of
strong players have preferred the principled 6 ... Nf6 (Line C), not fearing the pawn

3 10

T h e C e ntre G a me Revea l e d : P a rt I l l
advance. I f White continues with the standard 7 0-0-0 0-0, then Black hopes to be
able to fight for the centre with . . . d7-d5.

A: 6 ...Nge7
B: 6 ...d6
C: 6 ... Nf6
A) 1 e4 es 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 g6 5 Nc3 Bg7 6 Bd2 Nge7?!
I believe this to be a substandard variation for Black, for reasons already ex
plained.

7 0-0-0 0-0
7. . . d6 is considered under Line B

6 . . . d6 7 0-0-0 Nge7.

8 Bc4! d6
8 . . Na5?! was seen in Emma-Bolbochan.
.

9 h4! (Diagram 10)

Diagram 10 (B)

Diagram 11 (W)

Once again we see this crude, but highly effective show of aggression. Black is
doing very little to challenge White in the centre, so a kingside attack is fully
justified.
g .. Nes
.

Black has tried some other moves, none of which have brought him a fully satis
factory game.
a) 9 ... Be6 should be met by the straightforward 10 Bxe6 fxe6 1 1 hS.

311

D a n gero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
b) In W.Daurer-A.Tuchenhagen, German League 1998, Black tried what looks to
me like a rather desperate attempt to distract White from his kingside ambitions
with 9 . . . b5?! 10 Bxb5 Rb8 (Diagram 11).
At this point I see no reason for Whi te not to continue normal kingside operations
with 11 h5! Be6 (after 11 . . . Bxc3?? 12 Bxc3 Rxb5 the piece has come at too high a
price and following 13 Qh6 Black can resign) 12 Nge2 with an extra pawn as well
as the more dangerous attack.
c) Against 9 ... h5 I would suggest 10 Nf3 intending Ng5, highlighting the draw
back of Black's 9th.
d) In case of 9 ... h6 it looks interesting for White to postpone the immediate h4-h5
in favour of 10 f4!? intending h4-h5 without permitting the intended ... g6-g5,
while in some variations the alternative pawn thrusts f4-f5 or e4-e5 may prove
useful. A plausible continuation might be 10 . . . Bg4 1 1 Be2!? Bxe2 12 Ngxe2 d5 13
exd5 Nxd5 (or 1 3 . . .Nb4 1 4 Qf3 Nbxd5 1 5 h5) 1 4 Qf3 intending h5 with some ini
tiative.

10 Bb3 h5
10 ...c6? is far too slow, and after 1 1 h5 gxh5! ? (J.Voskuhl-M.Schneider, German
League 2005) Whi te can obtain a powerful attacking position with 12 f4! Ng4 (no
better is 12 . . . N5g6? 13 f5 Ne5 14 Rxh5, or 12 . . . Nd7 13 Qf3 Nf6 14 f5! ) 13 Qg3.
Perhaps Black's best chance is 10 ... c5!?, as seen in G.Toczek-K.Knopik, Polanica
Zdroj 1999. Black threatens to trap the bishop with . . . c4 followed by ... a6 and ...b5,
so White should take a moment for the consolidating move 1 1 Qe2!, maintaining
the advantage and intending ideas like h5 and/or f4.

11 f3 c6 (Diagram 12)

Diagram 12 (W)

312

Diagram 13 (B)

T h e C e ntre G a m e Reve a l ed : P a rt

Ill

This position was reached i n the game R.Dubinsky-A.Afonin, Moscow 1 998,


which continued 1 2 Nge2 with a slight advantage to White. Nevertheless, in view
of the passivity of the black position I cannot help but feel that a more energetic
response is called for, and would instead recommend the aggressive 12 g4!?,
when I analyse:

12 ...hxg4
Black should not allow the opening of the g-file which would occur after 12 ... b5?
13 gxhS gxhS 14 Nge2.

13 h5 Be6 14 h6 Bf6 15 f4 Nc4 16 Bxc4 Bxc4 17 Qg3 (Diagram 13)


With good attacking chances for White.
Summing up, 6 . . . Nge7?! may be just about playable, but it seems to me that by
playing this move Black significantly reduces his margin for error. In most cases
White can aim for a direct attack with h4-h5, with excellent chances.

B) 1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 g6 5 Nc3 Bg7 6 Bd2 d6


This prepares ... Nf6 while preventing any e4-e5 advances, but on the negative side
Black forgoes the possibility of executing the ... d7-d5 break in one move.

7 o-o-o (Diagram 14)

Diagram 14 (B)

Diagram 15 (B)

7 ... Nf6
In Z.Andriasian-P.Negi, Kirishi 2007, the young prodigy instead opted for
7 . . . Nge7?!, reaching a position which could also have occurred after the move or
der 6 ... Nge7 7 0-0-0 d6. With the . . . dS break less of a worry, Andriasian was able
to forgo Bc4 and begin an immediate kingside offensive with 8 h4!?. There fol-

313

D a n ge r o u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
lowed 8 ... Be6 9 Nh3 Ne5 1 0 Nf4 Bc4 1 1 Nd3!? (Black was intending a bishop ex
change followed by . . . Nc4) 1 1 . ..N7c6 12 f4 Bxd3 13 Bxd3 Nxd3+ 14 Qxd3 h5, at
which point I would recommend the simple 1 5 Nd5! Qd7 1 6 Bc3 Bxc3 1 7 Qxc3
0-0-0 18 Rhe1 with something in between a slight and clear advantage to White.

8 h41?
Once again I recommend this direct attacking move. And why not? A central
counter-strike with . . . d5 is unlikely to prove adequate with Black already commit
ted to the tempo-losing ... d6.

B Nes!?
...

This was the choice of the highest-rated player to have reached this position with
the black pieces, so I will take it as the main line. Alternatively:
a) A few games have seen Black call White's bluff with the ultra-provocative
8 . . . 0-0?!. In this case it goes without saying that White should not hesitate to sacri
fice a pawn with 9 h5! Nxh5 10 Be2 Nf6 11 Qg3 (Diagram 15) when the open h-file
provides at least a pawn's worth of compensation. In this type of position White's
main threat is Bg5 followed by Qh4, threatening mate on h7 as well as Nd5 taking
advantage of the f6-knight's pinned predicament. It is hardly surprising that few
players have wished to take up Black's defensive cause. Here are the two games I
tracked down:
a1) 1 1 .. .h5 soon led to a disaster for Black after 12 Bg5 Nb4? 13 e5 Nxa2+ 14 Nxa2
Ne4 15 Bxd8 Nxg3 16 fxg3 Rxd8 17 exd6 with an extra piece for White,
F.Restuccia-J.Rodriguez, Cali 2007.
a2) 1 1 . ..Nd4 12 Bg5 (12 Bh6 also looks promising) 12 ... Nxe2+ 13 Ngxe2 Qd7 14 f3
h5 1 5 Bxf6 Bxf6 1 6 Rxh5 Bg7 was J.Rehfeldt-J.Humburg, Ruhrgebiet 1999, at which
point I believe the strongest continuation is 17 Rh4! intending Rdh1 with a strong
attack, a possible continuation being 17 ... Re8 18 Rdh1 c6 (preventing a possible
Nd5) 19 Nf4! threatening Nxg6 with a kingside slaughter.
..._a
-

DANGEROUS WEAPON! Yet again we see how dangerous an


open h-file can prove to be.

'

Some Critics of the CG have rather dismissively pointed out that the 4 ... g6 varia
tion gives Black a 'clearly improved' version of a variation of Philidor's Defence,
reached after 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 exd4 4 Nxd4 g6. Perhaps this point could be
disputed, but to be honest I could hardly care less. When we get to the crux of the
issue, the only thing that truly matters is that - whether 'inferior' or not - White's
attacking plan of h4-h5 is still undeniably dangerous. We should also not forget
that, while experienced devotees of the 4 ... g6 Philidor may well feel comfortable
with the positions obtained with 4 ... g6 against the CG, the same may not be true of
the majority of l . ..e5 players who are more accustomed to defending their favour
i te line of the Ruy Lopez, Petroff or other mainstream systems.

3 14

T h e Centre G a me Revea l e d : Part I l l


b) 8 ... h5!? is a more prudent choice, preparing to castle without allowing the open
ing of the h-file. In this case I woul d suggest 9 Nh3! 0-0 1 0 NgS (Diagram 16) as a
good way of u ti lizing the outpost on gS. Later ideas could include f2-f4 and Bc4,
preparing a breakthrough with e4-e5 or f4-f5 according to circumstances.

Diagram 16 (B)

Diagram 17 (W)

c) The aii-GM encounter Y.Nepomniashchy-E.Tomashevsky, Moscow 2006, saw


8 ... Be6, sensibly delaying castling and hinting that the black king may in fact wish
to head for the opposite flank; an understandable reaction to White's aggressive
8th. The game continued 9 Nh3 Qe7 1 0 Nf4 hS (Diagram 17) 1 1 BbS 0-0 12 f3 NeS,
when 1 3 g4?! led to interesting complications and an eventual draw, but may not
have been altogether sound. To my eyes White's 1 1 th looks slightly peculiar, and
instead I woul d suggest 1 1 Nxe6! as a relatively straightforward way of keeping
an edge. After all, what could be more natural than securing the advantage of the
two bishops? Now l l . ..fxe6 12 f4 looks very pleasant to White, whose light
squared bishop is a major asset, especially as Black's kingside pawns are fixed on
light squares, thus rendering them potentially decisive endgame targets. Black
should probably prefer l l ...Qxe6, although even here 12 f3 must be at least
slightly preferable to White on account of his two bishops. One obvious and at
tractive plan woul d be g2-g3 and Bh3, while if Black castles short then White may
be tempted to revert back to a kingside assault by preparing g4.
After 8 . . . Ne5 we follow the game Y.Nepomniashchy-G.Sargissian, Moscow 2007.

9 Nh31 (Diagram 18)


Again we see Nepomniashchy favouring the development of this knight 'on the
rim'. In this situation I believe it meets the demands of the position quite well,
developing the piece and waiting for Black to commit himself, especially where
castling is concerned.

315

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e s
9 f4!? i s untested, but may also warrant further investigation. After 9 . . .Neg4 1 0 Qf3
the black knight looks nice on g4, but is not doing anything to hurt White at pre
sent. Meanwhile the first player's e- and f-pawns remain mobile, and he will com
plete development with moves like Bc4, Nge2 (or perhaps Nh3), Rhe1 etc, leading
to a complex game with chances for both sides.

Diagram 18 (B)

Diagram 19 (W)

9 0-o 10 Be2 h5
...

Sargissian is understandably reluctant t o allow h4-h5, but now w e see the justifi
cation of White's 9th.

11 Ng51 c6 12 Qg3 b5 13 Bf4 Qe7 (Diagram 19)


There now follows a small combination.

14 Rxd61 Qxd6 15 Bxes Qd8 16 Bc71 Qe8 17 Bd6 Ng4 (Diagram 20)
We have reached a critical position. White will regain the sacrificed exchange to
leave himself with an extra pawn. However, he must take great care not to allow
Black's soon-to-be unopposed dark-squared bishop to become a dominant force.
The game saw 18 f4 f6 19 Bxf8 Bxf8 20 Nh3 b4 21 Ndl Qxe4, when Black had re
gained his pawn and later went on to win an endgame in which he expertly ex
ploited the bishop pair, and so White should look for an improvement.
One possibility is 19 Nf3!? when White claims that his dark-squared bishop might
turn out to be too powerful to be 'sacrificed' for a black rook. Compared with the
game continuation, we can see an immediate benefi t for White in that ...b5-b4 is no
longer possible. Play may continue 19 ... Rf7 20 Re1 Bf8 21 Bxf8 Rxf8 (or 2 1 ...Qxf8 22
e5! with attacking chances) 22 Nd4 Kh7 when White has definite compensation,
although it is hard to say whether it is sufficient, insufficient or more than suffi
cient to make up for his slight material deficit.

3 16

T h e Ce ntre G a me Revea l e d : Part

Diagram 20 (W)

Ill

Diagram 21 (B)

Going back a move further, my second suggested improvement (and the one I
would probably play if I encountered this position in a game of my own) is the
slightly surprising ...

18 Bxg41?
This may seem odd, especially in light of my earlier comments about the power of
Black's bishops. Nevertheless, the justification can be seen after the further con
tinuation...

18... Bxg4 19 f3 Bd7


Other bishop retreats will be met in a similar fashion.

20 eSI (Diagram 21)


The f8-rook is still not about to run away, and meanwhile White is preparing Nce4
and later f3-f4. Thus he ensures that his knights will occupy stable central outposts
while effectively blocking the black bishops from playing much of a role in the
game. Play may continue 20 . . Bf5 21 Rel Rd8 22 Bxf8 Qxf8 23 Nce4 intending to
consolidate with moves like f3-f4 and Qe3. A long and difficult game lies ahead,
but at this stage I believe that White's position deserves preference.
.

Overall, 6 ... d6 remains a respectable choi ce, but I think White maintains reason
able prospects for an advantage.

C) 1 e4 es 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 g6 5 Nc3 Bg7 6 Bd2 Nf6 (Diagram 22)
7 0-0-0
I took a good look at 7 e5! ? but eventually concluded that the text gave better
chances to obtain an advantage, as well as leading to positions more in keeping

317

D a n ge r o u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
with the overall character o f the CG.

7 ...0-0
Black intends . . . d5, usually (though not necessarily) after a preliminary . . . Re8.
Instead, 7 . . d6 would reach Line B - 6 . d6 7 0-0-0 NJ6.
. .

8 Bc41 (Diagram 23)


White needs to begin taking measures against ... d5, and the text is clearly the most
desirable way of doing so.

8... Re8
This is the most natural and common move. I would also advise the reader to pay
close attention to 8 ... Na5!? as advocated by Marin. Now 9 Be2 is, as usual, the
right square for the bishop, covering g4 and h5 while keeping the d-file clear.
Black may try:

Diagram 22 (W)

Diagram 23 (B)

a) 9 ... d5? was tested in the game in G.Souleidis-J.Garcia Garcia, Barcelona 2006.
Unfortunately for Black, after 10 exd5 Nxd5?? he received a nasty shock in the
form of 1 1 Qc5! when Whi te was winning a whole piece. 10 ... Re8 1 1 Qg3 also
looks unpleasant for him, particularly as 1 1 . . . Nxd5?? is still impossible due to 12
Bg5!.
b) 9 ...Re8 is Marin's recommendation, and certainly the most natural move:
b1) Z.Vukovic-G.Todorovic, Tivat 1995, continued 10 Qg5 Nc6 1 1 f3 (the weakness
of the e-pawn forces White to spend a tempo on its protection) 1 l . . .d6 12 Qh4, at
which point Marin gives 12 . . . a6!? 12 Nh3 b5 when Black obtains reasonable coun
terplay. This position is certainly playable for White, but at the same time I can't
help feeling that his tenth might be i mproved upon. The black knight is poorly

318

T h e Centre G a me Revea l e d : P a rt I l l
placed on aS, so there i s no particular reason to force i t to retreat back towards
the centre.
b2) With that in mind, I would instead recommend 10 Qf4!? (Diagram 24)

Diagram 24 (B)

Diagram 25 (W)

as seen in the game K.Litz-T.Lagemann, Internet 2001 . I believe it makes more


sense to keep the queen nearer the centre where she covers the e-pawn and exerts
a greater influence over the game general ly.
Play continued 10 ... d6 11 g4! Nc6, at which point I propose the immediate space
gaining move 1 2 gS! (the game continuation of 1 2 h4 NeS 13 gS NhS! was less
clear) 1 2 ... Nd7 (in this position 12 . . . Nh5?! 1 3 BxhS gxhS 1 4 Nge2 looks very good
for White, while 1 2 . . . Ng4? is even worse after 1 3 Bxg4 BeS 14 Qf3 Bxc3 15 Qxc3
Bxg4 16 f3 Be6 1 7 h4) 13 h4 followed by hS. White's attack is well underway, while
Black's counterplay has yet to get started.

9 Nf3!?
This is something of a deviation from the main path, but in my opinion quite a
promising and indeed necessary one.

BEWARE! The most popular continuation has been 9 f3, after


which the thematic g NaSI brings Black at least an equal
share of the chances as far as I can see. The crucial factor here
is that bishop retreats can be met by an immediate 10 dsl.
...

...

g Nas!?
...

This seems like the most principled move for Black, aiming to achieve the ... dS
break. After the less energetic 9 ... d6 I would suggest the natural centralizing move

319

Dangero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
10 Rhe1, when White has the somewhat freer game. His next move will probably
be Qf4, followed by action in the centre and/or on the kingside.

10 Bd31?
Here we see a rare case of the bishop retreating to a square other than e2. In this
position 10 Be2!? has not been tried to my knowledge, but it could also be consid
ered as 10 . . . Ng4 11 Qf4 Nxf2 12 NgS leads to interesting play. For the time being
I have a particular idea in mind after the text, and therefore propose that we focus
our attention firmly in the direction of 1 0 Bd3. If subsequent analysis reveals im
provements for Black then perhaps the alternative bishop retreat could be worth
investigating.

10...dsl? (Diagram 25)


Certainly the most consistent choice. If Black were to settle for 1 0 . . . d6 then one
would be forced to question the wisdom of his previous move.

11 Nxds! Nxds
Now in L.Mikhaletz-S.Ovsejevitsch, Ordzhonikidze 2001, the continuation was 12
QgS!?. At first glance this looks like a promising way to take advantage of the
hanging black knights, but after the further continuation 1 2... Qxg5 13 NxgS Nf6 14
BxaS h6 1 5 Nf3 b6 the position turned out to be completely equal as the e4-pawn
was dropping.
If this variation contains a route to a White advantage, then I believe it must come
from:

12 Qcsl (Diagram 26)

Diagram 26 (B)

Diagram 27 (B)

The initial idea is the same as with 1 2 Qg5 - namely to exploit the position of the

320

The C e nt re G a m e Reve a l e d : Pa rt I l l
black knights and win material. Lukacs considers this possibility and gives the
line 12 Qf6 followed by 1 3 Qa3 Nf4 14 Bxa5 Nxg2 with an unclear position.
However, my idea is to continue with the surprising tactical combination 13 es!.
...

DANGEROUS WEAPON! This is an original suggestion, of which


your opponents are highly unlikely to be aware (unless, of
course, they also happen to have read this book). According to
my analysis White should be able to obtain a material advan
tage for insufficient compensation.
Play continues with 13 . . . Rxe5 (Whi te is clearly better after 13 . . . Qb6?! 14 Qxd5 Nc6
15 Be3) 14 Nxe5 Qxe5 (14 . . . Be6 15 Qxa5 Qxe5 16 Qa3 does not give Black enough
for the exchange, e.g. 16 . . . Bf8 1 7 Qa4 Bg7 18 c3 etc) 15 Qa3!! (Diagram 27), when
Black is unable to prevent Bxa5 since 1 5 . . . Nc6? or 15 . . . b6? both allow 16 Rhe1 win
ning due to the weakness of Black's back rank. According to Fritz the best Black
can do is 15 . . . Be6 16 Bxa5 Qf4+, winning the pawn on f2 and maintaining a meas
ure of compensation for the exchange, though probably not enough after 17 Bd2
Qxf2 18 Be4. Thus White shoul d be able to consolidate the posi tion with good
chances to convert his material advantage.

Conclusion - 4 g6
...

6 ... Nf6 remains the most critical line in the fianchetto variation and I cannot deny
that in the main line of 8 . . . Re8 9 f3 Na5! Black gains excellent chances. My sug
gested improvement is 9 Nf3!? which I believe to be a logical move, catching up
on development and aiming for active play in the centre. After the critical 9 ... Na5
10 Bd3 d5, the complications arising from 1 1 Nxd5! Nxd5 12 Qc5! seem to be fa
vourable to White as far as I can see. At the present time, players armed with the
analysis presented in these pages should have excellent chances to obtain a fa
vourable position against unsuspecting opponents. As for the future, we will have
to wait to see what new resources can be found to improve Black's chances in this
variation.
The fianchetto variation has a solid reputation for Black, and is regarded by many
strong players to be an ideal practical solution to the Centre Game. Nevertheless,
I believe that my analysis of each of the Lines A, B and C paints an encouraging
picture for White, and on the whole I think that you have every right to feel happy
on seeing the move 4 . . . g6.

Other 4th Moves


If the statistics on my database are anything to go by, you can expect to meet one
of the following deviations in approximately one in six of your games fea turing

321

D a n gero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
the opening moves 1 e4 es 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3.
The fol lowing four moves are presented in what I consider to be approximately
descending order of importance, based on a combination of popularity and objec
tive merit (for example, despite the fact that Line A is far less popular than B or C,
I have eleva ted it to the top of the list because it could prove particularly awkward
for an unsuspecting opponent).

A: 4... Nb41?
B: 4... Bb4+
C: 4...b6?1
D: 4... fsl?
Before beginning, we should briefly note that 4 ... d6 has practically no independ
ent significance wha tsoever. Following 5 Nc3 the game will a lmost always trans
pose to familiar paths after a subsequent ... Nf6 and/or . . . g6 over the next few
moves.

A) 1 e4 es 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Nb4!? (Diagram 28)

Diagram 28 (W)

Diagram 29 (W)

This is a perfect example of what I was talking about in the introduction to the
chapter, when I mentioned Black being able to 'get away' with moves and ideas
which would normally be considered dubious against more conventional open
ings.

322

T h e C e nt re G a m e Revea l e d : Part I l l

BEWARE! Black's idea should not be underestimated, and he


could easily seize the initiative after lacklustre play from
White. 4 ... Nb4 has been played with success by GM Mark
Hebden, a lifelong devotee of 1 .. e5, and I invite the reader to
witness the game T.Thorhallsson-M.Hebden, Cappelle Ia
Grande 2005, for an illustration of Black's chances.
Thorhallsson played the obvious, yet not entirely desirable move 5 Na3, when the
game continued 5 ... Nf6 6 e5 Nfd5 (not 6 . . . Ng4?, when 7 Qe4 forces the ugly 7... h5,
as 7 ... d5? 8 exd6+ Be6 hangs the knight on b4) 7 Qe4 d6! (Diagram 29), offering to
gambit a pawn, as 8 exd6+ Be6 9 dxc7 Qxc7 1 0 Nf3 0-0-0 would give Black excel
lent compensation. No doubt mindful of this, Thorhallsson instead tried 8 c3,
upon which Hebden uncorked the stunning 8 . . . dxe5!!, sacrificing a piece in order
to displace the white king. There followed 9 cxb4 Bxb4+ 1 0 Bd2 Bxd2+ 1 1 Kxd2
0-0!, when Black had full compensation and went on to win. In fact, this is exactly
the type of thing which could be recommended as a Dangerous Weapo11 for Black
against the CG! Indeed, if the reader happens to play 1 e4 e5 with Black then he
may enjoy using 4 . . . Nb4!? himself, although he would also need to prepare some
thing against my following recommendation for White.
Returning to move 5, it seems to me that White would do much better to avoid
misplacing his knight on the miserable a3-square. There is no doubt that the opti
mal location for this piece is c3, and so White should be more than happy to invest
a tempo in order to facilitate i ts development here. Therefore I recommend, in
wonderfully thematic style for this opening ...

5 Qe2! (Diagram 30)

Diagram 30 (B)

Diagram 31 (B)

323

D a n ge ro u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
I t i s not often that we see one side making his third consecutive queen move just
five moves into the game! This has hardly ever been played, but in my opinion it
makes perfect sense to keep the knight on course for i ts preferred destination of
c3. Meanwhile a path is cleared for the dark-squared bishop to take up an active
post on f4 or g5; on the negative side we should also note the temporary blocking
of the king's bishop. Although it may seem strange to make a third consecutive
queen move, the real question is which of the two moves . . . Nc6-b4 and Qe3-e2 is
likely to prove more useful in the ensuing battle. Over the next few moves White's
normal plan will be Nc3, followed by moving the queen's bishop to an appropri
ate square, followed by long castling, perhaps flicking in the move a2-a3 some
where along the way.

s ... Nf6
TRICKY TRANSPOSITION! We are about to transpose to a position
that is statistically more likely to occur after the move order
4...Nf6 5 Nc3 Nb4!? 6 Qe2, as noted on page 290. Indeed, all
game references listed after the current main line of s ...Nf6 6
Nc3 began with the 4... Nf6 move order.
(I decided to include everything under the present move order for thematic rea
sons, grouping both 'early ... Nb4' lines into a single branch.)
Al ternatively, the game K.Litz-H.Buchmann, correspondence 2003, continued
5 ... Bc5 6 Nc3 Bd4!? (6 ... Nf6?! would be well met by 7 e5 or 7 Bg5) 7 NbS Bb6 8 c3
Nc6 9 Nf3 Nge7 1 0 Bg5 (Diagram 31) 10 . . . f6?! (this weakening will prove costly;
10 ... d6 was preferable, though I would still marginally prefer White after 1 1 0-0-0)
1 1 Be3 d6 12 Bxb6 axb6 13 Qc4! Bg4 14 Nfd4 Nxd4?! 1 5 N xc7+! Kd7 16 Nxa8 Ndc6
(16 . . . Nc2+ 17 Kd2 Nxa1 1 8 Qb5+ followed by Nxb6 and Bd3 wins for White) 1 7
Qd3 (also possible was the greedy b u t effective 1 7 Qf7 Qxa8 1 8 Qxg7) 1 7...Qxa8 18
Qg3 f5 19 f3 Bh5 20 Bc4 Qf8? (20 ... Kc7 would have been more resilient) 21 0-0-0
Qf6 22 Rxd6+! Qxd6 23 Rd 1 Qxd 1 + 24 Kxd1 Bg6 25 h4 Rd8 26 Ke1 fxe4 27 h5 Bf5
28 fxe4 1 -0.

6 Nc3 (Diagram 32) 6...d6


6 ...b6 intends to harass the queen with . . . Ba6. Against this creative plan I would
propose 7 e5!? Nfd5 (or 7 ... Ba6 8 Qd 1 ! Bxf1 9 Kxf1 Ng8 1 0 Nf3 with some initia
tive) 8 Ne4! Ba6 9 c4, leading to a most peculiar position, somewhat reminiscent
of a Scotch. I think I would prefer White's chances as Black's knights are rather
clumsily placed and are likely to be driven backwards in the near future.

7 Bf4 Be7 8 0-0-0 0-0 9 es NeB (Diagram 33)


9 ... Nd7 10 exd6 woul d force Black to accept an isolated d-pawn.
We have been following the game A.Smith-D.Gormally, British League 2004,
which continued 1 0 a3 Nc6 1 1 Nf3 Bg4 12 h3 Bxf3 1 3 Qxf3 Bg5 14 exd6 Nxd6 1 5
Ne4 Bxf4+ 16 Qxf4 Re8 1 7 Nxd6 cxd6 18 Bc4 Ne5 19 Bb3 Qc7 Vz-Vz. Fair enough,

3 24

The C e nt re G a m e Revea l e d : P a rt I l l
and indeed White is probably a little better in the final position thanks to his
strong bishop and Black's isolated d-pawn. Nevertheless, it seems to me that
White ought to be able to improve earlier with 10 Qe4! . White is chasing the
knight away from b4, just as in Smith-Gormally, but aside from just attacking the
knight he also simultaneously improves his queen and clears a path for the king's
bishop to enter the game. Play might continue 10 . . . a5 (10 . . . Nc6 1 1 Nf3 would be
simi lar) 1 1 a3 Nc6 1 2 Nf3 Be6 1 3 h4!? with decent attacking chances.

Diagram 32 {B)

Diagram 33 (W)

B) 1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Bb4+ 5 Nc3 Nge71? {Diagram 34)

Diagram 34 {W)

Diagram 35 {W)

325

Dangero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
This i s the move which gives 4. . .Bb4+ independent significance, whereas the fre
quently seen 5 ... Nf6 6 Bd2 would of course reach the main line - 4 . . Nf6 5 Nc3 Bb4
6 Bd2. The text looks slightly peculiar, and there is no denying that the knight pos
sesses considerably fewer active prospects on e7. We should also note the blocking
of the e-file, which makes ... Re8 a far less attractive proposition. At the same time,
Black's set-up should not be underestimated and I would certainly refrain from
assigning the '?!' mark seen in the analogous variation 4 ... g6 5 Nc3 Nge7?!, for two
main reasons:
.

1) In the fianchetto variation White was quickly able to obtain a dangerous attack
by opening the h-file, whereas here Black's kingside defences will be harder to
breach.
2) In the present variation Black has a natural and active plan of ... d6 and .. .f5 after
castling, which enables him to make quite a certain amount of sense of the
knight's placement on e7. In the fianchetto variation such a plan would be far too
dangerous due to the already weakened state of Black's kingside, combined with
the imminent prospect of h4-h5.

6 Bd2 0-0
6... d6 has been played, but the two moves will almost always transpose.

7 o-o-o d6 (Diagram 35)


7... Re8 is less logical; if Black is going to place his rook here then his knight would
unquestionably be better off on f6. 8 Qg3 looks like a sensible response, vacating
the e-file. Now H.Zanolin-J.Peterson, correspondence 1 999, continued 8 ... Ng6 9
h4! intending h5, building an attack while gaining time. Alternatively, in case of
8 ... d5 there follows 9 exd5 Nf5 (9 ... Nxd5?? loses material after 10 Bg5!, but not 10
Nxd5?? Bxd2+ 11 Rxd2 Re1 +! when it is Black who wins!) 10 Qf4 Bd6 11 Qa4,
when Black can hardly have enough for the pawn.

8 Qg3
According to my database White has scored a massive 94%(!) from this position
over nine games. In all fairness, I should add that I do not consider Black's posi
tion to be objectively anywhere near as bad as that particular statistic might sug
gest. However, it would probably be fair to conclude that White's position is gen
erally easier to play, with a somewhat kinder margin for error.

8... Kh8
This has been the most common move so I take it as the main l ine, although this
prophylaxis is not essential and it is worth checking a few alternatives:
a) 8 ...Be6 9 f4 f5! was adequate for Black in S.Sanchez-N.Cortezia, Caracas 1999.
Therefore I would instead propose 9 Nge2!?, preparing Nf4 to target the bishop on
e6 while also eyeing the d5-square.
b) 8 ... f5!? must be critical, after which F.Popa-A.Bianchi, Padova 1 998, continued 9
Bc4+ Kh8 10 f3 fxe4 1 1 fxe4 Ne5 12 Bb3 Bg4 with reasonable play for Black. Instead,

326

T h e C e nt re G a m e Revea l e d : Part I l l
another possibility for Whi te woul d be 1 0 a3!? BaS 1 1 Nf3, e.g. 1 l ...fxe4 1 2 Nxe4
Bxd2+ 13 Rxd2 NfS 14 QgS.

9 h41 fs 10 h S (Diagram 36)

Diagram 36 (B)

Diagram 37 (W)

The advance of the h-pawn plays a key role in White's plans, as is so often the case
in the CG. We are following S.Pitkanen-P.Paldanius, Tampere 1 998:

10 Ng8?!
...

This can hardly be the best, although in a way it is symptomatic of the discomfort
many players are likely to feel when confronted with such early aggression. Al
ternatively:
a) 10 .. .fxe4 1 1 h6! g6 12 Nxe4 Bxd2+ 13 Rxd2 leaves Black with chronical ly weak
dark squares.
b) 10 . . . h6! looks like the best chance, when White might try 1 1 f3! ? fxe4 12 fxe4! .
The isolated pawn i s not too relevant here; i t i s far more important to restrict the
black pieces, especially the knight on e7. After the logical 12 . . . Ne5 13 Nf3 N7c6 14
BbS!? I slightly prefer White, although the position remains complicated.

11 Nh3!
Immediately zeroing in on the g6-square. In general the knight should be more
than happy to sacrifice itself here in order to open the h-file, especially when we
take into account the unfortunate placement of the black king. Now 1 1 . . . fxe4 can
be met by 1 2 Nf4! Nh6 13 Ng6+ hxg6 14 hxg6 Qf6 1 5 Bc4! with a decisive attack.

11 Ne5 12 Nf4
...

1 2 h6!? would be a promising alternative, but the text is consistent with White's
previous move.

327

D a n gerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S

12 Nh6 (Diagram 37)


...

Now the game continued 13 NfdS and al though White eventually won, a far
stronger and more elegant continuation would have been 13 Ng6+! hxg6 1 4 hxg6,
when the opening of the h-file more than compensates the sacrificed piece. A
plausible continuation might be 14 . . . Neg4 1 5 exfS BxfS 1 6 f3 Bxc3 1 7 bxc3! (keep
ing the bishop trained on h6) 17 ... Bxg6 18 fxg4 Kg8 1 9 Bd3! when Black will hardly
be able to defend his kingside.

C) 1 e4 es 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 b6?! (Diagram 38)

Diagram 38 (W)

Diagram 39 (B)

This is an interesting sideline, but after studying it at some length there is no


doubt in my mind that i t is clearly inferior to the main lines. Essentially the move
has two main purposes:
1 ) It prepares ... BcS, developing a piece while attacking the white queen. This may
sound great, but we should keep in mind that in the main line of 4 . . . N f6 5 Nc3 Bb4
White normally places his queen on g3 voluntarily. So in reality this is not such an
amazing achievement for Black. On a secondary note, I see no particular reason
why this bishop should be any better placed on cS than b4.
2) Black may wish to develop his queen's bishop on b7, or occasionally even a6.
These might sound superficially like interesting and creative possibi li ties, but in
the overwhelming majority of varia tions I would consider b7 to be a wholly un
promising home for this piece. If White can maintain a firm grip over the e4- and
dS-squares, then the bishop could very easily find itself sidelined from the main
theatre of action.

5 Nc3 Bc5

328

T h e C e nt re G a m e Revea l ed : P a rt I l l
In my opinion the immediate attack on the queen represents Black's most logical
continuation, al though a few others have been tried:
a) The somewhat inconsistent 5 . . . Nf6?! can be strongly met by 6 e5! Bc5 (6 ... Ng4 is
dubious, as after 7 Qe4 Ngxe5 8 f4 there is no ... d5 available) 7 Qg5!? Qe7 8 Bf4 0-0
9 0-0-0 Ne8 (W.Paulsen-F.Riemann, Berlin 188 1 ) 10 Qxe7 Nxe7 1 1 Ne4 with a very
pleasant game for White.
b) After the unusual 5 . . . Nb4!? (compare Line A) White's most straightforward an
swer is 6 Qd2! (Diagram 39), avoiding any ... Ba6 attacks and simply preparing a2a3 to make the knight look stupid. Play may continue 6 . . . Bb7 7 a3 Na6 (or 7 . . . Nc6
8 Nf3) 8 Bc4 (note that White's a2-a3 is far from useless in this position; it prevents
any ... Bb4 ideas while in some variations White may be glad of the opportunity to
tuck his bishop away safely on a2) 8 . . . Nc5 9 Qe2 Ne6 (S.Pi tkanen-J .Kankainen,
Lahti 1997) 1 0 Nf3 with a clear advantage to White, thanks to his space advantage
and lead in development.
c) Black's main alternative is 5 ...Bb7, although personally I would question the
wisdom of committing the bishop, at such an early stage, to what must in princi
ple be considered an undesirable location. Play continues 6 Bd2 Nf6 (6 ... Bc5 7 Qg3
Nf6 8 0-0-0 leads to a transposition of moves; see 6 ... Nf6 7 0-0-0 Bc5 8 Qg3; but 8
Qxg7? should be avoided on account of the standard trick 8 . . . Rg8 9 Qh6 Bxf2+!) 7
0-0-0 (7 eS!? is an untested suggestion of Wallace's which may also be promising,
but for the sake of simplicity I choose to focus on White's typical CG set-up).
After 7 0-0-0 (Diagram 40),

Diagram 40 (B)

Diagram 41 (B)

B lack has a choice:


cl) 7 ...Qe7 has been played a few times, with White invariably opting for the

329

Da ngerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
stereotyped 8 Qg3?!. To m e i t seems rather illogical to expend a tempo placing the
queen on g3 after Black has so obviously signified his intention to castle long.
Therefore I would instead propose the logical developing move 8 Nf3!, followed
by 8 ... 0-0-0 9 Bc4 or even 9 Qf4!?, maintaining the defence of the e-pawn and pre
paring e4-e5 (now that . . . Ng4 is unavailable to Black) with the initiative.
c2) 7 . . . Bc5 8 Qg3 0-0 9 f4 dS 10 eS Ne4 1 1 Nxe4 dxe4 12 Bc3 Qe7 was not alto
gether clear in J.Rudd-J.Wallacc, British League 2007; while the interesting 9 Nf3!?
is untested .
Instead, 9 BgS!? (Diagram 41) was seen in D.Paylogianni-A.Kostouros, Agios
Kyrikos 2000. Here Black felt obliged to break the pin with 9 . . .Be7, when White
should reply 10 f4, 10 Nf3 or 10 Bh6 Ne8 1 1 Nf3, in each case maintaining some
ini tiative.

6 Qg3 Nf6 (Diagram 42)

Diagram 42 (W)

Diagram 43 (W)

Indirectly defending the g-pawn due to the familiar tactic 7 Qxg7?! Rg8 8 Qh6
Bxf2+! . The position closely resembles note 'c' above, except that here Black is re
fraining from prematurely committing his bishop to b7.

7 Bd2
Some players have experimented with 7 BgS!? h6 8 Bd2, hoping tha t the ' free'
move ... h7-h6 will prove to be a liability for Black. This is an interesting approach,
which also deserves consideration.

7 0-0
...

Nahually Black can transpose to note 'c' above with ... Bb7 over the next few
moves but, as I have already mentioned, it is far from clear that the bishop will be
well placed on that square.

3 30

The C e nt re G a m e Reve a l ed : P a rt I l l
8 o-o-o ReB (Diagram 43)
I would say that this line represents something close to best play from both sides
after 4 . . . b6?!. In evaluating the pros and cons of Black's set-up, one needs only to
compare Diagram 43 with Diagram 3 in Chapter 13 (i.e. after White's 8 Qg3! in the
main line). Simply put, there are three differences:

1) The black bishop is on c5 instead of b4. One could debate the respective merits
of these two squares, although my own feeling is that on b4 the bishop at least
applies some indirect pressure to the e4-pawn as well as to the bishop on d2,
thereby facilitating the ... Rxe4 idea seen in Chapter 13.
2) The black b-pawn is on b6 instead of b7; it is hard to see this making much of a
difference to the position because, as I keep repeating, the c8-bishop is unlikely to
benefit from being fianchettoed .
3) Most importantly, it is White to move instead of Black!
In my view the conclusion is palpably clear; Black's position in the present variation
is clearly inferior to the one he achieves in the main line, primarily due to White's
extra tempo. We will now consider how he may best pu t this advantage to use.

9 Bg5!
This seems to be the most active. White indirectly defends e4, while simul tane
ously improving both the bishop and the rook on d l .

BEWARE! Though it may appear that White i s threatening Nd5


here, the move would in fact be a mistake, on account of the
simplifying ... Nxe4!. In this case White would not be losing,
but he would certainly not have made the most of his
advantages.
Instead, White's next move (whether or not Black breaks the pin) is likely to be f4,
threatening e4-e5.

9... Be7
We have been following the game M.Wojnar-W.Lynn, Wanganui 2003. At this
point I suggest ...

10 f4!? d6 11 Nf3 (Diagram 44)


White has a strong attacking position. The simple, yet extremely effective plan is
e4-e5, which can be prepared by Bc4 (or Bb5) and Rhe1 as requ ired .

11 .. Nd7
.

After 1 1 . . .Bd7 12 Bc4 Black is practically defenceless against the simple plan of
Rhe1 followed by e4-e5.

12 BbSI Bb7 13 eSI (Diagram 45)


White enjoys a strong initiative; for example: 13 ... dxe5 14 Qh3! wins a piece;

331

Dangero u s Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
13 . . . Bxg5 1 4 Nxg5 h 6 1 5 Nxf7! Kxf7 1 6 Bc4+ Kf8 1 7 Qg6 Ncxe5 1 8 fxe5 Qg5+ 1 9
Qxg5 hxg5 20 Rhfl + Ke7 2 1 Rf7+ Kd8 2 2 exd6 cxd6 23 Rxd6 is winning; o r 1 3 ...Qc8
1 4 Bxc6 Bxc6 1 5 Bxe7 Rxe7 16 Nd4 Nb8 1 7 exd6 cxd6 18 f5 f6 1 9 Rhe1 with an over
whelming position for White.

Diagram 44 (B)

Diagram 45 (B)

With the exception of its surprise value, I find it difficult to think of anything posi
tive to say about 4 . . . b6?!. If White proceeds as indicated above, he will have good
chances to obtain a souped-up version of a standard CG attacking set-up.

D) 1 e4 es 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 fS!? (Diagram 46)

Diagram 46 (W)

332

Diagram 47 (W)

T h e C e ntre G a m e Reve a l e d : P a rt

Ill

'What on earth is this?', I hear you ask. You are looking a t a n extremely rare and
audacious, yet not entirely ill-founded gambit. The chances of encountering this
over the board are remote to say the least, but all the same I felt the idea was in
teresting enough to deserve a mention.

5 es!
I believe this to be White's most pragmatic approach. Of course it is also possible
to snap off the pawn, after which Black presumably intends something along the
lines of 5 exfS Be7 6 Nf3 (6 g4?! dS) 6 . . . Nf6 7 Bd3 0-0 8 0-0 dS with some compensa
tion due to his extra central pawn.
The text, on the other hand, avoids ceding the initiative and instead aims for a po
sitional advantage based on Black's weakened kingside.

s ...Qe7
Obviously there is no established ' main l ine' continuation, but the text looks fairly
sensible. Alternatively:
a) 5 ... g6 shoul d be met by the simple 6 Nc3 Bg7 7 Nf3.
b) 5 ... Qh4 6 Nf3 Qe4 7 Bd3 Qxe3+ 8 Bxe3 d6 9 exd6 Bxd6 (Z.Timar-G.Szlabey, correspondence 1 989) 1 0 Nc3 gives White a slight edge.
c) 5 ... Nh6!? is untested but looks sensible. My suggestion would be 6 Nf3 Ng4 7
Qe2 Qe7 8 Nc3 NgxeS 9 NxeS QxeS 1 0 Bf4 Qxe2+ 1 1 Bxe2, when White's lead in
development provides good compensation for the missing pawn.

6 Nf3 d6 (Diagram 4 7)
6 . . . Qc5 7 Nc3 Qxe3+ 8 Bxe3 Bb4 9 0-0-0 Bxc3 1 0 bxc3 b6 was L.Barati-Z.Timar,
correspondence 1 989, and now 1 1 Nd4 would have been clearly better for White
in view of 1 l . ..Nxe5 1 2 NbS!.
Returning to 6 . . . d6, we have been following the game J .Holecska-Z.Timar, corres
pondence 1989, in which White played 7 BbS. Instead, I would prefer the simple
and straightforward 7 exd6 Qxe3+ 8 Bxe3 Bxd6 9 Nc3, lead ing to a slight but
pleasant advantage for White, thanks to his better development and the slight
looseness of Black's kingside.

Other 2nd and 3rd Moves


Our coverage concludes with a brief summary of Black's early deviations. Some of
these involve transpositions to different openings, whilst most of the others are
rather dubious.

1 e4 e S 2 d4 (Diagram 48) 2 exd4


...

Other possibilities:
a) 2 ... Nc6 gives White a choice between a Scotch with 3 Nf3, or variations of
Nimzowitsch's Defence with 3 dS or 3 dxeS NxeS. Obviously it is beyond the

333

Da ngerous Wea p o n s : 1 e4 e S
scope o f the present investigation to offer specific recommendations here.
b) 2 ... d6 could lead to a Philidor after 3 Nf3, while endgame lovers may relish the
prospect of a small advantage after 3 dxe5 dxe5 4 Qxd8+ Kxd8.
c) 2. . Nf6 3 Nf3 is a Petroff, whi le 3 Nc3!? invites 3 ...exd4 4 Qxd4 Nc6 5 Qe3 with a
transposition to the CG, al though Black can always opt for the independent 3 . . . d6.
Another decent option is 3 dxe5 Nxe4 4 Qe2!? Nc5 5 Nc3, intending Be3 and 0-0-0
with an active game.
.

d) 2... d5? is weak, and White obtains a big advantage after the simple 3 dxe5 dxe4
4 Qxd8+ Kxd8 5 Nc3, intending 6 Bg5+ followed by 7 0-0-0(+).

3 Qxd4 Qf6?!

Diagram 48 (B)

Diagram 49 (W)

This is just about the only third move alternative worth mentioning. After some
thing like 3 . . . Nf6 White can simply play 4 Nc3 Nc6 5 Qe3 reaching the main line.
Once the queen is on d4 Black can hardly hope to benefit by omitting the tempo
gaining ... Nc6.

4 Qe3!
This is the simplest and best response (4 e5 is met by 4 ... Nc6!). White simply pre
tends he is playing a normal CG, except that Black has foregone the useful move
... Nc6 in favour of an early queen excursion of his own. We now follow the game
A.Shabalov-J.Fang, Philadelphia 1995.

4...Qb6 5 Nc3
White has no objection to a queen exchange that will further his own development
rather than that of his opponent.

s BcS 6 Qg3 Ne7 7 Bd2 0-0 (Diagram 49)


...

3 34

T h e C e n t re G a m e Revea l e d : Part

Ill

Defending g7, but now White obtains the advantage of the two bishops.

8 Na4! Qc6 9 Nxcs Qxcs 10 o-o-o d6 11 Nf3 Nbc6 12 Kb1 Kh8 13 a3!? bs
The point of White's last was to meet 13 . . . f5? with 14 b4!, e.g. 14 . . .Qb6 15 Be3 f4
16 Bxb6 fxg3 1 7 Bxc7 gxf2 18 Bxd6 winning easily.

14 Ng5 b4 15 axb4 Nxb4 16 Qc3 Qxc3 17 Bxc3


The unopposed dark-squared bishop is very powerful and Black's queenside
pawns are permanently weak. White is clearly better, and Shabalov went on to
win without difficulty.

Conclusion
When we survey the vast landscape of modern chess open theory, we invariably
find that 'main line' continuations have not achieved the said status by mere acci
dent. This is certainly true in the CG, in which Black's main line of 4 ... Nf6 must
surely be considered his most principled and strongest continuation. At the same
time we must recognize that numerous players may, for varying reasons, choose
to adopt one of the plethora of lesser-known alternatives, either on move 4 or even
earlier. From the reliable 4 ... g6, to the dubious 4 ... b6?!, to the downright shocking
4 .. .5!?, each of these early deviations carry their individual pros and cons, and all
demand a certain degree of accuracy from the first player.
All things considered, I believe the CG to be an ideal Dangerous Weapon and hope
that my humble efforts will be enough to inspire at least a few readers to give it a
try. When preparing to use this opening in competitive play, I would advise that
you make the most popular and critical variation of 4 ... Nf6 5 Nc3 Bb4 your num
ber one priority for study. At the same time, I must stress that if you neglect the
sidelines mentioned in the present chapter then you do so at your own peril! In
particular, 4 ... g6 demands quite a high level of precision from White and seems to
have been gaining in popularity, perhaps due to the endorsement of the authors
mentioned in the notes to the introductory game.
My final piece of advice is: be confident, and above all enjoy playing this audacious m1d
often belligerent opening! There are very few systems against 1 e4 e5 that enable
you, against the vast majority of black responses, to castle on the queenside and
almost immediately start attacking your opponent's king. Work hard at home and
at the board, enjoy what you are doing, and your resul ts will take care of them
selves. Good luck!

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