Friday, 29 September 2017

026. A Spectacular Queen Hunt

White: MarcShaw - Thematic tournament,, 2014

Hunts in chess are always “spectacular”, aren't they. In this one the white queen rushes out early to h5, snaffles the rook on h8, is driven back by busy minor pieces and seeks shelter on the queenside, only to suffer the indignity of perpetual attack from a lowly bishop, forcing a draw.

Okay, this hunt is not really so spectacular. The initial queen sally is a known theoretical line, and her subsequent harassment forms the basis of Black's compensation for the sacrificed exchange. All the same, it's quite a nice sequence of events: Qd1-h5-h8-h7-h4-a4-a3-a6-a4-a6 and draws.

It also shows that, in the 3 Bc4 variation at least, The Latvian Gambit Lives!, even if Black's path to apparent safety remains quite narrow: 3...fxe4 4 Nxe5 d5! 5 Qh5+ g6 6 Nxg6 hxg6! and so on. Everything else (e.g. 3...d6?!, 4...Qg5?!, 6...Nf6?!) is just good for White.

Since the 3 Bc4 Latvian can – and in fact did – arise via the Calabrese Counter-Gambit, it's a good thing for the latter that this line of the former is acceptable for Black. Regarding which, the game below is theoretically interesting.

From the diagram, the game continued 11...Ne5 12 Nd2 exd3 13 0-0 Nf6 14 Qh4 Qd6, which I think represents best play for both sides.

Instead, GM Kosten – working in, if not exactly pre-computer days, then certainly weaker computer days – gave a few erroneous assessments which are perhaps worth noting:
a) “11...exd3! and Black is at least equal”. Here 12 0-0 is good for White; e.g. 12...dxc2 13 Bxc2 Nf8 14 Qh4 Qxh4 15 gxh4, MarcShaw-Reprimand, 2013.
b) “13 f4! looks right, followed by Nf3-g5”. This lands White in serious trouble after 13...Nf6 14 Qh4 Neg4 15 Nf3 Qd6 16 Ng5+ Ke7.
c) 13...Qf6!? 14 f4 Nc4 15 f5 gxf5 “unclear”, H.Hage-F.Van der Muysenberg, correspondence 1995. This should have been met by 16 Nf3! with advantage.

At the time I was a bit worried about 15 Qf4, but now Houdini shows that 15...g5! 16 Qxg5 Rh8 17 Re1 Rh5 is fine for Black. I love computers :)


  1. I remember discussing the Latvian with "AMM" at the forum where after Bronstein's 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5 3.Nxe5 Qf6 4.d4 d6 5.Nc4 fxe4 6.Be2, "AMM" suggested 6...Qd8 and I was unable to prove more than a fairly strong "+=" for White. Other moves led to a far greater advantage for White.

    I always thought the main problem for Black was the immediate 4.Nc4 as recommended by John Watson and Jeremy Silman.

    In the 3.Bc4 line I see that on my site I got as far as 12.Nd2 exd3 13.0-0, citing H.Hage-F.Van der Muysenberg, correspondence 1995. If there was a Latvian thematic tournament where White was obliged to play 3.Bc4 (or indeed any move other than 3.Nxe5) I would be happy to take Black.

  2. Sorry for the delay in replying to this one. I've been in a bit of a slump. Well, anyway...

    Yes, I think 4 Nc4 is difficult too, as long as White opts for 4...fxe4 5 Nc3 Qf7 6 Ne3 c6 7 d3! etc. Nunn's 7 Nxe4 line, on the other hand, is just a big mess, and obviously no Latvian player is going to mind that :)