Monday, 24 December 2018

044. Surprising Openings

White: J. Rudd - C&DCCC Minor Counties, 2002

Whether or not an opening, or a variation of an opening, is a surprise naturally depends on whether an opponent expects it or is otherwise prepared. In an information-neutral context – i.e. without knowledge of someone's repertoire or, conversely, their knowledge of your own – the element of surprise can therefore be a matter of chance. My openings tend towards the disreputable, so they tend to have decent surprise value – most pleasingly demonstrated when an opponent starts thinking on move four.

But in this post I'm not concerned with opponents’ reactions. Instead, I've been looking through my old CC games, sorted variously by ECO code and notation, and have been surprising myself with some of my opening choices. For instance, as White: 1 e4 c5 2 a4!? (one game), 1 c4 (three games); and as Black: 1 d4 e5!? (one game), 1 d4 c5 2 d5 Nf6 3 c4 Ne4!? (one game), 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 (another three games). Okay, I can deduce that the single instances there were prompted by the writings of Hugh Myers and Stefan Bücker. But what I was doing playing the English and the Najdorf, I really have no idea.

In the blog-relevant C20-C99 category, there are surprises too: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 d5!? (three games), 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 f5!? (three games). I don't remember those either, especially the three Elephants. The games with the Schliemann Deferred (all from 2002) are slightly less surprising. I have occasionally played this over the board, usually aiming to take opponents (who might be ready for 3...f5) away from standard paths, since the seemingly benign inclusion of ...a7-a6 and Ba4 actually changes the position considerably. To obtain an advantage White has to play 5 d4 (a sideline in the Schliemann itself), and if 5...exd4 then 6 e5 with a favourable sort of reversed Falkbeer. I see that one of my CC games did go this way – and I lost – so whatever new ideas I might have had probably weren't very good. I'll have to look at that again sometime.

The game below took a less critical path: 5 d4 exd4 6 Nxd4 Nxd4 7 Qxd4 c5!.

Here the obvious threat to the a4-bishop (with ...b7-b5 etc) enables Black to escape the opening with a satisfactory position. This increased by degrees in the middlegame, and reduced more sharply in the endgame, until my opponent (now an OTB IM) was rightly justified in offering a draw (at move 35), which I declined – a decision equally and instantly justified when they blundered by reply. Sorry, Jack.

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