Monday, 24 February 2020

060. Drawing With Someone Else's Moves

Black: Reprimand - thematic tournament,, 2020

I recently set up a Two Knights Defence thematic at, in order to refine my theory even further. As Black I faced 4 d4 and 4 d3 (twice) and my theory was duly refined. As White I opted for 4 Ng5, with the currently fashionable variation 4...d5 5 exd5 Na5 6 Bb5+ c6 7 dxc5 bxc6 8 Bd3!?.

A database search (criterion: 2015-2020) for this position brings up an array of strong grandmasters on the White side, such as Aronian, Kovalev, Mamedov, Melkumyan, Nisipeanu, Piorun, Popov, Sethuraman, Shankland, Shirov, Vallejo Pons, Van Foreest, Vitiugov, Wang Hao, and Zhigalko. And Black has been defended by the likes of Carlsen, Caruana, Ding Liren, Grischuk, Matlakov, Vidit and so.

It certainly seems like 8 Bd3 can lead to very interesting play and mutual chances over the board, as is the case with the Two Knights in general. However, in a theoretical sense at least, 8 Bd3 seems to have been played out.

One crucial line was in fact played out three years ago: in the game P.Bobel-F.Vaillant, correspondence 2017, which ended up with rook + four connected passed pawns vs. rook + knight in the ending. Now, if the white general was in close attendance, the pawns would probably win. But he wasn't. Instead, the pawns were peasants with pitchforks helpless against the black cannon and cavalry. Hence a draw.

The game below followed Bobel-Vaillant as far as move 28, whereupon my opponent proposed peace. I could see no reason to play on. Hence a draw.

And all with someone else's moves.

I don't think I'll try 8 Bd3 again.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

059. The King Goes For a Stroll

White: Honeybunch - all-play-all tournament,, 2019

I used to try and defend the main lines of the Max Lange: 8 Re1+ Be6 9 Ng5 Qd5 10 Nc3 Qf5 11 Nce4 0-0-0 12 g4 Qe5 and so on. But that was a long time ago. Because...

Well, the positions are extremely complicated and – worse – it means playing on White's turf. I never like doing that. So I switched to the sideline 8...Kf8!?, as in ‘The King Steps Sideways’.

One slight annoyance is that White can pre-empt the king move by taking on g7 at once. Then theory runs 8 fxg7 Rg8 9 Bg5 Be7 10 Bxe7 Kxe7 (best) 11 Re1+ Be6 12 Re4 with more complications, again on White's turf. I don't much like that either.

I'm sure you'll have noticed the common factor in those two lines. Black blocks a rook check on e1 by sensibly developing the light-squared bishop to e6.

Right, so we won't do that after 8 fxg7 either. Instead, we'll send the king on a little walk: out to f6, capture the pawn on g7, and then drop back into the corner.

And it turns out that the king can stroll this path in blithe serenity — as long as the queen is ready to rush back and forth ensuring his safety: 15...Qg5, 17...Qd8! (a key novelty), 19...Qf6 (19...Nxf4? is far too greedy), 20...Qxb2, 21...Qg7, 23...Qxc3 and the various traps and tribulations – which concerned the king not at all – are finally past.

Caution: Special Agent Queen needs to be thoroughly prepared for her protection duties before being deployed in the field.