Saturday, October 11, 2008

Opening Archaeology

First: shortly after my last post, I dug into my settings and found that I actually am at least I don't have to deal with OS shuffling. The extra computing power would have been sweet though. I'll be editing the post to fix that.

I'm going to make a new tag, "opening archaeology" for intriguing old opening ideas I come across as I'm studying collections of master games. The following Sicilian idea seems a bit dubious to me, but those that find the 2...e6 Sicilians annoying may want to look at it.

In The Book of the New York International Chess Tournament 1924, Alekhine in the footnotes of a couple games reveals that after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 he likes 3.Be2!?

One of the ideas is that it may be possible to avoid playing Nc3 to protect the e4 pawn. In most open Sicilian lines, ...Nf6 attacking the e4 pawn is played early, which prompts White to play Nc3 and block their c-pawn. The Maroczy Bind (pawns on c4 and e4 in the Sicilian) was considered a Very Good Thing at the time.

In this case, if 3...Nc6 (or another move besides 3...Nf6--3...Nc6 is the most common in this position) 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Nf6, now 6. Bf3 protects e4:

In theory, c2-c4 would be in the cards now. However, in Tartakower-Steiner, Saltsjobaden 1948 I see that White never got around to it: 6...Ne5 7. O-O Be7 8. b3 O-O 9. Bb2 (9.c4!?) ...d5 10. Nd2 Nxf3+ 11. Qxf3 Bb4 12. e5 Nd7 13. Qe2 Bxd2 14. Qxd2 Nxe5 15. Nxe6 Nf3+ 16. gxf3 Bxe6 17. Kh1 f6 18. Rg1 Bf5 19. Bd4 b6 20. Rg3 Rc8 21. c3 Qd7 22. Rag1 Bg6 23. Qf4 Rf7 24. Re1 Re8 25. Re3 Rff8 26. Rg1 Qh3 27. Rg3 Qf1+ 28. Rg1 Qh3 29. Rg3 Qf1+ 1/2-1/2

In case of 3... Nf6, Alekhine gave 4. Nc3, with the idea of 5. e5 Nd5 6. Nxd5 exd5 7. d4. I started looking at sample lines, and it doesn't seem that simple, but Fritz is giving White a nice edge. I'll leave it to the reader to explore those variations.

I'm unconvinced by the idea of putting the bishop on f3 behind the e4 pawn, and in a few of the games I looked at this indeed became a problem if the pawn remained there. Also, to me the most testing response to 3.Be2 is 3...Nf6, where White ends up playing 4.Nc3 anyways. However, it seems playable, and I think the odds are your opponent would not have looked at these lines.


likesforests said...

Since you are into openings, Chess Opening Wizard Pro is on sale this weekend for $100 + a few dozen opening books. This sale happens every 6 months or so. I am passing on it because at my level I think openings are not so important. :)

chesstiger said...

I wonder why one has to play Nf6 after whites Nxd4? Whats wrong with the more active move Bc5?

Grandpatzer said...

chesstiger: Do you mean in the main line with 3. d4 exd4 and 4...Nf6? Black doesn't "have" to play Nf6 there, and Bc5, though rare, has been played by strong players.

In general in the open Sicilian, Nf6 develops with an attack, and if White responds with Nc3 the Maroczy Bind is avoided. That makes it a standard move in many Sicilian lines, so there's sort of a Pavlovian reaction to pushing ...Nf6 after exchanging on d4.

None of this is terribly critical to club play. I personally am less comfortable playing against the Sicilian when Black plays 2...e6 or 2...Nc6, so I thought I'd pass this along.

I've suggested in the past that amateurs base their opening repertoire around determining what they themselves would like to play in a certain position. 3.Be2 would be an example of an odd line that could be adopted if it grabbed you. I looked at it and decided against it, but if Alekhine saw something in it it's probably fine for the club.

chesstiger said...

Hmmmm, i always play Bc5 in that position followed by Qb6 if they defend the knight with Be3. But like you said, each his/her own style.

Anonymous said...

Enjoy your blog Grandpatzer, it is very inspiring. Curious what you think of the exchange variation of the Ruy Lopez...I'm new so if this line has been refuted take it easy on me.

Good Weekend,

Anonymous said...

I noticed in one of your earlier posts that you played the exchange variation of the Ruy Lopez, wonder if you could give more details of the positions that develop from it?

Grandpatzer said...

About the exchange Ruy: I did play that for quite a while. I think it's a good repertoire choice, because there's a clear theme: White tries to get a winning endgame, and Black tries to use the two bishops to advantage.

In practice I was finding it hard to coordinate my minor pieces in that opening. I started playing the main line Ruy as Black, plus I found and liked Andrew Greet's book on the Ruy (his main line is the Worrall), so I've been playing along those lines.

My choice came down to personal taste, as should yours. If you like playing endgames and using minor-piece imbalances, and don't mind queenless middlegames (which seem common in the exchange), give it a try! If you like to launch attacks, I'd go with something else.

Anonymous said...

You may be interested to know that John Watson discusses this strange idea of Alekhine's in his book Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy.
Actually, you might also be interested in this:

Grandpatzer said...

Anonymous: thank you for bringing those to my attention! I even own Watson's book, but didn't read the pertinent section, I guess.