Opening Workshop 2012

Two open gambits

Richard was interested in the Urusoff Gambit and Eddie in the Scotch Gambit.
Gambits offer a pawn for fast development and/or control of the centre. I approve very much of this way of playing, and it's the first thing I offer juniors as an alternative to playing Old Stodge with both White and Black in every game.

Here's a starter for each:

[Event "Urusov Gambit"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2012.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "White"]
[Black "Black"]
[Result "*"]
[ECO "A00"]
[PlyCount "19"]
1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. Qxd4 Nf6 6. Bg5 Nc6 (6... c6 7.
Nc3 d5 8. O-O-O Be7 9. Rhe1 {Timoschenko,G-Karpov,A/Moscow 1967/1-0 (54)}) 7.
Qd2 Be7 8. Nc3 d6 9. O-O-O O-O 10. Rhe1 *

[Event "Scotch Gambit"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2012.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "White"]
[Black "Black"]
[Result "*"]
[ECO "A00"]
[PlyCount "29"]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Bc4 4... Bb4+ {
4...Bb4+ is probably a mistake, but not as bad as this game makes it seem!} 5.
c3 dxc3 6. O-O Qf6 (6... cxb2 7. Bxb2 Bf8 8. Qd5 Nh6 9. Ng5 Qe7 10. Nc3 d6 11.
Nb5 Ne5 12. Bxe5 dxe5 13. Nxc7+ Qxc7 14. Rac1 Qe7 15. Bb5+ Bd7 16. Qxb7 Rd8 17.
Rfd1 Bxb5 18. Qxb5+ Rd7 19. Rc8+ Qd8 20. Qxd7# {
1-0 Von Bilguer,P-Schorn,C/ 1830}) 7. e5 Qe7 8. a3 cxb2 9. Bxb2 Bc5 10. Nc3 d6
11. Nd5 Qd8 12. exd6 Bxd6 13. Bxg7 Bg4 14. Re1+ Nge7 15. Nf6# {
1-0 Scotch Gambit-4....Bb4+/ 0 Staunton,H-Brodie [C44] London, 1851} *

Very appealing!
I have some notes on the Scotch Gambit in my 'First Opening Repertoire', linked here:

So, why don't we all play these openings all the time? Well, your opponent needs to be both naive and greedy, which isn't a completely unknown combination, but doesn't happen all the time. It's probably more likely that your opponent is experienced and/or cautious, and will deviate at some point, probably into some version of the Two Knights' Defence. My little booklet, linked above, also gives some ideas about what to do if that happens.

And by the magic of the Internet, here's a lot more information about each opening:
[I'll make here a small plug for Michael Goeller of Kenilworth Chess Club and for Johnny, the chap behind Bishop's Bounty, who catalogues chess teaching material.]

Grob's Attack

[Event "Grob"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "White"]
[Black "Black"]
[Result "*"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/6P1/8/PPPPPP1P/RNBQKBNR b KQkq g3 0 1"]
[PlyCount "0"]

This has to be terrible, right? It breaks every opening rule we've ever been taught (only move your e- and d-pawns, quickly castle king's-side behind an unmoved wall of pawns, etc etc). So, faced with this for the first time, you might be forgiven for thinking, as Black, like this:

This is obviously terrible.
Therefore, the best way to play against it will also be obvious.
The obvious way to play against it is 1...d5, discovering an attack on g4.

This results in games going like this:

[Event "corr"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1957.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Bloodgood"]
[Black "Christy"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A00"]
[PlyCount "25"]
[EventDate "1957.??.??"]

1. g4 d5 2. Bg2 Bxg4 3. c4 c6 4. cxd5 cxd5 5. Qb3 Qc7 6. Nc3 Nf6 7. Nxd5 Nxd5
8. Bxd5 Nc6 9. Bxf7+ Kd8 10. Nf3 Qd7 11. Ng5 Nd4 12. Qd3 Bxe2 13. Qxd4 1-0

Oops... Perhaps also obvious, in hindsight. What Black has done is immediately break a bunch of rules in turn, including don't waste time grabbing pawns in the opening and never accept pawns from strange men.

Black needs to bring a bit more care to their play, for example:

1.g4 d5 2.Bg2 c6!

Now White either has to 'waste' a move with 3.h3 or 3.g5. Black can then play 3...e5 with a nice centre.

White isn't busted of course; 3.g5 is a bit of a thorn in Black's side and there's some mileage for White in arranging d3 and e4. Mike Basman, many years ago, liked to play 3.h3 e5 4.d4!?, with ideas of an improved reversed Scandinavian after 4...exd4 and an improved reversed French after 4...e4. He tried it a couple of times in the British Championships and got pushed off the board, but he was getting pushed off the board by Miles and Keene, and that's happened to all of us I expect.

Another approach for Black is 1...e5 with the idea of 2...h5, forcing some sort of King's-side weakness. 2.d3! d5 3.Bg2 c6 leads to play similar to what we have seen already.


[Event ""]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2012.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "White"]
[Black "Black"]
[Result "*"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/6P1/PPPPPP1P/RNBQKBNR b KQkq - 0 1"]

Brian was interested in this move, which I have often played myself, and so has Graham. By playing it, White offers Black a big choice of set-ups, but by inviting Black to make a commitment, White is hoping either to prepare an awkward counter-blow, or to lure Black into playing something they don't know, or something they do know, but an important move behind. To play like this you need to be pretty confident, either that you know enough about all the different systems that Black can try against you, or that you can work it out faster than Black.
If you have my arrogance or Graham's experience, be my guest, but I don't advise it for club players, and even I reserve it as a bit of a surprise weapon. There is a famous gambit/trap invented by Bent Larsen in 1959, which I introduced Charlie to:

[Event "1.g3"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2012.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "White"]
[Black "Black"]
[Result "*"]
[PlyCount "14"]
1.g3 d5 2. Bg2 e5 3. b4 Bxb4 4. c4 c6 5. cxd5 cxd5 6. Qb3 Nc6 7. Bxd5 Nh6 8.Bxc6+ *

I have a strong feeling that 1.g3 d5 2.Bg2 e5 is simply equal, as long as Black is not over-ambitious, and that's the verdict of NCO.

The Grunfeld

Jeremy asked for an introduction. This is quite a quick introduction, not enough for a lasting relationship, but maybe enough to be asked out on a date.

1. The most important line of the Grunfeld is the Exchange Variation. If that is better for White, it's forced and forcing, so the Grunfeld would be dead. Let's see:
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3

[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Exchange"]
[Black "Grunfeld"]
[Result "*"]
[Annotator "DrDave"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "rnbqkb1r/ppp1pp1p/6p1/8/3PP3/2P5/P4PPP/R1BQKBNR b KQkq - 0 6"]
[PlyCount "0"]

Interesting! White has set up a big castle wall, but where are the guards? Black hopes that it will be not so much a big asset as a big target, and that is the essential Grunfeld debate. When I was a boy the main line went 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Bc4 c5
8.Ne2 Nc6 9.Be3 0-0 10.0-0 Qc7 11.Rc1 Rd8 12.h3 b6 13.f4 e6 14.Qe1 Na5
15.Bd3 f5 16.g4 ...
[Spassky,B - Fischer,R [D87] Siegen (6), 1970]
and it was still a fight. There are alternatives for both sides at each move, of course, and some of these are very playable. These days Whites seem to prefer the more natural 7.Nf3, ignoring the 'threat' of ...Bg4, and this is the line that Kramnik was so successful with. But Black players haven't given up on it yet!

2. If White finds it too bothersome to maintain such a big centre, they can go for something smaller, but then that is less of a threat to Black. Another main line is the Russian System, which reckons on making Black give up the centre by ...dxc4, and if White can re-route the awkwardly placed Queen, then White will surely be better. This was the topic in the famous Botvinnik-Fischer encounter at Varna 1962, when Fischer nearly beat the World Champion in a variation that Mikhail Moseyevitch had studied for hours. 1.c4 g6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Qb3 dxc4 6.Qxc4 0-0 7.e4 Bg4 8.Be3
Nfd7 9.Be2 Nc6 10.Rd1 Nb6 11.Qc5 Qd6 12.h3 Bxf3 13.gxf3 Rfd8 14.d5 Ne5
15.Nb5 Qf6 16.f4 Ned7 17.e5 Qxf4!
[Botvinnik,M - Fischer,R [D98] Varna (10), 1962]

3. A third approach for White is the unpretentious Classical Variation. ... It's safe enough I expect for White, but pugnacious Blacks will try to take the fight to White with lines like
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 c5 6.dxc5 Qa5 7.Rc1 Ne4 8.cxd5 Nxc3 9.Qd2 Qxa2 10.bxc3 Qa5 11.Bc4 Nd7 12.Ne2 Ne5 13.Ba2 Bf5 [Petrosian,T - Fischer,R [D82] Buenos Aires (2), 1971]

4. A special mention should be made for the offbeat Taimanov Variation, 4.Bg5. I'm always amused by the trick in the line 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bg5 Ne4 6.cxd5 Nxg5 7.Nxg5 e6
8.Nf3 exd5 9.e3 0-0 10.b4 c6
[Ward,C (2480) - Sasikiran,K (2470) [D91] BCF-ch 85th Torquay (8), 04.08.1998]
which ends up in a formation looking like the Queen's Gambit, Exchange Variation.

5. Another important line, at least at GM level, is the Fianchetto or Neo-Grunfeld Variation. I mention it, but as I know bother all about it, I will move on swiftly.

6. Why don't people play the Grunfeld so much any more? I think it's mostly fashion. The fluctuating reputations of various moves deep into the theory of the main lines are beyond me, but I don't get the impression that there are insoluble problems for Black in any of the variations. After Topalov-Svidler, Linares 2006, people were writing the obituary of the Grunfeld, but then later that year Svidler was back with an improvement and beat Topalov at Sofia. Yes, Kramnik used to make the Exchange look like a forced win, but that's just Kramnik being Kramnik, and it hasn't stopped Carlsen taking up the Black side. Karpov and Kasparov played both sides of it at World Championship level, thus inventing the Seville Variation, and for a while Devon's top 2 county players (Michael Cox and Graham Bolt) both played it as Black.

I think the biggest problem with the theory of the Grunfeld is that it is so blimmin' big! Black's position is active and without weaknesses, there aren't easy ways for White to steer for a safe boring plus with no Black counterplay. So, if you think you're ahead of your opponent's book knowledge, by all means have a go!

Livening it up against the Caro-Kann

How, asks John.

I've looked at enough CK over the last 10 years to be absolutely sick of it. - Peter Svidler.

We hear you, Peter!

My recommendation for a long while has been the Panov-Botvinnik Attack. It is more open and sharp than most CK players will prefer, it often leads to IQP positions which we should by now be expert in, and White's moves are pretty easy to understand.

Q. You don't want to mention the Gunderam Variation, do you Dave?
A. No, I really don't.

If you're looking for something spicier, I have seen people play various versions of the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit against it:

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.f3...

A good choice, long practised by local boy Alan Brusey, is the Fantasy Variation. NCO gives a long main line as about equal but an awful lot of ± and += along the way, and our two resident CK experts confessed to knowing nothing about it, which ought to be some sort of hint! I wrote a quick piece on this for juniors, which may be some sort of starting point:

[Event "Caro-Kann"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2012.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "White"]
[Black "Black"]
[Result "*"]
[ECO "A00"]
[PlyCount "17"]
1. e4 c6 2. d4 2... d5 {This is the only defence where I haven't been able to
find a good system with f2-f4. After 3.e5 Bf5 you don't really want another
pawn on a dark square, and 4.f4 is almost never played. But I do know an idea
with the f-pawn, invented, as so much else in chess, by Tartakower:} 3. f3 {
White just defends the e-pawn, and you might even gambit it.} 3... dxe4 {
When I was a boy, the main line was for Black to play this way:} (3... e6 {
Some of these lines transpose into the French Defence after 4.Nc3 Nf6 or 4.e5,
when White will probably play f3-f4 at some point. Those variations are
probably about equal.} 4. Be3 Nf6 (4... Qb6 {
forces White to play a gambit - well, OK then!} 5. Nd2 Qxb2 6. Bd3 {
and White's development is fast but a bit awkward}) 5. e5 Nfd7 6. c3 c5 7. f4
Nc6 8. Nf3 {With a fairly standard French style of position.}) (3... g6 4. e5
Bg7 5. f4 Nh6 6. Nf3 O-O 7. c3 Qb6 8. h3 f6 9. g4 fxe5 10. dxe5 $14 {
White has a small plus in a blocked position.}) (3... e5 $5 {This is not
really in the style of the usually cautious Caro-Kann player, but you probably
have to accept the gambit, and that won't be in your style either! But I don't
think Black gets enough for the Pawn.} 4. dxe5 Bc5 5. Nc3 Qb6 6. Na4 Qa5+ 7. c3
Bxg1 (7... Bf8 8. b4 Qc7 9. exd5 Qxe5+ 10. Qe2 $16 {
Again, Black can get the pawn back but stands worse.}) 8. Rxg1 dxe4 9. Bf4 $16
{Black can get the pawn back but White will have a better position.}) 4. fxe4
e5 5. Nf3 5... Be6 {This was the move I always saw recommended.} (5... Bg4 6.
c3 Nd7 (6... exd4 {
As you might expect, if Black takes on d4, we can play an unclear gambit again:
} 7. Bc4) 7. Bd3 Bd6 8. O-O Ngf6 9. Kh1 O-O 10. Be3 {
White has a small advantage.}) (5... exd4 6. Bc4 $1 $14 {when White has a fine
lead in development with the Rook coming to the half-open f-file after
castling.}) 6. c3 Nf6 7. Nxe5 Nxe4 8. Nf3 Be7 9. Bd3 $14 {Again, White has a
pleasant position to play, although Black is fairly solid. Line Fantasy
Variation-Caro-Kann Defence/ 0} *

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"Chess is 99% tactics"

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