Archive for February, 2014

The King’s Gambit – Wagenbach Variation

February 13th, 2014 17 comments

In The King’s Gambit I mentioned that the Wagenbach Variation – 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 h5 – was first played by Jonathan Tait and that Mr Wagenbach was mainly a correspondence player. I have since learned (from Mr János Wagenbach) that neither of these things are true. Mr Wagenbach played it first – in blitz games in his club – and he is primarily an over-the-board player. I am happy to correct the record. When re-printing the book (perhaps soon) I shall also correct the relevant page.

The game below shows the Wagenbach working well for Wagenbach – but note the line I recommend for White is 4.d4 (with 4.Nc3 as another option) not 4.h4.


[Event “Correspondence”]


[Site “”]


[Date “1998”]


[White “Norton”]


[Black “Wagenbach”]


[Result “0-1”]

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 h5 4.h4 d5 5.exd5 Bd6 6.Nc3 Bg4 7.d4 Ne7 8.Bb5+ Kf8 9.0–0 Nf5 10.Qd3 a6 11.Bc4 Ng3 12.Re1 Bxf3 13.Qxf3 Qxh4 14.Ne2 Nxe2+ 15.Rxe2 Nd7 16.Bd2 Nf6 17.Rae1 g5 18.Qf2 Qxf2+ 19.Kxf2 h4 20.Rh1 Kg7 21.Bb3 Nh5 0–1 [/pgn]

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Observation of the day (lunch break pocket philosophy)

February 12th, 2014 20 comments

While looking at the 2014 leaflet, I noticed that with 1.e4 it is Black who decides what the opening is called, while with 1.d4 this is not the case as frequently (Catalan v Queen’s Gambit, Nimzo/QID/Catalan). Obviously we have a Scotch/Italian/Ruy Lopez issue, but I cannot really think of any other 1.e4 opening where it is not Black that decides?!

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Beating the Exchange French

February 12th, 2014 3 comments

Bamber – Greet, Glasgow 2014

Here is a game from a local league match against one of Scotland’s top female players, who also happens to be a world-class triathlete. Recently Quality Chess has published some excellent titles on the French Defence. I was heavily involved in editing both of them, and could not resist giving it a try. The following game shows how Black can play for a win in the Exchange Variation.

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.Bf4

Rather unusual. Ntirlis and Aagaard point out that 5.Bd3 c5! gives Black a pleasant version of an IQP structure if White takes.

I though about 5…c5 here too, but decided the bishop exchange suited me well.

6.Bxd6 Qxd6 7.c3
White already has to waste time guarding against the check on b4.

7…0–0 8.Be2
8.Bd3 Re8+ would be inconvenient.

8…Nc6 9.0–0 Bd7
I wasn’t quite sure where to put this piece. Other squares are also fine.

10.Na3 Rae8
The position is equal, but there is plenty of potential to outplay the opponent.

11.Nb5 achieves nothing as 11…Qe7 hits the bishop.

11…a6 12.Nc2 Ne4
I was perhaps a bit too eager to go on the offensive around this point. In the game I was not able to make the kingside attack work in quite the way I wanted.

If I had this position again I would be tempted to try 12…g6!? intending to creep forwards on the kingside. This works well after the dark-squared bishops have been exchanged.

I had rather lazily assumed that the knight would be tactically vulnerable here, but then realized my d5-pawn was more of a concern than the white knight.
[fen size=”small”]4rrk1/1ppb1ppp/p1nq4/3p4/3Pn3/2P1NN2/PP2BPPP/R2QR1K1 b – – 0 13[/fen]
Anticipating Qb3.

14.Bd3 g6!
I was quite pleased with this and the next move.

15.c4 Nf6!
Admitting that the earlier knight lunge to e4 was premature. Fortunately for me, the black position is solid enough to withstand this loss of time. The position is still objectively equal, but I have achieved my goal of making things slightly more unbalanced.

16.c5 Qd8
I won’t annotate the remaining moves in much detail. The main point I wanted to highlight is that one need not fear the drawish tendencies of the Exchange French. The position may be symmetrical, but with a full board of pieces there will always be ways to make the game interesting.

17.Qa4 Ne7
White was threatening Bxa6.

18.b4 Nh5
Commencing kingside play. The final phase of the game contains a few inaccuracies on both sides, as we were approaching the time control (it was just one hour each to reach move 30).

19.Ne5?! f6 20.Nf3 Nf4 21.Bc2 h5! 22.Qb3 Bg4
[fen size=”small”]3qrrk1/1pp1n3/p4pp1/2Pp3p/1P1P1nb1/1Q2NN2/P1B2PPP/R3R1K1 w – – 0 23[/fen]
Now I get a nice clamp on the kingside. Part of my plan was to establish pawns on light squares to play against the enemy bishop.

23…hxg4 24.Nh4 f5 25.Qg3
The machine points out that 25.Qe3 g5 26.Qd2 was correct, but this is not at all obvious for a human player.


26.Qc3 would have helped by covering the e1-square (see the next note for why this matters) but White’s position is still unpleasant.

26…g5 27.h3
27.Rxe7 Qxe7 28.Ng6 Qe1+

27…gxh4 28.hxg4 Ng7 29.g5 Ng6 30.Rxe8
White lost on time while playing this move, but she could have resigned anyway.


[Event “Dumbarton League”]

[Site “Glasgow”]

[Date “2014”]

[White “Bamber, Elaine”]

[Black “Greet, Andrew”]

[Result “0-1”]

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.Bf4 Bd6 6.Bxd6 Qxd6 7.c3 0–0 8.Be2 Nc6 9.0–0 Bd7 10.Na3 Rae8 11.Re1 a6 12.Nc2 Ne4 13.Ne3 Bc8 14.Bd3 g6 15.c4 Nf6 16.c5 Qd8 17.Qa4 Ne7 18.b4 Nh5 19.Ne5 f6 20.Nf3 Nf4 21.Bc2 h5 22.Qb3 Bg4 23.Nxg4 hxg4 24.Nh4 f5 25.Qg3 Nh5 26.Qd3 g5 27.h3 gxh4 28.hxg4 Ng7 29.g5 Ng6 30.Rxe8 0-1[/pgn]


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February 10th, 2014 13 comments

I know I had promised to put up Part II of Ray’s question, but I have been hit by a wave of energy over the last few days and have spent it all on ENDGAME PLAY, which looks like it will be ready for publication around the 30th April or something like that. I might even have some early copies with me to the Danish Championship in Skorping, though I cannot guarantee this.

For today, I just wanted to underline the importance of studying imagination. Essentially, imagination covers all things non-standard. It is outside the usual pattern recognition or calculation, and thus does not fit into some of the more popular current models of the game. However, it is an important part of Dvoretsky’s teaching and I ahve always taken it very seriously. Solving is definitely a way to improve your imagination.

As an exercise,  take a look at this position and think of a good idea for White (it is deep and White is by no means winning).

Goganov – Andersen, Yerevan 2014

[fen size=”small”]r3kb1r/pp1b2pB/1q2pp2/n2pB2n/3P4/2N1P3/PPQ2PPP/R3K1NR w KQkq – 0 13[/fen]

White to play – What is the trickiest move?

Let us add an exercise that looks a bit the same, but is both easier and more fun!

Vigorito – Kelleher, US 2011

[fen size=”small”]2rqkb1r/pp1b3p/2n1pp2/3p2pn/3P3B/P1NBPN2/1PQ2PPP/R3K2R w KQk – 0 15[/fen]

 White to play and win

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Databases, Engines and Over-the-Horizon Killer Sacs

February 7th, 2014 28 comments

The following game is just fun – any instructional value is accidental.

Most modern players have great faith in their analytical engine, but it’s worth recalling that even 3400–rated monsters are not all-seeing. For sharp opening lines, a good database is just as essential as a strong engine. While browsing through a recent TWIC I spotted a perfect piece of computer-aided prep all the way to the end of the game. My guess is that White found the winning idea in his database rather than had it suggested by an engine.

Laurent – Gulbas, Belgium 2014

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.f4 Bg7 5.Nf3 0–0 6.e5!? Nfd7

As played by Gulbas before. 6…dxe5 is less wild, but may also offer White chances of an edge after 7.fxe5.

7.h4 c5 8.h5 cxd4 9.Qxd4 dxe5 10.Qf2 e4 led to a win for Black in Philipowski – Gulbas, Belgium 2010.

7…Nb6 is much safer, but leaves White’s centre looking solid. A recent game continued: 8.Bb3 Nc6 9.0–0 Bg4 10.Be3 Na5 11.Qe2 Qd7 12.h3 Bxf3 13.Rxf3 Nxb3 14.axb3² Pruijssers – Cuijpers, Netherlands 2014.

8.e6 Nb6
As played 41 times on my database, but probably close to lost. 8…fxe6 is ugly and admits Black is worse, but at least he is probably not getting mated.

9.exf7+ Kh8
This is where a good database is more valuable than a strong engine. The engine will keep suggesting that White move the attacked bishop. Perhaps the horizon will stretch far enough if you leave the engine fixed here overnight, but that is impractical for most people to do with every position in their repertoire.
[fen size=”small”]rnbq1r1k/pp2pPbp/1n1p2p1/2p5/2BP1P2/2N2N2/PPP3PP/R1BQK2R w KQ – 0 10[/fen]

Gloriously crude. White sees a king on h8 and a rook on h1, and that’s about all. The usual move is 10.Be2 but it is painfully feeble in comparison.

10…Bg4 does not stop the advance: 11.h5!

11.h5 Bf5 12.hxg6
This is a wonder-novelty. Well it was when Ivanisevic played it in 2012. 12.g4 and 12.Ng5 were the old messy moves.

The engine can quickly take it from here: after just a few seconds its first choices over the next few moves lead to a win.

13.f5! Bxf5 14.Ng5 Qd7
14…Qc8 is perhaps a more challenging defence, but still losing. 15.Qh5 h6 16.Nd5!+- If you see the Ivanisevic game below, perhaps this line is what White was remembering from his prep. Naturally I at first had no idea why going to c8 is tougher than d7. The point is that if White plays as in the game, the queen can slide along to g8: 16.d5 Ne5 17.Ne6 Rxf7 18.Bxh6 Bxh6 19.Qxh6+ Bh7 20.Ne4 Qg8 Black is just hanging on.

15.Qh5 h6

[fen size=”small”]rn3r1k/pp1qpPb1/3p3p/2p2bNQ/2nP4/2N5/PPP3P1/R1B1K2R w KQ – 0 16[/fen]

The engine gives this at once as winning.
The original game was less convincing but all good fun: 16.Nd5 e5 (16…cxd4!?) 17.g4 (17.Nf6!) 17…Bxc2 18.0–0 Bg6 19.Qxg6 Qxg4+ 20.Kh2 hxg5 21.Bxg5 Nd7 22.Rg1 Qf3 23.Bf6 Qf2+ 24.Rg2 1–0 Ivanisevic – Dzhumaev, Al-Ain 2012. So how could Dzhumaev have avoided this? Probably he couldn’t. Just accept that this sort of thing will happen occasionally if you play sharp lines.

16…Ne5 17.Ne6 Rxf7 18.Bxh6 Bxh6 19.Qxh6+ Bh7 20.Ne4 Qa4 21.N4g5 Kg8 22.Nxf7 Qe4+ 23.Kf1
Black resigned as 23…Qf5+ 24.Kg1 Qxf7 25.Rf1 is mating.

I would not be surprised if White had the whole game on his computer before the game started. How to avoid this happening to you? If you have a sharp forcing position in your repertoire (like 6…Nfd7) then you need to keep up to date with the latest games. Even the best engine won’t save you from an over-the-horizon killer sac.


[Event “Belgium”]

[Site “”]

[Date “2014”]

[Round “”]

[White “Laurent”]

[Black “Gulbas”]

[Result “1-0”]


1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. f4 Bg7 5. Nf3 O-O 6. e5 Nfd7 7. Bc4 c5 8. e6

Nb6 9. exf7+ Kh8 10. h4 Nxc4 11. h5 Bf5 12. hxg6 Bxg6 13. f5 Bxf5 14. Ng5 Qd7

15. Qh5 h6 16. d5 Ne5 17. Ne6 Rxf7 18. Bxh6 Bxh6 19. Qxh6+ Bh7 20. Ne4 Qa4 21.

N4g5 Kg8 22. Nxf7 Qe4+ 23. Kf1 1-0[/pgn]

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How to avoid going into suicidal complications – Part 1

February 3rd, 2014 11 comments


Some months ago we had a question on the blog (quoted below in italics) and I wanted to come back to it for a while, I was just really stressed out and on auto-pilot (yes this is also why I have not completed Endgame Play; I did not want it to be a bad book). But having gone through a five-day juice detox, I feel human again.

I will answer this question in two columns, as there are two games to relate to. The other one will come next Monday.

Interesting column and game! What struck me especially is your comment that you chose a move which you knew was bad, because you bended with respect to another variation. I would like to share a similar experience I had in two of my own national league games, only it went the other way around, i.e., I chose for unclear/dubious complications against my (lack of) intuition. In the most recent one (played some weeks ago) I was White against a 2300 opponent:

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e4 Nc6 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.d5 Ne5 6.Bf4 Ng6 7.Be3 Nf6 8.Bxc4 a6 (I had prepared the pawn sacrifice 8…Nxe4 at home. It is very dangerous for black, so he played after some thought a move which I hadn’t looked at at home) 8…a6 9.Nbd2 Ne5 (this came as a surprise to me. I had mostly looked at 9…e5 which would have transposed to known territory). 10.Be2 Nxf3+ 11.Nxf3 e6 12.h3 Bxf3 13.Bxf3 exd5 14.e5 Ne4 15.Bxe4 (the computer prefers 15.0-0 +/=) 15…dxe4 16.Qb3?! (I had seen black’s reply, but I hadn’t calculated deeply enough to see that this is very dangerous for white. The originally planned 16.Qa4 and 17.Qxe4 gives white a risk-free edge, since I have a kingside pawn majority supported by centralised heavy pieces, which should give me good attacking chances. Still I chose for the more risky route. I should have remembered Nunn’s advice ‘don’t analyse unnecessary tactics’ – I’m still wondering why I didn’t just play the safe move.). 16…Qd3! 17.Qxb7 Rd8 18.Bg5? (a horrible move played without much deep thought, giving away all the dark squares around my king to my opponent. I could still have bailed out with 18.Qc6+ with a draw. The computer suggests 18.a3 with a slight plus for white. This is a clear case of bending to me; I stopped calculating after black’s 21st move, but in reality that position is already more or less lost for white. Black’s king is much safer than white’s). 18…Be7! 19.Bxe7 Kxe7 20.Qxc7+ Rd7 21.Qc5+ Ke6 22.Qe3? (22.h4 is relatively best). 22…Rc8 23.Qxd3 exd3 (with a won position for black. He finishes it off in an instructive manner) 24.f4 Rc2 25.0-0 Rxb2 26.a4 d2 27.Rad1 Rd4 28.a5 Kf5 29.Rf2 Ke4 30.Rf3 Rd3 31.Rf2 Kd4 32.Kf1 Kc3 33.Ke2 Rb4 34.Rf3 Re4+ 35.Kf2 Kc2 36.Rxd3 Kxd3 37.Ra1 Rxf4+ 38.Kg3 Rc4 0-1.


While it seems clear which mistakes I made in these particular games, I have the following question Jacob: what is in your opinion the best way to train to change this habit of choosing for complications even though you have the feeling it’s kind of suicidal? Which of your books is/are best suited to work on this?


Sorry for this long post, but you kind of invited the readers to no be shy :-). Besides, it is on topic for a change :-).

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