Friday, November 13, 2009

The Board Beside Me III

This position appeared, early last Saturday evening, on board six in the individual championship of Huesca province, seventh round. It will give you an idea of what a disastrous time I am currently having on the chessboard if I tell you I am the highest-rated player in the tournament by 150 Elo points - yet nevertheless I was playing on the adjacent board.

I had a little glance to my right very early on and noticed that the game had begun 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3. By the time of my second glance the position in the diagram had appeared, much to my interest since it was probably the first theoretical line I was ever aware of, having seen it more than thirty years ago in my father's copy of David Hooper's A Complete Defence To 1-P-K4.

Play had obviously continued 2...Nf6 and then 3.d4 exd4, both unfashionable moves, the first having been displaced by 3.Nxe5 and the second, on those occasions when 3.d4 is played, by 3...Nxe4, the pawn capture having been seen in the 1990 Kasparov-Karpov match but not a great deal since.

Still, just because the supergrandmasters don't play it much any more doesn't mean it isn't perfectly playable at club level, just that it normally isn't played at club level. So, 4.e5 having followed, and not having seen the position on a chessboard for perhaps two decades, I looked forward to seeing what would develop after the near-compulsory 4...Ne4 and then 5.Qxd4 d5 6.exd6 Nxd6, as thus the line normally proceeds, or at any rate used to. Interesting of Black, I thought, to dig up this old, but sound, continuation in his preparation.

Be that as it may, it seemed that Black's preparation had, in fact, come to an end, since his reply took a little time a-coming. So while I wondered whether he was, perhaps, thinking about moving the knight to d5, I turned back to my own game where I had found myself in an unfamiliar position on move two (1.c4 e6 2.e4) and by the time I looked to my right again, Black, eschewing the symmetrical pawn structure and slight inferiority of the main line, had opted for a tactical solution with 4...Bb4+.

What he had hoped to gain from this was - and remains - unclear to me, since White had replied with the not wholly unforeseeable 5.c3

which gave Black the choice of losing either his bishop or his knight.

He opted to send the bishop on its way and indeed after 5...dxc3 6.bxc3 Bxc3+ 7.Nxc3 Qe7 8.Be2 Ng4 9.Qd4 he chose to go on his way too, leaving White free to spend the rest of the evening playing billiards and the present writer speculating as to what Black had been up to in this game - whether he forgot his knight was attacked, or thought White would recapture on c3 with his knight. Or even whether he'd even placed his knight on e4 already in his head.

Who knows. Conceivably he doesn't know himself. Conceivably he never did.


Jonathan B said...

Curiously it was my first theoretical line too - the 2nd edition being my first opening book.

Anonymous said...

Andy Soltis writes about Fischer's openings in the latest edition of New In Chess magazine:

'Fischer's revival of Steinitz's anti-Petroff weapon, 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. d4 exd4 4. e5 Ne4 5 Qe2!?, was dazzling in his victory over Eugenio German at Stockholm 1962. But was virtually forgotten after 1980.'


Anonymous said...

I should have thought a little more before submitting my previous comment. After 5. Qe2, 5... Bb4+ is a move so might Black have anticipated this but played his bishop check out of sequence?

The 5. Qe2 idea looks interesting. After 5. Qe2 Bb4+ 6 Kd1 (better might be 6. Nbd2) d5 7. exd6 f5 8. Ng5 0-0, White can win a piece in two ways with 9. Nxe4 fxe4 10. Qc4+ and then either 11. Qxb4 or 11. dc but in either case he will be underdeveloped and exposed.


ejh said...

Yes, I saw the NiC piece (and I remembered Fischer's advocacy of 5.Qe2 anyway) which is partly why I referred to 4...Ne4 as "near-compulsory" but not 5.Qxd4.

Flicking through the relevant chapter of Batsford's Petroff book from 1983 (Forintos/Haag) I notice - page 46 - a game won by White in fourteen moves. Horton-Clarke, 1973.

It wasn't me.