5 ... h5
While some of the players of the twenties might just have played Black’s first four moves I don’t think anyone but a modern - not even Nimzowitsch - would have played ... P-KR4 so early. Black is fixing his grip on KB4 for his knight and the blocked position means that the loss of time does not matter.
C. H. O’D. Alexander (The Modern Defence, Keene and Botterill 1972)
I think I’m over it now. The compulsive completely unnecessary purchasing of new openings books, I mean. It might have taken 25 years but I think I’ve moved on.
Coincidentally or otherwise, I seem to have developed a raging 'purchasing of secondhand openings books' habit of late. Methadone to my previously preferred heroin perhaps. If nothing else, it is at least cheaper.
At the moment I"m mostly collecting old books devoted to the Pirc/Modern complex. John Nunn’s New Ideas in the Pirc (1993), for instance. Ray and Botters’ books from the early 70s, of course. La defines PIRC en 60 parties by Jacques Le Monnier ("un theoricien francais de reputation internationale" allegedly) even.
My latest addition, David Norwood’s Winning with the Modern, I picked up just last week.
Nozzer's book is rather interesting in its own quirky, somewhat ramshackle kind of a way. Much like the opening itself, I suppose. Anyhoo, while WWtM contains lots of fascinating games, many of which are by the author himself - as positive a sign in the 90s as it is today - it has to be said that the book hasn’t been put together with quite as much thought as might be hoped for.
On page 58 Nozz writes,
One possible idea that has just crossed my mind is to try 8 ... d5!?
Any reader who has worked his or her way through 1 to 57 might reasonably suspect that this is not just be an expression but could be literally true. The notion of advancing the queen’s pawn a second time popping into Norwood’s head as he was in the middle of typing out the page.
"If this idea is codswallop, then Black needs some new ideas against 8 Be3" is Norwood’s conclusion. Other than 8 ... e5 (which is assessed as better for White), Winning with the Modern doesn’t supply them, though. So if the speculative pawn push doesn’t stand-up the book’s suggested line against the Classical becomes unplayable and you can’t switch to ... Bg4 systems instead because WWtM has Black committed to a very early ... c6 to give an extra option against the Austrian Attack.
It is by no means an exaggeration that the entire book hangs on a move which has just come off of the top of Norwood’s head and which he analyses for less than half a sentence.
Talking of the Austrian Attack, WWtM's suggestion there is the Gurgenidze system. It’s an interesting choice that that has Black rejecting the usual Pirc-Modern strategy of a dark-square counterattack in favour of a light-square blockade. Dodgy or otherwise (my guess is the former) it does at least have the merit of being something that Norwood was prepared to play himself. The chess world would be a whole lot better place, I feel, if somebody passed a law banning authors from recommending lines that they had not punted in rated games
Not that Winning With ... was the first book to take a close look at The Gurg*. Keene and Botterill had an entire chapter on it. It’s where I found the Alexander quote at the top of today’s blog.
There’s something rather lovely about somebody discussing modernity whilst using descriptive notation. It’s as anachronistic as K&B’s choice of
Divers Blockading Attempts
as their title for the section of their book that describes a range of different systems that are related to, but subtly different from, the Gugendize proper.
Don’t let an overdose of quaint blind you to the fact that the game that Alexander is annotating - Honfi against Gurgenidze from 1968 - is great fun. Black pretty much bashes in White’s head using just minor pieces and pawns. At the moment the decisive blow is delivered on move 26 Gurgenidze's king is still in the centre, his rooks lie untouched on their original squares and his queen has only made it as far as e7.
Superb stuff. Just the sort of thing that inspires me to take a closer look at Norwood’s analysis, in fact. If I don’t get distracted by some new old book purchase, that is.
* Copyright John Hickman