Wednesday, March 12, 2008


White to Play

Tom and I have often been known to while away our lunchtimes playing blitz chess in the pub on the LSE campus. At least once each time we play TC will spy a loose piece then, after a moment's reflection to check it's not a trap, make the capture whilst declaring, "I see no ships".

It's an appropriately nautical metaphor for a lad raised in Portsmouth and it came to mind when I stumbled into today's position after about twenty minutes or so of my game with Simon Wrigley during the Croydon B team match at Coulsdon last week.

Already a pawn ahead, although with obvious compensation for Black, it's not too difficult to see that White can nab a piece with,

exf6 Re8, Kf1 Qxf6

but does he want to? What of Black's pieces that can sail with apparent ease over to the kingside? What of the White fleet gummed up on the queenside?

Do you see any ships here?


Tom Chivers said...

I see no ships! (Or, as I apparently and disappointingly should actually say, "I really do not see the signal.")

ejh said...

Nelson: a murderous reactionary thug.

ejh said...

Meanwhile, back in the present: My cynical view is that if there were nothing here for Black you wouldn't be asking us, but without a chessboard in front of me I'm not sure I see it. This is an f2 question: and I'd assume Black needs to play ...d5 and ...Bf5 in order to get rid of the defender on d3, which is itself of course hampering White's development. Meanwhile White needs to play something like Bb3 and Na4, right? And is he not getting that in before Black's manouevre is complete?

Jonathan B said...

I'm not sure if there's anything specific here it's more a question of evaluation I think.

I was curious as to whether people would want to grab the piece then try to unravel or instead avoid a difficult defence.

In the game I castled. Tom, who was playing on the next board, mentioned to me after the game that he thought it was possible to take on f6.

At the time I wasn't sure. To be honest I didn't think too much about it - I just saw that it would be very difficult to get my pieces into play and didn't want to risk a difficult defence against Simon who had proven himself to be a dangerous attacker in our previous games.

Fearless Fritz, given a moment or two to think about this position, wants to take the knight. He/it assesses the position as clearly better for White with an evaluation of +1.something. In otherwords he feels Black gets two-thirds of a knight in compensation but not quite enough.

Jonathan B said...

Maybe I'd take the knight next time now I've had a chance to conduct a cool analysis of the possibilities. Perhaps I'd have taken it during a correspondence game.

In the context of an OTB game with the clock ticking it seemed to me that not taking was a sound practical decision and grabbing the material was just too dangerous.

Perhaps it's a question of taste as much as anything else? Or perhaps I just bottled a difficult decision.

The game, btw, ended in a draw after numerous errors on both sides.

ejh said...

The exercise of judgement is appallingly hard in these positions, I agree, but one question ask might be - if I do not take the knight, what compensation do I have for Black's advantages?

You might very well lose quickly if you take the knight, but you might also if you let him keep him - and it's not as if the king is completely safe when castled.

If I were playing Black here - not out of the question given my repertoire - I might be happier if you didn't take. Partly, perhaps, because I might think ha, he's bottled it.

But you might have taken the right decision. It's hard to say what's right, because it the absence of a clear win for anybody, it doesn't help much to look at it afterwards and say "this was the best move" - what was the wisest move? Or even, "what was the wisest way to look at it?"

And I think it's not just a question of which option you took, but a question of whether you summed up both options as well as you could rather than just saying something like "better not, just in case".

Tom Chivers said...

I'd have taken it, although my gut reaction for a defence - 1.Qg4 d6 2.Qf4 - is better for black after 2...Bf5, Crafty says.

Tom Chivers said...

Via & somewhat extraordinarily...

[Event "TUR-ch"]
[Site "Turkey"]
[Date "1993.??.??"]
[Round "13"]
[White "Basoren,Halil"]
[Black "Bayram,Yakup"]
[Result "0-1"]
[Eco "C48"]
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.Bb5 Nd4 5.Ba4 Bc5 6.Nxe5 0-0 7.Nd3 Bb6 8.e5 c6
9.0-0 Ne8 10.Kh1 d6 11.exd6 Qh4 12.d7 Bxd7 13.Ne5 Be6 14.Nf3 Nxf3 15.Qxf3 Bc7 16.g3 Qh3
17.Kg1 Bg4 18.Qg2 Qh5 19.Re1 Bf3 20.Qf1 Nf6 21.d4 Ng4 22.h4 Qxh4 0-1

[Event "IECC KO email"]
[Site "IECC email"]
[Date "1998.??.??"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Lemettinen,Petteri"]
[Black "Dror,Aaron"]
[Result "0-1"]
[Eco "C48"]
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.Bb5 Nd4 5.Ba4 Bc5 6.Nxe5 0-0 7.Nd3 Bb6 8.e5 c6
9.0-0 Ne8 10.Ne1 d6 11.exd6 Nf6 12.Kh1 Qxd6 13.g3 Bh3 14.Ng2 Qc5 0-1

[Event "IECC KO email"]
[Site "IECC email"]
[Date "1999.??.??"]
[Round "0"]
[White "Sani,Valentino"]
[Black "Dror,Aaron"]
[Result "1/2"]
[Eco "C48"]
1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.Bb5 Nd4 5.Ba4 Bc5 6.Nxe5 0-0 7.Nd3 Bb6 8.e5 c6
9.0-0 Ne8 10.h3 d6 11.exd6 Nxd6 12.Nf4 g5 13.Nfe2 g4 14.Nxd4 Bxd4 15.hxg4 Qh4 16.Qf3 Bxg4
17.Qf4 Nf5 18.Ne4 Rae8 19.d3 Rxe4 20.dxe4 Ng3 21.Qg5+ Qxg5 22.Bxg5 Nxf1 23.Kxf1 b5 1/2

[Event "Brno IM-B"]
[Site "Brno"]
[Date "2004.07.03"]
[Round "7"]
[White "Arzumanian,Georgy"]
[Black "Schwarz,Dusan"]
[Result "1-0"]
[Eco "C48"]
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Nd4 5.Ba4 c6 6.Nxe5 Bc5 7.Nd3 Bb6 8.e5 0-0
9.0-0 Ne8 10.Ne2 d6 11.c3 Bf5 12.Ne1 Nxe2+ 13.Qxe2 dxe5 14.Qxe5 Bg4 15.d4 Nf6 16.Nc2 Bc7
17.Qg5 Qd6 18.g3 Qd7 19.f3 Bh3 20.Re1 Nd5 21.Qd2 h5 22.Qg5 Rae8 23.Bd2 h4 24.Qxh4 Qf5
25.Ne3 Nxe3 26.Bxe3 Qxf3 27.Qxh3 Rxe3 28.Bc2 g6 29.Rf1 Qd5 30.Bxg6 1-0

[Event "Manresa op"]
[Site "Manresa"]
[Date "2004.08.21"]
[Round "3"]
[White "Vehi Bach,Victor Manuel"]
[Black "Banos,Oscar"]
[Result "1-0"]
[Eco "C48"]
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Nd4 5.Nxe5 Bc5 6.Nd3 Bb6 7.e5 c6 8.Ba4 0-0
9.0-0 Ne8 10.Ne2 d5 11.Nxd4 Bxd4 12.c3 Bb6 13.Nf4 f6 14.exf6 Nxf6 15.d4 Bc7 16.f3 Bf5
17.Bc2 Qd7 18.Bxf5 Qxf5 19.Qd3 Qd7 20.Bd2 Rae8 21.Rae1 Qd6 22.g3 g5 23.Ng2 Nh5 24.Rxe8 Rxe8
25.Bxg5 Nxg3 26.hxg3 Qxg3 27.Bh4 Qh2+ 28.Kf2 Bf4 29.Qc2 Be3+ 30.Ke1 Bg5+ 31.Kd1 Bxh4 32.Nxh4 Qxh4
33.Rg1+ Kh8 34.Qg2 Qf6 35.a4 Rf8 36.Kc2 a5 37.Kb3 b6 38.f4 Qf7 39.Qg5 Re8 40.Rh1 c5
41.Rh5 cxd4 42.cxd4 Re6 43.Qxd5 Qxf4 44.Qd8+ Kg7 45.Qd7+ Kf6 46.Rxh7 Qe3+ 47.Ka2 1-0

[Event "Wch U20"]
[Site "Yerevan"]
[Date "2006.10.03"]
[Round "10"]
[White "Baramidze,David"]
[Black "Babuiian,Levon"]
[Result "0-1"]
[Eco "C48"]
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.Nc3 Nd4 5.Ba4 Bc5 6.Nxe5 0-0 7.Nd3 Bb6 8.e5 c6
9.0-0 Ne8 10.Ne4 d5 11.Ng3 Qh4 12.c3 Nf5 13.Kh1 f6 14.Bc2 Bc7 15.Re1 fxe5 16.Nxe5 Bxe5
17.Rxe5 Nxg3+ 18.fxg3 Qf6 19.Re1 Bg4 0-1

[Event "Corus"]
[Site "Wijk aan Zee"]
[Date "2007.01.13"]
[Round "6"]
[White "Motylev,Alexander"]
[Black "Carlsen,Magnus"]
[Result "1/2"]
[Eco "C48"]
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Nd4 5.Ba4 Bc5 6.Nxe5 0-0 7.Nd3 Bb6 8.e5 c6
9.0-0 Ne8 10.Ne2 Qh4 11.Nxd4 Qxd4 12.Bb3 d5 13.Qe2 f6 14.e6 Nc7 15.c3 Qh4 16.g3 Qh6
17.Nc5 Bxc5 18.d4 Qh3 19.dxc5 Nxe6 20.Be3 Re8 21.Qd2 Nf8 22.Rae1 Ng6 23.f3 h5 24.Bd4 Bf5
25.c4 Ne7 26.Re3 Be6 27.Qe2 Kf7 28.g4 Ng6 29.f4 Bxg4 30.cxd5 Bxe2 31.dxc6+ Kf8 32.Rxh3 Bxf1
33.Kxf1 bxc6 34.f5 Nf4 35.Rh4 Nd3 36.Be6 Rab8 37.Rxh5 Rb4 38.Rh8+ Ke7 39.Bxf6+ Kxf6 40.Rxe8 Rxb2
41.Rf8+ Ke5 42.Rf7 Nxc5 43.Rxg7 Rxh2 44.Rxa7 Nxe6 1/2

ejh said...

So Dror got one.

ejh said...

Anyway, if I followed those pgns correctly, nobody takes on f6.

I wonder - did Jonathan ask his opponent if it was a standard line?

The subscriber-only guide at ChessPublishing calls 8...c6 "an astonishing move" and the knight-capture line "the acid test when White has an extra piece but badly gummed-up development".

Anyway, praxis seems to vindicate JB's judgement.

Four Knights' though, what's the point. Play the Lopez and if you want something dull to avoid too much theory, play the Exchange...

Jonathan B said...

I'm astonished to see the Motylev-Carlsen game from last year's Wijk.

My opponent said after the game he thought he must have wandered into a bad line when he realised he should really play 8. ... Ne8 instead of his 8. ... c6 which he came up with at the board. He was quite surprised when I told him it was all book and ... Ne8 is the approved move.

Monsieur Wrigley also said that he had a vague memory of a sacrifice involving ... c6 from Black. I had assumed he had misremembered (Hebden's I think)

1. e4 e5, 2. Nf3 Nc6, 3. Nc3 Nf6, 4. Bb5 Nd4, 5. Ba4 c6

instead of 5. ... Bc5 as played.

Perhaps he'd seen the Carlsen game or some other but just couldn't quite remember it.

btw: I used to play the Four Knights a good deal and I'd probably still be playing 1. e4 now if I could expect to get this line all the time.

I got the chance to play it against Coulsdon and went for it for old times' sake as much as anything else. I couldn't remember too much of the theory although as it turned out that wouldn't have mattered anyway.

ejh said...

You didn't start 1.Nf3 Nc6 2.e4 or something?

ejh said...

I should admit by the way that as far as I recall my tournament experience with the Four Knights' consists of the following:

a) being turned over by the amiable Michael White at Blackpool a few years ago when he played a move-order Botvinnik considered inaccurate - but my recollection of Botvinnik's recommendation was more inaccurate still;

b) playing a game as White in something like 1977 which went 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bc4 Bc5 5.Nxe5??. I believe in fact that this may have been my first ever tournament game.

Actually, there's a possible series there....

Jonathan B said...


You didn't start 1.Nf3 Nc6 2.e4 or something?

Indeed I did. I know it makes no sense and that 1. Nf3 Nc6, 2. d4 must be a better move but I didn't fancy playing into a line - The Chigorin - about which I knew next to nothing. Particularly so against Simon who I know from the past to be a very dangerous opponent.

ejh said...

Back at the original question, I've not yet found more than a draw for Black against 11.g3 (after the knight capture). Nor have I found a win against my Bb3/Na4 plan, although I suspect it's not really very good.

Anonymous said...

Personally I'd whip off the knight with a Korchnoiesque shrug in less than a minute. Like Victor Meldrew I don't believe it!

Anonymous said...

Black doesn't have to play Qxf6


Jonathan B said...

true Richard but it seems kind of an obvious choice to me. What's the alternative?

ejh said...

I had a think about this when I first looked at the position. I'm not sure anything can be gained by leaving the pawn there, unless White is stupid enough to rush into fxg7. The point about capturing the pawn isn't the pawn, as such, it's that the queen is out and pressuring f2.

I also suspect just from a brief glance that if Black played, say, d5, then White would have Nf4. then the capture on f6 would come too late, as White would have Nd5.

neosceptic said...

Und ein Schiff mit acht Segeln
Und mit funfzig Kanonen
Wird liegen am Kai

ejh said...

Brecht apparently

Anonymous said...

Hey guys,

Investigating this line, I came across this post. I don't know if you are still interested in this line (or, indeed, whether anyone will even notice that I have posted a comment here), but I came across something that you might find interesting. Swedish FM Martin Lokander has written a book called "The Open Games with Black" where he discusses this particular piece sacrifice in the introduction, an excerpt of which is available for free from the Everyman website: