Friday, April 02, 2010

My favourite moves XI


Dresden 1926


There are moments from your childhood which, if you follow me, although you remember that they happened, you cannot quite remember them actually happening. I know I was shown Nimzowitsch-Rubinstein, by, I assume, my father, though I can't directly recall him doing so. But though I have no recollection of the event as such, I will always remember Nh1.

The knight goes to the corner, the opposite to where it should. In contradiction, direct contradiction, to all the rules about development and piece-placing that I had only recently learned. This was shocking, and exciting, to me, as a child learning chess in the Seventies - as indeed it must have been to the world of chess in 1926. I can only remember Fischer's 11...Ng6 having anything like a similar effect on me.

One can scarcely talk about Nimzowitsch without speaking of Ray, who, in his Nimzowitsch: A Reappraisal, writes of the knight move:
A wonderful idea. White has in mind the manoeuvre Nh1-f2-h3-g5, in conjunction with Qh5, as a method of assaulting the position of Black's king.
This is true, of course, but it's not really the point, at least in so far as the impact of the move, as opposed to its purpose, is concerned. It's not where the knight's going, it's where it's just gone. It's N-R1, the knight in the corner, the knight to the only part of the board where it possesses, even on an empty board, just two possible moves. That's the shock. That's what we care about, and never mind its destination.

Ray continues:
When I first read My System I was so impressed by this game that I deliberately created situations in my next few games where the move Ng3-h1 was possible, in the belief that this mystical retreat would somehow result in a miraculous increase of energy in my position, irrespective of whatever else may have been happening on the board at the time.
Quite so. Indeed, shortly after reading Reappraisal a dozen years ago I found myself deliberately trying to engineer cramped positions, overprotection, pawn chains and knight retreats:

Tebbs-Horton, Hertfordshire v Oxfordshire 1998

7...Nc6 (cramped position) 8.O-O a6 9.c3 e5 (pawn chain) 10.Bh2 Nd7 (overprotection) 11.d5?! Ncb8 (knight retreat).

I rather like playing like this, and am suspicious of the fact that I like it: while you're being all clever and Nimzowitschian, the opponent is liable to be playing sensibly and winning the game. A shame, mind you, that the knight didn't quite make it to the rook's square, though returning to its original square is feat enough: I managed it again the following year in the BCF congress at Scarborough.

Horton-Rosen, Harry Baines 1999

6.Nf3 e4 7.Ng1!

Ho ho very paradoxical. Though in truth, I was doing reasonably well in both games as a result of the would-be Nimzowitschian manoeuvres.

I'm not sure, as it happens, that I've ever managed to get my knight to rook one. At least, though I may have done so in an ending now and then, I don't think I've ever managed it as part of a deliberate middlegame plan. Or even a touch earlier:

Hjartarson-Korchnoi, Amsterdam 1991


I almost took up the Black side of the French just so that I could put the knight where Korchnoi put it.

But as it is, my knights seem to head for their own square rather than the corner, which might lead one to conclude that my real inspiration wasn't Nimzowitsch but Karpov, whose N-N1 was played when I was eight:

Karpov-Spassky, Candidates' Semi-Final 1974, game 9.


But it wasn't. And looking at where Karpov's knight then went, towards the g5 square, though it never actually arrived - I wonder whether it was Nimzowitsch that he was thinking of, too. Perhaps the knight move was an ineradicable part of his own childhood. As it was part of mine.

(Thanks to Sean Terry for his help with this piece.)

[Favourite moves index]


Campion said...

I remember seeing - back when I had delusions of improving my chess by subscribing to the BCM - a game of Jonathan Speelman where he had Black (against van Wely? don't recall I'm afraid). After 1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 f3 , Speelman didn't want to allow the transposition to a Saemisch, or to go for the queenless position after 3 ... e5 4 de de 5 Qxd8+ Kxd8. With that in mind, what could be more natural than

3 ... d5!? 4. e5 Ng8!!??

which I think he described as "spur of the moment"...

Anonymous said...

Play the Alekhine!

The g8 knight gets to visit every square on the board. Almost.


Tom Chivers said...

I played a game the other night where I completed the manoeuvres Nb8-d7-b8 as well as Bc8-b7-c8. I had also managed to get my rook to a1 in one move, and have to admit I was tempted to put it back on a8 to complete the hat-trick, so to speak.

Anonymous said...

As a junior I had much fun and numerous victories with 1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nd2 Nf6 4 e5 Nfd7 5 Bd3 b6 6 Qe2 c5 7 c3 cxd4 8 cxd4 Nc6 9 Ngf3 Nb4 10 0-0 Nxd3 11 Qxd3 Nb8 smug in the fact that I was better with all my bits on the back rank and my Kn on b8 while White was nearly fully developed. Luckily I spotted 12 b4 before any of my opponents did after which Black is getting mangled.

ejh said...

On the other hand, Psakhis gives 11...Be7 (from a Botvinnik game of 1938) with advantage to Black, and if you don't want to develop anything the computer also likes Black after 11...a5. Not totally thematic with the knight still developed, but never mind.

Jack Rudd said...

Feel the awesomeness of the knight on a1!

[Event "4NCL/Div2b/E2E41 vs. BRI1"]
[Site "Hinckley Island ENG"]
[Date "2010.02.20"]
[Round "5.2"]
[White "Rudd, Jack"]
[Black "Byron, Alan M"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B68"]
[WhiteElo "2286"]
[BlackElo "2196"]
[PlyCount "121"]
[EventDate "2010.02.20"]
[SourceDate "2009.10.24"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bg5 e6 7. Qd2 Be7 8.
O-O-O a6 9. f4 Bd7 10. Nb3 b5 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. f5 Qb6 13. g4 O-O-O 14. Bg2 Ne5
15. h3 Kb8 16. Nd4 Rc8 17. Qh6 Qa5 18. Kb1 Nc4 19. Rd3 b4 20. Nce2 e5 21. Nb3
Qc7 22. Na1 Bb5 23. Rhd1 Nb6 24. Re3 Nd7 25. Nc1 Qb6 26. Ree1 Nc5 27. Bf3 a5
28. Qe3 a4 29. Ne2 Rc7 30. Ng3 Rhc8 31. Be2 Rb7 32. Bxb5 Qxb5 33. Qe2 b3 34.
Qxb5 Rxb5 35. cxb3 axb3 36. a3 Rc6 37. Re3 Ra6 38. Ne2 Ra4 39. Nc3 Rd4 40. Kc1
Rb7 41. h4 Bd8 42. Rh3 h6 43. Rxd4 exd4 44. Nd5 Nxe4 45. Nxb3 Nf2 46. Rf3 Nxg4
47. Nxd4 Bb6 48. Nc6+ Kc8 49. Rg3 h5 50. b4 Bf2 51. Rc3 Kd7 52. a4 Bxh4 53. a5
Bf2 54. a6 Rb5 55. Nce7 h4 56. Rc7+ Ke8 57. Rb7 Rxd5 58. Nxd5 h3 59. a7 Bxa7
60. Rxa7 Kf8 61. Kd2 1-0

Martin Smith said...

Alburt and Schiller (1985) "The Alekhine for the Tournament Player" give three and a bit pages to "The Hypermodern" 1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Ng8, saying that "Petrosian has played it, as has the young (sic) American IM Joel Benjamin".

ejh said...

And Tom Chivers, if I recall correctly.

Tom Chivers said...

Correct. Do they analyze 3.e6 Martin?

Martin Smith said...

Alburt looks at 3. d4 only, and Hort in "Alekhine's Defence" (1981) gives 3. d4 as the "main line" quoting one game with 3. Nf3; so 3. e6 could be a TN (though you might have to wait a long time to use it , Tom).
Hort refers to seven or so GM games with 2...Ng8 one with Flohr as black, and another Boleslavsky v Petrosian USSR 1966.

Tom Chivers said...

Jack - your game looks a bit Fischer randomy around move 26. I have the suspicion that black was at least OK during a lot of that!

ejh said...

Talking of Fischer: Jim Plaskett recalls this win against Korchnoi with the knight going on h8.