Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My favourite moves XVI


Seville, 1987, game two


First time I've done this feature for a year and like the last one, it's Karpov World Championship preparation. Well, what do you expect, these were my formative years in chess.

On this occasion though, the madeleine which summoned up the memory of youth was a game I played myself, at the Bank Holiday congress in Golders Green, first round, available on the playthrough below if you think it's worth the effort. It's not the first time I've played the line: that was at Benasque four years ago, when I lost to Delchev in what I will always think of as the Immortal Tippex Game.

No, of course I wouldn't have beaten Delchev, whatever the state of my hands and for that matter whatever the state of the position, but be that as it may you're bound to have affection for a variation which brought you a close-to-winning advantage against a strong grandmaster, even without the added dash of nostalgia for one of the greatest world championship matches that there's been.

When Karpov whipped out 9...e3 in the second game of the 1987 match Kasparov played 10. d3

which is also hat Delchev played (Hutchings preferred 10. dxe3). I love that barmy pawn structure, with several of the White pawns on surprising squares while all the Black ones remain at home save the practically-surrounded pawn on e3.

Prior to the Seville match 9...exf3 had been preferred: there's a good discussion of the changing theory of that line in Steve Giddins' recommended book on constructing an opening repertoire

which takes in Uhlmann-Smyslov from 1973, Tasic-Ciocaltea from 1974 and Kasparov-Ivanchuk from 1988, which was a massacre.

Oddly though it doesn't mention the fourth game of the 1987 match in which Black also came a cropper. Can't say I'm surprised (if one may express "surprise" about something which one knows has occurred*) if you look at the bishop on g2 and all those pawns dominating the centre: but the pawn on e3 is a spanner in the works and one I like very much.

I've not seen much of the variation lately, or for that matter of the whole line with 4...Bb4. The English Opening was perhaps at the apex of its fashionability in 1987: by my count seven in the match, not to mention three other instances of 1. c4 which transposed into Queen's Gambits.

After that, we saw less of it, at least where 1. c4 e5 is concerned, since Kramnik was and is a great exponent of 1. Nf3. There's been a bit more of it about of late, I think, but everybody seems to be playing 4....d5 (see for instance Nepomniatchi-Fressinet from the first round of the World Cup).

I wonder why? Is it because 9....e3 isn't considered safe? The computers don't love it, but players, even (or especially) the good ones, play loads of things the computers don't much like. And I like it a lot.

[* when I was an undergraduate, which was shortly before the Seville match, this historian used to make this point to me.] 

[Favourite moves index]


Anonymous said...

There was a top level encounter between Aronian and Adams back in February in Baden-Baden. Adams preferred the older idea of exf3. There are known improvements on the KvK game, but perhaps these aren't considered good enough.

As to what the theory is, top GMs must know things that the rest of us will only find out when they actually play it, or when they mention it in a commentary. Sometimes they don't play a line, not because it's bad, but because they can't recall all the details. Perhaps some much lower rated author will do the research and write a book on that line of the English and establish which of .. e3 or .. exf3 is best, or whether they are both of equal merit.

The Carlsen influence is that GMs and others started to abandon openings where play was all but forced for fear of engine assisted ambushes, so that particular treatment of the English only has a handful of games to test which move is better. If you know a line far better than your opponent, that has to be worth something even if the engine verdict opposes it.


Tom Chivers said...

Also one of my favourite moves!

Anonymous said...

Come back Tom!