Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Paulsen Variation of the Petroff

diagram White to play after 15...Nxe3
One of the main reasons I started playing the Bishop's Opening (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4) was to avoid the annoying Petroff's Defense (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6) which always seemed to me rather equalizing. You can't even be sure of getting a Urusov Gambit against it since after 3.d4 Black does not have to play 3...exd4(?!) 4.Bc4! but could simply play 3...Nxe4, which is pretty dull looking. Likely if I looked at some lines deeply enough I'd find something to like about White, but it is all such well-theorized territory that it sort of puts me off trying.

Recently, though, I stumbled upon a game with the Paulsen Variation (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nc4!?) which intrigued me enough to annotate it closely and to think that facing the Petroff might actually be interesting with a line like this. Some of the variations remind me of the Saemisch Variation of the Alekhine's (with 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.Nc3 Nxc3 4.bxc3) which I have played on occasion, and though Black certainly has chances you get lots of unusual positions with lots of interesting strategic and attacking play.

According to the book by Forintos and Haag, this line was "first played by Louis Paulsen in 1887, and then resuscitated by Yugoslav players in the 1950s." After that, to judge from the archive, it more or less vanished. They seem to think that Black "obtains comfortable play" and that may be why there is relatively little theory on it out there. Several other Petroff books I've thumbed through, in fact, relegate it to practically a footnote if they even mention it at all. And a search through databases turns up remarkably few games (under 100, in fact). This last fact may be the most attractive aspect of the Paulsen Variation since it suggests there is still a lot to discover in it (an idea reinforced by an intriguing recent victory by Navara over Kostiniuk playing the line in very unusual fashion).

The following game between the young Andrija Fuderer and old-timer Boris Kostic must have been part of the Yugoslav revival mentioned by Forintos and Haag. It is also quite suggestive of the type of deep attacking ideas that are available to White in this line. You can play over the game online in a java applet or download the PGN (or get the PGN as text below).

[Event "Yugoslavia"]
[Site "Yugoslavia"]
[Date "1950.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Fuderer, Andrija"]
[Black "Kostic, Boris"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C42"]
[Annotator "Goeller,Michael"]
[PlyCount "53"]
[EventDate "1950.??.??"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nc4 Nxe4 5. Nc3 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Be7 7. d4 Nd7 8. Bd3 Nb6 (8... Nf6 $1 9. O-O O-O 10. Rb1 $13) 9. Ne3 d5 10. O-O O-O 11. f4 f5 12. Qh5 g6 13. Qf3 c6 14. g4 $5 ({Better perhaps is} 14. a4 a5 15. c4 $36) 14... Nc4 $6 ({Necessary was} 14... fxg4 15. Nxg4 Kh8 (15... Bxg4 16. Qxg4 Kh8 17. f5 $1 gxf5 18. Qh3 $36) 16. Ne5 Bd6 17. Qg3 $13) 15. gxf5 $1 Nxe3 (15... Bxf5 16. Nxf5 gxf5 17. Bxf5 $1 $36) 16. fxg6 $3 Ng4 ({a)} 16... Nxf1 $4 17. Qh5 $18) ({b)} 16... Nf5 $5 17. Qh5 hxg6 18. Qxg6+ Kh8 19. Qh5+ (19. Kh1 Rf6) 19... Kg7 $1 (19... Kg8 $2 20. Kh1 $1 $40) 20. Rf2 $3 (20. Kh1 $2 Ng3+ $1) 20... Rg8 $1 (20... Qe8 21. Rg2+ Kf6 $8 22. Qg4 $1 $36) 21. Rg2+ Kf6 $1 22. Rg5 Be6 $13 ( 22... Qe8 23. Qh7 $1 Rg6 24. Kh1 $1 Qf7 25. Qh8+ Qg7 26. Qe8 Qh7 27. Ba3 $18) 23. Kh1 Qc8 24. Bd2 $1 $40) 17. f5 Nf6 18. Bh6 Re8 19. gxh7+ Kh8 (19... Kxh7 20. Kh1 $3 $40) 20. Kh1 $1 Bf8 (20... Nxh7 21. f6 $3 Nxf6 22. Bg5 $18) 21. Bg5 Bg7 22. Rg1 Qe7 23. Rg2 $16 Bd7 24. Rag1 $18 Rf8 25. Bh4 Rf7 26. Rg6 Raf8 27. Qg2 1-0

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