Sunday, September 17, 2006

Knightmare Repertoire

I have collected many repertoire books over the years and I enjoy seeing the way these guides try to create coherent systems out of the morass of opening theory we confront as chessplayers. Of course, I have never followed all of their recommendations, prefering to pick and choose to construct my own system, which is a project with no end. I think I have hit upon something rather original lately, which I like to call my "Knightmare Repertoire" due to its emphasis on early Knight development with Nc3 and Nf3 as White or Nc6 and Nf6 as Black. It is also so solid that it will give your opponents nightmares trying to beat you. I have never seen anyone suggest such a system (though Andrew Martin's "Repertoire Suggestions" at ChessPublishing come close), and so I thought I'd sketch it out for interested readers. I have also offered eight book suggestions (which I've tried to hone to the absolute minimum) and links to material from my own archives. To some extent, I set this repertoire forth as a guide for myself to know what future opening articles I might write upon my return to blogging in January....

White Repertoire
The basic scheme is to play 1.e4 followed by Nc3 and Nf3, with some exceptions.

Four Knights and Three Knights
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 (or 2.Nc3 first) 2...Nc6 (2...Nf6 3.Nc3!) 3.Nc3
A super-solid choice that has a lot to teach developing players. The great joy for me of this line is that it has encouraged me to rediscover the games of the late-19th and early 20th-century masters, from which I have a lot to learn.
An Unbeatable White Repertoire after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 by Larry Evans and Ken Smith
The Spanish Four Knights, Part Two
The Spanish Four Knights Bibliography
Sutovsky's Anti-Rubinstein 5.O-O

Two Knights Sicilian and Grand Prix Attack
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 followed by either f4 or Nf3
The idea, as I explain in my articles on the Two Knights Sicilian, is to choose between 3.f4 or 3.Nf3 depending on what Black does. You can also consider the interesting line 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Bb5!? which keeps options open.
A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire by Chris Baker
Chess Openings for White, Explained by Alburt, Dzindzichashvili, and Perelshteyn
Two Knights Sicilian, Part Three
Two Knights Sicilian, Part Two
Two Knights Sicilian, Part One
Grand Prix Attack, Explained
Grand Prix Attack Bibliography (Updated)
Billy Colias and the Grand Prix Attack
Grand Prix Attack with a3

Caro-Kann Exchange Variation or Apocalypse Attack
1.e4 c6 2.d4 (or 2.Nf3!? d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Ne5!) 2...d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3
The Exchange Variation and the surprising Apocalypse version of the Exchange are quite solid and well-documented. I may in the future recommend instead Fischer's other favorite, the Two Knights (1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3!?), but there is not much good material on that line from the White perspective. Perhaps when I come back I'll write some articles....
Chess Openings for White, Explained
The Apocalypse Attack
Apocalypse Attack Update

Two Knights French
1.e4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3
Seen as a Reversed Nimzovich or Reversed Tango, this line is very easy to play and leads to positions that are often unfamiliar for Black.
A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire
The Jackal Attack by Adrian Skelton
Notes on the French Two Knights
The Two Knights French Revisited

Pirc Two Knights
1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.h3
A super-solid line that is easy to learn.
Chess Openings for White, Explained

Center Counter / Scandinavian
1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 (2....Nf6 3.Nf3!) 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3
Simple development is sufficient to gain an edge. I have experimented with 2.Nc3!? but 2...dxe4 3.Nxe4 Qd5!? 4.Nc3 simply transposes back to main lines anyway, so what's the point?
A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire
Chess Openings for White, Explained

The Anti-Portuguese

Anti-Alekhine 2.Nc3
1.e4 Nf6 2.Nc3
A simple opening short-cut that may lead to the Four Knights on occasion.
A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire

Anti-Nimzovich 2.Nf3
1.e4 Nc6 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 Bg4 5.Bb5!?
A simple opening short-cut that may lead to the Four Knights on occasion.
A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire

Black Repertoire
The idea is to play Nc6, e5, and Nf6 in whatever order works. You can save effort by ignoring the Nimzovich Defense suggestion and focusing on the Open Games against 1.e4 and the Black Knights Tango against 1.d4, but the Nimzovich can add an interesting dimension to the repertoire.

Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6
You don't have to play the currently popular "Berlin Wall" when you adopt 3...Nf6 against the Spanish. Most of your opponents will play 4.d3(?!) anyway....
Offbeat Spanish by Glenn Flear
Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense Bibliography

Two Knights Defense
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6
This should be at the core of any Open Game repertoire for Black. Playing these lines as White on occasion can help you understand them better.
Play the Open Games as Black by John Emms
A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire
Chess Openings for White, Explained
Notes on the Two Knights with d4
Two Knights Defense as Black
Two Knights Modern

Four Knights, Rubinstein Variation
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Nd4
Play the Open Games as Black by John Emms
Sutovsky's Anti-Rubinstein 5.O-O

1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bc4 Nc6 4.d3 Na5
I have also been experimenting with the line 1.e4 Nc6 2.Nc3 e5 3.f4 Bb4!? often followed by Nf6. Of course, John Emms's suggestions against the Vienna are also sufficient.
More Anti-Vienna
Vienna with Bc4 Busted?

Nimzovich with ...e5
1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 (2.Nf3 e5!) 2...e5
I have been playing a Nimzovich move-order as a way of entering the Open Game while avoiding a lot of junk -- though I find myself still playing against the King's Gambit from time to time after 1.e4 Nc6 2.f4 e5!? 3.Nf3 f5! (a line I will have to discuss here at some future date).
Modern Practice 1....Nc6!? by Igor Berdichevsky
The Kevitz System or 1...Nc6 Bibliography

Black Knights Tango and Bozo-Indian
1.d4 Nc6!? or
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 Nc6
Most people would be more comfortable with the Black Knights Tango, but I find 1.d4 Nc6!? tends to keep play in my territory. In any event, you are still playing for an early ...e5 if White allows it.
Modern Practice 1....Nc6!?
Tango: A Dynamic Answer to 1.d4 by Richard Palliser
The Kevitz System or 1...Nc6 Bibliography
The Panther
The Mestrovic Variation of the Nimzovich Defense

Reversed Dragon or Reversed Grand Prix
1.c4 e5 (or 1...Nc6 followed by ...e5)
English ...e5 by Alex Raetsky and Maxim Chetverik
Reversed Dragon

Selected Bibliography
There are lots of books I could recommend, but these eight volumes are more than sufficient given the wealth of other information on the web.

Alburt, Lev, Roman Dzindzichashvili, and Eugene Perelshteyn. Chess Openings for White, Explained (Chess Information and Research Center 2007).
Though expensive at nearly $30, this is an excellent and very recent book that offers lots of helpful guidance on the lines I recommend.

Baker, Chris. A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire (Everyman 1998)
An excellent repertoire book for non-masters, which was rightly criticized by some for dubiously recommending the Max Lange Attack and the crazy piece sac against the Petroff (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nxf7?!!). However, its better chapters fit very well with our more solid repertoire choices.

Berdichevsky, Igor. Modern Practice 1....Nc6!? (Russian Chess House 2004)
This is the most complete and current consideration of 1...Nc6 lines for Black. There is also a CD version of the book from Convekta if you prefer (though I like having both).

Emms, John. Play the Open Games as Black: What to do when White avoids the Ruy Lopez (Gambit 2000).
This is an absolute classic and indispensible for anyone who studies the Open Games as either Black or White. It does not cover the Ruy Lopez / Spanish however.

Evans, Larry and Ken Smith. An Unbeatable White Repertoire after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 (Chess Digest 1988).
Though there are a number of books on the Four Knights (see my bibliography), this is probably the best reference for non-masters seeking to construct a repertoire around this super-solid line. It is a bit dated, but theory has not advanced that rapidly in the Four Knights....

Flear, Glenn. Offbeat Spanish: Meeting the Spanish without 3...a6 (Everyman 2001)
This is the best treatment of the Berlin and related lines that I have seen in book format. You may find some other interesting ideas in here as well.

Palliser, Richard. Tango! A Dynamic Answer to 1.d4 (Everyman 2005)
You may actually find that the excellent articles by Joel Benjamin and the material in Berdichevsky's book is sufficient. But Palliser's book is recent and very good.

Raetsky, Alex and Maxim Chetverik. English ...e5 (Everyman 2003)
The best coverage I have seen of ...e5 lines against the English, which offer Black a lot of latitude.

These books are just old enough that you might be able to get many of them used....


Blue Devil Knight said...

Thanks for this great reference. I almost wish I didn't already have a repertoire! That Emms book 'Play the Open Games as Black' is great.

Anonymous said...

Do you have your repertoire in database form? pgn or chessbase doesn't matter.

I'm currently using your urusov system. At my level not many know the theory. Some screw up before they even get to the urusov position.

Thanks in advance.

Michael Goeller said...

Many of the databases I develop end up as articles on this site, and I've never put together a coherent "repertoire database." The "Knightmare Repertoire" is also still evolving, so I don't have anything definitive yet. I'm still unsure if I want to open 1.e4 Nc6 or 1.e4 e5 as Black, for instance, and have been tending toward the latter with an emphasis on lines with 2...Nc6 wherever possible.

I'm not very good at keeping organized files of things generally, and that is especially true of the way I organize my chess materials.

I was especially short-sighted in that regard when analyzing the Urusov. I have lots and lots of Urusov-related files from over the years, many with correspondence-deep analysis of certain lines. But they are all scattered about among various computers and in various unmerged forms. At some point I will likely go through them and what I have online (plus what has come out since) and put together a single database on it. But now is not the best time for me.... I'm supposed to be on hiatus!

Anonymous said...

I play the Berlin myself, and against 3.d3?! I think that 3..Ne7 is great, following with Ng6. (4.Nxe5 c6 5.Ba4 Qa5+ and I like black)

Anonymous said...

michael thanks for the fast response.

i'm not good at keeping things organised either.
things don't have to be.

at the moment i'm putting together a repertoire for the morra gambit for the book: "The Modern Morra Gambit: A Dynamic Weapon Against the Sicilian" - Hannes Langrock

I find is easier to take things in using a computer then just the books. others of the club i play in use mostly books.

on the repertoire, have you seen the Traxler Counterattack 2 Knights 4. Ng5 Bc5 from Dan Heisman (CD).
It is a collection of variations glued together with some text - organised tough.
You get the idea, just throw your pgn files into one database. if you can still find them and the time.

happy newyear!

Anonymous said...

Dear michael, your article about knightmare repertoire is wanderful! But, maybe, as black you are missed to consider the scotch game (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 or 1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 e5 3.Nf3). Bye