Monday, August 06, 2007

Refuting 5...Nxe4 in the Scotch Four Knights

Position after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6
3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nxe4?

Looking through the games from the recently concluded U.S. Open in Cherry Hill, NJ, I was interested in the miniature IM Enrico Sevillano - Pete Tamburro, which seemed theoretically significant. Very likely, Pete will be seeing that game in future opening manuals--to his chagrin!

Like many players who enjoy studying openings (as Pete "Openings for Amateurs" Tamburro obviously does also), I've collected a fair number of off-beat lines that I like to trot out from time to time. One of my "surprise" weapons against the Scotch has been 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nxe4(?), which I've actually had quite a bit of success with over the years in blitz and off-hand games. I especially like to see the look of surprise on my opponent's face when I snatch his e-pawn and leave my Knight en prise. Bewildered expressions, many minutes on the clock, and eventual loss surely follow for him. I imagine Pete keeps that tricky line in his repertoire for the same reason, knowing that there is only one line that the books consider of any advantage for White -- and that line is nowhere near being a "refutation." Well, I think we are both going to shelve 5...Nxe4? following IM Sevillano's brilliant performance, which demonstrates the correct refutation -- a line that most books incorrectly consider inferior for White or equal at best. Playing through Pete's 18-move loss to Sevillano, I see why so many titled players simply ignore the books and make their own theory....


Devin Camenares said...

This is bad news for me, since I also played 5...Nxe4

In your mainline, however, could black get away with 12... Ne5 13. b4 Bb6 14. Bxb6 cxb6 15. f4 Ng6 16.Qd2 d5?! and if 17.Bf3 Qxf4?! the idea being a) 18.Qxd5 Qe3+ followed by Qxc3 and b) 18.Qxf4 Nxf4 19.Bxd5 Ne2+ followed by Nxc3.

This is just my first thoughts, not computer checked, but my gut tells me black can draw.

It's a shame I don't play at kenilworth anymore, else I would have tried this on you in a blitz game.

Michael Goeller said...

Black can try to improve with 11...Qe5 or 12...Ne5, but his pieces are just totally uncoordinated and I think White will end up better always--though you are right to assume that only masters and above will likely be able to find the best route. In the line you give, 12...Ne5!? 13.b4 Bb6 14.Bxb6 cxb6 15.f4 Ng6 16.Qd2 d5! (probably the best try here -- and you can try for a quick ...d5 in the 11...Qe5 line too) probably White's best is 17.Rae1! just overlooking the d-pawn for now in favor of complete development and attack. After 17...Qf5 18.Nc2! (heading to e3 or d4 with tempo, though I'm even tempted by 18.g4!?) 18...Ne7 19.Ne3!? Qf6 20.f5! with ideas like Ng4 and f6. White has tremendous pressure and can likely pick up the d-pawn at any time.

Maybe calling this the "refutation" of the line is too harsh. But Black is in a sorry state, and I'd much rather be playing White.

BTW: We miss you at the club, Devin, and hope to see you again over the board.... Best of luck with your studies.

Chessbuff said...

Great theoretical work. I enjoyed it. That check on b3 caught my eye earlier but I thought after 17.Qb3+ ( instead of 17.Bd2 )d5 Black keeps his bishop. But, it seems after just one more move, i.e. 18. Bd2 puts the bishop in the bag for good. Eric Sevillano is a good friend of mine, and I know that chess is in every living cell of his body. I admire him a lot. When he sneezes, chess pieces come flying out.

Chessbuff said...

I took a closer look at that line I suggested, and it seems that Black can still go 18...Ba3 19.Re7 Be7 20.Re1 Bd6 21.Bd5+ and so on.

George Jempty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
George Jempty said...

Just 11. Be3 d5! and White's line of play hardly amounts to a refutation