Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Big Clamp

I have assembled a games collection at Chessgames.com titled The Big Clamp to help me study IM Lawrence Day's "Big Clamp" strategy. I first read about "The Big Clamp" in Modern Chess Theory where it was published as "Sicilian - The Big Clamp" (3:5-6, pp. 46-59) and "The Big Clamp II" (4:1, pp. 42-55).  Those interested in getting a copy can purchase the 1980-1981 and 1981-1982 volumes of Modern Chess Theory edited by Raymond Keene from Hardinge Simpole, or search out Day's rare little volume titled The Big Clamp: An Anti-Sicilian System (The Chess Player 1984) which reproduces those two articles with two additional games Day played in 1983.  In researching this post, I discovered that Day's 32-page pamphlet can also be viewed and downloaded at Scribd (see The Big Clamp: An Anti-Sicilian System).  My 100-game collection includes most of the games given by Day along with some of my own supplements showing the 19th Century origins of the clamp theme and some of its continued influence.  


I was intrigued enough by the 19th Century origins of the strategy that I picked up Cary Utterberg's wonderful book De la Bourdonnais versus McDonnell, 1834: The Eighty-Five Games of Their Six Chess Matches, with Excerpts from Additional Games Against Other Opponents (McFarland 2005) which made me recognize how Philidor's pawn strategy influenced play up until the Romantic era of Anderssen and Morphy, when the focus of theory turned to tempi and made pawns mere objects of sacrifice to blast open lines for piece play. One of the most common ways to pursue the Big Clamp today is the Grand Prix Attack (1.e4 c5 2.f4) which McDonnell first employed with success in game five of the first match.  According to Utterberg, this line was called the "Philidor Variation" because it followed analysis by Philidor.   Not surprisingly, Morphy greatly disapproved of this line, writing, "If there is anything to be regretted in connection with the combats between these illustrious players, it is the pertinacity with which McDonnell persisted in adopting, in two of the debuts which most frequently occur, a line of play radically bad."  He continues: "The move of [2.Nf3], or still better, [2.d4], are those now generally recognized as the best" (quoted in Utterberg, p. 58). In some ways, The Big Clamp represents a rediscovery of Philidor's legacy, as I suggested in my piece on The Philidor Clamp.  


That legacy continues today, most visibly in the intriguing 1.e4 c5 2.Na3 line in the Sicilian, which Stefan Bücker connects directly to the Big Clamp concept in his article "A Knight on the Edge."  Nigel Davies (who had recommended the Big Clamp via 1.e4 c5 2.d3 in "Strangling the Sicilian with 2.d3!") picks up on 2.Na3 in "1.e4 for the Creative Attacker" which sets forth a very interesting Big Clamp inspired repertoire that includes Glek's Four Knights with g3, the McDonnell - Labourdonnais Attack (1.e4 e6 2.f4), and 2.f4 vs the Pirc.  You can see a nice games collection at Chessgames to get a feel for the rest.  





You know an idea is deeply entrenched when even amateur players are invited to develop a repertoire based on its principles.  A Big Clamp repertoire with 1.e4 followed by d3 is set forth in De Witte Leeuw (The White Lion) by Leo Jansen and Jerry van Rekom, the amateur authors of the interesting Black Lion (on 1...d6 leading to the Philidor).  Another repertoire based on 1.e4 followed soon by f4 is presented by Alex Bangiev in White Repertoire for 1.e4, which includes the Vienna Gambit, Grand Prix Attack, and Advance Variation vs. the Caro-Kann.  I have personally presented a number of articles that together begin to set forth a Big Clamp repertoire for White built around the Grand Prix Attack vs the Sicilian and the McDonnell - Labourdonnais Attack vs the French.  Day's The Big Clamp has been a continuing inspiration, and one I wanted to share with others.  I welcome readers' suggestions for how to fill out the rest of the repertoire, and I am especially intrigued by the idea of building a Big Clamp repertoire from the Black side.    More to come.

11 comments:

Scott S said...

Once again you present an interesting repertoire with plenty of supplementary material to make one think they can dive right in...but why did you have to spring this on us right before USATE? I am having a hard enough time preparing my openings as it is, I don't need the distraction. :)

Michael Goeller said...

Yeah, I should probably just buckle down myself and study my normal stuff... :-) See you at the Teams. I should post my annual pre-team comments in a day or two.

MNb said...

Another route to the Big Clamp is via the Bird Opening: 1.f4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 and if Black still refuses to play ...d5 then 6.e4. Obviously this is important for those who play the Leningrad Bird also called the Polar Bear.

Michael Goeller said...

Good point. In looking at the Grand Prix, I keep bumping into the Bird, so I almost wonder how long it will be before I start playing that too.

siow, weng nian said...

Thanks Michael. I have been looking for a long time for IM Lawrence Day's book. And thanks for all the references. Maybe now I can finally understand how to play the "Clamp".

This and your Sicilian repertoire and the Black fianchetto repertoire is going to keep me busy.

Michael Goeller said...

Thanks for the comments. I looked for Day's book and related information myself for a long time. So I suspected others would be interested. Almost all of my posts begin as something I wish someone had already written so I would have the information.

katar said...

Another option worth mentioning is 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 and 3.Nge2 the so-called "Chameleon" about which Soltis wrote a book for Chess Digest. A basic point is that White has not committed to a closed setup, and can return to Open lines with d4 and Ne2xd4 if Black prematurely commits to a closed setup (say with pawns on g6 and e6).

Jonah Orange said...

I use it for white and black pieces.... It mostly confuses weaker opponents.

Jonah Orange said...
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Jonah Orange said...
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Jonah Orange said...

This is how you get it in!

Rasmussen, Allan Stig (2485) vs Hamelink, Desiree (2202) Date: 2007-10-12 Event: Open, Hoogeveen NED Round: 1 Result: 1-0