Monday, January 30, 2012

Refuting the Philidor Counter Gambit with 4.exf5

Position after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 f5 4.exf5!
I have posted Refuting the Philidor Counter Gambit, which analyzes the line 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 f5 4.exf5! which I had previously recommended in my Philidor Defense Bibliography.


The Philidor Counter Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 f5) was Philidor's own method of playing the opening that bears his name. The man who said that "pawns are the soul of chess" always tried to use his pawns to claim control of the center. In his view, White had made a mistake with 2.Nf3 in blocking his f-pawn's advance! Theory offers several "refutations" to the PCG, but the one I find most convincing is 4.exf5! -- the subject of this article -- which doesn't even try to win a pawn (which may explain why it is not more popular). The goal of this move is positional and it puts Philidor's own principles into practice, as the White Knight leaps forward after 4.exf5 e4 5.Ng5 to clear the way for the advance of his own f-pawn (with 6.f3!) to battle for central squares. This method is also in keeping with contemporary GM practice against counter-gambits, where White typically does not try to hang onto the pawn but surrenders it for the control of key squares. Therefore it is not surprising to find GMs (including Dvoirys and Charbonneau) choosing this method. As Bent Larsen said of this line: "It's all so simple that it's difficult to find an improvement for Black."

I wonder what that great defender of the PCG, Life Master James R. West (profiled here in 2006), has in mind as an improvement over his play in the main game below? I see from his blog that he still plays the line and that he has had to face 4.exf5 on several occasions -- but never from players familiar with the plan of f3 as employed by Dvoirys. I include a PGN of my analysis for any who want to go searching for NM West's presumed improvement; but I think that the more you look at the line, the more you will agree with Larsen that "it's difficult to find...."

13 comments:

James R. West said...

Mike: Here is my improvement on 6...Qe7:http://jimwestonchess.blogspot.com/2010/08/chess-mates-grand-prix-812010.html

Jim West

Michael Goeller said...

Thanks! I don't know why that game didn't turn up in my web searches. In any event, I have to wonder why they always play Ne6 when kicked instead of the more natural N(x)e4? I will have to analyze it when I get home. But thanks for the quick feedback, Jim!

James R. West said...

Mike: The move 7.Nxe4 was played in Evan Rabin - Jim West, Polgar Chess Center 12/26/2005 and continued 7...Nxe4 8.fxe4 Qh4+ 9.g3 Qxe4+ 10.Qe2 Bxf5 11.c3 Be7 12.Bg2 Qxe2+ 13.Kxe2 c6 14.Rf1 O-O 15.h3 Nd7 16.Nd2 d5 17.g4 Be6 18.Rxf8+ Rxf8 and drawn in 37 moves.

Jim West

Michael Goeller said...

I should have looked at this line, but I still think White is better after 6...h6 7.Nxe4 Nxe4 8.Qe2! (usually correct) 8...Bxf5 (8...d5 9. Nd2 or 9.fxe4!?) 9.Nc3 and this looks good for White.

James R. West said...

Mike: I agree that 8.Qe2 is better for White. Luckily for me, Evan Rabin missed it! Maybe Black should try a different move order 6...d5 7.fxe4 h6 8.Ne6 transposing into the game Sarkar-West, Rahway 2010. Critical is the move 8.e5 which could lead to 8...hxg5 9.Bxg5 Qe7 10.Nc3 Bxf5 11.Bxf6 gxf6 12.Nxd5 Qf7 13.Nxf6+ Kd8 14.Qf3 Bc8 15.g4 Nd7 16.g5 Qg6 17.Nxd7 Bxd7 18.Qf6+ Qxf6 19.exf6 Bf5 when White has 4 pawns for a bishop. Fritz8 evaluates the position after 19...Bf5 as clearly better for White but not winning. There are many other possibilities, as well.

Jeff said...

So it looks like the line after 8. Qe2 d5 9. Nd2 is 9...Be7 10. fxe4 O-O and Black still gets the attack he wants (and White needs to find/risk g4 to hold sufficient material).

But 9. fxe4! does seem to eliminate any compensation whatsoever for the full pawn. Forcing 9...Qh4 (lest 10. Qh5) 10. g3 Qxe4 11. Nc3. Best try may be 11... Bb4 12. Bg2 Qxe2 13. Kxe2 c6 14. g4 where White holds everything except for castling.

Michael Goeller said...

Excellent analysis all around. I may very well have to revise my article to account for this discussion! Thanks Jim for your thoughts.

Wahrheit said...

The first installment of the Best of Chess Blogging Carnival is up! The Best Of! Chess Blogging, Part I: Openings

Of course, you and this blog are featured. Jim West's book on this variation is featured!

James R. West said...

Mike: Your post has sparked interest in the 4.exf5 variation from NM William Freeman at http://jimwestonchess.blogspot.com/2012/02/nm-william-freeman-analyzes-4fxe5-in.html, and from Frederic Fournier at http://contregambitphilidor.blogspot.com/2012/02/pour-illustrer-le-precedent-post.html and http://contregambitphilidor.blogspot.com/2012/02/le-contre-gambit-philidor-refute.html.

Jim West

Michael Goeller said...

Thanks. Bill sent me his analysis. I think I will have to post a revised analysis that includes all of these ideas.

Freddÿ said...

Thank you Im for these links. I make a comment about this hard line to play by Black.
I am not at all convinced by the fifth move of White 5 ... Nf6. I have a strong preference for 5 ... Bxf5 although it appears that white has an advantage in all variants. What do you think of 5 ... Bxf5 6.f3! Be7!?
Unfortunately I have lost in an active game in 2007 but...

Jeff said...

The key White improvement in the Sarkar game is 14 Qb5 to be followed by 15 Qf5 taking advantage of the white-square weakness introduced by h6.

Critical for Black seems to be 11... Na5 followed by Qd5.

James R. West said...

Mike: As a result of your post, I have revisited my game against Dvoirys. I recall how much I disliked the white pawn being on d5, instead of the usual black pawn on d5 in the PCG. Take a look at 9...d5, rather than 9...Qd7. A likely continuation is 10.Re1 Be4 11.Nbd2 Nbd7 12.Bd3 O-O-O 13.Nxe4 Nxe4 14.c4 Qf7 15.Qa4 Kb8 16.Qb3 Re8 17.cxd5 (17.c5 fails to 17...Ndxc5 18.dxc5 Bxc5+ 19.Be3 Bxe3+ 20.Rxe3 Nc5 21.Rxe8+ Qxe8 22.Re1 Qxe1+ 23.Nxe1 Nxb3 24.axb3 when Black is better) Nef6 19.Bf4 Bd6 20.Bxd6 Rxe1+ 21.Rxe1 cxd6 22.Ng5 Qh5 23.Ne6 Rc8 24.a4 (24.Nxg7 Qh4) Nb6 25.a5 Nbxd5 26.a6 b6 27.Qa3 Ne8 when White is better but Black can defend.

Jim West