Sunday, September 25, 2005

Two Knights Modern

White to play and win after 28...Re6.

As someone who plays the Urusov Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nf3), I often have to face the Two Knights Defense (after 4...Nc6). In my website devoted to the Urusov, I have written extensively on the Perreux Variation for White (5.Ng5!?) which is especially forcing and relatively obscure. I actually never play the Perreux myself, however, except occasionally in skittles. I chose to write about the Perreux for a number of reasons--including that it was not often covered by theory, had relatively limited subvariations, and that it was featured in the Dimock Theme Tournament (which I had used to illustrate the Urusov with anotated games)--none of which had anything to do with its value for the theory of the Two Knights! I have also done some analysis on a rather obscure variation of the Max Lange Attack (which Pete Tamburro discusses online), and I may post that analysis here some time. But I have not played the Max Lange since I was a kid, mostly because the Anti-Lange (5.O-O Nxe4!) is pretty much equal. No, I almost always meet the Two Knights with the Modern Variation (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.e5!) which I think is White's best hope for an edge.

I may put together a bibliography specifically devoted to the Modern Variation. You can find many of the references I'd cite either in the Perreux Links & Acknowledgments or in the Opening Theory Links at the Kenilworth Chess Club site listed under "Two Knights Defense." There are a few good pieces I know about that are available online:

  • C55 from the Tromso Sjakklubb
    Offers good coverage of the Keidanz lines for the club player in java applet format for easy viewing online.
  • Lost Variations by Mark Morss
  • More about the Two Knights Modern by Mark Morss
    Morss is a correspondence player well known for his research skills. He gives some great stuff mostly from Black's perspective, mostly in his notes to Maxfield-Morse 1992 and Danzanvilliers-Morss.
  • "Opening Preparation" by Sunil Weeramantry, in Chess Cafe's The Chess Coach #13. Download a zip file with all the articles as text files. This was Weeramanry's last article for Chess Cafe and he did a wonderful job, offering up many of his games with the Modern Variation that can be found nowhere else.

My game with the late NM Eugene Shapiro (from which the diagram above is drawn) is an excellent illustration of White's strategy in the Modern Variation, which typically centers around dominating the dark squares and winning in the ending. It is also one of my most thoroughly solid performances over the board. You can view the game online or download the PGN. You can also find the PGN as text below, containing also the complete score of a second win of mine with the same line.

[Event "North Jersey Chess League"]
[Site "West Orange, NJ USA"]
[Date "1988.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Goeller, Michael"]
[Black "Shapiro, Gene"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C55"]
[Annotator "Goeller,Michael"]
[PlyCount "63"]
[EventDate "1988.04.??"]

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nf3 Nc6 {All players rated 2000 or over play the Two Knights Defense with 4...Nc6; and most players below 2000 grab the pawn with} (4... Nxe4 5. Qxd4 Nf6 6. Nc3 Nc6 7. Qh4 Be7 8. Bg5 d6 9. O-O-O $44) 5. e5 {The Modern Variation is White's best hope for an edge against the Two Knights once d4 has been played.} d5 (5... Ng4 6. O-O $1 d6 (6... Ngxe5 $4 7. Nxe5 Nxe5 8. Re1 $18) 7. exd6 Bxd6 (7... Qxd6 8. Na3 $1 $44) 8. Re1+ Kf8 9. Bb5 $5 (9. Na3) 9... Nce5 10. Bf4 Nxf3+ 11. Qxf3 Bxf4 12. Qxf4 c6 13. Bc4 Qf6 14. Qg3 $44) (5... Ne4 $5 6. Bd5 Nc5 (6... Bb4+ 7. c3 dxc3 8. O-O $1) 7. c3 dxc3 8. Nxc3 Nb4 $1) 6. Bb5 Ne4 7. Nxd4 Bd7 8. Bxc6 bxc6 9. O-O Bc5 (9... Qh4 $5 10. Be3 $13) 10. Be3 (10. f3 Ng5 11. Be3 O-O (11... Ne6 12. c3) 12. Nc3 Rb8 13. f4 Bxd4 14. Bxd4 Ne6 15. f5 (15. Bxa7 $5) 15... Nxd4 16. Qxd4 Qg5 17. f6 Bh3 18. Rf2 gxf6 19. exf6 Rbe8 20. Kh1 Bc8 21. Rf3 Kh8 22. Qxa7 $1 Rg8 23. Qf2 d4 24. Rg3 $1 Qh6 $2 25. Rxg8+ Kxg8 26. Qxd4 c5 27. Qf2 Bb7 28. Qg3+ Kh8 29. Qg7+ $5 Qxg7 30. fxg7+ Kxg7 31. Kg1 Re6 32. Rd1 Rg6 33. g3 h5 34. Kf2 h4 35. Rd7 hxg3+ 36. hxg3 Rf6+ 37. Ke2 Rb6 38. b3 c4 39. Rxc7 cxb3 40. cxb3 $1 Ba6+ 41. Ke3 Rg6 42. Ne4 Re6 43. Kd4 Be2 44. Ng5 Rf6 45. Rxf7+ $5 Rxf7 46. Nxf7 Kxf7 47. Kc5 Ke7 48. b4 Kd7 49. a4 Bd1 50. a5 Kc7 51. b5 Bf3 52. a6 $1 Kb8 53. b6 $1 Be2 54. a7+ $1 Kb7 55. Kd6 $1 Bf3 56. a8=Q+ Kxa8 57. Kc7 $1 $18 { 1-0, Goeller-Napoli, Hillside at West Orange 1986?}) 10... O-O $6 (10... Qe7 $1 11. Re1 $13) (10... Bb6 $5 11. Nd2 $14) 11. f3 Ng5 12. f4 Ne4 13. Nd2 Qe7 $2 ( 13... Nxd2 14. Qxd2 Qe7 15. Qc3 $14 {xc5}) 14. Nxe4 $1 dxe4 { Black's bad pawns give him grief.} 15. Qe1 $1 { Dominating the dark squares and threatening Nb3 and Qc3.} Kh8 $6 (15... Bb6 $5) 16. Nb3 Bxe3+ 17. Qxe3 f5 {The only way to defend the pawn at e4.} 18. Qc5 $1 Qf7 (18... Qxc5+ 19. Nxc5 Bc8 20. Kf2 $16 {hands White what should be a winning ending since the powerful Knight at c5 completely dominates the Bishop at c8 and Black's pawns are permanently compromised.}) 19. Rad1 g5 $2 { Desperate measures. Black strives for some kingside counterplay before White's position is overwhelming.} (19... Rfb8 20. Rf2 Be6 21. Qxc6 $16) 20. fxg5 Rg8 21. e6 $1 {A thematic counter-sacrifice to open up lines.} Bxe6 (21... Qxe6 $4 22. Qc3+ Rg7 23. Nc5) 22. Nd4 Rae8 23. Nxf5 Bxf5 24. Rxf5 Qg7 25. Qxc6 (25. b3) 25... Qxb2 26. Qf6+ $1 Qxf6 27. gxf6 Rgf8 28. Rd7 { White's goal is now to invade the 7th.} Re6 29. Rh5 Rfxf6 30. Rhxh7+ Kg8 31. Rdg7+ Kf8 32. Rxc7 $18 1-0


Anonymous said...
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luke said...

Hi - I love your blog - I have come across it several times now in researching chess openings :-)

I played a game this week with the Usurov Gambit which transposed to Two Knights

rather than Nxd4 I played o-o which is inferior as the Bishop pin of Bg5! would have hurt, I realised afterward. But luckily my opponent didnt try it.

I was looking at what happens after Nxd4 though and the best move for white is then Be3 !? in my opinion.

do you know where I can find some games here - it seems theres a Svidler game with o-o and then others with Bd7, but I only found 1 or 2 of these.

I am not sure of an official name for this line, but it is the best for white I think in a Usurov that transposes.

thanks for all your info anyway!


luke said...

Bg4! I meant (blacks white-squared bishop)

Michael Goeller said...

I think you are right that Bg4 is a problem. that is probably why you cannot find many games where White allows it. You should just play Nxd4.

Michael Goeller said...

As for official names...hmmm. Some call it the Scotch Gambit since it can arise by that route. Others call it the Max Lange, but that seems inaccurate to me. It's really a line of the Two Knights with d4. You should be able to find a few posts on it at my blog. I think you can find good coverage of it from several current books, though I think the best stuff was in NIC Yearbook by Gurevich and Glek back in 2000. I like Acers's discussion in his Italian Gambit System. And there is always Dzindzi's stuff, including the 1.e4 White repertoire book with Alburt and Perelshtyn.