Saturday, January 31, 2009

An Old Giuoco Worth Repeating

Short - Kasimdzhanov after 6...Bb6

I have annotated the game Short - Kasimdzanov, Corus B 2009, which makes a great extension to our consideration of Sergei Movsesian's Max Lange Gambit from an earlier round.

The revival of the Giuoco Piano at the highest levels of competitive chess has been a pleasure to observe for amateur players like myself committed to heirloom openings. With one day to go in the Corus tournament at Wijk aan Zee, players in each of the three groups (Movsesian in Group A, Nigel Short in Group B, Tiger Hillarp Persson and David Howell in Group C) have scored impressive victories with the old Giuoco, going 4-1-0 (or a stunning 90% for White), while their peers committed to the "Spanish torture" racked up a score of only 13-24-6 (still not bad at 58%). I predict that we will be seeing a lot more of the Giuoco Piano, including of the older and less "quiet" lines that Movsesian and Short employed. Perhaps GM John Emms will lead the way with his excellent discussion of the Max Lange in Dangerous Weapons: 1.e4 e5 and with his forthcoming book Beating 1.e4 e5 (Everyman 2009), focused on the Giuoco Piano.

In the present game, former FIDE champ Kasimdzanov sidestepped the dangerous Max Lange Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.O-O Nf6 5.d4!?) with the safer 4...d6 (which Mark Morss once described as a "Lost Variation"). But Black still lost, thanks to some fine play by White in a fascinating ending, worthy of study in its own right. Short has always been an "opening hero" of mine, especially with his frequent forays into the Evans Gambit. At Corus, his experiments with Romantic openings like the Four Knights and Giuoco Piano made important additions to his score. Let's hope he continues to forge interesting paths through the forgotten opening lines of the past.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Max Lange Gambit Revived

Max Lange Gambit, after 5.d4!?

I have posted my notes on Movsesian - Adams, Corus 2009, which features two Super-GMs slugging it out deep into the theory of the distinctly 19th Century Max Lange Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.O-O Nf6 5.d4!?)  I was not surprised to see this line revived, even at the highest levels, given recent analysis by GM Lev Gutman in Kaissiber #22 through #25 (discussed here) and GM John Emms in Dangerous Weapons: 1.e4 e5 (which I reviewed here), both of which nicely acknowledge my own contributions in "The Modern Horowitz Variation of the Max Lange Attack."  As I indicate in my notes to the game, all signs point toward continued interest in this variation and the related Max Lange Attack.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bobby Fischer Remembered

On the first anniversary of Bobby Fischer's death, there are a number of interesting memorials worth visiting on the web:

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Hamppe - Meitner Motif

hamppe - meitnerHamppe - Meitner, Vienna 1872
1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Bc5 3.Na4?! Bxf2+?!

I have posted analysis of "The Hamppe - Meitner Motif," which begins with a definitive consideration of Hamppe - Meitner, Vienna 1872, and then explores some related lines, especially with colors reversed.

Even Steinitz appears to have recognized that White should have won "The Immortal Draw" game and computers help to show that Hamppe missed a few possible improvements, especially at the critical point after 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Bc5 3.Na4 Bxf2+ 4.Kxf2 Qh4+ 5.Ke3 Qf4+ 6.Kd3 d5 7.Kc3 Qxe4 8.Kb3 Na6 (see diagram).

After 8.Kb3 Na6

White here played 9.a3?! to prevent Qb4# and open an escape hatch for the King, but after the amazing 9...Qxa4+!! Black had a forced draw (see the analysis for details). Two more promising ideas have been suggested in 9.d4 and 9.c3, both of which seem to secure White a winning edge. This hardly detracts from the beauty of the game, but it does tell us that Hamppe's tricky 3.Na4 may be useful on occasion as a way of drawing the opponent's fire to advantage.

An interesting example of the motif occurs after 1.e4 e5 2.f4 Nc6 (the Adelaide Counter Gambit) 3.Bc4 when playable seems to be 3...Na5!? Now a White player familiar with the Hamppe - Meitner Motif might be tempted by 4.Bxf7+? (better 4.Be2! =), but that would be a real mistake because of the unique features of the position. Black plays 4...Kxf7 5.Qh5+ g6! 6.Qxe5 (see diagram).

And now Black saves the piece by 6...Qh4+ 7.g3 Qh5! (7...Qe7!? is also playable) because White's Queen is trapped after 8.Qxh8? Bg7 -+.

White runs into a similar trap after 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Na5!? when again the tempting 4.Bxf7+ is in error due to 4...Kxf7 5.Qh5+ g6 6.Qxe5 Nc6! because White encounters real trouble extricating his Queen after 7.Qxh8?! (see diagram).

hamppe - meitner
Black plays 7...h6! (note that White's Knight on c3 blocks the Queen's usual escape square!) 8.Qh7+ Bg7 and White must sacrifice a piece to rescue her by 9.d3 Nf6 10.Bg5 hxg5 11. Qh3 d5 12. Qf3 Kg8 =+.

I hope you enjoy the games and analysis as much as I did researching and annotating them. As always, I offer the PGN file for those who want to do their own investigating. (Thanks to John Moldovan, by the way, for providing me a copy of Andy Soltis's excellent article on Hamppe - Meitner in Chess Life, September 2002.)

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Gary Lane on the Lolli Attack

In his "Opening Lanes" column at ChessCafe, titled "Back to Basics," Gary Lane discusses what is commonly called the Lolli Attack (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5? 6.d4!), which I have analyzed as part of my site on the Perreux Variation of the Two Knights. These are fun lines to know with a lot to teach about attacking the King in the center.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Blog Carnival

Jack LeMoine's "Blog Carnival" may be one of the last surveys of the chess blogosphere (in the absence of Mark Weeks's late "blog tripping" column). It is worth a look, if only to learn about some blogs you might not have heard about.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Saemisch Surprise Revisited

Smith - Yermolinsky
White has a cute zwichenzug...

When I saw the game Bryan Smith - Alex Yermolinsky from Round 5 of the recent Eastern Open Championship, I knew I had to annotate it. Not only is it a nice game by Yermolinsky, who went on to win the tournament (as described at the USCF website), but it featured my favorite "Saemisch Surprise" vs. the Alekhine, which was the subject of an article here. Do I flatter myself to think that my article inspired Smith's choice of the line?