Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Big Clamp

I have assembled a games collection at 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, Part One"  and Part Two. 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.


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).

Unknown said...

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

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Unknown 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

Michael Goeller said...

[Event "Hoogeveen Essent op"]
[Site "Hoogeveen"]
[Date "2007.10.12"]
[Round "1"]
[White "Rasmussen, Allan Stig"]
[Black "Hamelink, Desiree"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "2485"]
[BlackElo "2202"]
[ECO "B21"]

1. e4 c5 2. d3 Nc6 3. f4 d6 4. c3 Nf6 5. Be2 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. Nd2 e6 8. a3 a5 9. d4 b6 10. Bb5 Bd7 11. dxc5 dxc5 12. Ngf3 O-O 13. Qe2 Qc7 14. Nh4 Rfd8 15. O-O Ne7 16. Bd3 Bc6 17. h3 Qb7 18. Bf2 Rd7 19. Nhf3 Nh5 20. g3 Rad8 21. Bc2 Bh6 22. Rad1 Bg7 23. Kh2 Qc7 24. e5 Nd5 25. Ne4 Qb7 26. Rd2 Bh6 27. Nfg5 Bf8 28. c4 Ne7 29. Rxd7 Rxd7 30. g4 Nxf4 31. Qf3 h6 32. Qxf4 hxg5 33. Nxg5 Nc8 34. Bxg6 fxg6 35. Qf6 Rg7 36. Bxc5 Be7 37. Qxe6+ Kh8 38. Bxe7 Qxe7 39. Qxc8+ Rg8 40. Qxc6 Qxe5+ 41. Kg2 Qxg5 42. Qf6+ 1-0

Great game.

Biloux said...

There is a small book dealing with this opening featuring a few IGM recent games. "Zébulon, un système contre la Sicilienne".

Michael Goeller said...

I picked up the Zebulon book from Amazon, much to my regret. Though some of the games it gives look worth looking up in a database, it offers no analysis or commentary whatsoever. There are ten pictures of the author's deceased cat (named Zebulon -- hence the title and his name for his version of the Clamp) and quite a few diagrams, but not a single contribution toward anyone's understanding of the system. The book does not even have page numbers, and (at least in the copy I received) there is at least one missing page that cuts off at least one game (as there are no page numbers, it is hard to tell if there are two or four or more missing pages). A completely lazy production. Like the work of David Robert Lonsdale and Michael Raphael (about whom I have complained in these pages), it is pretty much worthless to anyone familiar with online databases. Well, worthless to anyone but the author, who I suppose is making some easy money for very little effort.

Biloux said...

This is a rather malicious comment. Although you seem familiar with this opening, your comments seem rather worthless.
1-the author is probably making no money at all out of it, since every cent will be paid to charity association as written at the end, and the Ebook version is free.
2-this is only a 50 pages brochure that has no ambition other than introducing to this opening, as stated in the introduction.
3-there are comments and guidelines (do you understand French ?)
4- in the copy owned by my chessclub, there is no missing page.

I enjoyed reading it, and played it with reasonable success since then.

Zébulon said...

A friend of mine drew my attention drew my attention at your comments. Since you apparently did purchase the “Zébulon, un système contre la Sicilienne” book, I, assume you do understand French. Therefore, I will answer in French.

Commenter le travail des autres est chose aisée, vous avez parfaitement le droit de trouver ce livre très mauvais, mais il faut cependant que cela soit exprimé avec un minimum de respect des faits.

“it offers no analysis or commentary whatsoever (…) not a single contribution toward anyone's understanding of the system”.

Votre affirmation est objectivement fausse. Ce petit livre est destiné à faire connaître l’ouverture, particulièrement la variante avec Fou B2 au deuxième coup, et sansG3 et le fou en fianchetto. Son principe est clairement exposé dès la deuxième page : indiquer les grandes idées et plans principaux en les illustrant par l’exemple de parties de GMI. Sans qu’il ait l’ambition d’un traité théorique, auquel le sujet ne se prête pas, il expose clairement, par le texte, les grands thèmes.

“the author making some easy money for very little effort”

Il est clairement indiqué en dernière page que les droits d’auteur iront intégralement à des associations félines. Quant à gagner de l’argent avec un livre d’échecs, l’idée même est assez ridicule.
Je découvre votre article et vois qu’en une dizaine d’années vous n’avez ajouté qu’une seule partie, ce qui n’est pas le signe d’une grande recherche. Vous dénigrez également le travail de Lonsdale et Raphael, pourtant, eux, des joueurs de haut niveau, au sujet de cette ouverture dont vous vous croyez visiblement l’unique spécialiste.

Cela dit, merci pour m’avoir indiqué le problème de la numérotation de pages. Amazon ne vend pas la bonne édition et cela va être rectifié dès aujourd’hui. Si vous le souhaitez, envoyez-moi un mail et je vous ferai parvenir le pdf.

En conclusion, sachant que vous avez rédigé sur Amazon un long commentaire « DO NOT PURCHASE », je vous dirai « do not purchase books written in a language you do not understand ».

No hard feelings.

Zébulon said...

In spite of many requests and messages, Amazon would not change the printed version they sell which is not the right one. Purchasing a book from Amazon is like getting a washing machine from the local bookshop. The Ebook English version is available and it will be free from the 1st till the 15th of December.

Anonymous said...

You can get The Big Clamp from KUPDF:

Anonymous said...

And a good article here:

Zébulon said...

Thanks, good article indeed. I find Max Illingworth's video on YouTube about 2.Bishop e2 against the Sicilian even more interesting :

Michael Goeller said...

I agree. I should have posted a link to the Illingsworth article long ago:

I think 2.Be2 is an intriguing approach to trying to reach the Clamp. There is no perfect solution, of course. But it is a good one, especially for those who play a Dutch-type system against the English as Black, for whom it will be familiar territory.

Zébulon said...

2. Be2 does not reach Day's Clamp since the related system obviously does not include a g3 Bg2 fianchetto.
It's a completly different approach.

Michael Goeller said...

As you must know, since you have written about the Be2 line, Day's approach to the Clamp system was quite eclectic and his articles and book on the Clamp feature games (including his own) where he played the Bishop to e2 as well as those where it went to g2. See Day - Ross, Toronto 1979, for instance. Maybe you have an overly narrow definition of "The Clamp."

Zébulon said...

Day's "clamp" main line clearly is with the g2 Bg3 fianchetto, as explained in his own book (you will find it for free as indicated in on of the above comments). In the game you mention, he plays a massive pawn attack on the king side with his king stuck in the center (as in a few other of his games).
All this is a quite different system from 1.Be2 (leading to some c3 d3 e4 f4 pawn structure and short castling).

Zébulon said...

The new 2021 edition with more analysis and some recente games is now available as an Ebook :

Zébulon said...

Ebook is now free :