Poisoned Pawn?

The term “Poisoned Pawn” appears twice in the opening naming lexicons. It can also be used in a more broader sense.

 

In general, the pawn on b2 is attacked by Black’s queen. If he does, he sure to face a massive, and sometimes very long, attack by the White’s pieces.

 

The question is, not can he take the pawn. But rather, can he withstand the attack? If he can, then he’ll be up a pawn in the endgame.

 
In a more literary sense, can Black eat the pawn without suffering indigestion? Now you know where the word, “poisoned” comes from.

 
Let’s get started.

 

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The Poisoned Pawn in the Najdorf is defined by the moves; 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qb6.

 

2020_03_19_A

White usually continues with 8.Qd2, allowing Black to take his b2 pawn. He knows that if nothing else, he’ll be one attacking. But how best to attack? And what to do when Black, as he typically does, counterattack?

 

Fischer was the main advocate of this Najdorf version, who played it from the mid 1960s to the early 1970s. Here is Fischer in his prime.

 

GM Bruno Parma-GM Fischer
Rovinj/Zagreb, Croatia, Apr. 12, 1970
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qb6 8.Qd2 Qxb2 9.Rb1 Qa3 10.Bxf6 gxf6 11.Be2 Bg7 12.O-O f5 13.Rfd1 O-O 14.exf5 exf5 15.Nd5 Nc6 16.Nxc6 bxc6 17.Ne7+ Kh8 18.Nxc8 Rfxc8 19.Qd3? (>19.Qxd6 Qxa2 20.Qc5, with the idea of Bd3) 19…Qc5+ 20.Kh1 Re8 -/+ 21.Qc4 Qxc4 22.Bxc4 Re4 23.Bxf7 Rf8 24.Bh5 Rxf4 25.Rb6 (>25.Rxd6 Rh4 with the idea of Be5 -/+. With the text move, White falls further behind.) 25…Be5 26.Rxa6 Rh4 27.Bf3 Rxh2+ 28.Kg1 c5 29.Ra8 Rxa8 30.Bxa8 Rh4 31.Bc6 Rb4 32.a4 Rb2 33.c4 Kg7 34.Rd3 Ra2 35.Kf1 Kg6 36.Re3 h5 37.Re2 Ra3 38.Rd2 h4 39.Ke2 Bf4 40.Rd3 Ra2+ 41.Kd1 Kf6 42.Rf3 Be5 43.Rd3 Ke7 44.Rd2 Ra3 45.Ke2 Bc3 46.Rd3 Ra2+ 47.Kd1 Bd4 48.Rh3 Bf6 49.Re3+ Be5 50.Rd3 Kd8 51.Rd2 Ra1+ 52.Ke2 Kc7 53.Bd5 Bf4 54.Rc2 Ra3 55.Rb2 Be5 56.Rd2 Rg3 57.Kd1 f4 0-1

 
It wasn’t until Fischer played in the World Championship that he met his equal, at least in this variation.

 

GM Spassky-GM Fischer
World Ch. Game #11
Reykjavik, 1972
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qb6 8.Qd2 Qxb2 9.Nb3 Qa3 10.Bxf6 gxf6 11.Be2 h5 12.O-O Nc6 13.Kh1 Bd7 14.Nb1 Qb4 15.Qe3 d5 16.exd5 Ne7 17.c4 Nf5 18.Qd3 h4 19.Bg4 Nd6 20.N1d2 f5 21.a3 Qb6 22.c5 Qb5 23.Qc3 fxg4 24.a4 h3 25.axb5 hxg2+ 26.Kxg2 Rh3 27.Qf6 Nf5 28.c6 Bc8 29.dxe6 fxe6 30.Rfe1 Be7 31.Rxe6 1-0

 
To be sure, the response was cooked up by Spassky’s team both before and during the match. It was a quick defeat, and it’s no wonder that Fischer didn’t again in the match. Or ever again.

 

After winning the World Championship, Fischer disappeared for a couple of decades. During his absence several improvements were found for both sides. But without it’s chief proponent the variation is played by only a few top players.

 

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Black can also offer a poisoned pawn. In  this case the pawn is on g7.

 

The Poisoned Pawn Variation of the Winawer, offers a richer variation of play than the Najdorf. And it is played often.

 
The variation is triggered by the moves; 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Qc7 7.Qg4. Black has a number of ways to attempt to gain the upper hand.

 

Haritonenko-Gorin
USSR, 1965
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Qc7 7.Qg4 f5!? 8.Qg3 Ne7 9.Qxg7 Rg8 10.Qxh7 cxd4 11.Kd1 Bd7 12.Qh5+ Ng6 13.Ne2 Nc6 14.cxd4 O-O-O 15.g3

2020_03_19_B
15…Ncxe5! 16.dxe5 Ba4 17.Ra2 d4 18.Bg5 d3 0-1

 
White gets even here.

 

Escalante-NM Adaar
Thematic Tournament – Winawer Variation, Round 2
chess.com, Aug.-Sept. 2018
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 (The usual route to the Winawer. All games in the tournament began with this position.) 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 O-O (Some years ago Van der Tak wrote an article in NIC 8 titled, “Castling Into It?” where he explored Black’s kingside castling possibilities in the Poisoned Pawn Variation of the Winawer, and if it was a viable option for Black. I don’t think the resulting positions favor Black.) 8.Bd3 (Thanks to GM Van der Tak, and his article, I am convinced this is best move for White.) 8…Nbc6 9.Nf3 cxd4?? (This loses the game in a hurry.)
2020_03_19_C
10.Bxh7+! 1-0 [Black resigns due to 10…Kxh7 11.Qh5+ (stronger than the traditional Ng5+ as the potential escape square, g6, is denied to Black) 11…Kg8 12.Ng5 and White mates.]

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The term “Poisoned Pawn”, in a more general term, can be defined as a pawn on the b2 or g7 square that is offered to the enemy queen to lure her out of defending her king or deflecting her to an irrelevant area of the board.

 

The term can be used in the general sense.

 
GM Bent Larsen-IM Bela Berger
Amsterdam Izt.
Netherlands, 1964
1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d3 d5?! 4.exd5 Nxd5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.O-O Bg4?! 7.Re1 Be7 (Not 7…f6? because of 8.Nxe5! and Black is in a lot of trouble,) 8.h3 Bxf3 9.Qxf3 Nd4!? 10.Qg4!

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11…O-O [Castling into the same area as the enemy queen is already attacking is usually not a good idea (see above). One has to think about self-preservation in addition to attacking factors. But in this case, Black is forced into it. White’s queen breaks in on both the center and kingside after 10…Nxc2 11.Rxe5 Nxa1 (hopeless is 11…Nf6 12.Qxg7 Kd7 13.Qxf7) 12.Qxg7 Rf8 13.Rxd5 Qc8 14.Qxh7 c6 15.Rf5. Even worse is 10…Bf6? The move is not only passive but it also loses a piece after 11.Qxd4. So Black has to risk it.] 11.Rxe5 Nf6 12.Qd1 (White has the extra pawn and better position.) 12…Bd6 13.Re1 Re8 14.Be3 c5 15.Nd2 Bc7 16.Nf3 Qd6 17.Bxd4 cxd4 18.Rxe8+ Rxe8 19.c3 dxc3 20.bxc3 Nh5 21.Qa4 Re7 22.Qxa7 Nf4 23.Qxb7 h5 24.Qc8+ Kh7 25.h4 1-0

 

 

Here, each side can offer their poisoned pawns, but don’t as they have nothing to compensate for their lost material. Material and and tempi are the requisites for giving up the pawn.

 

 
Ashraf Salimov-Vadim Razin
Ukraine U16 Ch., ½ Finals
Dnipropetrovsk, Nov. 11 2004
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.Bb5 Qb6 6.Bxc6+ bxc6 7.O-O Ba6 8.Re1 cxd4 9.Nxd4 Bc5 10.Be3 Bxd4 11.Qxd4 Rb8 12.b3 Ne7 13.Qc5 Nf5 14.g4 Nxe3 15.Qxe3 c5 16.Qg5 O-O 17.Nd2 Qb4 18.Nf1 f5 19.exf6 Rxf6 20.h3 Rbf8 21.Qe5 Rxf2 22.Qxe6+ Kh8 23.Qxa6 Qd4 24.Ne3 (24.Qe6 Rxf1+ 25.Kg2 Qf2+) 24…Qf4 25.Nf1 Qf3 (Black has too much pressure on White’s weak point and she has to concede the point.) 0-1

The French Problem

Many years ago. I was playing a tournament. Sometime between my morning game and afternoon game I met a young guy.

 

He was asking for help against the French Defence, saying he had a problem trying to figure it out so he could win as White.

 

He didn’t have a board or a set. I set up my pieces on my board so I can both see the moves. By the way, if you ever attend a tournament, ALWAYS bring a set with you. You want to show off you are making some investment in learning more about the game.

 

Anyway, I set up the board.

1

 

I then asked if he knew the Advanced Variation (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5).

 

 

He said, “It’s been analyzed to death and the only way for White to try to gain an advantage was to play the Milner-Barry.” “But,” he continued, “White still loses”.

 

I don’t completely understand what he was trying to tell me. It sounded like he was repeating someone who knew the names of the variations, but little else. Maybe I’ll unravel it.

 

I figured we both have the time. Let’s keep the conversation going.

 

 

I replied, “Ok, how about the Classical Variation (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5)?”

 

He answered me, “But it’s even more drawish than the Advanced Variation!”

 

“Ok. So what do you think of the Winawer (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4)?”

 

“Too much stuff to remember! And I don’t have the time to study all the lines.”

 

It turns out he didn’t want an improvement it the main lines. He wanted a brand-new way to counter 1.e4 e6.

 

 

I told him the French Defence got its name from a correspondence game between the cities of London and Paris in 1834.

 

 

London Chess Club-Paris Chess Club
corres. 1834
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.Bd3 c5 6.Qe2+ Be7 7.dxc5 O-O 8.Be3 Re8 9.Bb5 Nc6 10.Nd4 Bxc5 11.Bxc6 bxc6 12.c3 Bxd4 13.cxd4 c5 14.Qd3 Qb6 15.O-O Ba6 16.Qb3 Qxb3 17.axb3 Bxf1 18.Kxf1 Ng4 19.dxc5 Nxe3+ 20.fxe3 Rxe3 21.Nd2 Rae8 22.b4 Rd3 23.Rxa7 Rxd2 24.b5 Rxb2 25.b6 d4 26.b7 d3 27.Ra8 Kf8 0-1

 

 

But the basic ideas go way back to Greco.

 

 

Greco-N.N.
Rome, 1620?
1.e4 e6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Bd3 Nc6 4.Nf3Be7 5.h4 O-O 6.e5 Nd5 7.Bxh7+! (yes, this famous sacrifice originated with Greco.) 7…Kxh7 8.Ng5+ Bxg5 9.hxg5+ Kg8 10.Qh5 f5 11.g6 Re8 12.Qh8mate 1-0

 

 

And I concluded, “To find a new way to combat the French may not be possible.”

 

“Please anything! Even if it might be bad for White. I want something to at least try.”

 

OK, the opened the door a little.

 

The Schlechter Variation is defined by the moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Bd3. White’s bishop gets an early start in the game. However, it can be almost immediately challenged by Black’s knight.

 

But let’s not get too far ahead. Black can quickly lose the game (which is what my friend wanted to hear) if he falters.

 

 

Tarrasch-Kuerschner
Nuremburg, 1893
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Bd3 Nf6 4.e5! Nfd7 5.Nf3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.O-O f6 8.Re1 f5 9.Be3 c4?!(9…Be7, with the idea of 10…O-O is definitely better.) 10.Bc2 Be7 (Black plays this move a bit late and it doesn’t coordinate well with his previous move.) 11.b3 b5 12.a4 bxa4 13.bxc4 dxc4 14.d5 Ncxe5 15.dxe6 Nxf3+ 16.Qxf3 Nb6 17.Qxf5 Bf6 [Black has serious problems here. If 17…Rf8, then 18.Qh5+ g6 19.Bxg6+ hxg6 (or 19…Rf7 20.Bxf7+ Kf8 21.Bh6#) 20.Qxg6+ Rf7 21.Qxf7#.] 18.Bc5 Bb7 19.Qg6+! hxg6 20.Bxg6mate 1-0

 

Vega Gutierrez (2236)-Korneev (1630)
La Laguna Open
Spain, May 6 2009
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Bd3 c5? 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.Nc3 Qd6 6.Nb5 Qb6 7.Bf4 Na6 8.Nf3 Nf6 9.Ne5 Qa5+ 10.c3 Nd5 11.Bg5 Qb6 12.Qa4 Bd7 13.Nd6+ Qxd6 14.Nxd7 Be7 15.dxc5 Nxc3 16.bxc3 Qxd3 17.Ne5+ b5 18.cxb6 1-0

 

Whitfield-Belson
Toronto, 1934
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Bd3 dxe4 4.Bxe4 Nf6 5.Bd3 c5 6.dxc5 Bxc5 7.Nf3 O-O 8.O-O Nc6 9.c3 (Seems solid and reasonable.) 9…e5?! (There are not too many games with this position. But even with lack of games, this move seems to weaken Black too much for further consideration by other French players.) 10.Bg5 Re8 11.Qc2 h6 12.Bxf6 Qxf6 13.Nbd2 Bb6 14.Ne4 Qe7 15.Ng3 g6 16.Bxg6 fxg6 17.Qxg6+ Kf8 18.Nh5 Qf7 19.Qxh6+ Ke7 20.Ng5 Qf5 21.Rad1 Bd7 22.Qd6+ Kd8 23.Ng7 Qg4 24.N5e6+ 1-0

 

 

 

But Black can equalize in the main line after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Bd3 dxe4 4.Bxe4 Nf6 5.Bd3 c5 6.dxc5 Bxc5 7.Nf3 Nc6.

 

 

 

Tartakower-Torre
Moscow, 1925
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Bd3 dxe4 4.Bxe4 Nf6 5.Bd3 c5 6.dxc5 Bxc5 7.Nf3 Nc6 8.O-O Qc7 9.Nc3 Bd7 10.Bg5!? (A move that may be slightly too aggressive.) 10…O-O-O 11.Qe2 e5 (ECO evaluates this position as equal. Personally, I think if any player has the advantage, it is Black.) 12.Be4 Bg4 13.Bxc6  Qxc6 14.h3 Bxf3 15.Qxf3 Qxf3 16.gxf3 Bd4 17.Nd1 Rd6 18.c3 Bb6 19.Ne3 Nh5 20.Nf5 Rd3 21.Rad1 Rxf3 22.Nd6+ Kc7 23.Kg2 e4 24.Nxe4 Rf5 25.Be3 Re5 26.Ng3 Nxg3 27.Bxb6+ Kxb6 28.fxg3 Re2+ 29.Rf2 Rhe8 30.Rd2 1/2-1/2

 

Ruiz Sanchez (2455)-Gallego Alcaraz (2448)
Guillermo Garcia Elite
Santa Clara, Cuba, May 17 2017
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Bd3 c5 4.Nf3 dxe4 5.Bxe4 Nf6 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.dxc5 Bxc5 8.O-O Qc7 9.Nc3 Bd7 10.a3?!  (A move that may be slightly too passive.) 10…a6 11.Ne4 Ba7 12.Qe1 Ng4 13.h3 h5 14.Qc3 Bd4 15.Qd2 f5 16.Neg5 Ba7 17.hxg4 hxg4 18.Qf4 Qxf4 19.Bxf4 gxf3 20.Nxf3 O-O-O 21.Rfe1 Rh5 22.Bc4 Rdh8 23.Kf1 g5 24.Bxg5 e5 25.Be3 e4 -/+ 26.Ng1 Bb8 27.f4 Rh2 28.b4 R8h4 29.g3 Rg4 30.Re2 Rh7 31.Bf2 Ne7 32.Rd1 Bc7 33.Red2 Bc6 34.Be6+ Kb8 35.Re1 Rh1 36.c4 Ba4 37.Re3 Bb6 38.c5 Bc7 39.Bd7 Bc6 40.Bxc6 bxc6 41.Rb3 Nd5 42.Re2 Kb7 43.Kg2 Rh7 44.Kf1 Rg6 45.a4 Nf6 46.b5 a5 47.b6 Bd8 48.Rd2 Nd5 49.Ne2 Bf6 50.Bd4 Bxd4 51.Rxd4 Rh1+ 52.Kf2 Rgh6 53.Rxd5 cxd5 54.Ke3 Rc6 55.Rb5 Rd1 56.Rxa5 d4+ 57.Kf2 Rd2 58.Ra7+ Kb8 59.a5 d3 60.Ke3 Rxe2+ 61.Kd4 d2 62.Kd5 Rxc5+ 0-1

 

 

Here’s a game which shows my suggestion to my friend is not so unique after all.

 

 

IM Yan Teplitsky instructed his women team competing in the 35th Chess Olympiad in Bled to play this variation. Maybe there is something more about this opening.

 

 

Dina Kagramanov-Elenoara Ambrosi
Women’s Ol.
Bled, 2002
[IM Yan Teplitsky, “35th Chess Olympiad – Bled, Slovenia”, En Passant (Canada’s leading chess magazine), Apr. 2003]
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Bd3 (A rare line that does not have a very good reputation.)3…dxe4 4.Bxe4 Nf6 5.Bf3 c5 6.Ne2 Nc6 7.Be3 Qb6 8.b3 cxd4?![Now White gets to untangle her pieces. Much better is 8…Nxd4 (also for Black is to develop her queenside with 8…Bd7) 9.Nxd4 e5 10.Ne2 e4.] 9.Nxd4 Qa5+(While 9…Ne5 10.O-O Bc5 11.c3 Bd7 12.b4 Nxf3+ 13.Qxf3 Bxd4 14.Bxd4 Qc6 15.Qg3 is just as bad for Black, here 9…Bc5 10.Nxc6 Bxe3 11.fxe3 bxc6 12.Kf2 led to comfortable position for Black in Sirlett-Benggawanm Bled ol f (2) 2002, from the same match.) 10.Qd2 Qxd2+ (A funny continuation is 10…Nxd4 11.Qxa5 Bb4+ but White can just recapture the knight.) 11.Nxd2

 

2020_02_27
11…Nxd4?[Black is behind in development, and has a much better way of playing by depriving White of the bishop pair with 11…Ne5! 12.Nb5 Nxf3+ 13.Nxf3 Nd5 14.c4 (but not 14.Bxa7? Bd7 15.a4 Bxb5 16.axb5 Bc5 and Black wins.) 14…Nxe3 15.fxe3 Bb4+ and Black is better.]12.Bxd4 Bd6 13.Nc4 Be7 14.O-O O-O 15.Na5! Nd5 16.c4 Nb4?(Black now loses a pawn. Much better is 16…Bb4 although Black still isn’t happy after  17.cxd5 Bxa5 18.dxe6 fxe6 19.Rac1.)17.Nxb7 Nc2 18.Na5 Nxd4 19.Bxa8 Bd7 20.Rad1 e5 21.Bd5 Rb8 22.Rfe1 Bd6 23.Nb7 Bc7 24.Nc5 Bg4 25.f3 Bc8 26.Rxd4 1-0

 

 

Chess in Another Game

Not only do I enjoy chess, but most board games in general (but to a lesser extent, of course).

 

One of these games is Dixit, a party game in which players try to guess which your card by is using a clue that you provided. Similar to Apples to Apples or Card Against Humanity (an adult version of Apples to Apples).

 

You can’t make your clue too easy, else everyone will solve it and you get no points. And if you make your clue too difficult and no one solves it, then again you get no points. Best strategy is having one or two people solve it and you earn three points.

 

So, what does this have to do with chess? Glad you asked! Two of the cards have chess themes in their image. See below.

Dixit_1_A

Dixit_2_A

 

Let’s take the first image. I’ve played this card before, in fact twice. The first time I gave the clue, it was “Berlin, Italian, French, Swiss”. All of these are chess openings, of which one person got it. I’m proud of that clue!

 

Another time I used the clue, “Peace”, as it referred to the dove. But since the clue was spoken, it also referred to “Piece”, as something one would expect to be on a chessboard. I didn’t do as well on that image.

 

The second image is harder to find a clue that doesn’t give it immediately away. Maybe “Bobby and Lisa”, a reference to strongest female and male American players of the 1960’s. Or perhaps, “What does Alice in Wonderland and One Night in Bangkok have in common?” (they both feature chess).

 

Here I digress. If the reader wishes to use chess themes found in a movie, he (or she!) may want to watch this YouTube video, https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=chess+movie#id=2&vid=998433ab7997d2e286c6412590eef4e3&action=click

 

A few pet peeves here. One is the five-minute game of Sherlock Holmes.  Players at that time did not play five- minute games; the chess clocks could not handle the rapid oscillations of fast moving players. Players would instead use a set time of 5 seconds per move, called out by an independent arbitrator. In “Searching for Bobby Fischer”, the clocks are set for five minutes, not two minutes. The chess sets used in the movies tend not to be the sets preferred by most players – too hard to determine pieces and/or the pieces are too fragile to grab and gather them, esp. in speed chess. And finally, most of the movies use Descriptive Notation (DN), such as “Queen takes Knight”, instead of more common, and easier to use, Algebraic Notation (AN). Only Harry Potter gets it right!  

 

But back to the original post!

 

Readers! Do you have any suggestions for these two cards? Would love to hear your opinion!

Trivia Questions

OK,

 

Here are some trivia questions guaranteed to win a few bets at a chess club.

 

 

(1) Which chess player(s) did NOT receive a GM title from FIDE?

 

Jose Capablanca

 

Anatoly Karpov

 

Camilla Baginskaite

 

Nona Gaprindashvili

 

Bobby Fischer

 

 

 
Answer : Jose Capablanca. He received his GM title by Czar Nicolas II at the St. Petersburg 1914 International Tournament. FIDE was organized in 1924 and started awarding titles in 1950.

 

 
(2) How many moves can a Rook make in a single turn?

 

 

 

Answer : Just one move, like all the other pieces. He can, however, move to many different squares.

 

 
(3) Can a player win a game without moving a single pawn?

 

 

 

Answer : Yes. An opponent fails to show up for the game. In the case of which a player must play a move to start the clock, he may play 1.Nf3.

 

 

(4) Can a player move two of his pieces in a single turn?

 

 

 

Answer : Yes. It’s called castling.

 

 

(5) Can a player take two of his opponent’s pieces in a single turn?

 

 

Answer : No. It’s not possible.

 

 
(6) We know all about a discovered check and a double check. Can a player ever triple check his opponent?

 

 

 

Answer : Actually, that is impossible. It’s not even possible in Siamese chess. Try it!

 

 

(7) Which of these openings have a variation known as the “Wing Gambit”?

 

Sicilian

French

King’s Indian Defence

Bird’s Opening

 

 

 
Answer : Interesting enough, Bird’s Opening does not have a Wing Gambit variation. And while the KID does not have a Wing Gambit, it does have a Bayonet variation with b4.

 

 

Try them out and let me know how it goes! =)

Win a Battle and Hope to Winawer

I enjoy correspondence chess. Even more so if the tournament is thematic one.

Thematic tournaments (where everyone plays the same opening moves) are a good way to test an opening of your choice.

Right now I am involved in a French thematic tournament. And despite what I know about the French, there is always something new to learn.

One of my opponents has chosen a rare sideline of Winawer French, namely, 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qg4!?, which can lead to an interesting gambit.

2018_08_02

Now Black, of course, can refuse to give up his “g” pawn by either 4…Kf8 or 4…g6.

 

4…Kf8 is not to be recommended as Black is not gaining anything by his King move.

 

For example, Zsivko Bratanov (2408)-Stephan Bardel (2219), Grenoble, France, June 2005 went 1.d4 e6 2.e4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qg4 Kf8?! 5.Bg5 (ECO gives 5.exd5 exd5 6.Qg3 +/-.) 5…f6 6.Bd2 Nc6 7.O-O-O Nxd4 8.exd5 e5 9.Qg3 Bf5 10.Bd3 Ne7 11.f4 Bxc3 12.Bxc3 Qxd5 13.fxe5 Rd8 14.Bxd4 Qxd4 15.Ne2 Qc5 16.Bxf5 Nxf5 17.Qf4 Rxd1+ 18.Rxd1 Ne3 19.Rd2 Kf7 20.e6+ Kg6 21.Qg3+ Qg5 22.Nf4+ Kf5 23.Qxe3 1-0

 
4…g6 is a possibility that needs to be further investigated:

 

A COMPUTER-GM Artur Yusupov (2640)
Match
Ischia, Italy, 1997
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qg4 g6 5.e5 b6 6.Nf3 h5 7.Qh3 Ba6 8.Bxa6 Nxa6 9.O-O Bxc3 10.bxc3 c5 11.Bg5 Qd7 12.Rfd1 Rc8 13.c4 cxd4 14.cxd5 Qxd5 15.Rxd4 Qc5 16.Rad1 Ne7 17.Rd6 Nc6 18.Rxe6+ Kf8 19.Rxg6 Re8 20.Rh6 Rg8 21.Rh7 Rxg5 22.Qd7 Re7 23.Qc8+ Re8 24.Rh8+ 1-0

 

Jim Berry-IM Michael Brooks (2510)
North America Open
Oklahoma, 2003
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qg4 g6 5.e5 c5 6.dxc5 Bxc5 7.Bg5 Qb6 8.O-O-O Bd7 9.Nf3 h6 10.Bf6 Nxf6 11.exf6 Bxf2 12.Bd3 e5 13.Bb5 Qxb5 14.Nxb5 Bxg4 15.Nc7+ Kd7 16.Nxa8 Bxf3 17.gxf3 d4 18.c3 Nc6 19.cxd4 exd4 20.Nb6+ axb6 21.a3 Re8 22.Rhf1 Re2 23.Rd3 Be3+ 24.Kb1 Ne5 25.Rb3 Nc4 0-1

 

Daniel Campora (2538)-Antonio Morillo (2105)
Coria del Rio Open
Spain, Feb. 11 2005
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qg4 g6 5.Bg5 f6 6.Bd2 e5 7.Qe2 dxe4 8.dxe5 f5 9.Nxe4 Qe7 10.Nc3 Nc6 11.Nf3 Be6 12.a3 Ba5 13.Qb5 O-O-O 14.Bg5 Nd4 15.Bxe7 Nxb5 16.Bxd8 Nxc3 17.Bg5 Ne4+ 18.Bd2 Bb6 19.Be3 Bxe3 20.fxe3 Nh6 21.Bd3 Ng4 22.O-O Bd5 23.Rfe1 Re8 24.Rad1 Nxe5 25.Bxe4 Bxe4 26.Nxe5 Rxe5 27.Rd2 c6 28.Kf2 Kc7 29.Red1 Re7 30.c4 g5 31.Rd6 g4 32.Rf6 a6 33.b4 Rg7 34.c5 b6 35.Rf8 Kb7 36.Rdd8 bxc5 37.bxc5 a5 38.Ra8 Rd7 39.Rfb8+ Kc7 40.Ra7+ Kxb8 41.Rxd7 h6 42.h4 gxh3 43.gxh3 h5 44.Rh7 Bc2 45.h4 Bd1 46.Kg3 Bg4 47.Kf4 Ka8 48.Ke5 Kb8 49.Rf7 1-0

 
But I decided to go with the main line. After all, I am here to learn this opening and I can’t learn the main line if I avoid it.

 
So, we continue with gambiting the” g” pawn.

 
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qg4 Nf6 5.Qxg7 Rg8 6.Qh6 Rg6 7.Qe3

 

Now here come some competing plans. One is to play 7…c5, gaining a move to challenge the center. This is ECO’s recommendation.

 

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qg4 Nf6 5.Qxg7 Rg8 6.Qh6 Rg6 7.Qe3 c5 8.Bd2 Ng4 9.Qd3 Nc6 10.Nge2 (10.h3? c4 -+) 10…cxd4 11.Nxd4 Nxf2 12.Kxf2 Bc5 -/+ 13.Be3 Qf6+ -/+

 
But surely my opponent is not going to play into this line. It is too simple and he can probably find a TN or even a better move. One can’t rely on books alone. A little investigation and a decent amount of imagination can show equally, or even better, alternate ideas.

 

If the purpose of the main line is for Black to gain a tempo by attacking the center with 7…c5, why does he have to wait for the intermediate moves of 6.Qh6 Rg6 7.Qe3? In other words, can Black play 5.Qxg7 Rg8 6.Qh6 c5 at this point? Not too many games with this sequence of moves. Is it because it is bad or because it is unknown?

 

 
Let’s find out!

Welcome!

Welcome here!

This is the beginning of a chess blog. It is my intention that his blog will feature chess games (esp. miniatures), endings,  thoughts, and other interesting items about the game.

This is a work in progress, with the idea of perpetual improvement.

Maybe you have thoughts about what chess blog might be or how to improve it. If so, let me know – love to know your thoughts.

Here is short game I think you will appreciate.

Alfred Freidl-Ganzer
corres., 1962
[Escalante]
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.a3 Bxc3+ 5.bxc3 dxe4 6.f3
(The Winckelmann Gambit, in which White gambits his “f” pawn to access a very open f” file. It’s a gambit that I am now experimenting and so far, the results have been positive. Winckelmann has his name attached to the gambit, not for creating it, but because he was successful in popularizing it by his many brilliant games in the early 1990’s.) 6…exf3 (Accepting the gambit is now considered not the best strategy. But if one cannot accept it, what then is the proper response?) 7.Nxf3 c6 8.Bd3 Nd7 9.O-O Qa5 10.Bd2 Ngf6 11.Qe1 O-O (Usually castling is a good idea as it puts one’s king in a safer space. In this game, and maybe even this gambit, castling may put this king in harm’s way.) 12.Ng5! (To provoke weaknesses in Black’s castled position.) 12…h6 13.c4 Qb6 14.c5 Qc7 15.Nf3 b6 16.Qh4 h5 17.Bf4 Qb7 18.Bd6 Re8 19.Ne5 bxc5 20.Rab1 Nb6 21.dxc5 Rd8 (Now we’ll see the power of the using the “f” file.)  22.Rxf6! gxf6 23.Qxf6 Rxd6 24.cxd6 1-0

 

 Here’s an early game by Winckelmann;

 

Winckelmann-Andre
corres., 1984
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.a3 Bxc3+ 5.bxc3 dxe4 6.f3 exf3 7.Nxf3 Ne7 8.Bd3 Ng6 9.O-O O-O 10.Ng5 h6 11.Nxf7 Rxf7 12.Bxg6 Rxf1+ 13.Qxf1 Qe7 14.Qd3 Bd7 15.Bf4 c6 16.Be5 Be8 17.Bxe8 Qxe8 18.Qg3 g5 19.h4 Nd7 20.hxg5 Nxe5 21.Qxe5 Qg6 22.gxh6 Qxh6 23.Re1 Re8 24.Re3 1-0