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St. George's Defense is OK!


  • 6 years ago · Quote · #1

    bobobbob

    The St. George's defense starts out with 1.e4 a6!? Most people think it's a horrible move. In fact, on Chessmaster's Opening book, this is the comment on 1...a6.

    "A move with little to recommend it. It fails to stake a claim in the center or begin development."

    I disagree! Let's look at the main line.  Black does have a share of the center and is not far behind in development.    

    Does anyone know any refutations to this opening (1.e4 a6 2.c4 is a good try) or can someone explain why this opening is so lowly regarded?                                        


  • 6 years ago · Quote · #2

    lanceuppercut_239

    bobobbob wrote:

    can someone explain why this opening is so lowly regarded?                                  


     I'm not an expert by any means but I'll give it a shot. The fact that it's "ok" isn't good enough. Black's first priority is to equalize. White starts off ahead by a tempo, so by default he's ahead in development. Black needs to catch up in a hurry (for mere mortals like you and me, lagging in development or wasting several tempi might not matter - your opponent won't be good enough to punish your mistakes; against a master, lag in development and waste a couple tempi - and you're sure to get mated in under 20 moves!) After 10 moves, you say Black does have a share of the center and is not far behind in development. Ok, fine - but there are other openings where black has reached equality after 10 moves!

    Specifically regarding 1...a6, the rook pawns (generally) shouldn't be moved in the opening unless there's a good reason to do so: http://www.chesscafe.com/text/heisman48.pdf

    Can you explain to me: what does 1...a6 accomplish? Does it counter one of white's threats? Does it bring black closer to equality? If black wants to play a6 at some point, why shouldn't he do something more constructive with his first move, and play a6 later - for example, to chase away a white piece from b5?

    The reason it is not highly regarded (and this is probably true of 99% of uncommon openings) isn't that a refutation exists (as far as I know), or that black will "definitely lose" if he plays this opening; rather, it's that black has several options which are better. 1...c5, e5, e6, c6 (for example - not that this list is exclusive) all accomplish something positive and constructive for black. Meanwhile, 1...a6 does nothing to solve black's immediate problems (namely, that he is behind a tempo and white has already occupied the center). 


  • 6 years ago · Quote · #3

    chuckg99

    Actually, I think Tony Miles' victory over Karpov with the St. George cemented its reputation as a legitimate opening, despite Chessmaster's assessment.  And 2. c4 can't be anything close to a refutation since 2...c5 transposes to a Maroczy Bind Sicilian (or a Closed Sicilian, if white prefers, where ...a6 is certainly a useful move).
  • 6 years ago · Quote · #4

    Badenstein

    I would not do dxc5, but rather c3.  I would let black capture my d pawn and then I would recapture with the c pawn and white still has two center pawns.  I wouldn't move the queen, but develop the black bishop to e3 and then the Queen Knight to d2.   If you give me the center.  I will win most of the time.
  • 6 years ago · Quote · #5

    lanceuppercut_239

    In MCO-14, Nick de Firmian writes that this defence is "viewed by the theory as unreliable. Some players use [it] anyway, counting on surprise value and the psychological impact of flouting known principles. 

    [. . .]

    White gains the advantage with accurate play, but less precision allows Black the unclear game he seeks. Miles once used this opening to defeat Karpov, who was clearly shocked to see black's first move."  

    Any unusual move can have "surprise value". But surprise value is not the same as theoretical soundness, and theoretical soundness is usually the basis on which openings are discussed. Yes, it can be tricky for white, and yes strange moves can throw people off; but with "perfect play" from both sides, white should emerge from the opening with an advantage - meaning the opening is good for white. 


  • 6 years ago · Quote · #6

    MsCloyescapade

    This is the game chuckg99 is talking about... Though Miles does admit that Karpov could have played better.


  • 6 years ago · Quote · #7

    bobobbob

    Yes, I agree that a6 is not as sound as the Ruy Lopez or Caro-Kan. But if you play 1...a6, you will put your opponent out of his book immediately. Also, there are not as much theory to study. If you get into a sharp position, the person more familiar with the position would win and you will have the advantage, having studied this opening at home. St George's Defense is worth a try at a OTB tournament. Don't play this in a turn-based game, though, because your opponent can just look up the opening in MCO.
  • 6 years ago · Quote · #8

    PawnFork

    If it works for you that's great, but it is an opening where you break a rule up front to transport your opponent to wierdsville.  Once you are there you have to obey "the rules" all the more slavishly.
  • 6 years ago · Quote · #9

    KillaBeez

    The St. George is not a bad opening.  It may be a little slow, but Black will pour tremendous heat on White's center.  A hypermodern opening indeed.
  • 6 years ago · Quote · #10

    draco_alpine

    The point of this opening is that it is so uncommon that errors are made and the pschological impact of this choice disadvantages the openent.

    It looks ok in practise but leaves black a bit suspect to go down to a quick attack.

    I think my line would be 1)e4 a6?! 2)d4 b5! 3)nf3 Bb2 4)Nbd2!

    It also leaves black to passive untill move 5 or 6 but if he can survive i suppose it is just about play able!


  • 6 years ago · Quote · #11

    Neil_H

    There are other strange openings that will put white out of main theory with better development than 1.a6.  1.b6 for example.
  • 6 years ago · Quote · #12

    wormrose

    All openings are sound below master level. -- William Lombardy

     

    I've played the St. George in about 25 games, winning a little more than half those games. But in either case I don't think the opening had much to do with it. Most of the opponents in those games were rated about the same as I was at the time. (approx 1500) I also disagree with chessmasters statement. The Bb7 shoots right through the center and is therefor a developing move which affects the center. I also play the Nimzo-Larsen attack with white which is another slow opening considered not-so-sound. I win more than I lose with it. It also utilizes a Bishop fianchetto for center control from afar. I doubt that I surprise anyone with these openings since there are plenty of online resources available to my opponents. I'm playing at GrandMaster level until the theory runs out. Then it's a chess game.


  • 6 years ago · Quote · #13

    Graw81

    KillaBeez wrote: The St. George is not a bad opening.  It may be a little slow, but Black will pour tremendous heat on White's center.  A hypermodern opening indeed.

     I agree totally. 

    I use 1...a6 on occassion and dont mind emloying a Hippo set up.

    As white against 1.e4 a6 i recommend 2.c4. Miles gave 2.c4 the go ahead so why not!? True, it does allow transpositions but why try and battle on unknown territory which Black wants. Here are a few transositions and with a little more thought im sure you can find some more. Hit move list for them all. Enjoy.


  • 6 years ago · Quote · #14

    normajeanyates

    I'll always call it the Miles defence, like i've been calling it since 1980.

    Black's strategy is to try to transpose into a favourable line of some other defence where ..a6 is to by played anyway.

    Karpov-Miles of course transposed on move 2 into the Polish defence, which is not so good! [unlike the Polish ie  Sokoloski opening 1. b4.

    Agree with Graw8's comment above; Miles's recommendations are  why i prefer to call it the Miles defence.

     


  • 6 years ago · Quote · #15

    Graw81

    normajeanyates wrote:

    I'll always call it the Miles defence, like i've been calling it since 1980.

    Black's strategy is to try to transpose into a favourable line of some other defence where ..a6 is to by played anyway.

    Karpov-Miles of course transposed on move 2 into the Polish defence, which is not so good! [unlike the Polish ie  Sokoloski opening 1. b4.

    Agree with Graw8's comment above; Miles's recommendations are  why i prefer to call it the Miles defence.

     


     Agreed!

     One interesting but maybe too simplistic approach to meeting 1...a6 is to play the KIA (could transpose to Closed Sicilian; also good idea). The idea being that Black may (and thats the determining factor) want to expand on the queenside thus costing him a tempi. For example, while White is attacking on the Kingside, Black will create his own counter attack on the queenside by advancing pawns, usually something like c5,b5,a5 (a5 being played in one move, not a6 and then a5, 'the tempi') followed by either c4,b4,a4 etc.

    The drawback is that because the KIA leads to closed positions (generally) and slow play should be ok anyway. In contrast, passive play in an sharp open position could cost you.

    To explain where the KIA idea comes from is that against the O Kelly variation of the Sicilian some players try to show that 2... a6 is played to early and could cost Black time if he intends ...a5. They do this by instead playing the Closed Sicilian rather than Open Sicilian.

    Just an interesting idea i thought id share.

     



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