A New Opening Line & A Strategic Shocker
I fairly recently invented the following line for Black against the English opening 1.c4. I have tested this extensively through computer analysis and with help of some friends and it seems to be a very good option for Black.
Black can play as follows: 1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 f5 4.Bg2 Nf6 5.e3 e4!?
Now, White can play d3, f3, or Nge2. If Nge2, Black can play 6...Ne5!?, exerting control over the light squares in white’s position, play continuing 7.0-0 Bb4 and Black has a lot of strong aggressive chances. I don’t pretend to be an expert (only about 1800 rating) but from my own play and also with Fritz 12’s help I believe the resultant lines to be equal or possibly better for black.
6.f3 might be better for White. The e4-pawn is incredibly restrictive for White, and provides useful outposts for Black, so the obvious response is to try to get rid of it. Black can respond: 6...Bb4 and then has another easy to play position whether white plays 7.Nh3 or 7.fxe4.
On chess.com the general consensus is that 6.d3 is the best move for White; the end result for this line is, almost arbitrarily, White gaining a pawn in exchange for his King being trapped in the centre (like this: 6.d3 Bb4 7.Nge2 d5 8.cxd5 Qxd5 9.dxe4 Qxd1+ 10.Kxd1 0-0), and again I trust the computer’s analysis in such a position in saying that it is about equal opportunity for both sides.
Interesting line where Black gains some nice, active pieces! However, you didn’t “invent” 5…e4. This move is featured in 26 games in my database. The reply 6.d3 is in 21 of them. 6…Bb4 (after 5…e4 6.d3) is seen in 15 games. And 7.Nge2 is in 11 of those. So, there’s nothing new under the sun! However, your 7…d5 was only in 1 database game (Ermenkov – Kontic, Yugoslavia 1998. That game continued 8.cxd5 Qxd5 9.Nf4 Qf7 and was won by Black after many errors by both sides).
Of course, I don’t have time to do a detailed analysis, but the variation seems fun to play and well worth exploring further. I did give the following lines a quick going over: 6.d3 Bb4 7.Nge2 d5 8.0-0 dxc4 9.dxe4 fxe4 10.Nxe4 (10.Qxd8+ Nxd8 11.Nxe4 Nxe4 12.Bxe4 Nf7 seems fine for Black) 10…Bg4 11.Nxf6+ gxh6 (11…Qxf6 12.Qc2 is just good for White) 12.Qxd8+ Rxd8 13.Nf4 Kf7 14.h3 Bc8 (14…Be6!?) 15.Bd5+ Rxd5! 16.Nxd5 Bxh3 17.Nxb4 Nxb4 and Black has serious compensation for the sacrificed Exchange.
Also critical is 8.cxd5 Qxd5 9.dxe4 Qxd1+ 10.Kxd1 0-0 11.exf5 Bxf5 12.e4 Be6 and now both 13.Kc2 and 13.f3 deserve tons of analysis.
I’d love to see this tackled in some high level games (over-the-board and postal).
In your third edition of How to Reassess Your Chess, you give the game O’Kelly-Najdorf, Dubrovnik 1950 and use it to demonstrate how playing for a superior minor piece can win a game.
After 18...Nxd5, White played 19.exd5 and lost badly. What happens if he tries 19.Bxc5? I think White’s okay then. Is this true?
I forgot about this extremely instructive game!
O’Kelly de Galway – M. Najdorf, Dubrovnik Olympiad 1950
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 0-0 5.Nc3 d6 6.Nf3 Nbd7 7.0-0 e5 8.Qc2 Re8 9.Rd1 exd4 10.Nxd4 a5 11.h3 Nc5 12.e4 Bd7 13.Be3 Qc8 14.Kh2 h5 15.Nb3 Ne6 16.Nd5 a4 17.Nd4 Nc5 18.Nb5
This forces the creation of a winning minor piece (crushing Knight versus poor Bishop) for Black. Worse is 18…Bxb5 since 19.Nxf6+ Bxf6 20.cxb5 promises the g2-Bishop some activity after an eventual e4-e5. By taking on d5 first, White won’t be able to avoid a poor light-squared Bishop.
19.Rxd5 Bc6 wins material since a Rook retreat gives up e4.
Alexis wanted to know if 19.Bxc5 would have changed white’s fate. The answer is no – the loss of white’s dark-squared Bishop creates problems on (unsurprisingly) the dark-squares: 19…dxc5 20.Rxd5 a3 21.Rad1 (White’s also lost after both 21.Nc3 axb2 22.Qxb2 b6 and 21.Rb1 axb2 22.Rxc5 c6 23.Nd6 Qd8 24.Nxe8 Bxe8) 21...Bxb5 22.cxb5 axb2 23.Rxc5 Rxa2 24.Rxc7 Qe6 and the passed b2-pawn is too strong.
White could try and avoid his fate with 20.Bxc5, but after 20…dxc5 21.cxb5 a3 is more than annoying and 21…Bd4 22.a3 Qd7 is also strong for Black.
After 20.cxb5 the final threats to black’s Knight are white’s dark-squared Bishop and b2-pawn. With his next move, Black forces the exchange of dark-squared Bishops, eradicates the b2-pawn, and thus makes his Knight invulnerable.
In my view this is a mistake since it leads to a strategically lost position that doesn’t offer any counterplay at all. Like it or not, White had to try 21.b4! Bxa1 22.Rxa1 Na4 23.Rc1 when he’s the Exchange down, but he has pressure against c7, two Bishops and, after Bd4, will create mating threats along the a1-h8 diagonal. By sacrificing the Exchange, at least White would have some positive imbalances to play with. As the game goes, White couldn’t do anything but sit around and wait to die.
21...Bxd4 22.Rxd4 axb2 23.Qxb2 b6
24.Rd2 Qf5 25.Re2 Nd3 26.Rxe8+ Rxe8 27.Qc2 Qe5 28.Rd1 Nc5
Having helped Black gain domination over the e-file, he retreats the Knight back to its wonderful c5-post. The rest of the game was easy for Black, thanks to the fact that the black Knight is a god, while white’s Bishop is a goat.
29.h4 Qe2 30.Qd2 Qxb5 31.Re1 Rxe1 32.Qxe1 Qb2 33.f4 Kf8 34.f5 Qe5 35.Qf1 Qxf5 36.Qxf5 gxf5 37.Bf3 Ne4 38.Bxh5 Nc3 39.Bf3 Nxa2, 0-1.