Two General Qs and the Root Variation

Two General Qs and the Root Variation

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Musikamole said:

Can a 50-year-old beginning chess player ever reach master level play before he drops dead? I doubt it. Silman says that middle-aged people can become titled players so he can sell more books. 

I do own a few of Silman's books and they are great for anyone to get more enjoyment out of the game, but to become a master...that’s a stretch. 

Dear Mr. Musikamole:

“Silman says that middle-aged people can become titled players so he can sell more books.”

Now sir, why did you have to go there? It seems beneath you, it doesn’t even make sense, and it’s patently absurd.

I never said that middle-aged people can become titled (as in IM or GM) players. I said that middle-aged people can earn a MASTER rating with a tad of talent, a well thought out study program, and a strong work ethic.

There is a HUGE difference between a master and an internationally titled player. Though the dream of earning an IM or GM title is reaching for the stars, the dream of making 2200 is indeed possible for anyone (I’ll repeat) with a tad of talent, a well thought out study program, and a strong work ethic (over the years, I’ve seen some middle-aged men make master for the first time, so it’s certainly doable). And if they ultimately don’t get that 2200 number tattooed onto their forehead, they will hopefully have a hell of a good time trying.


Windflower asked:

I already own CHESS OPENINGS THE EASY WAY. You have recommended both MODERN CHESS OPENINGS by de Firmian and Sterren’s FUNDAMENTAL CHESS OPENINGS. So which of the 2 books would you buy?

Dear Windflower:

When one starts out, it’s good to have at least one general opening book that covers all (or most) openings. If you’re happy with CHESS OPENINGS THE EASY WAY then that will prove perfectly adequate for you at this moment – you’ll know when you need another book by a feeling of dissatisfaction with what the book you have is offering. But if it serves your needs now, then you don’t have to worry about buying another opening book.

As for which one I would pick, I have both. Of course, FUNDAMENTAL CHESS OPENINGS is far too basic for a chess pro’s needs, but it’s perfect for players under 1800 who are looking for detailed prose that discusses ideas and plans. Players up to 2100 might find that MCO is adequate. Once you get past that, then more specific opening tomes (one book on one specific opening system) will prove very useful.


RobKing asked:

Have you ever faced, or seen this line in the Nimzovich Defense:

1.e4 Nc6 2.Nf3 f5

Dear RobKing: 

I’m actually quite familiar with this line since I lost to it against IM Doug Root at Lone Pine 1979 (it’s hard to forget this kind of humiliation). In some circles it’s known as the “Fred”, but I always referred to it as the “Root Variation” due to IM Doug Root’s successful adoption of it in 1979 and his continued use of it for a dozen or so years. Gambit aficionado Hugh Myers preferred the “Colorado Defense.” 

White’s most accurate way of dealing with this line is 1.e4 Nc6 2.Nf3 f5 3.exf5 d5 4.Bb5 Bxf5 5.Ne5! Qd6 6.d4. Here are a couple of examples:

V. Yemelin (2578) - T. Paakkonen (2291) [B00]

Keres Memorial Prelim G/15 +10 Tallinn, 2009

1.e4 Nc6 2.Nf3 f5 3.exf5 d5 4.d4

4.Bb5 Bxf5 5.Ne5! (5.0-0 Qd6 6.d4 0-0-0 7.Bxc6 Qxc6 8.Ne5 Qe8, =, Silman - Root, Lone Pine 1979) 5…a6 (5…Qd6 6.d4 Nf6 leads to the same position that’s reached in the Yemelin game) 6.Bxc6+ bxc6 7.d4 Nf6 8.0-0 c5 9.dxc5 e6 10.Be3 Nd7 11.Nxd7 Qxd7 12.Bd4 Rb8 13.Nd2 Rb4 14.Nb3 Kf7 15.Qd2 Rc4 16.c3 Be7 17.Na5 Ra4 18.b4 Rb8 19.a3 Kg8 20.Rfe1 Rxa5 21.bxa5 Qb5 22.Qf4 Qxa5 23.g4 Be4 24.Qe5 Bf8 25.Qxe6+ Kh8 26.f3 Bxf3 27.Rf1 Be4 28.Rxf8+ Rxf8 29.Qe7 Rg8 30.Rf1 h6 31.Rf8, 1-0, Z. Hracek (2613) – Il. Schneider (2486), Bundesliga 2009.

4…Bxf5 5.Bb5 Qd6 6.Ne5 Nf6

This same position is also achieved by 4.Bb5 Bxf5 5.Ne5 Qd6 6.d4 Nf6. Indeed, this is probably the most accurate move order since the order in the game allows Black to try 5…e6 6.Ne5 Nge7.


7.Qf3!? should also give White an edge.

7…Nd7 8.Bxc6 bxc6 9.Bf4 Nxe5 10.Bxe5 Qg6 11.Nc3

Other moves (11.c3, 11.c4, 11.Qd2) also deserve consideration.

11…e6 12.Bxc7 Rc8 13.Be5 h5 14.Ne2 h4 15.Nf4 Qf7 16.Qe2 Rh6 17.h3 Qb7 18.b3 c5 19.c3 g5 20.Nd3 c4 21.bxc4 dxc4 22.Nb2 Ba3 23.Nxc4 g4 24.Nxa3 gxh3 25.Qb5+ Qxb5 26.Nxb5 Rg6 27.Nd6+ Kd7 28.Nxc8 Rxg2+ 29.Kh1 Kxc8 30.c4 Bd3 31.Rad1 Be2 32.f3 Kd7 33.d5 Bxc4 34.dxe6+ Kxe6 35.Rfe1 Rxa2 36.Rd6+ Kf7 37.Rf6+ Kg8 38.Rg1+, 1-0.

Dutter - Root, Los Angeles 1987

1.e4 Nc6 2.Nf3 f5 3.exf5 d5 4.Bb5 d4?!

A sharp attempt by Root to improve on the more usual 4…Bxf5. However, I find it hard to take this move seriously. The idea of 4…d4 is to make room for a later …Qd5 in many lines.


5.Qe2! is a suggestion of Jack Peters and it seems to promise White a significant advantage: 5. … Bxf5  (5…Qd5? 6.Qe5 wins for White but 5…Qd6 might be best. Nevertheless, White remains on top after 6.0–0 Bxf5 7.Bxc6+ bxc6 8.d3 and black is facing a positional mess due to his terrible pawn structure and weaknesses down the e-file.) 6.Qc4! Bd7 (6…Be4 7.Nxd4 Bxg2 8.f3! [If 8.f3 is too scary, then 8.Nxc6 bxc6 9.Bxc6+ Bxc6 10.Qxc6+ Kf7 11.d3 is a safe extra pawn for White.] 8…Bxh1 9.Nxc6 Qd6 10.Ne5+ (10.Nc3 is a tempting alternative) 10…c6 11.Qf7+ (11.Nxc6 is also excellent) 11…Kd8 12.Qxf8+ Kc7 13.Qxa8 Qxe5+ 14.Be2 Bxf3 15.Nc3 Bxe2 16.Nxe2 Qxh2 17.Qxa7 and Black doesn’t have enough for the sacrificed piece.) 7.0–0 and the d4-pawn will fall. 

5…Qd5 6.Qh5+ g6 7.fxg6 Nf6 8.Qe2

8.g7+ either makes or breaks 5.Ne5: Thus 8…Nxh5 9.gxh8=Q Qxb5 10.Nxc6 Qxc6! (10…Nf6? 11.Nxd4 Qd5 12.Ne2 Qxg2 13.Rg1 Qxh2 14.d3 Bg4 15.Nbc3 and Black doesn’t have nearly enough compensation for the sacrificed Rook.) 11.f3 Qxc2 12.0-0 Nf6 13.d3 Bd7 and Black has an excellent game.

8…d3 9.Bxc6+ bxc6 10.cxd3 Qxg2 11.Qf3 Qxf3 12.Nxf3 Bf5 13.Ne5 Nd5 14.Nc3 Nb4

It’s clear that things have gone horribly wrong for White. Root finishes up nicely.

15.Kd1 Bg7 16.a3 Nxd3 17.Nxd3 Bxd3 18.b4 0–0 19.gxh7+ Kxh7 20.Bb2 Rxf2 21.Na4 Raf8, 0-1.

All in all, it seems that 3.exf5 d5 4.Bb5 has taken all the fun out of the Root Variation.

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