Your Questions Answered By Andrew Martin

Your Questions Answered By Andrew Martin

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International Master Andrew Martin from England presents a regular series of articles to answer any questions that readers have about the game of chess.

If you want to ask Andrew a question, then send an email to and next time your question could be featured!  Please include your real name and your member name, but you can ask to remain anonymous if you wish!

Now it's over to Andrew for this week's questions and answers... member: expiredninja  I know that the c-file is an important line of attack in the Queens Gambit and other openings, and the e-file is the site of contention for the Ruy Lopez and I've seen the b-file used in King's Indian-like setups, and the f-file in other positions.  Could you characterize the attacking plans of these and any of the other files?

Learning to play on open or half-open files is an art. First one must create open files in order to use them. There follows a typical Sicilian battle. Black has the half-open c file but completely fails to use it. Meanwhile, Fischer levers open the Kingside using his pawns and administers the final blow on the open g file.

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nge2 d6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 e6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Qd2 Be7 [7...a6 8.0–0–0 Qc7 9.f3 Bd7; 7...Ng4 8.Bg5]

8.f3 a6 9.0–0–0 0–0 10.g4! Nxd4 11.Bxd4 b5 12.g5 [12.Bxf6?! Bxf6 13.Qxd6 Qa5]

12...Nd7 13.h4 b4 [13...Bb7 14.Kb1 Rc8 15.Bd3 b4 16.Ne2 a5 17.Ng3 Qc7 18.h5 Ne5 Salazar-Panno/Buenos Aires/1991/]

14.Na4 [14.Ne2 a5 15.Be3 Ne5 16.Nd4 Bb7 17.h5 b3! 18.axb3 a4 19.b4 a3 Ilincic-Cvetkovic/Jugoslavia-ch/1990/]

14...Bb7?! [14...Qa5 15.b3 Nc5 (15...Bb7!?) 16.Bxc5 dxc5 17.Qf4 Ra7 18.Kb1 Rd7 neutralizes White's command of the d file and secures equality: 19.Bc4 Rd4!? 20.Rxd4 cxd4 21.e5 Bd7 22.Nb2 Bb5 23.Qxd4 Rd8 24.Qe4 Qb6 Inkiov-Vera/Varna/1986/] 15.Nb6! [15.Qxb4?! Bc6] 15...Rb8 [15...Nxb6 16.Qxb4 Bxe4? 17.Bxb6+-]

16.Nxd7 [16.Qxb4? Bc6!–+] 16...Qxd7 17.Kb1 [17.Qxb4? Bxe4]

17...Qc7 The very first sign that Black might be thinking about attacking c2. His play is painfully slow. Play on a file is usually characterized by energy and control. [17...f5 18.gxf6 Bxf6 19.Bxf6 Rxf6 20.Qxb4; 17...a5!?]

18.Bd3 Bc8?! [18...f5 19.gxf6 Bxf6 20.Bxf6 Rxf6 21.Rh3 d5 22.Rg1; 18...e5 19.Be3 Rfd8 20.Ba7! Ra8 21.Qf2 Rdc8 22.Bb6 Qc6 23.Rdg1±; 18...Rfd8!?] 19.h5 e5 20.Be3 Be6 [20...f5 21.exf5 Bxf5 22.g6±]

21.Rdg1 a5 [21...d5 22.exd5 Bxd5 23.Bxh7+ Kxh7 24.Qxd5+-]

22.g6! Thematic. White wastes no time opening the g file. 22...Bf6 [22...fxg6 23.hxg6 hxg6 (23...h6 24.Bxh6 gxh6 25.Qxh6 Bf6 26.g7+-) 24.Rxg6 Bf7 25.Rxg7+! Kxg7 26.Bh6+!+- (26.Bb6? Bxa2+! 27.Kxa2 Qxb6 28.Qh6+ Kf7 29.Qh5+ Ke6) ]

23.gxh7+ Kh8 [23...Kxh7 24.Bg5 Qe7 25.f4!] 24.Bg5! Qe7 [24...Bxg5 25.Qxg5 f6 26.Qg6 Qf7 27.h6 Qxg6 28.Rxg6 gxh6 29.Rhxh6±] 25.Rg3 Bxg5 26.Rxg5 Qf6 27.Rhg1 Qxf3 [27...Kxh7 28.Qg2 Rg8 29.Rg6!+-; 27...Qh6 28.Qg2+-]

28.Rxg7 Qf6 [28...Qf4 29.Qg2 Qh6 30.b3! Rfd8 31.Bc4 Bxc4 32.bxc4 Rf8 33.Qg4 a4 34.Rg8+ Kxh7 35.Qf5++-]

29.h6 a4 30.b3 axb3 31.axb3 Rfd8 32.Qg2 Complete command. 32...Rf8 33.Rg8+! Kxh7 34.Rg7+ Kh8 35.h7 [35.h7 Rfd8 36.Rg8+ Kxh7 37.Rh1+]  1–0

The key to playing on half-open or open files is that there is usually a target in the enemy camp somewhere on the file that is worth penetrating to or attacking. Play on open files is characterized by the major pieces and particularly the Rooks. Without such a target (g7 and g8 in our current game) open files simply have no bearing on the position. I am indebted to GM Ftacnik for his help with the notes.

John Stevens  I'm familiar with the fundamental rules of development as are many of my opponents. At our level of play this tends to lead to a game where both sides bring out pieces with few, if any, captures. I had a game recently where that was the case except I had the advantage of controlling the centre. I actually found myself biding my time with one of my rooks centralized on the first rank waiting for my opponent to make a move. Am I missing something?I replayed a game recently where Alekhine used his queen fairly early to press an opponent who was behind in development. Was I ahead in development and didn't realize it and therefore played too defensively?

Are you talking about quiet positions where manouvering is the order of the day or blocked positions? Patience is the key here and and understanding that PAWNS are the soul of these types of position.  Pawns are used to create levers which open up the game in due course.  If you are referring to sluggish development then that is another thing. TIMING is of the essence on the chessboard. There follows one of my own games here I manage to open up the game at just the right moment. Of course, White helps.

1.d4 g6 2.e4 Bg7 3.Be3 Quite an unusual move but there is nothing wrong with it. White deliberately delays Nc3 giving himself the option of c2-c4 should a good opportunity arise.I had to slow down and try to find a good plan.

3...d6 [The first ( and obvious) line to be considered is 3...c5 4.c3 Qb6 5.Qd2  I stared at this position for a while and decided that this wasn't the right way. White's centre is securely protected.; 3...d5! attracted more and I think this is what I'll play next time. The point is to expose the position of the Bishop on e3. Thus 4.e5 (4.exd5 Qxd5 5.c3 Nf6 seems quite OK too.) 4...Nh6! is logical,with ...c7-c5 to come.But I guess in the end I wanted to stick with the spirit of the Modern and besides, I was happy to take on the Nc3,Be3,Qd2,Nf3 stuff.]

4.f3 a6  Elastic. Black is waiting for Nc3. He gives himself options on both sides of the board. 5.Qd2 Nc6! There is no need to be too passive. Black intends to play ...e7-e5 and why not ! 6.Ne2 e5 7.d5 [7.Nbc3 Nf6 is just fine for Black, who will answer 8.0–0–0 with the cold-blooded 8...0–0]

7...Nce7 8.c4  So, the critical moment. We go into a King's Indian-type position where Black has to be very careful not to slip into an inferior version of the Classical system. Importantly,he must not make any premature kingside commitments whilst the White King can still go long.

8...f5! However, it's important to put pressure on e4. This does not contradict the last remark, because it's ...f5-f4 that really gums up the works.

9.Nbc3 Nf6 10.h3 0–0 11.g4 Kh8  In this type of position one always has to consider the fate on the Knight on e7. Thus 11..Kh8! is a good, flexible move,not only removing the King from any danger on the g file, but also preparing...Neg8, should the need arise.  I am very happy with the Black position here.  He has enough space to play with and there's also ...c6 and ...b5 if White castles long.

12.0–0–0?  Showing little or no concern for his King. White is obsessed with Kingside play and ignores the other flank.  12...b5! Or maybe even straightaway! We now see the usefulness of hitting e4.

13.cxb5 [13.gxf5 gxf5 14.Rg1 f4 15.Bf2 bxc4 leaves White in a bit of a mess.] 13...axb5 14.a3 [I expected  14.b4 which I felt was more or less necessary. However 14...Bd7! 15.gxf5 gxf5 16.Rg1 f4 17.Bf2 Qb8 quite clearly gives Black superior chances,thanks to his safer King.In the game Gordon seems right off-colour and permits Black to muster a crushing attack.]

14...Bd7 15.g5 Nh5 16.Rg1 b4! Opening up lines is par for the course. 17.axb4 [17.Nb1 bxa3 18.Nxa3 Qb8 19.Nc3 Nf4 is too disgusting for words but the text move might even be worse!]

17...Qb8 18.b5 fxe4! When one is ready to commence a direct attack it is very important to bring as many units into play as possible. I couldn't exactly see when and now, but I felt that the options of ...Rxf1 and/or ...Nf4 could be useful at a later stage ( if White survived that long.)

19.fxe4 Bxb5 20.Nxb5 Qxb5 21.Nc3 Qb4 No ...Rxf1 then, but the latter idea is put into immediate effect.

22.Be2 Nf4 23.Qc2 c6! [23...Rfb8 was the original intention,but with White's Queen and King on the same file 23...c6 is much stronger.I think White's lost now.]

24.h4 cxd5 25.h5 Nxe2+ 26.Qxe2 Rfc8–+ 27.Bd2 d4 28.h6 dxc3 29.hxg7+ Kxg7 30.Bxc3 Rxc3+ 31.bxc3 Qxc3+ 32.Qc2 Ra1# 0–1 White's opening idea of delaying Nc3 certainly has merit and Black must beware an unfavourable transposition back into a poor King's Indian. However,with flexible play as displayed here, he should emerge from the opening in good shape.

Piotr Linek What in your mind is the best variation for White while using the English opening?

The best books that I have seen on the English Opening are by John Watson and Tony Kosten. Watson has just published a tremendous work called ' Mastering the Chess Openings Vol 3' where he updates his earlier series on the English and for repertoire specialists GM Tony Kosten's ' The Dynamic English' , published by Gambit, is hard to beat, despite being nearly ten years old. Kosten has always been a GM who practises what he preaches and here he is in action using his own favourite opening. To my knowledge Kosten uses the English as his main line weapon even today.  Further notes are by Kosten, who also manages the excellent 'Chess Publishing' website. Check it out at

1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 c6 4.d4 Bb4+ 5.Bd2 Bxd2+ 6.Qxd2 d6 This was lucky; at the time of playing this game I was in the middle of writing a book on the English Opening ('The Dynamic English'), and had written the section on this position just days before. It was still fresh in my memory!

7.Nc3 Actually, in my book I suggest that [7.e3 first, is more accurate, but I wanted to try something else.] 7...0–0 8.e3 Qe7 9.Nge2 Na6 10.h3! I had first seen this plan in a game of Dorfman's, the idea is to play g4, and then Ng3. From here, the knight controls the two critical squares e4, and f5.

10...Rb8 11.g4 b5 12.cxb5 cxb5 13.Ng3 b4 14.Nce2 g6 This weakens the kingside, but Black wanted to play ...Bb7, without allowing the reply Nf5. 15.0–0 Bb7 16.e4 White turns his attention to Black's kingside.

16...Kh8 17.f4 Ng8 18.f5 f6 19.a3!  A nasty surprise for my opponent, who was getting short of time, White attacks on both wings.

19...exd4 20.fxg6 hxg6 21.axb4 d5 22.Nf4 Kh7 23.exd5 Nxb4 24.Rae1 Suddenly it seems that Black is lost, without having done anything terribly wrong. The move played was too tempting, but  [24.Be4 was also strong, as it is impossible to defend g6.]

24...Qd6 25.Re6 Qc5 26.Ne4 Qc2?! This gives White a choice of wins, but if [26...Qa5 then 27.Nxg6! Kxg6? 28.Qg5+ leads to a quick mate, anyway.]

27.Nxg6!? This is pretty, but my first thought was to play [27.Qxb4 as 27...Bxd5 28.Qxd4 Bxe6 29.Nxe6 is devastating, but I wish I had seen the line; 27.Rc1!? as 27...Qxd2 allows mate: 28.Rc7+ Kh6 29.g5+ fxg5 30.Rxg6# and this would certainly have been the most aesthetic finish!]

27...Kxg6 This allows mate, but although [27...Qxd2 28.Nxf8+ Rxf8 29.Nxd2 would have allowed Black to continue a bit, it is quite hopeless, of course.] 28.Qg5+ Kh7 29.Rfxf6! Rxf6 30.Re7+! Nxe7 31.Nxf6+ Kh8 32.Qh6+ 1–0 member:  raulcapanegra  Hi Andrew. I'm playing the Staunton Gambit of the Dutch Defense with Black against my computer and it keeps playing 4.Nh3 (after 1.d4 f5 2.e4 fxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6) with the intention of placing the knight in f4  (sometimes after Bg5) to attack d5 along with the knight in c3. I've looked in several databases and haven't found any game where that move has been played. I think that means it's a bad move, but I haven't  been able to find a way to refute it.  What would you play after 4. Nh3 and why? Thank you.

1.d4 f5 2.e4 fxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nh3!? This is a completely new one on me and I cannot find any games with it. There should be reasons for that.  I do not understand why Black should not get a very good game with the simple sequence 4...d5! 5.Nf4 Otherwise ...Bxh3 5...c6 6.Be2 Qc7! [It may be that 6...Qd6 is also good,but I might wish to retain d6 for a Bishop. ] 7.Be3 e5! With totally logical moves, Black has obtained a fine position.




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