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...

Feldmm1 asks about the Botvinnik Semi-Slav: what is the best line for Black?

Well sir, if I knew that my rating would probably be in excess of 2600! One thing is for sure: you have to know a lot with either colour.  Take a look at this recent game from one of the World Junior Championships!

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 e6 5.Bg5 dxc4 6.e4 b5 7.e5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Nxg5 hxg5 10.Bxg5 Nbd7 11.g3 Rg8!?

So far all as expected by Jessica and Thomas Rendle, her coach. The point of 11...Rg8 is to try to get rid of the threatening Bishop on g5, almost at any cost! 12.h4 Rxg5 13.hxg5 Nd5 14.g6!

This is the key move which brings the variation into question. White lames the Black Kingside and gives herself targets to aim at. Without 14 g6!, Black would be in good shape. As it is.... 14...fxg6 15.Qg4 Qe7 16.Qxg6+ Qf7 17.Qxf7+ [17.Qe4 Bb4 18.Rc1 Nf8 19.Be2 is not quite as effective: 19...Qf5 20.Qh4?! Too ambitious. (White should settle for 20.Qxf5 exf5 21.Bf3 Be6 22.Ke2 with unclear play.) 20...Kd7 21.Qh6 Kc7 22.Kf1 Bxc3 23.bxc3 Bd7 24.Rh5 Qf7 25.a4 Ng6 26.Qh7 Rf8 27.Qxf7 Rxf7 28.Ke1 Nge7 29.Rh8 Nb6 30.Bh5 Rg7 31.axb5 cxb5 Sasata,R (2235)-Shabalov,A (2604)/Edmonton 2006]

17...Kxf7 18.Ne4 Bb4+ 19.Kd1N [I presume Jessica did not like 19.Ke2 despite the following notable example: 19...c3 20.bxc3 Nxc3+ 21.Nxc3 Bxc3 22.Rd1 b4 23.Bg2 Ba6+ 24.Ke3 Rg8 25.Bxc6 Nb6 26.Rh6 Bc4 Lobron,E (2575)-Shirov,A (2685)/Germany 1993  when I am pretty sure that 27.Rf6+ Ke7 28.Rh1 Rg7 29.Rh8 Nd5+ 30.Bxd5 Bxd5 31.Rff8 would lead to a draw.]

19...Be7 20.Bg2 Bb7 21.Kd2 Kg7 22.Rh2 Rh8!? Black panics in the face of doubled Rooks. It was better to hold a tight line with [22...Rd8 23.Rah1 (23.a4!? b4 24.Ke2 Nf8) 23...Nf8] 23.Rxh8 Kxh8 24.Bh3 Nc7 25.Nd6 Ba8 26.a4! Excellent. White opens a second front and stretches Black's position to the limit.

26...a6 27.Bg2 Nb6 28.axb5 cxb5 29.Bxa8 Nbxa8 30.f4 Kg7 31.g4 Kg6 [Maybe bringing the Knight back from the dead would have given Black some chances, but there can be no doubt about White's coordination after 31...Nb6 32.Ke2 Nbd5 33.Kf3 Nb4 34.f5±] 32.f5+ Kg5 33.f6 Bf8 34.Rh1 Nb6 35.Rh8 Black has been outplayed.

35...Nd7 36.Rh7 Nxf6 37.Rxc7 Bxd6 38.Rg7+ Kf4 39.exd6 b4 40.Rg8!  A nice touch to finish off! 40...b3 41.Kc3  1–0  Well played Jessica and a game which earned the lucky winner one million Vietnamese Dong.  Before you leap from the couch, that's about forty quid.


Naturally, Black need not dabble with ....Rg8. The main line seems in pretty good shape.

1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 c6 5.Bg5 dxc4 6.e4 b5 7.e5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Nxg5 hxg5 10.Bxg5 Nbd7 11.exf6 Bb7 12.g3 c5 13.d5 Nxf6 [13...Qb6 14.Bg2 0–0–0 15.0–0 b4 16.Na4 Qb5 17.dxe6 Bxg2 18.Kxg2 Ne5 19.Qc2 Qc6+ 20.f3 Qxe6 21.Rae1 Bd6 22.f4 Qh3+ 23.Kg1 Ng4 24.Re2 Rde8 25.Qxc4 Rxe2 26.Qxe2 Qxh2+ 27.Qxh2 Rxh2 28.Rc1 Kb8 29.Nxc5 Rxb2 30.Ne4 Bc7 31.f5 0–1 Sertic,R (2405)-Segovic,G (2177)/Sibenik 2008]

14.Bg2 Bh6 [14...Be7 15.0–0 Nxd5 16.Bxe7 Kxe7 17.Qe1 (17.Nxb5 Qb6 18.Na3 Rh4 19.gxh4 Rg8 20.Nxc4 Qa6 21.f3 Qxc4 22.Qb3 Qd4+ 23.Kh1 Bc6 24.Qa3 Ne3 25.Qxa7+ Kf6 26.Qa3 Rxg2 27.Qc3 Qxc3 28.bxc3 Rc2 29.Rac1 Rxa2 30.Ra1 Rd2 0–1 Kessler,L (1931)-Ladva,O (1806)/Herceg Novi 2008) 17...Nxc3 18.Bxb7 Rb8 19.Qxc3 Rxb7 20.Rfd1 Qb8 21.a4 a6 22.axb5 axb5 23.b3 Rd8 24.bxc4 Rxd1+ 25.Rxd1 bxc4 26.Qxc4 Qe5 27.Qh4+ Qf6 28.Qh5 Rc7 29.Rd3 Qf5 30.Qh4+ Qf6 31.Qa4 Qe5 32.Rd1 Rb7 33.h4 Qf5 34.Qa5 Rd7 35.Ra1 Rd3 36.Qa8 Rd2 37.Ra7+ Rd7 38.Ra1 Rd2 39.Ra7+ Rd7 ½–½ Aronian,L (2757)-Van Wely,L (2618)/Dresden 2008]

15.Bxf6 Qxf6 16.0–0 0–0–0 17.Nxb5 a6 18.Nc3 exd5 19.Re1 Kb8 20.Na4 Qd6 21.b3 c3 22.Nxc3 d4 23.Na4 Bxg2 24.Kxg2 d3 25.Qf3 d2 26.Red1 Rhe8 27.Nb2 Qd4 28.Nc4 Re6 29.Na5 Qd5 30.Qxd5 Rxd5 31.Nc4 f5 32.Ne3 Bxe3 33.fxe3 Rxe3 34.Kf2 Rc3 35.Ke2 Rc2 36.h4 Kc7 37.h5 Rd6 38.h6 Rxh6 39.Kd3 Rc1 40.Raxc1 ½–½

Openings like this require a lot of hard work and a prodigious memory. If you have time to march the hard yards, there is no doubt Black's opening system will furnish you with some rewarding wins.


Richard Handoko asks about the difference between tactics and strategy. He feels there is a depth to strategy which sometimes eludes him.

To answer this briefly is not an easy matter. I would say that whilst tactics are temporary, strategy is permanent. There follows an almost entirely strategical game from the 2008 British Championships, where IM Andrew Ledger denies GM Glenn Flear any tactical opportunities whatsoever.

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Bg5 dxc4 5.Qa4+ c6 6.Qxc4 b5 7.Qc2 Bb7 8.e3  The main point of this move order is to delay the development of the Nb1 in order to try and grip c5 via Nd2-b3. When Black is denied ...c6-c5 ,his position becomes passive. [8.Bxf6 Qxf6 9.e4 Nd7 10.Nbd2 gives White a nice centre, but Black has something to bite on. 10...e5!= 11.a4 Bb4 12.axb5 exd4 13.bxc6 Qxc6 14.Qxc6 Bxc6 15.Bc4 0–0 16.0–0 Nc5 17.Nxd4 Bb7 18.N4f3 Nxe4 19.Nxe4 Bxe4 20.Ng5 Bg6 21.f4 Bf5 22.h3 Rad8 Hebden,M-Flear,G/Great Yarmouth 2007 23.Rfd1 Bg6 24.Rxd8 Rxd8 25.f5 Bc5+ 26.Kh1 Bxf5 27.Nxf7 Rd4]

8...Nbd7 9.Bd3 Rc8 [9...h6 10.Bh4 a6 11.a4 leads to an important moment,where White is still trying to prevent ...c6-c5. After a  couple of moves, Grischuk plays it anyway: 11...Bb4+ 12.Nbd2 c5! 13.Bxf6 Nxf6 14.axb5 Bxf3 15.gxf3 0–0?! (15...axb5 16.Bxb5+ Ke7 17.0–0 Qb6 was much better) 16.dxc5 axb5 17.Rxa8 Qxa8 18.Ke2 Rc8 19.Nb3 Nd7 20.Be4 Qb8 21.c6 Ne5 22.Nd4 Qb6 23.f4 Ng4 24.Qd3± Gurevich,M-Grischuk,A/Cannes 2001]

10.0–0 h6 [10...Be7 11.Qe2 0–0 12.Rd1 Nd5 is a solid and reliable approach: 13.Bxe7 Qxe7 14.Nc3 Nxc3 15.bxc3 Nb6 16.Nd2 a6 17.c4 c5! he could not prevent it indefinitely. 18.cxb5 axb5 19.dxc5 Na4 20.Ne4 Bxe4 21.Bxe4 Rxc5 22.Rac1 g6 23.Rxc5 Qxc5 ½–½ Gurevich,M-Godena,M/Crete 2007]

11.Bxf6 Nxf6 [I suppose Glenn doesn't take with the Queen, due to the possibility of a White Knight coming to e4: 11...Qxf6 12.Rc1 a6 13.Nc3 c5 (13...Qd8! 14.Be4 Bd6 15.Nd2 Qc7 16.h3 0–0 17.a3 c5 18.Bxb7 Qxb7 19.Nde4 Be7=) 14.Be4! Bxe4 15.Nxe4± ] 12.Nbd2 Qb6 [12...a6 13.a4 Be7 14.Rfc1 Nd5 15.Qb3 0–0 16.Ne4 gives White his desired small advantage] 13.a4 Bb4 14.Rfc1 0–0 15.Nb3± Ledger has won the first skirmish of the game. Black will not be able to play ...c5 for some time to come. White now builds up in excellent style.

15...a5 16.Nc5 Rfd8 [16...Bxc5 17.Qxc5 Qxc5 18.Rxc5 Nd7 19.Rcc1 b4 20.Nd2 c5 21.Nb3 doesn't solve anything for Black.] 17.Qe2 Ba8 18.Ne5 Rd5 19.Ne4 Already Flear was getting short of time searching for active possibilities. 19...Qd8 20.axb5 cxb5 21.Nxf6+ White would not have released the pressure on b5 if he didnt have a point

21...gxf6 [21...Qxf6 22.Rxc8+] 22.Qh5! Now it is getting really nasty for Black. 22...Rxc1+ 23.Rxc1 Rxe5 Black was relying on this move,but White saw a long way. 24.dxe5 Qxd3 25.Rc8+ Bf8 26.Qg4+! Kh7 27.h3 f5 28.Qh5 Bg7 29.Rxa8 [29.Qxf7 Qd1+ 30.Kh2 Qd5 31.Qg8+ Kg6 32.Rxa8 also wins.] 29...Qb1+ 30.Kh2 Qxb2? [30...Qe4 was the last chance to stay on the board,however after 31.Ra7! Qxe5+ (31...Bxe5+ 32.g3 Bg7 33.Qxf7 Qe5 34.Ra8 Qxb2 35.Qg8+ Kg6 36.Qxe6+ Qf6 37.Qe8+ Qf7 38.Qxf7+ Kxf7 39.Rxa5 b4 40.Rxf5+ Ke6 41.Rb5+-) 32.Kg1 Qxb2 33.Qxf7 a4 34.h4! it is all over. 34...h5 35.Qxh5+ Kg8 36.Qg6 Qa1+ 37.Kh2 Qe5+ 38.f4 Qf6 39.Ra8+] 31.f4! f6 32.Qf7 1–0  Nicely controlled and very thematic.

Dmytro ' asks a couple of questions: 1) How important is sleep during a long tournament? 2) How best to allocate one's time during such an event?

We come back to the question of routine as far as I am concerned. During a long event it's important to cultivate balance. Do the same things at the same times each day.  Sleep is extremely important. The body reacts best to regularity, therefore going to bed and getting up at the same times each day would probably be a good thing. Eating well is a must. Chess takes it out of you.

I always felt a good breakfast, light lunch and nutritious dinner was the best way. Exercise helps. Walking is best during a tournament. If you are used to a regular workout, swimming or jogging is good and the best time for that is either before breakfast or AFTER the game.  No gym work. Before and after yes, during no. 

Finally, preparing for the game is an art. One or two hours on the morning of the game after breakfast would be my preferred regime and a REST after lunch for 45 mins –1hr directly before the game relaxes and readies you.  I hope this helps.

Kostis Megalios asked me to take a look at the following moves . He felt he was outplayed by Black and wanted to know what went wrong.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Qc7 7.Be2 b6 8.f4 [8.Bg5!? Bb7 9.Bxf6 gxf6 10.0–0 Nc6 11.Nxc6 Bxc6 12.Rc1 Qf4 13.Bf3 Bc5 14.Kh1 Qe5 15.Bh5 Kf8 16.f4 Qd4 17.Qb3 Qd6 18.Rcd1 Qe7 19.Bf3 Kg7 20.Nd5 Qd8 21.Nb4 Qc7 22.e5 f5± Ardiansyah,H (2465)-Vyzmanavin,A (2605)/Beijing 1991/]

8...d6 9.0–0 Bb7 10.Qd3?!N I don't like this move very much, setting up the Queen to be attacked by Black's minor pieces. In general,the Queen should not be used for defensive purposes. [10.e5!? dxe5 11.fxe5 Qxe5 12.Bf4 Qxd4+ 13.Qxd4 Bc5 14.Be3 Bxd4 15.Bxd4 Nbd7 16.Na4 Rb8 17.Nxb6 Nxb6 18.Bxb6 Bxg2 19.Kxg2 Rxb6 20.Rab1 Ke7 21.c5 Rc6 22.b4 Rd8 23.a4 Rd2 24.Kf3 Nd5 Cabrera Trujillo,J (2116)-Jakobsen,O (2392)/Las Palmas 2005; 10.Bf3 Nbd7 11.Qe2 Rc8 12.b3 Be7 13.Bb2 0–0 14.Rad1 Rfe8 15.e5 Bxf3 16.Nxf3 dxe5 17.Nxe5 Red8 18.Ne4 ½–½ Bibiloni,J (2178)-Arambel,S (2295)/Buenos Aires 2005; 10.Re1 Be7 11.Bf3 0–0 12.Qe2 Re8 13.Be3 Bf8 14.Rac1 Nbd7 15.Nb3 Rac8 16.Nd2 g6 17.g4 h6 18.h4 Bg7 19.Qf2 Nh7 20.Bd4 e5 21.fxe5 Nxe5 22.Bxe5 Bxe5 23.Nd5 Bxd5 24.cxd5 Qe7 Sideris,T-Sulava,N (2466)/Athens 1999]

10...Nbd7 11.Nb3 [11.f5 Ne5 12.Qd1 exf5 13.Nd5!? Nxd5 14.exd5 might be interesting for White.]

11...g6 12.Be3 Be7 13.Bf3 Rc8 14.Nd2 h5 15.Kh1 h4 16.Rae1 [16.Rad1! seems a better square for the Queens Rook,denying Black any freeing attempts.]

16...Nh5 17.f5 gxf5 18.exf5 Bxf3 19.Nxf3 Qxc4 20.Qxc4? [However disappointed you were about losing a pawn, exchanging Queens cannot be the right answer, Instead, play 20.Qd2 The game continues.] 20...Rxc4 21.fxe6 fxe6 22.Nd4 Ne5 By now, Black has a clear advantage.


Tony Ristorcelli asks my opinion about 1 e4 c5 2 d4 cxd4 3 c3 d3!? in the Morra Gambit.

We have seen in this column that Black has nothing to fear by accepting the gambit, but 3...d3 is decent enough. Why not take the pawn? Let's see a recent game to finish off, where White gets an edge against this scheme, only to blow it at the end. How many times have we been there before?

1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 d3 Black doesn't want to play the principled way and doesn't accept the offered pawn sacrifice. 4.c4 g6 5.Bxd3 Bg7 6.Nf3 White develops his knight the natural way. [But playable is also 6.Ne2 Nc6 7.Nbc3 Nf6 8.0–0 0–0 9.h3 d6] 6...Nc6 7.0–0 d6 8.h3 Nf6 9.Nc3 0–0 A typical position for the Maroczy Bind 10.Be3 [The alternative is 10.Bg5 Nd7 11.Rc1 Nc5]

10...Nd7 This is Black's typical manoeuvre in the Maroczy. He transfers his knight to c5 to strengthen the pressure against White's centre and queenside. 11.Qd2 [White usually deploys his forces this way: 11.Rc1 Nc5 12.Bb1 Now Black can play 12...f5 as in our game (or 12...a5 , for example 13.Qe2 (13.Qd2 Re8 14.Rfd1 Be6 15.Nd5 a4 16.Bh6 Bxd5 17.exd5 Ne5 18.Nd4 Qa5= 0–1 Volman,H (2197)-Tyomkin,D (2512)/Givataim 2005/CBM 105 ext (54)) 13...b6 14.Rfd1 Bb7 15.Nd4 Nxd4 16.Bxd4 Bxd4 17.Rxd4 Ne6 1–0 Lendwai,R (2410)-Sadler,M (2540)/Cappelle la Grande 1993/TD (39)) After 13.exf5 gxf5 14.Qd2 Kh8 we reach the position from our game. Exactly this move order was in the quoted game Tibensky-Gazik below.]

11...Nc5 12.Rac1?! An inaccuracy. [The logical continuation of White's previous move is 12.Bh6!? Then Black can't gain a piece 12...Bxh6?! 13.Qxh6 Nxd3?? due to 14.Ng5+- , of course.] 12...f5!? 13.exf5 gxf5?! Black doesn't exploit White's 12th move. [13...Nxd3 14.Qxd3 Bxf5=]

14.Bb1 Kh8 15.Rfd1 A novelty. [15.Nd5 Qd7 16.Ng5 e6 17.Nf4 e5 18.Bxc5 dxc5 19.Qxd7 Bxd7 20.Nfe6 Bxe6 21.Nxe6 Rf7 22.Nxc5 e4 0–1 Tibensky,R (2400)-Gazik,I (2420)/Trnava 1988/EXT 98 (37)]

15...Qe8 16.Nd5 Rb8 [Bad is 16...Qf7? because of 17.Ng5 followed by b2-b4-b5 to gain the e7 pawn.] 17.Nd4 [More energetic looks 17.b4!? ] 17...Bd7? A mistake, the bishop is here insecure. [17...Qf7!?] 18.b3? White misses his opportunity for the first time. [18.Nxc6! Bxc6 (18...bxc6?! 19.Nxe7! …Qxe7 20.Qxd6) 19.b4± is similar to the game.] 18...Qf7? [18...Rd8] 19.Nxc6! But not for the second time. 19...Bxc6 [19...bxc6?! 20.Nxe7!] 20.b4 Ne6 21.b5! White wants maximum out of the position, he is not afraid of complications that are favourable for him. [Weaker is 21.f4? with idea to avoid Black's counterplay.]

21...f4 22.Bxa7 Ra8 23.Bb6!? Looks better than [23.bxc6 Rxa7 24.c7±] 23...Bd7 24.Ba5? White mars a good game. This move is too soft, moreover the bishop is on a5 very unsafe. [Correct is energetic 24.c5! f3!? (24...dxc5? 25.Nc7) 25.c6 Bc8 26.g3± and White should be able to parry Black's attack.] 24...f3!‚ The situation has changed radically. Black's attack is very dangerous now and it is extremely difficult to defend precisely, especially in the practical game.

25.Nb6 Nf4 [Deserves attention also 25...Rxa5!? 26.Nxd7 (26.Qxa5? fxg2–+) 26...Rg8‚ Now White can't take the rook 27.Qxa5? due to 27...Bd4–+ 28.g4 Qf4] 26.Nxd7 Rg8 27.Bc3? Turns the tables completely. [Perhaps the best defence is 27.Be4 fxg2 28.Rc3 Rxa5; or 27.Kh2 fxg2 (27...Be5? 28.g4!) ] 27...Ne2+–+ Now Black gains material or mates White's king. 28.Kh2 Bxc3 29.Qh6 [29.Rxc3 Rxg2+ 30.Kh1 Qh5] 29...Rxg2+ 30.Kh1 Rag8 31.Rf1 Bd2 0–1  I am indebted to Grandmaster Babula for his help with the notes.

Until next time, keep those questions rolling in.


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