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...

Hans Gao asks whether the King's Gambit is sound and this is followed by a further question from Jeremy Oppenheim who say that he likes the King's Gambit, but has a very bad record with it.

I think the King's Gambit is a great opening, but it's one of those systems you have to go into with your eyes wide open. There are many good ways to reply for Black and virtually every Black reply equalizes (theoretically) if the second player knows what he is doing. But will he know what he is doing?  I teach the gambit to kids a lot, so that they may learn the art of attack and I can recommend it to anyone on that basis. Some say the modern King's Gambit is POSITIONAL; I don't believe that for an instant.

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 d5 4.exd5 Nf6 5.Bc4 Nxd5 6.Bxd5 Qxd5 7.Nc3 Qd8 8.d4 Be7 9.Bxf4 0–0 Let me show you a relatively recent game now between two excellent players. Black has chosen a simple, effective way to obtain free piece play. 10.0–0 Bf5! [10...c6 11.Ne4!? (11.Qd3!?) ] 11.Qd2 [11.Nb5?! Na6 12.d5 (12.c4 c6 13.Nc3 Nb4) 12...Nb4 13.Nfd4 Bg6 14.Nxc7 (14.c4 c6) 14...Rc8] 11...c6!

12.Kh1 [12.d5?! Bf6! (12...Bc5+ 13.Kh1 cxd5 14.Nxd5 Nc6 15.Rad1; 12...Qb6+ 13.Nd4!; 12...Bb4 13.d6!?) 13.Be5 (13.d6 Qb6+ 14.Be3 Qxb2 15.Bd4 Qxc2) 13...Bxe5 14.Nxe5 Be6!?; 12.Rae1!? Nd7 (12...Bb4 13.a3 Bxc3 14.Qxc3 Nd7 15.Bd6 Re8 16.Rxe8+ Qxe8 17.Re1) 13.Ne4 Nb6 14.Rf2 Nd5 15.Rfe2 Nxf4 16.Qxf4]

12...Bb4! 13.a3 [13.Rae1 Nd7 14.a3 Bxc3 15.Qxc3 Nb6 16.Bg3] 13...Bxc3 14.Qxc3 Qd5= Sticking with simplicity. Black's idea is to control light squares all over the board.

15.Qd2 Nd7 16.b3 b5 17.Rac1 Nb6 18.Rfe1 Rfe8 19.Ne5 f6! 20.c4 bxc4 21.bxc4 Qe6 22.Nf3 [22.c5!? fxe5 (22...Nd5 23.Nc4 Qd7 24.Nd6) 23.cxb6 axb6 24.Rxe5 Qd7 25.Qb4 b5 26.Rce1=] 22...Qf7 23.d5?! [23.Qa5 Rxe1+ 24.Rxe1 Bg4; 23.c5 Nd5] 23...cxd5 24.Nd4 Nxc4! [24...Be4 25.c5 Nc4 26.Qa2 Rac8 27.c6 Qg6 28.Bg3]

25.Rxc4 Rxe1 26.Qxe1 Re8 [26...dxc4 27.Nxf5] 27.Qa5 dxc4 28.Nxf5 Qe6! The point of Black's exchanging combination. White cannot challenge Black's superior coordination and he has specific problems with the back rank and the passed c pawn. 29.Bd2 Qe5 30.Qxe5 Rxe5 31.Nd4 Re4 32.Nf3 [32.Bc3 Re3 33.Bb4 a5 34.Nc2 Re2] 32...g5 33.h3 h5 34.Kg1 g4 35.hxg4 hxg4 36.Nh4 Rd4 37.Bb4 Rd1+ [37...Rd3–+] 38.Kf2 Rc1 39.Ke3 c3 40.Nf5 a5 41.Bxa5 0–1

FIDE Master Dimitar Kacakovski writes in with his own refutation of one of the Morra Gambit main lines.

1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 e6 [Two of my own personal favourites against the Morra include 4...Nc6 5.Nf3 d6 (5...e6 6.Bc4 Qc7!) 6.Bc4 Both of these lines call the gambit into question, although I daresay this comment will spark debate! 6...a6!]

5.Nf3 d6 6.Bc4 a6 7.0–0 b5 8.Bb3 Bb7 This has to be a very risky way for Black to play,leaving his King in the centre to be slaughtered. [8...Nf6 9.e5]

9.Ng5! Dimitar's improvement on existing theory. It seems like an excellent idea! 9...h6 [9...Nf6 10.e5! Nfd7 (10...Ng8 11.Nxe6 fxe6 12.Bxe6 dxe5 13.Bf7+ Ke7 14.Qb3 Qd7 15.Bxg8) 11.exd6; 9...Be7 10.f4! (10.Qh5 g6 11.Qg4 h5 12.Qg3 h4 13.Qg4 Nf6 14.Qh3) 10...b4] 10.Qh5 [10.Nxe6 fxe6 11.Qh5+ Ke7]

10...g6 11.Qh3 Qf6 12.Nxf7!!

A quite brilliant sacrifice which disrupts the Black position to an extreme degree. 12...Kxf7 [12...Qxf7 13.Bxe6 Qg7 14.Bd2 Nf6 15.Rfe1 Nc6 16.Nd5 Rh7 17.Bc3 Ne5 18.f4] 13.f4 b4 14.e5 Qe7 15.f5 d5 [15...dxe5 16.fxg6+ Ke8 17.Rf7 Qd6 18.Rxb7 bxc3 19.Be3+-] 16.fxg6+ Ke8 17.Rf7 Qc5+ 18.Be3 Qc6 19.Ba4 Superb stuff! 1–0

Donald Prichard is frustrated that his rating has reached 2000, but he just can't seem to go any further. How can he push past this barrier? 

I would say two things: 1) Study your own games carefully and diligently using an analysis engine and database to assist. Do not skip this valuable trraining. THEN: 2) Get a strong player or coach to look over the notes and get a second opinion OR send some critical games to that player for analysis. 

A student sent me the following game and asked for some commentary. It is a quite normal, everyday affair, but worthy of close study, because it is precisely the type of effort you or I might produce!  There are lessons to be learned from any game, however good or bad. We just have to make the effort to look for them.

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 g6 3.Bxf6 exf6 4.g3 [I have come round to the view that White should play 4.c4 Bg7 5.Nc3 0–0 6.e3 first, before fianchettoing the King's Bishop, encouraging Black to castle. By delaying castling, Black has some interesting attacking possibilities available.] 4...d5! This is the line I recommended on my Chessbase 'Queens Pawn Openings' DVD. The latest games seem to suggest it is still absolutely fine for Black. 5.Bg2 c6 6.e3 Nd7 7.Ne2 f5 8.Nd2 Nf6 9.0–0 Ne4

Occupation or control; that is the question ? Black has played other moves here, all of which seem OK for him: [9...Bd6 10.c4 How else does White get any play? 10...Be6 11.Nc3 dxc4 12.Qe2 0–0 13.Nxc4 Bc7 14.b4 Nd5 15.Nxd5 Bxd5 16.Bxd5 Qxd5 17.Rab1 Rfe8 18.Qc2 h5 19.Nd2 h4 20.Qc4 Qd6 21.Rfe1 a6 22.Rb3 Rad8 23.Rd1 Qf6 24.a4 Tabatadze,T (2450)-Grivas,E (2460)/Ankara 1995 24...Qg5 Black has some initiative. Whether it is enough to fashion a breakthough is another matter; 9...h5! This is the move I like here, keeping the location of the f8 Bishop undefined. 10.c4 h4 11.Qb3 hxg3 12.hxg3 Ne4 13.Rfd1 Nxd2 14.Rxd2 dxc4 15.Qxc4 Bd6 16.Bxc6+ Kf8.  I like the way Kosten handles this position. The Rook stays on h8 to aid the attack. 17.Bf3 g5 18.d5 Qf6 19.Nc3 Bd7 20.Bg2 Re8 21.Nb5 Bxb5 22.Qxb5 f4 23.exf4 gxf4 24.Qd3 Marcelin,C (2383)-Kosten,A (2502)/ 24...fxg3 25.Qf3 Qxf3 26.Bxf3 Bc5 27.Kg2 gxf2 With threats of Re5-g5, Black has a powerful attack.]

10.f3?! [A gratuitous weakening 10.c4 looks best: 10...Nxd2 11.Qxd2 dxc4 12.Qc3! Bg7 13.Qxc4 Be6 14.Qc5 with maybe a small edge to White.] 10...Nf6 11.e4 fxe4 12.fxe4 Ng4 [12...Bh6 13.exd5 Nxd5 14.Nc4 0–0] 13.Rf3 Bh6 14.Nf4 0–0 15.h3 Nf6 It was not obligatory to retreat : [After 15...Bxf4 16.gxf4 dxe4 17.Nxe4 Nf6 Black forces pawn weaknesses.]

16.e5 Ne8 17.Qe2 Nc7 18.c3 [I quite like 18.Raf1! coordinating the pieces.] 18...Ne6 19.Kh2?! I dont understand why he does this. He should make sense of his pieces by taking on e6: [19.Nxe6! Bxe6 20.Raf1 Qd7 21.Nb3 White holds a solid small edge based on :a) Better coordination.b) The open f filec) The long -term idea of a pawn attack on the queenside via the lever b4-b5.] 19...Nxf4 20.gxf4 Bf5 21.Qf2 Qb6 22.Nf1 Rae8 23.Ng3 Be4! Now it is Black who holds the advantage

24.Nxe4 dxe4 25.Rg3 [25.Re3 seems natural, but then comes the break ...f7-f6: 25...f6! 26.Rxe4 fxe5] 25...f5?! [25...f6! appears very strong again,going for the initiative in this opposite-colour Bishop middlegame: 26.Bxe4 (26.e6 f5) 26...fxe5 27.Bxg6 (27.f5 Bf4) 27...exf4!! 28.Bxe8+ fxg3+ 29.Qxg3+ Kh8 30.Qe5+ Bg7 31.Qe2 c5 White may survive, but his King is dreadfully exposed. 32.Kh1 Qd8 33.Bb5 cxd4 34.Bd3 Qh4] 26.Rg1 Kh8 27.h4 Qd8 28.Rh3 Qe7 29.Bf1 b5 30.Be2 a5 31.Bd1 a4 32.b3 Ra8 33.Qg3 [33.bxa4 bxa4 34.h5 is somewhat more natural.]

33...Qa3 34.Qf2 Qc1 35.Rf1 a3!? 36.Re3 Qb2 37.Kg3 b4 Undermining the White pawn chain. 38.Qc2 Rfd8 39.Rf2 bxc3 40.Rxc3 Rxd4 41.Rxc6 Rd3+ 42.Kg2 Rad8 Black should now be winning, of course. 43.Rc8 Qxc2 [43...e3! is crushing: 44.Rxd8+ (44.e6 Bf8! 45.Be2 Qxc2 46.Rxc2 Rd2! 47.Rxd2 Rxd2–+; 44.Qxb2 axb2 45.Rxd8+ Rxd8) 44...Rxd8 45.Qxb2 axb2 46.Rxb2 Rxd1]

44.Rxd8+ Rxd8 45.Bxc2 e3 46.Re2 White has a little more air in this variation. 46...Bxf4 47.Kf3 Bh6 48.h5 Re8 49.hxg6 hxg6 50.Rg2 Kh7 51.Bd3 Rxe5 52.b4 Rd5 [52...g5 53.b5 Kg6 54.b6 Re6 55.b7 Rb6 looks a better location for the Black Rook. In this line, Black maintains his winning position.] 53.Ke2 g5 54.Rg1 Re5 55.b5 Kg6 56.b6 Bf8 57.Rc1 Re8 58.Rc6+ Kh5 59.Bxf5 Rb8 60.Rc7 Rxb6 61.Rh7+ Bh6 Mario remarks that with only two minutes left on his clock,he was getting very nervous. Have we not been there and done that? 62.Kxe3 g4+ 63.Kd3 g3 64.Be4 Rb2–+ But.....draw! The pressure of the clock finally told. Rather tragic as the win is now very easy. ½–½

LESSONS TO BE LEARNED:  1) Opening refinements really do matter. The critical position arrives on move 9 and had Black found 9...h5, he could have created pressure. 2) Time-management is critical. To establish a winning position, but not be able to follow it through is depressing. Always leave yourself a couple of spare minutes at the end. 3) The idea of opening up possibilities for ALL the pieces is one which both players might have noted!

Finally Ricardo Mesa asks about analysing a game. What's the best way to go about it?

Not every move in a game has the same weight. We play 95% of our games like Anand, but it's what happens the other 5% of the time that matters. I look for CRITICAL MOMENTS in a game and try to anlayse at those points. Critical moments might incude: 1) Before the game, how do you feel? 2) The end of your theoretical knowledge. 3) Exchanges 4) Turning points, obvious mistakes, blunders 5) The very end of the game; a summary of why the game was won, lost or drawn.  You build your chess instinct with this work; it's the quickest way.

Now another game from a very talented amateur player who puts a seasoned Grandmaster under severe pressure.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.a3 An uncompromising variation. We learn that it is best to play aggressively and to take risks against a much stronger opponent. However, with this particular line there is no plan B! 4...Bxc3+ 5.bxc3 c5 6.e3 0–0 7.Bd3 d5 8.Ne2 b6 9.0–0 Ba6 10.cxd5 exd5 11.f3 Re8 12.Ng3 Qd7 13.Bxa6 Black's play in this variation comes from: a) Carefully trying to restrain White's pawn centre b) Developing play on the light squares. This may take some time. I am suspicious about 13 Bxa6 simply because it helps Black to develop. [I prefer 13.Ra2! and let Black take on d3 if he wishes. A thematic game (which I am sure that you were trying to emulate against Spraggett) was the following : 13...Bxd3 14.Qxd3 Nc6 15.Re2 Re6 16.Rd1 Rc8 17.Bb2 Ne7 18.e4 Now White has what he wants. 18...Ng6 19.Qd2 cxd4 20.cxd4 dxe4 21.fxe4 Rce8 22.Rde1 Qa4 23.Qg5 Qc4 24.Qf5 R6e7 25.h3 h6 26.Qf2 Nf8 27.e5 Nd5 28.Nf5 Re6 29.Nd6 Rxd6 30.exd6 Rd8 31.Re7 Nf6 32.d5 Rxd6 33.Be5 Rxd5 34.Bxf6 gxf6 35.Qxf6 1–0 Jelen-Roskar Bled 1993]

13...Nxa6 14.Qd3 Qb7 15.Ra2 Re6 16.Re2 Rae8 17.Rfe1 h5 18.Nh1N [18.Qf5 was preferred in the following high-level game. White takes an age to play e3-e4,but it eventually comes, although he has the dickens of a job to get those pawns any further. 18...g6 (18...h4 19.Nh5 Nxh5 20.Qxh5 Rh6 21.Qf5 Rhe6 22.e4 Nc7 23.e5 Qa6 24.Qg4 Qc4 25.f4! Qxc3 26.f5 Rc6 27.Bb2 Qc4 28.e6) 19.Qf4 Qd7 20.Bb2 (20.e4! dxe4 21.Nxe4 Nd5 (21...Nxe4 22.Rxe4 Rxe4 23.Rxe4 Rxe4 24.Qxe4 is about the best White can hope for. He has the edge in the ending with a Bishop vs Knight and a passed pawn. He cannot lose.) 22.Qh6 cxd4 23.c4 Ne3 24.Rxe3! dxe3 25.Bb2 f6 26.Qxg6+ Qg7 27.Nxf6+ Rxf6 28.Qxe8+) 20...cxd4 21.cxd4 Rc6 22.e4± Nc7 23.Nf1 a5 24.h3 Kg7 25.g4 hxg4 26.hxg4 Ne6 27.Qe3 (27.Qg3 dxe4 28.g5 Nh5 29.d5+ Kh7 30.dxc6) 27...Rh8 28.Ng3 Kf8 29.e5 Ng8 30.f4 Ng7 31.Qf3 Nh6 32.Rh2 Kg8 33.f5?! (33.Ree2 Qxg4 34.Qxd5 Rc8 35.Qg2 Ne6 36.Ne4 Qxg2+ 37.Rexg2 Nxf4 38.Rd2 Nd5 39.Nd6 Rc7 40.Rh4) 33...gxf5 34.g5 Ng4 35.Rxh8+ Kxh8 36.Ne2 Rc2 37.Qb3 Qc6 38.Bc3 Ne3 39.Kf2?? (39.Bxa5! Qg6 40.Qxe3 bxa5 41.Rc1 Rxc1+ 42.Qxc1 Ne6) 39...f4 40.Rh1+ Kg8 41.Rh6 Qc8 0–1 Beliavsky,A-Short,N/Linares 1990]

18...Nc7 19.Nf2 Qa6 20.Qxa6 Nxa6 21.e4 dxe4 22.fxe4 Nd5! Already Black has the better position, despite what the machines say. Long-term the Bishop on c1 is a poor prospect and because you sense this aspect if the position and become uncomfortable as a result, it is tough to defend this disadvantage. Basically, White has no counterplay. 23.Bb2 [23.Bd2 cxd4 24.cxd4 f5 25.e5 Nac7 26.Nh3 Nb5 27.Bc1 Rc8 does not help the plight of the poor Bishop.]

23...cxd4 24.cxd4 f5 25.e5 Rc6 26.Rc1 [26.Nd3 Kf7 27.Rc1 Rxc1+ 28.Bxc1 Nac7 29.Rc2 Ne6 30.Bb2 Rd8 31.Kf2 g5 is still preferable for Black,although white may defend it out after,say 32.Rc6] 26...Rxc1+ 27.Bxc1 Rc8 28.Bb2 [28.Nd3 Rc3 29.Rd2 Kf7] 28...Kf7 29.h4 Ke6 30.Nd3 Rc4 Black's edge grows. The Bishop is a non-piece. 31.g3 Nac7 32.Kg2 Nb5 33.Nf4+ Nxf4+ 34.gxf4 Nxd4 35.Rd2 Nb3 36.Rd6+ Ke7 37.Kg3 Rc2 38.Bd4 Rd2–+ 39.Bc3 Rxd6 40.exd6+ Kxd6 41.Bxg7 Kd5 42.Kf3 Nd4+ 43.Kf2 Ke4 44.a4 Ne6 0–1

Lessons to be learned. 1) The approach is right - attack the stronger player!  The weapons have to be chosen with care. In the end, you had to defend for most of this game! 2) Avoid variations which have a long-term strategical defect. You need random tactics to defeat the Grandmaster, not positions where deep positional plans are the order of the day and gradual improvement of structure. 3) There are improvements for White, as we have seen, but they are not easy to find and may require a high level of technique to prosecute. Maybe the variation with 4 f3 offers a better chance to randomise. Shirov won some excellent games in this manner.

Keep those questions rolling in! 



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