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...

Casey Western asks about 2 Na3 in the Sicilian. What to do?

The fad for 2 Na3 will surely fade in 2009. If I am allowed to make one prediction for the coming year, this would be at the top of the list.

1.e4 c5 2.Na3 b6! Just good common-sense 3.g3 I guess it's up to White to try and create a position where the Na3 makes sense. [If  3.f4!? Bb7 4.d3 g6 5.c3 Bg7 6.Nf3 d6 7.Be2 Nd7 8.c4 a6 9.Rb1 e6 10.0–0 Ne7= Black's very flexible structure enables him to cope with anything White can muster. 11.Bd2 0–0 12.Nc2 b5 13.b3 Nb8 14.Ne3 Nbc6 15.g4 f5 16.gxf5 gxf5 17.Nc2 Ng6 Tirrito,L-Genocchio,D/Genova 2004. White has serious problems keeping his pawn structure together.]

3...Bb7 4.Bg2 Nf6 [Naturally 4...g6 is good here too, with play developing in a similar fashion to the last note.] 5.Qe2 e6 6.f4 d5! Bringing c4 under control and thus making the re-introduction of the Na3 into play a time-consuming process.

7.e5 Nfd7 8.Nf3 Be7 9.d3 Nc6 10.c3 a6 11.0–0 d4?! So far Krush has played impeccably, but I don't like this move too much because it makes life easy for White vis-a-vis the Na3. [Instead, just 11...0–0 is very sensible, with...Qc7, Rooks to the centre and then ...b6-b5 on the horizon.]

12.f5!± Sharply seen. 12...0–0 [The point is that 12...exf5 13.e6 is very uncomfortable for Black: 13...fxe6 14.Qxe6 Nf8 (14...dxc3 15.Ng5! Rf8 16.Bxc6) 15.Qxf5 Qc8 16.Nh4!±] 13.fxe6 fxe6 14.Nc4 [14.Bh3! surely came into close consideration, but perhaps Black can bail out with 14...Kh8! 15.Nc4 (15.Bxe6? dxc3 16.bxc3 Ndxe5!! 17.Nxe5 Nxe5 18.Rxf8+ (18.Qxe5 Rxf1+ 19.Kxf1 Qxd3+–+) 18...Qxf8 19.Qxe5 Qf3) 15...Qc7 16.Bf4 b5 17.Ncd2 dxc3 18.bxc3 b4]

14...Rb8 15.Bf4 Kh8 16.Nd6 Ba8 17.Ne4 h6 18.Bh3 He got there anyway. 18...Qe8 19.Rae1!? [Taking on e6 was probably not quite as clear as White would have liked: 19.Bxe6 Qg6 This is clearly why he didn't do it but maybe White is still better: 20.Bxd7 Rxf4 21.cxd4 Rd8 22.e6 Nxd4 23.Nxd4 Rxf1+ 24.Rxf1 cxd4 25.Rf4±] 19...Qg6 20.Bg2 Rf5 21.Nd6 Rff8 22.h4 [22.Nd2 Nd8 23.Bxa8 Rxa8 24.N2c4 b5=]

22...Bxd6 23.exd6 e5! This was the move that 19 Rae1 was designed to prevent! 24.Nxe5 Ncxe5 25.Bxe5 [25.h5 Qxd3 26.Bxe5 Nxe5 27.Qxe5 Bxg2 28.Kxg2 dxc3 29.bxc3 Rbd8 30.Rxf8+ Rxf8] 25...Bxg2 26.Qxg2 Nxe5 27.Rxf8+ Rxf8 28.Rxe5 Stripunsky is very careful to keep some protection around his King. Having come so far, he does not want to lose. 28...Qxd6 29.Qe2 dxc3 30.bxc3 Qf6 31.Kg2 Qc6+ 32.Kh2 ½–½

I feel that 2...b6 is a perfectly good reply to 2 Na3 and gives Black a very comfortable position. Perhaps a double-fianchetto by Black, going on to a hedgehog formation is best of all and equalizes easily.


Andrew Wick lost to the Fried Liver Attack recently and wonders where he went wrong. Is this an automatic loss for Black?

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5   Of course this opening is very frightening for the beginner and is laced with traps. Perhaps 5...Nxd5 6 Nxf7 is not an automatic loss for Black, but the defence is very difficult and almost impossible unless one is skilled and experienced.   Fortunately Black does not HAVE to play 5....Nxd5

5...Na5! The oldest move and still best in my view, although 5...Nd4 and 5...b5 both have plenty of supporters. It's true that Black is sacrificing a pawn in this variation, but he gets to push White around for a while and has free play for all his pieces.The main line runs as follows.

6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc6 bxc6 8.Be2 h6 9.Nf3 e4 10.Ne5 Bc5!  I know Hebden likes this move, setting up the idea of ...Qd4. Chandler stops it and creates a threat of his own,but c2-c3 cannot be taken back and takes away a good square from the Nb1.

11.c3 Bd6 It seems a little odd to seemingly waste a move in this manner, but Black has provoked c2-c3, a pawn push White does not necessarily want to make. 12.f4 [Or 12.d4 when one of the latest games goes: 12...exd3 13.Nxd3 Qc7!  A key move, eyeing h2 and slowing down White from castling. 14.h3 0–0 15.0–0 Bf5 16.Nb4 Rad8 Black has superb play for his pieces. 17.Qa4 c5 18.Nc2 Rfe8 19.Ne3 Bd7 20.Qc2 Nc6 A second key idea in this variation, getting the Na5 back off the rim. 21.Na3 Ne4 22.Nac4 Bh2+ 23.Kh1 Bc8 24.Bf3 Ng5 25.Bxc6 Qxc6 26.Kxh2 Nf3+ 27.Kg3 Qc7+ 28.Kxf3 Bb7+ 29.Ke2 Be4 30.Qa4 Bd3+ 31.Ke1 Qh2 32.Nd6 Qxd6 33.Rh1 f5 34.g3 Be4 35.Rg1 Bf3 36.Qc4+ Kh8 0–1 Teerapabpaisit,W (2306)-Abdulla,A (2522)/Dresden 2008]

12...0–0 This time Black does not take, envisaging ...c6-c5 and ...Bc8-b7. His compensation reminds me of the Marshall Gambit in the Ruy Lopez and is based on TIME. How long is it going to take White to get his Queenside pieces out? [Nevertheless 12...exf3! is very playable and recent evidence suggests that it might be superior to the move Hebden actually comes out with:  13.Nxf3 0–0 14.0–0 Qc7 15.d4 Re8 (15...c5 16.Na3 a6 17.Bd2 Rb8 18.b4 cxb4 19.cxb4 Bxb4 20.Bxb4 Rxb4 21.Qd2 Ra4 22.Rfc1 Qd6 23.Nc4 Nxc4 24.Bxc4 Be6 25.Bxe6 Qxe6 26.Qc2 Ra3 27.Re1 Qg4 28.h3 Qf4 29.Rac1 Rb8 30.Rb1 Rxb1 31.Rxb1 Ne4 32.Rb3 Rxb3 33.Qxb3 g5 34.Qa4 h5 35.Qe8+ Kg7 36.a3 Nd6 37.Qe7 g4 38.hxg4 hxg4 39.Qe5+ Qxe5 40.Nxe5 f5 41.Kf2 Kf6 42.Nd7+ Kg5 43.Nc5 a5 44.a4 f4 45.Nb3 Nc4 46.Nc5 Kf5 47.Ke2 Nb6 48.Nb3 Nxa4 49.Nxa5 Ke4 50.Nb3 Nc3 51.Kd2 Nd5 52.Ke2 Ne3 53.Kf2 Nd1+ 54.Ke2 Ne3 55.g3 f3+ 56.Kf2 Nd1+ 57.Ke1 0–1 Martorelli,A (2240)-Bentivegna,F (2329)/Saint Vincent 20088) 16.b4 Nb7 17.a4 Bg4 18.h3 Bh5 19.Ra2 Ne4 20.g4 Bg6 21.Bd3 c5 22.bxc5 Nbxc5 23.Bc4 Ng3 24.Nh4 Nxf1 25.Nxg6 Ne3 26.Bxe3 Rxe3 27.Rf2 Ne6 28.Bd5 Re8 29.Nh4 Nf4 0–1 Kocken,W (1946)-Ernst,S (2581)/Tilburg 2008]

13.0–0 c5 14.d4 exd3 15.Qxd3 Bb7 16.Rd1 Ne4 17.Nd2 c4! 18.Ndxc4 Nxc4 19.Nxc4 Qh4 20.g3 [20.Nxd6 Qf2+ 21.Kh1 Nxd6 22.Bf1 Rfe8 was maybe rejected on intuitive grounds by Chandler,but White survives after 23.Qd4 Ne4 24.b3]

20...Bc5+ 21.Be3 Nxg3 22.Bxc5 Nxe2+ 23.Qxe2 Rfe8 24.Qf2 Qh5 25.Be3 Rad8 26.Rxd8 Rxd8 27.Nd2 Qd5 28.Nf3 [Instead 28.Kf1! is the cold-blooded computer move, after which Black is struggling to finish his attack: 28...Ba6+ (28...Re8 29.Re1 Ba6+ 30.c4 Bxc4+ 31.Nxc4 Qxc4+ 32.Kg1; 28...Qh1+ 29.Qg1 Qc6 30.Bd4+-) 29.c4 Bxc4+ 30.Nxc4 Qxc4+ 31.Kg1+-] 28...Rd6 29.Rf1 Rg6+ 30.Kh1 Qh5 31.Bxa7 Qh3 32.Qe2 Rg3 0–1

All Black players who want to try 3...Nf6 should take a close look at this game and the notes.


Jose Izguierdo and Kevin Mill ask about the development of an efficient self-training programme.

This seems to be a very popular question!  Everyone is different, but I would refer you to my 'little and often' recommendation of an earlier column. For the average player 15-20 mins a day study at MAXIMUM CONCENTRATION is about right, EVERY DAY and DON'T SKIP.

What you study is up to you but VARIETY is the key.  Aside from that a basic framework should include:

1) Sensible goal-setting. Know where you want to go. Aim to improve 1 ELO point per day let's say. Add that up!

2) Keep fit and healthy. Sleep well. Stay positive.

3) PLAY at least as much as study.

4) Do not be OBSESSIVE about chess. Play to enjoy the game rather than focussing on results. The results will come.

5) For whatever reason, if you are not enjoying chess, TAKE A BREAK, STOP PLAY. Too many players ignore this simple point, get more and more frustrated and end up manically giving up for good. Don't let this happen to you!


Meanwhile teenager Ryan Winstead loves chess, often playing 20 games at once on, but he feels that he plays superficially sometimes or maybe too quickly and especially online. Is online correspondance chess the answer?

Well Ryan, I will not pull my punches:  You are playing far TOO MUCH and without SELF-DISCIPLINE. It is especially important for teenagers who want to make the most of their talent, to cultivate as much self-discipline and self-reliance as possible as quickly as possible.

If you are REALLY SERIOUS about improvement and it's not just teenage bravado, get yourself a routine similar to the one I described earlier in this column. Above all, take chess seriously. The biggest danger any teenager faces in western culture is the pressure put on them by boys and girls of their own age to conform.  They will be only too ready to put chess down and ridicule your hard work. Basically, it is bullying.  Real players of talent must rise above this nonsense. If you want to be good at chess, nobody has the right to stop you!


Finally ‘Anonymous’ asks a question about a the Grand Prix set-up against the Pirc-Modern. He points to my recent recommendation of this set-up to White in a video for club players.  What should Black do?

Time for a couple of recent games one feels.

1.e4 g6 2.Nc3 Bg7 3.f4 c6!? There is no definitive answer, but it seems sensible to go for a quick ...d7-d5.  If Black plays this way, he must be prepared to enter the Gurganidze System after 4 d5 d5 5 e5 h5, which is a different story altogether.

4.Bc4 [4.Nf3 d5 5.exd5 cxd5 6.Bb5+ Nc6 7.Ne5 Bd7 8.Nxd7 Qxd7 9.0–0 e6 10.Qe1 Nge7 11.d3 a6 12.Bxc6 Qxc6 13.Bd2 0–0 14.Rc1 Qb6+ 15.Kh1 Qxb2 16.Rb1 Qa3 17.Rxb7 Nf5 18.Rb3 Qc5 19.Qb1 Rac8 20.Be1 d4 21.Ne4 Qxc2 22.Bb4 Rfd8 23.Rf2 Qc6 24.Ba3 h6 25.Rb6 Qa4 26.Bc5 Qa5 27.Rc2 Ne3 28.Rc1 f5 29.Qb3 Nd5 30.Rxe6 Kh7 31.Qb7 fxe4 32.Rxa6 Rxc5 33.Rb1 Qc7 0–1 Molnar,J (1904)-Karlik,V (2301)/Olomouc 2008/CBM 125 Extra]

4...b5 5.Bb3 a5 6.a3 e6! 7.Nf3 d5! Shutting down White's dangerous light-squared Bishop is the key to success.

8.0–0 Ba6 9.d3 b4 10.axb4 axb4 11.Na4 dxe4 12.Ng5 Nf6 13.Re1 Bb5 14.Be3 0–0 15.Bb6 Qd6 16.Bc5 Qxf4 17.Bxf8 Ng4 18.Bc5 Qxh2+ 19.Kf1 Qf4+ 20.Kg1 Qxg5 21.Rxe4 h5 22.Bxb4 Nd7 23.Nc3 Rxa1 24.Qxa1 Nc5 25.Rxg4 hxg4 26.Bxc5 Qxc5+ 27.Kf1 Qf5+ 28.Ke1 Qe5+ 29.Kd1 Qe3 30.Qa8+ Kh7 31.Nxb5 Bh6 32.Qa5 cxb5 33.Qe1 Qc1+ 34.Ke2 Qxb2 35.Qg3 Qd4 36.Qf2 Qe5+ 37.Kf1 Qa1+ 38.Ke2 Kg8 39.Qg3 Qd4 40.Qb8+ Kg7 41.Qg3 Bf4 42.Qf2 Qe5+ 43.Kd1 Bg3 44.Qf1 Qe3 45.c4 Qd4 46.Kc2 Be5 47.Kd1 Qa1+ 48.Ke2 Qb2+ 49.Ke3 Bd4+ 50.Ke4 f5+ 51.Kf4 Qd2+ 52.Kg3 Be5+ 53.Kh4 Qh6# 0–1

I still think that at club level a Grand Prix set-up will score well for White and that most Black players will be ill-prepared to meet it. However, objectively Black is fine as long as he remembers to play a quick ...c7-c6 and then ...d7-d5!

It remains for me to wish all members a happy and successful New Year!


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