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 Ogerboy  Dear Mr Martin, I absolutely love your columns. From what I read previously, you are a fan of the 2.b3 Sicilian. I would like to ask your opinion on a particular line. In Chess Openings for Black, Explained  by GM Alburt, GM Dzindichashvili, and IM Perelshteyn, against 2.b3, they concluded that 1.e4 c5 2.b3 Nc6 3.Bb2 e5 4.Bb5 (I guess their line applies for both 4.Bb5 and 4.Bc4) Nge7! followed by g6 and Bg7 is a ' = '. Do you agree with their judgement?  Is there anyway for white to retain his opening advantage? Thank you in advance!

Dear Ogerboy, I think if you play the 2 b3 Sicilian you have to accept that Black can theoretically equalize in virtually every reasonable line, but the point is surely to take he, or she, out of their comfort zone into an unusual position. Besides, consulting the database I found an awful lot of white wins in this line, so it cannot be that easy to equalize!

1.e4 c5 2.b3 Nc6 3.Bb2 e5 4.Bb5 Nge7 5.Ne2 a6 [5...g6 can be answered by  6.f4 d6 7.0–0 when I much prefer White.]

6.Bxc6 Nxc6 7.0–0 d5?! Trying to break the shackles,but this is a move which helps White. [7...Be7 8.Nbc3 d6 9.f4! sees White going through with the main plan in this line. It looks very dangerous! 9...0–0 10.Nd5 Be6 11.Nxe7+ Nxe7 (11...Qxe7 12.f5 Bd7 13.f6 gxf6 14.Ng3 is awful for Black.) 12.fxe5 dxe5 13.Bxe5 Ng6 14.Bg3 h5 15.Bf2 Rc8 16.Be3 Re8 17.d3 b5 18.h3 Qh4 19.Qd2 Qd8 20.Ng3 1–0 Gelashvili,T (2519)-Kordis,K (2219)/Halkida 2000 A smash, I suppose you could refer to the difference in the ratings, but then 99% of all chessplayers are rated below 2219]

8.exd5 Qxd5 9.Nbc3 Qd8 10.f4 Opening the long diagonal by force.

10...Be7 11.fxe5 Nxe5 12.Ne4 f6 13.Bxe5! Unprejudiced. The two Bishops do not like Knight outposts in the centre or sitting behind static, isolated pawns.

13...fxe5 14.N2c3 g6 15.Kh1 Be6 16.Qf3 Rf8 17.Qg3 Rxf1+ 18.Rxf1 Qc7 19.Nf6+!± Bxf6 20.Rxf6 Bg8 21.Qg4 Rd8 22.Ne4 Rd4 23.d3 Rd8 [23...Bd5 24.Qh3! Bxe4 25.Qe6+ Qe7 26.Qg8+ Kd7 27.Rf7]

24.Rf1 Ke7 25.h3 b6 26.Nf6 Be6 27.Qh4 Kd6 28.Ne4+ Kc6 [28...Kd7 29.Qxh7+; 28...Kd5 29.Rf6 Re8 30.c4+ Kd4 31.Qf2+ Kxd3 32.Rf3+ Kxe4 33.Qe3#]

9.Rf6 Re8 30.Ng5 Qd7 31.Qa4+ Kc7 32.Qxa6 Black has been bound hand and foot for some time now.

32...h6 33.Ne4 Qd4 34.Qa7+ 1–0 If you like 2 b3, then keep playing it, despite what the books or anyone else says. It really is as simple as that! member DAVAD265 Andrew, I am hoping you can help me out. I am a 44 year old man who never played Chess in his life until a few years ago. What I want to know is: what can I read or watch etc to become world class?  I am willing to sit down and watch a training video or read books, whatever it takes.  I want to be able to play a strong game, to be a sometime winner with higher ranked players, to be feared, to boldly go where I have yet to go, and to drive my enemies before me!  ;-)

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

My advice is to forget about becoming world-class. At your age it simply isn't going to happen. It's unrealistic and even quite impossible. Your main barrier is your age. Your second barrier is your talent; to release the talent if it is there would take a level of energy a middle-aged man has long since lost. Your third barrier is time. Do you really have the time to study chess to the exclusion of everything else?

What you must concentrate on is enjoying playing and studying chess, not results. The game will then open up its secrets to you and you will realise your potential. If you continue wanting to be 'world class', you will soon become demoralised at the apparent lack of progress and give up.  



Jess Patrick Dear Andrew,With regard to the evaluation of chess positions, what, in your opinion, is meant by "unclear position"? Does it mean "One side is better, but I can't prove which one"? Maybe it means "equal but not drawish". What are your thoughts?

Dear Jess, Unclear is a word or evaluation often used by an annotator when they don't know what's going on in a position! It's used less these days now that computers have turned everyone into armchair grandmasters. I think your own evaluations above of 'unclear' are among the best I have seen. How about an unclear game now?

1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nf3 d6 4.Bc4 e6 I made the point in my recent book on the Hippopotamus system of defence, that Bc4 systems were among the easier for Black to combat. The Bishop on c4 is vulnerable to a pawn attack from Black and White often has to lose time as a result.

5.Bb3 Ne7 6.0–0 b6 7.Nbd2 0–0 8.Re1 c5 Why not? Black is not afraid of d4-d5 while the Bishop is still on c8. [8...Bb7 9.Nf1 Nd7 10.Ng3 c5 11.c3 Rc8 12.h3 h6 13.Be3 c4 (13...d5 14.e5; 13...cxd4 14.cxd4 Nf6 15.Bc2 looks a touch better for White in both cases.) 14.Bc2 f5 15.exf5 exf5 16.Bf4 Rf6 17.Qc1 Qf8 18.h4 Bxf3 19.gxf3 Nd5 20.Bd2 h5?! (20...f4! promotes a very difficult position but one where Black has every chance to win thanks to his better pawn structure: 21.Ne4 (21.Ne2 Qf7 22.Be4 b5) 21...Re6) 21.Bg5! Rf7 22.Re6 N7f6 23.Qd2 White has organised his position carefully, but even so, after 23...Re8 it will be difficult to break in.]

9.c3 [Thus 9.d5 e5! is fine for Black, who will play ...h7-h6 and ...f7-f5 shortly.]

9...Nbc6 10.Nf1 h6 I would like to do without this move if I could, thus [10...cxd4 11.cxd4 Bb7 12.Ng3 Rc8 came into consideration. Welling, in typical Hippo style, refuses to clarify the issue.]

11.Ng3 Ba6 12.Bc2 cxd4 13.cxd4 Rc8 14.Be3 Rc7 [14...Na5 15.b3 f5! looks very interesting now, with active play for Black: 16.exf5 (16.Bd2 fxe4 17.Bxe4 d5 18.Bc2 Nac6 19.Bc3 Qd6 20.Qd2 Qf4! 21.Qxf4 Rxf4 22.Rxe6 Rxf3 23.gxf3 Nxd4) 16...Nxf5 17.Nxf5 gxf5 18.Bf4 Rf6 19.Qd2 Bb7! The Hippo is an opening of good timing. Black is passive only initially (or at least, he should be. No, let me rephrase that, he HAS to be) and then he must choose an appropriate moment to break out.]

15.Qd2 Kh7 16.Rad1 Na5 17.b3 f5 18.Bb1 Qd7 19.h4 d5? The real mistake. Black must keep the centre fluid to head off the Kingside attack: [19...fxe4 20.Bxe4 Bb7 21.h5 Bxe4 22.Nxe4 gxh5 23.Qd3 Kg8; 19...Bb7 20.h5 g5 21.exf5 exf5 22.Qe2 Nac6 In either case, the game remains very unclear.]

20.exf5! gxf5 21.Nh5 But now Black has no counterplay and must sit and watch.

21...Ng6 22.Nxg7 Qxg7 23.h5 Nh8 24.Bf4 The dark squares are irreparably weakened.

24...Rc6 25.Ne5 Rcc8 26.Re3 Rg8 27.Rg3 Qf6 28.Ng4 Qh4 29.Nxh6 Rxg3 30.fxg3 1–0  Games like this give the Hippo a unjustifiably bad name, although it must be said that three rows of pawns is not for everyone.



Harpreet Singh  Hi Andrew, I really appreciate It is incomparable.  It is so simple and multi-featured.  I have a question. My online rating at is around 1400.  Would it be the same if I play a rating match for real? Some people say online ratings of even 1300 are comparable with 1800 in a real ratings.

Another question.  If I start devoting more time to chess. Can it bring me money?  I mean can I take it as career?

Hi Harpreet, Regarding online ratings I really would not read too much into them. Play online chess for fun. The only way to test yourself properly is to play over the board chess in real time at a real location. You can't compare online with OTB [Over The Board - Ed], because in most cases you have little idea who you are playing!

I would forget about chess as a career.  If you can get to the top as a player then you have the intellectual talent to get yourself a much better paying job elsewhere where you may be able to contribute to the future of society. Chess is a wonderful pastime and has aesthetic value, but as a career its poorly paid and a real grind, UNLESS you are in the world top ten. Just play for fun and to be as good as you can. Put work in when you can. That is realistic. That will keep chess fresh.

My final game this month is all about economy of effort. By choosing the right openings, you can cut down on the amount of work involved developing  a winning opening repertoire. One great attraction of the Torre Attack is the speed and efficiency of White's development. By contrast,it is often difficult for Black to keep pace if he chooses an inflexible defensive formation.

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bg5 c5 4.e3 Be7 5.Nbd2 d5 6.c3 Nbd7 7.Bd3  The basic Torre Attack position with the white minor pieces comfortably developed. If as here, Black allows White to put a Knight on e5, he should do so.

7...b6 8.Ne5! TIP Look out for this move and reinforce the Knight with f2-f4 if you can.

8...Nxe5 [8...Bb7 9.f4 Ne4 10.Bb5! would be disasterous for Black.]

9.dxe5 Nd7 10.Bxe7 Qxe7 11.f4 0–0?!  This game just goes to show you that even a Grandmaster can underestimate the power of White's coming attack. Black is walking straight into trouble. [11...f6 12.exf6 gxf6 Webster,A-Tiviakov,S/Oakham 1992 is more flexible. WARNING One inaccuracy by Black can often be enough thanks to White's obvious kingside pressure.; 11...Bb7 is also playable: 12.Qe2 (12.0–0 f5 13.exf6 gxf6 14.e4 0–0–0 15.Qe2 Qd6 16.Ba6 Nb8 17.Bxb7+ Kxb7 18.Rae1 Kosic,D-Shipov,S/Athens 1997) 12...a6 (12...f6 13.exf6 gxf6 14.e4 0–0–0 15.exd5 Bxd5 16.Be4 Qd6 17.0–0 Kasparov,G-De la Fuente Gonzalez,F/Galicia 1991) 13.0–0 b5 14.Nf3 h6 15.Bc2 Nb6 16.a4 bxa4 17.Bxa4+ Nxa4 18.Rxa4 0–0 Kovacevic,S-Morovic Fernandez,I/Las Palmas 1995]

12.Nf3 [12.Qh5 f5 13.g4]

12...f5? Suicidal. Black denies himself any counterplay and encourages White to lever open the position with g2-g4. [12...f6 simply has to be played, but I still prefer White, whose attack is in full swing. 13.Qc2 fxe5 14.Bxh7+ Kh8 15.g3 (15.Ng5 exf4 16.exf4 Rxf4 17.h4; 15.fxe5 Rxf3 16.gxf3 Qh4+) 15...exf4 16.exf4 e5 17.0–0–0]

3.Rg1!± g2-g4 is coming!

13...Kh8 14.g4 g6 15.h4 Bb7 16.h5 fxg4 17.Rxg4 [17.hxg6 h5 18.Rh1 gxf3 19.Rxh5+ Kg8 20.Rh7 Qd8 21.Qxf3+- is also crushing]

17...g5!? [17...gxh5 18.Rg5 Rf7 19.Rxh5 Nf8 20.Qd2+-]

18.Nxg5 d4 19.exd4 cxd4 20.cxd4!+- White has a winning position and this is virtually the only point in the game where calculations had to be made.

20...h6 [20...Rxf4 21.Rxf4 Qxg5 22.Qg4+-; 20...Qb4+ this is the only remotely worrying variation 21.Qd2 Qxd4 22.Nxe6 Qd5 23.Nxf8 Qh1+ 24.Bf1 Qe4+ 25.Qe2 Qb4+ 26.Kf2 Rxf8 27.Kg3+- The Black attack is over.]

21.Ne4 Rg8 [21...Qb4+ 22.Qd2 Qxd4 23.f5! Rf7 24.Qxh6+ Rh7 25.Qxh7+ Kxh7 26.Ng5++-]

22.Nd6 Nf6 23.Rg6! Rxg6 24.hxg6 Nd5 25.Qh5 Kg7 26.f5 1–0  This is the type of crushing initiative you can expect every so often when you employ the Torre Attack. Black's main sin in this game was his casual approach to the initial moves. His sense of danger only kicked in when it was too late!

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