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 'Valour' explains that as a novice, he would like a good opening against 1 e4 e5, but finds the Ruy Lopez too difficult. What should he play?

I have every sympathy. Not only is the Spanish torture very complex to put into practice, White literally has to know many different well-mapped out variations and be ready to adapt to different types of position.  In my view for the average player the Vienna Opening, 2 Nc3 is ideal. It's less frequent all all levels of play, out of fashion and White has a good chance of scoring a quick win. Or, at least create the type of position where counterplay is not so obvious for Black. The simple first point of 2 Nc3 is to prevent ...d7-d5.

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 [2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bc4 Nc6 4.Nge2! is an interesting move-order,again dissuading Black from his supposedly best idea 4...Bb4, after which White would play 5 a3!] 2...Nc6 3.Ne2 Nf6 4.Nbc3 Transposing. 4...Bc5 [RR 4...Bb4 5.0–0 (5.a3 Bxc3 6.Nxc3 Nxe4 7.Qg4! Ng5 8.d3 h6 9.Qg3 d6 10.f4 gives White an excellent initiative.) 5...0–0 6.d3 Na5 7.Bb3 Nxb3 8.axb3 d5 9.f3 h6 10.Bd2 d4 11.Nb1 Bxd2 12.Nxd2 Be6 13.h3 Nh5 14.f4 Nxf4 15.Nxf4 exf4 16.Rxf4 Qg5 17.Rf3 a6 18.Qe2 Rae8 19.Raf1 Li Haoyu (2314)-Petronic,S (2279)/Tianjing 2001 with the initiative.]

5.0–0 [Or 5.d3 h6 6.0–0 d6 7.Na4 Bb6 8.Nxb6 axb6 9.a3 0–0 10.f4! Taking away the Bishop on b6 and then going for f2-f4 looks like a good plan! 10...Be6 11.fxe5 Nxe5 12.Bxe6 fxe6 13.Nf4 Qe8 14.d4 Ng6 15.Qd3 Nxf4 16.Bxf4 Qg6 17.Rae1 Nh5 18.Bd2 d5 19.e5 Qxd3 20.cxd3 g5 21.g3 Ng7 22.g4 Ra4 23.Bb4 Rxf1+ 24.Rxf1 c5 25.b3 Ra8 26.dxc5 bxc5 27.Bxc5 Ne8 28.a4 Rc8 29.d4 Nc7 30.Rf6 Kg7 31.b4 Re8 32.Bd6 Rc8 33.b5 Ne8 34.Bf8+ Kg8 35.Rf1 Rc4 36.Bxh6 Kh7 37.Bxg5 Rxd4 38.h3 Kg6 39.Bd8 Rxa4 40.Rf3 Ng7 41.Rf6+ Kh7 42.Rf7 1–0 Klemanic,E (2300)-Paluch,L/Sarospatak 1999/EXT 2002] 5...0–0 [5...a6 6.a3 d6 7.h3 Be6 8.Ba2 0–0 9.d3 Qd7 10.b4 Ba7 11.Bg5 Bxh3 12.Ng3 Bg4 13.Qd2 Nh5 14.Nce2 Nd4 15.Be3 Nxe2+ 16.Nxe2 Bxe3 17.Qxe3 Be6 18.Qf3 g6 19.Qe3 Bxa2 20.Rxa2 Catala,I (2136)-Miranda,Y (2126)/Holguin 2008/CBM 122 Extra/0–1 (66)]

6.d3 Ng4!? Black embarks on an adventure that he otherwise would not  do if he were backed up by theory. I have the feeling he is on his own. [6...h6 7.h3 d6 8.a3 a6 9.Kh1 Nh7 10.f4 Bd4 11.f5 Nf6 12.Ng3 Bxc3 13.bxc3 d5 14.exd5 Nxd5 15.Ne4 Nf6 16.Qe1 b5 17.Ba2 Nxe4 18.dxe4 Qf6 19.Bd5 Bd7 20.Be3 Rad8 21.Bf2± Salgado Lopez,I (2092)-Remoli Sargues,F (2064)/Formigal 2002/EXT 2003/1–0 (59); 6...d6 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Bg3 Bg4 Kahraman,I-Cikrik,M/Izmir 2003] 7.h3 Nxf2!? 8.Rxf2 Bxf2+ 9.Kxf2 d6 10.Kg1 Be6 11.Bd5 Qd7 12.Be3 f5 13.exf5 Rxf5 14.Ng3 Rf7 15.Bxe6 Qxe6 16.Nce4 h6 17.Qg4 Qxg4 18.hxg4 d5 19.Nc5 b6 20.Na6± White is better. He controls lots of key squares and the idea of Nf5 will stifle the Black Rooks.

20...e4 21.dxe4 d4 22.Bd2 Ne5 23.Nf5! Rd7 [23...Nxg4 24.Nxd4 Rd8 25.Nf3 c5 26.b4! leaves White in charge.] 24.Bf4 Re8 25.Bxe5 Rxe5 26.Nb8! Rf7 27.Re1 Ra5 28.a3 Ra4 29.Nc6 Rf6 30.e5+- Rxc6 31.Ne7+ Kf7 32.Nxc6 Rc4 33.e6+ Ke8 34.Nxa7 Rxc2 35.Rd1 Ke7 36.Rxd4 Kxe6 37.b4 Ke5 38.Rd7 Kf4 39.Rxg7 Kg3 40.Rf7 Rxg2+ 41.Kf1 Ra2 42.Nb5 c6 43.Nd4 c5 44.bxc5 bxc5 45.Nb5 Kxg4 46.Rc7 Kf3 47.Ke1 Ke3 48.Kd1 Kd3 49.Kc1 Kc4 50.Rb7 Rh2 51.Nd6+ Kc3 52.Ne4+ Kd4 53.Nd2 Rh3 54.Kb2 Kd5 55.Rc7 Kd6 56.Rc8 Kd5 57.a4 Rh2 58.Kc2 Rh4 59.a5 Ra4 60.Ra8 Kc6 61.Nb3 c4 62.Rc8+ Kd5 63.Nd2 Rxa5 64.Nxc4 Kd4 65.Nxa5 1–0

Dave Clark asks about an obscure gambit in the French which often leads to swashbuckling chess and has produced some good wins in his games.

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.c4!?

I believe this is called the Diemer-Duhm Gambit and I can testify to its effectiveness at club level, because a member of my club uses it frequently! White's intention is to grab the centre and follow up with a quick f2-f3, with Blackmar Diemer-like compensation. I will just say that this is OK, precisely at club level and that above, the gambit must be seen as dubious.

I offer one recent game and an antidote. 3...dxe4 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.f3 Bb4! 6.Bg5 [6.a3 Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 c5 8.Be3 Qa5µ; 6.Be3 c5! 7.dxc5 Bxc3+ 8.bxc3 Qxd1+ 9.Rxd1 e5 10.Rd6 Be6 11.Bg5 Ke7 12.fxe4 Nbd7 leaves Black well on top.] 6...Nc6! This is simple fare. Black gets his pieces out and by not capturing on f3, causes White embarrassment in this precise position.It is this exact attention to move-order that isn't forthcoming at lower levels and gives lots of players the idea they can get away with anything. 7.a3 Be7 The d4 square feels the heat. 8.Be3N [RR 8.Nge2 exf3 9.gxf3 0–0 10.h4 Re8 11.Be3 e5 12.d5 Nd4 13.Nxd4 exd4 14.Qxd4 b6 15.b4 a5 16.Rg1 axb4 17.Ne4 Rxa3 18.Rxa3 bxa3 19.Bh6 g6 20.Kd1 Bf5 21.Qc3 c6 22.Ng3 Bb1–+ Konik,M (1960)-Kuhn,N (2040)/Bayern 1999/EXT 2000/0–1]

8...exf3 9.Nxf3 Ng4! 10.Qd2 [So that if 10.Bg1 0–0 leaves White without ideas: 11.h3 (11.Bd3 Bd6 12.Qe2 e5 13.h3 Nf6 14.dxe5 Nxe5 15.Nxe5 Bxe5 16.0–0–0 Qe8 17.Qc2 Qc6) 11...Bh4+ 12.Ke2 Nh6] 10...0–0 11.0–0–0 e5 12.d5 Na5 13.Kb1 Bf5+ 14.Ka2 Bc2! Whte has been completely outplayed.

15.Qxc2 Nxe3 16.Qe4 Nxd1 17.Nxd1 b5 18.cxb5 Bf6 19.Ne3 Nb7 20.Bd3 g6 21.Ng4 Bg7 22.Ngxe5 Nc5 23.Qc4 Nxd3 24.Qxd3 Re8 25.Nc6 Qf6 26.Nfd4 Qg5 27.Qf3 Re3 28.h4 Rxf3 29.hxg5 Rd3 30.Nf3 Re8 31.Nb4 Rde3 32.Rc1 Re2 33.Kb3 R8e3+ 34.Rc3 Bxc3 35.bxc3 Rxg2 36.Nd4

Dave has highlighted an interesting point: exactly what SHOULD one play at club level.For me it's simple: play what you enjoy. It's absolutely no good at all trying to emulate Anand or Kramnik because your chess existence is nothing like the one they have. Stick to the style of play you like, don't worry too slavishly about what the books say and be aware of your own capabilities and limitations.  It's the final point that is the most important and which will determine whether you make real progress 0–1

'Duane' mentions that he is new to the game and that his six year old son loves to play chess. What's the best way to encourage him?

I remember I learned to play chess WITH my Dad. He wasn't a strong player, but he took time out to play LOTS of games with me and he always gave me encouragement.  You can't reason with a six year old, so by far the most effective way is to play as much as possible and to enjoy the game together. Enter the occasional tournament in the spirit of PLEASURE. Winning is great, but SECONDARY to FUN. The number of kids I have seen who have been hothoused too early is incredible. They almost always give up.

A clubmate of mine, Peter Rat, asks about the New Dragon, where Black delays castling against the Yugoslav Attack in favour of provocative counterplay. Is it playable?

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 a6!? 8.Qd2 Nbd7 The Dragondorf. Naturally, Black waits with ...b7-b5 until White either plays Bc4 or castles long, lest he be blown away with a quick a2-a4!

9.Bc4 [9.g4 b5 10.g5 Nh5 11.a4 is a more positional approach. Despite White's success in the following game, it looks ambitious: 11...bxa4 (11...b4 12.Nd5±) 12.Rxa4 Bauer,C-Lopez Martinez,J/France 2002 and now I think that 12...0–0! is right: 13.Nd5 (13.Nc6 Ne5! 14.Nxe5 Bxe5 15.f4 Bg7 16.Be2 Qd7! 17.Rc4 (17.Bxh5 Bxc3) 17...Qh3 18.Nd5 Ng3) 13...Bb7 14.Rb4 Rb8 15.Bxa6 Bxa6 16.Nc6 Rxb4! 17.Nxd8 (17.Qxb4 Qa8 18.Ncxe7+ Kh8 19.Qxd6 Ne5) 17...Rxb2 18.Nxe7+ Kh8 19.Kf2 Rxd8; Meanwhile  9.a4 0–0 10.h4 h5 11.0–0–0?! does not feel right; a judgement confirmed by the following game: 11...Ne5 12.Bg5 Bd7 13.Be2 Rc8 14.Nb3 Be6 15.Nd5 Bxd5 16.exd5 Nc4 17.Bxc4 Rxc4 18.a5 Qd7 19.Qd3 Rfc8 20.Rd2 Rb4 21.Re1 Rb5 22.Bxf6 Bxf6 23.Re4 b6 Hynes,A-Ward,C/West Bromwich 2004.  Combining a2-a4 and 0–0–0 is an uneasy mix for White!]

9...Qc7 10.Bb3 h6!? A move which cannot be discounted, however odd it may look.  Black simply stops Bh6 and will get on with his queenside play as necessary. I'm coming round to the conclusion that this is Black's best chance in the 'Dragondorf’, but he must be very accurate. 11.0–0–0 Nb6?!N [11...b5! 12.Rhe1 Bb7 13.Kb1 Nb6 is an improved way of proceeding and in Forster-Cordara Ticino Open 1994, White should not have gained any  advantage after 14.g4 Nc4 15.Bxc4 Qxc4 16.h4 Nd7 (16...Rc8! 17.g5 hxg5 18.hxg5 Nd7 19.Rh1 Rxh1 20.Rxh1 b4 with sufficient counterplay.) 17.h5 g5 18.Nd5 e6! 19.b3 Qc8 20.Nb4 0–0 is very unclear.]

12.e5! I am sure that Romero Holmes missed this move. White sets up threats down the d file. 12...Nfd7 [If  12...dxe5 13.Ndb5 axb5 14.Nxb5+-] 13.exd6 Qxd6 14.Rhe1 [14.Ne4 Qc7 15.Rhe1±] 14...Qc7 [14...0–0 15.Bxh6] 15.Bf4 [Missing the crushing 15.Ndb5! axb5 16.Bxb6 Qxb6 (16...Nxb6 17.Nxb5 Qd7 18.Qf4+-) 17.Rxe7+!] 15...e5 16.Ndb5

16...axb5 17.Nxb5 Qc6 18.Nd6+ Kf8 [18...Ke7! however risky, was necessary, and then 19.Nxf7 Nc4 20.Bxc4 Qxc4 21.Nxh8 Bxh8÷ leads to a very messy situation.] 19.Nxf7 Nc5? [19...Nc4 20.Bxc4 Qxc4 21.Nxh8 Rxa2 22.Nxg6+ Kf7 23.Qd6!! Ra1+ 24.Kd2 Ra6 gives Black a sporting chance to hang on.] 20.Qd8+ Qe8 21.Qxe8+ Kxe8 22.Nxh8 Nxb3+ 23.axb3 Bxh8 24.Bxe5 Bxe5 25.Rxe5+ Kf7 26.Rd4± It's impossible for Black to muster any realistic chances against White's rock solid position and three extra pawns. In fact,it is remarkable that Romero Holmes lasts as long as he does.

26...Nd7 27.Rf4+ Nf6 28.Ra4 Rb8 29.Rea5 b5 30.Ra8 Rb6 31.R4a7+ Bd7 32.Ra6 Rxa6 33.Rxa6 Nd5 34.Kd2 Nf4 35.g3 Ne6 36.Ke3 h5 37.Rb6 Ke7 38.b4 Be8 39.b3 Ng7 40.c4 Nf5+ 41.Ke4 Nd6+ 42.Ke5 Nf7+ 43.Kd5 Ng5 44.Rb7+ Kf6 45.f4 Nf3 46.cxb5 Nxh2 47.b6 Nf1 48.Rc7  1–0

Black went into this whole mess with his eyes open. He knew what he was doing and he took the risk. With ...a6 and ...h6  Black walks a fine line in the new Dragon.  Is the idea any good? Only time will tell.


Conor Pender asks about an annoying line of the Maroczy BInd,where White plays an early Nc2. How should he gain counterplay against this set-up.  I provide a recent game where the majority of the notes are by GM Mikhailevski. I hope this helps.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Nf6 Setting a well-known trap. 6.Nc3 [6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.e5? Qa5+] 6...d6 7.Nc2 Bg7 8.Be2 Nd7 9.Bd2 0–0 10.0–0 A not very dangerous setup for Black. It's interesting that the same position exists with reversed colours.

10...Nc5 11.b4 This is the extra tempo White obtains comparing to the English. Otherwise White would have to consoder Bxc3 followed by Nxe4. 11...Ne6 [Now it's dangerous to win a pawn. 11...Bxc3 12.Bxc3 Nxe4 13.Bb2 and White obtains far too much pressure against the Black Kingside.] 12.Rc1 [12.Rb1 is the main alternative.] 12...a5 [Earlier 12...Ned4 was the main line.] 13.a3 axb4 14.axb4 Ned4 15.Nxd4 Nxd4 16.Be3 Nxe2+ Black wants to obtain a position with bishops of opposite colours. As the practice shows Black doesn't experience much problems despite weakening of the dark squares. [16...Nc6?N 17.Nd5± Pigusov-Reinderman, EU-ch Ohrid 2001/CBM84[Tsesarsky]]

17.Qxe2 Be6 18.Rfd1 Bxc3 19.Rxc3 In this line White can't hope for something more than a slight advantage, but Black has to be very careful as White is more active. 19...Qc7 Unpinning the d-pawn as c5 was threatening. [19...Qb8?! Not the best square for the queen. The text is safer 20.Bf4 Rc8 21.Rcc1 b6 (Black could look for counterplay by playing 21...Qa7!? Unpinning the d-pawn and preparing eschange of queens. 22.e5 Qa2! 23.Qe1 Bxc4 (23...Rxc4 24.Ra1±) 24.exd6 exd6 25.Rxd6 and Black still has to be careful as the dark squares around the black king are extremly weak..) 22.e5! dxe5 23.Bxe5 Qb7 24.Re1 White prepares Ba1 which will be followed by either Qb2 or Qe5. 24...h5 25.Bd4 White prepares not only Qe5, but also Qe3 with the idea of Qh6. 25...Kh7 26.h3 (26.Qe5!? Rg8 27.Qb5!± with a serious advantage.) 26...Rc7 27.Qe5 Rg8 28.Qf4! 1–0 Speelman,J-Pigusov,E/Sochi 1982/MCD (37).  (36) and Black is in trouble.]

20.c5 Rfd8 A new continuation. Black is not afraid of a pin along the b8-h2 diagonal as he has no problems to unpin the queen thanks to a pin along the c-file. It seems that every logical move is enough for equality in this position, however in a real game Black has a lot of problems to solve. [Black also defended successfully after both 20...Rfc8 21.Rcc1 dxc5 22.Rxc5 Qb8 23.h3 Rxc5 24.Bxc5 Qc7 25.Qe3 f6 26.f4 Rd8 27.Rc1 Qd7= ½–½ Dominguez,L-Malakhov,V/Tripoli LBA 2004/The Week in Chess 503 (37).  (36); and 20...dxc5 21.Rxc5 Qb6 22.Qd2 Bb3 23.Re1 Qe6 24.Qc3 Rfc8 25.Rc1 Rxc5 26.bxc5 Ba4 27.f3 ½–½ Barnsley,A-Maubrises,E/IECG 2003/Telechess CBM 99 (27)]

21.Bf4 Qc8 22.h3? Too slow. White couldn't wait. [He misses a good chance to seize an initiative. 22.Qe1!! Now it's not easy to stop a pin Rcd3. 22...dxc5? loses to (22...d5 is better, but White is still a clear favourite here.) 23.Rxc5 traping the queen. 23...Rxd1 24.Rxc8+; 22.Rcd3? Bc4]

22...dxc5 23.Rxc5 Rxd1+ 24.Qxd1 Qd8 Black exchanges pieces and pawns and gets a relief. 25.Qxd8+ [25.Qe1 was the last real chance to continue the fight for a win, although after 25...Ra3! Black should be able to equalize.]

25...Rxd8 26.e5 [26.Bh6 Rd1+ 27.Kh2 Bd7! and Black stabilizes the position.] 26...Kg7= A safe way to a draw. Black covers the h6-square and thus the last White's chance has gone. [26...Rd4 Required some calculations and so text is simplier and better. 27.Bh6 Rh4!? 28.Bg5 Rxb4=] 27.Be3 Rd5 Certainly exchange of rooks leads to an immediate draw. So 28.Rc1 The very last try to play on. 28...h6 29.Bc5 Bd7 The bishop comes to c6 protecting the weak c6-pawn and White has nothing to hope for anymore. [29...f6!?] So after 30.Ra1 f6! 31.exf6+  ½–½

The conclusion is that Black can make it to equality by focusing on d4, but he has to show full respect.


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