The Mad Dog Attack vs. The Modern

GM Illingworth

For today's post, I will share a simple antidote to the Modern Defence (1.e4 g6). The Modern is especially popular in online chess, perhaps because of its systematic nature, along with the general understanding among top GMs that fianchetto-based systems are more effective, on average, at faster time controls. 

Our system can be played from any of 1.e4, 1.d4 or 1.Nf3, making it a practical choice for most White repertoires. Modern expert GM Tiger Hillarp Persson calls it 'The Mad Dog' and it goes:

This system may not look that aggressive, but it does eye the f7-pawn, so Black should be careful:

Well, I learned this trap back in 2001, from a beginners' book by Lev Alburt, but even if Black doesn't fall for this trap, White still has a good game. Note that 4.Bc4 is more effective after ...d6 has been played since a thematic response for Black would be ...c6 and then ...d5, but it now costs an extra move with the d-pawn.

Many Modern players don't like playing ...Nf6 (which can often transpose to the Pirc), and may prefer a Hippo setup with ...e6, claiming that the bishop is now misplaced on c4. However, even a good Hippo doesn't really equalize and the following example is typical for how White can use his early opening edge:

Clearly, the critical line is 4...Nf6, but when White shows his idea: 5.Qe2! and suddenly Black has to be careful of the e5 break, kicking the knight around. The game below, by FM Sunil Weeramantry (who played the Pirc as Black), shows why Black is asking for trouble if he meets e5 with ...Ne8:

True, this was with Nc3 instead of Nf3, which is less accurate, but the ideas remain relevant. 

After 5...0-0, I suggest the more patient 6.0-0, though more aggressive players may want to explore the direct 6.e5 instead, which is not bad either. The following game by Carlsen is a good demonstration, where Black ends up in a KID structure, but without the light-squared bishop, making it hard for him to generate a kingside attack:

There are some nice annotations to this game by Sagar Shah in Mega Database 2020.

If Black plays the more flexible 6...c6 instead, White anticipates ...b5 and ...d5 with 7.Bb3, which Carlsen has used to win many nice blitz games. This is one high-profile example from the Speed Chess Challenge: 

Although it was a bullet game, Carlsen still played it extremely well! Even without Nakamura sacking the e5-pawn for activity, White would keep a stable positional pull, thanks to the bishop pair advantage in an otherwise normal structure.

Another attempt for Black is 5...Nc6!?, which aims to accelerate either the ...e5 break or ...Bg4 first, before White consolidates his position or plays e5 himself. I played a very interesting game in this game back in the 2008 Australian Championship, and I share my full notes with you below:

In short, I don't think The Mad Dog is the absolute best line against the Modern. However, the ideas are quite easy for White to play, since his pieces tend to go to the same squares in each case. While Black has many reasonable replies, White keeps a small pull in all lines.
Why don't you unleash the Mad Dog on your next online opponents?

What would it mean for you to achieve your chess rating goal?

I'm GM Max Illingworth, the owner of three private Facebook chess groups, and I'd love to share with you an opportunity to get Grandmaster support and analysis in my community of chess improvers!

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