Clarendon Court Defence

Jul 1, 2011, 9:23 AM |

This page about the Clarendon Court Defence is in construction. Don't hesitate to bring your contributions!

The Clarendon Court Defence  [aka Benongrad]

Strange name for an opening. This is the name of the place where gm Jonathan Levitt lived when he studied this defence [*1].

And here are the moves:

This had already been played long before John Levitt was born. But he brought his own interpretation of the opening.

The oldest games in my database (416 games) date back to 1843. It was played without success by Saint-Amant, one of my fellow countrymen, against nobody else than Staunton. He tried it in two games. It was a desaster. Judge for yourself:


That was the second game of their match [I'll insert game 4 later on]. And Saint Amant had no foul excuse with the bad food because the match was played in Paris!

The first time I saw the Clarendon Court defence, my reaction was to ask: "What is this ugly thing?"

And most of the white players will probably react this way and try to "crush Black like a baby" [I had to use this expression, my apologize to the purists]. On second thoughts, it doesn't look that easy.

3. ... e4

Keeping this in mind, 3. ... e4 looks like a critical move. And this is the one given in the NCO [the alternatives given in this book are 3. ... Nc3 and 3. ... g3].

In my database (not the most up-to-date), white scores 58% with this variation (+20,=12,-13, total:45 games)

Let's have a quick look at this variation:

Ok, at first view, it's +/=. But what else to expect?

Important Tactical Tricks

for Black:

- When Black pushes ... e5, if White takes en passant dxe5 e.p., it is often wise not to take back immediately and instead push ...d6-d5! Examples will follow.

What they said about this opening

"an opening, that at best is bordering to dubious" Danny Gormally [*3]

“It seems to me that Jonathan Levitt’s brainchild is destined to die in its nappies” Jonathan Rowson [*2]

“An opening that is designed to confuse White as soon as possible” Gary Lane[*2]

“Not very good. White will play e2-e4 someday with a positional advantage.” Michael Rohde [*2]

"I do not rate this variation highly, but who knows, maybe I am wrong." Boris Avrukh [*5]



* John Levitt has made a video for foxy openings: "a complete defence to 1.d4".


I don't know of any book exclusively about this defence. You'll find below a list of the authors mentioning it.

[*5] "Grandmaster Repertoire 1.d4" Boris Avrukh

Motwani must have written something about the Clarendon Court in one of his books [*4]

* [NCO] Nunn's Chess Openings 1999 Gambit/Everyman Chess p.68

* SOS, vol. 4

[*3] Danny Gormally "Play chess like the pros" 2010 Everyman Chess pp.9-13: comments on the game Rashkovsky-Gormally, Hastings 1995

* "Ideas Behind the Modern Chess Openings" Gary Lane


Kaissiber - n°25


* [warning: this site has a bad reputation in WOT]  

John Levitt comments one of his games against Keith Arkell


Gary Lane comments a game


An introduction to the Clarendon Court, by Marek Szozynski , only accessible through the web archive, the site being in construction since...october 2003!



Forum: Have you ever played the Clarendon Court?


Forum: is the Clarendon Court sound? 


Bücker, editor of Kaissiber, on Avrukh's recommendation in "Grandmaster Repertoire 1.d4" 


Bill Hogeye's page on the Benongrad