Everything Old is New Again

Jul 21, 2008, 10:13 AM |

Just as I'm enjoying building my relationship with the Pseudo King's Gambit (1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 Nc6 4. Nc3 Bc5 5. d3 d6 6. f4!) -- despite results of its recent rollout -- I purchase a copy of the new "Dangerous Weapons 1.e4 e5" book by John Emms, Glenn Flear and Andrew Greet.  Emms is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors, on the basis of his objectivity and thoroughness.

Emms, who recommends the Pseudo King's Gambit (PKG) in his book "Attacking With 1. e4" interestingly contributes a chapter in "Dangerous Weapons 1. e4 e5" against it.  While there are plenty of ways to avoid Emms recommendation against the PKG, just on that basis alone I thought the book purchase was a good idea.  One of the more interesting contributions, however, was found at the end of the chapter on an opening that hardly ever gets written about -- the Center Game.

Playing on ICC (handle: blankman), I have run across the occasional Center Game (CG) proponent here and there.  Disturbingly, I can't say I've handled it particularly well, which is amazing given my tendency to play the fianchetto defense (featuring ...g6 and ...Bg7) because of its resemblance to the Larsen Philidor lines (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 ed 4. Nd4 g6 5. Nc3 Bg7).  I thoroughly enjoy the Larsen Philidor lines and am quite comfortable with the ideas -- yet my record against the CG in rapid chess is very spotty.

Like many players, I am guilty of underestimating the CG.   Lest the reader think I am in bad company, here is Alexander Shabalov whipping up on Alexander Ivanov more than a decade ago:

The key to the CG revival is the gambit offered with 8. Qg3!?.  Black can capture the e-pawn with his knight or rook (in the came, Ivanov correctly chooses the rook, the best way to accept the gambit). 

If the rook captures, white plays 9. a3 with the idea of (ultimately) getting in a tempo on the rook with Bd3.  He then plans to follow up with some combination of:

  • Nf3-g5 (attempts to drive off the knight with ...h6 are frequently met with h4)
  • h4-h5 to threaten Bh6 (or pawn to h6 in conjunction with f4-f5)
  • Nf3, Bg5 and Qh4

If the knight takes on e4 instead on move 8, white replies with 9. Nxe4 Rxe4 10. c3 with pretty much the same ideas (except better, since there is no black knight to defend h7). 

Should black smell a rat and decline the e-pawn, white can prosecute the attack using a pawn storm with f3, followed by h4, h5, Qh2 and g4.  Alternatively, he can also elect the piece-play approach with f3, Nge2 and Bg5 looking to follow up with f4 and e5 or Nf4/d5. 

Either way, these are quite "fresh" positions, where black is likely to have trouble, given the relative infrequency with which the second player has to confront the CG.

I'm not sure how this would fit into my repertoire, but one way is to use the Center Game in must-win games (lower-rated opposition and finish-in-the-money games), otherwise to stay with the steady and reliable PKG.  Of course, for the ultimate in steadiness and reliability, keeping the London System in my repertoire is fantastic, since I don't have to worry about Sicilians and other double-edged swords. 

Speaking of Sicilians, anyone for 1. e4 c5 2. d4 cd 3. Qxd4?  Just kidding, although I did go 3/3 with white last night on ICC... Cool