Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A trap in the Rubinstein French

The Rubinstein French (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 (or 3.Nd2) dxe4) is a solid if somewhat passive line for Black. White is theoretically better because of his spatial advantage, but in practice this is not always so easy to prove. In my mind the following trap in the Rubinstein will always be associated with NM (and ICCM) Steve Tennant, who I saw pull it off in a tournament game about 35 years ago.

Unlike some other traps, such as the optically similar Caro-Kann trap 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Qe2?! (hoping for 5...Ngf6?? 6.Nd6#!), 6.Qe2 against the Rubinstein is a good move even if Black avoids the trap. White gets his queen off the back rank and prepares a future O-O-O. The move has been played by the likes of world #1 Magnus Carlsen (in the game below) and World Champion Viswanathan Anand. After the natural 6...Nxe4 7.Bxe4(!) Nf6?, White wins a pawn with 8.Bxb7! Bxb7 9.Qb5+. The databases show that the trap is very successful: in 365chess.com's database, the position after 7.Bxe4 was seen exactly 100 times. Black fell into the trap with 7...Nf6? 60% of the time! I was astonished to see that victims included chess legends GM Ratmir Kholmov and former Women's World Champion Nona Gaprindashvili!

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