Tuesday, April 23, 2013

King hunt!

In the olden days, everyone responded to the Queen's Gambit Accepted (1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4) with 3.Nf3, and the game usually continued 3...Nf6 4.e3. Reuben Fine explained in his classic Ideas Behind the Chess Openings that 3.Nf3 was necessary in order to avoid the freeing 3...e5. For example, if White played 3.e4 e5! 4.dxe5, Black could quickly get at least equality with 4...Qxd1+ 5.Kxd1 Be6. Larry Evans in MCO-10 accordingly pronounced 3.e4 "premature."

In more recent times, strong GMs including world champions Anand and Kasparov have shown that it's hard for White to get much against exact play by Black. Attention has accordingly shifted back to the sharper 3.e4. The Danish GM Lars Schandorff in his book Playing 1.d4 - The Queen's Gambit, in explaining the need for a sharper weapon against the QGA, quotes Chief Brody in the movie Jaws: "You're gonna need a bigger boat." Mega Database 2013 shows both 3.e3 (60.4%) and 3.e4 (59.9%) outscoring the staid 3.Nf3 (57.7%). Although all three moves are commonly seen, ChessBase says that 3.e4 is the "hottest" these days (i.e., most popular in recent grandmaster games).

The main line of the Central Variation (3.e4) runs 3...e5 4.Nf3 exd4 5.Bxc4!, gambitting the d-pawn. White usually, but not always, gets it back. The most important line is 5...Nc6 6.0-0 Be6!?, leading to sharp play where, as Schandorff says, the resultant positions "are very double-edged and all three results are possible."

My opponent in the following game tried the immediate 5...Be6? This works much less well: without Black's knight on c6, White wins back the pawn on d4 with 6.Bxe6 fxe6 7.Nxd4, with two immediate threats - 8.Nxe6 and 8.Qh5+ g6 9.Qe5. There is no effective way to meet both. Two of Black's most plausible moves, 7...e5 and 7...Bc5, are both blunders that hang material to 8.Qh5+. Black in fact played the former move. After a further blunder, the game concluded with an entertaining king hunt. The moral(s) of the story: think carefully before weakening your kingside with an early move of your f-pawn, and watch out for queen checks (especially Qa4+ and Qh5+ by White, and Qa5+ and Qh4+ by Black).

This game raised my record on GameKnot to 55-0 and my rating to a walloping 1787. I'll be an A player before the week is up. Woo hoo!

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