Thursday, February 13, 2014


When studying openings I look attentively to what (strong) grandmasters play, which I already mentioned earlier in my article to analyze with a computer. However my choice of openings still remains something very personal. Besides this choice is already more or less for 20 years fixed (see the article the sequence). Even a line is only replaced when really no repairing is anymore possible (examples on my blog are  Dutch steps in the English opening , the fake truth ). This all fits in the philosophy of the scientific approach but most players play the game a lot more competitive. Swapping between openings is done regularly just to become not too predictable. 

This means a continuous search for new playable openings. An amateur has mostly neither the time, nor the courage to do all the necessary research so we look to what grandmasters have in their repertoire. Naturally the stronger the grandmaster, the more players are attracted to this repertoire. If an absolute topgrandmaster starts to play an opening which is on top also easily playable for other players (amateur or prof) then we sometimes see a chain-reaction. A few players pick it up and their opponents are so impressed that they too insert the opening in their repertoire. If after some time it also turns out that black can show a plus-score on master-level than it completely goes wild.

Some smart readers in the meantime will realize that I want to discuss this time the Aronian system or also called sometimes the Cozio defense deferred. 5 years ago this variant was still considered as eccentric but today a lot of (strong) players are playing it. The system has some unique characteristics. First it gives a direct answer on the Spanish, which today is still considered as the main-weapon for white after e5. So it is in the same category of openings like the Schliemann-gambit or the Berlin. On top we can play the opening via a number of sequences. When Aronian started to play the system in 2009, he chose for the sequence 1.e4 e5 2.Pf3 Pc6 3.Lb5 Pge7 4.0-0 a6 5.La4 g6 6.c3 Lg7. However soon it was discovered that it is also possible to play first a6 or even g6. These permutations mean permitting or excluding certain side-lines. I don't know the sensitivities but I do know that since 2011, Aronian changed to the sequence 1.e4 e5 2.Pf3 Pc6 3.Lb5 a6 4.La4 Pge7 etc. This means the exchange variant of the Spanish is again permitted but probably some nasty lines (quick d4?) are avoided. The impact of this change can be clearly seen if we put in a time-line the popularity (number of games per year with a player of +2300 in my database) with this specific sequence.
Popularity 1.e4 e5 2.Pf3 Pc6 3.Lb5 a6 4.La4 Pge7
Also end of last year in the European championship for countries (in which Bart achieved the grandmaster title) we noticed several games with this opening. First I want to show a marvelous game played by Aronian whom refutes harshly the white experiment.
[Event "ETCC (Open)"] [Site "Warsaw POL"] [Date "2013.11.12"] [Round "5.25"] [White "Pavasovic, Dusko"] [Black "Aronian, Levon"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteElo "2563"] [BlackElo "2801"] [ECO "C70"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nge7 5. Bb3 d5 6. Nc3 Be6 7. Ng5 Nd4 8. O-O Nxb3 9. axb3 d4 10. Nxe6 fxe6 11. Ne2 d3 12. cxd3 Qxd3 13. b4 Nc6 14. Ra3 Qxe4 15. Re3 Qc4 16. Ng3 O-O-O 17. Re4 Qb5 18. Qg4 Kb8 19. d3 Rxd3 20. Be3 g6 21. h4 Bxb4 22. h5 gxh5 23. Nxh5 Bd2 24. Nf6 Bxe3 25. fxe3 Qb3 26. Kh2 Qxb2 27. Qxe6 h5 28. Nd7 Ka7 29. Qf6 Rd2 0-1

Readers following my blog already for some time, will certainly understand that I am not surprised that our Belgium topplayer Tanguy Ringoir also has picked up this opening in his repertoire. Also he became a real fan of it which obviously is strengthened if you win games as shown below.
[Event "ETCC (Open)"] [Site "Warsaw POL"] [Date "2013.11.14"] [Round "6.70"] [White "Hauge, Lars Oskar"] [Black "Ringoir, Tanguy"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteElo "2301"] [BlackElo "2514"] [ECO "C70"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nge7 5. Nc3 d6 6. Nd5 b5 7. Bb3 Na5 8. Nxe7 Bxe7 9. d4 exd4 10. Nxd4 Nxb3 11. axb3 Bb7 12. O-O O-O 13. Re1 Bf6 14. Nf5 Re8 15. Qg4 g6 16. Nh6 Kf8 17. Qf4 Qe7 18. Ng4 Bg7 19. Bd2 h5 20. Nh6 Qf6 21. Qg3 Qxb2 22. Rad1 Rxe4 23. Rxe4 Bxe4 24. Bf4 Bf6 25. Qe3 Re8 0-1
Now he is not the only Belgian player following this trend. I noticed in the previous interclub-round that the opening was successfully employed by GM Luc Winants. Other well-known Belgian players (or broader taken very active in Belgium) are e.g. FM Hans Renette, IM Koen Leenhouts, FM Michel De Wit and Roel Goossens. About this last player I want to elaborate as he played a very good tournament in the passed Open Leuven as he missed the tournament-victory only narrowly (see the final positions). I was very impressed by his play in our mutual game and I do know that I was lucky to obtain a draw. I don't need to tell you probably that we discussed the Aronian-system, right?
[Event "Open Leuven 6de ronde"] [Date "2013"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Goossens, R."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C60"] [WhiteElo "2347"] [BlackElo "2150"] [PlyCount "62"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nge7 5. O-O g6 6. c3 Bg7 7. d4 exd4 8. cxd4 b5 9. Bb3 $6 {(In the Aronian system or also called the Cozio Defense deferred, this is the most popular continuation. However after lengthy analysis I believe Bc2 is more accurate which does not permit black to win a tempo with Na5 on the bishop and on top keeps the option b3 open.)} (9. Bc2 $1 O-O $5 ( 9... d6 $5 10. h3 $1 O-O 11. Nc3 Bb7 $5 12. Bf4 $1 Na5 $1 13. Re1 Rc8 $5 14. Qc1 c5 $5 15. d5 Nc4 16. Bd3 $1 Ne5 17. Nxe5 dxe5 18. Be3 $1 f5 $14) 10. d5 $1 (10. Nc3 $6 b4 $1 11. Ne2 d5 {(As white was not able to insert h3, black gets nice counter-play.)} 12. Bg5 h6 $1 13. Be3 dxe4 $1 14. Bxe4 Bf5 $13) 10... Na5 $5 11. Nbd2 $1 $14 {(White strives for Rb1 - b3 - Bb2 to exchange the annoying black bishop on g7.)}) 9... O-O 10. Nc3 d6 11. d5 Na5 12. Re1 {(This move I lightly prepared and was based on a correspondence game played in 2010 between Gustavo Morais and Hans Schneider : 1 - 0. More popular is Bc2 but I could not find an opening advantage after Bb7 for white.)} Bb7 {(A novelty and likely an improvement on the correspondence-game which continued with Nxb3. I have a strong hunch that Roel devised the move on the board. Nevertheless this move was already earlier recommended on chesspub by the English grandmaster Tony Kosten but of course it fully fits in the normal scheme of this opening.)} 13. Bg5 {(With Bc2 I could transpose to the grandmastergame Inarkiev - Iordachescu of 2012 but I was not able find anything tangible for white. I had prepared Bg5 in march 2013 as counterproposal of the suggestion of Tony Kosten so here I wanted to test it in practice.)} h6 14. Be3 Nxb3 15. axb3 c6 $6 { (At home I only looked at c5 and with a lot of creativity white can keep some pressure. Later at home giving my engines more time to calculate, I have to admit that b4 is stronger with excellent counter-play for black. Now white gets a chance to achieve a small edge.)} 16. dxc6 $6 {(Only with the accurate Bd4 I manage to keep the small edge. )} (16. Bd4 $1 Rb8 17. Bxg7 $1 Kxg7 18. dxc6 $1 Nxc6 $14) 16... Nxc6 17. Nd5 Ne7 18. Nxe7 Qxe7 19. Bf4 $6 {(However now I push too much. Qd2 to prepare Bd4 is a better try to maintain the balance.)} Rfd8 20. Qd2 g5 21. Be3 $6 {(I decide to sacrifice a pawn but this is too optimistic. Much more solid is Bg3.)} (21. Bg3 $1 Qf6 22. Re2 Re8 23. Rae1 Rad8 $15) 21... Bxe4 $6 {(Black snatches the pawn but even stronger are g4 and d5.)} (21... d5 $1 22. Bb6 dxe4 23. Bxd8 Rxd8 24. Qc2 Rc8 25. Qd1 Bxb2 26. Rb1 Bc3 27. Re2 $17 ) 22. Bd4 d5 23. Bxg7 Kxg7 24. Nd4 Qf6 25. f3 Bg6 26. Rec1 Rac8 27. Rc3 Re8 28. Rac1 Rxc3 29. Qxc3 Kh7 30. g3 $2 {(I want to eliminate Qf4 but this is tactically a bad solution. Necessary was Qd2 and black defends for now.)} h5 $2 {(Already during the game I noticed the exchange-sacrifice with Rc8. I was not able to calculate all the lines but I did know that it was strong. This was also confirmed afterwards by the engines which show easily that black gets a winning attack.)} 31. Qd2 g4 $6 {(With this weak move black proposes a draw. I win now my pawn back with Ra6 but it still is tricky for me with the open position for my king so I accepted quickly the proposal. Qe5 and h4 would still been good enough for some edge for black. )} (31... g4 $6 32. Rc6 Qe7 33. fxg4 hxg4 34. Rxa6 Qe1 35. Qxe1 Rxe1 36. Kf2 {(This none forced sequence is recommended by both my engines. Even this equal endgame can still be played out a bit further.)}) 1/2-1/2
The examples are showing one by one that blacks opening has a lot of potential. The scores for black are exceptionally good which we notice from the screenshot of my opening-book. However I have to add in fairness that black also had in most cases the higher rating.
White scores only 47,1% after Nge7 !

The system is still popularized a lot as for example in the recent book Dangerous Waepons: The Ruy Lopez written by the English GMs John Emms, Anthony Kosten and the English IM John Cox there are at least 30 pages spent to it.
However it still is blurry what the future will bring for this opening. Is it just fashion or will it become more? In any case I don't expect the opening getting the same magnitude as the Berlin. If the opening will get a fixed place in a grandmaster-repertoire will depend a lot if refutations will be found or less strongly stated some annoying lines. In my analyse of the game against Roel, I show a possible path in which some advantage can be found. I admit it is still very complex but I do have reasons to be optimistic as afterwards I noticed that Tony Kosten also recommends the concept in his book. 

No, I didn't buy (yet) the book but by coincidence when preparing this article I found a review on Chesscafe which indeed exactly discusses this idea. Probably I again invented the wheel which is unfortunately the destiny of a player not buying books (if we disregard some exceptional books) and mainly bases himself on his own analysis.


Addendum February 14
Vass managed to ditch up a "model"game in his databases, see chesspub which represents the idea recommended in the article.

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