Friday, May 22, 2015

The Glek

Strong ambitious players will surely know which openings are today trendy. In the British chessmagazine simply called Chess, each month there is a summary of which openings became more or less popular for top-players. However most amateurs try to stay faraway of those openings and prefer a repertoire which is more stable so without quick theoretical developments. It is not hard to avoid theory but it is less evident to achieve at the same time an interesting position on the board. I mean with an interesting position that a battle of ideas are possible instead of reciting theory.

An opening which complies at these conditions for black and already touched on my blog is the Czech defense. In this article I want to look at a white opening which is already for some time very popular between amateurs: the Glek. The Glek is defined as a four knightsgame with g3. The Russian grandmaster Igor Glek developed the system beginning of the 90ties and still regularly uses it today. Meanwhile about 40 games of Igor are with his system in the databases.

The popularity is likely owned a great deal to the large number of books propagandizing the opening as easy playable: Mikhail Tseitlin & Igor Glazkov "The Complete Vienna" (Batsford, 1995)Gary Lane "Vienna Game" (Everyman, 2000)John Nunn "New Ideas In The Four Knights" (Batsford, 1993)Jan Pinski "The Four Knights" (Batsford, 2003)Cyrus Lakdawala "The Four Knights: Move By Move" (Everyman, 2012),... I remember that just before the millennium foremost Paul Motwani was peddling his books door to door in my region. This created a big boost of players using the opening in their repertoire.

Although the opening is particularly attractive for amateurs, also some professional players like to experiment with it. Not every professional is always keen to battle a complex theoretical duel. Sometimes they also just want to play chess and avoid any preparations. Recently the Azerbaijani grandmaster Shakhriyar Mamedyarov used this opening in his game against the Russian grandmaster Dmitry Jakovenko in the Fide Grandprix at Tbilisi. Yes probably no coincidence that Shak again is a protagonist as in the article of the Czech defense.
[Event "FIDE Grand Prix Tbilisi"] [Site "Tbilisi GEO"] [Date "2015.02.21"] [Round "6"] [White "Shakhriyar Mamedyarov"] [Black "Dmitry Jakovenko"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C26"] [WhiteElo "2759"] [BlackElo "2733"] [PlyCount "152"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. g3 {(This opening already exists since the 19th century. It still attracts players today as it creates positions in which theory plays rather a minor role.)} d5 4. exd5 Nxd5 5. Bg2 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Nc6 7. Nf3 {(Only now we can really call it a Glek. The Russian grandmaster Igor Glek developed the system in the 90ties and has today approximately 40 games in the database with this position.)} Bc5 8. O-O O-O 9. Re1 {(Initially Glek played also Re1 but now he prefers d3 which I already encountered myself in my games against Vandenbrande Werner and Maddens Martijn.)} Qf6 10. d3 Bg4 {(H6 is more popular.)} 11. h3 Bh5 12. Be3 {(The critical move seems g4.)} (12. g4 Bg6 13. Bg5 { (Here we see a small drawback of not playing h6.)} Qd6 14. Nxe5 Nxe5 15. d4 $13) 12... Bb6 13. g4 Bg6 14. Nd2 Qh4 15. a4 f5 {(Black already conquers the initiative.)} 16. gxf5 Bh5 17. Nf3 Qe7 18. Bxb6 axb6 19. d4 Rxf5 20. Qd3 Raf8 21. Nxe5 Nxe5 22. Rxe5 Rxe5 23. dxe5 Qxe5 24. Qd5 Qxd5 25. Bxd5 Kh8 26. Bxb7 Rf5 27. Re1 Rc5 28. Re3 Kg8 29. Be4 Bf7 30. Bd3 Kf8 31. Bb5 Bg6 32. Bd3 Bxd3 33. Rxd3 Rc4 34. Kg2 Rxa4 {(Black of course pushes in the rook-endgame as white must be very careful with the heavily damaged pawn-structure.)} 35. Kg3 Ke7 36. h4 g6 37. f3 Ke6 38. Kh3 Rc4 39. Kg3 Ra4 40. Re3 Kf6 41. Rd3 Rc4 42. Re3 Kf5 43. Rd3 c6 44. Re3 b5 45. Rd3 Rc5 46. Re3 Re5 47. Rd3 Rd5 48. Re3 Rd2 49. f4 Kf6 50. Re5 Rd5 51. Re3 Rc5 52. Kf3 Rc4 53. Kg4 h6 54. Kg3 Kf5 55. Re5 Kf6 56. Re3 h5 57. Kf3 Kf5 58. Re5 Kf6 59. Re3 c5 60. Rd3 Ke6 61. Re3 Kd6 62. Rd3 Kc6 63. Ke3 Ra4 64. Rd8 Rc4 65. Rg8 Rxc3 66. Kd2 Rh3 67. Rxg6 Kd5 68. Rg5 Kd4 69. Rxh5 b4 70. Rg5 c4 71. Rg1 Rxh4 72. f5 Rf4 73. Kc1 Rxf5 74. Kb2 Ke3 75. Re1 Kd2 76. Re4 Rc5 1/2-1/2
My analysis indicate that probably white must try to improve with 12.g4. While preparing this article I discovered that the same recommendation was done on chesspub by Markovich already in 2013 ! (Markovich is a senior international master ICCF Mark Morss)

The Vienna move-order is today at least as popular as the 4 knights order but that can well change when players get informed about the recent game Vedder - Geirnaert.
Steven Geirnaert
Steven Geirnaert is one of the current rising stars in Belgium although he is not anymore in his childhood. Some people will wonder how this is possible but if you look more closely to the little pieces of shared information then you realize that hard working is as often the key to success. Reading and studying chessbooks, analyze endgames, preparationsplay abroad (with this year a grandmaster-result in the Dutch interclub) ... witness motivation and an iron discipline. Hereby I should not forget the role of his chessloving and supporting girlfriend Iris.

Of course also his repertoire maturated. At the previous week finished Flemish championship he told me that often his experience outweighs a specific preparation of the opponent. Now it is not only in the depth that the progress is seen but also in the diversity. He shocks in his game against Vedder with a stunning novelty at move 4!
1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.g3 d5 4.exd5 c6 !?
Well new isn't fully correct as there are already some games in the database with this move but above screenshot proves no strong players (+2400) ever played it. Besides till now none of the games by titled players choosing black were won. At the contrary as almost all games were lost by black. So is this novelty again a bluff from Steven? Time to investigate the game more deeply.
[Event "Borgerhout - KBSK"] [Date "2015.03.15"] [Round "10.2"] [White "Vedder, Henk"] [Black "Geirnaert, Steven"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C26"] [WhiteElo "2432"] [BlackElo "2400"] [PlyCount "64"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. g3 d5 4. exd5 c6 5. dxc6 $5 {(Accepting the gambit is very risky without any study which shows this game. Besides I think it is anyway better not to accept the pawn and make a choice between d4 or Nge2.)} (5. Nge2 $5 Nxd5 $5 {(I slightly prefer this move although it does not match with blacks previous move.)} (5... cxd5 $5 6. d4 e4 $5 (6... exd4 $5 7. Nxd4 Nc6 8. Bg2 Bg4 9. f3 Bd7 10. O-O Be7 11. Be3 O-O 12. Nb3 $13) 7. Bg5 Nbd7 8. Bg2 $13) (5... Bc5 $5 6. Bg2 cxd5 7. d4 exd4 8. Nxd4 O-O $5 (8... Bg4 $5 9. f3 Qe7 10. Qe2 Bxd4 11. Qxe7 Kxe7 12. fxg4 $13) 9. O-O Bg4 10. Qd3 $13) 6. Bg2 Nxc3 7. bxc3 $5 {(Nxc3 is certainly an option and maybe is microscopically stronger.)} Bd6 8. O-O O-O {(Former world-champion Boris Spassky played twice this position with white around 1980. Once against Karpov and once against Timman. Both games were draws so the position is most likely balanced.)}) (5. d4 $5 exd4 (5... Nxd5 $5 {(Black still wants a gambit.)} 6. dxe5 Bb4 7. Bd2 Nxc3 8. bxc3 $44) 6. Qxd4 cxd5 { (This position is already known from the Sicilian opening: 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 e6 3.g3 d5 4. exd5 exd5 5.d4 exd4 6.Qxd4 Nf6)} 7. Bg5 Be7 $5 {(All games with a 2300 player choose this continuation but Nc6 should be also considered.) } (7... Nc6 $5 8. Qa4 Bb4 9. Nge2 Bg4 10. Bg2 Bxe2 11. Kxe2 $13) 8. Nge2 $146 { (I could find quite some games with this opening but only few strong players wish to play this position with white. This means there is still a lot of virgin territory. The idea Nge2 is of course not new but the timing is as I could not find a predecessor with this refined sequence.)} Nc6 9. Qa4 O-O 10. O-O-O Qb6 11. Nf4 $13) 5... Nxc6 6. Bg2 Bg4 7. f3 $5 {(I do not like this concept although it is maybe still playable. Better are Nge2 or Bf3 but also in those lines black has full compensation for the sacrificed pawn.)} (7. Bf3 $5 Qd7 8. Bxg4 Nxg4 9. Nf3 Bc5 10. O-O O-O 11. d3 $44) (7. Nge2 $5 Nd4 8. h3 Bf3 9. Bxf3 Nxf3 10. Kf1 Bb4 11. Kg2 $44 {(Black can respond with Qc7 as Kxf3 is punished by Qc6.)}) 7... Bf5 $5 {(The most natural square but possibly Bd7 is little more accurate.)} (7... Bd7 $5 8. Nge2 Bc5 9. d3 Qb6 10. Na4 Qa5 11. c3 Be7 12. b3 Rd8 13. Nb2 $44) 8. Nh3 $2 {(For sure not an easy position but the move of Komodo: Bh3 looks best with the idea to free g2 for the king. An engine has no psychological problem with moving twice the same piece in the opening and at the same moment offer the swap of the bishops which weaken the white squares.)} Bc5 9. Ne4 Nb4 10. a3 Nxe4 11. axb4 Bxh3 12. Bxh3 Nf2 13. Qe2 Bd4 $6 {(Steven has played the opening brilliantly however there is a hole in the plan chosen. Bb6 and taking the exchange, guarantees black a clear advantage.)} 14. c3 Bb6 15. Bg2 Qd5 $2 {(Steven wants to install a piece on d3 which more or less will put white positionally bankrupt but as earlier mentioned this does not work. Again better was to take the exchange although now white already gets some compensation.)} (15... Nxh1 $1 16. f4 O-O 17. fxe5 a5 18. Bxb7 Nxg3 19. hxg3 Rb8 $15) 16. O-O $2 {(Henk misses the opportunity to turn the game upside down.)} (16. d4 $1 Nxh1 17. f4 Nxg3 18. hxg3 Qd7 19. fxe5 a5 20. Qe4 O-O 21. Qxb7 Qxb7 $14) 16... Nd3 17. Kh1 f5 18. b3 O-O 19. Ba3 Rad8 20. c4 Qf7 21. c5 Bc7 22. Rfb1 $2 {(This passive move does not improve the position. The gambit with b5 recommended by the engines is better to resist..)} (22. b5 $1 Qxb3 23. b6 axb6 24. Rfb1 Qc2 25. c6 Rf7 26. cxb7 Rfd7 27. Qe3 Qc6 $15 ) 22... Rfe8 $2 {(Centralizing the rook, what is wrong with that? Nothing except black could get a winning advantage via some tactics: 22... f4 23.g4 e4 )} 23. Bf1 $6 {(White wants to remove the octopus from d3 but this is not helping. Better is to create activity with Bb2 even if this costs a pawn.)} (23. Bb2 $1 f4 24. g4 e4 25. fxe4 Nxb2 26. d4 Rxd4 27. Rxb2 Be5 28. Rxa7 Rxb4 $15 ) 23... a6 24. Qg2 Re6 25. Rc1 e4 26. fxe4 fxe4 27. Bxd3 Rxd3 28. Bb2 Qd7 29. Bc3 $6 {(There was no time anymore for this consolidating move. Only Re1 prolongs the game.)} (29. Re1 $1 Rxd2 30. Re2 Rd1 31. Re1 Rd3 32. Re2 Be5 33. Bxe5 Rxe5 34. Rae1 Rd4 $17 ) 29... Rh6 30. c6 Qg4 31. Bxg7 Rxg3 32. Qf2 Rxh2 0-1
My analysis clearly demonstrates that the new idea is perfectly playable. On top it also testifies how dangerous it can be for white to play such position on sight so unprepared. If players want to continue playing this opening then I advise them to check carefully my analysis how to improve Vedders game. Now it is a little bit too strong just to attribute Stevens victory solely to the opening. Some strong moves still needed to be played. While giving recognition, I should certainly not forget to mention that Steven was offered this novelty by nobody less than Stefan Docx on the condition that I can trust the interclubreport of Borgerhout for round 10. It is no coincidence that Stefan is also a not so young player anymore but recently made quite some progress by working very hard see e.g a grandmaster norm for stefan docx.

I can imagine quite some players don't want to study the details of this novelty or just don't like the resulting positions. Well fortunately we still have the 4 knights-sequence. In 2004 the only active grandmaster of Andorra: Oscar De La Riva Aguado chose in our mutual game for that sequence.
[Event "Interclub Orange - Lille EDN"] [Date "2004"] [White "De la Riva Aguando, O."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C47"] [WhiteElo "2549"] [BlackElo "2308"] [PlyCount "51"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. g3 d5 5. exd5 Nxd5 6. Bg2 Nxc3 7. bxc3 Bc5 8. O-O O-O 9. Re1 {(I encountered d3 in 2001 by Werner Vandenbrande so I had some experience with this type of positions.)} Qf6 {(I knew in advance that my opponent could choose this line so I had checked it in my preparations. Re8 is the most popular move but I have doubts about the correctness. Black has a lot of less known alternatives which are also interesting: f6, h6, Bg4, Qd6, Bb6.)} (9... Re8 $6 10. d4 $1 exd4 11. Rxe8 Qxe8 12. cxd4 Bb6 13. c4 Bg4 14. c5 Rd8 15. cxb6 Nxd4 16. Qxd4 Rxd4 17. Nxd4 Qe1 18. Bf1 axb6 $14) 10. d3 h6 {(The most popular continuation but it is not clear which one is the strongest. Bg4, Bb6 and Re8 are serious alternatives.)} 11. Be3 Bb6 12. Nd2 {(The specialist of this system, the Russian grandmaster Igor Glek played several times this move with varying success.)} Bf5 {(Black tried some alternatives in the past but nothing which looks clearly better than my choice.)} 13. a4 $5 $146 {(I still found 1 correspondence-game with Rb1 and a complicated game. Shredder recommends Qf3 but this neither gives any advantage to white.)} Rfe8 14. Qb1 $5 {(I found this idea in a game of Igor Glek. There are many possibilities in his position like Bd5 and Qh5 recommended by the engines with approximately equality every time.)} Rad8 15. Qb5 $5 {(I do not understand this move. More natural looks Nc4.)} Bd7 16. Qb2 Bg4 $6 { (Played aimlessly and giving white a chance to find an advantage based on the unprotected piece. I had seen the right move Na5 in the game but the dogma "a knight on the rim" let me change my mind.)} (16... Na5 $1 { (Black prepares Bc6 to neutralize the pressure on the diagonal and to weaken the white squares around the white king)} 17. Bxb6 (17. c4 Bd4 18. c3 Bxe3 19. Rxe3 b6 20. Qc2 c5 21. Bd5 Be6 22. Be4 Qe7 $11) 17... axb6 18. c4 Qe7 19. Re3 f6 20. c3 Bc6 21. Bxc6 Nxc6 22. Rae1 $11) 17. h3 $6 { (Strange white does not want to profit from blacks last weak move. A5 was rather an easy way for some advantage.)} (17. a5 $1 Nxa5 18. Qb4 $14 {(With an attack against a5 and g4 which results in a clear advantage for white.)}) 17... Be6 $6 {(Here the bishop is safe but the protection of e5 is interrupted. More accurate was Bd7 with a balanced position.)} 18. Re2 $6 {(Again white misses the opportunity as the temporary pawn-sacrifice a5 is very strong.)} ( 18. a5 $1 Nxa5 19. c4 $14 {(White threatens winning a piece with c5 and simultaneously winning the pawn on e5.)}) 18... Qg6 $6 {(Black neither realizes the problem in the center. Ok was Bd5.)} 19. Rae1 $6 {(Weird that white despite his high rating does not see a5 followed up with taking b6 and the pawn on e5 drops.)} f6 $5 {(Finally black solves the problem of his e-pawn. An alternative was Bd5.)} 20. Nb3 $5 {(C4 is a sharper continuation..)} Qh5 $6 {(Aimlessly played as the provocation of g4 can not be exploited and now white can quietly improve his position. Better is e.g. Ne7 or Bd5 and black is not worse.)} 21. g4 Qf7 22. c4 Bxe3 23. Rxe3 Qf8 $6 {(Now black gets into serious problems. The black center can be blasted open at once with f4 as the bishop on e6 is not protected anymore. Correct was Bc8 and white is only slightly better.)} 24. f4 $2 {(Incomprehensible and afterwards Oscar admitted to play mediocre. F4 wins a pawn without compensation.)} (24. Bxc6 $1 bxc6 25. f4 Bd7 26. fxe5 $16) 24... Bd7 25. fxe5 Rxe5 26. Rxe5 $5 {(In this complex position my opponent proposed a draw. White has more space but his pawnstructure is awkward and he also realized that his play was not strong that day. Besides an extra half point more or less guaranteed the team-victory for Orange. I thought a few minutes about the proposal but finally accepted as a clear road to play for a win is not visible. A nice alternative was Be4 but it does not change the evaluation.)} 1/2-1/2
Quite some small mistakes on both sides but the game shows very well how complex the positions are in the Glek. Almost every move has alternatives and often the small details define the correct evaluation.

Probably some players will prefer the Vienna order as they want to avoid some lines in the 4 knights game. Personally I think there is little or no theoretical difference between both sequences. Besides in both lines you can have interesting battles. This article just warns the reader for c6 in the Vienna sequence.



  1. Thanks for this great analysis. The ...c6 sac is very interesting, and probably best avoided, as you say. I think the Glek move order is probably more principled, only because of the line 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 f5!? when White ends up playing as Black, basically, after 4.exf5 and an eventual loss of time with g4 etc. Of course, these Vienna Gambit lines are not necessarily bad, but from a principled stand point I think I'd rather keep my half-tempo advantage.

    I have a useful bibliography on both lines here:

  2. Thanks for the reference. I checked your blog more than once in the past as it contains a huge amount of useful information. Sad that you don't write anymore but understandable as nothing lasts forever.