Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Romantic chess

In modern chess top players don't hesitate to grab the opponent by the throat right from the start. Labels as immortal game or evergreen are again used to express our amazement for those brilliant contemporary games. Finally we experience again the atmosphere of the romantic 19th century. The origin of the evergreen can be found in the game Adolf Andersson - Jean Dufrese played in 1852.
[Event "Berlin ’Evergreen’"] [Site "Berlin"] [Date "1852"] [White "Anderssen, Adolf"] [Black "Dufresne, Jean"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C52"] [PlyCount "47"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. d4 exd4 7. O-O d3 8. Qb3 Qf6 9. e5 Qg6 10. Re1 Nge7 11. Ba3 b5 12. Qxb5 Rb8 13. Qa4 Bb6 14. Nbd2 Bb7 15. Ne4 Qf5 16. Bxd3 Qh5 17. Nf6 gxf6 18. exf6 Rg8 19. Rad1 Qxf3 20. Rxe7 Nxe7 21. Qxd7 Kxd7 22. Bf5 Ke8 23. Bd7 Kf8 24. Bxe7# 1-0
Many decades the Evansgambit was one of the most popular openings but this popularity declined once Lasker found a good anti-dote largely removing the sting out of the attack. This anti-dote is even today still approved and played by the leading players as we saw end of last year in the London Classic.
[Event "6th London Classic 2014"] [Site "London ENG"] [Date "2014.12.12"] [Round "3.3"] [White "Nakamura, Hi"] [Black "Anand, V."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C52"] [WhiteElo "2775"] [BlackElo "2793"] [PlyCount "71"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. d4 d6 {(Laskers defense. Black counter-sacrifices immediately a pawn to achieve a comfortable position.)} 7. Qb3 Qd7 8. dxe5 Bb6 9. a4 {(A new move for standardchess but known from correspondencechess. There exists a game from 2011 in which a4 was played successfully by the Belgium IM in correspondence chess Dirk Ghysens.)} Na5 10. Qa2 Nxc4 11. Qxc4 Ne7 12. exd6 cxd6 13. O-O O-O 14. Qd3 Ng6 15. a5 Bc5 16. Be3 Re8 17. Nbd2 Bxe3 18. Qxe3 d5 19. Rfe1 dxe4 20. Nxe4 Qe7 21. Nd6 Qxe3 22. fxe3 Rd8 23. Red1 Rb8 24. Rd4 Be6 25. c4 b6 26. axb6 axb6 27. Ra7 h6 28. h3 Ra8 29. Rb7 Rdb8 30. Rc7 Ra5 31. Kh2 Rc5 32. Ra7 Kf8 33. g4 Ra5 34. Rc7 Rc5 35. Ra7 Ra5 36. Rc7 1/2-1/2
Just like many other gambits from the romantic era it wasn't only the anti-dote which caused the decline. More and more playable setups were found for black which made white vulnerable for dangerous preparations. I like to play a setup with 6...exd4 instead of 6...d6 as shown in the game below from the passed Open Gent.
[Event "Open Gent 1ste ronde"] [Date "2015"] [White "Vincent, G."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C52"] [WhiteElo "1810"] [BlackElo "2316"] [PlyCount "48"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. d4 exd4 7. Qb3 {(I already twice fought successfully against 0-0 in standardgames. I knew Qb3 was Shorts try to resurrect this line. It is pretty annoying to play this line without preparation.)} Qe7 8. O-O Bb6 9. Ba3 $6 {(The pairings of the first round were announced a few minutes before the start so my opponent neither was fully up to date of the latest theory. Here cxd4 and the rather unknown Re1 give better compensation.)} (9. Re1 $5 Na5 10. Qa4 Nxc4 11. Qxc4 Qe6 12. Qd3 Ne7 13. cxd4 O-O $44) (9. cxd4 $5 Nxd4 10. Nxd4 Bxd4 11. Nc3 Nf6 12. Ba3 $5 d6 13. Rad1 Bxc3 14. Qxc3 Qe5 $44) 9... d6 10. e5 $6 {(Too aggressive. Cxd4 gives better counterplay.)} (10. cxd4 $1 Na5 11. Qa4 $5 Bd7 12. Qc2 $5 Nxc4 13. Qxc4 $15) 10... Na5 11. Qd1 Nxc4 12. Qa4 Qd7 13. Qxc4 d5 14. Qb4 $6 {(White provokes c5 but this only helps black. Qb3 or Qe2 are stronger.)} c5 15. Qb3 d3 16. c4 d4 $4 {(I try to consolidate the position with this pawn-sacrifice. After all I am 2 pawns up but I miss an important detail. The sharp dxc4 was much stronger and should be leading to a won position if followed up by some accurate moves.)} 17. Qxd3 $2 {(Too greedy. Only at move 19 white discovers there are juicy squares for the queens-knight to achieve with Nbd2. Unfortunately then it will be too late.)} (17. Nbd2 $1 Ne7 18. Ne4 O-O 19. Nxc5 Bxc5 20. Bxc5 b6 21. Bd6 $1 Bb7 22. Qxd3 $13) 17... Qf5 18. Qd1 Ne7 19. Nbd2 Bd7 20. Re1 Bc6 21. Rb1 $6 {(A more stubborn defense is Nh4.) } (21. Nh4 $1 Qd3 22. Nb3 Qxd1 23. Raxd1 g5 24. Nf3 Bxf3 25. gxf3 Rc8 26. Bc1 Kd7 $17) 21... Ng6 22. Qe2 O-O 23. Rb3 Rfe8 24. Ne4 Nf4 0-1
The ever strengthening engines neither help the gambits. In below recent correspondencegame Nigel Shorts 12.Nb5 introduced in 2003 is dismantled.
[Event "DE5A/pr59"] [Site "ICCF"] [Date "2011.04.05"] [White "Bohak, Janko"] [Black "Balutescu, Mihail Goanga"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteElo "2242"] [BlackElo "2232"] [PlyCount "60"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. d4 exd4 7. Qb3 Qe7 8. O-O Bb6 9. cxd4 Nxd4 10. Nxd4 Bxd4 11. Nc3 Nf6 12. Nb5 {(Nigel Short tried to revive this critical line in 2003 with this move.)} Bxa1 { (I believed till shortly that d5 was the only playable continuation in this position of which the final evaluation is a draw after accurate play from both sides. I remember from the local clash between Stefan Docx and Steven Geirnaert played in 2011 at Brasschaat this draw is not straightforward. Today however it appears that taking the rook is even better at the condition that you have the calculation skills of todays strongest engines.)} 13. Nxc7 Kd8 14. Nxa8 Bd4 {(I found 6 correspondencegames in my database of which 5 were won by black.)} 15. Be3 { (Bf4 was recently once tried in a standardgame between lower rated players but after d6 black has an edge.)} Qc5 16. Bxd4 Qxd4 17. Bd5 Nxd5 {(3 times this move was already played in correspondencechess and each time black won. This game is the oldest one. Nxe4 was also once tested but is clearly inferior as it did not bring a happy end.)} 18. exd5 d6 19. Qg3 Qxd5 20. Qxg7 Qe5 21. Qxf7 Bd7 22. h3 Qf5 23. Qc4 Qc5 24. Qf7 Kc8 25. Rd1 Re8 26. Qxh7 d5 27. Qd3 Qd6 28. h4 Kb8 29. Qg3 Qxg3 30. fxg3 Be6 0-1
No I don't believe romantic chess will popularize again. It makes no sense to sacrifice material while the opponent can play an exact sequence of moves vaporizing the compensation. It is pity but don't cry as Anand stated: for every door the computers closed they have opened a new one.

Further I also want to point out that many gambits despite their theoretical status are still a dangerous practical weapon especially with the faster timecontrols. We are no computers so using the Evansgambit in the right circumstances (opponent/ tempo/ preparation) can still bring success. Finally I also agree with coaches trying to convince their students to try out for some time gambits. Romantic chess is an excellent school to learn abstract concepts like development and initiative. These are basic concepts which should be mastered first before studying more complex strategies discovered after the romantic era.


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