Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Hyper Modern French

Last year my son collected a number of prizes. Especially money he likes as he was able to buy 2 boxes of lego, a trendy step, 2 footballs,... Briefly although he earned the money by playing chess, nothing is invested to improve his chess capabilities. Therefore he was quite disappointed to find out that he got a voucher to spend at chessconsult when he won the Antwerp championship for the category of -8. Fortunately I knew how to cheer him up as I exchanged the voucher with my cash and used the voucher myself to buy 2 new books: Nadorf x Najdorf and Timman's Titans both published in 2016.

In the meanwhile I finished Najdorfs book. We all know the opening but the person Najdorf is after this death (1997) already largely forgotten. This book tries to bring him out of the oblivion and I think they managed this quite well. The books reads very smoothly and also the selected games are well analyzed. Especially the countless anecdotes make this book a real joy. One is about why Najdorf didn't play his own opening anymore in his later years. There is nothing wrong with the opening but he didn't like to fight against the much better opening-knowledge of many youngsters while his strength mainly positioned around technique and creativity.

Some will state the same about the Modern French. The theory exploded in this opening due to its enormous popularity. I got it 5 times on the board in standard-games about which I wrote in my articles (see e.g. the modern french, the modern french part 2, switching colors part 2, ...). That is really a lot if you take into account that I only play approximately 15 standard games each year. Also today several systems are discovered which allow white to put pressure. An idea which I prepared for a next encounter, was introduced a few months ago accidentally by the strong Dutch grandmaster Benjamin Bok.
[Event "17th ch-EUR Indiv 2016"] [Site "Gjakova KOS"] [Date "2016.05.17"] [Round "6.45"] [White "Bok, B."] [Black "Kjartansson, G."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "2614"] [BlackElo "2457"] [PlyCount "47"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 Be7 8. Qd2 b6 9. Bb5 Bb7 10. O-O-O a6 11. Bxc6 Bxc6 12. f5 b5 13. fxe6 fxe6 14. Ne2 c4 15. Ng5 Nf8 16. Rhf1 Bxg5 17. Bxg5 Qd7 18. Qc3 h6 19. Qh3 Rh7 20. Qf3 Rh8 21. Qh3 Rh7 22. Qf3 Rh8 23. Qh5 g6 24. Qh3 1-0
Not surprisingly we see more and more players looking for new ideas in the French opening. The 20 years old strong German grandmaster Matthias Bluebaum is for sure a pioneer in this area. More and more he likes to play with the sequence of moves to sidestep the preparation of his opponents. His influence upon the hyper-modern French opening in which Nc6 is delayed or even sometimes cancelled, should not be underestimated. His fresh strategical ideas gave this hyper-modern approach a serious boost. Even some super grandmasters have noticed this and gave it a shot. This year the Indian top-grandmaster Pentala Harikrisha scored a sensational victory in Altibox Norway Chess with this line.
[Event "4th Norway Chess 2016"] [Site "Stavanger NOR"] [Date "2016.04.25"] [Round "6.1"] [White "Giri, A."] [Black "Harikrishna, P."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "2790"] [BlackElo "2763"] [PlyCount "72"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Be7 7. Be3 O-O 8. Qd2 b6 9. Nd1 a5 10. c3 a4 11. Bd3 Ba6 12. O-O Nc6 13. Bxa6 Rxa6 14. f5 b5 15. fxe6 fxe6 16. Qe2 Qb6 17. Nf2 a3 18. b3 b4 19. dxc5 Bxc5 20. Bxc5 Nxc5 21. c4 Ne4 22. cxd5 exd5 23. e6 Ne7 24. Kh1 Nc3 25. Qd3 h6 26. Nd1 Qb5 27. Qxb5 Nxb5 28. Nf2 Rxe6 29. Nd3 Nc6 30. Rfc1 Nc3 31. Nxb4 Nxb4 32. Rxc3 Re2 33. Rc7 Ra8 34. Nd4 Rxa2 35. Rf1 Rd2 36. h3 a2 0-1
Forewarned is forearmed but I shamefully had to admit in the last Open Leuven that I didn't understand anything about the opening. Besides I was totally surprised that the 47 years old Jan Rogiers had such hyper modern opening in his repertoire. That explains of course why I quickly got into troubles in our game and only an incredible counterattack avoided a big rating-upset.
[Event "Open Leuven 3de ronde"] [Date "2016"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Rogiers, J."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C11"] [WhiteElo "2283"] [BlackElo "2130"] [PlyCount "67"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Be7 {(First Be7 and only later Nc6 is the hyper-modern version of this French opening which is gaining quickly popularity since 2013. I was aware about this but as usual with new trends I did not yet study it.)} 7. Be3 O-O {(The young strong German grandmaster Matthias Bluebaum famous for deciding the gold in the tiebrakes of the last chess-olympiad at Baku, is the greatest propagandist of this opening. He continuously switches with the different move-sequences which each have their own nuances but this one with Be7 followed up with 0-0 was his favorite in the last 3 years.)} 8. Qd2 {(The most popular continuation but this does not mean much as the opening is still very new. Beside Be2 which can transpose to my game played in the interclub of 2014 against Bart Michiels, dxc5 is a serious option.)} (8. dxc5 Bxc5 {(Black has of course options but here I want to warn chessplayers for trusting too quickly an online openingbook which shows only wins for black.)} 9. Qd3 $146 {(This unorthodox move is recommended by Stockfish 8.)} Qb6 { (The concept used successfully by Bart Michiels in his game against the American grandmaster Samuel Sevian played at Wijk Aan Zee 2015 does not work here.)} 10. Ng5 f5 {(G6 is answered by Bxc5 followed up by Qh3 and white has a clear advantage.)} 11. Nxd5 Qxb2 12. Bxc5 $5 {(White can choose between several fantastic continuations.)} (12. Rd1 $5 Nc6 13. Nxe6 Ndxe5 14. fxe5 $5 Nb4 15. Nxc5 Nxd3 16. Nxd3 $14) 12... Qxa1 13. Kf2 Nc6 (13... Nxc5 $2 14. Ne7 Kh8 15. Nf7 Rxf7 16. Qd8 Rf8 17. Qxf8#) 14. Bd6 Qc1 15. Ne3 $14) 8... b6 9. Nd1 {(Ik was not prepared for this opening so I wanted to experiment with a concept which I had seen in a similar position. I am thinking about the game Anish Giri - Bart Michiels won by Anish in the Belgian interclubs of 2012. I hoped it was playable and throw my opponent out of book. The latter was a wrong assessment as later I discovered Nd1 is the most popular move in this position. It explains of course why Jan still blitzed several moves. Be2 to transpose to my games of 2012 and 2015 against Bart Michiels is an alternative. However the eccentric h4, played earlier this year by nobody less than Vladimir Kramnik, is maybe the most critical test. Finally f5 of which I only found one game in the database, deserves also study. Just like Nd1 white tries to profit from the omission of Nc6.)} (9. h4 $5 cxd4 {(The strong German grandmaster Rainer Buhmann played Nc6 in Dortmund against Kramnik.)} 10. Nxd4 Bb4 $146 11. a3 Bxc3 12. Qxc3 Ba6 13. O-O-O Nc5 $13) 9... a5 10. Nf2 $5 {(I was not aware that normally they play c3 here.)} (10. c3 $5 { (White scores miserable according to my openingbook but an analysis of Anish Giri at schaaksite suspects this score does not reflect the right evaluation of this position.)} a4 $5 11. Bd3 Ba6 12. O-O Nc6 $5 13. f5 {(Earlier this year Anish Giri lost without a fight after Bxa6 against the Indian super-grandmaster Pentala Harakrisha in Stavanger, 4th Norway Chess.)} exf5 14. Bxa6 $1 Rxa6 15. Bf4 $1 Ndb8 16. Ne3 Qd7 17. Qd3 g6 18. Bh6 $1 Re8 19. g4 $1 fxg4 20. Ng5 Bxg5 21. Bxg5 $14 {(Anish often laughs at the superficial preparations of the reigning world-champion Magnus Carlsen and this beautiful analysis nicely demonstrates why this reaction is not exaggerated.)}) 10... Nc6 11. Bb5 Qc7 12. O-O a4 13. Rac1 Ba6 14. Bxa6 Rxa6 15. Qe2 Qb7 16. c4 $6 { (Optically this looks good but a bad surprise awaits me. C3 is still correct with a position maybe giving slightly the better prospects for white at the king-side.)} dxc4 17. Qxc4 b5 18. Qe2 c4 19. d5 $6 {(I was not eager to allow a piece jumping to d5 but this gambit is based upon a hallucination.} exd5 20. a3 {(Only now I realized that blacks last move covers c4 if black continues with b4. However allowing a3 is neither an option so after a long thought I played anyway a3 at the same time fearing a quick defeat.)} Nc5 { (After this move I get some hope again as I feared mostly b4. The engine shows there is little difference between the evaluations of both moves.)} 21. Rcd1 Rd8 $2 {(Afterwards Jan admitted that he completely underestimated my attack at the king-side. During the game I thought Qd7 is strong which the engine later confirmed.)} (21... Qd7 $1 {(It is not easy to position your queen in the line of the rook but black can not ignore f5.)} 22. f5 Nb3 23. Ne4 Qxf5 24. Nc3 Nxe5 25. Nxe5 Qxe5 26. Rxd5 Qe6 27. Rxb5 $17) 22. f5 Nb3 $2 {(Way too slow as whites attack is much quicker. D4 and Nd7 are still just enough to maintain the balance.)} ( 22... Nd7 $5 23. f6 Bf8 24. fxg7 Bxg7 25. e6 fxe6 26. Ng5 e5 $13) 23. f6 Bf8 $6 {(The engines sacrifice a piece to slow down the attack. After the played move white goes like a knife through the butter.)} (23... Nxe5 $1 24. fxe7 Qxe7 25. Nxe5 Qxe5 26. Ng4 $16) 24. fxg7 Bxg7 25. Ng4 Ne7 26. Ng5 Rg6 27. Nxf7 Rf8 28. Ngh6 Bxh6 29. Nxh6 Kg7 30. Rxf8 Kxf8 31. Qf3 Ke8 32. Qf7 Kd7 33. Nf5 Re6 34. Nxe7 {(An incredible conclusion as around move 20 I still was thinking about quickly losing the game.)} 1-0
My analysis causes doubts about the full correctness of this hyper-modern system but I expect we will still see new developments. Besides those rich strategical positions are excellent to play for a win with both colors. A noteworthy statistic is that all my 6 standard-games in this opening had decisive results while always respecting the rating-logic.


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