Monday, May 4, 2020

The Leningrad part 2

Since 12th of March I haven't left my house anymore except for the few times I needed to buy food and drinks. I strictly follow the regulations of the government which are necessary to slow down the pandemic although I do miss playing chess at a real board. I hear the same kind of sounds in the mails of other players as playing online can never compensate the social interactions in a club. We are getting detoxed of chess. I expect some players will decide after things have normalized again that they can live perfectly without chess and will never return anymore. Playing chess demands a huge investment of time which some people will prefer to use for other activities. A crisis always creates new views.

Meanwhile we are week 7 and I haven't bored myself yet at home. Besides having more time for my wife, kids and the household, I also spent plenty of hours at removing the backlog of analyzing my own games. At March 12 there were still 12 of my standard games not yet analyzed. Currently I am working at my penultimate one. It concerns a mainline of the French Winawer which I hadn't studied for 5 years so I have a lot of work at catching up the theory.

2 computers are almost non stop generating analysis for this job. On one of them Leela is running. On the other one it is Stockfish as I like to double-check all my analysis. Yes my analysis are top notch. Besides I am not talking just about the engines which are analyzing for many hours. Tablebases (maximum of 7 pieces) are often consulted for the endgames. For the opening I check not only all the standard games played by the masters but also correspondence games and even games played between engines. Especially in this last category of games I see a drastic increase of interesting discoveries. Hereby I like to call my readers for help finding the most recent engine-games played at as I am very interested to download them.

However this also means that I expect others to put a lot of effort in their published analysis. Contrary to a reaction of Richard on my previous article I personally find the language or the didactic aspects of an article not critical. A writer must for me run the extra mile in his analysis. If I spend time to read an analysis then my primary goal is to win time and not to lose it due to correcting errors. As a consequence books are for me very quickly outdated. Sometimes people are offering me some old opening-books for free but then I always tell them that those are not helping me in my analysis.

Unfortunately I discovered last year that this is also the case for my book about the Leningrad. I talked earlier about some mistakes in the analysis of the book see part 1 but that wasn't critical as we were just discussing some sidelines. However a couple of months later I discovered that the mainline also has serious defects which I couldn't ignore anymore. I want to use the Leningrad more than just an excellent weapon of surprise. That is only possible if the mainlines are solid and can't be refuted.

The book of Malaniuk was published in 2014 but already in 2015 some important ameliorations were found for white which more or less degrade the book as a footnote of the chess-history. I put a lot of efforts into saving the opening but eventually I had to admit that black is always slightly worse out of the opening and will suffer a lot to make a draw against best play. As I haven't played yet any important games in this line, I use as proof instead some recent games of the Polish international master Piotr Nguyen whom is an expert in this opening and even planned to publish a book about it see this tweet. In the years before 2014, Piotr achieved some solid results with the opening but after it things became much more difficult. I start with the line which I played myself last year against the Belgian FM Adrian Roos.
[Event "Chigorin Memorial 24th"] [Site "St Petersburg"] [Date "2016.10.18"] [Round "4"] [White "Jumabayev, Rinat"] [Black "Nguyen, Piotr"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A87"] [WhiteElo "2609"] [BlackElo "2418"] [PlyCount "73"] [EventDate "2016.10.15"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "RUS"] [SourceTitle "CBM 175 Extra"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2016.12.12"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceVersionDate "2016.12.12"] [SourceQuality "1"] 1. d4 f5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. g3 g6 4. c4 Bg7 5. Nc3 O-O 6. Bg2 d6 7. O-O Qe8 {(The Polish international master Piotr Nguyen is an expert in this opening and till now he achieved some solid results. However this game shows what happens if a strong professional can prepare for it. Once the element of surprise disappears things become grim for black.)} 8. b3 {(I suspect b3 is not the only critical line but I haven't made any thourough analysis of other lines.)} 8... e5 9. dxe5 dxe5 10. e4 Nc6 11. Nd5 {(Last year I met Ba3 by the Belgian FM Adrian Roos but that was clearly some improvisation as I got with black very quickly the better chances. Nd5 is without doubt stronger.)} 11... Qd7 {(In the book of the Ukrainian grandmaster Vladimir Malaniuk this move is recommended. It is definitely the most popular one.)} 12. exf5 gxf5?! {(The mainline continues with e4 but also then black has some problems.)} (12... e4! 13. Ng5 (13. Nh4 {(This move was played for the first time in 2015 so 1 year after the book of Malaniuk was released.)} 13... gxf5 14. Nf4 Qxd1 (14... Ng4 15. Rb1 Qxd1 16. Rxd1 Bd4 17. Rd2 Bc3 18. Rc2 Be5 19. Bb2) 15. Rxd1 Nh5 16. Rb1 Nxf4 17. Bxf4 Nd4 18. Rd2 Ne6 19. Be3) 13... gxf5 14. Rb1 {(Also this important discovery was only made in 2015.)} 14... h6 (14... Nxd5 15. cxd5 Nd4 16. Be3 Qxd5 17. Qh5 h6 18. Nxe4) 15. Nh3 Nxd5 16. cxd5 Nb4 17. Ba3 a5 18. Nf4 Rd8 19. Ne6 Qxe6 20. dxe6 Rxd1 21. Rfxd1 Bxe6 22. Rbc1 {(In some recent correspondence-games black managed to defend this position but it is no fun.)}) 13. Nh4?! {(I expect white had seen this move in his preparation of the game so still wanted to play it but Ba3 is even stronger.)} (13. Ba3 Re8 14. Bb2 Nxd5 15. cxd5 Nb4 16. a3 Nxd5 17. Nxe5 Bxe5 18. Bxd5+) 13... Qf7?! (13... e4!) 14. Ba3?! (14. Bb2!) 14... Re8?! (14... Rd8! 15. Nxf6+ Qxf6 16. Qh5 e4 17. Rad1 Be6) 15. Nxf6+ Qxf6 16. Qh5 Be6 17. Bb2 Qf7 18. Qxf7+ Kxf7 19. Bxc6 bxc6 20. Rfe1 Bf6?! 21. Bxe5 Bxh4 22. gxh4 {(Opposite coloured bishops when rooks are still on the board always favor the attacker which is here clearly white.)} 22... Rg8+ 23. Kf1 a5 24. Re3 a4 25. Rae1 axb3 26. axb3 Rg4 27. Bxc7 Rag8 28. Bg3 R8g6 29. Rd3 Rf6 30. f3 Rg8 31. Bf4 Rfg6 32. Ke2 Rg2+ 33. Ke3 Bxc4 34. Rd7+ Kg6 35. Kd4 Bxb3 36. Ree7 Rg1 37. Rd6+ 1-0
A couple of recently played correspondence-games still show some hope for black as black was able to draw but it wasn't fun at all. Besides black must be ready to cope with several annoying white tries which sounds for me impractical for playing in a standard game especially against a well prepared opponent. Just like the Polish master I had a look at the alternatives but I don't think 8...Pa6 is better than 8...e5 which below game demonstrates clearly.
[Event "Chigorin Memorial 24th"] [Site "St Petersburg"] [Date "2016.10.23"] [Round "9"] [White "Huzman, Alexander"] [Black "Nguyen, Piotr"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A87"] [WhiteElo "2577"] [BlackElo "2418"] [PlyCount "61"] [EventDate "2016.10.15"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "RUS"] [SourceTitle "CBM 175 Extra"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2016.12.12"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceVersionDate "2016.12.12"] [SourceQuality "1"] 1. Nf3 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 g6 4. O-O Bg7 5. c4 O-O 6. d4 d6 7. Nc3 Qe8 8. b3 Na6 {(The same tournament and the same opening so black chooses for his back-up. It doesn't help him. Later in 2018 Piotr also tried 8...c6 in vain. Personally I don't see why you would play 8...c6 if you can already play it a move earlier so postponing the difficult decision of where to install the queen.)} 9. Ba3 {(My analysis were based on 9.Bb2 which looks no walk in the park either for black. Ba3 is however more popular as I guess most players prefer to avoid e5.)} (9. Bb2 e5 10. dxe5 dxe5 11. e4 f4 12. Ba3 Rf7 13. Qe1 Nh5 14. h3) 9... h6 10. Qd3 g5 11. e4 fxe4 12. Nxe4 Qh5 13. Rae1 Bf5 14. Nxf6+ Rxf6 15. Qe3 Bh3 16. d5 Raf8 17. Bxh3 Qxh3 18. Nd4 {(White achieved a winning position with very simple moves.)} 18... g4 19. Ne6 Rf3 20. Qe4 R8f7 21. Nxg7 Kxg7 22. Bb2+ Kf8 23. Qe6 Kg8 24. Qc8+ Rf8 25. Qd7 R3f7 26. Rxe7 Nc5 27. Rxf7 Nxd7 28. Rg7+ {(You don't see very often a windmill especially not on this level.)} 28... Kh8 29. Rxd7+ Kg8 30. Rg7+ Kh8 31. Rxc7+ 1-0
After making those analysis I tried to contact the Dutch grandmaster Roeland Pruijssers as he recently published a dvd about this line but he didn't reply to my mails. Anyway I think the chance is very slim that the dvd will add something to my elaborated analysis. Again maybe a reader has more information about the dvd and is willing to react below this article.

Last year I achieved with black a good position against Adrian and even generated winning chances. So the dvd of Roeland can obviously be used to just add an extra weapon in your repertoire to surprise 1 or 2 opponents but I don't think it will work each time against everybody.

In the meantime I also discovered that 7...Qe8 is already for some time not anymore the most popular line of the Leningrad. Today 7...c6 is the main choice of the strongest players. Lately I also learned about the 7....e6-line thanks to the superfinal of the TCEC season 17 between Leela and Stockfish. It appears we then get some sort of crossover between the Leningrad and the Stonewall. Maybe that fits to my repertoire as I have more than 2 decades of experience with the Stonewall. Black had to defend in both games but managed to make a draw each time. I like the one Leela playing the black pieces the most as she managed to equalize convincingly.
[Event "TCEC Season 17 - Superfinal"] [Site ""] [Date "2020.04.09"] [Round "9.1"] [White "Stockfish 20200407DC"] [Black "LCZero v0.24-sv-t60-3010"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A81"] [WhiteElo "3851"] [BlackElo "3840"] [PlyCount "209"] [EventDate "2020.??.??"] 1. d4 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 g6 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. O-O O-O 6. c4 d6 7. Nc3 e6 {(I am familiar with Qe8, Nc6 and c6 but e6 was for me new. In the superfinal of TCEC-season 17 a nice mix of old and new openings was prepared.)} 8. Re1 Ne4 9. Qc2 d5 {(Also Stockfish went for a crossover of the Stonewall with the Leningrad in the return-game. Adrien Demuth, the author of the book "The Modern Dutch" is no fan of it but it isn't easy to crack those kind of pawnstructures.)} 10. Bf4 c6 11. e3 Nd7 12. Rac1 Qe7 13. b3 Re8 14. Be5 Nxe5 15. Nxe5 Bd7 16. Ne2 Rac8 17. c5 Ng5 18. f4 Nf7 19. Nd3 g5 20. h3 Kh8 21. Qc3 Rg8 22. Bf3 Bf6 23. Kf2 Ra8 24. b4 Rg7 25. a4 Rag8 26. Rh1 Be8 27. a5 a6 28. Rcg1 Nd8 29. Qb2 Qf8 30. Kf1 Qe7 31. Kf2 Qf8 32. Rh2 Qe7 33. Qa1 h5 34. fxg5 Rxg5 35. h4 R5g6 36. Nef4 Rh6 37. Rhg2 Kg7 38. Rf1 Kf8 39. Qe1 Bf7 40. Qd1 Rgh8 41. Kg1 Ke8 42. Ne5 Qc7 43. Nfd3 Kf8 44. Qe2 Kg8 45. Qf2 Be8 46. Be2 Nf7 47. Qf4 Nxe5 48. Nxe5 Qg7 49. Kf2 Bd8 50. Rfg1 Bc7 51. Ke1 R8h7 52. Kd2 Kh8 53. Rf2 Bxe5 54. Qxe5 Qxe5 55. dxe5 {(Black has achieved full equality by exchanging the right pieces. The rest of the game is just waiting till a draw can be claimed based on the 50 moves-rule.)} 55... Rg7 56. Bf3 Bd7 57. Ke2 Rgg6 58. Rff1 Rh7 59. Kf2 Rg8 60. Rd1 Rg6 61. Rh1 Kg8 62. Kg2 Rh8 63. Be2 Kg7 64. Kf2 Kh6 65. Bf3 Rhg8 66. Rhg1 Be8 67. Rc1 Rh8 68. Rcd1 Bd7 69. Rd4 Ra8 70. Rd2 Rag8 71. Rd3 Rd8 72. Rdd1 Rdg8 73. Be2 R6g7 74. Rd4 Rg6 75. Bd3 Ra8 76. Bf1 Rgg8 77. Rh1 Kg7 78. Be2 Kh6 79. Rdd1 Rac8 80. Ra1 Rcf8 81. Rhd1 Rg6 82. Kg2 Rfg8 83. Kf2 R6g7 84. Rg1 Rg6 85. Ra3 R6g7 86. Rb3 Kg6 87. Kg2 Re7 88. Rd3 Kh6 89. Kf2 Rg6 90. Ke1 Re8 91. Rd4 Rh8 92. Bf3 Rb8 93. Kf2 Rbg8 94. Be2 R6g7 95. Rg2 Rg6 96. Bd1 Ra8 97. Kg1 Rgg8 98. Kh2 Rac8 99. Rg1 Rb8 100. Kg2 Rg7 101. Kf2 Rbg8 102. Be2 Be8 103. Bf3 Bd7 104. Rdd1 Rg6 105. Be4 1/2-1/2
So there exist other moves next to the 7....Qe8-line. For the moment I don't want to discuss yet the other lines. I am still learning and discovering. Currently I can't complain about the Leningrad as I scored 2 wins and 3 draws with it in my standard games but I doubt that this percentage can be maintained when my opponents start to see my Leningrad games appearing in the databases. I hope by making a lot of analysis and preparing many ideas that I can stay ahead of my future opponents.


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