Saturday, October 24, 2009

Something new, something old (Part 2)

THIS is the second part of the three-part series in the Two Knights Defense. After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Na5 6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc6 bxc6 8.Be2 h6, White may continue with 9.Nf3 or 9.Nh3. The former move is examined in this post.

The knight-retreat to f3 – the modern approach


Diagram 2 - Position after 9.Nf3.

The usual move here is 9.Nf3, after which Black obtains some initiative after 9... e4 10.Ne5 Bd6 (this is considered to be the main line of the Two Knights Defense). This is the favorite move of Alexander Morozevich who scored notable wins with it against Alexander Onischuk (twice) and Yuri Balashov. English number one, Nigel Short, a former world championship challenger, had employed this move successfully, although he was more successful with the Steinitz variation.

This is also the move of choice by the 13th world championship, Garry Kasparov (1985-2000), in a rapid game against another former world championship challenger, Dutch GM Jan Timman.

9… e4 10.Ne5 Bd6 11.Nc4?

This knight move—already the fifth just within the first 11 moves—is a blatant mistake, most likely a losing one, because after the normal exchange of pieces White finds himself greatly lagging behind in development. When a player uses 5 moves with a piece (his knight) just to have it exchanged to his opponent’s knight on the rim, there must be something wrong somewhere—evidently a faulty strategy.

The correct move was 11.d4. The position after 11… exd3 12.Nxd3 has brought about victories to Morozevich, Short, and Kasparov among a host of prominent players.

11… Nxc4 12.Bxc4 0–0 13.0–0??

White's last move was completely mistaken—a lucid example of castling without thinking. The position demands that development matters more over “king safety." At the expense of a pawn Black has a big lead in development and has two ways of continuing from here.

Diagram 3 - Position after 13.0-0??

From Diagram 3, Black has two equally strong attacking continuations: 13… Bxh2+ and 13… Ng4.

Black continues with 13… Bxh2+‼
A decisive sacrifice played in the game A. Rine-F. Berry, Bartlesville 2008.

Diagram 4 – Position after 13… Bxh2‼


If 14.Kh1 then 14… Bc7 15.d4 Qd6 16.g3 Qd7 17.Kg1 Qh3, is winning for Black.

14...Ng4+ 15.Kg3

On 15.Kg1 Qh4 wins.

15... Qd6+

Likewise decisive was 15...h5.

16.f4 exf3+ 17.Kxf3 Ne5+ 18.Kf2 Qd4+ 19.Ke1 Nxc4 20.Rf2 Bg4 21.c3 Rae8+ 22.Qe2 Rxe2+ 23.Kd1 Ne3# 0–1

Black continues with 13... Ng4!
From Diagram 3, Black has this equally very good continuation aside from 13… Bxh2.

Diagram 5 – Position after 13… Ng4!

Commencing an attack similar to that of the original Marshall attack in the Ruy Lopez opening.


If 14.g3, then 14… Ne5 15.Be2 Bh3, Black has the upper hand.

14...Qh4 15.Qe2

If 15.d4, then 15… Nh2 16.Nd2 Nxf1, with the advantage to Black.

15... Nh2!

Already there is no salvation for White.

If 16.d4 Nf3+! (also 16... Bxh3! 17.g3 Bxg3! Black wins; on 17.Nd2 Nf3+! 18.Nxf3 exf3 19.Qxf3 Bh2+! 20.Kh1 Bg4!, again winning for Black) 17.gxf3 Bh2+! wins for Black;

on if 16.d3 Nf3+ 17.gxf3 Bh2+ 18.Kxh2 Qxh3+ 19.Kg1 exf3, Black wins material;

if 16.Re1 then 16... Nf3+! 17.gxf3 (17.Kf1 Bxh3 18.Qxe4 Bxg2+! winning after 19.Kxg2 Nxe1+ 20.Qxe1 Qg4+ 21.Kf1 Qh3+ 22.Kg1 Rae8) 17...Qg5+! 18.Kh1 Qf4 19.Kg1 Qh2+ 20.Kf1 Bxh3#; and

if 16.g3 Qxh3 17.Qxe4 Bg4 is winning for Black. The game J. Saenz-D. Gonzalez Gandara, Azkotia 1991, concluded with 18.f4 Bc5+ 19.d4 Bxd4+ 20.Qxd4 Qxg3+ 21.Kh1 Nf3 0–1.
Conclusion: The games A. Rine-F. Berry, Bartlesville 2008 and J. Saenz-D. Gonzalez Gandara, Azkotia 1991 indicate that the first player is either short of or has a shallow preparation.

Anybody who wants to play the modern line should refrain from 11.Nc4? and instead prepare in depth the continuation 11.d4 exd3 12.Nxd3.

The Chess Connoisseur acknowledges and appreciates the various sources used in the preparation of this series.

(End of Part 2 of 3)
To be continued.

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