A Grandmaster’s Guide To The Queen’s Gambit For Black.
A Grandmaster’s Guide To The Queen’s Gambit For Black.
If you check your database you will see that the first time the move was played was in the game Shirov-Azmaiparashvili in 2003. Shirov was lauded at the time for his creativity in the opening and aggressive approach. But nobody knew the real origins of the move, not even Shirov himself!
The story began in 1990 in a place called Fond-du-Lac in Wisconsin, USA. I was playing the World Championship Under-14 and as usual at tournaments there were a lot of books and magazines on sale. The first book I bought would revolutionise my black opening repertoire, The Najdorf for the Tournament Player by John Nunn, still one of my favourite books (a month after the World Championship I finished third in the Yugoslav Under-15 championship mainly thanks to some excellent Najdorf victories)! I bought a lot of other stuff, among other things this issue of Inside Chess (this is the only image I could find on the internet):
|Yasser Seirawan won in Haninge in 1989|
I no longer have the magazine, but I vividly remember reading and absorbing everything inside. Somewhere near the end of the magazine there was a game from 1970 by a certain Karpenko who played the move we are talking about:
|5 g4! A shocking move!|
Now that was something I immediately liked! There was no analysis of the game, just the moves, so I did the digging myself. This had the added benefit of the shocking nature of the move (back in 1990!) and it cut off large masses of Philidor theory. I analysed various options, but the opportunity to play it didn’t present itself for quite some time. In 1994 I played the qualifications for the individual championship of Macedonia, a swiss event where I managed to finish on shared 1st. In Round 5 I finally got the chance to play my surprise:
Far from a great game, and a disastrous opening, but I won! As Capablanca said, one should always play the openings and variations that bring good results. That same year during the summer I played a couple of open tournaments on the Bulgarian coast. In the first one I scored my first ever win against a grandmaster (GM Kirov from Bulgaria) and in Round 5 (again!) I got to play my move one more time. This time things went much better in the opening:
I won again! I started to believe in the good omen the move brought… The third time I played the move was in 2000 at the European rapid championship held in Neum, immediately after the European Club Cup. I played it against the very strong Grandmaster from Kazakhstan Pavel Kotsur. The opening was a great success and I won a good game. But that was the last time I played it, as people didn’t play the Philidor against me in the following years.
In 2002 I played the famous Corsican tournament in Bastia. In Round 1 I was paired on board 3 against Shirov. To my left there was Anand on board 1 and to my right there was Karpov on board 3. I was white, Shirov went for the Najdorf and I played the move 6 h3. I played that move a lot in 2002-2003 and it brought me good results, that is at least 6 years before it became fashionable! The game with Shirov was complicated but eventually I lost. After the game was had a friendly chat and we established good relations.
In 2003 Shirov played his game with Azmaiparashvili and the move 5 g4 became famous. That game was played at the European Team Championship in Plovdiv. I was visiting the tournament and as it happened I ran into Shirov some days after his game with Azmaiparashvili. I immediately asked him about the move 5 g4, whether he knew it from before, perhaps he knew some games with it. To my surprise he said that he didn’t know of any games and that he invented the move himself. Now imagine his surprise when I told him of the Inside Chess game and that I had already played the move 3 times!
There are many such stories with opening novelties and ideas and most of them never see the light of day. I was lucky to be part of at least one of such stories and the history of opening theory. Perhaps the move 5 g4 will always be remembered as Shirov’s move, but I will know that even though I wasn’t the first one, I was there before everybody else!
One of the most wise sayings in chess is “rapid is rapid and blitz is blitz.” This very profound adage once again proved true both in Paris and Leuven. The quality of the games was rather low with blunders galore and inexplicable phenomena. I’ll mention only one – what to make of Kramnik’s 1/9 (yep, that’s 2 draws and 7 losses, 6 of them in a row) on the second day of the Paris blitz? I’ll save the most incredulous of these losses (his last one) for the end of the article.
The lack of quality was amply compensated with excitement and, for the professional, the surprising opening choices of the players. The surprise was actually that the players chose their normal openings and both tournaments were a testing ground of more or less one opening – the Spanish with d3.
Let’s start with the Paris rapid (won by Nakamura with 7/9, half a point ahead of Carlsen) where out of 45 games there was 1 (!!!) Sicilian (with the ever-popular 3 Bb5+) and 17 games that opened with 1 e4 e5 with an incredible score for black – 3 losses, 8 (!!) wins and 6 draws. Out of these 17 games there was 1 Giuoco Piano (but take a look how the trend changed first at the blitz and then in Leuven) and 7 games with the usual 4 d3, avoiding the Berlin. Here the statistics was shocking – black won 4, lost 1 and drew 2 games!
Throughout all the events the move 1 Nf3 was very prominent. If with black the players wanted to kill it off with the Berlin, with white when they wanted to avoid the Berlin they usually played 1 Nf3 and different variations of the Reti and the English Opening occurred. As expected, black didn’t have any problems there.
In the Paris blitz (won jointly by Carlsen and Nakamura with 11.5/18) the Berlin battlefield widened. There were already 4 Giuoco Pianos, 3 with the recently very popular plan with a2-a4. We also had one brave soul, in the guise of the valiant Vachier, who boldly went where no one else dared to go – into the endgame. It all ended as expected, though, with a draw (that he saved). The vast majority of games were again with 4 d3, but this time the statistics favoured white – 6 wins, 2 losses and 1 draw. This shouldn’t fool you though – of these 6 wins, 3 were Carlsen’s and we already know that he can easily improve the statistics of even the worst opening simply because he will win in the end.
After a few days’ break the players moved to Leuven. Here we had Anand instead of Fressinet and it was him who led the first half of the rapid, but eventually the tournament was won by Carlsen with 6/9. From the total number of 45 games there were 15 that started with 1 e4 e5, 2 less than in the Paris rapid. The number of Sicilians increased by 300% – there were 3 of them, 2 Najdorfs and one 3 Bb5+. All of them were drawn. There were also 5 Giuoco Pianos, with excellent results for white, 3 wins and 2 draws. Still the players couldn’t end the love affair with the 4 d3 in the Spanish – 8 games this time, but with a better statistics for white – 3 wins (2 of those against Kramnik), 2 losses and 3 draws.
The blitz was also won by Carlsen, this time alone with 11/18. Except for the Paris rapid, when he came second, Carlsen won everything else, once again demonstrating that he is the most consistent player not only in classical chess. Sometimes I think that had Fischer continued to play perhaps he would have established such domination – he would have had fierce competition in Karpov, but this would have pushed him even more. Of course, this is just (exciting) wishful thinking on my part.
There were whole 9 Sicilians in the blitz – perhaps they remembered that it was possible to move another pawn on move 1? The results were encouraging for black, 5 wins, 3 losses and 1 draw. The Najdorf also scored well, 3 wins and 2 losses. The Giuoco Piano finally wrestled the domination from the Spanish with 4 d3 – there were 12 games with it, but amazingly white didn’t win a single game while losing 2! The Spanish with 4 d3 was played only 6 times, the players probably getting enough of it.
Worth noting is that in the Leuven blitz one third of the games (34 out of 90) were some sort of an English Opening, Reti or anything in between, white starting with 1 Nf3 or 1 c4. Whether this was result of the fatigue with the Spanish and various solid options black has after 1 d4 or a desire to obtain something more fresh and keep the main weapons for the classical controls remains to be seen.
As promised I saved the best (or worst!) for last. Here’s Kramnik’s last round loss from the Paris blitz. It’s a dead draw, of course, but…
|45…f5?? 46 Nc5 g4 47 Ne6#|
It is important to define here what I mean by “refutation.” It is not a forced win, that is for sure! If white obtains a stable and safe advantage out of the opening in all the lines and at the same time black’s position lacks perspective and has no way to evolve then I consider an opening, or a variation, to have been refuted. I hope to show in the analysis below that this is valid for the Budapest Gambit.
The following analysis is based on a lot of my own work and games and two great books – Squeezing the Gambits by Kiril Georgiev (2010) and Grandmaster Repertoire 2 – 1 d4 Volume Two by Boris Avrukh (2010).
The following game is from the Berane tournament I won back in 1998. It was a category 8 round-robin tournament with 14 participants and lasted for two weeks (there was even a free day in the middle of the tournament). The blasphemy of two games a day didn’t even occur to people back then. My score of 9.5/13 also brought me my first GM norm. I remember that my daily routine was get up around 11am, take a walk, eat lunch, prepare for the game, play the game, eat dinner and read Shakespeare’s Complete Works before sleep. In those two weeks during the tournament I read all the plays and almost all of the sonnets!
This game is also one of the most spectacular games I’ve ever played. The following diagram shows the star move of the game:
My opponent was Julian Radulski, who would later on become a good friend, a GM, and achieve rating of over 2600. Julian tragically died in 2013 at the age of 41, but he is fondly remembered by anyone who knew him.
The opening phase of the game is not of much interest today, but the character of play that followed is very much in the best spirit of the KID. I start my comments from the moment the real chaos begins. Here’s the game and you can enjoy it together with the lines that remained unplayed: