Friday, April 6, 2007

The Copycat Syndrome

In the book Sicilian Dragon: Yugoslav Attack, Miles and Moskow give: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 O-O 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.h4 Rc8 11.Bb3 Ne5 12.O-O-O Nc4 13.Bxc4 Rxc4 14.h5 Nxh5 15.g4 Nf6 16.Nde2 Qa5 17.Bh6 Bxh6 18.Qxh6 Rfc8 19.Rd3 Be6 20.g5 Nh5 21.Ng3 Qe5 22.Nxh5 gxh5 23.Qxh5 Qg7 24.f4.

The authors give 24...b5!, calling the position unclear. In their recent book Sicilian Dragon, Schiller and Goldman also give this as Black's "best", citing the earlier book as their source. But, after 25.f5 b4 26.Rdh3! bxc3 27.Qxh7+ Qxh7 28.Rxh7 cxb2+ 29.Kb1, Black can not prevent mate.

James R. West
Kearny, New Jersey

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This copycat syndrome is an old story, and your analysis is sound. In the stem game Zambon-Wagman, Italy 1974, Wagman himself recommended 24...b5! in his notes. The actual game was drawn after 24...d5 (in retrospect this looks okay; if 25.exd5 Bf5) 25.Rhd1 b5 26.f5 b4 27.fxe6 bxc3 28.exf7+ Qxf7 29.Qxf7+ Kxf7, draw. It's amazing how we are cowed by those exclams which prevent so many players from looking deeper into the position. The "book" is replete with these phony fossils. Someday analysts will learn to do their homework.

Grandmaster Larry Evans

{This article originally appeared in Larry Evans on Chess in the May 1988 issue of Chess Life. It won "The Best Question" prize.}