Tuesday, December 30, 2008

E-mail from Matt Fleury

Mr. West,

After purchasing your book on the PCG in 1997, I have been a fan of the complicated nature of the opening. I do have questions concerning a couple of the critical lines.

A) Personally, after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 f5 4.Nc3, I have preferred 4...exd4 here, followed by 5...fxe4, liquidating the center at once, believing that 4...fxe4 5.Nxe4 d5 6.Neg5! is busted for Black. However, I have noticed in the database that you still play 5...d5 and your opponents have responded with 6.Nxe5 instead of 6.Neg5!. My first question is: what do you have in mind against 6.Neg5!?

B) Most players (including computers) go for this: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 f5 4.dxe5 fxe4 5.Ng5 d5 6.e6. I see that you have played 6...Nh6 (which looks risky) and 6...Bc5 with success. Christian Bauer wrote a book on the Philidor, and he recommends 6...Nf6. I have tried this move against strong computer programs, and both games continued 6...Nf6 7.Nf7 Qe7 8.Nxh8 Be6 9.c4!!, and I found it hard to: (1) maintain the center, (2) develop the b-knight and ...O-O-O quickly, and (3) absorb the knight in the corner. My second question: is 6...Bc5 (6...Bb4+) the only playable move?

C) And finally, in the first of the series of Secrets of Opening Surprises, an anti-Dutch remedy is given 1.Nf3 f5 2.d3 d6 3.e4 e5 4.Nc3 with the idea of exf5 and d4. Imagine, in a PCG move order, someone playing 1. e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Nc3 f5 4.d3!?. I could not imagine anything more stupid! However, White has been scoring well in this line. My question: what do you think of this, and have you ever faced it before? If this move order is best, then THIS line may be the true bust of the PCG, and White players will not have to mess around with any other line.

I thank you for your time.


Matt Fleury
Mountlake Terrace, WA

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A) After 6.Neg5!, Black should avoid 6...h6 7.Nf7! Kxf7 8.Nxe5+ or 6...e4 7.Ne5 Nh6 8.Nxe4! and should try 6...exd4 7.Nxd4 Qe7+ which I have used successfully.

B) Other sixth moves may be playable for Black, but after experimenting with 6...Nh6 I now prefer 6...Bc5 with the idea of 7.Nc3 Nf6 8.Nf7 Qe7 9.Nxh8 Bxe6 which is an improvement on Bauer's line because: (1) Black's king bishop has developed, and (2) White does not have c4 at his disposal.

C) Responding to an e-mail on the game Carlsen-Dolmatov, Moscow 2004, here is what I wrote in April 2007.

In my opinion, Dolmatov's mistake was in playing 4...Nc6 instead of the natural move 4...Nf6. By my count, I have reached the position after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Nc3 f5 4.d3 in ten games as Black. And in every one of them, I opted for 4...Nf6.

It is not clear whether Black's queen knight belongs on c6 or d7. Philidor himself would have frowned on a move like 4...Nc6 which obstructs the pawn on c7. Probably Black's c-pawn belongs on c6 rather than the queen knight.

My experience has shown that, in general, Black should play ...Nc6 only when White has already played Bc4. There are two reasons for this: (1) if Black plays ...Nc6 before White has committed his king bishop to c4, then White has the option of playing Bb5 without wasting a tempo; (2) with the white bishop on c4, Black often follows ...Nc6 with a timely ...Na5, which usually chases the bishop from the a2-g8 diagonal or exchanges favorably the black knight for the white bishop.