Saturday, February 10, 2007

Larsen's Opening

Larsen's Opening 1.b3 is a good way to avoid an opponent's favorite defenses while at the same time affording White the opportunity to transpose into systems with colors reversed that are normally playable for Black but with the added tempo are favorable for White. Specifically, I am referring to reversed Dutch and Sicilian positions. Some of Bobby Fischer's games will illustrate this point.

In Fischer-Mecking, Palma de Majorca 1970, we see the standard Dutch set-up. The game began with 1.b3 d5 2.Bb2 c5 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.e3 Nf6 5.Bb5 Bd7 6.O-O e6 7.d3 Be7 8.Bxc6 Bxc6 9.Ne5 Rc8 10.Nd2 O-O 11.f4.

White has an ideal position from the Dutch Defense but a tempo up. The key square is e5 which at present is occupied by a knight, supported by the pawn on f4 and the powerful bishop on b2. Note that White gladly exchanged his king bishop, which had no say in the struggle for the e5 square, for the black knight on c6. In addition, White's rooks are prepared to utilize the semi-open f-file to create mating threats, supported by a timely queen move to g4 or h5. Mecking tried his best to neutralize all these threats, but to no avail, following 11... Nd7 12.Qg4 Nxe5 13.Bxe5 Bf6 14.Rf3 Qe7 15.Raf1 a5 16.Rg3 Bxe5 17.fxe5 f5 18.exf6 Rxf6 19.Qxg7+ Qxg7 20.Rxf6 Qxg3 21.hxg3 Re8 22.g4 a4 23.Nf3 axb3 24.axb3 Kg7 25.g5 e5 26.Nh4 Bd7 27.Rd6 Be6 28.Kf2 Kf7 29.Rb6 Re7 30.e4 dxe4 31.dxe4 c4 32.b4 Bg4 33.Ke3 Rd7 34.g6+ Kf8 35.gxh7 Rxh7 36.Ng6+ Ke8 37.Nxe5 Bc8 38.Nxc4 Kd8 39.Nd6 Rg7 40.Kf2 Kc7 41.Nxc8 Kxc8 42.Rd6, and here Mecking finally resigned.

A good example of a reversed Najdorf Sicilian is the game Fischer-Andersson, Siegen 1970, which opened with 1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.c4 Nf6 4.e3 Be7 5.a3 O-O 6.Qc2 Re8 7.d3 Bf8 8.Nf3 a5 9.Be2 d5 10.cxd5 Nxd5 11.Nbd2 f6 12.O-O Be6 13.Kh1.

White has a position that, with colors reversed, would already be at least equal for the defender. But, with the added tempo, the position is clearly advantageous for White, as the further course of the game showed: 13...Qd7 14.Rg1 Rad8 15.Ne4 Qf7 16.g4 g6 17.Rg3 Bg7 18.Rag1 Nb6 19.Nc5 Bc8 20.Nh4 Nd7 21.Ne4 Nf8 22.Nf5 Be6 23.Nc5 Ne7 24.Nxg7 Kxg7 25.g5 Nf5 26.Rf3 b6 27.gxf6+ Kh8 28.Nxe6 Rxe6 29.d4 exd4 30.Bc4 d3 31.Bxd3 Rxd3 32.Qxd3 Rd6 33.Qc4 Ne6 34.Be5 Rd8 35.h4 Nd6 36.Qg4 Nf8 37.h5 Ne8 38.e4 Rd2 39.Rh3 Kg8 40.hxg6 Nxg6 41.f4 Kf8 42.Qg5 Nd6 43.Bxd6+, and Black resigned.

Compare this game to Soruco-Fischer, Havana 1966 which opened as follows: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bc4 e6 7.Bb3 b5 8.a3 Be7 9.Be3 O-O 10.O-O Bb7 11.f3 Nbd7 12.Qd2 Ne5 13.Qf2 Qc7 14.Rac1 Kh8.

Here the enemy king bishop is more aggressively placed, but the strategy of pushing the g-pawn and doubling rooks behind it remains the same after 15.Nce2 Rg8 16.Kh1 g5 17.h3 Rg6 18.Ng3 Rag8. Unfortunately the game was now decided by a blunder: 19.Nxe6 fxe6 20.Bxe6 Nxe4 21.Nxe4 Rxe6, and here White resigned.

Another example of a reversed Sicilian (although this time, not the Najdorf variation) is Fischer-Tukmakov, Buenos Aires 1970. The opening moves were 1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.c4 Nf6 4.e3 Be7 5.a3 O-O 6.d3 d5 7.cxd5 Qxd5 8.Nc3 Qd6 9.Nf3 Bf5 10.Qc2 Rfd8 11.Rd1 h6 12.h3 Qe6 13.Nd2 Nd7 14.Be2 Kh8 15.O-O Bg6 16.b4 a6.

Note the awkward placement of the black queen, which Fischer exploited by 17.Rc1 Rac8 18.Rfd1 f5 19.Na4 Na7 20.Nb3 b6 21.d4 f4 22.e4 Nb5 23.Bg4 Qf6 24.dxe5 Nxe5 25.Bxc8 Rxc8 26.Rd5, compelling Black's resignation.

A double-fianchetto variation that resembles neither the Dutch nor the Sicilian was seen in Fischer-Filip, Palma de Majorca 1970. Here are the moves: 1.b3 d5 2.Bb2 Nf6 3.Nf3 e6 4.g3 Be7 5.Bg2 O-O 6.O-O c5 7.c4 Nc6 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.Nc3 Bf6 10.Qc1 b6 11.Nxd5 exd5 12.d4 Ba6 13.Re1 Nxd4 14.Bxd4 cxd4 15.Qa3 Bb7 16.Rad1 Be7 17.Qa4 Qe8 18.Qxd4.

Although Black has the bishop pair, the weakness of his d-pawn is decisive. The game concluded with 18...Rc8 19.Qf4 Bf6 20.Nd4 Be5 21.Qe3 g6 22.Nb5 Qxb5 23.Qxe5 Rfe8 24.Qb2 Rc5 25.h4 Rec8 26.Rd2 Rc3 27.Red1 Qc5 28.b4 Qe7 29.e3 h5 30.a3 Kh7 31.Bxd5 Bxd5 32.Rxd5 Qe4 33.Rd8 Qf3 34.Kh2 R8c4 35.R1d7 g5 36.Rf8 Kg6 37.Rg8+ Kh7 38.Rxg5 Rc8 39.Rdd5 Kh6 40.Rdf5, and Black resigned this hopeless position.

Perhaps the most exciting game in this opening was played at queen knight odds by White! The game in question is Morphy-Maurian, New Orleans 1869. It began with 1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.e3 d5 4.g3 f5 5.Nh3 Nf6 6.Bb5 Bd6 7.f4 Qe7 8.O-O O-O 9.c4 a6 10.Bxc6 bxc6 11.fxe5 Bxe5 12.d4 Bd6 13.c5 Qxe3+ 14.Kg2 Be7 15.Re1 Ng4 16.Bc1 Qc3 17.Bd2 Qxd4 18.Rxe7 Qxc5.

White has won back the piece that he voluntarily removed from the board at the start of the game. But it has cost him three pawns in the process. The remaining moves were:19.Qe2 d4 20.b4 Qd5+ 21.Kg1 d3 22.Bc3 Rf7 23.Re8+ Rf8 24.Qe7 Qf7 25.Ng5 Qxe7 26.Rxe7 Nf6 27.Rae1 a5 28.Rxc7 Re8 29.Rd1 axb4 30.Bxf6 gxf6 31.Nxh7 Re6 32.Rxd3 Ba6 33.Rdd7 Bc4 34.a4 bxa3 35.Rg7+ Kh8 36.Nf8, and White won. The finest move of the contest may have been White's 34th, a simple pawn push that left Black's counterattack one tempo short.

Here are some illustrative games, from my own over-the-board play. A few were played at Game/30 or Game/45 time controls, which explains Black's reluctance to resign.

Reversed Dutch Systems

Game #1
Jim West (USCF 2227) - Vinko Rutar (USCF 2113), Hamilton NJ 9/26/98

1.b3 d5 2.Bb2 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.f4 Be7 5.Nf3 O-O 6.Be2 c5 7.O-O b6 8.Ne5 Bb7 9.d3 Nbd7 10.Nd2 Nxe5 11.Bxe5 d4 12.exd4 Nd5 13.Bf3 Nc3 14.Qe1 Bxf3 15.Nxf3 Nd5 16.dxc5 Bxc5+ 17.Kh1 f6 18.Bb2 Nxf4 19.g3 Ng6 20.Qxe6+ Kh8 21.Rae1 Qc7 22.c4 Rad8 23.d4 Be7 24.d5 Bd6 25.Kg2 a6 26.Qh3 Rfe8 27.Nh4 Nxh4+ 28.Qxh4 b5 29.Qh5 Rf8 30.Re4 bxc4 31.Rh4 h6 32.bxc4 Qa5 33.Rf2 Be5 34.Bxe5 fxe5 35.Rxf8+ Rxf8 36.Qxe5 Qd2+ 37.Kh3 Rf2 38.Qe8+ Kh7 39.Qe4+ Kg8 40.Rf4 Re2 41.Qf3 Rxh2+ 42.Kg4 h5+ 43.Kg5 Re2 44.Kxh5 Re5+ 45.Kg4 Qc2 46.Kh3 Qh7+ 47.Rh4 Qb1 48.d6 g5 49.Qa8+ Kg7 50.Qh8+ Kf7 51.Qh7+ Qxh7 52.Rxh7+ Ke8 53.Re7+ Rxe7 54.dxe7 Kxe7 55.Kg4 Kd6 56.Kxg5 Kc5 57.Kf6 a5 58.g4 a4 59.g5 Kxc4 60.g6, 1-0.

Game #2
Jim West (USCF 2200) - Eric Ross (USCF 2142), Hamilton NJ 6/27/98

1.b3 d5 2.Bb2 Nf6 3.e3 Bg4 4.Be2 Bxe2 5.Qxe2 c6 6.f4 Nbd7 7.Nf3 e6 8.O-O Qc7 9.d3 Bc5 10.Nbd2 O-O-O 11.Ne5 Nxe5 12.fxe5 Ng8 13.d4 Bf8 14.c4 Nh6 15.cxd5 exd5 16.e4 Bb4 17.exd5 Rxd5 18.Ne4 Rhd8 19.Rac1 Qe7 20.a3 Bxa3 21.Rxc6+ bxc6 22.Qa6+ Qb7 23.Qxa3 g6 24.Nc5 Qb6 25.e6 fxe6 26.Nxe6 Nf5 27.Nxd8 Rxd8 28.Kh1 Kb7 29.g4 Qb5 30.Ra1 Qd5+ 31.Kg1 Ne3 32.Qe7+ Qd7 33.Qxe3 Qxg4+ 34.Kh1 Qf5 35.Re1 Rd5 36.Ba3 Rd7 37.Bc5 Qd5+ 38.Kg1 Rf7 39.Rf1 Rxf1+ 40.Kxf1 Qh1+ 41.Ke2 Qxh2+ 42.Kd3 Qh5 43.Qe7+ Kc8 44.Qe8+ Kc7 45.Qe5+ Qxe5 46.dxe5 a6 47.e6 h5 48.Ke4 Kd8 49.Kf4, 1-0.

Game #3
Jim West (USCF 2200) - Rich Napoli (2000), Marshall Chess Club 3/21/98

1.b3 Nf6 2.Bb2 g6 3.f4 Bg7 4.Nf3 O-O 5.e3 d6 6.Be2 a5 7.a4 Nc6 8.O-O h6 9.Na3 e5 10.fxe5 Ng4 11.Qc1 Ngxe5 12.Nxe5 Nxe5 13.Nc4 Qe7 14.Nxe5 Bxe5 15.Bf3 Qh4 16.Bxe5 dxe5 17.Qb2 e4 18.Be2 Be6 19.Qc3 Rad8 20.Rf4 Qg5 21.Rxe4 h5 22.Re5 Qh6 23.Rf1 b6 24.Re4 Qg5 25.Rf2 c5 26.Bc4 Bxc4 27.Qxc4 Rd7 28.Ref4 Qd8 29.d3 Qe7 30.Qe4 Qg5 31.Rf6 h4 32.Qf4 Qxf4 33.R2xf4 h3 34.Rxb6 hxg2 35.Kxg2 Kg7 36.Rb5 Rd5 37.e4 Rg5+ 38.Kf2 Rh8 39.h4 Rgh5 40.Rxa5 g5 41.Rg4, 1-0.

Game #4
Jim West (USCF 2232) - David Grasso (USCF 2211), Somerset NJ 4/5/98

1.b3 Nf6 2.Bb2 d5 3.e3 Bf5 4.f4 e6 5.Nf3 Nbd7 6.Be2 Bd6 7.O-O Bg4 8.Ne5 Bxe2 9.Qxe2 O-O 10.d3 Qe7 11.a4 c6 12.Nd2 Ne8 13.Nxd7 Qxd7 14.Qg4 f5 15.Qe2 Nf6 16.Nf3 Qe7 17.Ne5 Nd7 18.Nxd7 Qxd7 19.Rf3 Be7 20.Rg3 Bf6 21.Bxf6 Rxf6 22.Rf1 Raf8 23.Rff3 Qd6 24.d4 Qb4 25.Rf2 c5 26.Qd2 Qxd2 27.Rxd2 Rc8 28.Kf2 Rf7 29.Ke2 c4 30.b4 c3 31.Rd1 Rc4 32.Rb1 a5 33.bxa5 Rxa4 34.Rb5 Rc7 35.Rf3 Ra2 36.Kd3 Ra1 37.Rf2 Kf7 38.Rb3 Re1 39.Rb5 Kf6 40.Rc5 Rxc5 41.dxc5 Ra1 42.Kxc3 Rxa5 43.Kb4 Ra2 44.Kb3 Ra1 45.c4 Re1 46.cxd5 Rxe3+ 47.Kc4 Re4+ 48.Kb5 exd5 49.Kb6 Rb4+ 50.Kc7 h6 51.g3 g5 52.fxg5+ hxg5 53.Kd6 d4 54.Kd5, draw.

Game #5
Jim West (USCF 2200) - Vinko Rutar (USCF 2136), Somerset NJ 6/7/98

1.b3 d5 2.Bb2 Nf6 3.e3 Nc6 4.f4 g6 5.Nf3 Bg7 6.Bb5 O-O 7.O-O a6 8.Bxc6 bxc6 9.Qc1 Bb7 10.Ne5 c5 11.d3 Nd7 12.Nxd7 Qxd7 13.Bxg7 Kxg7 14.Qb2+ d4 15.e4 e5 16.Nd2 exf4 17.Rxf4 f5 18.Raf1 fxe4 19.dxe4 Rxf4 20.Rxf4 Re8 21.Qa1 Re5 22.Qf1 Qe7 23.Qd3 g5 24.Rf1 a5 25.Re1 Bc6 26.h3 h6 27.a4 Qe8 28.Qa6 h5 29.Qxa5 c4 30.Qxc7+ Re7 31.Qg3 c3 32.Qxg5+ Kh8 33.Nf3 Rxe4 34.Rxe4 Qxe4 35.Qd8+ Kg7 36.Qxd4+ Qxd4+ 37.Nxd4 Be4 38.g4 hxg4 39.hxg4 Kf6 40.Kf2 Ke5 41.Ke3, 1-0.

Reversed Sicilian Systems

Game #6
Jim West (USCF 2221) - Michael Amori (USCF 2014), Manhattan Chess Club 8/16/98

1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 d6 3.c4 Nf6 4.d3 b6 5.Nf3 Bb7 6.e3 Nbd7 7.Be2 g6 8.O-O Bg7 9.Nbd7 a5 10.a3 O-O 11.Qc2 Qe8 12.e4 Nh5 13.Rfe1 f5 14.Bf1 f4 15.b4 Qe7 16.bxa5 Rxa5 17.Nb3 Raa8 18.a4 g5 19.h3 h6 20.a5 Rf6 21.axb6 Rxa1 22.Rxa1 Nxb6 23.c5 dxc5 24.Nxc5 Bc8 25.Nxe5 f3 26.g3 Bf8 27.Ng4 Bxg4 28.hxg4 Nxg3 29.Bxf6 Qxf6 30.Qa2+ Kh7 31.Ne6 Bd6 32.d4 Ne2+ 33.Bxe2 fxe2 34.Re1 Qf3 35.Qxe2 Qh3 36.e5 Bb4 37.Qe4+ Kh8 38.Re3 Nc4, 1-0.

Game #7
Jim West (USCF 2221) - Brian Bugbee (USCF 2008), New Jersey Open 9/6/98

1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 d6 3.c4 Nf6 4.g3 g6 5.Bg2 Bg7 6.Nc3 O-O 7.d3 Nc6 8.e3 Nh5 9.Nge2 f5 10.Nd5 Ne7 11.Qd2 c6 12.Nxe7+ Qxe7 13.O-O-O f4 14.exf4 exf4 15.Rhe1 Qf7 16.Nxf4 Nxf4 17.gxf4 Bxb2+ 18.Kxb2 Qxf4 19.Qxf4 Rxf4 20.Rd2 Bg4 21.Re4 Raf8 22.Rxf4 Rxf4 23.Be4 Bf3 24.Kc3 Kf7 25.Kd4 Bg4 26.Ke3 Rf6 27.f3 Be6 28.d4 d5 29.cxd5 cxd5 30.Bd3 Bf5 31.Bxf5 gxf5 32.Kf4 a6 33.Rc2 Kg6 34.Rc7 Rb6 35.Rd7 a5 36.Rxd5 a4 37.bxa4 Rb2 38.Rb5 Rxh2 39.Rb6+ Kg7 40.Rxb7+ Kg6 41.Rb6+ Kg7 42.Kxf5 Rh5+ 43.Ke4 Ra5 44.Rb4 h5 45.Rb5 Rxa4 46.Rxh5 Rxa2 47.Ke5 Ra3 48.f4 Ra5+ 49.d5 Ra1 50.f5 Ra5 51.f6+ Kg6 52.Rh1 Ra6 53.Rg1+ Kf7 54.Rg7+ Kf8 55.Rb7 Ra5 56.Ke6 Ra1 57.Rb8mate.

Game #8
Jim West (USCF 2232) - Michael Amori (USCF 2021), Manhattan Chess Club 5/17/98

1.b3 d6 2.Bb2 e5 3.c4 Nc6 4.d3 f5 5.g3 Nf6 6.Bg2 Be7 7.e3 O-O 8.Nc3 Qe8 9.Nge2 Bd7 10.Nd5 Bd8 11.O-O f4 12.exf4 Qh5 13.Nec3 Qh6 14.Nxf6+ Bxf6 15.Nd5 Bd8 16.fxe5 Nxe5 17.Bc1 g5 18.f4 Ng4 19.h3 Qg7 20.d4 Nh6 21.fxg5 Rxf1+ 22.Qxf1 Nf5 23.Nf6+ Bxf6 24.gxf6 Qxf6 25.Bb2 Rf8 26.g4 Qg5 27.gxf5 Bxf5 28.Kh1 Be6 29.Qe2 Rf6 30.d5, 1-0.

Game #9
Jim West (USCF 2200) - Marcus Mairena (USCF 2025), Marshall Chess Club 3/12/98

1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.c4 d6 4.d3 Nf6 5.Nf3 Be7 6.e3 O-O 7.Be2 a5 8.a3 Nd7 9.O-O f5 10.Qc2 Nf6 11.Nbd2 Qe8 12.Rfe1 Qf7 13.Bc3 Kh8 14.b4 a4 15.b5 Nd8 16.Nf1 h6 17.Ng3 g5 18.c5 g4 19.cxd6 cxd6 20.Nd2 Bd7 21.d4 f4 22.Nge4 Nxe4 23.Nxe4 d5 24.dxe5 Ne6 25.Nf6 Bxf6 26.exf6 f3 27.Bd3 Rg8 28.g3 Rac8 29.Qb2 Ng5 30.Rac1 Ne4 31.Bd4 Rgf8 32.Rxc8 Bxc8 33.Rc1 Be6 34.b6 Rd8 35.Rc7 Rd7 36.Rxd7 Bxd7 37.Qc2 Nxf6 38.Qc7 Kg8 39.Bxf6 Qxf6 40.Qxd7 Qxb6 41.Qxd5+ Kg7 42.Qd4+ Qxd4 43.exd4, and White won in 66 moves.

{This article originally appeared in the January-February 1999 issue of Atlantic Chess News}