Monday, February 12, 2007

PCG Letters

In the past few months*, I received a number of letters from chess players who have read my book The Dynamic Philidor Counter-Gambit. The first is from Neil Yeager of Rio Nido, who writes as follows:

"I am an A player (USCF 1888) here in California and just received a copy of your new PCG book. The PCG is so dynamic and complex and interesting. I've spent hours in analysis on some of the key lines. Here are some ideas for your perusal. I don't have a data base, so maybe some of these lines have already been seen. In Chapter Two (6...Bc5), White seems to get an excellent game using 10.g4, i.e. 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 f5 4.dxe5 fxe4 5.Ng5 d5 6.e6 Bc5 7.Nf7 Qf6 8.Be3 d4 9.Bg5 Qf5 10.g4!."

Here Yeager considers only 10...Qxe6 and 10...Qg6, after which Black is in trouble. But I like 10...Qd5!?. For example, 11.c4 Qxe6 12.Nxh8 Nc6 13.Bg2 Ne5 14.O-O Nxg4 15.Re1 N8f6 16.b4 Bd6 17.f4 c5 18.h3 Ne3 19.f5 Qe5 20.Bxe3 dxe3 21.bxc5 Bc7 is strong for Black.

Yeager's second suggestion of an earlier improvement for Black 8...Bxe6 (instead of 8...d4) 9.Nxh8 d4 (correct is 9...Bxe3) is refuted by 10.Qh5ch! g6 11.Qxc5 dxe3 12.fxe3 Qxh8 13.Nc3.

Andrew M. Scherman of St. Petersburg, Florida writes:

"I read your book on the Philidor Counter Gambit with great interest. The position after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 f5 is a position I also reach when playing the Latvian Gambit. So, my problem is this: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 f5 4.exf5 e4 5.Ng5 Bxf5.

Here the books usually give 6.Nc3 d5 where 7.f3 creates some problems. The best theory after 7.f3 is 7...e3, anticipating 8.Bxe3 h6 9.Nh3 Bxh3 10.gxh3 and the pawn minus is a doubled isolated h-pawn. The game is even. Meanwhile, what about 6.f3!, and 6...e3 is answered by 7.Bxe3 h6 8.Ne4 Bxe4 8.fxe Qh4ch 9.Bf2 Qxe4ch 10.Be2 and White is much better? I don't see any way to avoid this. Your input would be appreciated."

Scherman raises several interesting questions. First of all, 5...Bxf5 is not forced. An important alternative is 5...Nf6. Secondly, after 5...Bxf5 6.Nc3 d5 7.f3, Black can venture 7...Bb4 8.fxe4 dxe4 9.Bc4 Nc6 10.Nf7 Qh4ch 11.g3 Qh3 12.Bf1 Bg4 13.Bxh3 Bxd1 14.Nxh8 Bf3, as in Greene-Liepnieks, USA 1970 which was won by Black in 29 moves. And, after 6.f3 e3 7.Bxe3, there is a way to avoid the line that he gives.

In October 1998, my game as Black at the Manhattan Chess Club against an unrated player named Kassem Toubale (who finished the tournament with a provisional rating of USCF 2167, having beaten a master and an expert in the preceding rounds) continued with 7...Qe7!? 8.Qe2 (both 8.Kf2 and 8.Kd2 allow 8...h6 9.Ne4 Bxe4 10.fxe Nf6 with good compensation) Bxc2 9.Qxc2 (9.Na3!? Bf5 10.g4 Bc8 11.O-O-O Nd7 12.Nb5 Ndf6 13.d5 a6 14.Nc3 h6 15.Nge4 Bd7 16.Bg2 O-O-O is unclear) Qxe3+ 10.Qe2 Qxe2+ 11.Bxe2 Be7 12.Ne6 Kd7 13.d5 Nf6 14.Nc3 g6 15.O-O c6 16.Nf4 g5 17.dxc6+ bxc6 18.Nd3 Kc7 19.Rac1 Nbd7 20.Nb4 Nc5 21.Rfe1 Rhe8 22.Nd3 Nxd3 23.Bxd3 Bf8 24.Nb5+ Kb6 25.Nd4 c5 26.Ne6 Bh6 27.b4! cxb4 28.Rc7 g4! 29.Rf7 Nd5 30.Kf1 Ne3+ 31.Rxe3 Bxe3 32.Nc7 gxf3 33.Nxa8+ Rxa8 34.Rxf3 Bh6 35.Bxh7 Rf8 36.Rxf8 Bxf8 with an equal position that was drawn in 51 moves.

I also traded letters with Newark Star-Ledger chess columnist (and Atlantic Chess News correspondence columnist) Pete Tamburro regarding a game of mine as Black at the Manhattan Chess Club in May 1998 against senior master Yury Lapshun. The game was eventually printed in a late September issue of the Sunday edition. Here are the moves: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 f5 4.Nc3 exd4 5.Qxd4 fxe4 6.Nxe4 Nf6 7.Bg5 Be7 8.Bc4 Nc6 9.Qd3 (equal is 9.Qe3 Ng4 10.Qb3 Nge5 11.Nxe5 Nxe5 12.Bxe7 Qxe7 13.O-O-O Nxc4 14.Qxc4 Qf7) d5 (unclear is 9...Nb4!? 10.Nxf6ch gxf6 11.Qc3 Nxc2ch 12.Qxc2 fxg5 13.O-O-O Bg4 14.Qe4 Bxf3 15.Qxf3 c6) 10.Bxf6 dxe4?! (10...dxc4!? 11.Qxd8ch Bxd8)

11.Qxe4? (11.Qxd8+ Nxd8 12.Bxg7 exf3 13.Bxh8 fxg2 14.Rg1 Bh3 15.Be5 with advantage) gxf6 12.Rd1 Bd7 13.O-O (13.Be6 Bxe6! 14.Rxd8+ Nxd8 with advantage to Black) Kf8 14.Rfe1 Bd6 15.Qd5 Be8 16.Rd3 Kg7 17.Rde3 Rf8 18.Nh4 Bf7 19.Qe4 Bg6 20.Nxg6 hxg6 21.f4? (time) Bc5 22.Bd3 f5 23.Qf3 Re8 24.Kf1 Rxe3 25.Rxe3 Bxe3 26.Qxe3 Qe7 27.Qg3 Re8 28.h4 Qe3 29.Qxe3 Rxe3 30.Kf2 Re7 31.a3 Kf6 32.g3 a5 33.Bc4 Nd4 34.Bd3 c6 35.Kf1 b5 36.Kf2 b4 37.a4 b3 38.c3 Ne6 39.Bc4 Nc5 40.Kf1 Re4 41.Bg8 Rxa4, and White resigned. Winning this game enabled me to go 4-0 in the tournament and win the $65 first prize (coincidentally on the same day that David Wells pitched a 4-0 perfect game for the New York Yankees!).

Tamburro's first suggestion of 9.Nxf6+ Bxf6 10.Qd5 Qe7+ 11.Kd2 can be met by 11...Bxg5+ 12.Nxg5 Ne5 13.Ne4 (13.f4?! c6 14.Qd4 Nxc4+ 15.Qxc4 d5 16.Qd4 O-O or 16.Qd3 Qb4+ favors Black) Qf7 14.Qb5+ Qd7. A better try is 11.Kf1!? Kd8 12.Re1 Qf8 with an unclear position.

After my recommended improvement of 10...dxc4 11.Qxd8+ Bxd8, Tamburro prefers 12.Bxd8 Nxd8 13.O-O O-O 14.Ng3 over my continuation of 12.Bxg7 Rg8 13.Bc3 Rxg2. But in Pete's line, 14...Nf7 15.Rfe1 Nd6 16.Re7 Rf7 17.Rae1 Kf8 18.R7e3 Kg8 19.Ng5 Rf8 20.Re7 h6 holds for Black.

The key to Black's defense is the powerful knight on d6 which overprotects the pawn on c4 and denies White's rooks entry to the back rank.

Finally, in the Star-Ledger column, Tamburro gives 8.O-O-O O-O 9.Nxf6+ Bxf6 10.Bc4+ Kh8 11.Bxf6 gxf6 12.Ng5 Nc6 13.Qc3 Ne5 14.Ne6 as advantageous to White. But better than 13...Ne5 is 13...Qe7 14.Rhe1 Qg7 15.Ne6 Bxe6 16.Rxe6 Rae8.

And Black has completed his development.

*{This article originally appeared in the November-December 1998 issue of Atlantic Chess News}