Saturday, March 31, 2007

English Opening

Dear James:

Here is my game against David Levin in the recent New Jersey Open.* I followed the book for the first few moves before deciding on a plan. Perhaps you could expand on my annotations.

Saul Wanetick
Toms River, NJ

NM Saul Wanetick - FM David Levin, New Jersey Open 1989

1.Nf3 c5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nc3 g6 4.g3 Bg7 5.Bg2 e5

Black breaks the symmetry but creates a weak point at his d5 square. [Wanetick]

6.d3 d6 7.O-O Nge7 8.Nd2

I thought of placing my knight on e1 followed by Nc2, but my hand placed the knight on d2. [Wanetick]

Watson gives by transposition 8.Ne1 O-O 9.Nc2 Be6 as satisfactory for Black. [West]

8...O-O 9.Rb1 Be6

With this move, Black threatens to push ...d5 or challenge the d5 square. [Wanetick]

10.a3 f5 11.Nd5

On second thought, I decided to stop ...d5. [Wanetick]


Black prevents 12.b4 since 12...axb4 13.axb4 Bxd5 14.cxd5 Nxb4 wins a pawn. [Wanetick]

12.b3 Rb8 13.Bb2 b5 14.Ba1 Qd7 15.e3 Bf7 16.Nxe7+ Nxe7 17.Qc2 b4?

This blunder allows White to occupy the open a-file first. [Wanetick]

18.axb4 axb4 19.Bb2 Rbc8 20.Ra1 Be6 21.Ra6

White prepares doubling rooks. [Wanetick]


This move comes too late to save the a-file. [Wanetick]

22.Rfa1 d4?

Black makes another serious error which opens up the diagonal for White's king bishop and, after 23.exd4 exd4, creates an outpost for White's queen bishop on f4. [Wanetick]

23.exd4 exd4 24.Nf3 Kh8

Black could have saved time by playing this move, followed by ...Bg8, several tempi earlier, instead of shuttling the bishop from e6 to f7 and back to e6 again. [West]

25.Qe2 Bg8 26.Bc1 Nc6 27.Bf4 Rfe8 28.Qd2 Qe7 29.Kf1 Qf8 30.Ng5 Ne5 31.h4

White puts pressure on g5. [Wanetick]

31...Rcd8 32.Ra7 Ng4 33.Rc7 Rc8 34.Rd7 Red8 35.Raa7

If instead 35.Rb7, then 35...Ra8 regains the a-file for Black. [Wanetick]

35...Rxd7 36.Rxd7 Qe8 37.Ra7 Ne5?

This is still another mistake, allowing White to pin the knight. [Wanetick]


Now Black is lost, for if 38...Bf6, then 39.Bd5!. [Wanetick]

For example, after 39...Bxd5 40.cxd5 h6, White wins a piece with 41.Bxe5 Bxe5 42.Qxe5+! Qxe5 43.Nf7+ Kg8 44.Nxe5. [West]

38...h6 39.Rxg7! Kxg7 40.Bxe5+ Kf8 41.Nh3 Qe7 42.Nf4 Bf7 43.Nd5 Qe6

If 43...Qa7, then 44.Bd6+ wins the exchange or mates. [Wanetick]

44.Nf6 Qe7 45.Qd2 Qa7

Of course, not 45...Qxe5? 46.Nd7+. [West]

46.Qxh6+ Ke7 47.Bd5, Black resigns.

If 47...Bxd5, then 48.Nxd5+ will win the queen. [Wanetick]

*{This article originally appeared in Atlantic Chess News in 1989}

Friday, March 30, 2007

Shibut's Review of Second Edition

Book Reviews, Excerpts & Sundry Digressions

by Macon Shibut

I reviewed the first release of New Jersey master Jim West's monograph The Philidor Countergambit in Virginia Chess 1995/1. Now we have a "revised 2nd edition", and no exaggeration that; the work looks completely rebuilt from ground up. Analysis is both updated and greatly expanded. New publisher Chess Digest has likewise upgraded the production quality, including slicker cover and binding. The word "Dynamic" has been inserted into the title.

To call 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 f5 "dynamic" is like saying Kasparov was "irked" at losing to DEEPBLUE. This is an intense tactical line. West is entirely justified in claiming it as his own. While "theory" may stigmatize it, West has honed his pet into a promising weapon by toilsome analysis and sheer will. "From February 1990 through...June 1996," he reports, "I have essayed the Philidor Counter-Gambit on 135 occasions. My record stands at 72 wins, 36 losses, and 27 draws." Singleminded devotion brings practical benefits. "Where it once seemed madness to play the unclear complexities of the PCG, it now seems foolhardy to play the Sicilian Defense, when even class C players know the first fifteen moves from memory....I recall how in [one] game my opponent (a master) spent one full hour on his 4th move!"

Even a crazy combinative mess like the Philidor Countergambit demands more than sheer calculation (try it out versus your computer if you want to test this assertion) and readers would benefit from West's seasoned judgment. Unfortunately the dearth of useful commentary - generalizations, strategic themes, etc. - is one aspect of the book that has not been improved since the original edition. Instead West offers copious analysis with terse assessments like "unclear" or "with a strong attack." On the other hand, the important lines with 4.exf5, shorted badly the first time around, now rate a full chapter.

He may not be verbose, but neither is West a mere peddler of database printouts. There is much original analysis here and the author takes nothing for granted, correcting many published lines. Certainly I did not sneak anything past him in the May/June 1994 Virginia Chess, where West found an oversight in my notes to the game Roush-Shibut, Charlottesville 1994. After 4...e4 5.Ng5 Bxf5 6.f3 d5 7.fxe4 dxe4 8.Bc4 Nh6 9.O-O Nc6 10.Be3 Bd6

West notes that instead of Roush's 11.Nc3? Bxh2+! White could have forced an advantage with either 11.Bf7+ Nxf7 12.Nxf7 Bxh2+ [or 12...Kxf7 13.Rxf5+ Kg8 14.Qg4 Qe7 15.Nc3] 13.Kxh2 Qh4+ 14.Kg1 Bg4 15.Qd2 O-O 16.d5; or 11.Nf7 [I independently discovered this some time after my annotations appeared] Bxh2+ [11...Nxf7 12.Rxf5 O-O 13.Qg4 is also +/-] 12.Kh1! Qh4 13.Bg5 Qg3 14.Bxh6 gxh6 and now West gives 15.Qh5! Bg6 16.Qxh2 Qxh2+ 17.Kxh2 Rf8 18.Nxh6 Rxf1 19.Bxf1 Nxd4 20.Na3 O-O-O 21.c3 Ne6 22.Nc4. For the record West also examines the less convincing moves 11.Qh5+ and 11.h3, as well as rehabilitates Black's play earlier by 10...Ng4 (he marks my 10...Bd6 with "?!") 11.Qd2 Nxe3 12.Qxe3 Qxd4 13.Qxd4 Nxd4 14.Nf7 b5 15.Bd5 c6 16.Bxc6+ Nxc6 17.Nxh8 [17.Rxf5? Nd4 Black wins] g6 unclear.

The Dynamic Philidor Counter-Gambit weighs in at 191 pages and bears a cover price of $17.50. Such a game is not everyone's cup of tea but those into this sort of thing will want the new book. They may also appreciate the following little nuggets, not to be found therein:

After 4.Nc3 fxe4 5.Nxe4 d5 6.Neg5!? [6.Ng3 was a famous Bird-Morphy game; 6.Nxe5 dxe4 7.Qh5+ g6 8.Nxg6 Nf6 (or 8...hxg6) is the main line, widely assumed to favor or even win for White. Needless to say, West begs to differ...]. West gives only 6...h6 7.Nf7!? [or 7.Nh3 Bxh3 8.gxh3 (Fedorowicz-West, New York 1996) exd4 unclear] Kxf7 8.Nxe5+ Ke7 9.Ng6+ Kf6 10.Qf3+ Bf5 11.Nxh8 Qe7+ 12.Be2 Qe4 13.g4 Qxf3 14.Bxf3 Bxc2 15.h4 Nc6 16.g5+ Kf5 17.Be3 Bb4+, Stepanov-Maliutin, Moscow 1992 (0-1, 47).

A game too recent for inclusion in The Dynamic Philidor Counter-Gambit varied with 7.dxe5!? hxg5 8.Bd3 Rh6 9.Bxg5 Be7 10.Bxh6 Nxh6 11.Bg6+ Kf8 (Adamec-West, 1997 US Amateur Team).

West discussed this in the March/April issue of Atlantic Chess News (his regular outlet for the latest Philidor refinements. "Although my teammates questioned my judgment after the game, I already think Black is slightly better. Sure, White has a rook and two pawns for two minor pieces, which in an endgame would give him good winning chances. But that endgame is a long way off. In the short run, Black's bishop and knight are stronger." (That one note, incidentally, is about 2 1/4 sentences more loquacious than the longest remark in The Dynamic Philidor Counter-Gambit). The game continued 12.Qe2 Nc6 13.O-O-O [13.O-O] Be6 14.h3 Kg8 15.Nh2 d4! 16.f4 Qd5 17.c4 ["White decides to jettison a pawn and eliminate queens rather than allow the mechanical attack after 17.b3 Ba3+ 18.Kb1 a5, etc."] Qxc4+ 18.Qxc4 Bxc4 and Black won in 60.

Going back, one must ask why Black avoids the natural 6...e4.

Presumably the reason is 7.Ne5 Nh6 8.Nxh7! and the knight is immune: 8...Rxh7? 9.Qh5+ etc. However, some time ago I had a conversation with West at a New York tournament and he suggested 8...Bb4+! (clearing f8 for the king) 9.c3 Rxh7 10.cxb4 and now 10...Nf5, 10...Bf5, and 10...Nc6 all promise interesting play. Grist for further analysis! Address your discoveries to the Editor....

{This book review originally appeared in Virginia Chess Newsletter in 1997}

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Ruy Lopez, Closed Defense

The following game comes to us courtesy of candidate master Peter Radomskyj.*

GM Walter Browne - Peter Radomskyj (USCF 1850), Atlantic Open Simultaneous Exhibition 1970

In the different closed defenses to the Ruy Lopez (considered sounder than the more open counterattacking variations), the play from the start spells a great deal of tension for both players. White is the first to break in the center and hopes that, by putting enough pressure on the center, he will gain time to expand on the queenside and/or kingside, thereby stifling Black's game. This often happens to the point where a winning attack can not be far behind!

Black, to the contrary, hopes to maintain his strongpoint on e5 with a pawn or a piece, reposition his pieces so that any premature attack on White's part will backfire, expand where possible, exchange pieces if necessary, and be prepared to counter in the center.

All this leads to nervewracking play where sudden attacks sometimes appear out of a clear blue sky. But, in reality, the position has been pregnant with these possibilities all along, waiting only for the right tactical moment to materialize. Often the outcome is decided by whose initial maneuvers were more to the point.

In this game, Black gives up the center to trade pieces, but this only apparently frees his game. White's better centralized position culminates in a lovely two-bishop sacrifice for a mating attack. [Radomskyj]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 O-O 8.c3 d6 9.h3 Na5 10.Bc2 c5 11.d4 Qc7 12.Nbd2 Nc6 13.a3

White deviates from the book a little against his well-prepared opponent. [Radomskyj]

Instead Fischer-Eliskases, Mar del Plata 1960 continued 13.dxc5 dxc5 14.Nf1 Rd8 15.Qe2 Nh5 16.a4! Rb8 17.axb5 axb5 18.g3! g6 19.h4! Be6 20.Ne3 c4 21.Ng5 Bxg5 22.hxg5 Na5 23.Ng4 Bxg4 24.Qxg4 Nb3 25.Bxb3 cxb3 26.Be3 +/-. [West]

13...cxd4 14.cxd4 exd4 15.Nb3 Nd7 16.Nbxd4 Nxd4 17.Nxd4 Re8 18.Nf5 Bf8 19.Bf4 Ne5 20.Ne3 Be6 21.Rc1 Rac8 22.Nd5 Qb7 23.Bb1 Nc4 24.Qd4 Bxd5?

This is a grave error, greatly increasing the range of White's king bishop. Black was overly concerned about the weakness of his b6 square. White has a grip on the position, but Black might have ventured 24...f5!?. [Radomskyj]

25.exd5 Be7 26.b3! Nxa3?

I might have prevented a brilliancy with 26...Ne5. [Radomskyj]

27.Bf5 Rxc1 28.Bxc1 b4 29.Bb2 f6

What else? Note the contrast between the activity of White's pieces and Black's. [Radomskyj]

30.Qh4 g6

Again, what else for Black? [Radomskyj]

31.Bxg6 hxg6 32.Bxf6 Kf7

If 32...Bxf6, then 33.Rxe8+ Kf7 34.Qh7+ Bg7 35.Re6. White wins the g-pawn, ties Black's queen down because of the subsequent threat of Re8# following Qxg6+, and then advances his h-pawn to h6 coupled with the threat of moving his rook back and checking on f3 or f4. If Black plays ...Qd7, White takes off both the d-pawn and a-pawn, giving Black a lost endgame. Black prefers to die in a blaze of glory, but White has only to make one more accurate attacking move! [Radomskyj]

33.Qh7+ Kxf6, and Black resigns.

After 34.Re6+, Black's king will be mated. [Radomskyj]

*{Today Pete is a national master. This article originally appeared in Atlantic Chess News in 1987}

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Sicilian Defense, Grand Prix Attack

Dear Jim:

Happy New Year to you and the rest of New Jersey! I am still out here in Missouri. Recently I competed in the 22nd Annual Xmas Tree Open in Independence where I scored 3 wins and 1 draw. I took a half-point bye in the first round, as I attended the Los Angeles Rams versus Kansas City Chiefs playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium. The following is my fourth round encounter with Martin Phillips of Springfield, Missouri.

David Cole

Martin Phillips (USCF 1800) - David Cole (USCF 2083), Independence 12/29/1991

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bc4 d6 6.O-O Nf6 7.d3 O-O 8.e5?

It is premature to push in the center. Black can win a pawn here with 8...dxe5 9.fxe5 Nxe5! 10.Nxe5 Qd4+ followed by 11...Qxe5. But opening lines creates counterchances for White. The continuation 8...Ne8 is simplest. [Cole]

Two better tries for White are 8.f5 and 8.Qe1. For example, 8.f5 e6 9.fxg6 fxg6 10.Qe1 Nd4 11.Nxd4 cxd4 12.Ne2 d5 13.exd5 exd5 14.Bb3 Qb6 15.Bg5 Be6 16.Nf4 Bf7 17.Bxf6 Bxf6 18.Bxd5 Qd6 19.Bxf7+ Rxf7 20.Qe4 Bg5 21.Nd5 Rd7 22.c4 dxc3 23.Nxc3 Qd4+ 24.Qxd4, draw, Dueball-Parma, Berlin 1971. Or 8.Qe1 e6 9.Qh4 d5 10.Bb3 Nd4 11.e5 Nd7 12.Qh3 Nxf3+ 13.Rxf3 Nb6 14.a3 Bd7 15.Bd2 Rc8 16.Re1 c4! = (ECO) [West]

8...Ne8 9.Qe1 e6 10.exd6 Nxd6 11.Bb3 Nf5 12.Ne2

White tries to keep the black knights from the d4 square, but 12.Ne4 is indicated here. [Cole]

12...b6 13.Ng3 Ncd4 14.Nxf5 Nxf5 15.Qe4 Rb8

For a long time I considered 15...Qc7 16.Qxa8 Bb7 17.Qxa7 Ra8 18.Qxa8+ Bxa8 with an unclear position. I thought that White could consolidate his position with c3, Bd2, Bc2, and Rae1 with a tougher struggle than in the game. Again, 15...Rb8 is simplest. [Cole]

16.c3 Bb7 17.Qe2 Qd6 18.Bc2 Ba6 19.Bd2 Rbd8 20.Ne1 Rd7 21.Rd1 Rfd8 22.Bc1 Qc7 23.Kh1

In the post mortem analysis, we found that 23.g4 offered White better chances despite opening the king position. The black knight would have to go to a less effective square, and White can slowly coordinate his pieces with Nf3, Be3, and an eventual d4. The game move leaves White now with uncoordinated pieces. Black is quick to strike. [Cole]

23...h5! 24.Rf2 Bf6 25.Nf3 Kg7 26.Qe4? Bb7 27.Qe2 Rh8 28.Ne5 h4! 29.Nxd7 Ng3+ 30.hxg3 hxg3+ 31.Kg1 gxf2+ 32.Qxf2?

White should play 32.Kxf2 with the idea of walking the king to safety on the queenside by Be3, Ke1, Kd2, Kc1, etc. [Cole]

32...Qxd7 33.Be3 Qd5 34.Bb3 Qh5 35.Kf1 Qg4 36.Kg1 Bh4 37.Qd2 Bg3 38.Bf2 Bh2+ 39.Kf1 Bxf4, White resigns.

{This article originally appeared in Atlantic Chess News in 1992}

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Correction to First Edition

In Michael Goeller's entry of November 9, 2006 to The Kenilworthian blog, his note after White's 10th move in Acholonu-West, USATE 1999 [which began 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 f5 4.Nc3 fxe4 5.Nxe4 d5 6.Nxe5 dxe4 7.Qh5+ g6 8.Nxg6 Nf6 9.Qe5+ Kf7 10.Bc4+] reads:
"I unfortunately only have the first edition of West's book, published by Chess Enterprises in 1994, so I don't know the correct line after 10. Nxh8+ Kg7 11.Bg5 when West gives 11...Nc6 12.Bxf6+ Qxf6 13.Qxf6+ Kxf6 14.Bc4 Nxd4 15.O-O-O Ne6 16.Rhe1 Bd6 17.Rxe4 Bd7 18.Rde1 Ng5 19.Rh4 Rxh8 leaving this as '=' when White actually wins with 20.Rh6+ Kf5 (20...Kg7 21.Rxd6 cxd6 22.Re7+) 21.Bd3+. No doubt he has since come up with an improvement."

The position after 19...Rxh8 actually occurred in Reiff-West, New York 1994

when fortunately for me White missed 20.Rh6+ Kg7 21.Rxd6! cxd6 22.Re7+ as pointed out by Goeller. This oversight was corrected in the second edition of my book as follows: 14...Na5 15.Bd5 Bf5 16.g4 c6 17.Bf7 Bxg4 18.Rg1 Be6 unclear.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Cambridge Springs Defense

Dear Jim:

I am submitting this postal game for publication in Atlantic Chess News. It was played in the Correspondence Chess League of America national team championship. It features the gambit variation of the Cambridge Springs Defense and shows how center control and general pressure compensates for a pawn minus. The loser played imprecisely, but I challenge anyone to find a smooth course for Black in any case. This is one of the better Queen's Gambits I've ever played, and I hope you like it.

Peter Radomskyj

Peter Radomskyj (CCLA 2095) - Joseph Merritt (CCLA 2252)

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 c6 5.Bg5 Nbd7 6.e3 Qa5 7.cxd5!? Nxd5 8.Qd2 N7b6 9.Bd3

In game 47 of their 1985 world championship match, Karpov played 9.Nxd5 Qxd2+ 10.Nxd2 exd5 against Kasparov and lost in 32 moves. [West]

9...Nxc3 10.bxc3 Nd5 11.O-O Qxc3 12.Qe2 Bd6 13.Nd2 Qa5 14.Nc4 Qc7 15.Qh5

So far this is all book. In a game between grandmasters Vaganian and Torre in 1985, Black now played 15...Be7 16.f4 Nf6 17.Bxf6 Bxf6 18.Rac1 where, according to Polugaevsky, "White has sufficient compensation for the gambit pawn." [Radomskyj]


This move threatens 16...Bxh2+, but it weakens the kingside. [Radomskyj]

16.f4 Ne7 17.Ne5

If now 17...Nf5, then 18.g4 Nxe3 19.Nxf7 looks crushing since 19...O-O is met by 20.Qg6!. [Radomskyj]

17...Rf8 18.Bh4 Nf5 19.Bf2 g6 20.Qe2 Bd7 21.Rab1!

Now Black can't castle queenside as 21...O-O-O 22.Ba6! wins. [Radomskyj]

21...Bxe5 22.fxe5 h5?

Black is running out of constructive moves, but this is definitely a mistake. Since the knight can be kicked by e4 anyway (the weakening of the d-pawn is insignificant), 22...h5? merely concedes the h4-d8 diagonal to White's unopposed bishop. [Radomskyj]

23.Rfc1 Ne7 24.e4 b6 25.Bh4 Rb8 26.Qb2

This creates the possibility of 27.d5!. [Radomskyj]


Either 26...Qb7 or 26...b5 would have held out longer. [Radomskyj]

27.Qa3 Rb7 28.d5 cxd5 29.exd5 exd5 30.e6!

Now 30...fxe6 loses to 31.Bxg6+, while 30...Bxe6 loses to 31.Bb5+ Bd7 32.Qxe7+! Qxe7 33.Rc8+. [Radomskyj]

30...f6 31.exd7+, Black resigns.

{This article originally appeared in Atlantic Chess News in 1991}

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Nimzo-Indian Defense

Dear Jim:

This is my game versus Larry Christiansen from round two of the 1990 New Jersey Open. I hope you can use it in your column.

In the game, I caught Christiansen napping on move 30. From my "sham" pawn sacrifice on move 31 to the conclusion of the game, I felt confident that my position was fine.

As a result of my 2-0-4 record, I am once again in master territory.

Larry Epstein

NM Larry Epstein - GM Larry Christiansen, New Jersey Open 1990

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 Nc6

At the 1990 Manila Interzonal, DeFirmian played 4...c5 5.dxc5 Na6 6.a3 Bxc3+ 7.Qxc3 Nxc5 twice.

Ivanchuk proceeded 8.b4 Nce4 9.Qd4 d5 10.c5 b6!? 11.f3 bxc5 12.bxc5 Qa5+ 13.Qb4 Qc7!? 14.fxe4 Rb8 15.Qa4+ Bd7 16.c6! O-O 17.Bd2 Bxc6 18.Qa5, and here DeFirmian suggests 18...Qe5!? with interesting complications.

Instead Miles-DeFirmian continued 8.f3 d5 9.cxd5 b6 10.b4 Na4 11.Qb3 b5 12.e4 a6 13.Ne2 O-O 14.Bg5 h6 15.Bh4 exd5 16.e5 Re8! 17.f4 g5 18.Bf2 Ne4 19.Bd4 Be6 20.Qf3 Rc8 21.f5 Bd7 22.Ng3? Rxe5!, and Black went on to win. [West]

5.Nf3 d6 6.a3 Bxc3+ 7.Qxc3 Qe7 8.Bg5

ECO gives only two lines, each of which results in a slight advantage for White:

a) 8.b4 e5!? 9.dxe5 Nxe5 10.Nxe5 Qxe5 11.Qxe5 dxe5 12.e3 O-O 13.Be2 Be6 14.Bb2 Nd7 15.c5 f6 16.O-O Rfd8 17.Rfd1 Nf8 18.Kf1 Bb3 19.Rxd8 Rxd8 20.Ke1;

b) 8.g3 e5 9.d5 Nb8 10.Bg5 Nbd7 11.Bg2 h6 12.Bxf6 Nxf6 13.O-O O-O 14.b4. [West]

8...h6 9.Bxf6 Qxf6 10.e3 e5 11.d5 Ne7 12.Be2 O-O 13.O-O Bd7 14.Rfd1 Qg6 15.Nd2 Kh8 16.f4 exf4 17.exf4 Rfe8 18.Re1 Ng8 19.Bf3 Nf6 20.Qd4 Bg4 21.Bxg4 Qxg4 22.Qf2 a5 23.g3?

Necessary was 23.b3. [Epstein]

23...Qf5 24.Qd4 a4 25.Nf3 Nd7 26.Re3 Rxe3 27.Qxe3 Nb6 28.Qe2 c6 29.dxc6 bxc6 30.Rc1 Rb8?

Black could have earned the edge for his delicate maneuvering from 15...Kh8 through the knight tour by playing 30...Nd7. [Epstein]

31.c5! dxc5 32.Qe5 Qxe5 33.Ne5 Nd5 34.Rc2 f6 35.Nxc6 Rc8 36.Na7 Ra8 37.Rxc5 Nxf4 38.gxf4 Rxa7 39.Rb5 Kh7 40.Kf2 Kg6 41.Kf3

More aggressive is 41.f5+. [Epstein]

41...Rc7 42.Rb4 Rc2 43.Kg3 Rd2 44.Rxa4 Rxb2 45.Ra7 h5 46.a4 Rb3+ 47.Kg2 Ra3 48.a5 Kf5 49.Rxg7 Rxa5 50.Rf7 Ra3 51.Rf8 h4 52.Rh8 Ra2+ 53.Kh3 Kxf4 54.Rxh4+ Kf3 55.Ra4!

Black can now take the stalemate or give White the tempo he needs to draw easily. [Epstein]

55...Re2 56.Ra3+, draw.

{This article originally appeared in Atlantic Chess News in 1991}

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Book Review by Macon Shibut

What's New in the Philidor Countergambit?

For one thing, a new monograph; also, an up-and-down game

by Macon Shibut

I've written in Virginia Chess about the notorious countergambit 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 f5!? on several occasions. The key move 3...f5 was Philidor's own method of handling the defense that bears his name. Today its reputation is close to a forced loss, but things are not that simple! I've had decent results with this opening, and feedback I've gotten from readers indicates that they've been entertained at least, and some were even emboldened to risk the variation themselves.

If you're among those hearty souls, you may want to check out The Philidor Countergambit, a new $6.50 monograph by New Jersey master James R. West (1994, Chess Enterprises, 107 Crosstree Rd., Moon Township PA 15108). West likewise claims a solid plus record with the variations against all levels of competition. "Not bad," he writes, "for a defensive system that has four supposed refutations!" Given the extremely sharp nature of the Philidor Countergambit and its poor treatment in opening references, his booklet is a must-have for anyone interested in the variation. West is no blind follower of authority. Virtually every page raises questions about some accepted judgment. For example, the Zukertort "refutation" 4.Nc3 fxe4 5.Nxe4 d5 6.Nxe5(!) dxe4 7.Qh5+ g6 8.Nxg6 Nf6 9.Qe5+ Kf7 10.Nxh8+ (also 10.Bc4+!?)

stems from an 1864 game that continued 10...Kg8 11.Bg5 Bg7 12.Nf7 Kxf7 13.Bc4+ Kf8 14.O-O-O with plenty of pawns and strong pressure to boot. Zukertort won by methodically handling the rook + pawns against two pieces in a long (71 moves) endgame. But West introduces 10...Kg7 (!) and cites one of his own games: 11.Bg5 (11.Bh6+ Kxh8 12.Bxf8 Nc6! 13.Qc5 Nd7 14.Qd5 Qxf8 15.Qxe4 Qb4+ -/+) Nc6! 12.Qg3 (if 12.Bxf6+ Qxf6 13.Qxc7+ Kxh8 Black threatens both the d-pawn and winning White's queen by ...Bd6. He's also okay, says West, after 12.Bxf6+ Qxf6 13.Qxf6+ Kxf6 14.Bc4 Nxd4 15.O-O-O Ne6 16.Rhe1 Bd6 17.Rxe4 Bd7 18.Rde1 Ng5 19.Rh4 Rxh8) Kxh8 13.d5 Nb4 14.O-O-O Be7 15.a3 Na6 16.Bxa6 bxa6 17.Rhe1 Rb8 18.f3 Bd6 19.Qh4 Be5 20.b4 Qd6 21.f4 Ba1 22.Re3 (22.Kb1 Bc3 23.Re3? Rb4+! -+) Ng4 23.Rh3 Bf5 24.Rg3 (24.c3 e3 -/+) a5 25.c3 axb4 26.h3 (26.axb4 e3 27.Rxg4 Bxc3 28.Rg3 Rxb4 -+) bxc3 27.hxg4 and 0-1 (27...Qxa3#), McDonnell-West, 1993.

The first 34 pages contain a dense web of analysis organized around four Morphy games from London 1858. Chapter 1 covers the traditional main line 4.dxe5 fxe4 5.Ng5 d5 6.e6 Nh6 (Staunton & Owen - Morphy & Barnes). Chapter 2 blankets the important offshoot 6...Bc5 (Barnes - Morphy). Chapters 3 and 4 cover White's 4th move alternatives 4.Nc3 (Bird - Morphy) and 4.Bc4 (Boden - Morphy, London 1858) respectively. The Morphy games are given in full and some of the analysis addresses points that are well beyond the opening proper. Others' games and fragments are embedded in notes. A significant omission is the neglect of 4.exf5, apparently for no better reason than nobody ever played it against Morphy.

Twenty "supplemental games" comprise the back third of the monograph. (4.exf5 does appear in two of them, so West doesn't ignore that subvariation entirely.) These games, all played by West, are presented with only the lightest of notes. A short bibliography and variation & player indices wraps up the book. Production quality is on the upper end of opening monograph standards, with clear text and diagrams, decent paper, a glossy cover (but what a boring graphic!) and a real binding instead of just a stapled spine.

The most likely reader complaint will be that The Philidor Countergambit offers minimal discussion of an extremely complex topic. The analytic section has almost no text save a liberal sprinkling of "better is..." and "Black can also continue..." West possesses uncommon practical experience with this opening and his impressions would have been valuable. What's the toughest line to meet? Where are the most fertile areas for further investigation? However, none of this outweighs the essential contribution of The Philidor Countergambit, which is to pull together an unprecedented concentration of material about an opening that chess literature has not handled well in the past. West demonstrates that the Philidor Countergambit has been widely underestimated and can be great fun.

{This "combined analysis and book review" originally appeared in Virginia Chess Newsletter 1995 - #1}