The Gazette - February 2021

Edited by Julie Leonard
The views expressed in the Gazette do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the BCA, nor those of the editor.

An Annotated Game from the 12th BCA Email Tournament

The moves of this Division 1 game appeared in the May 2020 gazette, but since then, Rod Macdonald has kindly researched and analysed it for us. So here it is again, with Rod’s comments.

White: Rod MacdonaldBlack: Malola Prasath

ECO: B00: Nimzowitsch Defence

1. e4 Nc6

(I had to re-read Malola's email several times to be fully convinced of his move. This was, after all, the very first (and only) time an opponent has played this first move in my roughly 70 years of playing and misplaying chess. A quick check with www.365chess.com turned up the surprising information that they had over 11,000 games with this opening on their database, with White winning 41% of the time, Black 34%, and the remaining 25% drawn.

A further check with Wikipedia turned up:

The Nimzowitsch Defence is a somewhat unusual chess opening characterised by the moves: 1. e4 Nc6.

This opening is an example of a hypermodern opening in which Black invites White to occupy the centre of the board at an early stage with pawns. Black's intent is to block or otherwise restrain White's central pawns and, if allowed to do so by inaccurate play by White, eventually undermine the White pawn centre by well-timed pawn advances of their own or by attacking the white pieces defending the centre. World Champion Garry Kasparov and Grandmaster Raymond Keene wrote that it has never been fully accepted as a dependable opening. Nevertheless, it is sound and offers the maverick spirit a great deal of foreign territory to explore.)

2. d4 (This is the Main Line, played reflexively - doesn't everyone play a second pawn to the fourth rank when Black fails to advance to the fifth? But it turns out that 2. Nf3 is shown by some databases to be the most common move; 2. Nf3 is often played by White players not eager for a theoretical battle on their opponent's turf. With 2. d4 White takes the initiative in the centre. Black's main continuations are 2. ... d5 or 2. ... e5.)

2. ... e5 (A solid line favoured by the late British grandmaster Tony Miles. White can transpose to the Scotch Game with 3. Nf3, or play 3. d5 Nce7 (3. ... Nb8, although perhaps not as bad as it looks, is considered inferior), which gives White only a slight plus score in practice. Another approach is 3. dxe5 Nxe5, when White can seek a quiet positional advantage with 4. Nf3 or play the more aggressive (but potentially weakening) thrust 4. f4. Nimzowitsch usually played 2. ... d5.)

3. d5 Nce7 4. Nf3 Ng6 5. h4 h5 6. Bg5 Nf6 7. Nc3 Bc5 (This is the last "book" move. The game E. Cheah (2179) - G. Brown (1743), Penang 2015, was featured in ChessBase Magazine #169, where White won in 59 moves after 7... Bb4 8. Qd3 a6 9. a3 Ba5 10. g3 d6 11. Bg2 Bd7 12. Nd2 Bb6 13. Nc4 Ba7 14. 0-0 Qc8 15. Bxf6 gxf6 16. Kh2 Qd8 17. Ne3 Bxe3 18. Qxe3 Ne7 19. f4 Ng8 20. f5 Ke7 21. Bf3 Qf8 22. b4.)

8. Qd3 (White introduces a novelty.)

8. ... d6 (8. ... a6 9. g3 gives White a moderate advantage.)

9. Nd2 (9. Na4 Bb6 gives White a comfortable advantage.)

9... a6 (Providing control over b5. 9. ... Bd7 10. Nb3 Bb6 11. a4 leads to equality.)

10. g3 (This covers f4. 10. Nb3 Bb6 11. Qd2 is solid for White.)

10. ... Bd7 (10. ... Ne7 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. Bg2 is very solid for White.)

11. a3 (White has an active position. 11. Be2 Ne7 is slightly better for White.)

11. ... Qb8 (11. ... Ne7 12. Bxf6 gxf6 13. Bg2 is slightly better for White.)

12. Bxf6 (12. Nd1 Ng4 13. Nb3 Bb6 also gives White an edge.)

12. ... gxf6 13. Qf3 (White threatens to win material: Qf3xf6. 13. b4 Bb6 14. Nc4 Bd4 leads to equality.)

13. ... Ke7 (Black introduces a novelty. 13. ... Qd8 14. Nc4 is the main alternative giving White a solid advantage)

14. Nd1 (14. Be2 a5 would give White only a slight edge.)

14. ... Qa7? (Black's first big mistake. 14. ... Bg4!? must definitely be considered. 15. Qd3 Bd7 gives White only a slight edge.)

15. Bh3 Nf8? (15. ... Bxh3!? 16. Rxh3 a5 seems much better, but White still has the advantage.)

16. Bxd7 (White now has a very strong position.)

16. ... Nxd7 17. Nc4 Rag8? (17. ... a5 18. 0-0 Kd8 is very strong for White.)

18. b4 Bb6 (18... Bd4 does not solve anything: 19. c3 Bb6 20. Nde3 is very strong for White.)

19. Nde3 a5 (19. ... Bxe3 is not any better as 20. Nxe3 Ra8 21. 0-0 is still very powerful for White.)

20. Nf5+ Kd8 (20. ... Kf8 21. 0-0 is still very strong for White.)

21. O-O a4 (21. ... Rg4 22. Rab1 Rhg8 23. Kg2 is hardly an improvement.)

22. Rfc1 Rg4 (22. ... Qa6 is no salvation either: 23. Nxb6 cxb6 24. Nxd6 is relentless.)

23. Nxb6 Qxb6 24. c4 Qa7 (24. ... c5 25. dxc6! (Decoy: d6) Qxc6 26. Re1 is very strong for White.)

25. c5! (Decoy: c5.)

25. ... dxc5 26. Rab1 Rhg8 27. Kh2 Re8 (27. ... R4g6 doesn't change anything: 28. d6 c6 29. bxc5 leaves White with a crushing advantage.)

28. Qe3 b6 29. Rb2 Rg6 30. Qd3 Rgg8 31. Qb5 Qa8 32. bxc5 bxc5 33. Rxc5 Qa7

(33. ... Nxc5 cannot change destiny. 34. Qxc5 Qc8 35. d6 Re6 36. dxc7+ Qxc7 37. Qd5+ Ke8 38. Qa8+ Qd8 39. Rb8 Qxb8 40. Qxb8+ Kd7 41. Qxg8 Rc6 42. Qxf7+ Kd8 43. Qe7+ Kc8 44. Nd6+ Rxd6 45. Qxd6 Kb7 46. g4 hxg4 47. h5 g3+ 48. Kxg3 f5 49. h6 f4+ 50. Kf3 Kc8 51. h7 Kb7 52. h8=Q Ka7 53. Qhb8#)

34. Rcc2 Qa8 (34. ... Rg5 doesn't improve anything: 35. hxg5 h4 36. Qb7 Qxb7 37. Rxb7 hxg3+ 38. fxg3 Rh8+ 39. Kg1 fxg5 40. Rcxc7 Nc5 41. Rxc5 Rh3 42. Kg2 g4 43. Nd6 Rh2+ 44. Kxh2 f6 45. Rc8#)

35. Rc6 1-0

References: Wikipedia, www.365chess.com, ChessBase Magazine #055, #124 and #169, Mega Database 2020, Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings, Fritz 10, Multiple Chess Collections (Chess ECO Database, MasterGames Database, Book-Up Database collections, etc)

Additional note from Peter Gibbs:

Only recently a chess book was published entitled “The Modernized Nimzovich Defense” 1 e4 Nc6! by Christian Bauer. No doubt players will be interested in this!