Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"This is where the theory begins..."

Said my opponent ominously. Before smashing me with black and white about 10 times. And he's dead right- This Bg5 line is what I come up against about 70% of the time I break out the Sicilian, and most players know this position really well. White usually plays f5 or Bh3, both designed to further weaken the vulnerable e6 or the light squares around the king (a6 is also common).

In the last post I mentioned I had such a tough time trying to crack this line as white, that I've started playing it as black occasionally! I'm so happy to report that, coming up against a ~2000 white player, it's just as hard for black to handle:)!! (and) I was happy to beat a 1900 player on the weekend with white- a nice bishop sac on e6.

Before we start i'll ask a simple question: What are white and black trying to achieve in the above position?

And from here, fireworks! The type of fireworks so often required from white to get an advantage against the Najdorf. That's what makes it such a great defense especially against a weaker player, if white wants an advantage he's usually forced to take a risk and show some decent knowledge of attack in the follow-up.

This is actually a fascinating position to analyse if
you want to do so before looking at the end of the game:
(white to move)

I'm not sure if 0-0-0 is common in the Bg5 najdorf- at move 9 I've seen b4 for black, when the continuation axb4, Qc4 is normal.

The next couple of games come from two icons, the late, great Bent Larsen and the brilliant Boris Spassky. For me, Larsen epitomises the pre-computer age and what was great about it. Anyone who gets the chance to read "Good move guide" (1982) should do it- you'll see the rational, logical foundation Larsen used to analyse positions, which in the computer/theory age so many players skip over.

Boris Spassky for me is everything that chess should be. Every time I've seen him he has had a smile on his face, he's a pure gentleman who loves the game. I loved his interviews with Judith Polgar at the candidates last year, when he was talking about why players persist in repeating a variation they've lost with- he described them as two bulls butting each other with their horns, and went on to give a visual demonstration much to the joy of photographers and press. What's great about these two is that they haven't shirked competition either- Larsen played a tournament 5 or so years ago and scored 0/9 playing untheoretical openings, and Spassky was playing head-to-head games with Korchnoi I believe before his illness.

And I'll annotate this one tomorrow:

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