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Aug 16,2002

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Unusual openings:

By Edwin Lam

Beginning with this issue of guest article for GMChess, I will be writing a series of articles on some of the more popular forms of "unusual openings" in this column. This series is written as a form of tribute to the late GM Anthony Miles. Miles, who was a connoisseur of a variety of "unusual openings" during his lifetime, defeated Karpov with a truly "strange" reply against 1. e4 in the European team championship in 1980. Throughout his lifetime, Miles proved that playing such unorthodox, offbeat openings did pay-off handsomely.

Before going on here, I must stress that playing "unusual openings" require a totally different approach to the game. In order to understand this, it is important to understand the real objective of playing "unusual openings". In an era of opening books, opening manuals and chess database, a whole branch of standard opening theory is readily available to most chess professionals who have access to all these materials. These theories change rapidly and it is pretty hard to remain updated on these developments all the time. This is not only a problem faced by amateurs but also by professionals. As such, many chess players actually use offbeat, unorthodox openings to avoid the beaten track of existing theories. In other words, if we can't beat our opponent, then bring him out of the book the next time we play! In soccer terms, let's get our opponent to play the game in "our home ground" rather than have it played in the "opponent's ground". "Our home ground" here is synonymous with our topic today, which is "unusual openings".

After understanding this, let us now evaluate the manner in which a chess player should approach "unusual openings". This is best described by browsing through the games played by GM Miles. Whenever he played "unusual openings", he would play "proactive chess". "Proactive chess" is best described as an active, direct and determined approach to gain the initiative in the game. This approach is extremely helpful because your opponent knows very little of your "unusual opening".

In today's edition, I will start off with the Larsen-Nimzovitch opening. I am sure that most of you readers would have known of the famous victory by Spassky with the Black pieces against Larsen, who played this opening in their World Championship match game. The game that I have chosen to exemplify this opening is not world-class material. However, it was a game played by two very promising Malaysian youth players about ten years ago.

Ee Khai, Liew - Thean Seong, Yeo [A01]
1992 Selangor Open, Kuala Lumpur 1992
[Edwin Lam Choong Wai]

1.b3 Nf6

[1...d5 2.Bb2 c5 3.e3 Nc6 4.Bb5 The position resembles the Bogo-Indian variation with colors reversed and with White having the extra tempo. 4...Nf6 5.f4 This is the standard set-up of the Larsen-Nimzovitch. Remember that this is an opening born out of the "hypermodern" era championed by players like Tartakower, Reti, Nimzovitch and to a certain extent Alekhine. "Hypermodern" ideas revolutionized the way openings were played. Instead of following the standard Steinitz - Tarrasch's school of thought that stressed on opening a game with e4 or d4, controlling the center with pawns and developing Knights first before Bishops, "hypermoderns" do not occupy centers with pawns, rather preferring to "control" it from a far with pieces. The "hypermoderns" argue that by placing pawns in the center lacks dynamism. It gives the game a very static nature. On the other hand, in the above game, White merely controls the center with the Bishop on b2, the pawn on f4 and also the Bishop on b5 (which may be used to remove the c6 Knight when necessary). This gives White plenty of flexibility to change the nature of the game. White can alter the direction of the game depending on how Black plays. In short, "hypermoderns" prefer to take the fight into the middle game, rather than fighting it out in the opening. 5...e6 6.Nf3 a6 7.Bxc6+ bxc6 8.0-0 Be7 9.d3 0-0 10.Nbd2 Bb7 11.Ne5 Ne8 12.Qg4 f5 13.Qe2 Nf6 14.h3 Bd6 15.g4 Qe8 16.g5 Nh5 17.Kh2 g6 18.Rg1 a5 19.a4 Bxe5 20.Bxe5 Qd7 21.Nf1 d4 1/2-1/2 Ee Khai, Liew - Wei Sin, Tan 1992 Selangor Open, Kuala Lumpur.]

2.Bb2 g6 3.e4 Bg7 4.e5 Nd5 5.Nf3 0-0 6.c4 Nb6 7.d4 d6 8.Be2 Nc6 9.exd6 exd6 10.0-0 Bf5 11.Nbd2 Re8 12.a3 a5 13.h3 h5 14.Re1 Nd7 15.Nf1 Nf8 16.Ng3

[16.Ne3 This is a more flexible move as White then choose to launch a kingside attack with g4. 16...Ne7 17.g4!?]

16...Ne7 17.Nxf5 Nxf5 18.Bd3 Qd7 19.Qc2 Nh6 20.d5 b6 21.Nd4

[21.Ng5 With the idea of Ne4 and Nf6+.]

21...Rxe1+ 22.Rxe1 Re8 23.Rxe8 Qxe8 24.Nb5 Qd8 25.Bxg7 Kxg7 26.Qc3+ Kh7 27.Bc2

[Not good would be: 27.Qd4 Nd7 28.Qf4 (Not the immediate: 28.Nc3 because of, 28...Qf6 29.Qxf6 Nxf6 And, Black has equalized.) 28...Ne5 29.Bc2 Qe7 30.Nc3 Nd3!]

27...Nd7 28.Qf3 Ne5 29.Qxh5 Kg7 30.Qd1 Ng8 31.Qd4 Kh7 32.f4 Nd7 33.f5

[33.Nc3 A) 33...Qf6

A1) 34.Qxf6 Ngxf6 35.Nb5 Ne8 36.Nd4

A1a) Of course not: 36...Nc5? 37.b4 axb4 38.axb4 A1a1) 38...Na6 39.Nc6 Nf6 40.f5 Kg7 (Not: 40...gxf5? 41.Bxf5+ Kg7 42.Bc8) 41.fxg6 fxg6 42.Bd3 Nd7 43.c5 Ndb8 44.cxd6 cxd6 45.b5 Nc5 46.Bxg6 Kxg6 47.Nxb8 Kf5 48.Nc6 Ke4 49.Ne7 Here, although Black's King is actively placed in the center, I still think that White's pawns will roll forward and decide the game before Black is able to stir up any counter-play on the queenside. ; A1a2) 38...Nd7 39.f5 Kg7 40.fxg6 fxg6 41.Ne6+ Kf7 42.Ba4 Ndf6 43.g4; A1b) 36...Kg8 37.b4 axb4 38.axb4 Nef6 39.g4! Gaining space and squeezing Black in the endgame. Once White succeeded in centralizing its King, White should be able to push towards winning the game.;

A2) 34.Qd2 34...Ne7 35.Ne4 Returning the extra pawn. 35...Qa1+ 36.Kh2

A2a) 36...Qg7 Declining the pawn. 37.Ng5+ Kg8 38.Qe3 Kf8 (Of course not: 38...Nf5?! 39.Qe8+ Nf8 40.Bxf5 gxf5 41.Qc8) ;

A2b) 36...Qxa3 37.Ng5+ Kg7 38.Qd4+ Kg8 39.Qe3 Kf8 40.Nh7+ Ke8 41.Qc3;

B) 33...Ngf6 34.f5 Note that now, the h4 square is not defended by the Black Queen anymore. 34...Qe8 35.fxg6+ fxg6 36.Qh4+ Kg7 37.Ne4]

33...Ne5 34.fxg6+ fxg6 35.Qf4 Nh6 36.Kh2?!

What is this for? [With all Black's pieces tied down on passive squares, the correct strategy here would be to bring the b5 Knight back to join the attack on the kingside. 36.Nd4! This move thraetens Ne6 and then Nf8+ or Ng5+. Note here that the Black King can't move away from the seventh rank because of the need to protect the Knight on h6. But then again, the Black King can't move to g7 because of Ne6+. 36...Nhf7 37.Ne6 Qe7 38.h4]

36...Qe7 37.Kg3?

Over-exposing the King when Queens are still on the board.

37...Kg7 38.Qh4 g5 39.Qd4

Even this is inaccurate. [The immediate: 39.Qe4 is better followed by Nd4 to centralize the Knight.]

39...Kg8 40.Qe4 Kf8 41.Qh7 Qf6!

Intending to sacrifice a pawn to seize the initiative by exploiting the exposed position of White's King.

42.Qe4 Qe7

Looks like Black is happy to repeat moves here and take home the half point. But, White still wants to try on.

43.Nd4 Ke8 44.Qh7 Qf6 45.Ne6 Nef7 46.Qg7 Qxg7 47.Nxg7+ Kd7 48.Nf5 c6 49.Nxh6 Nxh6 50.Be4 cxd5 51.Bxd5 Ke7 52.Kf3 Kf6 53.Ke4 Nf5 54.Bb7 Ne7 55.Kf3 Nf5 56.Ke4 Ne7 57.g4 Ke6 58.Kd4 Kf6 59.Ke4 Ke6 60.Bd5+ Kf6 61.Bb7 Ke6 62.Kf3?!

A final attempt to win from a player short on time. White should have maintained the King on the fourth rank to hold back the Black King and a draw would not have been doubted anymore.

62...Ke5 63.Kg3 Ng6

White lost on time here. As far as the position is concerned, a draw would still be the likely conclusion after 64. b4 axb4 65. axb4 Kd4 66. Bd5.


"He who fears an isolated queen's pawn should give up chess". Siegbert Tarrasch

"The most powerful weapon in chess is to have the next move"! David Bronstein.

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