Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Fulfilling a Pledge

As a BCC member, I've been asked to step up and post on the blog more than I currently do (which is never). Unfortunately, I'm still figuring out how to use chess-viewer, which means I have to annoy everyone with my crude notation. Hopefully I'll learn some blogging skills soon; in the meantime, I'll beg your indulgence and pose the following openings question. Last night on ICC, I saw a strong GM play the line 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.a3!? Bd6 7.g4!?. This is analogous to the "Latvian Gambit" in the Meran, with the difference that White has played a3 instead of Qc2. The question is, can White also get an effective version of this gambit by playing 6.Bd2!? Bd6 7.g4 ?

Some things to bear in mind:

1) In comparison with the 6.Qc2 line, White is not hitting the h7 pawn, which may improve some of black's defenses based on Nxg4, i.e. 7..Nxg4 8.Rg1 Nxh2 9.Nxh2 Bxh2 10.Rg7 and now black can play 10..Qf6 without dropping the h-pawn. In addition, White is not yet on the c-file, which might make black's ...e5 break (commonly met with cxd5 and Nb5) more palatable. On the other hand, defenses based on ..dxc4 followed by ..e5 allow White to play Qb3 without losing a tempo: 6.Bd2 Bd6 7.g4 dc 8.Bxc4 e5 9.Qb3 with the idea of 9..0-0 10.g5 and the d5 square is now unavailable (Black can sac a pawn on d5, but I doubt it's good).

2) In comparison with the 6.a3 line, White is one move closer to castling queenside or to bringing a rook to c1, depending on the circumstances. On the other hand, Black is able to play a defense based on ..Bb4, which I personally think is one of the better tries against the g4 gambit. For example, a common position is 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.g4 Bb4, where white usually plays 8.Bd2. So the question becomes, after 6.Bd2 Bd6 7.g4 Bb4!?, does white have anything better than 8.Qc2 transposing into the above line?

3) The GM who played 6.a3 was using it in a 3-minute match, so all this may be irrelevant (for what it's worth, he had a great position out of the opening and converted it to a win).

Anyway, I think 6.Qc2 is still the best move order to get into the g4 gambit, but I don't see why 6.Bd2 is any less useful than 6.a3. Food for thought.


p.s. Random survey -- if I can learn how to use Chessviewer, would people be interested in more of these types of posts?

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