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The Openings Explained

Abby Marshall

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We are still ironing out some wrinkles in the website redesign. In the meantime enjoy this month's The Openings Explained. Please support this column with a purchase from our chess shop.

The Bishop's Opening [C24]

This month I am covering the Bishop's Opening at the request of Aaron Carter from South Africa. I will be examining it for White and Black, since it pays to know the alternatives for both sides.

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4

This signifies the Bishop's Opening, but it does not constitute its own system since transposition to the Italian Game or Vienna is common. As we will see, this move order can be a way to avoid the Petroff Defense.

2...Nf6

Other moves would not get to the set-up I want to look at.

2...Bc5 The main line of the Vienna has the bishop go to the b4-square, so Black has to be prepared for a transposition to the Vienna when the bishop is on c5. Otherwise we could just transpose to the King's Gambit Declined or Italian Game. 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.d3 d6 5.f4 Ng4 (5...Nc6 is better.) 6.f5 Nf2 7.Qh5 This is not to be recommended for Black.

3.d3

3.Nc3 White immediately goes into the Vienna game, which usually sees 2.Nc3. 3...Nxe4 This is the Frankenstein-Dracula variation, which I covered in my November 2010 column. (3...c6 The issue here is that White can play 4.d4, and has not spent time on moving to d3. 4.d4 exd4 5.Qxd4 White has more central space.) 4.Qh5 This is the start of the mess. Black retreats the knight to d6 and some moves later Black's king is on d8, White is up a rook and Black starts attacking.

3.d4 exd4 4.Nf3 Nc6 is the Scotch Gambit.

3...c6

The Openings Explained
[FEN "rnbqkb1r/pp1p1ppp/2p2n2/4p3/2B1P3/
3P4/PPP2PPP/RNBQK1NR w KQkq - 0 4"]

This is the line of interest for this month. The plan is to hang strong in the center and make White overreach, or if White sits back, then maybe play ...d5.

Upon 3...Nc6, 4.Nc3 transposes to the Vienna. (And 4.Nf3 transposes to the Italian Game, where White has avoided the Petroff.) 4...Bb4 5.Nge2 d5 6.exd5 Nxd5 White exchanges in the center then plays f4 with interesting play.

4.Nf3

If White does not put pressure on the e-pawn, say after 4.Nc3, then ...d5 is the plan right away. Otherwise, we will go into the ...d6, ...Be7 set-up.

4.Qe2 This tries to put pressure on the e-pawn if Black is planning ...d5. Since we are not planning that move, 4.Qe2 is not dangerous. 4...Be7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.0-0 d6 This is the basic set-up. 7.c3 Nbd7 8.Bb3 Qc7 9.Re1 Re8 10.Nbd2 d5 11.Nf1 Bf8 12.Ng3 Nc5 13.Bc2 dxe4 14.dxe4 b6 15.Nh4 g6 16.Bg5 Be7 White gives the impression of being aggressive, but there are no threats. Black's c8-bishop has more scope than the white light-squared bishop and, as we will see, the knight jump to e6/f4 wins the bishop-pair. 17.Rad1 Ne6 18.Bc1 Nf4 19.Bxf4 exf4 20.Nf1 Ng4 Already White is in trouble. 21.Nf3 Bc5 22.Nd4 Ne5 23.Nd2 a5 24.N2f3 Bg4 25.h3 Bh5 26.Rd2 b5 27.Bd1 Rad8 28.Nb3 Bxf3 29.gxf3 Bb6 30.Nd4 Qa7 31.a4 bxa4 32.Bxa4 Bxd4 33.cxd4 Rxd4 34.Rxd4 Qxd4 35.Bb3 Qb4 36.Qd1 Qxe1+ A really nicely played game by Black. 0-1, Sabirova,O (2256)-Egin,V (2437), Tashkent 2007.

4.f4?! 3...c6 forestalled the possibility for White to play this move, since striking back in the center is strong. 4...exf4 5.e5 d5 6.Bb3 Bg4 7.Nf3 Nh5 Black has total control.

4...Be7

The bishop stops any pin on the f6-knight and stays back to defend the pawn when it is advanced to d6.

5.0-0

The Openings Explained
[FEN "rnbqk2r/pp1pbppp/2p2n2/4p3/2B1P3/
3P1N2/PPP2PPP/RNBQ1RK1 b kq - 0 5"]

It is best to play the obvious moves first, leaving your opponent to guess what your next not-so-obvious move might be.

5.Nxe5? Qa5+.

5...d6

Everything is protected and centralized.

6.Bb3

This is a common idea in these quiet Italian systems. The bishop will not be bothered by ...d5 and after c3, it can drop back to c2.

6...Nbd7

Black decides to develop this knight before castling.

7.c3

Another common move to prepare a future d4.

7...Nf8

White is hardly developed, so playing slow is fine and not playing ...0-0, Re8 first.

8.Nbd2

8.Ng5 This is the move you have to immediately look at. 8...Ne6 (8...d5 is also good. 9.f4 White really tries to create a storm. 9...exf4 10.Bxf4 Ng6 11.e5 This is not dangerous. 11...Ng4 12.Nxf7 Qb6+ 13.d4 0-0 Castling can nullify even the most terrifying moves.) 9.Nxe6 (9.f4 exf4 10.Nxe6 Bxe6 11.Bxf4 Qb6+ 12.Kh1 d5 This central push makes the position completely fine for Black. 13.Nd2 0-0 14.exd5 Nxd5 15.Nc4 Qd8 16.Bd2 Nb6 17.Ne5 Bxb3 18.Qxb3 Qd5 19.Rae1 Qxb3 20.axb3 Bd6 21.d4 ½-½, Kobalia,M (2581)-Motylev,A (2570),Ubeda 2001) 9...Bxe6 10.Bxe6 (10.Nd2 Bd7 Black could consider saving this bishop and preventing the weird pawn block e6/e5/d6/c6.) 10...fxe6 11.Qb3 Qd7 We will pick this up in the first game.

8...Ng6

The Openings Explained
[FEN "r1bqk2r/pp2bppp/2pp1nn1/4p3/4P3/
1BPP1N2/PP1N1PPP/R1BQ1RK1 w kq - 0 9"]

From here the knight defends e5 and can go to f4.

9.d4

This puts the most pressure on Black.

9.Re1 0-0 10.Nf1 Be6 11.Ng3 ½-½, Klip,H (2300)-Reinderman,D (2390),Dieren 1991 11...c5 This is not necessary, but interesting if White is really staying noncommittal.

9...0-0

By the way, Black does not want to play ...f5 here. Ever. I have learned this from experience. White has too much pressure on e5 to risk opening the e-file.

10.Re1

Activating the rook and making space on f1 for the knight.

10...h6

This creates space for the g6-knight to go to h7/g5 if warranted.

11.Nf1

Before giving away their intentions, both sides are going to complete their development with the obvious moves that control the center.

11...Re8 12.Ng3 Bf8 13.h3 Qc7

The Openings Explained
[FEN "r1b1rbk1/ppq2pp1/2pp1nnp/4p3/
3PP3/1BP2NNP/PP3PP1/R1BQR1K1 w - - 0 14"]

Making space for a black rook to go to d8 and deferring the decision about what to do with the light-squared bishop. We will pick this up in the second illustrative game.

Jonkman, Harmen (2383) - Van den Doel, Erik (2564)
Cappelle op 17th Cappelle la Grande (8), 02.03.2001

In this game Black shows how to handle the e6/e5/d6/c6 pawn formation in the center.

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d3 c6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.Bb3 d6 6.0-0 Nbd7 7.c3 Nf8 8.Ng5 Ne6 9.Nxe6 Bxe6 10.Bxe6 fxe6 11.Qb3 Qd7 12.f3

The Openings Explained
[FEN "r3k2r/pp1qb1pp/2pppn2/4p3/4P3/
1QPP1P2/PP4PP/RNB2RK1 b kq - 0 12"]

This is a strange move. I believe that White was planning d4, but this is too slow and gets in the way of White moving the knight to f3.

12.Nd2 Straightforward development is more challenging. Black does not really want a pawn on c6, since the d5-square is defended anyway and now d6 is a weak square with no pawn protection. 12...0-0 13.Nf3 This puts pressure on the e5-pawn. 13...c5 I like this move, not letting White play d4 too easily and hunkering down for a fight. 14.Re1 This is a better way to protect the e-pawn than f3. 14...Rac8 Black can also play 14...Nh5 and 15...Nf4, planning to recapture on f4 with the rook and doubling rooks on the f-file. 15.h3 Nh5 The chances are equal.

12...d5

Black just attacks e4 again.

12...h5 This ultra-aggressive idea is also fine.

12...0-0 13.Nd2 Rac8 14.Re1 c5 Playing slowly is a good idea as well.

13.Be3

13.exd5 cxd5 Any recapture is good for Black. The doubled e-pawns are good for Black since they keep out invaders in the center and Black has an open c-file.

13...0-0 14.Nd2 Nh5

14...b6 15.Rfe1 Rad8 Black can also just hold everything and remain centralized.

15.Rad1

15.d4 Bd6 is nothing to worry about for Black. 16.dxe5 Bxe5 The dark-squared bishop becomes active, but maybe this is best for White, who can plan g3 and f4.

15...Kh8

The Openings Explained
[FEN "r4r1k/pp1qb1pp/2p1p3/3pp2n/4P3/
1QPPBP2/PP1N2PP/3R1RK1 w - - 0 16"]

Black plays a prophylactic move before seeking activity.

15...d4 16.Bf2 Nf4 17.Nc4 Bf6 is a good possibility for Black.

16.Rfe1 Bh4

The first move I dislike. 17.g3 is a useful move to keep the knight from f4; since this move is going to be played anyway, Black should go about taking advantage of the light square weakness left behind.

16...b6 To free the queen from defending this pawn. 17.g3 Bd6 18.Kh1 Qe8 Black will have to be patient for White to open the center, when the white king will be under attack because of the pawn weaknesses on g3 and f3.

17.g3 Be7 18.d4

This is strong. Black has not finished developing and the knight on h5 looks silly.

18...exd4

18...Bf6 19.dxe5 Bxe5 20.f4 Bc7 21.Nf3 Everything is out of place for Black.

19.Bxd4 Qc7

Black gets out of the path of the d1-rook.

20.exd5 exd5

The Openings Explained
[FEN "r4r1k/ppq1b1pp/2p5/3p3n/3B4/
1QP2PP1/PP1N3P/3RR1K1 w - - 0 21"]

21.c4!

Now there is no good answer for Black. Perhaps 19...Qc7 was too slow, and Black should have brought the knight back to f6 instead.

21...Rad8

21...Nxg3 22.Rxe7 is good for White.

22.Kg2

22.Bxa7 White could have called Black's bluff by just taking the pawn. On 22...dxc4 23.Qe3 White owns the dark-squares and the center.

22...Nf6 23.Re6

23.f4 is much stronger. Black can't stop White from getting a stronghold on e5.

23...Qd7 24.Rde1

This throws the advantage away. White should have retreated the rook to e2.

24...dxc4 25.Nxc4 Qxd4 26.Rxe7 b5

The white knight has nowhere to go without getting in the way of the white pieces.

27.Ne5 Qd2+ 28.Kf1 Nd5

Black is able to get a perpetual now, so the White threats are mute.

29.Re2 Qc1+ 30.Re1 Qh6 31.Nf7+ Rxf7 32.Rxf7 Qxh2 33.Qa3 Kg8

The Openings Explained
[FEN "3r2k1/p4Rpp/2p5/1p1n4/8/
Q4PP1/PP5q/4RK2 w - - 0 34"]

34.Qxa7?

White falls for Black's nasty trap. The queen lets itself be tied to the rook, so Black has time to make threats against the white king.

34.Rxa7 Qxg3 35.Ra8 Black should take the perpetual here.

34...Qxg3

How to stop 35...Nf4?

35.Qa5 Rc8?

35...Ne3+! 36.Rxe3 Qh3+ 37.Ke1 (37.Ke2 Qg2+ 38.Ke1 Qg1+ 39.Ke2 Qd1+) 37...Qh4+ 38.Kf1 Qh1+ 39.Kf2 Qh2+ 40.Kf1 Rd1+ 41.Re1 Qh1+ After everything is traded Black takes the rook on f7 and wins.

36.Ra7

Losing.

36.Qa7 gets the draw, since the rook is not on d8. 36...Nf4 37.Ree7 Qh3+ 38.Ke1 Qh1+ 39.Kd2 Qg2+ 40.Ke1= Nd3+ 41.Kd1 Nxb2+ 42.Ke1 Nd3+ 43.Kd1.

36...Qxf3+ 37.Kg1 Qg3+ 38.Kf1 Nf4 39.Qb4

The Openings Explained
[FEN "2r3k1/R5pp/2p5/1p6/1Q3n2/
6q1/PP6/4RK2 b - - 0 39"]

39...Qh4

Maybe time trouble made him miss the mate-in-one.

40.Kg1 Rf8 0-1

An instructive win for Black with a typical pawn structure.

Fedorov, Alexei (2575) - Kramnik, Vladimir (2772)
Corus Wijk aan Zee (8), 22.01.2001

Here we get to see a former world champion experiment with this position. He follows a strange path, then changes course and achieves shaky equality nonetheless.

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d3 c6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.0-0 d6 6.Bb3 Nbd7 7.c3 Nf8 8.Re1 Ng6 9.Nbd2 0-0 10.d4 h6 11.Nf1 Re8 12.Ng3 Bf8 13.h3 Qc7

The Openings Explained
[FEN "r1b1rbk1/ppq2pp1/2pp1nnp/4p3/
3PP3/1BP2NNP/PP3PP1/R1BQR1K1 w - - 0 14"]

Some players love playing in this slow, centralizing way, while others hate it.

14.Be3 b6

This is an interesting way to get the light-squared bishop active.

14...Be6 is more straightforward. 15.Qc2 Rad8 when Black can consider playing ...c5.

15.Bc2

White adds more support to e4 and prepares a latent kingside attack, just as we see in the Italian Game and Ruy Lopez.

15...Ba6

15...Bb7 Black ends up retreating the bishop later, so this was a better move. 16.Qd3 Rad8.

The Openings Explained
[FEN "3rrbk1/pbq2pp1/1ppp1nnp/4p3/3PP3/
2PQBNNP/PPB2PP1/R3R1K1 w - - 0 17"]

16.b3

A fortifying move.

16...Rad8

Black focuses on centralization.

17.Qb1

This gets the queen off the same file as the black rook.

17...Bb7

Kramnik decides to bring the bishop back to focus on ...d5.

17...c5 I toyed with this move, but Black cannot generate threats on the kingside and so is devoid of play. 18.d5 Bc8 19.Qc1 White can wait for Black to play ...c4, or play c4 himself and play on the queenside.

18.a4

White plans to improve his position until Black can prove something.

18...d5

Black equalizes with this move. All his pieces are in good positions to control the center and the bishops get free. However, he has to give up a pawn.

19.exd5 exd4

19...cxd5 20.Bxg6 fxg6 21.Nxe5.

20.Bxd4 Rxe1+

The Openings Explained
[FEN "3r1bk1/pbq2pp1/1pp2nnp/3P4/P2B4/
1PP2NNP/2B2PP1/RQ2r1K1 w - - 0 21"]

This is a way to get the f3-knight out of play since White wants to keep the queen and bishop battery focused on g6.

21.Nxe1 Nxd5

Black captures the pawn back and stops White from playing Bxf6.

22.Bxg6 fxg6 23.Qxg6

I can't say Black was aiming for this.

23...c5

This opens the diagonal for the bishop.

24.Qe6+

24.Nf5 cxd4 25.Nxh6+ Kh8 26.Nf7+ Kg8 27.Nxd8 Qxd8 White has all those pawns, but Black has the bishop-pair.

24...Qf7 25.Qxf7+ Kxf7 26.Be5 Ne7

Now Black has the open d-file and the knight is going to a better square.

27.c4

The Openings Explained
[FEN "3r1b2/pb2nkp1/1p5p/2p1B3/P1P5/
1P4NP/5PP1/R3N1K1 b - - 0 27"]

The white bishop cannot stay on e5 defending the c-pawn, so White moves it.

27...Nc6 28.Bc3 Bc8

28...Nd4 is clearer and equal. 29.Bxd4 Rxd4 30.a5 Rd7.

29.a5 bxa5 30.Bxa5 Rd7 31.Bc3 Rb7

White is able to put pressure on Black in ways that could have been avoided.

32.Rb1 Be6 33.Rb2 Nd4 34.Bxd4 cxd4 35.Nf3 Ba3 36.Ra2 Rxb3 37.Nxd4 Rd3 38.Nxe6 Kxe6 39.Ne4 a5 40.f3 Bb4 41.Kf2 ½-½

The Openings Explained
[FEN "8/6p1/4k2p/p7/1bP1N3/
3r1P1P/R4KP1/8 b - - 0 41"]

I would rather be White in the final position. The knight is beautifully placed and White has more chances to win.

Lessons Learned

  • In terms of pieces, the set-up is knights on f6 and g6, and queens and rooks to the center. The dark-squared bishop helps protect the king and pawn structure. The light-squared bishop is probably best on e6.
  • In terms of pawn structure, ...d5 is a later possibility unless White plays f4. The pawn mass of e5, d6, and c6 keep the central squares secure. Play is slow.
  • White has to decide when to push d4 and how to take advantage of the extra space. The b3-bishop may be no better than the f8-bishop, which has an important defensive role.

Practitioners

  • Vladimir Egin is an international master from Uzbekistan.
  • Alexander Motylev is a Russian grandmaster and was the champion of Russia in 2001. He has played for Russia at many team events.
  • Erik van den Doel is a Dutch grandmaster who has played on the Dutch team at the Olympiad.

Further Reading


Order The Openings Explained #53 (Ebook)
by Abby Marshall

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