King's Gambit [C36]
I've always considered 1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4 3 Nf3 d5 an 'easy' but far-from-critical response, as while Black gets free development and two open central files, White's extra central pawn and open f-file promise him a lasting edge, sometimes even into the endgame:
In Game 1 Zvjaginsev gives a text book demonstration of how to play such endings as White and his 2600+ opponent is completely crushed. If everyone played this line as Black I think I would start playing the King's Gambit as White myself!
There has been lots of discussion on the Forum about the 2...Bc5 line recently, as it has been recommended by both Nigel Davies and Mihael Marin, but I think this might also come into the same category of lines for Black that just make it too easy for White. I hope to deliver some definitive verdicts before too long.
Two Knights [C58]
I won a pretty game as Black in a Bishop's Opening a few days ago, in the Andorra tournament, but was particularly struck during the post mortem when my opponent mentioned that he thought I always played 3...Bc5, and so didn't know what to do when I played 3...Nf6 instead!
I know that Marin recommends 3...Bc5, and it is true that I have mostly played this way myself, but I have always felt that 3...Nf6 must be the best move as it avoids various problem lines like the Evans Gambit and the Giuoco Piano (with 4.c3 and 5 d4). However, it all depends on whether 4 Ng5 is good or not.
Recently I noticed that a lot of strong players have been playing the 6...Bd7 variation, and then capturing on b5, which has the advantage (after, say, 9 Qxb5+ c6 10 dxc6 Nxc6) of bringing Black's queen's knight back to a good square, rather than leaving it stuck out on a5 as in the 6...c6 line. Anyway, I've summed all this up in Game 2 which is a brilliant attacking game, featuring a hunted white king.
Instead of 7 Qe2 Mamedyarov played 7 Be2 in Game 3:
Mamedyarov won very smoothly, but a little analysis with Rybka shows that Black is very comfortable indeed.
Schliemann Gambit [C63]
Game 4 is 'only' a rapid game, but sees Shirov lose as White against the Schliemann Gambit. Had he read previous ChessPublishing updates he could have avoided this as Olivier explained how to improve in his extensive notes to Morozewitch - Aronian.
Could the Schliemann be due a revival? I hope so!
Is it possible to play the 'Marshall' against the Anti-Marshall?
Well, Etienne Bacrot did in Game 5, and achieved a very reasonable position.
Of course Etienne is not as well prepared as he was before he caught the 'poker bug', but even so this is food for thought.
Game 6 is another win from Ivanchuk, but this time a sparkling attacking game. In the opening he avoids the standard 14...Na5 and instead plays 14...Qd7!?:
This rare move is clearly stronger than its reputation, and in the notes you will see that White has almost no way to an advantage.
Since taking over this section I have felt an obligation to play king pawn openings with both Black and White, and so I was happy to play white against Postny in the 3rd round of the Andorran tournament, as he specializes in the Graf and Breyer Variations.
He actually blitzed out the Graf Variation against which I had decided to follow Olivier's analysis (see Anand - Bruzon) from just over a year ago, with a couple of twists of my own, but instead he surprised me with 19...f5!?:
I almost refuted this, but 'copped out' at the critical moment and allowed him to draw, see Game 7.
In Game 8 Smirin plays a strong innovation for Black in the 13...Rd8 line, and won quickly, but analysis shows that White was better right up to a few moves from the end.
Till next month, Tony