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There was a time when the Sicilian Najdorf and King's Indian Defences reigned supreme, thanks largely to the efforts of Bobby Fischer and then Garry Kasparov. You still get some die-hards who are playing these lines but now players are modelling themselves more on Vladimir Kramnik.


Yes folks, it's all change, with the Slav and Petroff Defences coming into fashion big time, and at every level of the game. Unbalancing the game now seems to be a thing of the past with Black setting out to equalise and then descend, vulture-like, on White's efforts to win.

Things are getting so bad that Kotronias has even brought out a book entitled Beating the Petroff, which 10 years ago would have had me rolling on the floor with laughter. But not now.

Download PGN of November '04 1 e4 e5 games

Petroff Defence [C42-43]

The first game of this month's update (Davies - Evans) shows me playing 1.e4 against a MUCH lower rated opponent and casually playing something I don't know too well. Suddenly there came Murey's 4...Nc6 and I was sweating:

That I managed to win this game did not have much to do with the opening.

Looking this line up I found that Sergei Rublevsky knows a lot about beating the Petroff with nice wins against specialists such as Motylev and Iordachescu. It was amazing to see how Black suddenly came under immense pressure in Rublevsky - Motylev, the brilliant plan involving castling long and 11.Qe3! doing the damage:

Iordachescu got into even more trouble with his 5...Nc5 in Game 3. Clearly Black has some problems to solve here. Tiviakov on the other hand didn't show anything in Game 4 against Bellia in which 5..d5 Nf6! led to easy equality:

Black against this guy isn't usually that easy.

Black against Kasparov is even more difficult, but Motylev was doing the job well for a while in his game against the maestro (Kasparov - Motylev). Kotronias - Motylev was always going to be an interesting tussle between two opposing specialists. Motylev varied from the Kasparov game with 9...Be6 and restricted his opponent to a rather negligible advantage:

Kotronias even found himself in trouble after pressing too hard.

Sammalvuo - Iordachescu features another important line with 11.Ne5, but with Black once again having enough resources to hold the balance. Al Modiahki was much more ambitious against the Rumanian GM (Al Modiahki - Iordachescu) but things were already a bit dangerous when he overlooked the stunning 18...Qb8!:

As both 9....0-0 and 9...Be6 seem to be holding up well for Black it must be tempting for White to explore earlier alternatives such as 9.Re1:

Sadvakasov scored a famous victory over Karpov with this move (Sadvakasov - Karpov) but largely because of the former World Champion's 36th move blunder. No doubt Black will be drawing the sting from this line too, with our old friend Motylev seeing some action in the final game against Peng Xiaomin.

It looks like we're going to be seeing a lot more of the Petroff. Time to bring back the King's Gambit?

That's all for this month.

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Nigel Davies