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Hi everybody, I will leave the rich strategic battleground of the Closed Spanish for a while and come back to some livelier "Open Games". This month we will focus our attention on the Petroff Defence and the main line of the Marshall Gambit.

I have not forgotten amateurs of the Scotch as well as Evan's Gambit lovers - they will be covered soon. Your emails are always useful and I will try to satisfy as many people as I can. If you have found any improvements, refutations or even some important games that I haven't mentioned, then please write.

Of course, the World Chess Championships have begun just two days ago (at the time of writing) in San Luis and I will obviously discuss it next month if they play 1 e4-e5. So far they have played one Petroff, one Queen's Indian and six Sicilians - something tells me that Tony is going to have some work!!


Download PGN of September '05 1 e4 e5 games

Petroff Defence 3 Nxe5 [C42]

Nowadays the Petroff is played more and more. I have selected two very interesting new ideas against the main systems for you. 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.0-0 Be7 8.Nc3!?:

I was recently attracted by this variation as it was chosen by Nisipeanu in two of his games. The new European champion usually goes for safe opening choices and then tries to make the most out of them. He was probably influenced by the blindfold game between Svidler and Topalov that I will present first:

  1. Svidler - Topalov A fantastic queen sacrifice in blindfold chess!
  2. Nisipeanu - Iordachescu: In this game Black could not find a way to equalize and White won with very nice endgame technique. In the game I found some improvements for Black that might interest you.
  3. Nisipeanu - Mista: Here Black was caught in a trap and could never come back.
  4. Grishuk - Gelfand: This rapid game is very interesting and shows how to respond when Black tries to play ...f5
  5. Najer - Nielsen: This is only a blitz game, but it demonstrates some typical tactics in this line. The variation chosen by the Dane is probably the strongest for Black.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Bd6 7.0-0 0-0 8.c4 c6 9.cxd5 cxd5 10.Nc3 Nxc3 11.bxc3 Bg4 12.Rb1 Nd7 13.h3 Bh5 14.Rxb7 Nb6 15.Qc2:

In this line with ...Bd6 and ...c6 it was considered very dubious to take the b7 pawn for a long time, but concrete analysis shows that Black is in difficulty in many lines. Here are two recent games showing that 14 Rxb7 is strong and might even be a complete refutation of Black's set-up! The line is very wild with lots of tactics.

  1. Alavkin - Frolyanov: Black played 15...Bxf3 in the diagram position and came out OK, but it seems that White had a stronger eighteenth move, which should keep him on top. It is interesting to see how White saves his trapped pieces.
  2. A.Kovacevic- Skatchkov: White sacrificed a whole rook for the attack. Black returned the piece to defend against the immediate threats but then White won with two pawns for the exchange. A very nice game!

Marshall Gambit [C89]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.c3 d5:

Now we will deal with the main line of the Marshall gambit. In fact in the main line only two variations are really playable for Black.

Following 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5 c6 the mainline goes 12.d4 Bd6 13.Re1 Qh4 14.g3 Qh3 15.Be3 Bg4 16.Qd3 Rae8 17.Nd2, where White develops logically, 17...Qh5 18.a4 Re6 19.axb5 axb5:

The first line presented here is perhaps the most problematic. Black doesn't hurry to play ...f5 and ...g5 but plays calmly with 17...Qh5 associated with ...Re6 aiming for compensation on the white squares. This line has been revisited recently by both Leko and Ivanchuk. In both games Black was in difficulties after 20 Qf1 but found enough resources to make a draw.

These two games will also be the occasion to take a look at 20 Nf1 (Karpov) and 20 c4 (Tal) in the notes.

  1. Leko - Kasimdzhanov: Black played 20...Rfe8 and had to play an ending which is slightly better for White. It is, however, a very instructive example of how to play for a win in such a position.
  2. Ivanchuk - Grischuk: Black preferred 20...Bh3 and than introduced a novelty on move 24. A few moves later he had to sacrifice the exchange. This line seems to be fine for Black and is more in the spirit of the gambit than that played by Kasimdzhanov.

In this second part we will show another playable line, 17...Re6, much sharper than the one examined before. It also provides an opportunity to completely review the lines with 17...f5 that have been refuted in the past - unless you find a way to rehabilitate them!

This may seem rather complicated but specialists will enjoy it, and there are some interesting new ideas.

  1. Fleck - Wegner In this game White tried to improve with 25 Rxa6 but only managed a draw in an opposite colour bishop ending two pawns up.

To resume: my general feeling is that the Marshall is a good weapon to make a draw against strong opponents. I also feel that there is still place to improve in the main lines and that the last word has not yet been written.

I await your comments and analysis of this new material from those Marshall specialists amongst you. See you next month with a new World Champion for our old Chess World.

Best wishes,


Please post your Kingpawn Opening queries on the 1 e4 e5 Forum, or subscribers can write to me at if you have any questions.