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Hi everybody,
After the Kramnik-Leko match I wondered why Leko switched from the Marshall to the Caro-Kann and lost the title. After all, he was very successful with the Marshall but stopped playing it just after scoring a crushing win. There was probably something we didn't know, and as we can't ask the players, I decided to try to understand it myself. So, I searched to see if there was any improvement on this tragic Kramnik-Leko game.
As a result I discovered that other top grandmasters have done the same and were looking in the same direction. This update will show you the analysis of this idea in 6 games. This should prove very helpful for players who don't know what to do against the Marshall Gambit, which is still very much in fashion.
To relax, and for a bit of a change, I will finish with two King's Gambits. Olivier

Download PGN of September '06 1 e4 e5 games

The Marshall Gambit [C89]

The diagram position is obtained after the following moves:

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 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5 c6 12.d4 Bd6 13.Re1 Qh4 14.g3 Qh3 15.Re4 g5 16.Qf1

All the games in this section will start from this position. In the first part Black will play the natural 16...Qh5, and in the second part we will have a look at the recent 16...Qxf1.

Part 1: Black plays 16...Qh5

Kurnosov - Azarov is an important game where White improved on the game Kramnik- Leko with success. The move 19 a4!? Is very interesting:

This might be the move that made Leko change his mind. It would also explain why so many strong players preferred 16...Qxf1 later on. Unfortunately for White, he made a big blunder when he was completely winning and allowed Black to get a miraculous perpetual check.

In Todorovic - Vajda Black tried to improve with 17...Nf6:

In my opinion White should have played 18 Qe2 to refute the idea, but instead he played 18 f3 and got into trouble. Nevertheless, the game is quite interesting to look at.

This is the position after the 17th move of Almasi - Gyimesi:

Now White played 18 Re1 but I believe that 18 Bd1!, as Motylev played, is the best way to fight against Black's attack. After this Gyimesi did not manage to find the best way to attack and was crushed in a nice way.

In conclusion, White could have gained an advantage and been on top in all the games presented here.

Part 2: Black plays 16...Qxf1

In Motylev - Sargissian Black played the natural 18...Rae8 but after 19 f3! he found himself in trouble and could never find enough counterplay:

A nice technical effort!

Black deviated on move 20 with ...Bh3 in Volokitin - Ponomariov as Black did not want to check how Volokitin would have improved his earlier game against Sargissian. Then it seems that the White position looks ugly but this is only temporary and with 26 a4! he very quickly achieved a harmonious position:

The technical phase was without problems.

Jakovenko - Zhang-Zhong was a very interesting game where White attacked all over the board as you can see after 23 h4!:

White should have won but he couldn't conclude properly.

From these three games we saw that White always had the upper hand in the endgame, most of the time playing with just a pawn for the exchange.

So now we can say that the position is difficult to play with Black and that's probably why Leko stop playing it in his match against Kramnik.

King's Gambit [C30-39]

At the top level this is very rarely encountered, but a bit lower down you must know how to play against it, as can be seen first from the game Zeller - Renet, which was played on board one in the Swiss League.

In this game, Zeller played an unusual set up with 4 Nc3. I played an improvement on move 7 (...a6) and afterwards I was always on top:

Unfortunately, lack of time stopped me from winning this nice game.

In Haimovitch - Fressinet, the strong French GM Fressinet took all the risks with 11...Qxe4! and crushed his opponent from the beginning to the end:

A very nice performance indeed!

Thanks very much to all of you and see you next month. Olivier Renet

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