Ugly Duckling for White, Beautiful Swan for Black
I noticed a really ugly variation in the CyberVerse, 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. g4?, presented/espoused by Dana Mackenzie [DM] with some Fritz peppered in. Let’s check the Caissic horror.
Note: recently (November 2009) Mackenzie tried to espouse this variation once again with a new set of recommendations; I’ll label the new attempts DM-1109 and deal with them accordingly in the body of this article. To give an executive summary: logic will deal with the new tries as well.
The atrocity (kudos for bravery, though) starts out with the particularly unaesthetic lunge
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. g4? Eww! The Aesthetics Police are mobilized! As a general rule of thumb, if a move looks disgusting, there is a reason. Or, as the Soviet School of Chess likes to say, Pawns-Do-Not-Move-Backward. I think this easy to grasp Soviet principle has been responsible for over 100,000 Swiss System defeats of American players. A corollary: If you are leaving gaping holes in your position, you had better be doing it for immense material gain and/or checkmate.
Position after 4. g4? – Ewww!
4…Be4! The cowardly 4… Bd7 can be well met by the simple 5. c4! e6 6. Nc3 Ne7 and white could’ve tried 7. Qb3 here to press his future-WC opponent, David Bronstein – Tigran Petrosian, USSR Ch. 1959, Tbilisi. That game was drawn after some adventures. 4…Bg6? is just weak with white scoring well in many games after either 5. h4 or 5. e6. Black should force more dark square weakenings before retreating.
5. f3 Bg6 6. h4
Note 11/11/09: DM-1109 says:
My second and more important argument is White can avoid Ginsburg’s line by playing a different move order! I did not realize this when I wrote my original series of posts on Bronstein’s Folly (formerly the Homo Erectus Variation). The move order I would now like to recommend is 4. … Be4 5. f3 Bg6 6. Ne2.
Response: why is Dana infatuated with this ugly position? 6. Ne2 is not a scare move. To me it harkens back to the bad old days when Americans were one of the most poorly prepared players on the international stage (shades of old US-USSR radio broadcasts). Black can play any sensible move, for example 6…e6 7. h4 h6! and as any Caro player knows, if you have a hiding square for your bishop and have e7-e6 in as well, you’re happy. For some strange reason, Mackenzie only considers the provocative and unnecessary 7….h5?! there. Why? 7…h6! is fine. Example (and you don’t need special prep to see this is good for black): 7…h6! 8. h5 Bh7 and …c7-c5 is coming. It’s a French WITH the queen bishop outside the pawn chain WITH senseless weaknesses created by white. I have noticed that Mackenzie often goes wrong in his optimistic lunge analyses by not considering the best moves for black. This occurred here too; he did not consider the most obvious Caro move 7…h6!
Humorous epilog: blindfold I started wondering why not 6. Ne2 e6 7. Nf4 first (then h2-h4) to cause problems to black’s bishop. Only on setting up the board did I then see 7. Nf4? Qh4+ oops!
We now return the programming to the original post.
6…h5! DM correctly points out 6…h6 is much weaker.
7. Ne2 DM correctly points out that 7. e6? Qd6! is bad for white. But keep this motif in mind, it will bite white on the rear repeatedly in the variations that follow.
7… hxg4 8. Nf4 Bh7! Black adheres to the Soviet principle, Do-Not-Give-Opponent-Anything.
Position after ice-cold Soviet refutation-mode 8…Bh7!
DM labels 9. e6 (?) “Top Choice of Fritz”. But what Fritz? 9. e6? looks terrible after the simple 9…fxe6
10. fxg4 (10. Nxe6 Qd6! 11. Nxf8 Qg3+! and white is feeling ill) 10… Qd6! (this pesky idea again) 11. Nc3 and already black can break with 11… e5 12. dxe5 Qxe5+ 13. Be2 d4! and white is in a total shambles. Notice in these lines how Soviet logical this is. “e6 gives me d6; I will use it.” Thus have so many American players gone down the drain.
Note 11/11/09 : DM-1109 says the following:
I have two arguments to make against Ginsburg [ ....] First is that in his refutation, 4. … Be4 5. f3 Bg6 6. h4 h5 7. Ne2 hg 8. Nf4 Bh7! 9. e6 fe 10. fg Qd6! he does not consider White’s answer 11. Qe2. If he was thinking of 11. … Be4 12. Rh3 e5? then he would run into 13. de Qxe5 14. Ng6. However, I am not going to press this argument too hard because I think that Black can play more patiently with 11. … Nd7 and still be doing quite well for the basic reasons that Ginsburg outlines.
Response to DM-New: 9. e6? gets a BIG FAT JUICY QUESTION MARK – it’s a terrible move! Why? Because in the above line 11. Qe2 runs headlong into 11…Na6! and this is completely embarrassing to white. Black is doing fine with 11…Nd7 but 11…Na6 preparing Nc7 is even stronger. 11…Na6! 12. Qxe6 Nb4 is a comfortable plus for black; 12. Nxe6? Be4! is even worse; and on the insipid 12. a3 simply Nc7 and castles long and black should convert to the full point with no particular difficulties.
9…e6 10. g5 DM says “Fritz says white has to play 10. g5 to distract black from his counterplay.”
This pawn move, not developing, is, to say the least, not scary. Once again, this position looks completely miserable for white after 10..Ne7. Black can also play 10…Be4 and 11. Rh2 Ne7 12. Nc3 Nf5 13. Nxe4 dxe4 14. Bg2 Qxd4 looks like a fizzle-out draw.
For example, 11. Nc3 Nd7 12. h5 and now either 12…Bf5 (or even the wild 12… Nf5 13. g6 Bxg6!
14. Nxg6 fxg6 15. Qg4 Qe7 16. Bg5 Qb4 17. O-O-O gxh5 18. Rxh5 Nxe5!! cross-pin) are fine for black. White’s position is riddled with holes and black has no difficulties developing. An amusing Soviet-style variation: 12. h5 Bf5 13. Be3 c5! 14. Bd3 cxd4 15. Bxd4 Qb8! 16. Qe2 (16. g6 Nxe5 with an edge) 16..Nc6! and black is just logically attacking the guys white has strewn about while centralizing his minors at the same time. It’s a cold shower for white.
On white 10th move alternatives, such as 10. Nc3, black can simply play 10…Nd7 11. Be3 Bb4 and he faces no problems. It is white that has to watch out for sudden Be4 incursions.
Conclusion: 4. g4? is, in the late, great, IM Victor Frias’s words, “a steaming pile of malooch.”
Let’s bring back the Fantasy Variation 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. f3! (less holes).
Bravo, Chess Opening Bloggers
I enjoy chess opening discussions (good, bad, and unclear lines) alike of the sort presented by Dana and Michael Goeller over at the Kenilworthian. It’s nice how the CyberVerse leads to rapid idea generation, refutation, and idea refinement (of course, chess engines play a big part). Keep ‘em coming!
And for something Different: Chess Rental
Chessqueen83 (on ICC) set up this Rental and what a nice one it is. Available now for your chess and non-chess needs!
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