Wednesday, March 31, 2010


This morning, once again, I headed to an opening book--back to the Flexible French by Victor Moskalenko. I wanted to look at some of the notes from one of the games.

The idea of Black placing a Knight on h6 against the Advance French I first saw in a game of Igor Glek's, many years ago. I wasn't keen on it and never played it except in speed games. Now I have had more time to examine it since I want to get more details squeezed out of the French (for Black).

Therefore I played through the opening moves from the notes and here is what I found:

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.c3 Nc6. All pretty normal stuff. Then 5.Nf3 Nh6!?

These days White isn't taking the Knight but most of my opponents won't know that and they WILL take the Knight, so I have to be prepared for that.

6.Bxh6 gxh6 7.Bd3. I know the Bishop has to get out if White is going to castle but I don't know why it goes to d3 except for a future K-side attack. I would think it could be delayed, but hey... maybe other moves transpose.

When I went to put these into ChessBase in a database (DB) called "Tests for Openings" I couldn't remember (?) Black's move here. Then I got it, 7... Qb6. This is played in other thematic Advance lines as it attacks the pawn on b2 and threatens mortal danger.

White protects with 8. Qd2. Black now plays 8... Bd7. The reason for this move is to pounce on d4 and not allow a hurtful check on b5 which attacks the Queen after some exchanges on d4 (cf. the Milner-Barry--see, knowing other things in the French can help!)

Now I am at move 9 and I have no idea what White may do. He might castle. Or he knows that e5 could be a problem for him and he wants to shore that up. He know Black's K-side is kind of "iffy" too. But Moskalenko gives: 9.dxc5 and Black retreats his Q to c7, i.e., 9... Qc7. This IS a good move IF White plays dxc5. Why allow your Q to be attacked again with b4 and then dawdle around trying to reposition her? If the Q goes to c7 right away there is pressure put on e5 and later pressure on c5.

10.Qf4 defends the pawn (since White's dark-squared B is gone). 10...Bg7. The pressure mounts on e5, this is one of Black's goals. (You'd be amazed how fast White loses if that e5-pawn disappears with no compensation to back it up.)

11. Qg3 to attack the B/g7 and hopefully bring in reinforcements to the P/e5 with an eventual f4 or some Knight maneuvering (not likely). 11... 0-0.

And Moskalenko ends his comments here with "Black's pieces are excellently positioned," which is true.

The TIP is that Black can discover the moves (more quickly if he has seen them before) as the position unfolds. He must attack, White must defend. This flows from 5... Nh6.

If you want to know more, that is, "What's next?" you can go to the Reference Tab in ChessBase10, 2010 Mega package... but, you won't find anything! Depressing.

However, if you go back to the position of White's 9th move you will see (2) previously played possibilities:
9.Be2 and 9.cxd5 (in this last one Black's reply is 9...Bxc5, which Moskalenko circumvents with the better 9...Qc7.)

So you should be ready for 9.Be2 too. It's kind of a wasted move isn't it? At first he went to d3 and now he moves the B back. At this point there are no games from stronger players to guide you: 9...Rc8, 9...0-0-0, 9...Bg7, and 9...Rg8.

All are reasonable moves I would guess and in fact are also the first 4 moves suggested by Deep Rybka at 16 ply.

But, there is a 5th move you should look at: 9...cxd4. Then 10.cxd4 Nxd4!?! 11.Nxd4 Bc5 12.Nc2. Now Black has an idea for disturbing the equilibrium on the K-side AND the Q-side. 12...Bxf2+

What are White's responses? Two. 13.Kf1 and 13.Kd1.

Taking the last one first, 13.Kd1, Black goes after the pawn on b2 with 13...Qxb2. (Black can't take the R/a1 because it is protected by that darn Knight on c2).

White goes after the B/f2 with 14.Rf1. Black also notices that pawn on e5 looks good too. Smartly Black plays 14...Bb6 first. The material is balanced fundamentally, three pawns for a Knight. Most club players will duke it out. At this point you might consider "playing" this position at home against your computer. You will be faced with a variety of possibilities but in all cases it will help get your feet wet IF your opponent makes it that far without crumbling (they usually crumble).

The other move? 13.Kf1.

The TIP again is reinforced with looking at the notes. Then trying to recreate them either on the board or with the aid of database tools, and experiment. I've learned more about this line today than when I studied it several years back. Moskalenko helped greatly. But another source I would seriously suggest is the New in Chess Yearbooks, where I first saw some of this stuff mentioned. In the realm of full disclosure, I sell these NIC Yearbooks. I said all that to make you laugh because I see it in some of these hi-fallutin' blogs where the recommender of some financial windfall also owns stock or has some interest in thinning out your wallet. Right up front, that's always been my purpose, but to help you, to get you interested, I have to give you something good in return, right?

I hope this column today helped even in some small way. It shows how I study and think and it works. What more could you ask for?

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