Wednesday, March 08, 2006

(35) ...d6-d5 surprises

On August 10th 1988 I was preparing for my ninth round game in the British Chess Championships in Blackpool.
I was to play black Vs International Master Gary Lane and contemplated using the Pirc Defence.
I knew that earlier in the tournament Lane had played with the white pieces Vs the Pirc and had adopted a system where white plays bishop to e3 and pawn to h3.

On the morning of the game I started analyzing possibilities for black against this set up.
One idea that occurred to me was that in the position that arises after the moves -

1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Nc3 g6 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 Be3 0-0 6 h3 Nc6 7 Bc4 ...
Black could now play what, to the best of my knowledge, was a new move, 7... d5.
My analysis of this new idea was -

a) 8.Nxd5 Nxe4 and Black stands well.
b) 8.Bxd5 Nxd5 and Black will stand well after either 9 Nxd5 f5 or 9 exd5 Nb4.
c) 8.exd5 Nb4 and Black will regain the pawn at d5 after, e.g. 9 0-0 Bf5 10 Rc1.

This seemed like an interesting idea.

But it is actually superfluous, for with the simple and standard device of 7... Nxe4! 8. Nxe4 d5, Black would equalise completely.

Somehow I did not think of that.

I played the Pirc Defence, but Lane played a different formation and so denied me the chance to spring my new idea.

During the game I noticed that one of the games being displayed on the demonstration boards was Pigott vs Hodgson.
This was also a Pirc Defence. John Pigott, playing white, had chosen the Classical System (as it is known).

The position after 1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Nc3 g6 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 Be2 0-0 6 0-0 Bg4 7 Be3 Nc6 8 Qd2... arose.
It is very well known, having occurred in hundreds or even thousands of master games.
Black has almost always continued here with 8...e5, although some other rarer options have been seen, e.g. 8... Re8, 8...Nd7 or 8...Bxf3.

After some thought Hodgson produced a completely new move: 8...d5.

Pigott responded with 9 exd5 and after 9...Nb4 10 h3 Bf5 the position that had arisen was the one that I had considered that morning, given here as variation c).

The only slight differences are that in Pigott - Hodgson the White bishop is on e2, not c4, and the Queen is at d2, not d1.

Hodgson later explained that he had hit upon the idea at the board, and had not prepared it beforehand.

In an interview with Kasparov in 1983, Jonathan Speelman mentioned the frequent phenomenon of a chess player analysing the possibilities in a position whilst his opponent was thinking and then, a while later, noticing a move for his opponent which he had not previously thought of only to very soon afterwards see that very move played.

Did Gary therefore think that some sort of psychic link between chessplayers might exist?
"Absolutely not!", came the response.

But many players I knew of were by no means so certain that there is no such connection, and I certainly have encountered many instances of this phenomenon in my games.

In October 1988 I played in an event in Geneva and a funny thing happened during my game with Beat Züger.

Plaskett Vs Züger
Geneva Masters 1988
1 c4 g6 2 Nc3 Bg7 3 g3 Nf6 4 Bg2 0-0 5 e4 d6 6 Nge2 c5 7 0-0 Nc6 8 d3 Rb8 9 f4 Bd7 10 h3 Ne8 11 Be3 Nd4 12 a4 a6 13 Bxd4 cxd4 14 Nd5 a5 15 Qb3 b6 16 f5 g5 17 f6 Nxf6 18 Nxf6+ Bxf6 19 Rxf6 exf6 20 Nxd4 Qe7 21 Rf1 Kg7 22 Nf5+ Bxf5 23 Rxf5 ...

After my 23rd move I went for a stroll around the room, reasonably confident that, although I had made a slight material investment, I retained a solid enough position.
Züger had been thinking for about eight minutes when I sat down at the board again and then thought ,"What if he plays 23... d6-d5 (?)".

Within five seconds of my entertaining the idea he made that very move, advancing his d pawn one square to where I could capture it for free with my rook or e or c pawns.

But the benefit was that via this sacrifice he activated his pieces.

I took on d with my e4 pawn, and the game went on to end in a draw.

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