Kindred’s Special: A Practical Study of Opening Theory — (QGD) Part I

MY OWN CHESS DEVELOPMENT EMERGED DURING THE 1940s to early 1960s thanks to the chess magazines CHESS REVIEW and The AMERICAN CHESS QUARTERLY.  I guess my favorite players had their games published and analyzed by the famous Hans Kmoch with occasional notes and analysis provided by the players themselves or guest commentators. Of course the era from the 1800s through those current years often got a share of interesting stories, photos and games that it seems to me is what is so attractive about chess reads.

Chess enthusiasts today remember the many verbal exchanges by leading players in the chessworld with sometimes bitter fury thrown in. Going back to the era of Alekhine, Capablanca and Euwe, all seemingly mild in comparison to the later chess community heated exchanges that touch on the debates about Mikhail Botvinnik and Paul Keres.  Many believed Paul Keres was cheated out of the right to be world champion by Botvinnik. The Russian champion was no pushover and was among the leading exponents of the game during the 1930s and finalized in his winning the world title following Alekhine’s death by his lst place in the AVRO. The Estonian, Paul Keres, many thought was the strongest player and most brilliant attacking player and the huge following he garnered at tournaments and public appearances were enriched by writers and players alike. Mikhail Botvinnik was the darling of the communist chessworld and indeed was a staunch supporter of the communist system. His own personality had shortcomings and had the air of superiority over and among his rivals.

Perhaps after all this time and chance to view the games of these two players some vindication of Botvinnik’s sole claim to the world championship and numero uno among the chess elite of the world during that period is justified.

How to study the opening is a personal choice and there are varied ways to achieve such purpose.  Much depends upon desire but library space, chess books, magazines, computer-tech chess programs, and practice with friends or aid of a chess coach must conclude with time available and time spent to form a learning curve.  For this purpose and to interact with my previous comments above, I present some games in one of the more ancient Queen Gambit Declined variations to illustrate how original games are followed by study for the purpose of introducing a new idea or plan that build upon the foundation of that curve.

1. d4  d5  2. c4.  The Queen’s Gambit is not really a gambit at all other than identify to it the lure of the d5 pawn away from the center by 2…dxc4. Normally the pawn cannot be successfully defended on c4 so that White will eventually capture it usually with the Bishop, Knight, or the ricocheting maneuver Qa4+ and Qxc4 to follow. It is one of the oldest openings going back to the 1490 Gottingen manuscript and subsequently analyzed by Greco and Salvio. It did not gain popularity or a close examination until the late 19th century.  In 1843, Carl von Janisch wrote that he considered 2…e6 to be the best defense and supported by many players to this day.

Many branches have evolved through time and testing analysis in recorded games.  The variety of styles of players have discovered opening variations with names like Cambridge Springs Defense, Exchange Variation, Lasker’s Defense, Manhattan Variation, Tarrasch Defense, The Orthodox Defense, The Tartakower Variation, Albin Counter Gambit, Semi-Slav Variation and assorted oddities. White has its own prescription for attacks like The Classical Variation with 5.Bf4 favored somewhat by Victor Korchnoi and earlier by Steinitz and Nimsowitsch, The Petrosian Variation and The Reynolds Variation.

With the enormity of such host variations, sub-variants etc. it is not possible to here give a credible account so I shall attempt to limit the investigation to a rather easy to play variation and one championed by many great players during their careers at the chessboard. My objective will be to give some guidance that you can apply to the discovery of other openings and how to best learn and understand the ideas and plans.

1. d4  d5  2. c4  e6  3. Nc3  Nf6  4. cxd5  exd5 

Correct planning as the pawn recapture is far superior to Nxd5. It opens the long diagonal for the QBishop and maintains a pawn in the center.  Capturing with the Knight would allow a strong center with 5. e4 with a subsequent gain of tempi and rapid open lines for White. This is the Exchange Variation of the QGD and made popular in the United States by the great boy prodigy Samuel Reshevsky who employed it in important games as did Larry Evans and Robert Byrne among many American chess stars.

5. Bg5  c6  6. Qc2  Be7  7. e3  Nbd7  8. Bd3  O-O.

At this point White has two very different approaches to try and both yield promising middlegame action.

I shall now examine a game strategy and tactics by former World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik versus Paul Keres. The game starts with the Exchange Variation. Moscow 1952.

1. d4  Nf6  2. c4  e6  3. Nc3  d5.

Keres’ handling of the opening deserves comment. He elects to adopt the standard QGD but notice that he did not give his opponent a certainty of just what opening he would employ in defense.  The idea of retaining options is probably moot at this elite level.

4. cxd5  exd5  5. Bg5  Be7  6. e3  O-O  7. Bd3  Nbd7  8. Qc2  Re8  9. Nge2  Nf8  10. O-O  c6  11. Rb1.

Botvinnik cunningly alters the usual Nf3 deployment and then follows it up with Rb1 suggesting to Keres that he plans the famous Minority Attack on the Q-side. Keres proceeds with one of his favorite methods of dealing with the wing action which turns out to be flawed given the Knight deployment to e2.  A sharp attack would have met Nf3 with jump moves like …Nf8>Ng6;  …h6 and after Bxf6, Qxf6 prepares the lively …Bg4 and …Nh4.

11. … Bd6? 12. Kh1!!

Sheer genius in concept and removes the diabolical threat of …Bxh2+ answering Kxh2 by Ng4+.

12. … Ng6  13. f3!!

Keres must have bit his lip when seeing how he was outfoxed.  No,  there is no minority attack coming as Botvinnik turns his attention to advancing in the center with e3-e4 and the way Keres had met such advance in the past with c5 was not feasible now. The loss of tempo to retreat the Bishop illustrates the value of time and space in chess.

13. … Be7  14. Rbe1  Nd7 15. Bxe7  Rxe7  16. Ng3  Nf6  17. Qf2  Be6  18.Nf5  Bxf5  19. Bxf5  Qb6 20. e4.

Any fangs that Keres possessed have been extracted leaving his position in dire straights.  In other words, Black soon finds himself KAPUT.  How often do you find yourself in the shoes of Keres as here?

20. …dxe4  21. fxe4  Rad8  22. e5  Nd5  23. Ne4!

In such positions, avoid exchanges especially when a Knight can invade the enemy camp with threats like Nd6. Say …Nc7 24. Nd6 contains the dual threat following Ne8 by 25. Nxc8 or 25.Nxf7.

It is worth noting here my article on the value of pieces where I vary decidely different from published book exchange values. Review my previous columns and you will find it and see if you agree with me or the books.

Keres struggles desperately hoping for a misplay but the iceman whom I nickname here freezes the enemy units to near zugswang.

23. …Nf8  24. Nd6  Qc7  25. Be4  Ne6.

With today’s modern GMs, computer analysis probably would go into an Exchange shortage by Rxd6, getting a Knight and Pawn for the Rook and trying to blunt the worst of the white initative. With the text, he probably visualized a calculated position that would offer stiff resistance.

26. Qh4 g6  27.Bxd5  cxd5  28. Rc1 Qd7  29. Rc3  Rf8 

And the mystro of attack and defense eyes 30. Rh3 with f5 as a solution but is now surprised to see the old saying, “There is more than one way to ice the point!”

30. Nf5!  Rfe8.

The Knight cannot be captured. Do you see why?

31.  Nh6+! Kf8  32.  Qf6  Ng7  33. Rf3  Rc8  34. Nxf7  Re6  35. Qg5  Nf5  36. Nh6  Qg7  37. g4  Here, Keres resigned.

With this game, it became clear that the powerful pawn minority attack on the Q-side when the Knight is developed to e2 instead of f3 offers an additional plan of operations in the center starting with f3, Ng3, e4 and made more effective when Black plays Bd6 as did Keres in this game.  It was then found that Rb1 was not necessary and could go directly into center play with Rae1. But this game strategy of Botvinnik set the stage for a number of new ideas to put into play.  Sometimes it is one game or a number of games that analysis and home study preparing for tournaments or match play uncovers.  Chess is the playground of the mind and stimulus for those with imaginative and creative power.

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