Kindred’s Special: In Self-Defense of 1. … e5 and Chess History

The road to success in defense is paved with patience.  Avoid weakening moves is, of course, more easily said than done.  But one must obstruct the attack. The black defense requires delicate handling where the advice of Capablanca, Karpov and Lasker who share the philosophy that the second player devote energy to achieve approximate equality with enough imbalance to launch counter actions that offer some good chances. Often the first player is suddenly thrust into a defensive role when everything seemed to make for happiness and silent congratulations on achieving a good game by making a second-rate move that the adversary spotted and could take advantage.  In contrast the defender recognizes his role in the opening being one of detering initiative by white  and setting up a counter-attack. Players who lack patience when confronting positional challenges rarely possess good defensive fortitude and lack thereof leads to impetuous folly.  One of the assets of a good defensive player is an iron will and with control over his or her human inclinations is the one who is likely to weather every storm and to launch a sucessful counter-attack.

My previous article touched upon one of the Ruy Lopez variations and illustrated the abundance of positional energies in the system for both sides examined. Let us examine another defense between amateurs but is likewise very entertaining and skillfully played.  After 1. e4  e5  2. Nf3  Nc6  3. Bb5  Nf6 The Berlin Defense (..Nxe4) or the Steinitz Defense (4…d6). The move 3…Nf6 is very important for the defender. Why? The answer lies in the almost automatic move 4. O-O.  If Black had chosen the Steinitz Defense at 3…d6, then White could proceed with 4. d4 Bd7  5. Nc3  Be7 and not having castled keeps Black in the dark as to how White will eventually castle. Black must avoid the tempting 4. d4 Bg4 5. d5 a6  6. Ba4  b5  7. dxc6 bxa4 8. c4 and White’s grip on the position is hard to counter.

Many events feature the Berlin Defense after 4. O-O  Nxe4 and less so with 4…d6 adopting the Steinitz Defense. For this article lets take a look at 4…d6 variation.

1. e4  e5  2. Nf3  Nc6  3. Bb5  Nf6  4. O-O  d6  Here, the well trod Tarrasch line goes 5. d4  Bd7  6. Nc3  Be7  7. Re1 which forces Black to play 7. … exd4 as 7. … O-O would fall into the famous Tarrasch trap 8. Bxc6 Bxc6 9. dxe5 dxe5 10. Qxd8 Raxd8 11. Nxe5 Bxe4  12. Nxe4  Nxe4 13. Nd3 f5 14. f3  Bc5+ 15. Nxc5  Nxc5 16. Bg5  Rd7 17. Be7 wins the Exchange.  If Black plays 10….Rfxd8 11. Nxe5 Bxe4  12. Nxe4  Nxe4 13. Nd3  f5  14. f3  Bc5+ 15. Kf1 Rf8  16. Ke2  Rae8 17. fxe4 wins.

5. Bxc6+  bxc6  6. d4  Nxe4.   Now on   7. Re1  exd4  8. Nxd4  O-O  9. Nf5  Played by Alekhine vs. Capablanca at St. Petersburg 19149. … Bxf5  10. exf5  Nd7  11. Nd5  Bf6  12. c3  Nb6 13. Nxf6+ Qxf6 14. Bxb6 axb6 15. Qf3.  However, I personally like the immediate 14. Qc2.

Alekhine recommended here at move 7. Qe2  f5  8. Nbd2  Nxd2 9. Nxd2 Be7  10. dxe5  dxe5 11. Nc4.

Now I continue cc game Copping vs  Warburton 1955 …  Ba6  12. Rd1  Qc8 13. Qh5+ g6  14. Qf3  e4  15. Qc3  O-O 16. Ne5  Qe6  17. Bh6  Bf6!

Warburton sacrifices the Rook for position. A mistake would be 17…Rd8 18. Nd7  Qf7  19. Qxc6 with all the pressure.

18.Bxf8  Bxc4  19. Qa3  Be5 20. Bc5  f4  21. Bd4  Bd6.  The 2-Bishops and powerful K-side Pawn majority are compensation for the Exchange. The sequel is a psychological: having won the Exchange by a series of moves White feels compelled to play for a win while declining the draw by repeat moves. But in so doing, the time between moves gives Warburton a brilliant concept.

22. Bc5  Be5  23. Bd4  Bd3  24. Qc3?!  Rf8!! 25. Re1 Bd5  26. f3  e6  27. b3.  On 27. Qd3 Rf5 28. Bc3 Rg5 29. Qd4 Be5 30. Qxa7 Rxg2+! 31. Kxg2 Qg4+ followed by mate.

27. … Qe7  28. Qd3  Qh4  29. Qf1 Rf5  30. Re2  Rh5 31. h3 Qg5! With a mating attack, White resigns.

The Steinitz variation is not frequently seen today and little gets published regarding it. But it seems out of favor. Perhaps so among the elite players but it should be something to have in your pocket for occasional airing. More coming!

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