Regular readers of my posts might be wondering what had happened to my attempts at playing 1… e5 in reply to 1.e4 this season.
Since my last article in the series I’ve faced 1. f4 followed by four consecutive 1. d4s. My last two games, though, saw me facing 1. e4 again, both times against slightly lower graded opponents.
For many years now it’s been against my principles to play serious chess unless there’s an ‘r’ in the month. The league chess season used to finish at the end of April, but it now drags on until the end of May, with cup matches continuing well into June. I really prefer to have more than a couple of months break between seasons.
The first game was in our last league match of the season, against Kingston, who were finding it difficult to field full teams since the sad loss of their captain, Chris Clegg, a few months ago.
I was sitting opposite their new captain, but three of the Kingston players had failed to appear, so I guessed my opponent was not really in the mood for a serious game, while a solid draw would do our prospects no harm.
1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 Nge7
The Cozio Variation. I’d been looking at 3… g6 and 3… Nge7 but it was so long since I’d last faced a Lopez that I’d forgotten which one I was going to play as well as all the analysis. My opponent told me he’d have played the Exchange Variation against 3… a6.
Perfectly playable, of course, but not White’s most dangerous option.
5. Nxd4 g6
6. O-O Bg7
7. Be3 O-O
8. Nc3 is more to the point but Black still has several playable replies.
Leading to complete equality. Now a series of exchanges simplifies the position.
9. exd5 Nxd4
10. Bxd4 Qxd5
11. Bxg7 Kxg7
12. Qxd5 Nxd5
13. Na3 Bf5
14. Rfd1 c6
15. Bd3 Bxd3
Offering a draw, which was immediately accepted. I’d intended to offer a draw on my next move anyway.
Not a very exciting adventure, I’m afraid, but I can’t really complain about achieving equality with the black pieces so quickly.
The league programme may have finished but we were still in the cup, with a quarter-final match against Division 2 side Hayes, who currently meet in Uxbridge, by the standards of the Thames Valley League a long journey and one which most of our players were unable or reluctant to make, so I had little choice but to play. Again, I had the black pieces and found myself facing 1. e4. My only previous game against my opponent, back in 2001, had started 1. f4 but since then he’s changed his opening repertoire.
1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. d4 exd4
Not unexpected from what I knew about my opponent.
He told me after the game that he has a good record against weaker players who take the pawn, but stronger players prefer this move.
5. exd5 Qxd5
6. cxd4 Bb4+
7. Nc3 Bg4
8. Be2 Bxf3
9. Bxf3 Qc4
9… Qxd4 10. Bxc6+ has netted a few victims. Qc4 is attributed to Capablanca, and indeed the earliest game with it on my database is Marshall-Capablanca Lake Hopatcong 1929. Transposition from the Danish Gambit is also common. Both my opponent and I were familiar with this line. If you play e5 in reply to e4 you really ought to know it.
10. Bxc6+ bxc6
11. Qe2+ Qxe2+
12. Kxe2 O-O-O
13. Be3 Ne7
Still travelling a familiar route.
Rad1 is more often played here, but Black scores well. a3 might be slightly more accurate.
The only game in my database with this move was agreed a draw at this point. The other games all saw Black preferring Ba5.
15. Ne4 Nf5
16. Rac1 Rhe8
17. Nxd6+ Rxd6
18. Kd3 Red8
Played without much thought. Nxd4 was an alternative, giving White fewer options, which didn’t occur to me until the following move.
19. Rc4 c5
Here I spent some time considering the respective merits of Nxd4 and c5. They both seem to lead to equality.
20. Rxc5 Nxd4
There was no real need for this exchange. Instead Kc3 was about equal.
22. Ke3 Rd3+
23. Ke4 Rd2
Again played too quickly. I should have preferred 23… R8d4+ 24. Ke5 Rd2 when Black will win a pawn as the white king is exposed a potential f6+. Maybe not so obvious at my level, though.
24. Rhc1 R8d7
25. R1c2 Re7+
Slightly inaccurate again. The safe way to draw was 25… R7d4+ 26. Ke5 Rd5+ when White has nothing better than repetition.
26. Kf3 Rd3+
My draw offer was accepted immediately. White could have tried to avoid the checks by 27. Kf4 Rd4+ 28. Kg3 Rd3+ 29. f3 but there’s really not much there.
Again not very exciting, I’m afraid, but both games demonstrate that a well-timed d5 can give Black easy equality in many open games.