The word ‘dinosaur’ is occasionally bandied around in reference to older players, yet I think we still have something to offer. Here, for example, is a line that was discussed in the British Chess Championship commentary room: 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. h3.
Now to my mind this is the throwing of half a tempo to create an ‘original’ position. Bobby Fischer played it and David Howell has been playing it. But does that mean it is good? The logical way to deal with it is to find a position in which the one square advance of White’s h-pawn is not particularly useful, and what comes to mind is the line 6…e6 7. g4 b5 8.Bg2 Bb7.
Interrogating my database I find that 9.0-0 scores 59% from 79 games. The dinosaur choice here is 9…h6 after which 10.Re1 scores highly, but from very few games which makes any stats irrelevant. Here the dinosaur choice is 10…Qc7 (admittedly 10…b4 is also interesting) after which 11.a4 b4 12.Nd5 is critical I guess. But does White have enough after 12….exd5 13.exd5+ Kd8? I say it’s nebulous at best.
So where does this leave 6.h3? Well it’s simply a way of creating an interesting position, though hardly an optimal use of time. Though it is impossible to understand this from databases and engine assessments, it needs the subtlety of a human mind, and one which is unshackled to a computer.