7.g4 – Investigations by a specialist

3/3/2009 – The game Carlsen - Anand, Linares 2009, – see the analysis by Dorian Rogozenco – was worthy of attention for several reasons. One aspect was the question as to whether the opening moves chosen by the World Champion in the Shabalov-Shirov Gambit led directly to a somewhat inferior endgame. One of the greatest specialists in this gambit move (7.g4) is the Polish GM Michal Krasenkow. In CBM 127 and 128 (with a concluding part to follow in CBM 129) he examined his favourite move against the Semi Slav. Have a look here, in a shortened reprise of his contribution to CBM 127, at the section which deals with 7…Nxg4. ChessBase Magazine 127Krasenkow: 7.g4 Nxg4.

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Shabalov-Shirov Gambit accepted

by Michal Krasenkow


1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.g4 Nxg4 8.Rg1

Generally, the gambit is a bit controversial and reflects modern trends in chess strategy ("second opening revolution of the 90s"?). The centre is neither stable nor dominated by White so how can such a flank attack be successful? However, Black's attempts of counterplay in the centre (7...dxc4 with idea ...e6-e5; 7...Bb4 fighting for the e4-square; finally, 7...h6 followed by ...e6-e5 or ...d5xc4 Bf1xc4 b7-b5 with idea ...Bc8-b7 and ...c6-c5, which was examined by L.Schandorff), although quite justified and positionally correct, have not delivered any "refutation". It is remarkable that GM Boris Gelfand, who used to make a joke about the Shabalov-Shirov gambit ("in the resulting positions White would often be glad to play g4-g2"), later came back to applying it in his own practice!

Recently GM Vladimir Kramnik turned his eyes back to the most obvious move:

7...Nxg4

This acceptance of the Shabalov-Shirov gambit is absolutely logical and one may wonder why it is not particularly popular in GMs' practice. As often happens, the reasons are mostly historical. In 1992, at the dawn of the whole system, White scored some convincing victories in this line (not at the highest level, though), after which it was given up for a long time. Nowadays (especialy after the recent Morozevich,A - Kramnik,V game) the process of rediscovering and developing it may start for good. Therefore, if you play this  system as White, you should be ready to face it very, very soon.

After 8.Rg1 Black has the following options which have been seen in practice:


C) 8...Qf6. An important move. After 9.Rxg4 Qxf3 10.Rxg7 White regains the pawn but the black queen on f3 is quite annoying.

Black can continue his development in two ways:


C1) 10...Nf6. In my opinion, White's best reply is 11.Rg5! (threatening to trap the intruder by means of 12.Bg2). After 11...Ne4 (other options are mentioned in the annotations to Benitah,Y - Flear,G 1-0) 12.Nxe4 Black can recapture with the queen or pawn. These two options are examined in Benitah,Y - Flear,G 1-0 and Gonzalez Vidal,Y - Mosquera,M 0-1 respectively. White keeps a small edge both in the endgame and in the middlegame.


C2) 10...Nf8 (threatening 11...Ng6) 11.Rg1 (11.Rg5!? is interesting here, too, but there is too little material to draw any conclusions). Black can now win material once again (on h2 and later even on f2) but White, after preparing long castling, retains an advantage in development and a strong initiative. Practice has seen 11...Ng6 (Krasenkow,M - Piket,J ½-½); 11...Bxh2 12.Be2 and now 12...Qf6 (Sadykov,R - Sveshnikov,E 1-0) or 12...Qh3 (Agrest,E - Korobov,A 1-0).


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