CBM 197: Opening preparation

by Nagesh Havanur
11/15/2020 – ChessBase Magazine offers a window to the world of professional chess and it also provides arsenal for the tournament player. We are pleased to inform readers that we have just released CBM #198. Meanwhile, we have received an article on the treatment of openings by Prof. Nagesh Havanur. As this may be of practical use to young players, we are offering it to our readers. | Pictured: Richard Rapport | Photo: Georgios Souleidis

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A rich openings section

Chessbase MagazineAfter months of misery with the pandemic, life is limping back to normalcy in several parts of the world. While disease and death, not to mention bankruptcy and unemployment, still continue to haunt the world, there is more hope, resilience and determined effort to overcome it all. This has had a positive impact on chess as well. As Kramnik laughingly put it, we are at last returning to offline chess from online chess.

To return to the current issue, a young reader may ask, “Can I use it for tournament preparation?” Yes, you can. However, you also need to do some homework as everything is not served on a platter. A case in point is the openings section which has as many as 11 opening surveys from Ruy Lopez to Reti. Among them, I would single out two surveys, one on the Bird Defence and the other on a line in the English opening.

The first of them, 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nd4!?, is indeed a rare bird (pun intended!) in tournament practice today. Way back in the 1980s it was revived by GM Malaniuk and on occasion picked up by Ivanchuk and Morozevich. In recent years, Richard Rapport has done much to rehabilitate the opening. Apart from the surprise effect, one advantage for Black players is that they don’t have to prepare against so many side lines by White. Krisztian Szabo, the author of the survey, offers detailed analysis. I have kept it simple for readers not familiar with theory and also added lines of my own.


Richard Rapport

Richard Rapport | Photo: Misty Pine / cca.imsa.cn

In retrospect, I think, the critical line in this variation is 9.c5. It needs further tests over the board.

Another survey that I would like to mention here deals with a line in the English Opening, 1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 Bc5. The survey authored by Igor Stohl has a lot to offer by way of explanation and analysis. However, there is one little problem. In most of the lines the White knight is developed to f3. What if White does not develop the knight on f3 and instead plays 4.e3 and 5.Nge2?. The expected counterplay for Black does not seem to develop at all. It appears that the Black bishop on c5 is biting on granite. To his credit, Stohl does devote some space to this line. I have augmented the same with a recent game.


Ding Liren

Ding Liren | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Apart from these surveys, there are regular sections on opening traps, middlegame strategy, tactics and endings. 

The main database of the issue has 733 recent games, of which 25 are deeply annotated. Apart from the GMs I have already mentioned, the commentators include Boris Gelfand, and Peter Heine Nielsen, among others. 

A major contribution is made by Roman Edouard, who has annotated 11 games. It may be noted that there are more annotated games in the sections on opening theory and training. Well, practice makes perfect.

Note: This issue also includes a special section on the 1970 Interzonal that marked Bobby Fischer’s ascent to the chess Olympus. Robert Hübner, who qualified for the Candidates’ from this tournament, has annotated as many as 9 games for this issue. Some day I do intend to write on this extraordinary event. Forewarned is forearmed!

ChessBase Magazine 198

Special: Kasparov as a challenger. New: “All in One” – Anish Giri dissects two topical opening lines. Analyses from the Online Olympiad by So, Duda, Sarin et al. Videos by Erwin l’Ami, Daniel King and Mihail Marin. 11 opening articles and much more!


Prof. Nagesh Havanur (otherwise known as "chessbibliophile") is a senior academic and research scholar. He taught English in Mumbai for three decades and has now settled in Bangalore, India. His interests include chess history, biography and opening theory. He has been writing on the Royal Game for more than three decades. His articles and reviews have appeared on several web sites and magazines.


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