Nigel Davies: The Nimzowitsch-Larsen Attack

by ChessBase
6/11/2012 – Openings are king again this month's Chess Cafe reviews, with two trainers on openings, and one middlegame strategy trainer on diagonals and files. The first is Nigel Davies' Nimzowitsch-Larsen Attack which, according to reviewer Steven Dowd is "for any player who wants to try an opening where plans and ideas trump memorized lines." He calls it 'a phenomenal trainer'.

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Andrew Martin: The Open Ruy Lopez

Review by Steven B. Dowd

Nimzowitsch-Larsen Attack (DVD) by Nigel Davies, ChessBase, Playing time: 4 hours 40 min. $30.95 (ChessCafe Price: $24.95)

Whenever you see the name Nigel Davies attached to a chess product these days, you can expect a high level of quality on all fronts. In the case of a trainer that means objective, "just deep enough" analysis; an emphasis on ideas, and a good presentation style. Every Davies trainer I have reviewed has met these standards, and this is no exception.

Davies calls the line 1.Nf3, followed by 2.b3, the Nimzowitsch Attack; and 1.b3 the Larsen Opening. He notes that the opening complex has been "rather neglected by the theoreticians." I would believe that is because it is the type of opening that is hard to pin down in terms of "lines," but it is well-used by players who want to innovate. Larsen himself called it, as I remember from the pages of his column in Chess Life in the 1970s, the "Baby Orang-Utan."

This is an opening that is used both by attacking players (Ljubojevic, Planinc, Minasian, and Fischer) and positional players (Petrosian, Taimanov, and Bagirov), and it is a fun opening to play.

Davies shows the pluses and minuses for both sides here. It is not one of those "snake-oil" trainers where the presenter does his best to convince you that the opening is great by showing only victories for one side. I've always believed that the best approach for Black, if he wants to win, is to adopt the classic approach of occupying the center with pawns on the dark squares. However, after viewing Davies' commentary, this sort of approach, which does nothing to contest White's dark-square control, must be wrong:

[Event "Bern exh"] [Site "Bern"] [Date "1931.02.23"] [Round "6"] [White "Nimzowitsch, Aaron"] [Black "Voellmy, Erwin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A06"] [PlyCount "123"] [EventDate "1931.??.??"] [EventType "match"] [EventRounds "14"] [EventCountry "SUI"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2004.11.15"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. b3 Nf6 3. Bb2 Bf5 4. e3 Nbd7 5. c4 e6 6. Nc3 {The most active set-up according to Davies. White will exchange on d5 at some point. If the recapture is with e-pawn, then White has a central pawn majority and a possible minority attack on the c-file, as occurs in the game. If he recaptures with the c-pawn, White can be first to use the open c-file.} c6 7. Be2 Bd6 8. O-O Qe7 {Probably not the best move, but we already have a position that is not so easy for Black to play. To diverge from GM Davies' analysis, this reminds me very much of a New York system against the Reti (for Gary Lane's excellent overview of this system see his January 2005 column), but the slight differences in position mean it just won't work as well.} ({If Black plays} 8... O-O {here, and then} 9. cxd5 cxd5 {we have a motif that occurs often:} 10. Nb5 {and if} Bb8 {then} 11. Ba3 Re8 12. Nd6 {and the bishop-pair is lost.}) ({But if} 8... Be7 {then a knight to the rim} 9. Nh4 $1 {and the bishop-pair is again lost. What appears to be an innocuous position is not.}) ( {We can rewind back to move eight} 8... h6 9. cxd5 {and allow Black to play the other recapture} exd5 {but then} 10. d3 $1 {to blunt Black's bishop on f5 and to play for a later e4, taking advantage of his central pawn-majority. A minority attack with a3 and b4 is also possible in conjunction with this.}) 9. cxd5 exd5 ({If} 9... cxd5 {we have a continuation similar to the above} 10. Nb5 $1 Bb8 {and now} 11. Ba3 {is even more unpleasant, as it hits the black queen and gives White an almost winning advantage.}) 10. Rc1 Ne5 11. Nd4 Bd7 ({Can you see why} 11... Bg6 {is bad? Again} 12. d3 {already threatens f4 and f5, winning the bishop. But this necessary passive retreat allowed Nimzowitsch to win the bishop-pair and carry off an instructive minority attack.}) 12. Qc2 Ng6 13. Nf5 Bxf5 14. Qxf5 Ba3 15. Qc2 Bxb2 16. Qxb2 O-O 17. Na4 Rfe8 18. Qd4 Qe5 19. Qxe5 Rxe5 20. Nc5 Re7 21. b4 a6 22. a4 Ne4 23. Nb3 Nd6 24. Ra1 Rae8 25. Rfc1 Ne5 26. b5 axb5 27. axb5 Nxb5 28. Bxb5 cxb5 29. Rc5 Rd7 30. Rxb5 Nc6 31. Nc5 Rc7 32. Nxb7 Rb8 33. Nd6 Rd8 34. Nf5 g6 35. Ng3 Ne7 36. d4 Rdc8 37. Nf1 Rc2 38. g4 R8c7 39. Rb8+ Kg7 40. Raa8 g5 41. Ng3 Kf6 42. Nh5+ Ke6 43. Ng7+ Kd7 44. Rd8+ Kc6 45. Ne8 Rb7 46. Rd6+ Kb5 47. Rf6 Rb6 48. Rxf7 Ng6 49. Ra1 Rbc6 50. Rb1+ Kc4 51. Rxh7 Nh4 52. Rc7 Rxc7 53. Nxc7 Nf3+ 54. Kg2 Nd2 55. Rd1 Ne4 56. Rf1 Nd2 57. Ne6 Nxf1 58. Kxf1 Kd3 59. Nxg5 Rc1+ 60. Kg2 Ke2 61. Nh3 Kd3 62. Kf3 1-0

And those are just a few ideas he presents with that very instructive game. Here is one of his own, a victory for the black side, where White tries to play hyper-aggressively. He provides extensive analysis of alternate lines here for White and Black. I give only brief annotations directly related to the game.

[Event "Gausdal Int"] [Site "Gausdal"] [Date "1992.??.??"] [Round "6"] [White "Taimanov, Mark E"] [Black "Davies, Nigel R"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A06"] [WhiteElo "2505"] [BlackElo "2460"] [PlyCount "70"] [EventDate "1992.08.??"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "NOR"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1994.03.01"] 1. Nf3 Nf6 2. b3 d5 3. Bb2 c6 4. e3 Bg4 5. h3 Bxf3 6. Qxf3 Nbd7 7. g4 ({Better is probably} 7. g3 {according to Davies.}) 7... e5 8. g5 Ne4 9. h4 Bb4 ({In retrospect,} 9... Bd6 {might be better, but at the time Davies preferred this idea.}) 10. Bh3 {Now the protection of the e5-pawn is a problem.} Qe7 (10... O-O {would have been his preference, but then} 11. Qf5 $1 {is hard to answer. So he recalls his "King's Gambit fare" from his youth and sacrifices a central pawn - a courageous decision, with the idea of opening up the position with ... f6.}) 11. Bxd7+ Qxd7 12. Bxe5 O-O 13. a3 Ba5 14. b4 Bc7 15. Bxc7 Qxc7 16. Qf4 { A dubious decision, according to Davies, as the endgame is better for him, even though he is temporarily a pawn down. It certainly shows that just any queen exchange when a pawn up won't do, you have to plan those carefully. Black keeps piling on the pressure, even after winning back his pawn. Please play this one out to the helpless and hopeless end, the final position is worth a look.} Qxf4 17. exf4 Rae8 18. Kf1 f6 19. d3 Nd6 20. Nc3 fxg5 21. fxg5 Nf5 22. Kg2 Nd4 23. Rac1 Rf4 24. Kf1 Ref8 25. Nd1 Nf5 26. Rh3 Nxh4 27. c4 d4 28. Rc2 Nf3 29. Re2 Rg4 30. Rh1 Rf5 31. g6 Rxg6 32. Nb2 Kf7 33. c5 Rfg5 34. Rc2 Re6 35. Re2 Rh6 0-1

And that is just a smattering of the rich fare Davies provides. For any player who has reached the level where they have a basic positional understanding, and wants to try an opening where plans and ideas trump memorized lines, this is a phenomenal trainer.

My assessment of this product: Excellent (six out of six stars)

Nigel Davies sampler: an introduction to the Nimzowitsch-Larsen Attack

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