Nigel Davies: Tricks & Traps, Vol. 1

12/7/2011 – "Who doesn't want to get a quick advantage, right out of the gate? In this entertaining DVD, Nigel Davies explores various types of subterfuge from openings beginning with 1.e4." In his Chess Cafe review Steve Goldberg summarises: "Nigel Davies has put together a compelling array of traps, particularly suited to the club or scholastic player looking for a couple surprises to carry around in his back pocket.

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Practical Traps with 1.e4

By Steve Goldberg

Tricks & Traps, Vol. 1, by GM Nigel Davies (DVD), ChessBase 2010; Playing Time approximately four hours.

In thirty-one video segments, Davies looks for opening traps that have at least a reasonable chance of surprising your opponent. He does point out a few tricks that may work against beginning players, but, as he notes, opening surprises need to be more sophisticated as the playing level of the opposition increases.

Many of the examples shown here include games involving such names as Fischer, Kasparov, Capablanca, and the like. So the viewer can be assured that Davies doesn't select openings so offbeat that they are unlikely to ever come into play. He has put together a reasonably practical set of traps to spring on unsuspecting opponents.

A wide variety of openings are utilized for this presentation, including the Ruy Lopez, Pirc, Italian Game, Caro-Kann, Sicilian, and French, among others. Davies also spends three segments on the Fried Liver Attack (actually, two on the Fried Liver, one on the Lolli), popular with scholastic players.

The following game illustrates a frequent theme of Davies. A seemingly minor change from a normal variation goes unappreciated by the opponent, and … the trap is sprung!

This game involves the Two Knights variation of the Caro-Kann, but as Davies notes, "If Black thinks it's a regular Caro-Kann, he can end up in a heap of trouble." Davies's comments are included.

[Event "NED tour sim"] [Site "Netherlands"] [Date "1908.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Lasker, Emanuel"] [Black "Radsheer"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B11"] [Annotator "Friedel,Frederic"] [PlyCount "25"] [EventDate "1908.??.??"] [EventType "simul"] [EventRounds "1"] [EventCountry "NED"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2000.11.22"] 1. e4 c6 2. Nc3 {Already White veers off the more well established path.} ({In the main line Caro-Kann, it goes like this:} 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. h4 h6 7. Nf3 Nd7 8. Ne5 Nxe5) 2... d5 3. Nf3 (3. d4 {would transpose into the main line.}) {His opponent sees no particular difference (between 3.Nf3 and 3.d4), so he plays:} 3... dxe4 ({A safer approach for Black would be} 3... Bg4 4. h3 Bxf3 5. Qxf3 e6) 4. Nxe4 Bf5 (4... Bg4 {is another option.}) 5. Ng3 Bg6 {Black still thinks it's the same as the main line Caro-Kann.} ({Black's last chance to escape this mess would be} 5... Bg4 6. Bc4 e6) 6. h4 h6 {Still unsuspecting anything.} 7. Ne5 {This is incredibly strong.} Bh7 ({If} 7... Qd6 8. Nxg6 Qxg6 {Black has a bad game since White has the two bishops and all the play, but it might be more of a fight than the way the game went. Suddenly White's queen sallies forth to h5, threatening the f7-pawn. }) 8. Qh5 g6 ({If} 8... Qd5 9. d4 {followed by Bc4.}) 9. Bc4 e6 ({If} 9... gxh5 10. Bxf7#) 10. Qe2 {Now the bishop on h7 is not exactly a good piece, and he spent three moves getting there, only to blocked by the pawn now at g6. This is an absolutely horrible thing to happen to this bishop. Black's position is full of weaknesses.} Bg7 {Perhaps to help get his king castled. But unfortunately for Black, he runs into this:} 11. Nxf7 {This is immediately decisive because of:} Kxf7 12. Qxe6+ Kf8 13. Qf7# 1-0

Davies mentions that an acquaintance of his has used this line for years at the club level with tremendous success, "Because so many people don't know the difference between the line in this game and the main line Caro-Kann. They think the ‘3…dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5' line is ok, when it definitely is not."

I searched my database for the position after 7…Bh7 and found nearly 200 such games, including many players rated above 2000 as black. One can only imagine how often such a position occurs among lesser players, although, of course, not everyone will be fooled by the comparison with the main line Caro-Kann since not everyone will know the main line to begin with. But this is the type of "trick" that Davies presents in this DVD – one that an enterprising player can easily spring once in awhile.

Another example comes from what Davies calls the Noah's Ark Trap in the Ruy Lopez:

[Event "Budapest"] [Site "Budapest"] [Date "1929.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Steiner, Endre"] [Black "Capablanca, Jose Raul"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C71"] [Annotator "Friedel,Frederic"] [PlyCount "64"] [EventDate "1929.09.01"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "13"] [EventCountry "HUN"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1999.07.01"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 d6 5. d4 b5 6. Bb3 Nxd4 7. Nxd4 exd4 8. Qxd4 {The decisive mistake.} ({Better would be} 8. c3 dxc3 9. Qh5 g6 10. Qd5 Be6 11. Qc6+ Bd7 12. Qxc3) 8... c5 9. Qd5 {[%cal Gd5f7,Gd5a8] Attacking both f7 and the rook at a8.} Be6 10. Qc6+ Bd7 11. Qd5 {Perhaps expecting a draw by repetition via 11BBe6, etc.} c4 {Black gets two pawns for his lost bishop, but it's not enough, and Capablanca went on to win.} 12. Bxc4 bxc4 13. Qxc4 Nf6 14. Nc3 Be7 15. O-O O-O 16. a4 Be6 17. Qd3 Qa5 18. Bd2 Qh5 19. h3 Rfc8 20. b3 d5 21. exd5 Rd8 22. Qg3 Nxd5 23. Ne4 Bh4 24. Qh2 Nf6 25. Nd6 Qg6 26. Ba5 Rd7 27. c4 Ne4 28. Qf4 Bxf2+ 29. Rxf2 Nxf2 30. Kxf2 Rxd6 31. Qxd6 Qf6+ 32. Kg3 Qxa1 0-1

This trap still snares many players, and if you search your database for the position after …c5, you'll see some good players as white having fallen into this. I found fifty-five such games, including one in which the black player, rated 2125, apparently failed to see the …c4 move (or was just interested in a quick draw). There were a number of 2000+ players as white that showed up in this database search.

"The poison behind these moves," Davies says, "is that nothing seems unnatural for White. There's nothing artificial looking about what Black's trying to do. He's played a series of perfectly natural moves."

And that's the best and sneakiest kind of chess trick.

As always, Nigel Davies has a pleasant demeanor, a clear voice, and has put together a compelling array of traps, particularly suited to the club or scholastic player looking for a couple surprises to carry around in his back pocket. I'm sure this DVD will put a twinkle in the eyes of a number of players, young and old.

My assessment of this product: Good (four out of six stars)

Sampler from Practical Traps with 1.e4 by Nigel Davies

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