Just the other day I was watching round 6 of the British Championships and I came across a very interesting game, a game that has serious consequences for every exponent of the Classical Dutch.
The idea demonstrated in the game, is what I have feared for a long time and Stephen Gordon actually showed me this idea around about five years ago. It is the main reason that I have given up playing, Ye Old Faithful 7…a5, in favour of 7…Ne4.
I will post an excerpt of my book and the line concerned below. Let’s once and for all put the ‘Ye Old Faithful’ to sleep :(
It is very appropriate that Stephen Gordon is the first person to play the refutation in a international tournament (regular contributor Jonathan Bryant mentioned that he also played this idea but I believe it was in a London League game) Stephen was the ‘originator’ of the concept. Anyway first of all let’s take a look at the game.
**Gordon,S (2539) – Harvey,M (2134) [A96] 99th ch-GBR 2012 North Shields ENG (6.3), 28.07.2012
1 d4 e6 2 c4 f5 3 g3 Nf6 4 Bg2 Be7 5 Nf3 0-0 6 0-0 d6 7 Nc3 a5?!**
8 Re1! Ne4 9 Qd3!
9…Nxc3 10 bxc3 Nc6 11 e4!
11…fxe4 12 Qxe4
White has a pleasant advantage and Stephen makes the rest of the game seem very easy.
12…e5 13 dxe5 dxe5 14 Nxe5 Nxe5 15 Qxe5 Bf6 16 Qd5+ Kh8 17 Ba3 c6 18 Qh5 g6 19 Qf3 c5 20 Bxc5 Rf7 21 Be7 Qb6 22 c5 Qa6 23 Bd6 Kg7 24 Bf1 Qc6 25 Qxc6 bxc6 26 Re3 Rfa7 27 Rb1 Bd7 28 Bb8 Bf5 29 Rb6 Rd7 30 Bd6 Bd8 31 Rxc6 Rb7 32 Be5+ Kh6 33 Bf4+ Kg7 34 Be5+ Kh6 35 Bd3 1-0 Now I am just going to add the rough work that I have done, for my ebook. Don’t fear, the final version will look a lot better and it is getting nearer!
There is no point messing around! I will now come directly to the reason why I have stopped playing 7…a5. I was considering keeping this a secret as I still want to play this move in the future but I came to the conclusion that it is only fair to let people who have purchased Ginger GM products to know everything that I know!
1 d4 f5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 e6 4 c4 Be7 5 Nf3 0-0 6 0-0 d6 7 Nc3 a5 8 Re1!
8 Re1 has always been the most critical way of meeting various variations of the Classical Dutch and this is no exception. White is planning to play 9 e4 when he has achieved his goal, pressure along the e-file. For this reason Black must play…
And now Stephen Gordon’s novelty is the incredibly strong move…
Originally I did not think that this held any independent value over 9 Qc2 but there is one major difference. White now has the possibility to play Qd5+ in some variations which puts Black in all sorts of problems, for example,
I will discuss Black’s other interesting option 9…Nc6 a bit later on in this chapter.
White is now ready to play the e4 advance. Black’s standard way of meeting this.
Runs into 11 e4!
When Black has a pretty horrible decision to make, he can either try …e5 or capture on e4. Both moves are better for White, for example,
This move would be fine if White still had the queen placed on c2 but in this position White can win a pawn by playing…
12 dxe5 dxe5 13 Qd5+!
Winning Black’s pawn on e5. White will just play Nxe5 next, simple and good!
b) 11…fxe4 12 Qxe4
Might just about be playable as White has the double c-pawns which could prove to be a bit weak but I do expect that White is just better here. White has more space and pressure along the e-file and even the b-file. Black would prefer to have the a-pawn back on a7 as then he might be able to arrange a plan based on …Na5 …b6 and …Ba6.
All in all I am pessimistic about Black’s chances, which is a real shame as I have played this variation since the age of 8! I for one cannot find an answer to Black’s problems. For completeness I will include the rest of my analysis on this variation but I would recommend that you stick with 7…Ne4 until an answer to this line is found.
I am now going to show you a line that I do not mention in my DVD. A line that I used to play as Black against 8 Re1. I believe that this line has also been refuted but White has a number of tricks that he needs to avoid as otherwise he will just be lost.
8 Re1 Ne4 9 Qd3 Nc6?!
Black can also play the same line against White when White plays 9 Qc2. The idea is for Black to throw in the intermezzo move …Nb4. Black hopes that he can combine this idea with …e5 leaving him with enough active counter play. Unfortunately it seems that White is able to return the exchange in some variations leading to a very good position. For example,
The only critical response, otherwise Black would have been able to play …Nxc3 and then …e5.
10…Nb4 11 Qb1 fxe4 12 Qxe4
Black can now try 12…d5 or 12…e5 both moves seem to fall short.
a) 12…d5 At least by playing this move Black is able to win his pawn back. The problem is that White’s centre far outweighs Black’s queenside majority.
White should return the pawn immediately as Black becomes far too active after 13 cxd5? exd5 14 Qb1 Bf5
White must have an advantage, the position resembles a very good Catalan for White. Black’s c-pawn is weak and White can consider expanding in the centre with e4. For example, 14 a3 Nd5 15 Qc2 b5 16 Ne5 Bf6 17 e4 with the edge. b) 12…e5!?
Black intends on playing …Bf5 and then …Nc2. I have played this on a number of occasions but computers have proven that White can just keep on capturing material. Let’s take a look.
13 g4 was the old main line but Black can gain enough activity through either 13…exd4 or 13…c6!? I once remember spending a holiday in Glencoe, Scotland when I was 9 or so. It was raining so much that I spent most of time looking at the complications involved with 13…c6!? a new move. This is all irrelevant though as White has the much stronger 13 dxe5!
Otherwise Black is simply a couple of pawns down.
There goes another one!
Black has a number of options here but unfortunately they all seem to fall short! For example, 14…Rb8
Or Black could have tried 14…Nc2 but White has the strong response, 15 Qd5+ Kh8 16 Nd4! with a winning position, for example, 16…Nxe1 17 Qxa8 15 Qa7
At this point I have concentrated on two plans: 1) The first idea is to grab the exchange. The problem with this is that even if Black does win the exchange then White will be left with too many pawns. 2) The other plan is to try and trap White’s queen. The problem with this is that it can escape! Let’s see how…
a) 15…Nc2 16 Nd4!
This is the most forcing continuation.
Other moves also fall short, for example, 16…Nxa1 17 Nc6 Qe8 18 Qxc7! Nc2 19 Nxe7+ Kh8 20 Rd1 with a winning position.
17 Nc6 Qe8 18 Bd5+!
This is the only way that White can gain an advantage! For example, 18 Qxc7 Nxg2 19 Nxe7+ Kh8 20 Nxf5 Rxf5 21 Kxg2 Rxe5 22 Be3 and now Black can choose between either 22…Rxb2 or 22…Rxe3 either way the position is equal.
18…Kh8 19 Qxc7!
White has a substantial advantage, for example,
19…Nc2 20 Nxb8 Nxa1 21 Nc6 Bd7 22 Nxe7 Qxe7 23 Qxd6
With a winning advantage. b) 15…c5
I have tried this move on a couple of occasions. The immediate threat is 16…Nc6 17 Qa6 Rb6 trapping White’s queen. White has to tread with extreme care here but he can negotiate the minefield and then he will be left with a good position, for example, 16 exd6!
By playing this move White gains a tempo to develop his bishop on c1. 16…Bxd6 17 Bg5 Qc8
Retaining the threat of …Nc6! winning White’s queen.
This allows White to meet …Nc6 with Bxc6.
I have reached this position twice against good opposition. The computer believes that White is totally winning and unfortunately I am not brave enough to doubt that assessment!
19 Rad1! Nc6
b1) 20 Bxh3?!
This is a mistake that gives Black a glimmer of hope.
20…Qxh3 21 Qa6 Rxf2!
The position now goes completely crazy!! N.Pedersen-S.Williams, Nordre Efteraar, 1998, 0-1, now continued,
22 Kxf2 Qxh2+ 23 Ke3 Qxg3+ 24 Nf3 Re8+ 25 Kd2
And here I played 25…Nb4 when I should have played 25…Bf4+!
This is equal according to my computer! For example,
b11) 26 Bxf4 Qxf4+ 27 e3 Or 27 Kc3 Qf6+ 28 Kb3 Nd4+! winning White’s queen on a6. 27…Qxf3 28 Kc1 Nb4 29 Qxa5 Qe4 White is the only side in danger of losing.
b12) 26 e3 Qg2+ 27 Re2 Qxf3 28 Bxf4 Rd8+ 29 Kc1 Qxe2
Black should have no problems. b13) 26 Kc3 Be5+ 27 Kd2 Bf4+ etc.
A completely mad line which seems to be fine for Black. The only problem is that White does not have to enter the craziness after …Bh3. His other option is by far stronger…
b2) 20 Bd5+!
Unfortunately this move and the subsequent plan seems to refute Black’s whole idea, for example, 20…Kh8
20…Be6 may be a slight improvement but things are still bad after 21 Bxc6 Qxc6 22 Rxd6 Qxd6 23 Be7 with a winning position.
21 Bxc6 Qxc6 22 Be7
22 Rxd6 may even be stronger but this is good enough. 22…Bxe7 23 Qxe7
White is too many pawns up!
What a real shame!! It seems to me that unless an amazing novelty is found then the whole variation with 7…a5 is in jeopardy of being binned. You will really have to gamble in order to play either of the lines above and it is not nice playing a variation that you know is losing. For that reason I am going to suggest that you stick with 7…Ne4 in the future.
Ginger GM supremo Grandmaster Simon Williams is the brains behind the Ginger GM operation.