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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ruy Lopez-Norwegian Variation

The Norwegian Defence (aka the Wing Variation) is an aggressive but time-consuming alternative for Black, going 3...a6 4.Ba4 b5 5.Bb3 Na5. The goal of the opening is to eliminate the white bishop. The usual continuation is 6.0-0 d6 7.d4 Nxb3, but the speculative sacrifice 6.Bxf7+?! Kxf7 7.Nxe5+, has been played in an attempt to drive the black king out, but with accurate play, Black is supposed to be able to consolidate his extra piece.

This defence has been known since the 1880s and was reintroduced in 1901 by Carl Schlechter. In the 1950s, Mark Taimanov played it with some success, though it remained a sideline and such GM’s as Marriotto, Bondarevsky, Furman, Bilek, Robatsch, Pachman, Evans, Donner, Anand, Topalov and Sokolov have played it occasionally. Even Bobby Fischer tried it once.

IM Jeremy Silman wrote, “The Norwegian Defense in the Ruy Lopez (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 b5 5.Bb3 Na5) has been considered inferior for quite some time. However, it's positionally suspect, not tactically. Thus the gambit line that attracts (it's attracted many players over the years!) isn't sound and certainly shouldn't be part of any repertoire!”

1.e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 b5 5. Bb3 Na5 6. Bxf7+ Kxf7 7. Nxe5+ Ke7 8. d4 Nf6 9. O-O looks more dangerous for Black that it really is. Silman points out that the real test is 6.O-O. 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 b5 5. Bb3 Na5 6.O-O d6 7. d4 Nxb3 8.axb3 with a nice position for White.
Silman adds,” As you can see, 6.Bxf7+? isn't really any fun at all (maybe for Black, but not for White!). However, 6.0-0 gives White an easy game with good chances of a plus. Since the Norwegian is quite rare, why not stick to 6.0-0 (which really requires no memorization or work) and use the time saved for lines that occur with a lot more frequency?

I’ve played this defense off and on for a long time and have rarely had opponents sac the B on f7. In a recent game my opponent didn’t even think before he played 6.Bxf7+. I can’t criticize him too harshly though because after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 b5 5.Bb3 Na5 6.Bxf7+ Kxf7 7.Nxe5+ Ke7 8.Nc3 Qe8 9.d4 I played the TN 9… Nf6 (better was 9...Kd8 10.Qf3 Nf6

and after 10.Bg5 Bb7 11.0–0 Kd8 12.Qf3 Be7 13.Rae1 d6 14.Nd3 h6 15.Be3 Rf8 16.Nf4 Kc8 the position looked like this:

Now according to Fritz Black’s advantage is evaluated at about ¾ of a Pawn, but, really, you have to be a real material lover to want to play Black’s position. I really can’t see anything for Black to do except hang on and hope to somehow get the QR into play. Here’s the position after White’s 26th move:
My Nf8 arrived there via …a5, …c4, …e5, …g6 and …Nf8 and it did it without accomplishing anything except giving White a lot of space. Unfortunately, I don’t have any good P-breaks, so I just have sit and wait and try not to blunder. Ahhh, yes. It was Znosko-Borovsky in 'How Not to Play Chess' that I first read of that bit of wisdom. He wrote, "Avoid mistakes." Classic advice.

Trying to ease my cramped position I offered a trade of Q’s with 26...Qg4 but White declined and played 27.Qd3 so after 27...N8d7 I at least managed to get the N off its passive square. It doesn’t look as though 26...Ba6 27.Rf3 h5 28.h3 h4 29.Qf2 leads to anything either. I hung on grimly and eventually we reached to following ending:

White only has a P for his piece and lost this ending rather quickly owing to the fact that he has a weak e-Pawn and I have a passed c-Pawn.

Looking over this game I was, oddly enough, unable to strengthen White’s attack! At the same time, had I made any serious mistakes, White’s position could have instantly become overwhelming!

I’m not sure what’s the point of all this except that when it comes to playing sacrifice on f7 it seems that Silman is right…you shouldn’t do it. After all nobody tried it against any of the GM’s because, apparently, they knew better. Even against players of lesser stature than GM’s it didn’t work out too good for White in most of the games I found. On the other hand against non-masters it puts Black in a difficult position of having to find a lot of defensive moves. I was up to the task this time, but don’t think I will play this line any time soon.

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