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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Lasker’s Defense Against Naum

      I don’t usually play against engines, but today, while in a state of boredom, played a 5-minute game (no increment) against Naum 4.2. I chose Naum because of its supposedly human-like play.
      Naum was programmed by Aleksandar Naumov (Canada) and version 4.2 was released in March 2010. In 2009, Naum attained second place behind Rybka on several engine rating lists and tied for first with Rybka in the 2008 Internet Computer Tournament. CEGT rating list currently shows Naum 4.2 in 15th place with a rating of 2840. For reasons unknown, Naumov quit developing Naum and the website says simply ‘Game Over’ with no explanation. Now if I could only do as well against human 2800’s!!
      I chose Lasker's Defense (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e3 h6 6.Bh4 O-O 7.Nf3 Ne4) because by offering the trade of two minor pieces it eases Black's defensive task. It’s a straight forward system though there are many opportunities for both players to vary from the main line.
      Black can also leave out ...h6, as Lasker himself generally did, which actually makes for a slightly different system (where, for example, Black more typically plays an early ...f5 advance because he worries less about weakening the g6 square near his King), but the modern method is to include ...h6 so that White does not gain time by attacking h7 with a Qc2 and Bd3 battery.
      Most GMs prefer the positional system with 9.Rc1, where White often gains lasting pressure along the c-file and on Black's queenside pawns. At the highest levels, both Yusupov and Kasparov have shown that Black can play an early ...c6, often accepting a safe but rather passive and cramped position, in order to secure a draw. That’s exactly what I did in this game although Naum did not play 9.Rc1.
      While playing the Lasker works well at the GM level where having a safe way to gain a draw as Black can help win tournaments, at the amateur level it is not very attractive simply because it is ‘slow’ which is not what most amateurs are looking for. Still, if you are facing a stronger opponent and hope to hold your own, Lasker’s Defense it a good choice.


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