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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Refuting the Refutation of the Colle?!

     In chapter 23 of his book Action Chess renowned author and teacher C.J.S. Purdy wrote that the nearest thing there is to a perfect opening for amateurs is the Colle System because it's a play by pattern system. 
     Gunnar Gundersen (March 11, 1882 in Bordeaux – February 9, 1943 in Melbourne) was an Australian master who disagreed. Born in Bordeaux, France, he was raised in Melbourne where his Norwegian father was the Scandinavian consul. Gundersen started to play chess as a freshman at Melbourne University in 1902 and would eventually become a professor of mathematics there. He participated in the Mannheim 1914 tournament, scoring 2.5/10 in the Main tournament (Hauptturnier A) before the outbreak of World War I stopped the event. After a hurried distribution of the prize money Gundersen succeeded fleeing to Christiana [now Oslo]. He rode the train for 6 days on what should have been a 36 hour trip and during that time he had only two meals and ten hours sleep. Gundersen won the Victorian State Championship in 1907, 1908, 1912, 1913, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919, 1920, 1922 and 1929 and the New Zealand Championship in 1929/30 and 1931/32. 
     Gundersen didn't think much of the Colle, calling it an opening consisting of wood shifting, safety first and one that kept the draw in hand and Edgar Colle played it because he suffered from an inferiority complex. Gundersen stated that if black can prevent e2-e4 by any means, then the opening was busted. 
     The Colle, Torre, and the London System….while their general reputation is rather bad, the fact is, there is simply no refutation. Moreover, they all have been played by world champions at one time or another. 
     When meeting any of these systems my favorite method is to use a K-Indian setup. In one old book, Winning With the Colle System by Kenneth Smith and John Hall, they wrote that often when black “messes around” with a fianchetto or two and attacks white's center from the flank white should rejoice. That's nonsense! They only gave one example, Koltanowski vs. Alekhine, Hastings 1936-37 and in their annotations offered a single comment mentioning 7.b4! left white better. It was a better move, but hardly a refutation of Alekhine's double fianchetto. 
     They would have better served their readers to have explained that in openings like the Colle, Torre and London systems, when black chooses setups different than the usual Queen's Gambit formation, white does well to change his strategy.  
     It's not unusual that less than honest authors who are advocating a particular opening, especially secondary, obscure, or in some cases, downright inferior openings, to avoid anything that does not agree with their claim. 
     In the book Colle, London and Blackmar-Diemer Systems Tim Harding says the Colle formation is not very good for white against the King's Indian. For that reason he recommends white not play e2-e3 until black has played e7-e6. His recommendation is that when black plays the K-Indian white should abandon the Colle and play the London System. That is, 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. Bf4. For an excellent article on the London System, see this article on Chessbase.
     Also, in the excellent book, Zuke 'Em by Dave Rudel, in the forward GM Aaron Summerscale wrote that one particular move order that he found to be irksome was 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 g6. If you are interested in playing the Colle then Rudel's book is probably the best one available for amateurs. 
     Here is a game where black fianchettoes his KB and white transposes into the London System. The position looks pretty bland, but the winner comes up with an ingenious plan to infuse some life into the position. 
     Michael J. Franklin (February 2, 1931) is a British FM and was one of the country's leading players for many years. 
     George Botterill (January 8, 1949) is a British IM and at one time was one of Britain's leading young players. In 1974 he was in a seven way tie for first in the British Championship and won the playoff. In 1974 he became a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Wales and began playing for the Welsh team. In 1974 he was joint Welsh champion and in 1977 he won the British title outright. Botterill is best known as a chess writer, in particular for his opening collaborations with Raymond Keene. He later became Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Sheffield.

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