Friday, 23 September 2016

Refactoring your openings

A lot of the players PNG faced at the Olympiad were a bit of an unknown quantity, which made opening preparation a little difficult. When I did have a large set of games for an opposing player, it was often because they were experienced 2300+ players, and opening prep would only go so far.
One game where it did work was Rupert Jones's game against Enrico Grassi from San Marino. It did help that the two players were of similar vintage and activity, and in fact had played in the 1986 Olympiad, when Jones was representing Botswana.
Oddly enough both played the Centre-Counter with black, so there was plenty of material to work with. In the end Rupert and I decided to go with an opening idea that had been used by another PNG player in the 2002 Olympiad. Alan Luga (also a past PNGCF President) was shown an attacking idea in the Centre-Counter by GM Ian Rogers (IIRC), where White plays Bc4, then d3. The idea is that the Black bishop usually ends up on f5 or g6, and after the normal d4, the c2 pawn is under threat. But with the pawn on d3, moves like Qe2 can be played with safety, and an attack on the kingside gets moving a little quicker.
We actually found the first 13 moves of the game on the morning of the round, but ran out of time to go that extra bit further. If we had we might have spotted that 14.Nxe6 is winning (14 ... fxe6 15.hxg5 followed by g6 is the main idea). Instead Rupert played the obvious recapture, but chaos ensured after Bxd3, with a queen versus wood middlegame where both players were not quite sure who was better.  In the end a 'tactical' draw was agreed, as this resulted in the match being drawn 2-2, and this seemed to come as a relief to both players.

Jones,Rupert (1851) - Grassi,Enrico (2049)
Baku Chess Olympiad | Open (8.2), 10.09.2016

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