Nigel Short, who challenged Garry Kasparov for the world title in 1993, has made a reputation for employing slightly offbeat openings in order to derail opponents who are unused to non-standard situations. As part of his repertoire, Short has a penchant for the ancient Chigorin Defence, and has even employed a version of this in a game against Kasparov himself.
Earlier this month Short triumphed handsomely in the Negros Open in the Philippines, taking first prize with 8 points from 9, well clear of the runners-up, Karen Grigoryan and Nguyen Duc Hoa, who finished on 7. In round one, Short wheeled out the Chigorin to great effect.
Fronda–Short: Negros Open, Bacolod 2017; Chigorin Defence
1 d4 Nc6 A cunning way of introducing the Chigorin given that the move order 1 d4 d5 2 c4 Nc6 is severely tested by 3 Nc3. Now if 2 d5 Ne5 Black has a kind of mirror-image of Alekhine’s Defence (1 e4 Nf6 2 e5 Nd5) where the relatively uncharted waters would lead to precisely the type of position which Short is seeking to achieve. 2 Nf3 d5 3 c4 Bg4 4 cxd5 Bxf3 5 dxc6 Bxc6 6 Nc3 e6 Now we have a main line Chigorin which has been known since the days when Chigorin himself introduced the defence (see diagram 1). 7 a3 Here the most aggressive is 7 e4 Bb4 8 f3 f5 can be met by the gambit continuation 9 Bc4. Instead Pillsbury-Chigorin, St Petersburg 1895 continued 9 e5 Ne7 10 a3 Ba5 11 Bc4 Bd5 and Black stood well. 7 ... f5 8 h4 Way too ambitious. 8 e3 is normal and best. 8 ... Bd6 9 Bg5 Qd7 10 e3 Under the changed circumstances this is now wrong with 10 h5, making space for the bishop being vastly preferable. 10 ... h6 11 Qh5+ Kf8 (see diagram 2) Black has lost the right to castle but White’s pieces are now in a tangle on the kingside. 12 0-0-0 g6 Winning a piece for which White gains insufficient compensation. 13 Qxg6 hxg5 14 Bc4 Rh6 15 Qxg5 Be7 16 Qg3 Qd6 Forcing off the queens and simplifying Black’s task. 17 Qxd6 cxd6 18 d5 Slightly better is 18 Bxe6 Rxe6 19 d5 Re5 20 dxc6 bxc6 when White at least has two pawns for the piece but is nevertheless lost. 18 ... exd5 19 Bxd5 Bxh4 20 g3 Be7 21 Bxc6 bxc6 22 Ne2 With only a single pawn for the piece, White should really give up here. 22 ... Kf7 23 Nf4 Rxh1 24 Rxh1 Nf6 25 f3 Rg8 26 Ne2 c5 27 Kd2 d5 28 Kd3 Bd6 29 Rh3 a5 30 b3 Be5 31 Kc2 Ke7 32 f4 Bd6 33 Nc3 Kf7 34 Kd3 Rb8 35 Kc2 c4 36 bxc4 dxc4 37 a4 Bc5 White resigns
Short went from the Philippines to the European Team Championship in Crete, where England is fielding its strongest possible team: Short, Michael Adams, David Howell, Luke McShane and Gawain Jones. Sadly in round one Short overpressed and lost (see this week's Chess puzzle).