Raymond Keene

Life on the edge

The grandmaster Nigel Davies has just written a new book on the Pirc Defence, a variation in which Black sacrifices immediate control of the centre to White’s pawns, in the hope of a later counterattack, designed to paint the centre of the board black instead of white. Davies is a solid, dependable and reliable guide to an opening that was once considered heretical but is now mainstream.

The game I have chosen to illustrate the principle theme of this defence is the victory I achieved against the ten-times British champion Jonathan Penrose in 1971. This game was instrumental in my winning the British Championship that year. I first annotated this win in the British Chess Magazine at the time but the notes that follow incorporate some of the latest wrinkles as advocated in the new book. The Pirc Move by Move by Nigel Davies is published by Everyman Chess.

Penrose-Keene: British Championship, Blackpool 1971; Pirc Defence

1 e4 g6 2 d4 Bg7 3 Nc3 d6 4 f4 Nf6 5 Nf3 0-0 6 Bd3 Nc6 In his book, Nigel Davies gives preference to the more modern try 6 … Na6, preparing the advance … c5. 7 h3 The drawback to this is the loss of time involved, which enables Black to inaugurate a swift queenside counter-attack. 7 … Nb4 8 Be3 b6 In order to support … c7-c5, but also clearing a path to a6 for the black queen’s bishop. 9 a3 Nxd3+ 10 cxd3 c5 11 Qd2 Ba6 12 Kf2 Rc8 (see diagram 1) If now 13 Rag1 then 13 … c4! 14 dxc4 Rxc4 threatening … Rxc3 and … Qa8 when White’s ‘centre’ folds up in mid-board.

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