Raymond Keene

Sceptred Isle

Sceptred Isle
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This week I continue with extracts of play from the new book on the English Opening by Steve Giddins. The timing is solicitous in that the British Championship commences next week in North Shields with grandmasters Gawain Jones, David Howell, Stephen Gordon, Keith Arkell and Simon Williams.

Timman-Ernst: Wijk aan Zee 2012; English Opening

1 c4 c6 2 Nf3 d5 Black angles for a Slav Defence. 3 g3 The text is the main attempt to dodge regular Slav lines and preserve a recognisably ‘English’ structure. 3 ... Nf6 4 Bg2 dxc4 5 0-0 Nbd7 This is probably Black’s best, and initiates a plan of defending the c4-pawn with pieces. 5 ... Be6 is another version of the same idea, of holding c4 with pieces. Play then continues 6 Ng5 Bd5 7 e4 h6 8 exd5 hxg5 9 dxc6 Nxc6. Outwardly, this does not look great for White, who is still a pawn down, and has a weakness on the d-file and unimpressive development. But after 10 Na3 it is hard for Black to keep the c4-pawn, and after it drops, White can start to develop active play with his bishop pair. 6 Qc2 Nb6 7 Na3 White has a major alternative here, in 7 a4 a5 and only now 8 Na3. 7 ... Qd5 Black is trying to make it hard for White to regain his pawn without some concession. 8 b3 cxb3 9 axb3 White has given up any hopes of regaining his pawn, and has made the sacrifice a real one. He hopes to create pressure on the queenside, along the open lines.

9 ... Be6 10 b4 Qb3 11 Qxb3 Bxb3 (see diagram 1) White is not so bothered by the queen exchange, as Black loses further time, which White now utilises to continue his queenside initiative. This is similar to the Benko Gambit where Black often welcomes the exchange of queens, as his pressure persists into the endgame. 12 b5 c5 13 d3 Nfd7 Timman recommended 13 ... g6 to develop the kingside. Then 14 Nd2 Bd5 15 e4 Be6 16 Nac4 maintains the pressure. 14 Nd2 Bd5 15 e4 Be6 16 f4 f6 16 ... g6 was again Timman’s recommendation for Black, but now he points out that White has 17 Bb2 Rg8 18 Nac4 when he is ‘firmly in control’. 17 e5 Bd5 18 e6 Bxe6 19 Bxb7 Rb8 20 Bc6 The English bishop exerts fearsome pressure on Black’s position. 20 ... g6 21 Nac4 Nc8 22 Ne4 Kf7 Walking into an incisive combinative finish, but Black’s position is extremely difficult (see diagram 2) 23 Ne5+ Nxe5 23 ... fxe5 24 Ng5+ is immediately disastrous. 24 fxe5 Bf5 25 Nxc5 White has finally regained his pawn, and still maintains crushing pressure. 25 ... Bg7 26 d4 Rd8 26 ... Bh3 was the last hope. 27 Rxf5 gxf5 28 e6+ Kg6 29 Nd7 Nd6 30 Nxb8 Rxb8 31 Rxa7 Nxb5 32 Rxe7 Bh6 32 ... Nxd4 33 Be8+ wins. 33 Be8+ Black resigns After 33 ... Rxe8 34 Rxe8 Bxc1, simply 35 Rg8+ Kh5 36 e7 wins. A splendidly impressive display by Timman, which excellently illustrates White’s compensation in such positions.

Move by Move: The English by Steve Giddins is published by Everyman Chess.