Saturday 31 May 2008

Visitors Revisited

When I first began to check the analytical data of the Marsh Towers blog, I was pleased to see that there were visitors from 27 different countries, as reported here:


Now I am delighted to report that people from no less 90 countries currently visit the site on a regular basis.

Stay tuned folks! There's lots more in the pipeline, with several more publishers recently expressing a firm interest in having their goods reviewed. Marsh Towers will be looking at some new ventures too, so keep checking back for updates.

Best wishes to you, wherever in the world you may be!

Saturday 24 May 2008

Chess Reviews: 47

Chessbase Magazine Volume 123 (April 2008)

Chessbase have introduced yet another new feature; Opening Reports in the Fritz Trainer format. These work in exactly the same way as the dedicated Fritz Trainer DVDs, with an expert presenting video lectures and the viewer having access to a number of Windows, such as one for the board, one for the video, another for the list of moves etc.

This time, Andrew Martin and Oliver Reeh make presentations covering important lines of the Alekhine Defence and the Sicilian Dragon respectively.

Other aspects of the game are covered in the Fritz Trainer format, including a bonus piece for those who have enjoyed ‘Chess for Scoundrels’ by Nigel Davies and a further selection featuring Daniel King, Karsten Muller (eight (!) video presentations in addition to the usual amount of material), Oliver Reeh and Robert Knaak. Samples are included from some more of Chessbase’s recent output.

In addition to the new-style reports, there are 11 more in the more traditional format. The openings covered this time are:

A Modern Way to Avoid the Grunfeld Defence by Igor Stohl

Positional Play in the Classical Benoni by Mihail Marin

The Main Line of the 4-Pawns Attack by Tibor Karolyi

The Modern Treatment of the Alekhine by Dorian Rogozenko

Satisfied with a Slight Edge by Tibor Karolyi (regarding a quiet White system against the Modern Defence)

The Philidor Defence - Passive, but Solid by Lubomir Ftacnik

The Janisch Gambit with 4 Nc3 - Part 1 by Evgeny Postny

Deviations From the Rio de Janeiro Defence by Mihail Marin

A Simple System Against the Slav by Efstratios Griva

Grunfeld: The Central System with 7 Nf3, 8 Be3

The Fianchetto Variation with an Early …c5 by Dorian Rogozenko

Of particular interest are the surveys on the Alekhine Defence and Janisch Gambit. Both were played at the highest level recently and Black seems to be having more than his fair share of the fun.

1 e4 Nf6 2 e5 Nd5 3 d4 d6 4 Nf3 dxe5 5 Nxe5 c6

The humble c-pawn move has been quietly developing into a very reliable weapon for Black. Combining Rogozenko’s survey with Martin’s Fritz Trainer presentation will give the reader an easy to learn addition to their opening repertoire in a very short period of time.

1315 recent games are included in this issue and about 120 of them annotated. The most important are undoubtedly those from the Moreila/Linares Supertournament. Some of these expert clashes are annotated by the elite players themselves (Anand provides two impressive audio commentaries) and the majority of the rest have notes by a plethora of well known Chessbase authors.

Aronian provides the annotations for his dramatic Marshall Attack against Anand

…in which the concluding blow was 30...Re3! 0-1 (34).

The top GM tournaments are bloodthirsty affairs these days and no chess fan will want to be without a these fighting games in their databases.

The influence of Bobby Fischer is still keenly felt in all things chess and Daniel King provides a superb lecture all about the great champion’s game with Weinstein (US Championship 1963).
Here’s a couple of examples from Reeh’s excellent section on tactics.

Sjugoriv - Tjurin
White to play and mate in two

Yudin - Orlinkov
How can Black gain a decisive advantage?

This is a top quality chess product with an absolutely astonishing amount of material. Players of all strengths - from club player to Grandmaster - will find plenty of entertainment and instruction here.

Power Play 6
Pawns, Pieces and Plans
By GM Daniel King

‘If you want to be a well-rounded chess player, it is vital that you have a good understanding of positional play.’

GM King’s series on various aspects of chess strategy continues with this, the sixth volume of Power Play.

His introduction sets the scene for what is to follow; the focus of attention will fall on the topics of:
The Isolated Queen’s Pawn

The Passed Pawn


Three sets of test positions follow (one set for each category) and GM King urges the viewer to switch off the notation window and, even better, to analyse with a real chess set.
Then it’s on to the meat of the DVD as the Grandmaster guides the viewer through a whole range if instructive positions from top level chess.

The Isolated Queen’s Pawn is one of the cornerstones of chess strategy and remains controversial. Some players are always happy to make use of the extra space and attacking potential granted by owning the isolated pawn; others wouldn’t ever feel comfortable unless they were the side playing against it and are delighted to have straight forward strategical plan at their disposal.

The games of the 12th World Champion, Anatoly Karpov, come under considerable scrutiny and provide almost perfect examples of how to exploit the inherent weakness of the Isolated Queen’s Pawn.

Korchnoi - Karpov
World Championship Match 1981

Karpov’s play in this, the ninth game of the match, borders on perfection. GM King explains the plans for both sides leading up to this position and shows how cleverly Karpov frustrated his opponent’s intentions while still pursuing his own. The icing on the cake is Black’s next: 35...e5! and 0-1 (43)

After a number of reversals, balance is restored in the second set of example which show the attacking potential granted by the IQP in full flow.

Smyslov - Karpov (Moscow 1971) is a particularly famous example and was clearly a very important learning experience for the future World Champion. Here, with astonishing impunity, the IQP charged rudely into the very heart of the Black position:

21 d5 Nd8 22 d6 Rc5 23 d7 and 1-0 (29).

As GM King rightly says, it would be easy to fill 10 DVDs with study material based around IQPs. Other top-level clashes which would benefit from detailed analysis include the 1969 Petrosian - Spassky World Championship match (in which the former, despite his extraordinary positional skill, failed to deal with Spassky’s ambitious IQP play inaugurated by his surprising choice of the Tarrasch Defence) and the 1974 Candidates’ Final between Karpov and Korchnoi (in the which the latter drew several IQP games with Black in the Tarrasch Variation of the French Defence).

The power of passed pawns is discussed in the next section and we move on to ‘Tension’, which deals specifically with the decision to made when central pawns clash. Is it best to push, exchange or maintain the tension?

Deep Thought - Kasparov
New York 1989

Before computers became too strong for even World Champions to beat, humans could often employ positional traps with long term consequences. The metal monster misjudged the position and released the tension with 19 c5?

Kasparov set about creating favourable circumstances as a prelude to a Kingside attack. He traded the Bishop for Knight on c3 then swapped one of his Knights for Whites. This created a good Knight v bad Bishop scenario and he went on to win with an advance of the Kingside pawns. If White hadn’t pushed his c-pawn on move 21 then the tension in the centre wouldn’t have given Kasparov such a free hand on one side of the board.

The Power Play series may not have the universal appeal of (for example) a disc on the latest variations of the Sicilian Defence but there is a tremendous amount of chess wisdom for the attentive viewer. In my opinion, GM King is the best of all of the Chessbase presenters and his teaching skills are exemplary.

Strategy - Step by Step
By GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov

‘Making the right strategic decisions belongs to the most difficult tasks at the chessboard. But how can one enhance one’s strategic understanding and methodical play?’

Another of Chessbase’s regular (and popular) DVD presenters, former World Champion GM Kasimdzhanov, must spend a significant amount of time recording his thoughts.
This time he presents several of his own games and pays particular attention to the strategic and positional aspects of play. This is tricky territory for most players. Most understand the need for tactics and in some ways can understand a tactical Grandmaster slugfest better than a strategic masterpiece. This is one reason that a collection of Tal’s games will generally be more popular than a similar assortment of Petrosian’s.

Six of his own games are analysed in great depth. The analysis is split into different parts, with the Istratescu game being the longest with no less than five video lectures.

The analysis is through and deep, beginning with the very first moves. There is a discussion after 1 e4 c5 (in a game against Anand) highlight the basic aims of both colours; White has the makings of grip on the White squares and Black quite the opposite. This breaking down of material to the very basic strategical level will be very helpful to those who like to follow moves blindly, with little thought as to the reasons behind them. This is truly a step-by-step approach.

The openings covered are:

2 x Sicilian Defence (One Najdorf, one Scheveningen)
Semi-Slav Defence
2 x Queen’s Gambit Declined (one featuring 5 Bf4 and the other 5 Bg5)
Ruy Lopez

‘The Spanish Torture’ against Ivan Sokolov was particularly instructive for me as it’s the opening I have played the least out of all of them (I know, I know! I would have been a much better played if I’d tried it more as a youth).

I found the explanations of the plans and strategies to be extremely illuminating and instructive. From the very basic points - discussing why 3 Bb5 is not indirectly threatening the e5 pawn, despite appearances - GM Kasimdzhanov builds the plot up to the key positions, with plans and ideas for both sides clearly highlighted along the way.

Kasimdzhanov - Sokolov

This is a key position and the nuances are very well explained. The former World Champion also discusses the reasons he now definitely prefers White, when he used to be to play either colour.

This position is judged to be better for White, based on the extra space granted by the d5 pawn and the lack of prospects for the a5 Knight. At this point GM Kasimdzhanov invites the reader to imagine they are playing a tournament game and the task is to mull over the plans before proceeding with the next video lecture.

The concluding part of the game is then given and the student can compare what they would have played with what actually happened.

It’s not so easy for a strong player to break things down into easily absorbed chunks of chess instruction (try it ‘down the club’!) but GM Kasimdzhanov makes the task look very easy, with a relaxed yet thoroughly professional approach.

In his ‘Outro’ the presenter quickly runs over some basic points and then explains why this DVD focussed mainly on openings and early middle games. Volume 2, he says, will be on Endgame Strategy. But that, dear readers, is another story…

It’s hard to believe that anyone who carefully studies the material presented on this month’s Chessbase DVDs won’t increase their understanding of chess and eventually improve their over-the-board results. The two Fritz Trainers reviewed here have a combined running time of just under nine hours, surely representing excellent value for money. Highly recommended!

For further details of all Chessbase products, please visit:

For the archive of my chess reviews, please see here:

Friday 16 May 2008

Chess Reviews: 46

The three DVDs reviewed here all follow the standard Fritz Trainer format. Load up the disc and one's computer screen split into three windows. One is a chessboard, depicting the latest moves, one is for the notation and the third shows the author/presenter talking to the screen. It's very much like having a Grandmaster giving you his direct and complete attention.
1 e4 For The Creative Attacker
By GM Nigel Davies

'Playing 1 e4 with White is often associated with having to know reams of opening theory but this does not have to be the case. There are many unusual but playable lines which give White attacking chances whilst avoiding the well trodden paths. Besides the practical advantage of putting Black on his own resources this gives White the opportunity to play creative chess from early on in the game.'

Over the course of 22 illustrative games, GM Davies advocates an offbeat repertoire for those with a longing for 1 e4 creativity.
His recommendations are frequently highly unusual and include the following…

The Fantasy Variation (1 e4 c6 d4 d5 3 f3) against the Caro-Kann.

1 e4 c5 2 Na3 against the Sicilian, with the seemingly long-winded but perfectly viable plan of building up a big clamp with an eventual c2-c3, Na3-c2 and d4.

Against the French Defence, the rare 1 e4 e6 2 f4 is the weapon of choice. This is an attempt to bypass a lot of theory and to steer the game into the big clamp territory mapped out in the Sicilian section.

Zvjaginsev - Zhang Pengxiang

The Big Clamp in action!

1 e4 d6/g6 2 f4 is an unconventional way of meeting the Pirc/Modern complex. It is possible to head for a reversed English Opening (specifically the 1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 d6 3 g3 f5 system) as shown in the game Minev - Doda...

A Kingside attack is definitely on the agenda.

1 e4 e5 is always a tricky one for ‘complete repertoire’ recommendations. Advocating the Ruy Lopez puts the onus on the player to learn a lot of lines and invest more time than the average club player can afford. The Scotch was always a good standby in the past but that has gathered a little too much theory to be covered quickly. GM Davies plumps for an unusual line of the Four Knights Game: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 g3

This, the Glek System, is still little known and could certainly surprise one’s opponents. The instructive games on this DVD are well chosen and demonstrate ways to generate interesting attacking chances on the Kingside, usually with the transfer of the Knight from f3 to f5 (via h4) followed by an advance of the f-pawn.

As explained in the first illustrative game, there are certain similarities to the Vienna Game with 1 e4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 g3 but after 3...d5 4 exd5 Nxd5 5 Bg2 Nxc3 4 bxc3 Black has more options with his Queen’s Knight, which could make it’s way along to f6 via to bolster the King’s defences. With the Glek system, 4...d5 is a common rejoinder but Black could end up in a Vienna-type position with the Knight already committed to c6.

The lesser Black options are all covered in the last three illustrative games. The non-compliant 1 e4 Nf6 2 Nc3 is guaranteed to frustrate an Alekhine player’s adventurous spirit. Once again there are ways to get back into a Big Clamp.

The Scandinavian Defence is currently quite popular and proves to be a bit of a thorn in the suggested repertoire. After 1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3, both 3...Qa5 and 3...Qd6 are met by 4 g3, giving Black some different problems to solve.

All of the lines should give the player an interesting game with fresh positions. Only once does Black escape with a draw but it should be noted that White is the higher rated player in all examples (and sometimes by quite a margin).

They are not the best according to other opening manuals and they will probably not bring you success in the World Championship but for the club and tournament player they will provide a full repertoire that is fairly easy to learn and in which the opponent could generally turn out to be clueless.

Chess For Scoundrels
By GM Nigel Davies

'Psychology is one of the most important aspects of chess, yet most players put themselves at a serious disadvantage by ignoring this aspect of the game. Being ‘nice’ is all very well in civilian life, but in the war zone of the chess board a more ruthless approach is required. The fact of the matter is that a good chess player must be something of a scoundrel in order to survive.'

GM Davies is a club player’s friend, forever imparting sensible and useful information. Here he delves into the psychological aspect of chess warfare and presents a plethora of (not quite dirty!) little tricks to give a player the edge over the board.

The introduction sets the scene and explains how something as innocent as offering the opponent a cup of tea can have a greater psychological motive in the hands of a seasoned professional than an amateur. GM Davies compares the life of professional chess player to that of a Vietnam veteran; their everyday mentality is not always conducive to success in ‘normal life’.

Although the introduction is instructive and it whets the appetite for what is to follow, the presentation would definitely have benefited from another ‘take’, as there are far `too many ‘errs’ and ‘erms’ punctuating the speech.

A brief glance at the contents gives a good overview of what is in store:

Pavlovian Responses
Exploiting Time Trouble
Using Time Trouble
Using Draw Offers
Refusing Draw Offers
Playing to Win
When You Need a Draw
Playing Dead
Active Defence
Defending Difficult Positions
Never Say Die

In the ‘Torture’ lecture, the game Sefc - Petrosian (Vienna 1957) is analysed, in which the future World Champion ground out a win on move 96 from a formerly slightly superior position. There’s a nice anecdote before the game, showing just how the great players extended the psychology beyond the mere board. Petrosian was apparently very friendly to John Fedorowicz throughout an all-play-all tournament, despite the two of them never having met before. Apparently, ‘Iron Tigran’ had realised that the two were due to meet in the final round, and being on friendly terms may have made the option of a speedy draw (guaranteeing first place) more likely.

‘Insults’ take a good look at the Karpov - Miles game (Skara, 1980), famous for the use of 1...a6 by England’s first Grandmaster. The game is excellently analysed and the impact of such ‘insults’ on the mood and blood pressure of the victim is discussed.

Some of the methods come with a health warning; none more so than ‘Using Time Trouble’. The illustrative game is Korchnoi - Suetin (Leningrad 1960). Korchnoi, needing a win but in terrible trouble on the board, racked up the tension even further by making sure he was in time trouble. Suetin became very nervous and missed several winning chances.

For example, 36...Na3 is very strong here but in the opponent’s time trouble it’s more tempting to play quick, easy moves to keep the pressure on. Suetin played 36...Nd6 and White’s Bishops grew in strength after 37 Bb3+ Korchnoi survived the time trouble (this was back in the days when move 40 had the magical quality of reaching the time control with its blessing of a fresh and significant extra supply of minutes) and went on to win. And this was in the final round; Korchnoy won the USSR Championship by half a point, ahead of Petrosian and Geller (who both won their last round games and were rooting for Suetin; Geller’s win as Black against Bronstein was very suspicious to say the least but that’s another story).

This little trick, often used by Reshevsky, should be used very sparingly and only when the situation is desperate. It worked for Korchnoy - but under the circumstances, it was worth the risk.

There’s a considerable amount of essential advice for scoundrels on this DVD and it’s a real eye opener for those who still believe that chess is just a matter of moving pieces around a board. It can be seen as a sort of 'How to Cheat at Chess' for the modern world.

My Best Games With Black
By GM Alexei Shirov

'If you want to win with Black, you must decide which is the best strategy to achieve your aim. Should you take risks and go for the win right from move one, or should you patiently set about achieving equality and then wait for mistakes by White? Which opening should you choose and what is the role played by opening preparation?'

How does a player win with Black against the world’s elite? It’s tricky enough to push for victory in local club matches and tournaments, so it is intriguing to see how a top GM goes about the task.

GM Shirov is, of course, very well known as a tactical and risky player, unafraid of great complications over the board. So it’s natural to assume that this new DVD will be a collection of bold attacking games with a large dose of ‘fire on board’.

The astonishing run time of six hours and forty five minutes gives GM Shirov plenty of time to delve into the deeper points of his selected games.

His list of opponents makes very impressive reading:

Sokolov, Ivanchuk, Movsesian, Leko, Fedorov, Shabalov, Najer, Navara, Sutovsky, Alekseev, Onischuk, Akopian and Karjakin. Only two escaped with draws!

GM Shirov’s only fault as a presenter is that he doesn’t look into the camera often enough, preferring instead to look at his own computer screen. That, however, is only a minor matter.
The choice of opening must surely be a factor in success with the Black pieces.

The illustrative games feature a King’s Indian Defence, Symmetrical English, French Defence (three games), King’s Gambit, Four Knights’ Opening, Reti, Petroff, Grunfeld, Slav and Sicilian (two games).

Two other key factors are revealed: sometimes it is possible to prepare a strong surprise or novelty in a particular opening which can tilt the edge to Black and occasionally a player can some other subconscious belief in impending victory against a particular opponent.
Winning the Black side of King’s Gambit might not be too tricky for a top player, but who does one set about playing for the full point with a Petroff or a Four Knights?

Analysing his game against Sutovsky from a 2007 team event, GM Shirov explains at the start that it’s more difficult to prepare in depth when the name of the opponent is not known until quite late on. Add that to a sleepless night and a bit of tension and animosity towards a particular player and the task is complicated further. Feeling out of sorts, he chose the Petroff not to try and win as Black, but merely ‘to survive’.

He admits to being very lucky during the game, especially in this position:

White’s 11 h3 improved an early game in which Black drew easily. Now 11.…0-0-0 looks tempting but Grandmaster intuition warned him off. Later he discovered that 12 Bb5 c6 13 Ba6 bxa6 14 Qe2 wins for White, even though in his troubled and tired state at the board he had not seen the variation.

He then navigated his way through a couple of uncomfortable moments before his opponent ran out of decent attacking tries and offered the draw. Shirov’s hand was in the process of extending itself in agreement when he suddenly changed his mind and opted to play on! He managed to win some time later, sealing an almost accidental victory.

He played into a Four Knight’s Opening against Najer as he wasn’t convinced by his opponent’s handling of certain variations. Nuances play an important part in a top player’s choice of opening; after 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 he played 2...Nf6, knowing that in this case 3 Nc3 would follow and that 2...Nc6 would have been met by 3 Bb5.

Naturally, he brings typical ‘Planet Shirov’ chaos to the board in the majority of his games on this DVD and unusual positions abound, as these randomly selected samples amply demonstrate:

Akopian - Shirov

Shabalov - Shirov

Fedorov - Shirov

They look like positions from Hugh Courtney’s famous Chess Magazine Christmas Quizzes.
A great advantage of this format over chess books is that the presenter/author cannot just print lengthy variations and expect the viewer/reader to spend hours working over them; everything has to be explained in full view; the magician is obliged to talk through his secrets!

For further details of all Chessbase products, please visit:

For the archive of my chess reviews, please see here:

The Hawk v Rest of the World - Victory!

The Hawk's most recent move was an absolutely crushing Knight fork.

24 Ne6+

The Knight checks the Black King and at the same time attacks the Queen and the Rook. Black cannot avoid catastrophic material losses and against a strong player there is little point in continuing when so much down. So the time has come for the Rest of the World to resign and offer their congratulations to the all-conquering Hawk!
We are hoping to present the whole game with exclusive annotations from the champion very soon.

Friday 9 May 2008

The Hawk v Rest of the World: Checkmate Stopped!

The Rest of the World spotted the threat of 25 Qxf7 checkmate and have defended with their Rook.

Current position after 24...Rc7

Let us see if The Hawk has anything planned!

Thursday 8 May 2008

The Lion: Roars, Claws and Very Few Draws

The famous book ‘The Lion: The Black Weapon’ is due to be revised and reprinted by New in Chess towards the end of 2008.

Inspired by the original book, I used the system as my main weapon for Black over the course of 2006-7. I recently surveyed my Lion experiences and this resulting article may be of interest to club players looking for a new and/or surprise weapon.
I make no claim for presenting perfect play in the following games (far from it) but will hopefully show that one can reach fresh and interesting positions using The Lion.

My first attempt came in a local league match, against a lifetime 1 e4 devotee. However, I was surprised to see 1 d4 appear on the board. Fortunately I had been preparing various ideas after 1 d4 d6 so gave it a try. White then replied 2 e4 so we back in the territory I was originally hoping for.

Richardson,D - Marsh,S
Elmwood v Hungarians
Cleveland League

1.d4 d6 2.e4 Nf6 3.f3 e5 4.d5 c6 5.c4 Nxe4 6.fxe4 Qh4+ 7.Kd2 Qxe4 8.Nc3 Qd4+ 9.Ke1 Qb6 10.Nf3 Be7 11.Bd3 f5

After many adventures Black went on to win 0-1 (58)

I subsequently tried the sacrifice again but it didn’t turn out very well.

Sams,J - Marsh,S
SME League of Champions (2)

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.f3 e5 4.d5 c6 5.c4 Nxe4 6.fxe4 Qh4+ 7.Kd2 Qxe4 8.Qf3 Qd4+ 9.Bd3 cxd5 10.cxd5

I should have tried 10...Bg4 here. Perhaps 9...f5 was an improvement too.

10...Be7 11.Nc3 0–0 12.Nge2 Qb6 13.g4!

Now it took a lot longer to organise …f5 than I’d have liked. Jonathan kept the lid on the Black tactics and went on to win nicely. 1-0 (37)

I concluded it was too risky for anything other than blitz but was surprised to see a further example, in the recent book by GM Joel Benjamin. (

The specific position I was especially keen to test is:

This variation is known as The Lion's Yawn. Yet care must always be taken with big cats, whether they are yawning or growling.

I had some very enjoyable games in this line.

Edmunds, D - Marsh,S
Cleveland Individual Championship 2005-6 (5)

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 4.dxe5 dxe5 5.Qxd8+ Kxd8 6.Bc4 Be6 7.Bxe6 fxe6 8.f4

(A model game for Black was played over a decade ago and formed part of my preparation. Many of Black’s aims are perfectly demonstrated, particularly with the advance of pawn mass in the ending. I found it one of Brian Stephenson's ( tournament bulletins.

Edmunds, D - Wall, T Sheffield Open (3), 14.04.1995
1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 4.dxe5 dxe5 5.Qxd8+ Kxd8 6.Bc4 Be6 7.Bxe6 fxe6 8.Be3 Bd6 9.0–0–0 Ke7 10.f3 Nc6 11.Nge2 Rhf8 12.Nb5 a6 13.Nxd6 cxd6

14.Rd2 b5 15.Rhd1 Rfd8 16.Bg5 Rac8 17.a3 Na5 18.Rd3 Nc4 19.Nc3 h6 20.Bxf6+ gxf6 21.Nb1 Rc6 22.b3 Nb6 23.Rc3 Rxc3 24.Nxc3 f5

25.exf5 exf5 26.Nd5+ Nxd5 27.Rxd5 Ke6 28.Rd2 Rc8 29.Rd3 h5 30.Kd1 Rg8 31.Rd2 Rc8 32.Rd3 f4 33.c3 Rg8 34.Rd2 d5 35.Rb2 e4 36.fxe4 dxe4 37.c4 f3 38.g3 e3

39.cxb5 Rd8+ 40.Ke1 f2+ 0–1 )

Black is already better! Dave said that after the Wall game he had concluded that the Black centre must be attacked as early as possible. Yet such trouble can rebound on the lesser-developed forces.

9.Bd2 exf4 10.e5 Bxc3 11.bxc3 Ne4 12.Bxf4 Nxc3 13.Ne2

Hoping that the development will compensate for the loss of the pawn. Black is very well off here though, with no weaknesses (e6 can't be attacked!), a better Minor piece and a target on e5.

Black consolidated and went on to win the ending.
13...Nxe2 14.Kxe2 h6 15.Rad1+ Ke7 16.Rd3 Nc6 17.Rb1 Rab8 18.Ke3 Rhd8 19.Rxd8 Nxd8 20.g4 Nf7 21.h4 g6 22.Ke4 b6 23.a4 A reasonable plan - the aim is to destroy the Queenside. However, Black's switch to the Kingside is decisive. 23...Rd8 24.c4 g5 25.hxg5 hxg5 26.Be3 (26.Bg3 Rd2 or 26 ...c5 both highlight the defects in the other Bishop retreat.) 26...Rh8 27.c5 Rh4 28.Bxg5+ Desperation. If g4 drops then e5 goes with it and Dave didn't fancy the passive 28 Rg1. 28...Nxg5+ 29.Kf4 Nf7 30.cxb6 axb6 31.a5 bxa5 32.Ra1

32.…Nxe5 A good simplification. 33.Kxe5 Rxg4 0–1

Stevens,B - Marsh,S
Elmwood v Whitby


1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 4.dxe5 dxe5 5.Qxd8+ Kxd8 6.Bg5 Bd6 7.Bc4 Be6 8.Bxe6 fxe6 9.f3 a6

Despite some strange aspects to Black’s position, a deeper investigation of the position reveals a decent choice of middle game plans. In some cases, a sequence featuring…h6 and …g5 could be initiated, with a minority attack on the Kingside. If White castles on the Queenside then Black can consider a plan of action on that side of the board, with, for example, Rooks positioned on a8 and b8 and a general advance of the Queenside pawns. The doubled e-pawns control a lot of central squares and Black’s King turns out to be very happy on e7.

10.Nge2 h6 11.Be3 Nc6 12.a3 Ke7 13.Rd1 Raf8 14.Nc1 g5 15.h3 Nh5 16.N3e2 Nf4

White has played natural enough moves but somehow Black’s pieces have manage a better job of coordination. Black eventually made us of the semi-open g-file (after White exchanged Knights) and kept White tied down with Kingside defensive chores while organising a final break on the Queenside.

Final position after 37...d3 0-1

Stephenson,N - Marsh,S
SME Match Championship SF (2)


1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 4.dxe5 dxe5 5.Qxd8+ Kxd8 6.Bc4 A natural sequence for White, hard to resist over the board. 6...Be6 7.Bxe6 fxe6 ...and Black has to put up with some funny looks from bystanders for a little while... 8.Bg5 Bd6 9.Nf3 Nc6 10.0–0–0 h6 11.Be3 11 Bxf6 would help Black. So would 11 Bh4 g5 12 Bg3 Nh5. Now 11 ...Ng4 can be met by 12 Bc5. 11...Ke7

12.h3 a6 13.Nd2 Possibly heading for c5 but highlighting the lack of serious plans available to White. The Knights really struggle! 13...b5 14.f3 e4 needed support but a future ...Nf4 is now more tempting for Black as the K-side pawns are more vulnerable. 14...Nd4 15.Rhe1 Nh5 Black has the initiative and, more importantly, can improve his position more than White can. 16.Ne2 c5 17.Nb1 Hoping to double up quickly on the d-file after 18 c3 Nxe2+ 19 Rxe2 and 20 Red2 17...g5 18.c3 Rac8!
A well-known idea! Black's energy grows... 19.Kd2 Nc6 Planning on rerouting the Knight to c4 via a5. 20.Rg1 With White running low on time he tries to cover the weaknesses. At least g2 will not drop off by accident. 20...Nf4 21.Ke1 Na5 22.Kf2 The culmination of a remarkable King journey! 22...c4 23.Nxf4 Couldn't allow the beast into d3. 23...exf4 24.Bd4 Rhg8 I missed White's clever 25th move! 24...e5 was better.

25.Bf6+ Kxf6 26.Rxd6 With a draw offer. White was low on time but I still had a decent amount in reserve. The extra space, better King, the weaknesses on g2 and d3....all added up to a solid advantage so I played on...

26...Nc6 27.Rgd1 White gained a few quick, easy moves to help the time situation. 27...Rgd8 28.Rxd8 Rxd8 29.Rxd8 Nxd8 30.b3 cxb3 31.axb3 Nc6 32.Ke2 Ke5 33.Kd3 Interesting...the White King feels obliged to patrol the centre and Q-side - but g2 is left to its fate! 33...Kd6 34.Nd2 Ne5+ 35.Kd4 Ng6 36.c4 e5+ 37.Kc3 Nh4 38.Kb4 Kc6 49.Ka5 Nxg2 40.Kxa6 b4 Once I'd found the idea of ...b4 and ...Kc5 it was clear that Black has the win. 41.Nf1 Ne1 42.Nh2 h5 43.Ka5 Kc5 44.Ka4 Nd3 45.Nf1 Nf2

45 ...Nb2+ and 46 ...Nxc4 was another way to do it 46.h4 g4 0–1

Hartston,W - Marsh,S
Yarm School Simul.

I was delighted to be able test out The Lion against IM Bill Hartston, formerly England’s top player.

1.d4 d6 2.e4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 4.dxe5 dxe5 5.Qxd8+ Kxd8 6.Bc4 Be6 7.Bxe6 fxe6 8.Be3 Bd6 9.f3 a6 10.0–0–0 Ke7 11.Nge2 Nbd7

12.Kb1 b5 13.Rd2 Rhb8 14.Nd1 Nb6 (Heading for c4; if White stops it with 15 b3 then Black’s Queenside advance will have a weakness to bite on. White‘s own Knights will continue to struggle to find employment.) 15.Bxb6 Rxb6 16.c3 16...c5 17.Ne3 c4 18.h3 Bc5 19.Nc2 Rbb8 ½–½

Black seems very comfortable in the final position and perhaps the draw was agreed a shade too early, but you know what simuls are like…

4 Nf3, officially leading to a Philidor Defence, is another very popular choice. True Lion fans will be pleased to try out The Lion’s Claw - an ambitious Kingside attack.

Wise,D - Marsh,S
SME Match Final (1)


1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 4.Nf3 Nbd7 5.Bc4 h6 6.0–0 Be7 7.Re1 c6 8.a4 Qc7 9.b3 g5

The plan of attack is clear to see. Moves such as …Rg8, and…Nf8-g6-f4 are clearly on the agenda. Black’s King may have to stay in the centre but it’s not all that easy for White to get to it. Over the board, with the clock ticking and Black playing the first dozen or so moves very quickly, it’s easy to see that a lot players in the White position could certainly feel the pressure.
Later in the game we reached this interesting position.

I played 17...Rd8 to defend d6. Later I discovered that 17...0-0-0 is better, clearing the way for the Queen’s Rook to eventually join in on the Kingside. 18 Qxa7 would be bad due to 18...d5! with threats of 19...Bxa3 and 19...Nf3+ with 20...Qxh2+ to follow.

The game was drawn some time later; a decent enough result as Black in the first game of a tough match.

Price,B - Marsh,S
SME League Of Champions (6)

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 4.Nf3 Nbd7 5.Bc4 h6 6.0–0 Be7 7.h3 c6 8.a4 Qc7 9.a5 Nf8 10.Qe2 g5

White has played good, natural moves but 7 h3 - a common mistake - has granted Black a convenient target. Indeed, it proved to be fairly easy to crack open the g-file and create serious pressure.

11.Be3 g4 12.hxg4 Bxg4 13.Qd1 13...Rg8 14.Be2 Bh3 15.Nh4 Ng4 16.Bxg4 Rxg4 17.Kh2 Rxh4 18.gxh3 exd4 19.Bxd4 d5+ 20.e5 Qd7 21.Qd3

Here I missed a speedy conclusion with 21...c5 (with 22 Be3 d4 to follow). I thought 21...Ne6 (still hoping for 22 Be3 d4 but with the added threat of 22...Nf4) was doing the same sort of thing but missed that 22 Ne2! not only protected f4 but meant that the Knight and Bishop could no longer be pawn-forked. Bernie continued to defend very resourcefully but Black eventually won in a Rook and pawn ending. 0-1 (62)

Trotter,A - Marsh,S
Elmwood Ch. 2006-7 (3)

Playing against a King’s Indian structure made it tough to get the Kingside attack going…

1.e4 d6 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d3 Nbd7 4.g3 e5 5.Bg2 c6 6.Nbd2 Be7 7.0–0 Qc7 8.Re1 h6

Indeed, Alan kept the Lion at bay throughout the middlegame and it was only later on that the Black Knights were able to spring into action…

…helped by the pawn sacrifice 31...e4, clearing the critical e5 square for equestrian manoeuvres. 0-1 (46)

I won another couple of games against more unusual White tries.

Gee-Smith,M - Marsh, S
SME KO Championship

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 4.d5 c6 5.Bg5 Be7 6.dxc6 bxc6 7.Bxf6 Bxf6

Craven,L - Marsh,S
Elmwood Ch. 2006-7,

1.e4 d6 2.Bb5+ c6 3.Ba4 Nf6 4.Nc3 e5

Black’s position was highly satisfactory in both cases.

By now, I was enjoying playing 1...d6 against all White openings, regardless of whether or not an early e2-e4 was on the agenda. The fresh positions can lead to confusion in the White ranks…

Creaney,M - Marsh,S
SME League of Champions

1.d4 d6 2.c4 e5 3.d5 f5
4.g3 Nf6 5.Bg2 Be7 6.Nc3 0–0 7.e4 a5 8.Qc2 Na6 9.exf5 Nb4 10.Qe2? Bxf5 11.Be4 Qd7 12.a3 Na6 13.Bxf5 Qxf5 14.Be3 Ng4 15.Rd1 Rae8

16...e4! 17.Qxe4 (17.Nxe4 Bg5! ) 17...Nxe3 Black will win at least a piece, so… 0–1

Garnett,J - Marsh,S
Elmwood Club Championship 2006-7 (5),

1.c4 d6 2.g3 e5 3.Bg2 f5 4.d4 Be7 (I'd grown accustomed to Queenless middlegames so didn't fear 5 dxe5.) 5.e3 Nf6 6.Nc3 0–0 7.Nge2 Qe8

Black is officially shaping up for a Kingside attack but the system is not a one-trick pony. Indeed, Black’s winning plan emerged on the other side of the board, demonstrating the system’s flexibility.

22...a4 and 0-1 (61)

Stop Press:

Here’s a (3-minute) game against Fritz 11 played just after this article was written:

Fritz 11 - Marsh,Sean

1.d4 d6 2.e4 Nf6 3.Bd3 e5 4.c3 Be7 5.Nf3 Nbd7 6.0–0 c6 7.Be3 Qc7 8.Nbd2 h6 9.h3 g5 10.a4 Nf8 11.a5 Ng6 12.Qc2 Rg8

A very typical Lion’s Claw - and all played very quickly by Black.

13.dxe5 dxe5 14.a6 b6 15.Bc4 Nf4 16.Bb3 h5 17.Nc4 Nd7 18.Rad1 g4 19.hxg4 hxg4 20.Nh2 Bxa6 21.g3 Ne6 22.Qe2 Nf6 23.Bc2 Nf4

I’m sure most humans would rather be Black in this position.

24.gxf4 exf4 25.Bd4 f3 26.Qd3 0–0–0 27.Nd6+ Bxd6 28.Qxa6+ Kb8 29.e5 Bxe5 30.Bxe5 Qxe5 31.Rxd8+ Rxd8 32.Ra1 Qc7 33.Nf1 Rg8 34.Bf5 g3 35.Bd3 35...g2 36.Nh2

Hmmm…perhaps I should have won from here.

36...Nd5 37.Bf5 Nf4 38.Nxf3 Rh8 39.Nh2 Ne2+ 40.Kxg2 Rxh2+ 41.Kf1 Nf4 42.Be4 f5 43.Bxc6 Qh7 44.Ke1 Qe7+45.Kf1 Qh7 46.Ke1 Qe7+ 47.Kf1 Qh7 48.Ke1 ½–½

Inspirational material for 1...d6 players:

The Lion: The Black Weapon by J. van Rekom and L.B. Jansen
Visit The Lion website:

An Explosive Opening Repertoire For Black by J Yrjola & J Tella
Roman’s Lab VOL. 6: Opening Repertoire for Black by Roman Dzindzichashvili
Foxy Openings DVDs: Win With 1..d6 Parts 1 & 2 by Andrew Martin
A Black defensive System with 1...d6 by Andy Soltis
An opening repertoire for the attacking club player by Ray Keene and David Levy

Fritz Trainer: 1...d6 Universal by GM Nigel Davies (See the review here: )