Monday, July 26, 2010

Till You Get It Right

By Tim Sawyer

GM Lev Alburt has written that one of the best ways to improve in chess is to find a typical thematic position and try to learn everything you can about that one position. One approach is to practice chess by playing your favorite opening vs the same computer over and over again. CM Dan Heisman recommends that after every game, you look up where you could have improved. Using these principles in 2007 I began to play off and on certain BDG lines vs the computer "Rookie" on ICC, and later also vs its older brother "blik". In 2007 I lost most of those games, but gradually I learned. Post-mortem analysis with Fritz or Rybka became my pre-game preparation for a future blitz attempt. It worked well when I could remember the lines.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Another New BDG Book

"Gambit Blackmar-Diemer" by Eric Jégo
Published June 2010 by Modus Operandi 

Review by Tim Sawyer

Many people talk about writing books, but only a few actually do it. When Eric Jégo first contacted me a year or two ago about his new BDG project, I was very hopeful. Now I hold his book in my hand and it brings a smile to my face.

The author is from France, so naturally his 188 page paperback book is written in French with figurine algebraic notation. Jégo says there are 287 verbally annotated games. Jégo has focused on games NOT given much coverage in other books. In fact, 160 of the games have been played in the 12 years since my BDGKII was written (1999-2010). Yes, he does have one game from 2010. I counted over 50 times the players are noted as having FIDE titles (GM 16, IM 21, FM 15, WFM 1). We know that a few times BDG positions were reached via non-BDG move orders. But most of the games I know came right through the front door of the BDG 1.d4.

The games are divided into 28 chapters from all the well-known BDG named variations, which means about 10 games per chapter, although the more popular lines do have more games in those chapters. Jégo has also provided statistical analysis of each variation. For example, the Bogoljubow variation in 2616 games from his database White has scored +45% =17% -38%. To save space, the games begin where that variation begins (i.e. Bogo games begin after 5…g6).

There is one special aspect of Jégo's book that I find fascinating. He approaches the gambit from a strategical direction. His focus is much more on the plans that White has than on concrete specific moves. Rather than concentrating on which 6th move is the best in a given situation, for example, he looks at the main ideas. He presents these concepts in what he calls Elementary Principles. Please forgive my very rough translation of his French. I did study French for four years 40 years ago. However after that I got a degree in Greek, read countless chess books in German, and I live where Spanish-speaking people are the majority. Fast forward to Jégo. Rather than paraphrase his French in smooth American English, I tried to keep the style of the manner in which Jégo presents them.

Here are Eric Jégo's 14 principles (Sawyer translation).

  1. The move will adapt itself to compromise the opponent's position, or to preserve the initiative, the advance of development, the gain of space…
  2. The Bf1 will set up against Black's 0-0 going to c4 vs g6 otherwise d3 vs e6.
  3. The Bc1 ideally will be placed on g5, with the pin or elimination of the Nf6…
  4. The Nf6 is the target to eliminate or deflect.
  5. The exchange of the Queens in particular (and any other) will be preferred for the achievement of the durable advantage or the purification of the position.
  6. The Ng1 will have its full potential when put on e5 in the BDG.
  7. The island Pc2/c3/d4 constitutes an advantage if the White King heads to the kingside. Dominate the center. Complicate the Black organization.
  8. The structure Qh4/Bh6/Ng5/2 R f-file & Ph3 (Studier Attack) is a fluid and habitual maneuver.
  9. The sacrifices N/B x h7/h6/f7 when the position of the King is thematically precarious. Make Black's position fragile. Make White's actively dynamic.
  10. Qh5 accelerates the White offensive readily bringing together the action of the Rf1 and Nc3 (Sneiders Attack).
  11. The check through Qa4/Qb5/Bb5 when c6 is under White control becomes constraining.
  12. The pushing of pawns to h3/g4 and f3/g4 assure a big advantage of space (for example: Hari-kiri variation). Ph4 reinforces the idea.
  13. Nf4 is a motive of harassment when the f-file is closed and Ne4 constitutes the jump-start of his opening.
  14. P/a3 and P/c6 are solid and cautious from the perspective of the unresolved adverse plan. P/c3 in certain cases corresponds to the same principle.

In some ways all this is similar to Tom Purser's "Blackmar-Diemer Gambit Concepts" which he allowed me to use in my BDGKII. Jégo has gone far further by using these principles in the annotations of all the games. In the French language, the words for Elementary Principles appear in reverse order. Jégo abbreviates them as "PE1" or "PE5", etc. Each game is filled with multiple such comments. Often Jégo expands on them on how a particular move fits into those Elementary Principles, or even why the move is premature or powerful.

What don't I like? Well, it is in French; but Jégo told me he does plan an English edition in about a year. Also, game headers just have names of players and date; he does not include the location/tournament/or type of play. This was common in old books from Europe (like the old Rolf Schwarz book in German 40 years ago).

The author does not cover most Anti-BDG lines. He does cover the Lemberger and Huebsch. He does not cover most of the French, Dutch, Pirc or Benoni lines. That information can be found in other places that do not cover the BDG.

Dany Sénéchaud writes a four page Preface on the gambit. He has written a book on E.J. Diemer (also in French).

At the end of Jégo's book he has a Literature & Information page where he lists BDG related books and websites. Excellent stuff! To sum up: Nice book. Buy it!

More info:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Swatting Another Mosquito

In the 1950s Diemer flooded the chess world with letters extolling the virtues of his gambit, making a bit of a pest of himself, no doubt. Max Euwe indulged him a bit, to be rewarded (some might say cursed) by having the 5...e6 defense to the BDG named after himself. When Diemer persisted in debating some variation, Euwe declined in a 5 May 1956 letter. The pertinent paragraphs, loosely translated:
Any opinion on my part, right or wrong, could be answered with ten other possibilities, which would again raise new problems. And these ten bring on another hundred, etc. Gambit play is just complicated, and it is often a matter of taste whether one prefers the extra pawn or the attack.
Now the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit is an interesting way of playing, but I cannot possibly spend the rest of my chess career on it. Forgive my reservations, therefore, but you must not interpret this as fear. It is rather that, if thousands of mosquitoes are attacking, it makes no sense to kill ten or a hundred.
Recently another mosquito showed up in Russia and stung the Euwe Defense.