Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A favorite move of the weaker amateur

Bad idea: h7-h6 in the Euwe Defense
No, no, no! I absolutely do not mean 4.f3!

Over at his entertaining blog on the Jerome Gambit, which I often read while enjoying my first cup of morning coffee, Rick Kennedy discusses an interesting observation from Max Euwe on an early h7-h6. (JeromeGambit: A Jerome Look At The Semi-Italian Opening (Part 1)):
"On this blog I refer to 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 h6 as the Semi-Italian Opening, a name given to it in Chess Master Vs Chess Amateur(1963), by Max Euwe and Walter Meiden. Here is what the authors say about Black's third move (I have changed the notation from English descriptive to algebraic.)
This is a favorite move of the weaker amateur. He fears some future attack by the White QB (Bg5, for instance) or by the White KN (Ng5), and, before the White QB is even able to move, he plays the precautionary 3...h6. In certain positions, such a precautionary move is occasionally necessary, but in this position, not only is it not necessary, but it consumes valuable time. This puts Black one move behind White in the type of opening where tempi are of greatest importance. Instead of meeting the enemy's rapidly mobilizing forces with armed soldiers (i.e., by bringing out his pieces), Black only loses time and force, and, without realizing it, even weakens his defensive wall..."
This reminded me that in the first year of BDG World (1983) I wrote an article on this general theme, in which I quoted Diemer (from the 2 January 1956 issue of Schach) on the move h7-h6:
"All instruction books warn of too many pawn moves in the opening. In this category is the move h6--enthusiastically played mostly by beginners, but often enough also by experienced players."
After noting that h6 is not "of itself" bad, Diemer goes on to enumerate its drawbacks:
1) It loses time and neglects development.
2) It weakens (often decisively) the field g6.
3) After Black castles Kingside, it offers White the opportunity to tear open the position through a g2-g5 pawn storm, or through a sacrifice on h6.
In the article I noted that h7-h6 appears frequently in the Euwe Defense to the BDG, a natural reaction to White’s placing his Bishop on g5.

I previously put up a couple of posts based on that article. You can see them here:
These posts also have links to a few illustrative games with javascript replay.