Alekhine's Defence


Alekhine's Defence

Infobox chess opening

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moves = 1.e4 Nf6
ECO = B02-B05
birth = Alexander Alekhine, Budapest, 1921
nameorigin = Alexander Alekhine
parentopening = King's Pawn Game
AKA =
chessgid = 24911&move=2&moves=e4.Nf6&nodes=21720.24911

Alekhine's Defence is a chess opening beginning with the moves

:1.

It is named after Alexander Alekhine, who introduced it in the Budapest tournament in games against Endre Steiner [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1012060 Endre Steiner vs Alexander Alekhine] at ChessGames.com] and Fritz Sämisch. [ [http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1012059 Friedrich Samisch vs Alexander Alekhine] at ChessGames.com] Four years later, the editors of the Fourth Edition of "Modern Chess Openings" ("MCO-4") wrote, "Nothing is more indicative of the iconoclastic conceptions of the 'hypermodern school' than the bizarre defence introduced by Alekhine ... . Although opposing to all tenets of the classical school, Black allows his King's Knight to be driven about the board in the early stages of the game, in the expectation of provoking a weakness in White's centre pawns." [R.C. Griffith and M.E. Goldstein, "Modern Chess Openings, Fourth Edition", 1925, p. 1.] White's imposing mass of pawns in the centre often includes pawns on c4, d4, e5, and f4. Grandmaster Nick de Firmian observes of Alekhine's in "MCO-15" (2008), "The game immediately loses any sense of symmetry or balance, which makes the opening a good choice for aggressive fighting players."Nick de Firmian, "Modern Chess Openings, Fifteenth Edition", 2008, p. 159. ISBN 978-0-8129-3682-7.]

In addition to Alekhine, another early exponent of the defence was Ernst Grünfeld. Its popularity waxes and wanes; currently it is not very common. DeFirmian observes, "The fashion could quickly change if some champion of the opening takes up the cause, as the results Black has obtained in practice are good." The opening's current highest-rated proponent is Grandmaster Vassily Ivanchuk, although Grandmaster Lev Alburt has done much to promote it. De Firmian writes, "Currently Grandmasters Shabalov and Minasian use the opening with regularity, while Aronian, Adams, and Nakamura will use it on occasion. In the past, great players such as Fischer and Korchnoi included the defense in their repertoire, leading to its respectable reputation."

Main Variations

After the usual 2.e5 Nd5, three main variations of Alekhine's Defence use 3.d4, but there are other options for White at this point. Two of the most common versions are the "Exchange Variation" and the "Four Pawns Attack". The Exchange Variation continues 3.d4 d6 4.c4 Nb6 5.exd6. White has some space advantage. Black can capitalize on the half-open centre with ...g6, ...Bg7 with ...Bg4 eventually being played. The Four Pawns Attack continues 3.d4 d6 4.c4 Nb6 5.f4. White has a somewhat larger space advantage though the centre is not fixed. Black has a number of options. Black can play ...Qd7 with ...0-0-0 and ...f6 putting pressure on White's d pawn. Black can play ...Nb4 with ...c5 hoping to exchange the d pawn. Finally, Black can play ...Be7 with ...0-0 and ...f6 attacking the centre. Minor variations include O'Sullivan's Gambit, 3.d4 b5 (intending 4.Bxb5 c5 5.dxc5?? Qa5+), and 3.d4 d6 4.Bc4, the Balogh Variation.

Four Pawns Attack

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The Four Pawns Attack
: 1.e4 Nf6: 2.e5 Nd5: 3.d4 d6: 4.c4 Nb6: 5.f4 The Four Pawns Attack is White's most ambitious try, and the variation which perhaps illustrates the basic idea of the defence best: Black will allow White to make several tempo-gaining attacks on the knight and to erect an apparently imposing pawn centre in the belief that it can later be destroyed. The game can become very sharp since White must either secure his advantage in space or make use of it before Black succeeds in making a successful strike at it. Black must also play vigorously because passive play will be crushed by the White centre. The Four Pawns Attack is not particularly popular, not because it is weak, but because many White players are wary of entering a sharp tactical line which Black may have prepared. The main line continues 5...dxe5 6.fxe5 Nc6 7.Be3 Bf5 8.Nc3 e6 9.Nf3. However, an alternative line, the Planinc Variation, sees Black continue 5. ...g5!?, aiming to completely undermine the White centre by means of provoking 6. fxg5? dxe5 leaving White with problems. The line is named after grandmaster Albin Planinc, who championed it in the 1970s. It was then taken up in the 1990s by correspondence player Michael Schirmer, whose games were noted in a recent book on Alekhine's Defence by notable British GM and Alekhine exponent Nigel Davies.

Exchange Variation

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The Exchange Variation
: 1.e4 Nf6: 2.e5 Nd5: 3.d4 d6: 4.c4 Nb6: 5.exd6The Exchange Variation is less ambitious than the Four Pawns Attack. White trades pawns, accepting a more modest spatial advantage. Black's main decision is whether to recapture with the solid 5...exd6, which will lead to a fairly strategic position, or the more ambitious 5...cxd6 when Black has a preponderance of pawns in the centre. The third recapture, 5...Qxd6 is also possible since the fork 6.c5 can be answered by 6...Qe6+, but the line is considered inferior since Black will sooner or later need to deal with this threat.cite book|title=Starting out: Alekhine's Defence|author=John Cox|publisher=Everyman Chess|year=2005|isbn=9781857443707]

In the sharper 5...cxd6 line, Black usually aims to attack and undermine the white pawn on d4, and possibly c4 as well. To do this, a usual plan involves a fianchetto of the king's bishop to g7, playing the other bishop to g4 to knock out a key defender of d4, and knights on b6 and c6 which bear down on the white pawns. One setup from White which caused a crisis for the 5...cxd6 line is the Voronezh Variation (named after Voronezh in Russia, where the line was invented, by players such as Grigory Sanakoev), where White delays kingside development, but plays b3, Be3, Nc3 and Rc1 which makes the pawn center hard to assail. This was recommended by John Emms and noted as a big problem by Nigel Davies, though John Cox recommended a plan with ...e5 as adequate.

The 5...exd6 line is solid, and many players adopted it due to the Voronezh variation. The line offers Black less opportunity for counterplay however. In this line, Black usually develops the king's bishop by ...Be7 and ...Bf6, because Bg5 can be bothersome against a fianchetto setup with ...g6 and ...Bg7, e.g. 6.Nc3 g6 7.Nf3 Bg7 8.Bg5.

Modern Variation

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The Modern Variation
: 1.e4 Nf6: 2.e5 Nd5: 3.d4 d6: 4.Nf3The Modern Variation is the most common variation of the Alekhine Defence. As in the Exchange Variation, White accepts a more modest spatial advantage, and hopes to be able to hang on to it. There are a number of possible Black responses:
*4...Bg4, pinning the knight is the most common response, which White usually parries with 5.Be2. Black will often voluntarily surrender the bishop pair by ...Bxf3 because the white knight is a fairly strong piece, and capturing it undermines the white centre pawns. Champions of this line include Lev Alburt, Vlatko Kovačević and the late Vladimir Bagirov.
*4...g6, preparing to fianchetto a bishop to oppose White's central pawn mass, is also often seen. This variation was played in the thirteenth game of the Match of the Century between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer. (The nineteenth game of the same match featured the more common 4...Bg4.) Lev Alburt has played this line frequently. White's reply 5.Bc4, the Keres Variation.
*4...dxe5 (the Larsen Variation) is another possibility which can lead to the sharp sacrificial line 5.Nxe5 Nd7 6.Nxf7!? Bent Larsen used it in games with Mikhail Tal and Bobby Fischer.
*4...c6 is passive but solid, creating a position which is difficult to attack. In most variations, Black can play ...Bg4 to transpose into the 4... Bg4 line.

Two Pawns Attack

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The Two Pawns Attack
: 1.e4 Nf6: 2.e5 Nd5: 3.c4 Nb6: 4.c5The Two Pawns Attack (also known as the Lasker Attack or the Chase System), is also an ambitious try. White's pawns on c5 and e5 secure a spatial advantage, but the d5 square has been weakened. Unlike the Four Pawns Attack, the White centre is not as fluid and the game takes on a more strategic character.

Two Knights Variation

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The Two Knights Variation
: 1.e4 Nf6: 2.e5 Nd5: 3.Nc3The Two Knights Variation is a variation where White immediately accepts doubled pawns after 3...Nxc3 (3...e6 is also possible) 4.dxc3 in exchange for rapid piece development. Even though the response 3...Nxc3 seems reasonable, it often leads to lines that resemble the French Defence where white's doubled pawns do not cause him much trouble. Still, this variation is one of the most passive ways to meet Alekhine's Defence.

Other lines

After 2.e5, Black can retreat the knight with 2...Ng8. Grandmaster Joel Benjamin, who calls this his "pet line", named it the "Brooklyn Defense" in honor of his hometown. [Joel Benjamin, "American Grandmaster: Four Decades of Chess Adventures", Gloucester Publishers, 2007, p. 167. ISBN 978-1-85744-5527.] Although Black might be said to be giving odds of three moves, according to theory White has only a small advantage. [Most opening treatises do not mention this line. According to "Nunn's Chess Openings", White gets a slight advantage after 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.h3. John Nunn, Graham Burgess, John Emms, and Joe Gallagher, "Nunn's Chess Openings", Everyman Publishers, 1999, p. 129 n. 30. ISBN 1-85744-221-0.]

Very dubious is 2...Ne4?, which John L. Watson and Eric Schiller dub the "Mokele Mbebe". They analyze 3.d4 f6 4.Bd3 d5 5.f3 Ng5 6.Bxg5 fxg5 7.f4! g6! 8.Nf3! g4 (they also analyze 8...gxf4 9.Ng5! e6 10.Qg4! Qe7 11.0-0 and 8...Bg4 9.h3, both leading a large advantage for White) 9.Ng5 Bh6 10.Nxh7 Rxh7 11.Bxg6+ Rf7 12.Qd3 Bf8 13.f5 e6 14.f6 Qd7 15.h3! g3 16.Qxg3, with a winning advantage for White. [John Watson and Eric Schiller, "The Big Book of Busts", Hypermodern Press, 1995, pp. 120-21. ISBN 1-886040-13-3.] "Nunn's Chess Openings" concludes that White gets a large advantage with 3.d4 f6 (or 3...e6 4.Nh3 h6 5.Qg4 d5 6.f3 h5 7.Qf4 g5 8.Nxg5 Nxg5 9.Qxg5 Be7 10.Qg7) 4.Qh5+ g6 5.Qh4 d5 6.Bd3. [John Nunn, Graham Burgess, John Emms, and Joe Gallagher, "Nunn's Chess Openings", Everyman Publishers, 1999, p. 129 n. 30. ISBN 1-85744-221-0.]

White has a few alternatives to 2.e5:
*2.Nc3 is often played by amateurs and those wishing to avoid a theoretical battle on territory more familiar to their opponents after 2. e5. Black can play 2...e5, transposing to the Vienna Game; 2...d6, with a likely transposition to the Pirc Defence; or the more ambitious 2...d5, known as the Scandinavian Variation. After 2...d5, 3. exd5 Nxd5 4. Bc4 Nb6 or 4...Nxc3 is considered roughly equal; 4...e6 loses a pawn to the surprising 5. Bxd5 exd5 6. Qe2+! More combative is 2...d5 3. e5, when Black can choose among 3...d4, 3...Nfd7 (transposing to the Steinitz variation of the French Defence after 4.d4 e6, but 4.e6!? is a sharp alternative), 3...Ne4!?, and even 3...Ng8.
*2.d3 (the Maroczy Variation) is less common. Although playable, 2.d3 blocks in White's light-squared bishop, so the variation is considered somewhat passive. If White fianchettoes that bishop, transposition to a King's Indian Attack is likely. Lev Alburt and Eric Schiller call 2.d3 "insipid" and recommend 2...d5 (or 3.Nd2 e5 with a reversed Philidor's Defence) 3.e5 Nfd7 4.f4 (4.d4 c5 5.c3 Nc6 leaves Black a tempo up on the French Defense) c5 5.Nf3 e6 6.g3!? Nc6 7.Bg2 Be7 8.0-0 b5 with equality. [Lev Alburt and Eric Schiller, "The Alekhine for the Tournament Player", American Chess Promotions, 1985, pp. 130-31. ISBN 0-7134-1596-7.]
*The unusual 2.Bc4 is rarely seen, since it allows Black to gain the bishop pair and seize space in the center. Alburt and Schiller write that after 2...Nxe4 3.Bxf7+ Kxf7 4.Qh5+ Kg8 or 4...g6 5.Qd5+ e6 6.Qxe4 Bg7 7.Qf4 Ke8! "Black has nothing to worry about." [Lev Alburt and Eric Schiller, "The Alekhine for the Tournament Player", American Chess Promotions, 1985, p. 131. ISBN 0-7134-1596-7.] If Black does not want his king to be chased about, playable alternatives are 2...e5 (transposing to the Bishop's Opening), 2...d5 and 2...e6.

Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings

The Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings has four codes for the Alekhine Defence, B02 through B05.
*B02: 1.e4 Nf6
*B03: 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 (this includes the Exchange Variation and Four Pawns Attack)
*B04: 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3 (Modern Variation without 4...Bg4)
*B05: 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3 Bg4 (Modern Variation with 4...Bg4)

References

Further reading

*

External links

* [http://www.geocities.com/alekhine_gotw/ Alekhine Game of the Week]


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