Today marked a milestone for Brian Wall’s chess discussion list: the 2000th daily digest. When I think of how much work I’ve put into my blog to write a measly 338 posts (339 if you count this one) and then I try multiplying that by almost 7 … It is enough to stagger the imagination. I don’t know how Brian does it.
Number 2000 was a lot like numbers 1 through 1999. There are three things that Brian’s discussion list stands for: crazy openings, crazy analysis, and FUN. If you’re not prepared for those three things, then you shouldn’t subscribe to his feed. On the other hand, if you like them, what the heck are you waiting for?
On the “crazy analysis” side, you have to realize that Brian gives nearly every move an ! or a ?, and usually two or three or four. Basically, one “!” is an obvious move. If a move is halfway good at all, then it will get at least a “!!” in Brian’s system.
On the “crazy openings” side, there were two discussed in today’s post. First, a reader writes in about this opening:
1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Ng8
This is actually relatively sane by the standards of Brian’s list. According to Brian’s reader, Nathan Gotman, it’s analyzed by Joel Benjamin in Eric Schiller’s Unorthodox Chess Openings, where Benjamin calls it the “Brooklyn Defense.” He learned it from Alan Lasser (an expert from New York), who called it Weissman’s Defense after Albert Weissman, a Pan-Am Collegiate Champion in 1955-6 who possibly never played it! On Chessbase you can find examples dating all the way back to 1897.
I have actually played against this once in a tournament, in 1988, and I won in a very long endgame. Basically, Black’s idea is to provoke e5, then develop his queen bishop and go into a French pawn formation with his bishop outside the pawns. The thinking is that in a closed position, the loss of a tempo or two is unimportant compared to the value of activating Black’s “problem bishop.” After I analyzed the game, I wrote in my notebook, “2. … Ng8 is not as silly as it looks!”
Amazingly, IM Jack Peters came to exactly the same conclusion. On a web page devoted to the Brooklyn Defense / Weissman’s Defense, Mark Weeks mentions a game he lost to Peters. “When Peters published the game in a Hartford chess newsletter, his comment to 2. … Ng8 was, ‘Not as bad as it looks.’ which is about as much praise as Weissman’s will ever get!”
The second opening that comes up in Brian’s list today is the Fishing Pole, which appeares nearly every day. That is because Brian plays it all the time on ICC, mostly in bullet games, and posts his most interesting games every day on the list. Today he posted a game that truly captures the essence of the Fishing Pole, in which he embarrasses an International Master.
(“Embarrasses” is the only word for it. You can never just lose to the Fishing Pole. Any loss has to be accompanied by acute embarrassment because you know you’ve been hoodwinked, but you just can’t do anything about it.)
IM Juergen Pichler — NM Brian Wall
Internet Chess Club: Game in 3 Minutes!!
(Note: In true Brian Wall style, I am giving exclamation points even BEFORE the game begins. The point being that the Fishing Pole is unsound in tournament-length chess, but completely sound in bullet chess against unprepared humans.)
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Ng4?
The Fishing Pole, so named because Black is “fishing” for White to play h3 and hxg4, allowing him to open the h-file.
Of course this move violates opening principles. Black moves a piece twice, abandons his pressure on White’s center, etc., etc. But the Fishing Pole isn’t about any of those things. It’s about FUN. Specifically, about Black having fun throwing all of his pieces at White’s king and either checkmating him, or running out of pieces.
I really like the way that White plays it for the next few moves.
5. c3 a6 6. Ba4 Bc5 7. d4 Ba7
Brian has seen this all before, and calls this variation the “Hyper-Pole.” White has used his extra tempi to establish a nice central pawn mass. But the question still remains: What is he going to do about that knight on g4?
8. h3 h5!
Sooner or later, it always comes to this. If you put the position on Rybka 3, it laughs and says White should take the knight, with a 1.7-pawn advantage. However, I think that Pichler’s approach is better.
9. Bb3! …
Playing a psychological game. White knows that Black is not going to retreat the knight from g4; that would be a declaration of the bankruptcy of his … Ng4 idea.Â So instead of giving Black the initiative by taking the knight, White plays for the initiative himself, knowing that he will have the opportunity to take the knight under more favorable circumstances later.
Brian says, “I hate it when they play that move (i.e., 9. Bb3) because then 10. hg hg 11. Ng5 hits f7.”
9. … d6 10. Ng5 …
Again, White turns up the pressure rather than taking the knight right away.
10. … ed!?
Brian comments: “The most important thing when facing a wild animal, a wild woman, an IM or the White side of the Fishing Pole is to show no fear.” So he offers a rook sac. If White was hoping to avoid complications, his hopes were in vain.
11. Nxf7! Qh4 12. Bg5! …
Brian comments: “It looks like everything has gone horribly wrong but I have just begun to fight!”
I’d certainly agree. The computer evaluation of the position is now something like +4 pawns for White. If the game were played at a tournament time control, I am sure that IM Pichler would win this position. But at a game in 3 minutes time control, he goes wrong amazingly quickly.
One problem for White is that sometimes to refute Black’s play you have to checkmate him. If you don’t find the checkmate, you lose. But humans are very bad at figuring out mating combinations, if it’s something like a mate in four or five moves. In a 3-minute game, we con’t do it. So the computer blithely says that White is 4 pawns up, but the human player is totally at sea.
12. … Nxf2! 13. Bxh4? …
Immediately White goes wrong. Correct was 13. Rxf2!, which maintains the attack on Black’s queen while keeping White’s queen safe and also keeping the a7-g1 diagonal closed. And if Black plays 13. … Qg3, then 14. Nxh8 not only wins the rook, but much more importantly it threatens a mating combination beginning with 15. Qxh5+. This is what I was saying just a little earlier. White has to embrace the danger, foreseeing that he checkmates Black first. Computers love to play that way. Humans, except for Brian, hate it. So White “plays it safe,” but now Brian has oodles of counterplay.
13. … Nxd1 14. Nxh8?? …
Wrong again. White had to stop Black’s big threat, the discovered check, with a move like 14. Bf2. Brian comments, “Basic chess principles like removing my strongest pieces don’t work against the Fishing Pole… IM Juergen Pichler has eliminated my queen and rook so you would think I have nothing left to fight with.”
14. … dc+!
Of course. In three successive moves, the pawn will take on c3, b2, and a1. At the end of the carnage, it promotes to a queen, and Black will be ahead in material! “Like a magician I will replace my misplaced queen and rook,” Brian comments. I love this comment! When most of us misplace our pieces, we put them on a bad square. Brian puts them off the board, and then gets them back when he needs them. That’s why he is a National Master!
15. Kh2 cb 16. Bf7+ Kd7 17. Bxh5 …Â
Rybka likes 17. Ng6! better, threatening mate! What a crazy position. The move White chose threatens a perpetual check instead. Now Brian, forced into defending for the first time all game, immediately makes a mistake.
17. … Ne3?
After this move, Rybka’s assessment of the position goes from 9 pawns in Black’s favor to only 1. A colossal blunder, in other words. The reason is that White can now connect his rooks with 18. Nd2! and ends up only a pawn down after 18. … baQ 19. Rxa1. Instead, Black should have played 17. … Ne5.
However, the game was not played by computers. It was played by humans. That’s important. Humans make mistakes. Also, humans have fun. Have you ever seen a computer have fun at a chessboard?
18. Rf8? …
Still trying for perpetual, but Black has a way out.
18. …Â baQ! 19. Be8+ Ke6 20. Ng6 …
With the threat of 21. Bf7+, draw.
20. … Qe5+! 21. Nxe5 Nxe5 22. Ba4 b5
And the rest is easy.
23. Bb3+ N3c4 24. Nc3 Bb7 25. Rxf2? Bxf2 White resigns
As Eminem says in the Chrysler commercial from Super Bowl XLV, “This is the Motor City, and this is what we do.” The motto for this game could be: “This is Brian Wall, and this is what I do.”