Sunday, February 23, 2014

Albin Countergambit to Queen's Gambit Accepted

Like most patzers, I prefer active sharp openings.  As Black against 1.d4 openings however, I'll settle for completely symmetrical openings for as many moves as White will allow it.  One that I encounter frequently is 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.O-O O-O, usually followed by 6.c4 c6.  (I'll do the same (symmetry) against 1.c4 openings as well.)  (One 1.d4 exception is:  if White tries the Colle system with e3 at any point, I'll play Bf5 immediately to preempt Bd3, the "Colle bishop".)

But of course the most common White continuation after 1.d4 d5 is one which immediately discourages symmetry, the Queen's Gambit 2.c4.  This one has proved problematic for my repertoire.  For a long time, I tried to make the Chigorin 2...Nc6 work, based on the evaluation in Nunn's Chess Openings, "The most reputable non-standard defence is Chigorin's 2...Nc6 ... it is not so easy for White to stamp out Black's piece activity." (p. 360)  Well I've found that bit about piece activity to be false, if by activity Nunn means that Black can maintain one more piece developed than White.  White players all seem to know the simple line 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.Nc3 Nf6 (4...dxc4? 5.d5 Bxf3 6.exf3 Ne5 7.Bf4 Nd3+ 8.Bxd3 cxd3 9.Qxd3) 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.e4 releasing the Bf1 with a big tempo and big pressure against c6.

So I started favoring an early deviation 3...e5 to short circuit all the above and quickly realized that if I'm going to do that, I might as well play 2...e5 outright instead -- the Albin Countergambit.  I've been playing that ever since.  This is much more interesting for Black because now it is Black who has the Bb4+ threat whereas White is blocked from Bb5+ for the moment by her own c4.

The only way for White to keep an edge in the Albin is to accept the gambit pawn, 3.dxe5, when Black then plays the "wedging" move 3...d4.  And now there is a trap for White -- the natural attempt to dislodge the d4 wedge using 4.e3 fails to 4...Bb4+ 5.Bd2 dxe3!  Hasn't Black just left the Bb4 en prise, with a QxQ discovery to boot??  If White tries to take it however:  6.Bxb4 exf2+.  Aha!  Black interrupts the Q capture, with an attempted check distraction.  But the royal couple must stay in their embrace:  7.Ke2.  And now one of the craziest moves in any opening:  7...fxg1N+!  Still the embrace must be maintained:  8.Ke1 (8.Rxg1? Bg4+) 8...Qh4+ 9.Kd2 (9.g3? Qe4+) 9...Nc6, with Bg4, Rd8, and/or Qf2 coming.  So White can't take on b4:  6.fxe3 Qh4+ 7.g3 Qe4 and Black will take on either e3 or e5 after exchanging bishops, with equality.

To avoid the Albin trap entirely, White's best plan is to stop Bb4 and use the knights against d4:  4.a3/Nf3 Nc6 5.Nf3/a3 Nge7 6.Nbd2 Ng6 7.Nb3 Be7 8.Nbxd4 Ncxe5 9.Nxe5 Nxe5.  Also pretty good for White is 6.b4 Ng6 7.Bb2.

If I cannot get some good results with the Albin soon however, I am considering switching to accepting the Queen's Gambit, 2...dxc4.  I was inspired by one of GM Benjamin's recent game-of-the-week videos on ICC.  I'll need to develop this for my repertoire first however.  Maybe in a subsequent post here...

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