ETCETERA:CHESS

There are undoubtedly some chess openings that ought not to be allowed in a civilised society. The Vulgar Benko gambit, in which Black gains an inordinate amount of pleasure by throwing away a pawn, is one such, though the worst offender by far is the French Defence.

Apart from a certain cramped dreariness, there is little inherently wrong with the French Defence. Yet something should be done to deter its practitioners. Ignorant of its positional defects, they remain addicted to this wretched opening and - most infuriating of all - score far more points than the opening deserves.

White: Andrew Ledger

Black: Andrew Harley

Rotherham 1997

1.e4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.d4 c5 6.dxc5 Nc6 7.Bf4 Bxc5 8.Bd3 f6 9.exf6 Nxf6

Black's game is, quite frankly, ugly. His pawns are split into three groups instead of the ideal two, he has a "hole" on the e5 square, his c8-bishop is impeded and his knights have taken four moves to reach f6 and c6. Only a true Francophile would willingly court such a position.

10.0-0 0-0 11.Ne5 Qe8 12.Nxc6 Qxc6 13.Be5 Bd7 14.Qf3 Rae8 15.Qh3 Re7 16.Rae1 Be8 17.a3 Qb6 18.Re2 h6 19.Rfe1

With so many advantages, White understandably loses the thread of the game somewhat. Black's position deserved to be assaulted with Kh1 and f4, or even g4 and g5.

20...Qd8 21.h3

The sight of all four rooks' pawns nudged one square forwards is always a sign that the players are at a loss for a plan.

21...Nh5 22.Qg4 Nf6 23.Qg3 Nh5 24.Qg4 Nf6 25.Qh4 Nh5 26.b4

Letting bravado overrule judgment. White should have preserved his positional advantage by agreeing to a draw.

26...Bb6 27.Rd2 g5 28.Qg4 Nf4 29.Bf1 Bh5 30.Qg3 Ref7 31.Na4 Bc7 32.Nc5 Bxe5 33.Rxe5 Qf6 34.Qe3 Re7 35.g3 (diagram)

A crucial moment is reached: if the knight retreats, Black's e-pawn is lost. But he is ready for it!

35...b6! 36.gxf4 gxf4! 37.Qd4 bxc5 38.bxc5 Rg7+ 39.Kh2 Qg6 40.f3 Qg3+ 41.resigns

41.Kh1 Bxf3+ is the end.

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