Revitalizing the Establishment

After that enjoyable walk in the wild, I want to turn to several more conventional situations in which the old ideas of development have changed in ways that we may not even think about. We take many such changes for granted because they have come about by gradual evolution and experimentation. Other new ideas burst suddenly upon the scene, but were so quickly absorbed that we are no longer aware of how blasphemous (or at least amusingly irrelevant) they would have appeared to earlier masters.

I'll begin with some familiar cases in which structure takes priority. When one player decides not to establish a classical central pawn presence (as in many modern openings), he or she obviously gets more leeway in terms of delayed development. This is simply because there are fewer immediate targets in his or her position, making it (at least initially) less critical to develop. In the Open Sicilian Defence, for example, Black may play a number of pawn moves like ...d6, ...e6, ...a6, and ...b6 or ...b5 with only a single minor piece out or perhaps just the queen, the piece traditionally admonished to stay at home in the opening. For example, in the Najdorf Sicilian (1 e4 c5 2 £>f3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 £ixd4 5 £ic3 a6), there are lines such as 6 Ac4 e6 7 Ab3 b5 or 6 Ae3 e5 7 £tf3 ®c7 8 a4 h6 or, famously, 6 ±g5 e6 7 f4 Wb6 8 ®d2 ®xb2, etc. The Kan/Paulsen Variation 1 e4c5 2 £tf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 £ixd4 a6 (often followed by 5..Mc7) is an even more extreme case in point. Black often plays moves like ...b5, ...d6, and sometimes even ...g6 in this variation before developing his minor pieces. In recent times there have even been variants in which Black's first piece move is ...®b6; for example, 2...e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 £ixd4 ®b6, and if 5 5...®c7 6 £>c3 a6 7 £.d3 b5. And an exercise in structural change at loss of tempo is 1 e4 c5 2 £>f3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 £>xd4 a6 5 ±d3 £tf6 6 0-0 e5!? 7 d6, from McShane-Romanishin, Lippstadt 1999 and other games.

To emphasize how flexible the contemporary view of the Sicilian Defence has become, here's a sequence played mainly in the last few

The Development of Development

years: 1 e4 c5 2 £rf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 <£ixd4 a6 5 £ic3 b5 6 Ad3 d6!? (D).

1 e4 c5 2 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 £ixd4 a6 5 ^c3 d6 6 g4 7 g5

It's a modern Sicilian Defence, so the odds are that we'll see g4-g5 (even without a target)!

That's it! Black has made 8 out of 9 moves with the pawns! And he hasn't touched four of them. As if that isn't enough, he next moves his only developed piece and then advances another pawn. All of this appears completely sound.

Six straight pawn moves! After 7 0-0, White has four pieces out to Black's none. I find 28 master-level games with this sequence since 1995 including quite a few with GMs, and Black scores +4 against only mildly inferior opposition! This particular move-order may or may not become a main line, but all the examples above contrast rather sharply with the older lines 1 e4 c5 2 ¿hf3 ¿hc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 £>xd4 £rf6 and 1 e4 c5 2 £>f3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 £>xd4 £>f6 5 £>c3 £>c6 (or 5...£b4). Those variations, with Black's pieces developed apace, are typical of the Sicilian Defences that gained early acceptance.

Let's see a recent example of pawn play between two experienced grandmasters who cer- b tainly know what they're doing strategically:

Tseshkovsky - Poluliakhov

Krasnodar 2001

A cute trick is 10 £id5? iixd5 11 exd5 &b4+ 12 JLd2? (12 4f 1 0-0 and Black has the advantage) li.-WxgS!.

Probably 11 0-0 is better, since this leaves him struggling a bit to stay even.

12 a4 is more natural, when Poluliakhov gives a long variation leading to equality after 12... Ae6 13 cxd4 ±b4+, but 12...i.g4! is probably an even more effective sequence: 13 f3 (13 cxd4 i.b4+ 14 <£>fl 0-0! 15 d5 £>e7 is not completely clear, but the f-file is about to be opened against White's king) 13...i.e6 14 cxd4 ±b4+ 15 <£fl (15 *f2 Wb6) 15...±xb3.

Too bad! Black could have made his tenth pawn move out of twelve by 12...a4!, which is quite good since 13 ^c5 £ixd4 14 £ixd4 Axc5 15 £tf5 0-0 (or 15...Wxdl+ 16 <4>xdl 0-0) slightly favours Black due to White's poorly-placed bishop on g2.

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