12 February 2014


Going through the games of Rezs┼Ĺ Charousek (1873-1900), I found this uncommon position that emerged from the Barnes variation of the Spanish Opening (3...g6).* Charousek had Black against Geza Maroczy and played a move that would be played again in Teichmann -- Pillsbury at Hastings later the same year (1895). Nearly a century later (1991), Vasily Smyslov would play the same move in this position. All three of these games were fairly quick wins by Black.

The games began: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6 4.d4 exd4 5.Nxd4 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nc3 O-O 8.f3

Black to move

In the three games mentioned above and at least twenty others, Black played 8...Ne7.

Samuel Tinsley annotated the Teichmann -- Pillsbury game, and here noted:
Preventing an inopportune exchange by White, who might possibly have taken the Piece earlier without much harm. Black is also now ready to assail the weak central position by d5 etc.
According to Chessgames.com
Smyslov commented "with the idea of d7-d5" (Chess Informant 53/318).

Maroczy -- Charousek continued 9.Qd2, which has been White's most frequent response. Teichmann played 9.O-O and Dueckstein, Smyslov's opponent, played 9.Nde2.

Charousek quickly seized the initiative.

9...d5 10.e5 Nd7 11.Bxd7 Bxd7 12.Bh6

Black to move


In Kuzin -- Romanov, Tula 2006, Black opted to sacrifice the exchange with 12...Bxe5 and lost in the endgame. Black also had the initiative through much of that game, but White defended successfully.

13.Qxh6 c5 14.Nde2 Nf5 15.Qd2 d4 16.Nd1 Qh4+

White to move

17.g3 Qe7 18.f4 Bc6 19.O-O Qe6 20.Kf2

After castling, the White king feels unsafe. White has made a series of small inaccuracies in a position that seemed to worsen rapidly through the late stages of the opening into the middle game.

20...f6 21.exf6 Rae8

White to move

22.Ng1 Ne3 23.Re1 Ng4+ 0-1

Charousek's games are characterized by deep tactical complications. Here, however, he seems to play more simply with small threats that lead to inaccurate responses and a rapid collapse. This game was the first in a short match between Charousek and Maroczy in April 1895, which Charousek won. Later in the year, they played a longer match that Maroczy won decisively.

*I have faced the Barnes variation once over the board, and it struck me at the time as an unusual approach. In contrast to the games above, I played 4.c3. Both 4.d4 and 4.c3 are presented as main lines in the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings. That game transposed into another obscure variation of the Spanish and left established theory with my opponent's ninth move. I was pleased with my play in that game because I was playing on general principles beginning at move four, and because I went on to win a nice endgame (see "Pawn Wars" February 2012).

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