An Unusual Way to Meet the Pirc Defence
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Quixote's Horse has never been a fan of studying opening theory. Unless you are a chess professional, what is the point of spending hours every day reviewing the latest GM games in a given opening while seeking some obscure nuanced idea in hopes of surprising your opponent? Certainly the effort will be a waste of time and effort for the average club player preparing for the next round in your local club championship. Let's face it - the odds are that your opponent will not be an aspiring pro and you will never see the latest theory coming at you... and if you do, you will both be on your own soon enough. At that point, club strength players will be playing as club strength players and not as an elite Grandmaster. The better player will win.

Having said that, there are exceptions to every rule. :-) Every club has one or two players who always play their pet defence and the Pirc Defence is often seen as the weapon of choice. The unbalanced opening can be played against most of White's initial moves so home preparation can be focused on just one opening rather than dozens of well analyzed alternatives. It makes sense for the busy club player. My opponent in the following game played the Pirc Defence as his 'go to' weapon in club events, weekend tournaments and in Canadian Correspondence events. A little 'home cooking' seemed to be in order. It turned out to be quite an unsettling surprise...

[Event "Kingston Quad"] [Site "Kingston, Canada"] [Date "2007.11.19"] [Round "2"] [White "Coppin W"] [Black "Cairns J"] [Result "1-0"] [Eco "B09"] 1. e4 d6 {As expected. However White was well prepared with some ideas that seem to overturn the current assessment of a critical line in the Austrian Attack.} 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. f4 {This push to f4 defines the Austrian Attack. While some theorists consider it too ambitious since it voluntarily blocks in the Bc1, there is little doubt that it is White's most aggressive line. The big centre and threat to grab more space by an appropriately timed e5 is surely the way to punish Black for allowing White to establish such central control.} 4... Bg7 5. e5 {Here we go. This advance is supposed to be premature. The books say that 5... Nd7 6.Nf3 c5 soon sees Black destroying the White centre with advantage. White planned to play the discredited and anti-positional 7.Ng5 with several new ideas that seem to reverse the book assessment. See the sample alternative lines after Black's next. Instead, Black selects the simpler and also recommended alternative. Given Black's many years of experience playing the opening, his practical theoretical choice was no surprise at all.} 5... dxe5 (5... Nfd7 6. Nf3 c5 7. exd6 (7. Ng5 cxd4 (7... h6 8. Nxf7 Kxf7 9. e6+ Kxe6 (9... Kg8 10. exd7 Nxd7 11. Bc4+ Kh7 12. Be3 {White will castle and attack the weak g6 pawn with advantage.}) 10. Bc4+ Kf6 11. Ne4+ Kf5 12. g4+ Kxe4 13. Qd3#) 8. e6 dxc3 (8... Qa5 9. exf7+ Kf8 10. Ne6+ Kxf7 11. Nxd4 Nc5 12. Bc4+ Be6 13. Nxe6 Bxc3+ 14. Kf2 (14. bxc3 Qxc3+ 15. Bd2 Qxc4 {Black is better.}) 14... Nxe6 15. bxc3 Qc5+ 16. Qd4 Rc8 (16... Qxd4+ 17. cxd4 Kf6 18. Bb2 {White is better.}) 17. Bb3 Nd7 18. Re1 Nf8 19. g4 Qxd4+ 20. cxd4 {White is better.}) (8... fxe6 9. Nxe6 Qa5 10. Nxd4 {White is better.} (10. Nxg7+ Kf7 11. Qxd4 Nc6)) 9. exf7+ Kf8 10. Ne6+) 7... O-O 8. dxc5 (8. dxe7 Qxe7+ 9. Be2 Nc6) 8... Qa5 9. Be2 (9. dxe7 Re8) 9... Bxc3+ 10. bxc3 Qxc3+ 11. Bd2 Qxc5 12. dxe7 Re8 13. Rb1 Rxe7 14. Rb3 Nc6 15. Rc3 Qb6 16. Rb3 Qc7 17. O-O Nc5 18. Ra3 Bg4 19. h3 Bxf3 20. Bxf3 Rd8 21. Qc1 Nd4 22. f5 (22. Bc3 Ne4) 22... Ne2+ 23. Bxe2 Rxe2 24. Bh6 Ne4 25. Qb2 f6 26. Qb3+ Kh8 27. Qb5 Qxc2 28. Kh1 Rxg2 29. Bf4 Rf2 30. Rf3 Rxf3 31. Rxf3 Rd1+ 32. Rf1 Nf2+ 33. Kg2 Qe4+ 34. Kxf2 Qxf4+ 35. Ke2 Rd2+ 36. Ke1 Qe3+) 6. dxe5 {The first surprise. Black looked puzzled but quickly reached for his Queen. Allowing that Queen swap is supposed to give Black no problems.} 6... Qxd1+ 7. Kxd1 {Surprise #2. However 7.Nxd1 Nd5! with threats to play ... Nb4 and ... Bf5 actually do give Black at least equality and perhaps more. Instead White refuses to give up the d5 square and forfeits castling instead.} 7... Nfd7 {Black had a number of choices: 7... Bg4+ 8.Ke1 Nd7 9.Nd5! Kd8 10.Ne3 Be6 11.Nf3 threatening to come to g5 or d4 leaves Black with no safe haven for his Be6 while White's pieces just flow out to aggressive posts. No better is 7... Ng4 8.Ke1 c6 9.h3 Nh6 10.g4 and again Black's pieces find it difficult to find effective squares while White will play Bc4 and Ke2 and Be3 with smooth development. The text gives Black all the disadvantages of the 7... Bg4+ line but with even more development problems.} 8. Nd5 {Black's reply, also forfeiting castling, is forced.} 8... Kd8 9. Nf3 {Now White threatens 10.Ng5 and 11.e6. Up until now, Black had been playing fairly quickly. Now he starting burning up clock time. The easy game for Black promised by the theory is simply not there. White has big time space, easy development and an easy to play initiative.} 9... c6 10. Ne3 h6 11. Bc4 {Now White has 12.Ke2 and 13.Rd1 in the works with sacrificial possibilities on f7 if Black plays 11... Rf8. The alternative 11... e6 further buries the Bc8 and leaves d6 hopelessly weak as well. Meanwhile, look at the mess of Black pieces on the queenside. White does not have a forced win but it is surely close. Perhaps this accounts for Black's short circuit.} 11... Nb6 {? Whoops. Faced with a very difficult development problem, Black simply forgets that his f-pawn is undefended. For all intents and purposes what promised to be an interesting game is now over.} 12. Bxf7 Bf5 {Black offers another pawn in hopes of untangling his pieces. After 12. ... Rf8 13. e6 Kc7 14. Nh4 Black seems to be in a real mess.} 13. Nxf5 gxf5 14. Be6 Nd5 15. c4 {Obviously 15.Bxf5 Rf8 suits Black quite well. However the f-pawn cannot run away.} 15... Nb6 16. b3 {Again - no rush. White could have tried the sharp 16.Nd4 but the text simply leaves Black with no good squares for his Knights. A similar structural plan is often seen in the Alekhine's Defence when Black's Nf6 also gets chased to b6 only to end up out of play for most of the middlegame.} 16... N8d7 17. Ba3 {17.Be3 is also good but the text not only restricts the Nd7 but also pressures the e7 pawn.} 17... Nf8 {Rather than wait for White to move his King and double on the d-file with a crushing bind, Black, in hopes of activating his Rooks, forces White to finally grab the weak f5 pawn.} 18. Bxf5 e6 19. Be4 {Or 19.Bc2 or 19.Bh3 both with a winning bind as well. Black plays on more out of momentum than with any real expectation of saving the game.} 19... Nfd7 20. Ke2 Bf8 {Damned if he does and damned if he doesn't... White is quite happy to quietly swap into an ending.} 21. Bxf8 Rxf8 22. g3 Nc5 23. Rad1+ Ke7 24. Bc2 Rad8 25. Rxd8 Rxd8 26. Rd1 a5 27. Rxd8 Kxd8 {Time to roll the extra pawns.} 28. g4 Ke7 29. f5 Nbd7 30. Ke3 exf5 31. gxf5 {And Black had seen enough.} 1-0

The Inspiration

[Event "It"] [Site "Monaco"] [Date "1969"] [Round ""] [White "Bronstein David I (RUS)"] [Black "Benko Pal C (USA)"] [Result "1-0"] [Eco "B09"] 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.f4 Bg7 5.e5 dxe5 6.dxe5 Qxd1+ 7.Kxd1 Ng4 8.Ke1 c6 9.h3 Nh6 10.g4 f6 11.exf6 exf6 12.Bc4 Nf7 13.Rh2 Nd6 14.Bb3 Kd8 15.f5 Re8+ 16.Kf1 g5 17.h4 h6 18.Nf3 Nd7 19.Bd2 Kc7 20.Re1 b6 21.Rxe8 Nxe8 22.Be1 Ba6+ 23.Kg1 Bf8 24.Bg3+ Bd6 25.Bxd6+ Nxd6 26.hxg5 hxg5 27.Rh7 Re8 28.Be6 Bc8 29.Nd4 a6 30.a4 Rd8 31.Bd5 Re8 32.Bxc6 Nc4 33.Bd5 Ne3 34.Be6 Nxg4 35.Ne4 Rd8 36.c4 Nge5 37.Nxf6 Kd6 38.Ne4+ Kc7 39.Bd5 Re8 40.Ne6+ Kb8 41.Nd6 Rg8 42.b3 Nf6 43.Rc7 Nxd5 44.cxd5 1-0

As always, the reader is cautioned to do his or her own work before trying anything recommended here at Quixote's Horse. We only provide enough to get you started. What you do with it is up to you. One thing is sure - simply memorizing any of the lessons and thinking that is enough will almost surely lead to disappointment. Don't say that you were not warned.

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