Aug 112017

Eight years ago, when I was still recording for ChessLecture, I gave a lecture called “My New Favorite Trap.” I talked about a 100 percent risk-free trap in the Center Counter Opening that should be especially effective against players who are “booked up.” Amazingly, according to ChessBase the trap had only been sprung one time in tournament play. (That was a game played in 2005.) Today, out of curiosity, I checked again … and it has still only been played that one time.

Bummer. Obviously no one was listening to my ChessLecture. So I will try again!

Here is the stem position: 1. e4 d5 2. ed Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qa5 (the classical main line) 4. Nf3 (my idea: White delays d4) Nf6 5. Bc4 Bf5 6. O-O e6 7. Re1 c6? (diagram)

center counter 1Position after 7. … c6? White to move.

FEN: rn2kb1r/pp3ppp/2p1pn2/q4b2/2B5/2N2N2/PPPP1PPP/R1BQR1K1 w kq – 0 8

So first let me talk about the thinking behind this line. White’s play is a little bit unusual because he has not played the usual d4. I have several reasons for this.

  1. The knight on c3 won’t be pinned.
  2. The d-pawn retains the option of going to d3 instead of d4.
  3. I’m setting a sneaky trap.

Black’s thinking, on the other hand, is that he’s not thinking. He’s just playing memorized moves. This is the way that a lot of players study openings: by learning moves without thinking about the reasons.

In particular, in the main line 1. e4 d5 2. ed Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qa5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Bc4 Bf5 6. Nf3 e6 7. Bd2, Black’s move 7. … c6 serves a purpose — it gives Black’s queen a route to escape from the imminent discovered attack Nc3-d5. In the “Mackenzie trap” the move 7. … c6 serves no purpose, and Black should play 7. … Nd7 instead.

But in ChessBase, the position after 7. … c6? has occurred more times than the position after 7. … Nd7! Why? Because to Black, it doesn’t look as if White is doing anything in particular, so he sees no reason to deviate from his normal plan of development.

So there’s a good chance, especially if your opponent is a theory hound, that you will be able to get to the position above, and then you can spring the trap:

8. Re5! …

White is basically winning in all lines except one. The idea is to sacrifice the rook on f5. Black’s three most reasonable responses are (a) 8. … Qc7, (b) 8. … Qd8, and (c) 8. … Qb4.

(a) 8. … Qc7 9. Rxf5! ef 10. Ng5 Ng4 was played in the stem game, and still only game with this opening in ChessBase, Zvedeniouk-Mortenson, Australian Open 2005. White was easily winning after 11. Qe2+ Qe5 12. Nxf7 Qxe2 13. Nxe2 Rg8 and White wins back the exchange with Nd6+.

I rediscovered this trap over the board while playing in a blitz chess tournament (game/7 minutes) in 2009. That game continued 8. … Qc7 9. Rxf5! ef 10. Ng5 Bd6 11. Bxf7+ Kd7. Here I played 12. g3, which was probably unnecessarily cautious. (Rybka says I should keep on attacking with 12. Be6+! It rates the position as +1.37 for White, which is close to winning.) Nevertheless, I won the game pretty easily, and wondered afterwards if my move had been a theoretical novelty. That’s when I looked it up online and found that it was a theoretical second-ity.

(b) 8. … Qd8 was played against me yesterday by Shredder. Of course I played 9. Rxf5! ef, but then I made an instructive mistake. I should play 10. Ne5! here, with the point that after 10. … Nd5 11. Nxd5 cd 12. Bb5+ Ke7 13. d4! Black has essentially no reasonable moves.

center counter 2Position after 13. d4 (analysis). Black to move.

FEN: rn1q1b1r/pp2kppp/8/1B1pNp2/3P4/8/PPP2PPP/R1BQ2K1 b – – 0 13

Black can’t develop his bishop. If he tries to develop his knight, he loses it (or the queen). If he tries to evict my knight with 13. … f6, I play 14. Qh5! g6 15. Nxg6. If he tries to develop with 13. … g6, I play 14. Qe2! Kf6 15. Ng4+!! winning.

Unfortunately, against Shredder I forgot my eight-year-old analysis. All I could remember was that the other time I played this variation I had played 10. Ng5, and so that is what I played here. I didn’t stop and think about the differences between Black’s 8. … Qc7 and 8. … Qd8. In essence, I was guilty of playing memorized moves, the same flaw I criticized in other players.

After 8. … Qd8 9. Rxf5 ef 10. Ng5? Nd5! 11. d4 Be7 we actually got a very interesting position that I might discuss in my next post, but it is unfortunately of no theoretical significance because 10. Ne5! is so much better.

(c) Finally, 8. … Qb4 is worth mentioning because it is the only Black move that is somewhat playable. After 9. Rxf5! Black should take the bishop instead of the rook: 9. … Qxc4! 10. d3 Qa6. Although White is way ahead in development, Black might survive because there are no obviously exploitable weaknesses in his position.

So, if you’re playing against the Center Counter, why not give it a try? Just delay d4, castle, move your rook to e1, and see what happens. There is absolutely nothing to fear, because you are always just one move away from the main line. If Black plays the correct 7. … Nd7, you can play 8. d4 and you’re back in the main line again; or you can play 8. d3 if you want to be more original.

Roman Dzindzichashvili once gave a lecture at about “good traps” and “bad traps.” Good traps are the ones you set while playing normal, strong moves. So even if your opponent doesn’t fall into the trap, you still have a good position. Bad traps are the ones you set by playing inferior moves. Bad traps are a form of “hope chess,” and should be avoided. In this classification, the Zvedeniouk-Mackenzie trap is definitely a good one.

A Still Unknown Trap
Source: Dana Blogs Chess