01 June 2006

Loss of a tempo = an opening reversed

My last post raised the question What is wrong with this position?. What is wrong is that White has lost a tempo somewhere. After eight moves by both sides, White appears to have made six moves, Black seven.

This is confirmed by the opening of the game: 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 Nbd7 5.e3 Bd6 6.Nb5 Be7 7.Qc2 c6 8.Nc3, shown in the following diagram. Now the move 8...O-O reaches the position shown in 'What is wrong with this position?'

Triberg 1921
Sterk, Karoly

Alekhine, Alexander
(After 8.Nb5-c3)
[FEN "r1bqk2r/pp1nbppp/2p1pn2/1N1p4/2PP4/4PN2/PPQ2PPP/R1B1KB1R w KQkq - 0 8"]

To get to the diagrammed position, White has wasted two moves with 6.Nb5 and 8.Nc3, returning the Knight to the same square it reached after 4.Nc3. Black has wasted one move with 5...Bd6 and 6...Be7, finishing on a square it could have reached in one move, 5...Be7. Since White has wasted one move more than Black, White has lost a tempo.

The same position with White to move can be reached by a sequence like 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Qc2 Be7. In fact, this has been played many times, with White trying 7.Bd3, 7.Be2, and 7.b3.

The position from Alekhine - Sterk could also be reached with colors reversed, for example 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.c3 c5 5.Nbd2 Qc7 6.Be2 Nc6, where neither side has lost a tempo. Now 7.O-O reaches Sterk's position after eight moves, colors reversed.

I am often mystified by opening positions with colors reversed and was glad to find another example in the Alekhine - Sterk game. Perhaps Alekhine's analysis in 'My Best Games' will help me understand them.

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