With this post I'm pulling together a few loose ends. The first is Unusual 1.e4 Responses According to Khalifman, which rekindled my interest in Alekhine's Defense. I used to play it regularly until I lost a game which happens to be the first one recorded in Learn from Your Losses. The game started 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3 Bg4 5.Be2 e6 6.h3 Bh5, reaching the diagram shown below. Khalifman treats this last in his section on Alekhine's, indicating that it is the critical line.
The game I lost continued 7.O-O Be7 8.c4 Nb6 9.Nc3 O-O 10.Be3 d5 11.c5 Bxf3 12.gxf3 N6d7. I had played this successfully some years earlier, where my opponent answered 12.Bxf3 instead of 12.gxf3. The recapture with the Pawn is indeed superior, because the lead f-Pawn is a useful lever to pry open Black's position. All of the games I could find after 12.gxf3 continued 12....Nc8, leading to positions that didn't please me. After some analysis I decided to play 12....N6d7, and suffered with a constricted position for the rest of the game. Khalifman wrote,
Until the middle of the 1990s, the line [through 12....Nc8] used to be considered as the best for White. Later, in connection with the new plan that we recommend to you -- this theoretical evaluation has changed.
Khalifman's 'new plan', starting from the diagram, is 7.c4 Nb6 8.exd6 (8.O-O Be7 transposes to my game) 8...cxd6 9.Nc3 Be7 10.d5 e5 11.g4 Bg6 12.h4 h6 (better than 12...h5 ). This means that if I want to play Alekhine's again -- and I do -- I have to find satisfactory variations after both the older 12....Nc8 and the newer 12...h6.
Getting back to 'Learn from Your Losses?', there are two subsequent losses where I played the unusual 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Ng8, instead of 2...Nd5. I've since abandoned this opening, because White gets an advantage and easy play in all variations. What did I learn from these games?
Don't be afraid to play theoretical lines. It's better to learn the theory (whatever the outcome) than to remain ignorant of the theory and lose.
- Don't play inferior lines in games where the result matters.
While writing this post, I studied the variations for 12....Nc8, and am ready to try it in practical play. As for the variation ending in 12...h6, I'll tackle that another day.