28 December 2008

1.e4 e6 2.Qe2

In The Enigma of Chigorin, I counted five games at Hastings 1895 where Chigorin played 2.Qe2 against the French Defense. When commenting those games in the tournament book, what did his contemporaries think of this unorthodox move and what can we learn from their comments?

After 1.e4 e6 2.Qe2

Rd.6; Chigorin - Teichmann; 1-0; Annotator: Tarrasch

1.e4 e6 2.Qe2 Nc6 (I consider the best to be 2...Be7; 2...c5 is also good.) 3.Nf3 e5 (This gives an open game.) 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 Be7

Rd.8; Chigorin - Blackburne; 1-0; Annotator: Steinitz

1.e4 e6 2.Qe2 (Mr.Chigorin considers this to be the strongest continuation in the French Defense. Having adopted it first in the match against Dr. Tarrasch, he has faithfully adhered to his innovation, and, especially in this tournament, with great success. It is difficult to pass judgment on such a move, but I am inclined to believe that its first effect, namely, of delaying the advance of the adverse Queen's Pawn (in which case White gains a move by 2.Qe2 d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.Nc3 is at least neutralised by the restriction placed on his King's Bishop.) 2...b6 (The order of development which I would select for Black would be 2...c5 3.-- Nc6 4.-- d6 5.-- Nf6 6.-- Be7 7.-- O-O, after which ...d5 {will give the second player a strong attack.) 3.g3 Bb7 4.Bg2 Be7 5. d3 f5

Rd.11; Chigorin - Marco; 1-0; Annotator: Teichmann

1.e4 e6 2.Qe2 e5 (I do not think that this is loss of time; the position of the White Queen at e2 is, to say the least, no advantage for White.) 3.g3 Nc6 4.Bg2 Bc5 5.c3 Nf6

Rd.15; Chigorin - Tinsley; 1-0; Annotator: Tarrasch

1.e4 e6 2.Qe2 b6 (Stronger is 2...Be7 or 2...c5) 3.Nc3 Bb7 4.Nh3 Nc6 5.d3 Qe7

Rd.17; Chigorin - Albin; 1/2-1/2; Annotator: Pillsbury

1.e4 e6 2.Qe2 Nc6 3.Nf3 e5 (Bringing about an open game, with the White Queen indifferently placed.) 4.g3 Bc5 5.c3 Bb6

What can we learn from these games and comments? First, that the loss of tempo (e.g. 2...e5) is justified in order to take advantage of an antipositional move (2.Qe2). Second, that one way to combat an unorthodox opening move is to steer into a variation where the move is less useful (2...c5 transposes into a Sicilian). Third, that in spite of his move's eccentricity (2.Qe2 blocks the Bishop on f1), Chigorin was enormously successful with it (+4-0=1!). The advantage of an unorthodox opening is in getting the opponent to think for himself from an early move. A prepared opening repertoire loses its importance.

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