02 November 2010

Will the Real Taimanov Please Stand Up

After recently taking an interest in the Sicilian Taimanov System -- 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 -- I ordered the book 'Sicilian Defense: Taimanov System' by Mark Taimanov. Imagine my confusion when the book arrived and I read in the 'Introduction',

The starting position 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e6 5. Nc3 a6 can lead to various lines of play, each with its own strategy -- the Scheveningen System, the Paulsen System or the Taimanov System -- and in most cases it is Black who makes the choice (correspondingly 6...d6, 6...Qc7, and 6...Nge7).

Thus it is characteristic of the Taimanov System to avoid development of the Queen on c7 and Knight on f6 (both features of the Paulsen System) in favor of the mobilizing and flexible maneuvre ...Nge7. As will be seen from further analysis, this difference is important and gives the game an original strategic theme.

Never having understood that the Taimanov System included only ...Nge7, I looked for confirmation elsewhere. From the 'Introduction' to 'The Taimanov Sicilian' by Graham Burgess:-

Kan, Paulsen and Taimanov: All three of these names have some relevance to the subject-matter of this book.

'Kan' is the simplest to deal with: it refers to 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6. This can easily transpose to lines discussed in this book, but the name is generally reserved for those lines where Black does not play an early ...Nc6, or that could not arise naturally via a 4...Nc6 move-order.

'Paulsen' is trickier to define. It is sometimes taken to mean the same thing as the Kan, but is often used, particularly in German and Russian chess literature, to refer to lines with ...a6, ...Nc6 and ...Qc7. Taimanov himself calls this the Paulsen, reserving his own name for the less popular treatment with ...a6, ...Nc6 and ...Nge7. This policy has the serious drawback of leaving 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 [DIAGRAM] as a nameless variation.

In this book, as is common in English-language chess literature, the 'Taimanov Variation' refers to the diagram position above. I believe Mark Taimanov deserves this honour, even if he does not wish to claim it himself, considering that he has played the position several hundred times over the last 40 years. To distinguish between the ...Nge7 and ...Qc7 treatments, I use the terms 'Pure Taimanov' and 'Paulsen' respectively.

ECO, with its avoidance of names, leaves the field open. In List of chess openings - Wikipedia, I found B41-B43 'Kan Variation' and B45-B49 'Taimanov Variation'. In Chess Archaeology - B20-B59, I found B41-B43 'Paulsen' and B45-B49 'Barnes'. Is that Thomas Wilson Barnes (1825-1874)? Maybe it's a generational thing.

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