Friday, February 8, 2013

Welcome Back, Cotter, to the Alapin French

From 1975-1979 there was a classic television show called "Welcome Back, Kotter". The sitcom was the story of a teacher who returns to his high school to teach the type of low-performing students that the teacher was himself when he was a student 10 years prior. Imagine someone who was a lower rated high school chess player returning 10 years later after that player had become a chess expert or master. Such teachers often can be very effective because they can relate to the situations those teenage students are facing.

My French Defence Alapin 3.Be3 dxe4 4.Nd2 game vs Norman Cotter in the 1989 USCF Golden Knights Postal Tournament reminded me of the famed television show. In considering our struggle with this opening, it is good to point out White usually plays 4.Nd2 to avoid a ...Bb4 Winawer style pin. However both 4.Nc3 and 4.f3 are reasonable alternatives. Alapin himself preferred 4.Nd2 Nf6 5.c3 when White has good possibilities of regaining the gambit pawn. Diemer combined the Alapin theme with an f3 gambit.

For those not familiar with the French Defence Alapin-Diemer Gambit, note that is has four popular variations after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Be3:
A. 3...Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4
B. 3...dxe4 4.Nd2 f5 5.f3
C. 3...dxe4 4.Nd2 Nf6 5.f3 Nd5 6.Qe2
D. 3...dxe4 4.Nd2 Nf6 5.f3 exf3 6.Ngxf3

Why do I play the French Alapin? Because I like playing lines that Black does not know. Because I like winning some quick games. Because I have a better performance rating with 3.Be3 than any other third move. Cotter plays an excellent game.

Sawyer (2112) - Cotter (1876), corr USCF 89N215, 10.08.1990 begins 1.d4 e6 2.e4 d5 3.Be3 dxe4 4.Nd2 f5 5.f3 Nc6 6.fxe4 Nxd4 7.Ngf3 Bc5 8.Bc4!? [White has three alternatives worthy of consideration: 8.exf5, 8.c3 and 8.Bxd4] 8...Nxc2+ 9.Qxc2 Bxe3 10.exf5 exf5 11.0-0-0 Qf6 12.Rhe1 [12.Qb3 f4 13.Bxg8 Qc6+ 14.Bc4+/-] 12...f4 13.g3 Ne7 14.gxf4 Bxf4 15.Kb1 Bg4 16.Ne4 Qg6 17.Qd3 Bd6? [White's advantage would be smaller after 17...a6 18.h3 Bxf3 19.Qxf3 Rf8 20.Qd3+/-] 18.Nxd6+ [I missed a win with 18.Bb5+! Kd8 19.Ne5 Qf5 20.Nxd6 Qxd3+ 21.Rxd3+-] 18...cxd6 19.Qxg6+ hxg6 20.Rxd6 Bxf3 21.Rde6 0-0-0 22.Rxe7 Rxh2 23.Rxg7 Be4+ 24.Ka1 Bf5 25.a4 Rd7 26.Rg8+ Kc7 27.Be6 Re7 28.Rc1+ Kd6 29.Bxf5 gxf5 30.Rg6+ Kd5 31.Rd1+ Kc4 32.Rf1 Rf7 33.Rg5 Kb3 34.Rf3+ Kxa4 35.Rfxf5 Rxf5 36.Rxf5 b5 37.Rf4+ b4 38.Ka2 1/2-1/2

You may also like: King Pawn (1.e4 e5) and Queen Pawn (1.d4 d5)
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