Tag Archives: Slav Defense

Play the Noteboom Variation?

Fond Memories with the Noteboom Variation

I have written before that taking up the French Defense saved my chess career. Well, that was great for facing 1.e4, but I needed something against the closed openings. One day in 1999 my dad brought home a book that helped me solve this task for awhile. Thanks, Dad.

Play the Noteboom is the title of a 1996 book written by Mark van der Werf and Teun van der Vorm, and published by Cadogan Books (now Everyman Chess).

The Noteboom Variation is a cross between the Slav and Semi-Slav Defenses, characterized by the positon after, for example:

 

Black takes the c4-pawn and might hold onto it!

In the main line, black gives back the pawn and a very unusual situation arises:

Black has two outside, connected passed pawns! This single factor made the Noteboom really attractive to me in the late 1990s and early 2000s: as long as I didn’t get mated, I often wound up with winning or nearly winning endgames!

I had a ridiculously high score with the Noteboom Variation, when my opponents allowed it, including some nice upsets. The fun didn’t stop there, however.

 

The Marshall Gambit

White can avoid this situation by playing an Anti-Noteboom system. The most common and best choice is the Marshall Gambit:

This early central thrust is not possible in the Slav or Semi-Slav because Black has a knight on f6. The main line continues:

When White has definite compensation for the missing pawn: open lines for the queen and bishops, and a drafty Black king to target.

I believe the main move here is 8…Na6. But as a firm adherent of the “take and hold” school of chess, I used to play 8…Nd7, threatening to shut out white’s monster bishop with 9…c5.

Four of my tournament games reached this position. My opponents played 9.Bd6 or 9.Qd6. Then I held on for dear life after…

…and won all four games! Now, I was probably losing in three of them, but sometimes Caissa is on your side. My opponents included an A-player, the same Expert twice, and my first master scalp in tournament play.

Um, yeah. Don’t try this at home!

 

Conclusion

Now I view all of this very differently. In the main line Noteboom Variation White has a strong bishop pair and his central play could end up being, shall we say, problematic. 15 years later, I wouldn’t try a “rope-a-dope” strategy against the Marshall Gambit. Not a recipe for success…

Also, amateur players are more familiar with the opening, notably with The Triangle System (2012) by Ruslan Scherbakov.

 

Desperate people do desperate things. I was a weak player without much confidence and relied on a material advantage to win long, drawn-out endgames. I didn’t think I could win any other way. That led me to playing these semi-bluff openings.

Funnily enough, nowadays I have a massive score against the Noteboom on ICC! That’s the great thing about playing an opening: you learn how to play against it, too!

Do you have similar experiences? Please share!

Chess Tactics: Grigorian — Bagirov, 1970

Open center = Faster play, More tactics

Consider the center squares d4, d5, e4, and e5.

In general, with more pawns on the center squares, play is slower and the action will most likely to take place on the flanks.

With less pawns in the center, play will be more wide-open, as in our game. Translation: forget about pawns and play with the pieces!

Karen Grigorian (1942-1989) found some powerful chess tactics in his game against Vladimir Bagirov (1936-2000).

Karen Grigorian (1947-1989).

Our game begins with a calm Slav Defense. However, black’s slow play allows white to blast open the center. By move 12, white has more space, better pieces, and a strong initiative.

The calculation involved here is not difficult. Open lines, activate the pieces, and look for checks, captures and threats.

This and other model attacking games are not about finding one or two strong moves. Playing with the initiative means controlling the flow of the game and not letting the opponent breathe. Concentrating on this will transform your play.

“Tactics flow from a superior position.” — Bobby Fischer

Remember: the open or closed nature of the center usually determines how fast or slow you can play! Don’t get caught off-guard.