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Weissman's Defence
by Mark Weeks

What's in a name? It shouldn't surprise anyone that Weissman never played Weissman's Defence. He may not even know that he has an opening named after him. Many years ago, Alan Lasser, a former teammate on the high school chess team, showed me an unusual opening which went 1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Ng8. He had named it after Al Weissman, a U.S. intercollegiate champion in the early 1950s, and the resident master at the New London CT chess club.

Since I used Alekhine's Defence regularly, I was comfortable with many of Weissman's main lines. I played it often in competition with the usual results, winning against weaker players and losing to better players. One memorable loss was against IM Jack Peters in the last round of a 1976 open tournament in Hartford CT. When Peters published the game in a Hartford chess newsletter, his comment to 2... Ng8 was, 'Not as bad as it looks', which is about as much praise as Weissman's will ever get!

My tattered copy of the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings (ECO) lists four games with the variation. Chesslab at www.chesslab.com gives many more games, but, somewhat curiously, is missing three of the four ECO games.

Let's take a closer look at Weissman's.

Weissman's - Alekhine's Defence w/ 2...Ng8
Introduction
Analysis 2001

1. e4 Nf6 'Not altogether logically satisfying' - Em. Lasker

Chesslab gives 1... Nh6 2. e5 Ng8 3. d4 for Pillsbury - Chatard, Paris1900. The move 1...Nh6 is even stranger than 2...Ng8. If it's not a misprint, it should be.

2. e5 Ng8 At the time I researched this article, Chesslab listed 85 games with 2...Ng8. The statistical breakdown [% won by White, won by Black, drawn] was 40%-42%-17%. The corresponding statistics for 2.. .Nd5 were 45%-30%-24%.

2... Nd5 is the normal move. A common continuation is the Four Pawn Attack, 3. d4 d6 4. c4 Nb6 5. f4 Tarrasch gave a '?' to 5.f4.

Another unusual move for Black is 2... Ne4 which has no obvious refutation. 3. d3 (3. d4 e6 4. Bd3 d5 5. Bxe4 dxe4 6. Nc3 Bb4 7. Nge2 c5) 3... Nc5 4. d4 Nca6 5. c4 d6 6. f4

3. d4


A question for theory - can Black survive this loss of two tempi?

3... d6 [38%-30%-30%] This is my favorite continuation, but Black has alternatives.

3... d5 [40%-50%-9%]

3... c5

4. f4 White also has alternatives.

4. exd6

4. Nf3

4... c5 I put Weissman's to the real test and played it in three correspondence games. With regard to opening theory, my opponents were on their own. This line was played in each game. I'd like to present the three games. *

P.Tschetter - M.Weeks
Casual game [A5401]
Correspondence 1975

1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Ng8 3. d4 d6 4. f4 c5 5. Nf3 dxe5 6. dxe5 Qxd1+ 7. Kxd1 Bg4 8. Bb5+ Nd7 9. Rf1 O-O-O


Black has an excellent game.

10. Bd2 h5 Prepares ...e6 11. Nc3 e6 12. Bd3 h4 13. a3 Why? 13... Nh6 14. h3 Bh5 15. Be2 Be7 16. Ke1 Nf5 17. Ne4 f6 18. exf6 gxf6 19. Kf2 Nb6 20. Ba5 Kc7 21. Rad1 Rxd1 22. Rxd1 Be8 23. b3 Bc6 24. Ned2 Bd6 Starts a long siege of the f-pawn. 25. Bd3 Ng3 26. Re1 Kd7 27. Bxb6 axb6 28. Bc4 Bd5 29. Bb5+ Ke7 30. c4 Bc6 31. Bxc6 bxc6 32. Ke3

Of course not 32. Nxh4 Rxh4 33. Kxg3 Rxf4 Black is winning

32... Nf5+ 33. Ke4 Rg8 34. Rg1 Ng3+ 35. Ke3 Bxf4+ 36. Kxf4 Ne2+ 37. Ke3 Nxg1 38. Nxg1 Rxg2


White is probably lost. He is down in material and his pieces are poorly coordinated. The connected, passed e & f pawns are very strong against the Knights.

39. Ngf3 f5 40. Nxh4 Rg3+ 41. Ndf3 Rxh3 42. Kf4

If 42. Ng6+ Kd6 43. Nge5 Rh1 44. Nf7+ Ke7 45. N7e5 Rb1 46. b4 cxb4 47. axb4 Kd6

42... Kf6 43. b4?

Better is 43. Ng2 but after 43... Rh1 it's still hopeless

43... cxb4 44. axb4 e5+ 0-1

G.Berg - M.Weeks
1973 Golden Knights Final
Correspondence 1976

1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Ng8 3. d4 d6 4. f4 c5 5. dxc5 Qa5+ In the 2...Nd5 lines of Alekhine's Defence, this move is usually not possible, because a Knight on b6 blocks the diagonal. 6. Bd2 Qxc5 7. exd6 e6


After moves 8 & 9, Black seems to be in trouble, but it's an illusion. The f-pawn would be better placed on its initial square.

Black wants to recover the pawn on more favorable terms than after 7... Qxd6

8. Nc3 Nf6 9. Nb5 Na6 10. Bd3 Nd5 11. Qe2 Bd7 12. Nh3 Nab4 13. Bxb4 Qxb4+ 14. c3 Qc5 15. Qf2 Qxf2+ 16. Kxf2 a6 17. Nd4 Bxd6 18. Kf3 h6 To prevent Ng5. 19. Be4 O-O-O 20. c4 Nf6 21. c5


Here I had to forfeit the game. I left the United States and the USCF would not allow me to finish my games while overseas. A possible continuation might have been...

21... Bc7 22. c6 Bxc6

22... bxc6 23. Bxc6 Bxc6+ 24. Nxc6 Rd2

23. Nxc6 bxc6 24. Bxc6 Rd2 25. Rhd1 Rxb2 Black has won a pawn, but it may not be enough to win the game. *

P.Valent - M.Weeks
World Cup IV
Correspondence 1977

1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Ng8 3. d4 d6 4. f4 c5 5. dxc5 Qa5+ 6. Nc3

6. Bd2 was Berg - Weeks.

6. Qd2 is also possible. One line is 6... Qxc5 7. exd6 e6 8. Nc3 Nf6 9. Nb5 Na6 10. b4 Qc6 11. Bb2

6... dxe5 7. Qd5 Nc6 8. fxe5 e6 9. Qe4 Bxc5 10. Bb5 Bd7 11. Bd2 a6 12. Qg4 Nge7 13. Nd5


This was a surprise.

13... exd5

I'm not sure I looked at 13... Bf2+!? 14. Kd1 exd5 15. Bxc6 Qc7 16. Bxd7+ Qxd7 17. Qxd7+ Kxd7 18. Nf3 h6 as in the game, except White can't castle. 19. Ke2

14. Bxc6 Qc7

14... Bf2+ 15. Kd1 Qc7 leads to the previous line.

15. Bxd7+ Qxd7 16. Qxd7+ Kxd7 17. Nf3 h6 18. O-O-O Rac8 19. Bc3 Ke6 Hoping to encircle the e-pawn... 20. Rhe1 Nc6 21. Bd4 Nxd4 22. Nxd4+ Bxd4 23. Rxd4 ...but the d-pawn is also weak. 23... Rc5


If it's true that 'all Rook endgames are drawn', then four Rook endgames must be hopelessly equal. This position certainly is.

24. Rg4 g6 25. Rf4 Rhc8 26. Re2 R5c6 27. c3 R8c7 28. Kd2 g5 29. Rf3 d4 30. Rf6+

30. cxd4 Rc2+ 31. Kd3 Rxe2 32. Rf6+ Ke7 33. Kxe2 Rc2+

30... Kd5 31. e6 dxc3+ 32. bxc3 fxe6 33. Rxh6 Rxc3 34. Rhxe6 Rc2+ 35. Ke1 1/2-1/2

4.Nf3 - Long term pressure
Chesslab++
Analysis 2001

1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Ng8 3. d4 d6 4. Nf3 Bg4 5. h3 Bh5 6. g4

6. Be2 dxe5 7. g4

6... Bg6


How will Black complete development?

7. Bg2 This looks logical, but White has other attractive continuations.

7. c3 e6 8. Qb3 Be4 9. Bg5 f6 10. Bg2 (10. Qxe6+ Qe7 11. Qc8+ Qd8 12. Qxd8+ Kxd8 13. Nbd2 Bxf3 14. Nxf3 fxg5 15. Nxg5 Nh6 16. f4 Nd7 is unclear) 10... fxg5 11. Qxe6+ Qe7 12. Qc8+ Qd8 13. Qe6+

7. Bg5 f6 How else can Black develop the K-side? 8. exf6 exf6 9. Qe2+ Qe7 10. Be3

7. Nc3

7. c4

7... e6 The rest is analysis. 8. c3 Black already has a problem to develop the K-side. This puts the Q-side under more pressure. 8... Be7

An example of the problems Black has is 8... Nc6 9. Qb3 Na5 10. Qa4+ c6 11. Na3 d5 12. b4 Nc4 13. Nxc4 dxc4 14. Nd2 Ne7 15. Nxc4 Nd5 16. Na5 White is winning

Better is 8... Nd7 9. Bf4 h5 10. Nbd2 hxg4 11. hxg4 Rxh1+ 12. Bxh1 Nh6 13. Nc4 Nxg4 14. exd6 cxd6 15. Bxd6 White is slightly better

9. Qb3 Be4 10. Bf4 Nd7 11. Nbd2 Bc6 12. O-O-O Nb6 13. Qc2 Qd7 14. Rhe1 O-O-O


White has developed all pieces and still retains a two move lead in development. How should White proceed?

15. Ne4 f6 16. exd6 cxd6 17. g5 h6 18. h4 Nd5 19. Bg3 f5 20. Ned2 Kb8 21. c4 Rc8 22. Kb1 Nb6 23. b3 hxg5 24. hxg5 Rh5 25. Qd3 Bxg5 26. Nxg5 Rxg5 27. Bxc6 Rxc6 28. Rxe6 Qxe6 29. d5 Qd7 30. dxc6 Qxc6 31. Bxd6+ Ka8 32. Bf4 White is winning *

4.exd6 - Quiet waters run deep
Chesslab++
Analysis 2001

1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Ng8

2... Nd5 The lines in this section can be similar to 3. d4 d6 4. c4 Nb6 5. exd6 , which Fischer played in the two recorded games where he met Alekhine's Defence. Fischer's games continued 5... cxd6 Pos.1 6. Nc3 g6 7. Bd3 Bg7 8. Nge2 Nc6 9. Be3 O-O 10. O-O e5 Fischer - Berline r, U.S. championship 1960/1 and Fischer - Berliner, U.S. championship 1962/3

3. d4 d6

3... d5 4. exd6 is the same.

4. exd6 cxd6

4... exd6 Three Chesslab games continue 5. Bd3 (5. c4 g6 6. Nc3 Bg7 7. Nf3 Ne7) 5... Nf6 (5... Nc6 6. c3 Nf6 7. Ne2 Bg4) 6. h3 c6 7. Nf3 Na6

4... Qxd6 is also possible

5. c4

5. Nf3 All games in Chesslab allow the pin with 5... Bg4 e.g. 6. Be2 (6. Bb5+) (6. c3) (6. Bd3) 6... -- with a score of +2-4=1 for White.

5... Nf6 Compare Pos. 1; if White follows Fischer's development, the continuation would be 6. Nc3 g6 7. Bd3 Nc6 8. Nge2 Bg7 9. O-O O-O 10. Be3 e5 There are, of course, other patterns of development for the White & Black minor pieces. *

3...d5 - 40%-50%-9%!
Chesslab++
Analysis 2001

1. e4 Nf6

1... e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Pos.1 3... c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Nf3 Qb6 6. a3

1... c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Pos.2

2. e5 Ng8 3. d4 d5


Compare this with Pos.1 & Pos.2, where Black is a tempo ahead in development and on the move. In Pos.1 the Bc8 is already shut in; in Pos.2 the c6 square is not available to the Nb8.

4. -- The games in Chesslab show that White has many possible moves here.

4. a3

4. Bd3 preventing the development of the Bc8 before ...e6 4... c5 5. c3 Nc6 6. Ne2 Bg4 7. f3 Bd7 (7... Bh5 8. Nf4 Bg6 9. Bxg6 hxg6 10. e6 g5 11. exf7+ Kxf7 12. Nh3)

4. c3

4. c4 The most popular move according to Chesslab, which again shows many continuations. 4... -- (4... Be6) (4... c5) (4... c6) (4... dxc4) (4... e6) (4... Nc6) (if 4... Bf5? 5. Qb3 White is winning)

4. exd6 see 3...d6

4. f4

4. Nc3

4. Nf3

*

Annotator - Hort
ECO
Volume B02 1975

For the record, the 1975 ECO vol.B gives these variations: 1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Ng8 3. d4 d5

3... d6 4. Nf3 dxe5 (4... Bg4 5. h3 Bf5 6. Bd3 Qd7 7. exd6 exd6 8. Bxf5 Qxf5 9. O-O Be7 10. Re1 White is better Smejkal - Vesely, CSSR, 1968) (4... g6 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. Bc4 c6 7. h3 d5 8. Bb3 b6 9. O-O e6 10. Re1 Ba6 11. Ne2 Ne7 12. Nf4 h6 13. c3 Boleslavski - Petrosian, USSR, 1966) 5. Nxe5 Nd7 6. Qf3 Ngf6 7. Nc3 e6 8. Bg5 White is better Spielman - Flohr, Prague, 1930

4. Bd3 c5 5. c3 Nc6 6. Ne2 Bg4 7. f3 Bd7 8. O-O Qb6 9. Kh1 e6 10. Bc2 Rc8 White is slightly better Damski - Lein, USSR, 1958 Line *

Send comments or corrections to weissman@mark-weeks.com.