5

When I analyze the 8...Bg4 Petrov it always seems like Black gets an easy equality. For example:

Garry Kasparov - Patrick G. Wolff New York/London simultaneous 1984

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d4 d5 6. Bd3 Be7 7. O-O Nc6 8.
Re1 Bg4 9. c4
   9. c3 f5 10. h3 
      (a) 10. Qb3 Rb8 11. Nfd2 Bh5 12. Nf1 (12. f3 Nxd2
13. Nxd2 O-O 14. Qc2) 12... O-O 13. Ne3 Nxf2 =
      (b) 10. Qc2 O-O 11. Nfd2 Bd6 =+
      (c) 10. Nbd2 O-O =
   10... Bh5 11. Qb3 Rb8 =
   9. Bxe4 dxe4 10. Rxe4 Bxf3 11.Qxf3 Nxd4 12. Qd3 Ne6 =
9... Nf6 10. cxd5 (10. Nc3 Bxf3 11. Qxf3 Nxd4 12.
Qg3 dxc4 13. Bxc4 O-O 14. Bg5=) 10... Bxf3 11. Qxf3 Qxd5 12. Qg3 !? (12. Qxd5
Nxd5 13. Nc3 Ndb4 14. Be4 Nxd4 15. Be3 Ndc2 16. a3 Nxa1 17. axb4 Nb3 18. Bd5
O-O 19. Bxb3 Bxb4 20. Rc1 $11) 12... Qxd4 13. Nc3 O-O =+

Kasparov ended up outplaying Wolff in the middlegame, but out of the opening Wolff was at least equal. All the other lines seem to quickly end in equality as well.

Is playing 3.d4 the only try for an advantage in the Petrov?

7

No, it is not "easy equality". It is "complex fight where Black has good chances for equality, with theoretical debate still going on".

Anyway, 3.d4 won't be the only try for an advantage in the Petrov. 3.Nxe5 is still the main field where White looks for advantage. He can deviate from this game Kasparov-Wolff in several ways, including 5.Qe2 (recently renewed by Carlsen and Kramnik), 5.Nc3 (the main try for an imbalanced position, see Karjakin-Caruana, 1-0, in this year's Candidate tournament), or later 8.c4 (a lot of heavy-weight fights involving Anand, Kramnik, Leko or Naiditsch in the 2000-decade).

  • 1
    Ok, but my question was about the 8...Bg4 Petroff. – Cecil De Vere Jun 19 '18 at 13:00
3

I hope I am not going to get into trouble for posting a piece of a free newsletter by GM Alex Colvic on the subject you asked about. This is the entire email from April 28,2018. Alex's answers the emails at the address alex@alexcolovic.com

The main advantage of the Petroff over the Berlin is that it is more practical. The Petroff arises already on move 2, thus avoiding very important White options after 2...Nc6 such as the Scotch, the Italian and also the Ruy Lopez with 4 d3.

The return of the Petroff is of course thanks to Fabiano Caruana's success with it at the Berlin Candidates. Usually considered a boring opening aimed only at playing for a draw, Caruana actually managed to win quite a few games with it: two at the Candidates (against Kramnik and Grischuk) and also one in the Grenke Classic against Vitiugov.

Another positive aspect of the Petroff is that there are only a few critical lines against it. In what has traditionally been called the main line, after 3 Ne5 d6 4 Nf3 Ne4 5 d4 d5 6 Bd3, Caruana's choice has been the move 6...Bd6, instead of the previously considered more solid 6...Nc6. The reason for his choice is that after 6...Nc6 7 0-0 Be7 8 Nbd2, a move previously considered harmless, manages to pose unpleasant problems to Black in a symmetrical position.

Worth noting here is that the Chinese players have their own way of treating this line. They introduced the move-order 6...Bf5 7 0-0 Be7 (or 6...Be7 7 0-0 Bf5). One of the ideas of this move-order is to be able to play ...Nd6, exchanging the light-squared bishops.

Caruana demonstrated that Black is theoretically OK in the main line with 6...Bd6 and that is probably the way to go.

The second critical attempt is 3 Ne5 d6 4 Nf3 Ne4 5 Nc3. Here taking on c3 is most popular, though there is something to be said for the retreat 5...Nf6, when White doesn't have the active plan with c4 at his disposal. After 5...Nc3 6 dc Be7 7 Be3 Nc6 Black usually castles queenside and should be fine. But this position is deceptively simple, as White can find small ways to keep the pressure on, demonstrated by Caruana's only loss in Berlin to Karjakin. Black has also plans with short castling in this line, as Hou Yifan played against Caruana himself and almost beat him.

The third attempt is to play 3 d4. Now both moves, 3...ed and 3...Ne4 are possible. Caruana's choice was the latter, and after 4 Bd3 (Grischuk and Vitiugov played 4 de in the above-mentioned games) d5 5 Ne5 (5 de is another possibility) Nd7 Black again is theoretically fine.

The interesting part with the Petroff now is that it comes back after a certain period of being not very popular. This means that the old lines and recommendations are ripe for re-evaluation. The improved engines will suggest new moves (check out 5...Qd7 in the game Vitiugov-Caruana) and new ideas and variations will appear. This is the usual process when an opening "comes back" after some time spent on the sidelines.

This is how modern theory evolves. The latest engines start suggesting moves and ideas and they inject new life in the old openings, once considered boring or harmless.

Perhaps it is time to take up the Petroff!

Have a great weekend,

Alex

  • 2
    If this is from a free newsletter, and since you correctly mentionned the author, I don't think you will get in any trouble. – Evargalo Jun 19 '18 at 7:15
  • But quoting a whole newsletter without it even being an answer to the question (doesn't mention ...Bg4) is a bit dubious. – RemcoGerlich Jun 19 '18 at 13:24
  • I suppose this answer (like most of mine) concentrates on the sub-question : Is playing 3.d4 the only try for an advantage in the Petrov? – Evargalo Jun 19 '18 at 14:38
  • Sorry, I am new to the site but I though Alex addressed the nuances of modern supergrandmaster play that might help your analysis. – Longview Jun 20 '18 at 12:39

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