The Schliemann Defence: Move by Move, Junior Tay, Everyman Chess, Paperback, ISBN 9781781943267, 400pp., $29.95; Ebook $21.95
Junior Tay is a FIDE candidate master and an ICCF senior international master. He is a former National Rapid and Cairnhill Open Champion and has represented Singapore in international events, including the 1995 Asian Team Championships. He is a frequent contributor to New in Chess Yearbook opening surveys and also writes articles for CHESS magazine. He has been a chess trainer, author and editor for the past three years, after working as a school teacher for seventeen years.
Here is how The Schliemann Defence: Move by Move is described on the back cover:
“White players who enjoy playing the Ruy Lopez (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5) often expect to have an easy time in the opening. Numerous Black systems allow White to complete development with natural moves which often results in a small but clear advantage. Not so The Schliemann. The Schliemann (3…f5) is a ferocious beast that immediately takes the fight to White. The swift counter with …f7-f5 is undoubtedly risky but has the advantage of disturbing White’s equanimity and setting difficult problems to solve as early as move three. Any White player who is not highly attuned to the nuances of this system can quickly find themselves in very hot water. This makes the Schliemann an ideal practical weapon for the aggressively-minded tactical player.”
- A thoough [sic] theoretical coverage of a dynamic counter-attacking system
- Discusses strategic themes as well as analysing complex tactical variations
- Written by an expert on the Schliemann
The main content is divided as follows:
- Introduction: What is the Schliemann Defence (22 pages)
- Trivial Tries: 4 0-0, 4 Bxc6 and 4 exf5 (31 pages)
- Central Counter: 4 d4!? (41 pages)
- Delightful or Dullsville: 4 d3 (149 pages)
- Cloudy Classical: 4 Nc3 fxe4 5 Nxe4 d5 (38 pages)
- Tactical Tartakower: 4 Nc3 fxe4 5 Nxe4 Nf6 (3 pages)
- Odds and Ends (85 pages)
- Schliemann Stumpers! (12 pages)
- Solutions (11 pages)
There is also a bibliography, an index of variations, and an index of complete games.
Tay cautions that Black’s “blatant aggression” comes at a cost: “Black frequently finds himself the e5-pawn down,” behind in development, and with the more exposed king. However, it is the tactical nature of the position that provides compensation. He compares the Schliemann to the Vienna Game, “where White tries to scuttle the black centre on move three.”
Among Tay’s reasons for playing the Schliemann are “to unbalance the game as early as possible,” that “it’s not so easily [sic] to deal with Black’s initiative in practical play,” personal experience has proved it to be a viable system, and “top players have given the Schliemann a go.” Among the latter he lists players such as Andreikin, Aronian, Carlsen, Ivanchuk, Radjabov, and Sokolov. Yet, only Carlsen, Radjabov, and Sokolov are featured in main games in the book, and only rapid games at that. An odd fact considering that Radjabov, according to Tay, has used the Schliemann “successfully to reach a plus score versus opposition ranging from Elo 2560 to 2800. His Schliemann even held 2700+ opposition to an even score, as well as securing three draws against the current World Champion, Magnus Carlsen.”
I find it a worrisome endorsement of the line when five of the six main games that feature the author are from rapid and blitz competitions. Five from the black side and one as white. An oddity considering that Tay describes the Schliemann as his favorite Black opening. In fact of the forty-five main games, twelve are from rapid or blitz events. Have we really reached the point that what you can get away with in blitz now passes for opening theory. Tay goes so far as to quote internet blitz games between chess engines in the analytical notes.
Of the featured main games, it is the nine correspondence games that speak to the soundness of the opening, especially when a player the caliber of Nisipeanu is willing to champion the black side against a 2500+ opponent in an ICCF game against Nekhaev from 2012. This one game fills twelve pages in the book. In fact, the first time Nisipeanu played the Schliemann in a tournament game was against Carlsen, then rated 2813, at the Bazna Kings in 2010. Both of these games ended in draws. With regard to correspondence games, a search in Tim Harding’s UltraCorr 2018 database reveals that the fifteenth ICCF World Champion Gert Jan Timmerman was a practitioner of the Schliemann. Tay notes that other correspondence practitioners are Roeland Pruijssers and the late IM/CC-GM Josef Boey. The former is featured in two of the main games, one of which is from rapid play.
Let’s look at an excerpt from chapter five “Tactical Tartakower”:
World Mind Games, Internet (rapid) 2014
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 f5 4 Nc3 fxe4 5 Nxe4 Nf6 6 Nxf6+ Qxf6
The advantage for White of taking on f6 at once is that, unlike in the 6 Qe2 variation, Black is virtually obliged to recapture with the queen, since gambling with 6…gxf6? is too risky. After 7 d4! Bg7 (if 7…e4 8 Ng5! Bb4+ 9 c3 0-0 10 Nxe4, White is already winning, Y.Quesada Perez-S.Palit, Barcelona 2012; or similarly 7…d6 8 Ng5! fxg5 9 Qh5+ Kd7 10 d5 Qf6 11 Bxg5 Qf6 12 dxc6+ bxc6 13 Bd3 e4 14 Be2, N.Ristic-D.Bokan, Serbian Team Championship 2002) 8 dxe5 0-0 9 exf6 Qxf6 10 0-0 d6 11 c3 Bg4 12 Be2 Rae8 13 Qb3+ Kh8 14 Be3, Black has no compensation for his pawn minus, H.Faber-P.Leisebein, correspondence 2013.
This has been superseded by 7 Qe2 in the past two decades. However, it remains a lowrisk line for White to play, especially if he doesn’t mind a draw.
[FEN “r1b1kb1r/pppp2pp/5q2/1B2p3/3n4/5N2/PPPP1PPP/R1BQ1RK1 w kq – 0 8”]
This seems like a very counter-intuitive move to make, doesn’t it? Instead of focusing on development, Black is asking White to trade off his only developed minor piece and open the e-file as well.
Question: Why would Black allow all that?
Answer: It does seem like a bad variation of the Spanish Bird’s (3…Nd4), but there are some counter-arguments. Firstly, Black resolves the problem of the typically weak e5-pawn by diverting it to the d-file after the exchange on d4. Secondly, if the white rook goes to e1, Black will have queen and rook bearing down on the f2-pawn after he castles. Lastly, White will not find it so easy to mobilize the rest of his queenside pieces.
The alternative 7…Be7 is covered in Game 36.
8 Nxd4 exd4 9 Re1+
White can accelerate his development by playing 9 b3 and bringing the c1-bishop out to a3 or b2. This dangerous plan is covered in the next two games.
Here 9…Kd8!? is an interesting way to avoid the drawing variation below. Surprisingly, it seems only to have been tried once, and Black almost got into trouble: 10 d3 c6 11 Ba4 d5 12 Qh5 Kc7? (12…h6 is mandatory with equal chances) 13 Bg5! Qf5
[FEN “r1b2b1r/ppk3pp/2p5/3p1qBQ/B2p4/3P4/PPP2PPP/R3R1K1 w – – 0 14”]
Exercise: How can White exploit the awkward placement of the black king and queen?
Answer: White has the powerful 14 Re5! (it looks very tempting to play 14 Bd8+ Kxd8 15 Re8+ Kc7 16 Qxf5 Bxf5 17 Rxa8, but things are not so simple after 17…Bc8, cutting off the rook) 14…Qg6 (or 14…Qxh5 15 Rxd5+!) 15 Bf4 Bd6 16 Re7+ Bd7 17 Bxd6+ Qxd6 18 Rxg7 with a big advantage.
Instead, G.Hitter-M.Lyell, Budapest 2010, continued 14 Re8 b5 15 Bb3 Kb7, and even here 16 Qh4! would have kept Black on the defensive. 10 Qe2 Alternatively, 10 Qh5+ g6 11 Qh6 (if 11 Qe5 Qxe5 12 Rxe5 c6 13 Bd3 Kf7 14 b3 Bf6 15 Re2 d5 16 Bb2 Bd7 17 Rae1, as in G.Laketic-V.Tseshkovsky, Moscow 1992, then 17…c5 gives Black a space advantage and potential queenside expansion ideas) 11…c6 12 Bf1 (12 Ba4 Kf7 13 Bb3+ d5 14 d3 Bd7 is about equal, W.Lay-J.Tay, Singapore rapid 2012) 12…d5 13 d3 Kf7 14 Rxe7+!? (Kupreichik’s idea) 14…Qxe7 15 Bd2 can be met by 15…Qf6 16 Re1 g5! 17 Qh5+ Qg6 18 Qf3+ and the players agreed a draw in S.Grodzensky-U.Ploder, correspondence 1994.
10…c6 11 Bd3 d5
[FEN “r1b1k2r/pp2b1pp/2p2q2/3p4/3p4/3B4/PPPPQPPP/R1B1R1K1 w kq – 0 12”]
Ho-hum. I was bracing myself for the inevitable draw now.
A surprise for me.
Question: What is the point of this move? Doesn’t it weaken White’s kingside structure?
Answer: Well, apart from preventing …Qxf2+ when Black castles, White also gives his queen the f2-square to attack the d4-pawn and perhaps it can even use the g3-square later.
White can also push the pawn further with 12 f4. If Black responds with 12…Kf7, then 13 c4 dxc3 14 bxc3 Bc5+ (not 14…Re8? 15 Qh5+) 15 Be3 Bxe3+ 16 Qxe3 Bd7, as in W.Wittmann-K.Pytel, Holzoster am See 1981, and now 17 Qf2! Rhf8 18 g3 Kg8 19 a4, keeping an eye on the a-pawn, might give White a little something. So Black should probably send his king the other way: 12…Kd8 13 c4 (or 13 b3 a5!? 14 Bb2 Bc5 15 Qf2 Rf8 16 Rf1 g6 17 a3 Bd7 18 Rae1 b5 19 a4 b4 with even play) 13…dxc4 14 Bxc4 Bd6 15 d3 Kc7 16 Bd2 Bd7 and I think Black is at least equal, R.Zelcic-B.Lalic, Croatian Championship, Rijeka 2009.
The other option is 12 b3 0-0 13 Qxe7 Qxf2+ 14 Kh1 Bh3!, when 15 gxh3 Qf3+ 16 Kg1 Qf2+ with perpetual check is the drawing variation.
White can play on with 15 Rg1!? Rae8 16 Qxf8+ Qxf8 17 Rf1 and Sokolov considers this to be good for White, but Black seems able to hold his own despite the material disparity. The main drawing idea is to trade a pair of rooks and harass the white king with the queen: 17…Bxg2+! 18 Kxg2 Qe7 19 Bb2 c5
[FEN “4r1k1/pp2q1pp/8/2pp4/3p4/1P1B4/PBPP2KP/R4R2 w – – 0 20”]
20 Rf2 (20 Rf5 can also be met by 20…Rf8, or even 20…Qe6!? 21 Raf1 c4 22 bxc4?! dxc4 23 Ba3 g6 24 Rf8+ Rxf8 25 Rxf8+ Kg7 26 Bf1? d3 27 Rf2 Qg4+ 28 Kh1 Qd4 29 Kg1, when a draw was agreed drawn in B.Haas-K.Shoup, correspondence 1995, though in fact 29…dxc2 and a queenside pawn push is now winning for Black) 20…Rf8 21 Raf1 Rxf2+ 22 Rxf2 leaves White with rook and two bishops for the queen, but his bishops are too passive and king too exposed for him to have serious hopes of winning. For example: 22…g6 (restricting the light-squared bishop) 23 c3 Qg5+ 24 Kf1 (or 24 Kh1 Qh4) 24…Qg4 25 Bc2 (25 cxd4 Qd1+ is a draw at once) 25…dxc3 (25…Qh3+ 26 Ke2 Qg4+ 27 Ke1 Qg1+ 28 Rf1 Qxh2 29 cxd4 might offer some chances) 26 bxc3 (or 26 Bxc3 d4, keeping the dark-squared bishop a useless one) 26…b5 27 Bc1 a5 28 Be3 b4 29 Bxc5 (or 29 cxb4 d4 30 Bf4 d3) 29…dxc3 and although White has activated his bishops somewhat, he is still a long way from finding a safe haven for his king, while Black now has counterplay with the central pawns.
[FEN “r1b1k2r/pp2b1pp/2p2q2/3p4/3p4/3B1P2/PPPPQ1PP/R1B1R1K1 b kq – 0 12”]
This is more natural than 12…Kd8.
Question: What’s the difference?
Answer: When White attacks the pawn centre with b3-b4, c2-c4, or c2-c3, it is clearly preferable to have the king sitting safely on g8 rather than c7 or d8, especially if White has a rook ready on c1.
Nevertheless, 12…Kd8!? still seems playable; for example, 13 b3 (or 13 c4 Bd6, intending 14 cxd5 Qh4 15 g3 Bxg3! etc) 14…Bd6 14 Bb2 Rf8 15 Rac1 (or 15 Qf2 c5 16 b4 b6 17 a4 Qf4 18 g3 Qxf3 19 Qxf3 Rxf3 20 Bxh7 Kc7) 15…Bd7 16 c4 dxc3 17 Bxc3 Qh4 18 Be5 Re8 19 f4 Bxe5 20 fxe5 Qd4+ 21 Qe3 Qxe3+ 22 Rxe3 g6 and the position is equal.
Note that we are only twelve moves into the game! So the coverage is clearly extensive; even though the copy editing may not have been.
I like Junior Tay as an author and wish more authors would match the diligence he brings to The Schliemann Defence: Move by Move. By the way, he notes that historical research suggests that the Jaenisch Gambit is a more accurate moniker for the opening, but that convenience and convention lead to the decision to stick with the Schliemann Defense.
Playing through the games of the book make you want to employ the opening in your own practice. As Tay notes “if you are aiming for a street brawl when handling Black,” the Schliemann is a good choice. He writes that the complex nature of the positions offers Black chances to turn the tables even if things go awry, and that “in MegaBase, the Schliemann has the second best percentage for Black among the defences to the Ruy Lopez, with White scoring 52.8% (up to 2016).”
As with any opening work from Everyman, I recommend buying the ebook because it is available as a PGN file. This can then be used as a foundation for a repertoire database that you can build based on your own experiences and analysis. And in the case of The Schliemann Defence: Move by Move it is eight dollars cheaper!