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Learning Accountability - learning the Saemisch Alekhine

(NOTE: I've been starting to make these learning accountability posts private because they are probably boring to others but keep me accoutable to make sure I am actually learning the things I'm studying.

That said, I post them to show teachers/coaches/mastermind groups, etc that if you want to track what your students are learning each day, this is a good tool for it. The student can make the coach, or other students, collaborators to help with the accountability).

I've actually never encountered Alekhine's Defense in a tournament game but I have in blitz games. Eventually I will need to know what to do and I'm narrowing in on this opening.

    1. Watched the Butcher's Opening on the Saemisch Alekhine

    Trying to decide what to do against 1.e4 Nf6 (Alekhine's Defense).

    Thinking out loud, the basic idea is this. Alekhine's Defense provokes white to potentially over extend (classic example is: e5 Nd5 c4 nb6 d4 d6 f4. White has four pawns out there (a lot of space control). So white's goal is to hold onto space and attack and black's goal is to break down that space and have a better position. The game hinges on this balance.

    Historically, this came at a time in the period between 1900-1920 when classic openings (1.e4 e5) were starting to go out of favor and the "hypermodern' school was starting with moves like 1.Nf3 or defenses like Alehkine's defense.

    The idea being Black invites White into the spider's web and then the battle for survival is fought from the edges.

    the Butcher recommends something called the Saemisch approach.

    2. First, who is Saemisch. This is an interesting discussion of "talent"

    He was a bookbinder. But he had so much talent for chess that he switched to chess fulltime.

    Certainly he would've done better financially as a bookbinder. But you only have one life to give and playing chess was his passion.

    What was the nature of his talent? This is always an itneresting discussion : what is talent?

    Saemisch was extraordinarily good at blindfold chess, which great players in history (Philidor, and the first American world champion, Paul Morphy) were also great in,.

    Alekhine (coincidentally, given the opening I am studying) had this comment about Saemisch:

    'Of all the modern masters that I have had occasion to observe playing blindfold chess, it is Sämisch who interests me the most; his great technique, his speed and precision have always made a profound impression on me'.[

    3. Saemisch and Openings

    Of the four major openings that are named after Saemisch (because he was the first to fully explore these lines or have these ideas), I am very familiar with two of them, having played them for years:

    1) the Saemisch Variation of the King's Indian Defense (after 30 years I feel I am just STARTING to undertstand how to play AGAINST it - I play the King's Indian and others play the Saemisch against me)

    2) The Saemisch Variation of the Nimzo-Indian Defense (an early f3 to buld up e4 and a center pawn storm). I used to play this as white and it's very strong.

    and now I might add (still debating) the Saemisch Defense against the Alekhine.

    4. The Ideas: dont go for the massive pawn center. Instead build up like a caro or french and aim the pawns and pieces towards the kingside for a fast attack.

    Rather than throwing everything at the center and hanging on, holdback a little.

    An ideal pawn structure might be c3-d4-fe5 with B on d3 or e2 and Q goes quickly to g4 or H5, B might go to c6, R might get in the action via h3-g3(1) or f1-f3, N might go to g5 or even g4 or h4. And then we sac and attack.

    Always important to know the ideas rather than memorize the moves, although ideal is both.

    Black's ideas might be to put pawns on white squares and get rid of white square bishop.

    Also, black might try to attack via the Queenside (like a French Winawer) and have faster attack than the kingside attack.

    White rook often goes on b1 to slow down the white squared bishop by attacking b7.

    There are some instances where white gets in e6 to mess up black's development.

    I cant seem to remember black's ideas as well as white's.

    5. First idea to remember: when to open lines with c4.

    Begining of the game. This is Balakin - someone. Balakin comes up with a lot of ideas in this line.

    I think the game started 1. e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5. 3. Nc3 (the Saemisch) NxN 4. bxc (pawn structure messed up but looks like a French Winawer, pawns aimed at king, and open b-file for white), c5 6. Nf3 Bg4 7. Rb1 Qd7 (protecting the b pawn) and now 8. c4

    Why c4? (thinking out loud to myself):

    - the bishop is probably going to trade for the N on f3 so white will have bishop pair.
    - open b file
    - better development. (white is about to castle and will have all his pieces developed).

    Rule: bishop pair + open file + better development == open up as many files as you can, even at the cost of material.


    The computer does not like this move but the computer likes material. This doesn't mean it's a bad move. It will attack and humans (unlike computers) have a harder time defending.

    The game opens up and it's a mess and white wins. Full game here:

    And another game by Balakin:

    These games are really tactical. So need to improve my tactics. But both these games are about creative ways opening up the position.

    6. Another idea: when black opens up on the king side.

    Rule: don't open up on your weaker side. When black does f6:
    - black's king is more exposed than white's king.
    - white has more pieces in the attack. Both his bishops, his knight, his queen, his rook. Black's queenside pieces can't defend.

    So white takes (opening up although it appears to give black center control.)

    Then quickly does Nh2 unveiling that both bishops are ready to attack. He exchanges off one attacker for one defender, then brings queen and rook into the game and wins.

    A game worth studying:

    Note that although it's important to memorize variations, at this point white was in brand new territory and had to play on principles.

    The key is understanding the principles.

    7. Safest setup

    This setup by black seems safest even though it doesn't seem like many games played with this in the database.

    The basic idea I think I want to play (and is described by the arrows) is similar the "Grand Prix Attack" in the Sicilian: Qe1 to h4, Bh6, Ng5, etc.

    But I tried some games like that against the computer.

    You have to make sure the black bishop doesn't get/stay on the Bb1-h7 diagonal.

    There might be some plays where you do e6 and deflect the bishop. Or do Bb5+ and try to trade the bishop. Still looking at games.

    8. Nb6 instead of the early Nxc3

    This is rare but good to remember the position in the image as my setup and plan.

    Things to remember: Nb6 is doing nothing, Bc8 and Ra8 dead and my bishop diagonal open and open f file for the rook. Good enough to attack.

    9. Here's the video I've been studying

    10. I also am making a note to study GM Balakan's games. I had never heard of him but he plays this line and seems like a creative player.

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