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    Entries in Hedgehog (2)

    Saturday
    May142011

    A Brief Review of Sergey Shipov's The Complete Hedgehog, Volume 2

    Sergey Shipov, The Complete Hedgehog, Volume 2 (Mongoose Press, 2011). $29.95. 584 pp. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos

    In a couple of recent posts I praised Sergey Shipov's work as an annotator, and he's a fine author of opening books, too, at least when they're on the Hedgehog. The Complete Hedgehog, Volume 1 came out in 2009 to rave reviews, and the second volume, fresh off the presses, is likely to receive a similar reception.

    Volume 1 covered the "English Hedgehog", which we can think of for simplicity's sake as White setups with a fianchettoed bishop on g2. There are Englishes where the bishop doesn't go to g2, and there are a few positions in volume 2 where the bishop goes to g2 anyway, but in general Shipov's new book deals with alternative setups. In part 1, White has played f3, generally accompanied by Be2, and 360 pages later he turns to ambitious attacking setups where White puts the king's bishop on the b1-h7 diagonal. Finally, another 150 pages later, we're treated to another framework for about 55 more pages: a Queen's Indian Hedgehog with White castling queenside.

    These are long books - Volume 2 makes it all the way to page 584 - but this is neither an encyclopedia nor a database dump. Shipov writes clearly, energetically and with enduring enthusiasm for the Hedgehog. There's enough analysis and explanatory prose to satisfy any curious reader. And not just any kind of prose, either: if you like a colorful turn of phrase, Sergey Shipov is your man. Literally opening the book at random, here are some nuggets from pages 180:

    An unpleasant surprise. The white bishops, like cockroaches, don't succeed in simultaneously escaping the path of the e8-rook. At least one will get crushed.

    Evidently this game froze the development of the idea for a while. The rout was too quick and harsh....All smart players know examples like this, dating back to the 19th century. And no one wanted to look like an ignoramus and become the co-author of the next instructive example.

    However, in the mid-'80s, in the search for a way to fight against the improved and suddenly very strong Hedgehog, players again turned to the a2-a4-a5 raid, and this time with success! In many games the beast was vividly and demonstratively crushed on the queenside, and moreover Black didn't manage to stir up any counterplay. With a heavy heart, I will show you a few sad examples....

    From these short excerpts we not only see a prose stylist in action, we get some clues about his pedagogy. Shipov often provides an historical approach, showing the evolution of both sides' ideas over the decades. We also see that although he's very much a pro-Hedgehog partisan, he's not a propagandist. We aren't just told the glorious stories of Black's conquests; we're shown White's best ideas too, and get to see the Hedgehog both as victor and as roadkill.

    Finally, let's look at some of his analysis. The following (abridged) excerpt comes near the end of the book, from the section on the Queen's Indian Hedgehog where White castles queenside. It's one of his own games, where he's Black against E. Pospelov from Balassagyarmat 1992.

    Pospelov-Shipov:

    1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.a3 Ba6 5.Qc2 Bb7 6.Nc3 c5 7.e4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 d6 9.Bg5 Nbd7 10.0-0-0 a6 11.f4

    White is hanging over Black's center and already intends to explode it with e4-e5. In those happy years I was an optimist, used to giving blow for blow. So I played

    11...h6 12.Bh4 g5!

    [Now Shipov discusses 13.fxg5, as played in an earlier game, and then wraps up that discussion as follows:]

    I also studied roughly the same variations at the board, and White's next blow was like a bolt out of the blue for me.

    13.e5!

    The idea is to break through on g6 with the queen. What to do?

    I wasn't enthusiastic about the co-operative variation 13...gxh4 14.Nxe6 fxe6 15.Qg6+ Ke7 16.exd6#.

    I didn't want to open a file the d1-rook on principle, although I didn't see why 13...dxe5 loses. I still don't see it today, 20 years later - even after exhaustive analysis. Believe me, Black holds! The variations are complicated and have no clear conclusion. I'll just mention the beginning of the two main lines: 14.Nxe6 fxe6 15.fxe5! Kf7!, and 14.fxe5 gxh4 15.Nxe6 Qe7!. Playing this without preparation at the board is not easy, you'll agree...

    So the move

    13...Rg8!

    was born.

    14.Bf2! dxe5 15.fxe5 Ng4 16.Nxe6! fxe6 17.Be2! Ngxe5!

    Of course, not 17...Nxf2? 18.Bh5+ Ke7 19.Qxf2 Rg7 20.Rhf1 Qc7 21.Qf6+! Nxf6 22.exf6# - that kind of finale would have suited the ancient textbooks by Stamma and de Lucena. But I'm afraid that they wouldn't ahve included me in them, as I showed up several centuries too late.

    18.Bh5+ Ke7 19.Rhe1

    A slight weakening.

    It is not clear whether I could have survived after the very strong and, most importantly, more flexible continuation 19.Bg3!. The reality is that the white rook can attack not only from e1, but also from f1.

    For example, 19...Qc8 20.Rxd7+! Nxd7 21.Rd1 Qc6 22.Qf2 Rg7 23.Nd5+! exd5 24.Re1+ loses, and saving his king is too costly for Black.

    Only 19...Bg7! 20.Rhf1 Rf8 saves me, and here it is worth having a short pause...

    In the event of 21.Bxe5 Nxe5 22.Rxd8 (or 22.Qh7 Nd3+! 23.Kc2 Qd4! with approximate equality) 22...Rxf1+ 23.Rd1 Rxd1+ 24.Nxd1 Rd8, Black gets a decent material equivalent and good counterplay for the queen.

    But there is another, apparently wild possibility for White. I can imagine what kind of nervous shock I would have had to get through if the game had reached this position, in which White makes the dazzling move 21.Qg6!!

    The bait cannot be taken because of mate in three - find it yourself! Salvation is found by process of elimination: 21...Rxf1 22.Qxg7+ Rf7 23.Bxe5!! (another gem adorning White's attack; 23.Bxf7 is bad due to 23...Qh8!) 23...Nxe5! (the queen is inedible again - 23...Rxg7? 24.Bd6+ Kf6 25.Rf1+!) 24.Qxe5 Qb8! (fortunately, there is another move by the black queen out to f4 with check) 25.Qxb8 Rxb8 26.Bxf7 Kxf7 27.Rd7+ Kf6 28.g3 Ke5 29.Rh7 Bf3 30.Rxh6 Rc8 and in the end Black's counterplay is enough to equalize.

    Evidently this is also the result of the entire opening variation. It is not as pleasing as we'd like it to be, you'll agree.

    [From here I'll give only the remaining moves of the game, with his punctuation.]

    19...Bg7 20.Bg3 Qc7 21.Rxd7+! Qxd7 22.Bxe5 Bxe5 23.Rxe5 Qd4 24.Qh7+ Kd6 25.Re1 Qf4+ 26.Kd1 1/2-1/2 (You can replay the game and variations here, albeit without the prose.)

    Great games, original analysis and sparkling prose - what more could you want? If you're interested in playing the Hedgehog, or want to combat this spiny little beast, this is a must-have.

    Wednesday
    Feb172010

    This Week's ChessBase Show: Polugaevsky-Ftacnik: Hedgehog Power!

    The Hedgehog is a fascinating system against the English Opening (it can arise via other openings as well, but in its pure form it's an anti-English system), once that's easy to underestimate. White obtains a huge space advantage, free of charge, while Black's pieces are huddled together on the last three ranks. At least that's how White may look at it. From Black's point of view, it's like a coiled spring, full of potential energy awaiting release. It might look passive and harmless, but the large number of elite players to get crushed with the white pieces should warn us othewise.

    This week's ChessBase show offers a noteworthy example. The late Lev Polugaevsky was one of the world's very strongest players in 1982, but it was his opponent, Lubomir Ftacnik, who produced a game that has become a classic. Everything seemed perfectly normal after White's 19th move. "Polu" had more space and what seemed like a solid enough position, but 10 moves later he resigned. His position had been smashed to bits and he was getting mated in just a couple more moves!

    How did this happen? The answers will come on Wednesday night at 9 p.m. ET (= 3 a.m. Thursday morning CET) as we take a closer look. The point isn't just to celebrate a brilliancy, but to gain some insight into the Hedgehog system. Our aim will be to obtain an understanding how it works and to see how much White can - and cannot! - get away with, so that we can play either side of this opening with a fundamental grip on the opening from both sides' perspective.

    To watch, go to the Broadcast room of the Playchess server at the time given above, and look for and select "Polugaevsky-Ftacnik" under the Games tab. Hope to see you there!