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Crushing lines against Pirc, French, Caro-Cann and Alekhine defenses: a 2016 review of the 1995 VHS video.

Back in 1995 we had Windows 95, and Chess engines were not so strong as today. The Internet was also quite young in 1995, and it was not the amazing information highway it is today. The Kasparov-Deep Blue match took place in 1996, and even then Kasparov won that match. So technology had limited help for players like me in 1995. VHS tapes were a popular mode of distributing Chess information, and with titles like Roman’s “Crushing” series, it was certainly hard not to indulge in a bit of “hope chess” now and then.

Fast forward to 2016, when I started to convert old Betamax and VHS tapes to digital, a task I thought should be easy, but it turned out to be slow and complicated to find the right software. I converted the 1995 “Crushing Lines Against…” tape by Roman Dzindzichashvili, and I decided to see how Roman’s 1995 analysis holds up to the 2016 Houdini Chess engine. The French lines that Roman offered for White turned out to have a number of interesting improvements and corrections by Houdini. At 8. f4 is the main position that starts Roman’s crush against the French.

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 Ne7 5. Bd2 c5 6. Nb5 Bxd2+ 7. Qxd2 O-O 8. f4
{Naturally, Black must be a bit accommodating to reach this position, but it’s what Roman says is “crushing” for White, and well, the word “crushing” is good for marketing.}
8… a6 9. Nd6 cxd4 10. Nf3 Nbc6 11. Bd3 f6 12. O-O fxe5 13. fxe5
{And here Roman comes to an interesting fork in the road. Roman offers 13… Rxf3 (Houdini + .4) as one line, which Houdini doesn’t like for Black and Houdini prefers 13… Nf5 or 13… h4 =. But those are not the “crushing” lines as Black needs to be a bit more accommodating to get crushed! }
13… Nxe5 14. Nxe5 Rxf1+ 15. Rxf1 Qxd6 {Roman: “Lost for Black”. Houdini: +10 for white!}
{Roman gave as crushing} (15… Qxd6 16. Qf4 Nf5 17. g4 Nh6 18. Qg5 Bd7 19. Rf6) {and Black indeed is lost
but Houdini gave White +10 for a faster crush with:} 16. Bxh7+ Kxh7 17. Qg5 Kg8 18. Qh5 Nf5 19. Qf7+ Kh7 20. Qg6+ Kg8 21. Rxf5 exf5 22. Qxd6 a5 23. Qg6 Ra6 24. Qe8+ Kh7 25. Qxc8

However, it turns out that Black doesn’t need to get crushed, which can be avoided as early as move 8. Instead of 8… a6, 8… cxd4. Roman gives White a “strong attack” in this line:
[ctpgn id=fen fen=”rnbq1rk1/pp2nppp/4p3/1N1pP3/3p1P2/8/PPPQ2PP/R3KBNR w KQ – 0 9″]
9. Nf3 Nbc6 10. O-O-O Qb6 11. Bd3 Bd7 12. Nbxd4 Nxd4 13. Nxd4 Nc6 14. Nf3 Rac8 15. Bxh7+ Kxh7 16. Ng5+ Kg8 17. Qd3 Rfd8 18. Qh7+ Kf8 19. Qh8+ Ke7 20. Qxg7
{And this indeed “looks” good for White. But Houdini just sniffs and declares it -2.04 against White with the following}
20… Qe3+ 21. Kb1 Qxf4 22. Rdf1 Rg8 {and it appears Roman’s strong attack fizzles.}
Hindsight is 20-20, as they say, but there is a lesson here for players learning Chess, which may have been more difficult back in the early days of the Chess technological revolution (am I first to coin that phrase? Lol), and the lesson is that there are no “crushing lines” without the help of your opponent!