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By Joel Benjamin   
August 28, 2007

Dear Joel,

I have a question about this opening line:

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Bc4 0-0 8.0-0!? (I know the main line is 8.Bb3) 8...Nxe4 9.Bxf7 Rxf7 10.Nxe4 Qa5

Position after 10...Qa5

In this position, my book says Black is better but I do not understand why. Could you please make some analysis to prove this statement? Thanks very much.

Daniel Halpern
Brooklyn, NY 

It would be useful to include the name of the book so I might examine the reference (future contributors please take note!). I will assume that the author either gave or implied the symbol =+, meaning "Black is slightly better." Such an evaluation is a judgment call that another annotator might make differently. You are operating under a misconception that a slight advantage can be "proven" by analysis. It is simply a verdict that Black has a little better chance to win from this position than White.

I can tell you that White has preferred 8.Bb3 in 1,720 games while choosing 8.0-0 only 120 times in my database. In five games after 10…Qa5, Black has a 60% score. Those are facts which support the author's contention.

What you need is not "proof," but an explanation of what is going on in the position. Black has a few trumps in the position. He has the bishop pair, an extra pawn in the center, and a half-open f-file for his rooks. White has a technically more solid pawn structure (two pawn islands versus three) and is a bit better mobilized. If Black can neutralize or chase away White's knights from the center, his dynamic advantages will start to tell. The following example, while not representing best play, shows the potential of Black's position.

- GM Joel