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Bird Defense – Part 1

Let’s go back a little bit in chess history, to the 19th century and early 20th‘s. What is the common factor between these legends: Stauton, Blackburne, Chigorin, Mieses, Tarrasch, Nimzowitsch, Capablanca and Alekhine ? No answer?! Ok. Let’s advance a little bit: Ragozin, Tolush? No answer?! A little bit more: Kuprechik, Malaniuk, Tukmakov? Come on. Najer, Anand, Ivanchuk? No guess till now?! The last try: Khalifman, Mamedyarov, Sokolov, Morozevitch? Yes, you are right: they all play(ed) the  Bird Defense!!

This opening is is used by Black in order to surprise the Spanish-Lopez player at the earliest stage of the game. It is characterized , after the Spanish moves1e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5

 , by the following knight jump: 3..Nd4

Some said that Black has violated the basics of the strategy. Others justified it by the complexity and the active play Black got from it. When you recheck the legends names listed above, no bonus for you when you guess which side is right.

This defense (I don’t know why they named it a defense, as in a lot of variations it is Black who is on the attacking side, but let’s put the terminology aside for now) was pioneered by Henry Bird (I purposely missed his name in the first group of legends) in the second half of the 19th century. Although Bird scored a lot of beautiful wins with it, it was first introduced in the chess literature by Stauton himself. The ancestor game went as follows:

(1) Kennedy,Hugh Alexander – Staunton,Howard [C61]

London  1856

 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nd4 4.Nxd4 exd4 5.0–0 Bc5 6.d3 Ne7 7.Bg5 0–0 8.Qh5 d6 9.f4 f6 10.Bh4 Be6 11.f5 Bf7 12.Qg4 Kh8 13.Rf3 c6 14.Ba4 Qc7 15.Bb3 Ng8 16.Nd2 Nh6 17.Qf4 Qe7 18.Rh3 Bxb3 19.axb3 Qe5 20.Qf3 d5 21.Rf1 Bb4 22.Bg3 Qe7 23.Bf4 Bxd2 24.Bxd2 dxe4 25.dxe4 Nf7 26.Bf4 Rae8 27.Re1 Qc5 28.Qf2 Qa5 29.Bd2 Qb6 30.b4 h6 31.Kh1 Ng5 32.Bxg5 fxg5 33.Qd2 Qb5 34.Rd3 Qe5 35.g4 g6 36.Rf3 b6 37.h4 Kg7 38.h5 gxh5 39.gxh5 Rd8 40.Qg2 c5 41.bxc5 bxc5 42.Qe2 Rd7 43.Kg2 Rf6 44.Kh3 Rdf7 45.b3 g4+ 46.Kxg4 Kh7 47.Kh3 Rg7 48.Qh2 Qe8 49.Rg3 Re7 50.Qg1 Qxh5+ 51.Kg2 Qe8 52.Kf2 Rxe4 53.Rxe4 Rxf5+ 54.Ke2 Qxe4+ 0–1

After 4Nxd4 exd4 5o-o , we reach the following position:

I will concentrate on 3 lines:

A.  5..h5!? the Morozevitch variation, which is the the main subject of this Part 1 article.

  1. 5..c6 will be the subject of Part 2 article.
  2. 5..Bc5 the main line, which will be the subject of the remaining parts of the Bird defense.


5…a6? Is a mistake, as it pushes the bishop to the better square 6.Bc4, as after 6..Bc5?, the trick 7.Bxf7+ Kxf7 8.Qh5+ followed by QxBc5 White has an extra pawn.

5…Nf6? Provokes 6.e5 followed by Qg4 and the Black knight is on fluid ground.

5…Ne7 is an acceptable move, but why shall you play passively?

5…g6 is played sometimes. But why change diagonal? As after 6f4! Followed by f5! White has a nice initiative.

Now, let’s put some light on the Morozevitch variation, by following his game against the super solid Peter Leko:

Leko,Peter (2722) – Morozevich,Alexander (2716)

RUS-The World Rapid Championship – Moscow (9), 11.09.2002

1.e4 e5

2.Nf3 Nc6

3.Bb5 Nd4

4.Nxd4 exd4



[In case of: 5.Bc4 Black can reply with  5...Nf6!? instead of 5..c6,as one of the main lines 6.0–0 Nxe4 7.Bxf7+ Kxf7 8.Qh5+ g6 9.Qd5+ Kg7 10.Qxe4 Qf6 with equality]


a new word has been introduced into th English dictionary: Moro. Its meaning: Creativity!! This move eliminates the possibility for the white queen to jump to h5 with gain of tempo, and creates a certain base for the black knight.



As everyone knows, in a fluid center, a flank attack should be  met with a counter-reaction  in the center. A look at the white’s player name is enough to keep this alive in your mind.

 [6.d3!? Nf6! 7.f4 Ng4 is very unclear]



[6...c6 7.Ba4 d3? in order to keep the Bc1 boxed it. But 8.Qf3+- wins the d3 pawn. of course the black d4 pawn was hampering the white position in a certain way. ]

7.cxd4 Bxd4

8.Nc3 c6

9.Bc4 Nf6



[is an interesting possibility to liberate the Bc1, and activate it by placing it on e3 or g5. 10.d3!? ]


11.e5 d5

[A very interesting and promising try is: 11...Nd5!? 12.Bxd5 cxd5 13.Nf4 d6 14.exd6 Be6! 15.Nxe6 fxe6 16.d3 Qxd6 which keeps level chances.; 11...Ne4!? 12.d4 d5 13.Bd3 0–0 14.Be3 is  a little better for White. Instead of 13...o-o, a better try is :13...h4 as to make it more shaky.; 11...Ng4!?]



 [12.exf6 is more critical: 12...dxc4 13.fxg7 Rg8 14.Nf4 Bg4 15.Qe1+ Kd7 White's king is somewhat better secured than Black's. But a potential Qf6, followed by Qxg7 can generate enough counter-play on the g-file to shack the White's king side. 16.d3 ]  





13.d4 Bg4


[13...Nh6 is an interesting move, planning Nf5, pressurizing d4 and keep an eye on e3]

14.f3 Be6

15.Bc2 Ne7

16.Bg5 Qd7

17.Bxe7 Qxe7

18.Qd2 0–0–0


 [18...h4 is possible, in order to provoke h3]

19.Kh1 Kb8

20.f4 Bg4

2 bishops, opposite side castling, possibility to counter-attack on the center by f6. Who needs more than that?!

 21.Ng1 f6

 22.Rae1 fxe5

23.dxe5 Qc5

24.a3 Qd4!

25.Qc1 Rde8

 [25...Qc4 26.Qd2 Rdf8 27.Bd3 Qd4 28.Ne2 Qe3 29.Qxe3 Bxe3 30.f5™ Bd2 31.Rd1 Bg5 32.h3 Bxe2 33.Bxe2 Re8 In this ending, with the presence of opposite color bishops AND rooks, chances are equal, as each side has a central passed pawn, although the black king can easier centralize himself than the white's.]

 26.Bg6 Re6

27.Bf7 Re7

28.e6 Qf6

29.f5 Bc7

 30.Qc3 Rh6

31.Bg6 Qxc3

32.bxc3 h4

33.c4 h3

34.g3 Bd6?!


[34...Rh8 As the h-file is now closed, recycling the h-rook to the center is a better plan]

35.cxd5 cxd5

36.Nf3 Bxf3+?


The only reason to seed the 2 bishops’ advantage is time trouble.

37.Rxf3 Rh8

38.g4 Rc7



Now White is on the winning track


40.Rg3 Bxg3

41.hxg3 Rc3

42.f6 gxf6

43.gxf6 Rxg3

44.e7 Rxg6

45.f7 Rgg8

46.e8Q+ Rxe8



 Regardless of the game result, the Moro plan is very interesting and worth a try, as it can put your opponent in the thinking mode at an early stage of the game, and will provoke him to consume a lot of time trying to refute it.


Before leaving you for your thoughts, and as Kasparov’s latest book (Garry Kasparov on Garry Kasparov Part1) is waiting for me to fetch it inside out, I will give you a very nice game played by the creative Ivanchuk against Short. Please pay attention to the attacking technique in the  middle-game and in the end-game as well.

Short,Nigel D (2650) – Ivanchuk,Vassily (2635) [C61]

Linares 07th Linares, 1989

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nd4 4.Nxd4 exd4 5.Bc4 Nf6 6.Qe2 Bc5! 7.e5 0–0! 8.0–0 d5! 9.exf6

 [9.Bb3 Re8! 10.d3 a5 11.a4 Ng4!]  

9…dxc4 10.Qh5

 [10.Qxc4 Bd6 11.fxg7 Re8 12.d3 Qh4 13.g3 Qh5–+]  

10…b6 11.fxg7 Re8 12.d3 cxd3 13.cxd3 Ba6 14.Qf3 Qe7 15.Bf4 Qe2! 16.Nd2 Qxf3 17.Nxf3 Bxd3 18.Rfe1 Be2 19.Bxc7 d3! 20.a3 to prevent Bb4 20…a5 21.Bf4 Re4 22.Bd2 Rae8 23.Bc3 a4! 24.Ng5 Rc4 25.Rad1 Rc8 26.Ra1 Rd8 27.Nf3 Rxc3! 28.bxc3 d2 29.Rxe2 d1Q+ 30.Rxd1 Rxd1+ 31.Ne1 Rc1 32.Re4 f5 33.Re8+ Kxg7 34.Kf1 Rxc3 35.Ke2 Rxa3 36.Nd3 Ra2+ 37.Kf3 Ra3 38.Rd8 Rc3 39.Kf4 a3 40.Rd7+ Kf8 41.Ne5 a2 42.Kxf5 a1Q 43.Rd8+ Kg7 44.Rd7+ Kg8 0–1

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