The Rat Defense! An explosive repertoire for black


This book is amazing! I found two entirely new and mind-blowingly creative openings in this book (which i will discuss below) covered in detail, which give the reader an enormous amount of transpositional possibilities. I am not a titled player, and so these sidelines may not be so surprising to someone who is, but to my eyes they get pretty high marks in the “surprise” department. What’s more, they score very well practically. A lot of opening books begin with an introduction that goes something like this: No time to study theory? Want to play something simple and solid? Then (fill in the blank with a boring opening) is perfect for you!

This is not that kind of book. The authors, Finnish GM Jouni Yrjola and IM Jussi Tella, (who also co-authored The Queens Indian,) have constructed a complete repertoire for Black around pawn structures involving 1…d6, (aka the Rat defense.) This feat alone is spectacular, but to fit an entire repertoire into 269 pages by focusing on lively sidelines is what makes this book a must own. It’s a boon for blitz chess, since these openings are perfect for blitz. Unlike some opening repertoires that require little study to master, however, this one is a bit deeper, and you have to actually do a little reading and studying to appreciate the breadth and sophistication of the authors’ accomplishment in this repertoire book.

The first few chapters of the book are dedicated to the position that arises after 1.d4 d6 2.c4 e5!?

As a preliminary matter, it should be noted that after dxe5,dxe5 and exchanging queens, black has a perfectly equal game, and in fact that statistics in the database I am looking at show black winning more than 50% of the games that arise after that position (although this is likely attributable to differences in rating, as this is often a sideline that stronger players use against weaker opposition.)

The material is then broken up into white’s main moves, which are Nf3, Nc3, along with some minor alternatives. In most positions, White will play Nf3, inviting the black pawn to e4, and after the knight moves, black usually follows up with f5, thus creating an impressive pawn phalanx, with the “main line” position occurring after 1.d4 d6 2.c4 e5 3.Nf3 e4 4.Ng5 f5 5.Nc3 Be7 6.Nh3 c6 7.g3 Nf6

When I saw this position- I decided I had to give this repertoire a try. Of course, one of the “problems” with this repertoire, is that often white players will make inferior moves very early (such as Ng1, or Nd2) so that most of the theory you have memorized never occurs on the board. Obviously, this isn’t really much of a problem, since it allows you to steamroll forward with many of the same ideas, as Larry Christiansen does in the following game.

Of course, White misplayed terribly allowing this miniature, but that’s not the point. The point is that black’s attack flows logically from the pawn structure, and would be familiar to someone who plays either the KID or the Dutch Leningrad.

The next opening in this book which really impressed me was the so-called “Hodgson” defense, which occurs after 1.d4 d6 2.Nf3 Bg4!?

It is fitting that this is named after the British GM Julian Hodgson, since he has pioneered it’s theory and British players in general have done a lot to further the theory here. From the point of view of a weaker, untitled player such as myself, my attraction to this defense is purely psychological. The type of player who plays 1.d4/2.Nf3 or vice versa, is usually the type of player who is looking for a boring Torre, Colle, London, or god forbid the fashionable Catalan. By immediately responding with this wild Bg4, the character of the game is taken out of those lines and into a new direction, one that most players are probably not nearly as well prepared for as they are their pet d4 opening. This surprise factor is key, and is why I think this is a fantastic blitz weapon- where seconds matter. Below, find a game where Tony Miles handles the black pieces and pulls off a nice win with this opening after a few missteps by white.

Obviously, this book also contains an enormous section on the Pirc, which is an essential cornerstone of playing 1…d6. However, it also contains some interesting material on the Old Indian, the Portuguese Gambit, and so-called “endgame systems,” which involve very early queen exchanges.