Sniper, The

Charlie Storey

Reviewer: John Donaldson
Everyman Chess
176 pages

These days there seems to be a habit of giving openings colorful names like the Vulture, Lion and Hawk. English FM Charles Storey’s the Sniper continues this trend, offering a repertoire against both 1.e4 and 1.d4 based on …g6, …Bg7 and …c5 with …Qb6/Qa5 often playing an integral role in Black’s strategy.

While the Sniper is the name that Storey gives to this complex of variations others may recognize them coming from the Hyper Accelerated Dragon (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6), Accelerated Dragon (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6), Dragon (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 Bg7 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nc6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Bc4 d6 8.f3 Qb6) and Dzindzi-Indian (1.d4 g6 2.c4 Bg7 3.Nc3 c5 4.d5 Bxc3+).

Storey is very enthusiastic about Black’s chances in the Sniper and after much experimenting with it believes Black best enters it via 1…g6 and not 1…c5, in part so as to avoid 1.d4 c5 2.dxc5 to which the author proposes 2…e5 in favor of the much more common 2…e6, 2…Na6 or 2…Qa5+. The suggestion 2…e5 is very much typical for Storey who prefers to go his own way and offers plenty of new food for thought.

Sometimes this fresh approach pays dividends as can be seen in the game Tiviakov – Storey, Liverpool 2008, where the author unveiled the gambit 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.c3 d5 4.Nd2 c5 which yielded him excellent long-term compensation after 5.dxc5 Nf6 6.exd5 Qxd5 7.Nb3 Qxd1+ 8.Kxd1 0-0 9.Nf3 Rd8+ 10.Ke1 Nc6.

Likewise his suggestion of the Dragon sideline 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 Bg7 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nc6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Bc4 d6 8.f3 Qb6 is quite interesting. This ancient line, that enjoyed some popularity in the 1960s, was revived this past decade by GM Macieja and later adopted with success by both GMs Socko.

One curiosity is that the author does not quote the games Berg – Savchenko or Vachier Lagrave – Savchenko, both from earlier 2010 although he appears to have simultaneously discovered the novelty 14……Be6 after 9.Nf5 Qxb2 10.Nxg7+ Kf8 11.Nd5 Nxd5 12.Bxd5 Kg7 13.0-0 Qc3 14.Qc1 played in the first mentioned game. While the main line 9.Nf5 gets a close examination the second choice in the position, 9.Bb5, does not, especially 9.Bb5 Qc7 10.Nd5 Nxd5 11.exd5 a6 12.Nxc6 as played in Nakamura – D. Gurevich, U.S. Ch. 2006, which is not covered. Objectively this try by White should not lead to anything, but Black needs to know what he is doing.

Such omissions are easy to understand and forgivable in a book which tries to offer a repertoire against both 1.e4 and 1.d4 in less than 200 pages. Where readers need to be careful is where the author goes up against the canons of chess and doesn’t offer concrete variations to back up his assertions. This is definitely the case in his optimistic recommendation against the Maroczy Bind via either 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nf3 c5 4.c4 or 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 Bg7 4.c4.

Why the author didn’t propose something like 4…Qb6 or 4…Qa5+ I don’t know as both would have stayed in his Sniper-mode. The fact is that Storey’s solutions – 4…cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nc6 6.Be3 Qb6 or 5…Qb6 – are not easy answers to Black’s problems.

The first game quoted has IM Onoprienko as Black, which is a fitting choice. He is a true fan of 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 Bg7 4.c4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nc6 6.Be3 Qb6, though if you look in MegaDatabase 2011 Onoprienko also appears to be a glutton for punishment as he has had miserable results with it. In particular I see no good answer to 7.Nb5 Qa5+ 8.N5c3! as played by Dolmatov. White follows with Nd2, Be2, 0-0 and is ready to play on either wing with a3 and b4 / and or f4. The problem for Black is that unlike lines where the second player trades a pair of knights on d4 (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 d6 7.Be2 Nxd4) and often later plays …Qa5, here the Queen is misplaced on a5 with a knight still on …c6.

Black does a little better to play an early …Qb6 without …Nc6 but this line still can’t be recommended as White does not need to walk into …Bxc3+ accepting double c-pawns. If Black had an easy path to equality in the Maroczy with an early …Qb6 you would see many more top players offering to defend against the Bind.

The author has missed some transpositions. On page 59 he gives the line 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 Bg7 4.Nc3 Qa5 and writes “5.Be2 is a passive approach that gives Black an easy ride”. He then gives (after 5.Be2) 5…Nf6 6.0-0 cxd4 7.Nxd4 Nc6 8.Be3 0-0 9.f4 d6 10.Nb3 (“although this knight move gains a tempo, the net effect is that it is removed from the centre and, more so, from any attack on the black king”) 10…Qc7 and the line continues on with 11.Qd2 but in fact the position after 10…Qc7 is a main line in the 7.Bc4 Qa5 Accelerated Dragon where White has picked up a tempo – 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Bc4 Qa5 8.0-0 0-0 9.Nb3 Qc7 10.Be2 d6 11.f4 and here it is Black and not White that is to move as the first player has saved a move by not having to play Bc4-e2.

The Sniper provides plenty of coverage to the position arising after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 Bg7 4.dxc5 Qa5+ but his offhand suggestion of 4…Nf6!? on page 83 is asking for trouble. He only considers 5.e5 but 5.Nc3 leaves Black looking for a good move as 5……Qa5 is strongly met by 6.e5 Ne4 7.Qd4 Nxc3 8.Bd2 one of the reasons why after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 Bg7 4.dxc5 Qa5 5.Nc3 Black should not play 5…Nf6 but 5…Bxc3+ as the author recommends.

The Sniper is an ambitious project to provide a one-system setup for Black. There is much that is original and the author’s passion for his subject matter shows on every page but so does a clear bias for Black that sometimes goes too far and causes him to omit or overlook strong possibilities for White.