Tackling the Traxler – The Grandmaster So Way


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Grandmaster Wesley So’s new Short and Sweet course on 1 e4 demonstrates the art of tackling the Traxler Counterattack.

This arises after 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Nf6 4 Ng5 Bc5.

Traxler Counterattack

Regular readers may recall our examination of the Traxler as part of our Checkmate Monday series. Our featured game ended in catastrophe for White, who was checkmated after a gruesome king hunt.

Wesley So is one of the world’s elite players and he recently had the temerity to spoil Magnus Carlsen’s birthday, which leaves me in doubt he would like to do exactly the same to the Traxler’s chances.

How to Keep the Traxler at Bay?

Intrigued by Grandmaster So’s new course on 1 e4, I was eager to see how he set about tackling the Traxler and how he would keep Black’s attacking potential at bay.

This is the line he recommends – and it looks convincing.

5 Bxf7

‘Capturing on f7 with the bishop is the best reply.’

5 …Ke7

This looks bad for Black, but he is ahead in development, as cleared the f-file for his rook and has good practical chances against an unprepared opponent.

White needs to stay alert and find an accurate series of moves to dilute Black’s potential.

Tackling the Traxler6 Bb3

‘I believe this retreat square is the most accurate one for the bishop, although 6 Bc4 or 6 Bd5 also deserve attention. Black certainly has practical compensation for the pawn. He has pressure along the f-file and his pieces are well-placed, so White needs to defend accurately.’

6 …Rf8

7 d3

‘White activates the dark-squared bishop and is preparing Be3.’

7 …d6

8 Nf3 Qe8

9 Be3 Bg4

Harmonious Position

10 Nbd2

‘This setup with the bishop on e3 and a knight on d2 is very harmonious. White is very solid.’

Exchanging PiecesBlack is devoid of the normal Traxler counterplay and is struggling to avoid exchanges.

10 …Nd4

11 c3 Nxb3

12 axb3

Tackling the Traxler

12 …Bxe3

Another exchange, but 12 …Bb6 13 Bxb6 cxb6 is grim, as it leaves White with strong pressure down the a-file and compromises Black’s pawn structure.

13 fxe3

Safe Against the Traxler‘White is simply a pawn up and with a safe position.’

This position is a world away from the unfortunate one White found himself trying to defend in our earlier article on the Traxler Counterattack.

What is there to recommend the black position? Very little, to my eyes. This puts the ball firmly back into Black’s court. Is there still life in the old Traxler Counterattack?

For further information on Grandmaster So’s way of tackling the Traxler and for much more on 1 e4, head for Wesley So’s Short and Sweet course.

Wesley So Short and Sweet 1 e4

If you like what you see there, it is time to investigate the full course, which can be found here – and to which we will return in a forthcoming post.

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