Sunday, 3 June 2007

Chess openings names

How do chess openings get their names? Some are named after great players, e.g. the Najdorf and the Alekhine, some after the first person to document them, e.g. the Ruy Lopez named after a 16th Century Spanish bishop, others, such as the English, the French or the Catalan after regions where the leading exponents came from. Occasionally, the names are more graphic: the Dragon describing the shape of Black's pawn structure and it's ability to breathe fire, and of course the ramshackle but deadly Kalashnikov.

My favourite variation in the Sicilian has successfully featured in the repertoires of such great players as Kasparov, Anand, Portisch, Ivanchuk, Kamsky and Polugayevsky, yet takes it's name from a lesser known International Master Ilia Kan.

Born in 1909, Kan was definitely a very capable player, competing in 10 Soviet Championships and being awarded the International Master title by FIDE in 1951. However, naming the variation in the Sicilian beginning: 1 e4 c5; 2 Nf3 e6; 3 d4 cd; 4 Nxd4 a6 seems a strange choice; a search on ChessBase shows he played the variation 5 times (between '52 and '55), losing 3 and drawing 2 (against Averbakh and Spassky).

If you want to know more about this opening, I recommend John Emms book: Sicilian Kan (Everyman Chess)

1 comment:

Ryan Emmett said...

My favourite is the Scotch - which I also play, incidentally. It's tempting to think it's named after the drink :) but I believe it was named after the correspondence match between Edinburgh and London in the 19th century.

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Chess Tales by Roger Coathup: A collection of online articles about chess and chess players.