The Barry Attack

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Bobby Ang

Chess Piece

FIDE Grand Swiss 2019
Douglas, Isle of Man
October 10–21, 2019

Final Top Standings (All are GM)

1–2. Wang Hao CHN 2726, Fabiano Caruana USA 2812, 8.0/11

3–8. Kirill Alekseenko RUS 2674, Levon Aronian ARM 2758, David Anton Guijarro ESP 2674, Magnus Carlsen NOR 2876, Hikaru Nakamura USA 2745, Nikita Vitiugov RUS 2732, 7.5/11

Total of 154 participants: 133 GM, 2 WGM, 16 IM

Time Control: 100 minutes for the first 40 moves, then 50 minutes for the next 20 moves, followed by 15 minutes play-to-finish with 30 seconds added to your clock after every move starting move 1.

Have you ever heard of the Barry Attack? White plays 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 0–0 6.Be2 and then attempts to assault the Black king with Ne5 followed by h2-h4-h5.


The English GM Mark Hebden probably has the most to do with the popularity of the Barry Attack. He famously defeated GM John Nunn, then one of the top players in the world, in two consecutive Hastings tournaments in the same line. At that time Nunn lamented that the worse part of his losses is that they came from an opening with such a stupid name.

Nobody seems to remember why it is called the Barry Attack. Lately Grandmaster Simon Williams has started giving the pawns their own names. “Barry” is the b-pawn, “Garry” the g-pawn, “Harry” the h-pawn, etc etc. Going by that logic the line we are discussing now should more aptly be called the Harry Attack since it has the most to do with the h-pawn.

But I digress.

Here is an illustration of how the attack works.

Hebden, Mark (2550) — Fox, Anthony (2095) [D00]
Hastings op 1994–95 (3), 1995

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 0–0 6.Be2 c6 7.h4 Bg4 8.Ne5 Bxe2 9.Qxe2 Nbd7 10.0–0–0 Rc8 11.h5 Re8?

This is one of the cases where 11…Nxh5 is the best defense — White gets an attack but everything else loses. 12.Rxh5 gxh5 13.Qxh5 f6 (13…e6 14.Rh1 Nf6 15.Qh4 followed by Bh6) 14.Nxd7 Qxd7 15.Rh1 Rf7 16.Qxh7+ Kf8 17.Rh3 with an attack.

12.hxg6 fxg6 13.Qf3!

Watching the f-file and at the same time preparing to swing over to h3 to deliver mate on h7.

13…Nf8 14.g4 b5 15.Bh6 N8d7

White is threatening g4-g5 and Black does not seem to have a counter.

16.Bxg7 Kxg7 17.g5 Nxe5 18.gxf6+ exf6 19.dxe5 fxe5 20.Rxh7+! Kxh7 21.Qf7+ Kh6 22.Rh1+ Kg5 23.Rg1+


You know what? GM Hebden actually played his first game in the Barry Attack from the BLACK side. The ease with which he was dispatched was an eye-opener and he buckled down to study the line, with the result that it became one of his most reliable opening weapons.

Pira, Davoud — Hebden, Mark (2460) [D00]
Seville op, 1987

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 0–0 6.Be2 c5 7.Ne5 b6

The text move is too slow. Black should put pressure on the white center expeditiously with 7…Nc6.

8.h4 Ba6 9.Bf3 Bb7 10.h5 Nbd7 11.hxg6 fxg6

[If 11…hxg6 simply 12.Qe2 followed by 0––0–0 and g2–g4]

12.Bg4 Nxg4 13.Qxg4 Rf5 14.Qh3 Nf8 15.g4 Rxf4 16.exf4 cxd4 17.Ne2 g5 18.Qh5

The threat is 19.Qf7+ Kh8 20.Rxh7+!

18…Qd6 19.Qf7+ Kh8 20.0–0–0 Bxe5 21.fxe5 Qxe5 22.Nxd4 Qg7 23.Qxg7+ Kxg7

Black has managed to survive the attack, but his pieces are too uncoordinated to offer sufficient defense.

24.Rde1 Re8 25.Rh5 Kg6 26.Nf3 h6 27.Ne5+ Kg7 28.Reh1 d4 29.R1h2 Rc8 30.f4

Having achieved a winning position White starts getting fancy and nearly loses his advantage. There was nothing wrong with simply 30.Rxh6.

30…gxf4 31.Rf5 Ng6 32.Nxg6 Kxg6 33.Rxf4 e5 34.Rf5 Rc5 35.Rfh5 Be4 36.Rxh6+ Kg5 37.Rh8 Kxg4 38.Rf8 Bf3 39.Kd2 e4 40.Rd8 Rc4?

[40…Kg3! 41.Rhh8 Kf2 sould have forced White to agree to the draw with 42.Rh2+ Kg3 43.Rhh8 Kf2 etc]

41.b3 Rc7 42.Rxd4 Kg3 43.Rh8 Kf2 44.Re8 Rg7 45.Rdxe4

White simplifies to a won rook and pawn endgame.

45…Bxe4 46.Rxe4 Rd7+ 47.Kc3 Kf3 48.Re8 Rc7+ 49.Kb2 Kf4 50.c4 Kf5 51.Kc3 b5 52.Re2 Kf4 53.Kd4 bxc4 54.bxc4 Rd7+ 55.Kc5 Kf3 56.Re6 Rc7+ 57.Kd5 Kf4 58.c5 Kf5 59.Re2 Rd7+ 60.Kc6 Rh7 61.Kd6 1–0

In the 90s Hebden really ran roughshod with the Barry Attack.

Hebden, Mark (2570) — Williams, Leighton (2110) [D00]
BCF-ch 82nd Swansea (2), 1995

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 0–0 6.Be2 Bg4 7.Ne5

Here is something you’ve got to remember about the Barry Attack — the knight is more important than the e2 bishop. Don’t allow it to be exchanged until you’ve got your g- and h- pawns rolling.

7…Bxe2 8.Qxe2 c6 9.h4

[9.0–0–0 also led to a nice win for GM Giovanni Vescovi. Here is what happened: 9…Nh5 10.g4 Nxf4 11.exf4 e6 12.Na4 Nd7 13.h4 Nxe5 14.fxe5 Qa5 15.b3 c5 (15…b5 16.Nc5 Qxa2 17.Kd2 Qa5+ 18.Kd3 Black cannot get to the white king while on the other side his own king is in trouble) 16.dxc5 b5 17.Nb2 Qxa2 18.Nd3 Rfc8 19.f4 Bf8 20.Kd2 Qa5+ 21.b4 Qc7 22.h5 a5 23.hxg6 fxg6 24.f5 axb4 25.fxg6 Bxc5 now a series of hammer blows brings Black to his knees 26.Rxh7 Be7 27.Qe3 Qxc2+ 28.Ke1 Qc3+ 29.Rd2 Rc4 30.Rh8+! mate in 3. 1–0 Vescovi, G. (2465)-Jakobsen, O. (2380) Copenhagen 1995]


Please be aware of the following trap. If Black goes 9…Qa5 don’t be afraid to castle, for after the “obvious” 10.0–0–0 b5 11.a3 b4 12.axb4 Qa1+? This looks irritating but in fact it loses by force! 13.Kd2 Qxb2 14.Nd3! the Black queen is trapped next move. GM Aaron Summerscale annotated this game for the website “” His very perceptive comment was that a quick trip to the bar was in order. 1–0 Semrl, M. (2209)-Grilc, A. (2030) Ljubljana CRO 2000.

10.0–0–0 Nh5 11.g4 Nxf4 12.exf4 e6 13.h5 f6?

After 13…c5 Black is still fighting. But that’s the point of the Barry Attack — White’s moves are easy to find while his opponent is constantly scratching his head looking for the most accurate move.

14.Nxg6! Re8

[14…hxg6 15.Qxe6+ Kh7 16.hxg6+ Kxg6 17.f5+ Kg5 18.Qe3+ Kxg4 19.Qh3+ Kf4 20.Ne2+ Ke4 21.Qd3#]

15.h6 hxg6 16.hxg7 Kxg7 17.Qe3 f5 18.g5 Qe7 19.Rh3 Rh8 20.Rdh1 Rag8 21.Ne2 Qe8 22.Qa3! Rxh3 23.Rxh3 a6 24.Qd6 Qf7 25.Qc7 Qe7 26.Ng1 Re8 27.Nf3 Kg8 28.Qxb7 Rb8 29.Qxc6 1–0

White is two pawns up and Black has too many pawn weaknesses to hold.

In the FIDE Grand Swiss tournament in the Isle of Man which just concluded, the Indian great hope, 15 year old GM Nihal Sarin used the Barry Attack with great effect.

Nihal, Sarin (2610) — Nebolsina, Vera (2252) [A45]
FIDE Grand Swiss (3.69), 12.10.2019

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.e3 Bg7 5.h4 h5 6.Nf3 0–0 7.Ne5 c6 8.Be2 Nfd7?!

He should have retreated the other knight so that the one on f6 could watch the squares g4 and e4. For example 8…Nbd7 9.Qd2 Nxe5 10.Bxe5 Ne4!


An alert reaction to Black’s inaccurate 8th move.

9…Nxe5 10.Bxe5?!

[10.dxe5! is thematic]

10…Bxg4 11.Bxg4 hxg4 12.Qxg4 Nd7 13.f4 Qc8 14.Qg3 f6 15.h5 gxh5?

It looks like the best defense is 15…fxe5 16.h6 Bf6 or 17.Qxg6+ Kh8 18.dxe5 Rg8 19.Qf7 Bxe5 20.fxe5 Nxe5 21.Qf4 White has an attack against the exposed king at no material investment, but Black is hanging on.

16.0–0–0 fxe5 17.Rdg1 Rf7 18.dxe5 Nxe5

There is nothing else.

19.Rxh5 Ng4 20.Qh4 e5 21.Rxg4 Kf8 22.Rxg7! Rxg7 23.Rh8+ Kf7 24.Qh5+ Ke7 25.Qxe5+ 1–0

By the way, for those BW readers who have watched “The Big Bang Theory,” Nihal Sarin might remind them of the boy-genius Sheldon Cooper. Nihal could recognize the capitals and the flags of all the 190 countries by the age of three. At the same age he also had managed to know and recite from memory the scientific names of most of the insects and plants. He was not very successful here in the Isle of Man, but it will be very interesting to watch him continue his giant strides in the chess world in the near future.


Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.