The Immortal

Let’s get some background information first.

Most of us have played the King’s Gambit, and some of us still do. It’s a good opening to learn tactics and, occasionally, strategies. The majority of the games start with 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3. Black can continue with 3…g5 and try to hold on his extra pawn, or play for his own attacking possibilities.

A rarer response is 3.Bc4, known as the Bishop Gambit. This variation allows White to explore relatively unknown territory.

Black usually counters with 3…Qh4+ moving the king, preventing White from castling, and isolating the h1-rook for at least the time being. But a queen check rarely ends the game. Black needs more active pieces to start any attack. He can try, after 3.Bc4 Qh4 4.Kf1, with 4…d5 and 4…Nf6, both leading to strong tactical play.

But perhaps the stronger reply is also the rarest. Black can play 4…b5!? The idea is since Black is up a pawn, he can give one up and still be of material equality and can even gain a tempo if White plays 5.Bxb5 (which is the most common move). And the extra tempo comes when Black plays 5…Bb7. This puts the bishop on the long diagonal to the white king, unable to castle.

Does this mean the Black wins? Not by a long shot! White has a lot of momentum built up, just waiting for Black to slip.

Here is the Immortal Game!

London, 1851

[The “Immortal Game”]
[Chernev, 1000 Best Short Games of Chess, #945 ; Tartkower, 500 Master Games of Chess, #227 ; Seirawan+Minev, Take My Rooks, pg. ix-xi]

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 b5 5.Bxb5 Nf6

[It is a toss-up whether the immediate 5…Bb7 or 5…Nf6, delaying the Bb7 until the knight is better positioned.

Here are two games with 5…Bb7.

London, 1847
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 b5 5.Bxb5 Bb7 6.Nc3 Bb4 7.d3 Bxc3 8.bxc3 Nf6 9.Nf3 Qh5 10.Rb1!? g5!? (Black attacks on the side which the White king resides.) 11.Bxd7+ Nbxd7 12.Rxb7 O-O 13.Rb5 c5 14.d4 Nxe4 15.dxc5 Nxc3 16.Qxd7 Rad8 17.Qf5 Rd1+ 18.Kf2 Rxh1 19.Bb2 Nd1+ 20.Ke2 Nxb2 21.Rxb2 Rxh2 22.Kf2 g4 23.Qxh5 Rxh5 24.Nd4 Rxc5 25.Rb4 Rd8! (White cannot set up an adequate defence.) 26.Ne2 Rxc2 27.Kf1 Rd1+ 28.Kf2 Rdd2 29.Re4 f5 30.Re5 h5 -+

31.Kf1 Rxe2 32.Rxe2 Rxe2 33.Kxe2 Kg7 0-1

Mario Lanzani (2371)-Vladimir Pogosian (2204)
European Club Cup
Rijeka, Croatia, Mar. 14 2010
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 b5 4.Bxb5 Qh4+ 5.Kf1 Bb7 6.Nc3 Bb4 7.d3 Ne7 8.Qf3 Qf6 9.Nge2 g5 10.g3 Qg6 11.h4 f5 12.hxg5 fxe4 13.Nxe4 Bxe4 14.Qxe4 fxg3 15.Qxg6+ Nxg6 16.Kg2 a5 17.Nxg3 a4 18.Ne4 c6 19.Nf6+ Kd8 20.Bc4 d5 21.a3 Bd6 22.Ba2 Ra7 23.Be3 Rb7 24.b4 axb3 25.Bxb3 Nd7 26.Bd4 c5 27.Be3 Be5 28.Raf1 d4 29.Bc1 Nb6 30.a4 c4 31.dxc4 Ra7 32.Bd2 Nd7 33.Nxd7 Rxd7 34.c5 d3 35.Ba5+ Bc7 36.Bc3 Re8 37.cxd3 Rxd3 38.Rd1 Nf4+ 39.Kf1 Ree3 40.Rxd3+ Nxd3 41.Bf6+ Ke8 42.Bc2 Rf3+ 43.Ke2 1-0 RME]

6.Nf3 Qh6 (Easier would be 6…Qh5 and …g5 – Tartakower) 7.d3

[Glazkov and Estrin offer 7.Nc3 as White’s best. They continue 7…g5 (7…Bb7? 8.d4! Nxe4 9.Qe2 f5 10.d5!) 8.d4 Bg7 9.h4 Nh5 10.Rh2 g4 11.Ng5 Ng4+ 12.Ke1! with advantage to White. Perhaps 8…Nh5!? deserves attention. In this way, Black avoids 12.Ke1! – Seirawan+Minev.

Perhaps this was the stem game for Glazkov and Estrin:

London, 1851
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 b5 5.Bxb5 Nf6 6.Nf3 Qh6 7.Nc3 c6 8.Bc4 d6 9.d4 Nh5 10.Ne2 Be7 11.e5 d5 12.Bd3 O-O 13.Rg1 g5 14.Ke1 f6 15.g3 fxg3 16.Nxg3 Bg4 17.Nxg5 Bxd1 18.Nf5 fxg5 19.Nxh6+ Kg7 20.Bxg5 Bxg5 21.Nf5+ Rxf5 22.Bxf5 Kh6 23.Rxd1 Na6 24.Rd3 Rf8 25.Bg4 Rf4 26.Rh3 Re4+ 27.Kf1 Rf4+ 28.Ke2 Re4+ 29.Kd3 Nb4+ 30.Kc3 Nxa2+ 31.Kb3 Nc1+ 32.Ka4 Rxd4+ 33.Ka5 Bd8+ 34.Ka6 Rxg4 35.Rxg4 Bb6 36.Rg8 Ne2 37.e6 Nef4 38.e7 Ne6 39.Rxh5+ Kxh5 40.e8=Q+ 1-0 RME]

7…Nh5 (Here again 7…g5 is a more natural way of defending the gambit pawn. – Tartakower ; Glazkov and Estrin recommend 7…Bc5!? 8.d4 Bb6, we suggest 7…Be7!? followed by 8…Nh5 or 8…O-O. – Seirawan+Minev) 8.Nh4 [A subtle guard against 8…Ng3+, but 8.Kg1 (or 8.Kf2) would be a blunder on account of 8…Qb6+, followed by …Qxb5. – Tartakower] 8…Qg5 [This simultaneous assault on two pieces proves illusory. Better would be 8…g5 9.Nf5 Qg6. – Tartakower ; According to Kieseritzky, the decisive mistake. He recommends 8…g6! and if 9.g4 (9.g3 Be7) Nf6 10.Ng2 Qh3 11.Bxf4 Nxg4 with advantage for Black. – Seirawan+Minev] 9.Nf5 c6?! [In our opinion, this is the decisive error. Better was 9…g6 10.h4 Qf6!? (Not 10…Ng3+ 11.Ke1! Qf6 12.Nxg3 fxg3 13.Qe2, obviously to White’s advantage – Kieseritzky), when Black is still kicking. – Seirawan+Minev] 10.g4 Nf6 11.Rg1 cxb5 12.h4 Qg6 13.h5 Qg5 14.Qf3 (Threatening to win the Queen by 15.Bxf4, as well as 15.e5 attacking the Rook with his Queen while his King Pawn bites at the Knight. – Chernev) 14…Ng8 15.Bxf4 Qf6 16.Nc3 Bc5 (Black seeks salvation in a counter-attack. Steadier, however, would be 16…Bb7 – Tartakower) 17.Nd5! Qxb2

18.Bd6! (“Ganz grossartig gespielt” says Gottschall. – Chernev) 18…Bxg1 [If 18…Qxa1+ 19.Ke2 Qxg1 20.Nxg7+ Kd8 21.Bc7# If 18…Bxd6 19.Nxd6+ Kd8 20.Nxf7+ Ke8 21.Nd6+ Kd8 22.Qf8# – Chernev ; Some confusion exists here. Several authors (e.g. Chernev in “1000 Best Short Games of Chess” and Glazkov, Estrin in Korolevsky Gambit, 1988) give the move order as 18…Bxg1 19.e5 Qxa1. We used the text from “Encyclopedia of Chess Games” and other sources that we felt more authentic. – Seirawan+Minev] 19.e5! (Have another Rook! – Chernev) 19…Qxa1+ (A slight chance of a draw is afforded by 19…Qb2, etc. – Tartakower) 20.Ke2 (With a renewed threat of 21.Nxg7+ Kd8 22.Bc7# – Tartakower) 20…Na6 (Defending against 21.Nxg7+ Kd8 22.Bc7#, but the final blow comes from the other side. – Seirawan+Minev] 21.Nxg7+ Kd8 22.Qf6+! Nxf6 23.Be7mate 1-0 [White has given up a Queen, two Rooks, and a Bishop for one single, miserable Pawn (and mate, the cynic might point out.). – Chernev ; A forced mate by three minor pieces against the full array of the black pieces. – Tartakower]

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