Earlier this week I won two interesting, and quite fun, games.
Oh! – before I go on, I’ve got to mention that I won both games on the same day. I found two resignations on my cell phone when I woke up. Nice way to start the day!
My opponent likes to keep the position closed. So a gambit is the way to go!
Escalante (2020)-“PaulKaspar” (1907) USCF Internal Championship, Spring 2020 (Round 4) chess.com, Oct.-Nov. 2021 1.e4 c6 (The Caro-Kann, usually a safe response to 1.e4.) 2.d4 d5 3.f3 (The gambit is known as the Fantasy variation. Not only is it tactical, but there are many unexplored paths.) 3…e6 4.Nc3 dxe4 5.fxe4 Bb4 6.Bd3 Ne7?! (Black also has 6…Qxd4 7.Bd2 Nd7 8.Nf3 Qd6!? But I was willing to try this line as White has some open lines to play with.) 7.a3 Ba5 8.Nf3 Nd7 9.O-O O-O (Better is 9…O-O. The text move closes all attacking chances by Black. And White’s attack is still brewing.) 10.e5! c5?
11.Bxh7+! (Black loses quickly after 11…Kxh7 12.Ng5+ Kg6 13.Qg4 f5 14.Qg3. His best, which only loses, is 11…Kh8 12.Ng5 Nxe5 13.Be3.) 1-0
Earlier this year I self-published 2000 Sozin Miniatures (3rd Edition) and 2000 Dragon Miniatures. I concluded, and stated in both books, that Black wastes time and can easily run into problems if he combines these two (separate) openings.
Escalante (2008)-“Tacktickle” (2111) USCF Internal Championship, Spring 2020 (Round 4) chess.com, Oct.-Nov. 2021 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 (OK – this is the Najdorf) 6.Bc4 (And this move makes this game into a Sozin Najdorf. Which doesn’t last long as Black attempts to make it into a main line Dragon.) 6…g6?! (This Najdorf Sozin-Dragon hybrid can cause Black to be on the defensive very quickly.) 7.Bb3 Bg7 8.Be3 O-O 9.f3 Nbd7 10.Qd2 (White continues to develop as if this game was a pure Dragon setup, a perfectly good response to the hybrid.) 10…Qc7 11.O-O-O Ne5 12.Bh6 Nc4? (Black has better with the counter-intuitive 12…Nc6, which at least keeps his center flexible.) 13.Bxc4 Bxh6 14.Qxh6 Qxc4 15.h4! (Opening up Black’s position by creating a pawn storm; a well-known thematic idea in the Dragon.) 15…Bd7 (> 15…Rc8) 16.h5! (The pawn now enters Black’s territory.) 15…Bc6 17.g4! Rfc8 18.g5 Nxh5 (This might be Black’s best move, but it runs into another thematic idea in the Dragon.)
There is an opening, or rather a gambit, that appears to have no name. Yet, this series of moves is well-known among most chess players. But no matter what you may call it, Black doesn’t do that well.
Let’s look at it.
Now known as a Owen’s Defence, this move seeks to avoid main lines after 1.d4 and 1.e4. But as you will soon see, there are main lines that arise from 1.e4 b6 as well. And one of those lines is the gambit.
White takes advantage of the opportunity to take the center.
Usual move here is 3.Nc3 e6 with similarities to a Nimzo-Queen’s Indian hybrid.
Before we get to the gambit line, let’s look at some tamer, and safer, Black lines.
Zbigniew Gorecki (2005)-Augusto Caruso (2286) Padova Open, Dec. 2 2000 1.d4 e6 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 b6 4.e4 Bb7 5.Bd3 d5!? (By far, the most common response is 5…e6. The text move is an attempt to throw White off his game by introducing a less common move. It works in this game.) 6.cxd5 exd5 7.Qb3 Nxe4 8.Nxe4 dxe4 9.Bc4 Qe7 10.Bd2 Nc6 11.Bc3 O-O-O 12.Ne2 Qg5 13.O-O e3 14.f4 Qg4 15.h3 Qh5 16.Bxf7 Qxe2 17.Rae1 Qd3 18.Qe6+ Kb8 19.Rxe3 Nxd4 20.Qe5 Qc2 21.Rf2 Qf5 22.Bh5 Qxe5 23.fxe5 Bc5 24.b4 Nf5 0-1
Black stakes a claim in the center and has the possible threat of …fxe4
White can decline the f-pawn of course.
Schelli-Andrae corres. 1985 1.e4 b6 2.d4 Bb7 3.Bd3 f5 4.Nc3 Nf6! 5.Qe2 e6 6.f3 (As it turns out, slow and quiet moves do not work in this variation. Better is 6.Bd2 with the idea of O-O-O, as the kingside is rapidly becoming a mess.) 6…fxe4 7.Bxe4 Nxe4 8.Nxe4 Be7 9.Nh3 O-O 10.Nhf2 Nc6 11.O-O Nxd4 12.Qd3 Nf5 13.Bd2 d5 14.Nc3 a5 15.Rfe1 Ba6! 0-1
Zolnierowicz-Zvara Prague 1990 1.e4 b6 2.d4 Bb7 3.Bd3 f5 4.f3 e5?! (The start of a bad plan.) 5.dxe5 fxe4 6.fxe4 Bxe4?! (Black was hoping for 7. Bxe4? Qh4+ 8. Kf1 Qxe4. White avoids this problematic check with a simple developing move.) 7.Nf3 Bxd3 8.Qxd3 Bc5 9.Nc3 Nc6 10.Bg5 Be7 11.Bxe7 Ngxe7 12.O-O-O Ng6 13.e6 O-O 14.exd7 Kh8 15.Qe4 Na5 16.Rhe1 Qf6 17.Qxa8 1-0
This move lets Black spear the h1-rook. But this move is probably the best for White. Things now get very interesting.
Black cannot immediately take the g-pawn as he loses quickly.
Here is the game that popularized White’s response to Black’s gambit.
Greco-N.N. Rome 1620? 1.e4 b6 2.d4 Bb7 3.Bd3 f5 4.exf5 (White is willing to give up his rook to get the king.) 4…Bxg2 5.Qh5+ g6 6.fxg6 Nf6 (This is a huge error. Black has to play 6…Bg7 7.gxh7+ Kf8 8.hxg8=Q+ Kxg8 and while White’s rook may fall, Black has to worry about his very exposed king. Amusing by the way, is 6.fxg6 e5? 7.g7+ Ke7 8.Qxe5+ Kf7 9.gxh8=N#) 7.gxh7+ (White is now willing to give up his queen for the forced mate. King safety is more important than safety for the rook or queen, and even both. Note: While 7.g7+ Nxh5 8.gxh8=Q Bxh1 9.Qxh7 would eventually win, the text move is faster, and fast attacks are always better for winning the game (less mistakes possible) and for one’s own ego.) 7…Nxh5 8.Bg6mate 1-0
So Black must do something other than to immediately take the g2-pawn or the h1-Rook. In fact, he can never the rook (due to the tempi needed to take the rook and the fact that his king ends up being a target). And probably can’t ever take the g2-pawn either.
Well, If Black can’t take the h1-rook, or the f3-knight, can he at least take the g2-pawn? Black must play this move to gain any material for the attack that is about to commence on his side of the board, so he is virtually forced to play into this variation with the queen check.
Maybe Black can play 4…Nf6 and wait a tempo or two before snagging the g2-pawn. Can that win the game for him? I don’t know, but with the games on hand, I wouldn’t count on it.
When a person hears the word “Siesta”, they would likely think of Spain, where, because of the heat, a long slumber between 2 and 5 PM is frequently practiced. And if that same person hears of the Siesta Variation in chess, it is quite likely that they envision a long, slow-moving positional game where nothing interesting occurs for most of the game.
Except the Siesta Variation is anything but boring. It is extremely tactical and wild enough to feature a few piece sacrifices.
Why this name then? It turns out that the name comes from the location of a 1928 Budapest tournament. Which was held in the Siesta Sanatorium, a private mental hospital in the Buda Hills. And yes, that means there are a lot of craziness in that place. Now the name makes more sense.
Let’s get going by first defining what the opening moves are.
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 (yes, this is a Ruy Lopez) a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.c3 f5. Black’s 5th move challenges the normal, but still fully under tension, slow pace of many Ruy Lopezes. In fact, it blows up the kingside and center.
White can certainly try to sidestep the main lines of the variation, but he doesn’t get too much, and Black can easily take over the initiative.
(1) 5.c3 f5 6.exf5 Bxf5 7.d4, which White seeks to quickly open the center as he believes can take advantage of open lines faster than Black.
(2) 5.c3 f5 6.exf5 Bxf5 7.O-O, which White seeks king safety before launching any attack.
The first line was more popular from the 1950s to the 1970s. But after getting crushed too often, esp. after …h6 (a good combination move, defending Black’s kingside and threatening to open the h-file), White changed tactics.
Here are some games White probably does not want to remember.
Escalante-“MikhailZorro” (1555) King’s Bishop Gambit Thematic, Round 2 chess.com, Sept. 2021 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 Qe7!? (A rarity. The earliest example of a Master game with this move is Zalys-Zapata, Quebec Open, Canada, 1978 which continued 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.d3 g5 7.Nf3 c6 8.Nxg5 d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Bxd5 Qxg5 11.Bf3 Qf6 12.Ne4 Qh4 13.Bd2 Be6 14.Bc3 f5 15.Bh5+ Bf7 16.Nf6+ Kd8 17.Bxf7 Bd6 18.Nh5 Be7 19.Bxh8 Nd7 20.Qf3 Kc7 21.Bg7 Bd6 22.Re1 Rd8 23.Re8 Rxe8 24.Bxe8 Nb6 25.Bf6! 1-0. I decided to copy White’s moves only because I had a problem finding a better ones.) 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.d3 g5 7.Nf3 h6 8.e5! Nh5 9.Nd5 (The immediate b4 is probably faster.) 9…Qc5 10.b4 Qc6 11.Nd4 Qa4? (Qg6) 12.Bb3 Qa6
Escalante (1949)-“klaxcek2” (1771) King’s Bishop Gambit Thematic, Round 2 chess.com, Sept. 2021 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 Nf6 5.Nf3 Qh5 6.Nc3 d6 7.d4 g5 8.h4 h6 9.e5 Ng4 10.Qe1 (10.Qe2!?) 10…Be7?! (Black has to chance 10…Kd8) 11.Nd5! (White is practically winning after his move.) 11…Kd8
12.Nxe7! Kxe7 13.exd6+ (As White will have trouble attacking the king from open lines of the center, 13.Kg1, with the idea of hxg5, is probably better.) 13…Kxd6?? (13…Kf8 is Black’s only chance. Then White should continue with 14.Kg1.) 14.Ne5 Be6 15.Qb4+ (Mate is coming.) 1-0
“henrysitohang060707” (1682)-Escalante Blitz Game chess.com, Oct. 23 2021 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Bg5 (The Leningrad variation) 4…h6 5.Bh4 b5 (A gambit I wanted to try. Actually, it’s more of a bluff than a gambit. Alternate moves include …c5 and …Nc6) 6.e3 (Of course, White should take the pawn.) O-O 7.Bd3 (Again White’s best move was to take the pawn.) bxc4 (Black will make use of the extra tempo.) 8.Bxc4 d5 9.Bb3 Ba6 (Black has equalized here. And it’s quite possible that he now has a small advantage. So much for declining the gambit!) 10.Qf3 Nbd7 11.Ne2 c5 12.O-O Rc8 13.a3
13…cxd4 (chess.com computer says that Black missed a forced win here with 13…Bxc3! 14.bxc3 g5 15.Bg3 g4 16.Qf4 Bxe2 17.Qxh6 cxd4 18.Bh4 d3 19.Rfb1 Rxc3 20.Ba4 g3 21.f3 d2 22.Bxd7 d1=Q+ 23.Rxd1 Bxd1 The only thing I can say is “wow”.) 14.exd4 Bxc3 15.Nxc3 Bxf1 16.Rxf1 Qc7 17.Bg3 Qb7 (OK, 17…Qb6, striking the d4-pawn as well as the bishop, was better.) 18.Na4 Ne4 19.Re1 Nd2 [White resigns. Again, chess.com provides some stunning (and correct!) tactics : 19…Nd2 20.Qd1 Qxb3 21.Bf4 Qxd1 22.Rxd1 Nc4 23.h4 Rfe8 24.g4 Kh7 25.g5 hxg5 26.Bxg5 f6 27.Bf4 a5 28.Kg2 Kg6 29.Rd3 Kf7] 0-1
Chernev called them “SEA-SERPENTS”. What are they? Simply put, they are chess games exceeding 100 moves. The name reminds one of the long list of moves each player has to record in a tournament game.
Which brings up the following question: “Just how long is the longest game in chess?”
Is it 120 moves? 150 moves? Not even close.
175 moves? Getting closer.
200 moves? Still longer.
250 moves, right?
The longest game in history is whopping 269 moves, played over 23 ½ hours.
It seems ridiculous, but it’s true. I was amazed when I goth news – even more when I finally got the score.
I made some notes to the game and added a few diagrams just in case you get lost. I also added a PGN file (minus the diagrams of course) – for those of you who rather push buttons than pieces (or don’t have a readily available set).
Black does better with moves like 3…Nf6, 3…Nc6, 3…d6, and 3…d5.
But even with the better moves, Black can find himself in trouble.
GM Fischer-GM Evans US Ch. New York, Nov. 16 1963 [Fischer, “Exclusive Commentary on Round Two”, Chess Life and Review, Jan. 1964] 1.e4 e5 2.f4 [I knew that my opponent had some prepared line (since he usually plays the Sicilian) but felt that he would be unfamiliar with the King’s Gambit. Besides, I’d made up my mind to play it in this tournament anyway.] 2…exf4 3.Bc4 [Better than 3.Nf3 which is practically refuted by 3…d6 (see my analysis in the American Chess Quarterly.)] 3…Qh4+ (Turning it into an old-fashioned slugfest. The moderns frown on this move and prefer to fight in the center with 3…Nf6 4.Nc3 c6, etc.) 4.Kf1 d6? [Evans said this game would set chess back a hundred years. He didn’t know how right he was! The defense he chooses was also played by LaBourdonnais against MacDonnell (20th Match Game, 1834) which continued 5.d4 Bg4 6.Qd3 Nc6 7.Bxf7+? Kxf7 8.Qb3+ Kg6 9.Qxb7 Nxd4 10.Qxa8 f3 with a winning attack. More usual is 4…g5 (or d5) 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.d4 Ne7 7.Nf3 Qh5 8.h4 h6 and it’s a hard game.] 5.Nc3? [Returning the compliment. It’s natural that White should want to save the juicy tempo (5.Nf3!) and I make the same mistake as MacDonnell by delaying this move.] 5…Be6! (I overlooked this move. Now Black has a choice of where to put his Queen once she’s attacked.) 6.Qe2 c6 7.Nf3 (Inaccurate. Having made the mistake of delaying this move once, White should hold off a while longer and play 7.d4, which does not permit Black’s Queen to retreat to e7 without relinquishing his “f” pawn.) 7…Qe7 (If 7…Qh5 8.Nd5! Now, however, Black has time to consolidate his king’s position.) 8.d4 Bxc4 9.Qxc4 g5 (Despite White’s strong center and great lead in development, Black’s position is not easy to crack. If 10.h4 g4 11.Ne1 Bh6, etc.) 10.e5 d5 [During the game I thought Black’s best defense was 10…dxe5 11.Nxe5 (11.dxe5 Nd7 12.Ne4 Nxe5 13.Nxe5 Qxe5 14.Bd2 is unclear) 11…Nd7 12.h4 Nxe5 13.dxe5 Qxe5 14.hxg5 O-O-O 15.Bxf4 Qf5 with equality.] 11.Qd3 [11.Nxd5 cxd5 12.Qc8+ Qd8 13.Qxb7 Nd7 is unsound. (14.Nxg5? Rb8). Now the threat is simply 11.Qf5.] 11…Na6 12.Ne2 (Not 12.Qf5 Nh6 13.Qxg5 Qxg5 14.Nxg5 Nb4 15.Bxf4 Nxc2 16.Rd1 Nf5 and Black wins.) 12…Nb4 (12…f6 loses 13.Qf5 Bg7 14.exf6 Bxf6 15.Bxf4! gxf4 16.Nxf4 with a winning attack. It is important to repel White’s queen from its present diagonal.) 13.Qd1 O-O-O (Very complicated, and possibly better, is 13.c3 which leads to a more active defense.) 14.c3 Na6 15.h4 g4 16.Nh2! h5 (Better was 16…f3 17.gxf3 gxf3 18.Nxf3 f6 although White’s king is quite safe and Black lags in development. Also to be considered was 16…Qxh4 17.Nxf4! g3 18.Qg4+ Qxg4 19.Nxg4 with a powerful ending.) 17.Nxf4
17…Qxh4? [The losing move. Relatively best is 17…Kb8 (preventing Nxh5!) but his game is already bad.] 18.Kg1 (Black apparently underestimated the strength of this move. He has no adequate defense now to the twin threats of 19.Nxg4 and Nf1.) 18…Nh6 (The only way to avoid outright material loss. Black originally intended 18…Bh6 but 19.Nf1 followed by Rxh5 stands him up.) 19.Nf1 Qe7 20.Nxh5 Rg8 (Black already knew he was lost and was shaking his head in amazement at how quickly White’s dead pieces had sprung to life.) 21.Nfg3 Rg6 22.Nf4 Rg5 (If 22…Rg8 23.Nxd5, etc.) 23.Be3 Nc7 (The last hope. 23…f6 is answered by 24.Qd2 fxe5 25.Nxd5, winning a full rook.) 24.Qd2 Rg8 25.Nfe2 (This piquant retreat wins a piece, putting a clear end to black’s agony.) 25…f6 (Black is still hoping for a miracle.) 26.exf6 Qxf6 27.Bxh6 Bd6 28.Rf1 Qe6 29.Bf4 Rde8 30.Rh6 Bxf4 31.Qxf4 Qe7 32.Rf6 (Tripling on the Bishop file.)
32…Ne6 33.Qe5 Ng5 34.Qxe7 Rxe7 35.Rf8+ (Trading down to skin and bones.) 35…Rxf8 36.Rxf8+ 1-0
Weiss-Brasket Minnesota Masters Cup Invitational, 1989 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 d5 5.exd5 Nf6 (Black has to be careful after 5…f3? The game can easily continue with 6.Bb5+ c6 7.Nxf3 Qh5 8.Qe2+ Be7 9.dxc6 Nxc6 10.Ne5 Qf5+ 11.Ke1 Qxc2 12.Nc3 Bd7 13.Nxc6 Bxc6 14.Bd3, and the Black Queen is trapped.) 6.Qe2+ Be7 7.Nf3 Qh5 8.Nc3 a6 9.d3 b5 10.Bb3 g5 11.Bd2 Kf8 12.d6 Bxd6 13.Ne4 g4 14.Nxf6 Qg6 15.Bc3 gxf3 16.Qe8+ Kg7 17.Ng4+ f6 18.Bxf6+ Qxf6 19.Nxf6 fxg2+ 20.Kxg2 Bb7+ 21.Kh3 Rxe8 22.Nxe8+ Kf8 23.Nxd6 cxd6 24.Rhg1 1-0
V. Ivanchuk (2716)-Nikolic (2648) 5th IECC Playoff Final Antalya, Turkey, May 30 2004 [Tim McGrew, The Gambit Cartel] 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Qh4+ [This check must have been one of the first defensive ideas explored in the Bishop’s Gambit. Emmanuel Lasker recommended it for black in Common Sense in Chess, and even Fred Reinfeld, who revised the openings analysis for the 1946 edition (which practically no one has – the Dover edition on your shelf is a reprint of the 1917 edition), retains 3…Qh4+ as the recommended line.] 4.Kf1 (The king is not nearly as exposed here as he would be on e2, and Black’s queen may herself be harassed by Nf3. In fact, Ivanchuk achieves a powerful position here without a great deal of difficulty.) 4…d6 [Here Lasker (and Reinfeld) both recommend 4…d5 Bxd5 5.g5. Oddly, I can find hardly any games in this formerly popular line between 1929 and 1989. But then van den Doel won a droll game with it (by transposition: 3…d5 4.Bxd5 Qh4+ etc.) in 18 moves at Cappelle la Grande 2001. Someone ought to investigate this.] 5.d4 Be6 6.Qd3 Nf6 7.Nf3 (The anticipated strike at the queen.) 7…Qg4 8.Nc3 Be7 9.h3 Qg6 10.Bxf4 (I have to admit that White’s centralization here is impressive. Ivanchuk is also setting a little trap – at this level of play, really more of a joke for the players to share, though such a joke could easily turn fatal for someone unable to evaluate the end of a tactical sequence accurately.) 10…O-O (Nikolic politely declines the bait. 10…Bxc4 11.Qxc4 Nxe4? looks merely messy at first glance, but after 12.Qxc7! Black has no way to recover his balance.) 11.Re1 (Black’s position could not be said to be bad, but because of White’s grip on the center it is difficult for him to find an effective plan. He decides to go shopping for the perfect exchange of minor pieces, but meanwhile his queenside is sleeping.) 11…Nh5 12.Bh2 Ng3+?! (In hindsight this looks like the turning point of the game.) 13.Bxg3 Qxg3 14.Ne2! Qg6 15.Nf4 (White has repositioned his knight to a very effective square without any loss of time.) 15…Qh6 16.g3 (We now come to a puzzling set of moves where White allows Black to swap on c4 and Black declines to do it. I had thought that the idea was 16.Nxe6 fxe6 17.Qb3. But perhaps Chucky saw what Deep Fritz 7 suggests: after 17…Nc6 18.Bxe6+ Kh8 White’s advantage is evaporating because Black threatens to take on d4.) 16…Nd7 17.Kg2 Nb6? (But this is pretty clearly an error. 17…Bxc4 18.Qxc4 c6 still looks like a reasonable way for Black to hold the balance, though White’s position is a bit more pleasant to play.) 18.Bxe6 fxe6 19.Rhf1 (19.Qb3 would provoke the same exchange sacrifice we see in the game.) 19…c5 20.d5 Rxf4 (This doesn’t quite work, but it is instructive for us lesser mortals to see even the near misses of the super-GMs because it teaches us to consider ideas we might never have thought of. Black was under pressure in any event since White was threatening to sink a knight into e6, so it is hard to suggest really good alternatives.) 21.gxf4 Qxf4 22.dxe6 Rf8 23.b4!? (When someone figures out how super-grandmasters come up with moves like this, please let me know! Until then, my best guess is that it is intended to clear the d4-square, e.g. 23…cxb4 24.Nd4 when the f-file is very useful and the knight has bright prospects on f5.) 23…Rf6 24.Qb5 Rxe6 25.bxc5 Bh4? [Now the roof caves in. 25…dxc5 26.Qe8+ (26.Nd4!? Qg5+ 27.Kh1 Qh5 28.Qb3 c4 29.Qf3 +/-) 26…Qf8 27.Qxf8+ Bxf8 28.e5 looks like a longish but winning ending.] 26.Nxh4 Qxh4 27.Qb3 (Neatly pinning the rook and defending h3 laterally.) 27…d5 28.cxb6 1-0
Escalante (1949)-“klaxcek2” (1771) King’s Bishop Gambit Thematic, Round 2 chess.com, Sept. 2021 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 Nf6 5.Nf3 Qh5 6.Nc3 d6 7.d4 g5 8.h4 h6 9.e5 Ng4 10.Qe1 (10.Qe2!?) 10…Be7?! (Black has to chance 10…Kd8) 11.Nd5! (White is practically winning after his move.) 11…Kd8
12.Nxe7! Kxe7 13.exd6+ (White has a good position. But as White will have trouble attacking the king from open lines of the center, 13.Kg1, with the idea of hxg5, is probably better.) 13…Kxd6?? (13…Kf8 is Black’s only chance. Then White should continue with 14.Kg1.) 14.Ne5 Be6 15.Qb4+ (Mate is coming.) 1-0
Does this mean that Black cannot win against the Bishop’s Gambit? Of course not. But it’s not as easy as it might seem.
Swiderski-Teichmann Vienna, 1903 [Fletcher, Gambits Accepted – A Survey of Opening Sacrifices, 1954] 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 d5 4.Bxd5 Qh4+ 5.Kf1 g5 6.g3 Qh6! 7.d4 c6 8.Bb3? (All subsequent trouble could have been avoided if White had played 8.Bc4, with a continuation such as; 8…Nf6 9.Nc3 Bh3+ 10.Nxh3 Qxh3+ 11.Kg1 fxg3 12.Bf1.) 8…Nf6 9.Nc3 Bh3+ 10.Ke1 Bg2 11.e5 Nfd7 12.h4 Bxh1 13.Nh3 Be7 14.Qg4 gxh4 15.Bxf4 Qg6 16.Qe2 Nb6 17.a4 hxg3 18.Kd2 Bd5 19.Bxd5 cxd5 20.Rg1 Nc6 21.Nb5 Rc8 22.c3 Nc4+ 23.Kc1 N6a5 24.Qd1 Qb6 25.Qg4 Nb3+ 26.Kb1 Qg6+ 0-1
A. Miller-Curdo Central N.E. Fall Open Leominster, MA Nov. 11 1972 [John Curdo, “Chess Caviar”, #32 1982] 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 d5 5.Bxd5 Nf6 6.Nf3 Qh5 7.Nc3 Bb4 8.Ne2 (Curdo gives this move a “?”. But I think it’s more of a “?!” – RME) 8…Nxd5 9.exd5 g5 10.c3?! (RME) 10…Bd6 11.Qa4+ Kf8 12.Qd4 Rg8 13.Qf6 g4 14.Qd8+ Kg7? (What is wrong with 14..Bd7 – RME.) 15.Qg5+ Qxg5 16.Nxg5 Bf5 17.h3 Bd3 0-1 (18…Re8 or 18..h6)
Jaroslav Netusil (1990)-Miroslav Honcu (1890) Czech Team Boys Ch., 2001 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 d6 5.d4 g5 6.Nc3 Ne7 7.Nf3 Qh5 8.Kg1?! (8.Rg1 with the idea of h4.) 8…g4! 9.Ne1 f3! (And now Black has a very advanced pawn.) 10.g3?! (10.Nd3! is better.) 10…Rg8 11.Nd3 Bh6 12.Nf4 Bxf4 13.Bxf4 Ng6 (13…Be6 is an alternative.) 14.Be3 c6 15.b4 Nd7 16.b5 Nb6 17.Bd3 Be6 18.Qf1 d5 19.Kf2 (Better is 19.Re1 to bring the rook into play.) 19…O-O-O 20.a4 dxe4 21.Nxe4 Nd5 22.Bd2 f5 23.Ng5 Nf8 24.Qc1 f4 25.Nxe6 Nxe6 26.bxc6 Qh3 27.cxb7+ Kb8 28.Qf1 Qg2+ 29.Qxg2 fxg2 30.Rhe1? (White should play 30.Kxg2! and if 30…f3+, then 31.Kf2 and the White king is perfectly safe.) 30…Nxd4 31.Kxg2 Nf3 32.Red1 Nxd2 33.Rxd2 Ne3+ 34.Kf2 Nxc2 35.Rc1 fxg3+ 36.Kxg3 Nb4 37.Rc8+ Rxc8 38.bxc8=Q+ 1/2-1/2
Here are some sample lines that you might want to research before playing this version of the King’s Gambit. There are many more unknown or unclear lines than the usual (and over-used – in my opinion) 3.Nf3 lines. Use these lines to start your exploration. You might discover something new to your arsenal.
A few decades ago, I was a TD at a local chess club. It was an open tournament and maybe it is fair to say that all participants were adult males.
Some of these players were friends of mine, and other players were known mainly by their reputation.
As a TD my main responsibilities were making sure that the wall pairings were up on time, the players had the necessary equipment, and to be available if a problem comes up. Other than that, I could walk around the tournament room or read a book (an opportunity I took advantage of, as the only place quieter than a chess tournament is a library).
As it is happens, one of the players in the tournament was somewhat a former child prodigy, who was now in his early 20s. I knew his parents and we all friendly and courteous to each other. I will name this player, “J”, and his mom, “M”.
Another friend of mine, “B” was playing in the tournament and could actually win a prize (not necessary to the story, but he was good enough to occasionally win a club championship).
Both the United States Chess Federation (USCF) and International Chess Federation (FiDE – this is French acronym) state that a player loses the game if he is an hour late to the start of the round. Every player I know follows this rule. There are stories from the 1940s that a strong player arrives at the board 59 minutes late (sometimes even later than that), and with a handicap of an hour less to think about his move, somehow manages to draw (or even wins) the game.
The rule is that well-known.
Anyway, I had finished the pairings and they were up on the wall. “J” was playing Black against this person who thought he was a lawyer, argued like one sometimes, and knew all the tournament rules. Or so he thought. I will call him “K”.
The start time was 7:00 PM. Just before the wall clock reached 7 PM, I was looking for “J”, as he was the only one missing.
At exactly 7:00, I told the players to start their clocks and immediately heard the ticking of many small clocks. (After a while of playing tournament chess, one learns to tune out the ticking. It’s a useful skill to learn).
I sat down to do some paperwork. But before I could get comfortable, “K” comes to the TD table and said his opponent (“J”) was not at the table and he was going to use the wall clock to keep track of the time so he could claim victory one hour from now. Then he walked back to his table. OK, that got my attention. Was he asking me something or was he making a statement so I could not argue back?
I watched from the TD table as he walked back to his chair and sat down and looked at the wall clock. There was nothing in from of him, no set, no clock, nothing. He was sitting there, possible thinking he had an easy win. Maybe he really didn’t want to play.
I looked at him for a couple of minutes. Then I got up and slowly walked to his seat.
I told him he was welcomed to sit there. But if he wanted to “clock” his opponent, he needed a set and a clock in front of him. He looked at me shockingly, as if it was wrong for me to tell him about the rules, as he always thought he knew the rules better than I, a TD. I also wanted to give “J” somewhat extra time to get to his game.
I told him he could look up the rules and that I had a copy of the rules book in case he wanted to look it up (it is an actual rule).
He declined my offer. And sheepishly asked me if he could borrow a clock. I told him yes, he could borrow one. That was covered in the rules.
He got up and walked to another player. Well, I got the clock and came back to the TD table and said he was going to set the clock to 53 minutes as “J” was seven minutes late. I told him he had to start the time for one hour as he could not claim lost time. He agreed and made the correct change to the clock. And went back to his table, pressed the clock and played 1.d4.
Now, if you know something about tournament chess, he made a few minor errors here. One, you don’t need to make your first move on the board. You just need to start the clock. That way, your opponent cannot get more study time before he come to the board. Second, you play the move on the board and then hit the clock. At that point the move is considered complete. This is important for speed chess and time trouble.
Finally, and this only my opinion. You don’t open a chess game with 1.d4. It’s too slow of a game – you have to play 1.e4!
Meanwhile I was still looking for “J”. If something happened to him, I wanted to know. This tournament was played well before cell phones became ubiquitous.
No problems for the next hour. I finished my paperwork, my friend “B” won his game (but finished just outside the winner’s circle), and “J” didn’t show up.
How do I know at this point it was an hour? Well, “K” came up to the TD table and said it was an hour and I had to give him a point. I told I would, but it was still his responsibility to indicate that on the wall chart.
He gleefully went to enter this the result. And then put away his set. This is usually an indication that a player doesn’t want to play anymore tournament chess, and not so much that he want to clean up the place.
As “K” was putting away his set (and cleaning nothing else) “J” and “M” stepped into the tournament room. “M” asked where her son could play his (tournament) game as there didn’t seem to be any open chairs or sets.
I informed her that her son was an hour late for his game and according to the rules, his opponent claimed a win by forfeit.
She got angry and demanded her son to play the scheduled tournament game as it wasn’t her fault that she was an hour late (actually it probably was, esp. if she was the driver). But I kept calm and spoke quietly. I didn’t want to risk a friendship, nor did I want to create a disturbance for the other players.
She wanted me to reinstate the original pairings. I could not do that as we had a time limit for use of the building and some of us (including me) had to wake up early the next morning for work.
She wanted me to take the time lost, divided in half and each player would lose a ½ hour on the clock, just to be fair. (Sorry, I could not do that.)
About this time, “J” started to tell, almost beg, his mother that it was not that important and he was willing to go along with the TD’s suggestion. Other players, including some where still playing their game, began to follow the conversation.
She demanded how could I do this to his son. I told her that I had nothing against her son; I still thought he was an intelligent young man, who would do well in his life.
She wanted me to talk the situation over with his opponent and get him to play the game with her son.
I told her that I would do that. But the choice was going to be his to make.
So, I got up from my chair, walked over to “K” and told him that “J” was still willing to play the original tournament game with him. I also mentioned that it would be his decision and I would respect whatever decision he made.
He curtly replied, “no”. And then I could swear he had an evil grin on his face. Did he hear our conversation?
I thanked him and walked back to “M”, I told her that “K” said no and there was nothing else I could do for her or her son.
She got even more angry than before and told me to do my job. (I thought my job was to run a tournament, and not make exceptions). I didn’t even get a chance to tell her that I did everything possible and legal to give “J” some extra time to get to the board.
Her last words to me were, “It is your fault that we are no longer friends”.
I began saying, “I would hate to end a friendship for this”. But she was already walking out the door by the time I got between the second and third word.
I never saw her or “J” after that episode.
My friend, “B”, and some other players said I did the right thing. I quietly replied, “Thank you” and walked back to the TD table. And got through a few more chapters of a book.
Starting in the 1940s Chess Review began a regular article titled, “Game of the Month”, where well-known and top players would write about a contemporary game and provide analysis and notes. Most articles were between one and two pages long.
When Chess Review merged with Chess Life, the new magazine was titled Chess Life and Review. The Game of the Month was continued, and some very good players contributed to the monthly article.
Later on, the magazine dropped the latter part of the title and was known as simply as Chess Life. The Game of the Month was still featured and treasured by many players.
But in the last few years, the Game of the Month has mysteriously disappeared. Was it because the cost of printing such an article became prohibitive? Or was it a casualty of the Internet, where are a player can analyze any game he desires and go into deeper detail than a monthly magazine can possibly do?
Here is perhaps the best game to be featured in that monthly article. It is easy to follow, the notes are clear and the Grandmaster who wrote the article was a well-respected player who must have put in many hours in his creation. This was the time before computers, word processors, the Internet, chess engines, and even ECO.
And here it is:
Mocking the move 1.b4, Tartakower named it the Orangutan Opening, but chess players took the famous grandmaster and writer seriously and adopted his title for this queer system. There is another name drawn from the (in this case non-existent) animal world which appears in chess opening theory. The chain of five connected Black pawns reminded someone of the head and tail of a dragon, and thus we have a strange name for an important line in the Sicilian Defense. Ill-informed about the origin of the name, some believed that the “Dragon” was Black’s powerful King Bishop, hidden on g7 and ready to breathe fire at the appropriate moment.
But apart from its fearsome name, one is surprised by the large number of tournament games played with this double-edged line in recent years and by the small number of draws in those games, the wheel of fortune favoring sometimes White, at other times Black. Despite many forced continuations which lead to clear decisions in this sharp system, it is extremely difficult to determine finally which side a given line favors. Just when one thinks he has found a refutation for a particular opponent’s conception, another idea or even a single move appears to reveal that the Dragon has many more heads than one to be lopped off.
The game below is just such an example. The winner spent years investigating the risks incurred in playing this variation and made it one of his strong weapons. The dangerous “Dragon” has been grateful to the man who was courageous enough to use it and has contributed its share of precious points toward his title as the new Yugoslav champion.
Planinec (2535)-Velimirović (2525) Yugoslavia Ch. Novi Sad, 1975 [GM Gligorić, Game of the Month – Many Headed Dragon”, Chess and Review, June 1975]
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 [Premature is 6…Ng4? 7.Bb5+. Experimental is 6…a6 (compare to the note after Black’s 7th move.) 7.f3 Nbd7 8.Qd2 b5 9.a4 bxa4 10.Rxa4 Bg7 11.Be2 O-O 12.O-O Nc5 13.Ra3 Bb7 14.Rfa1 Qc8 15.Nb3 Nxb3 16.Rxb3 Nd7 17.Ra2 Qc7 18.Nd5 Bxd5 19.exd5 a5 20.Bb5 Nb6 21.Qd3 Nd7 22.Rba3 Rfb8 23.Bxd7 Qxd7 24.b3 Qc7 25.c4 Rb7 26.Bd2 with advantage for White in GM Kavalek-GM Bilek, Sousse Izt., Sept. 1967.] 7.f3 (This signifies the beginning of the Rauzer Attack. White’s main weapon against the Dragon Variation. With this move White secures control of space and prepare a pawn assault on the Kingside.) 7…Nc6
[After 8.Bc4 Black may also play 8…Qb6 (threatening 9…Nxe4):
9.Bb3 allows 9…Ng4! and 9.Ncb5 a6 10.Nf5 Qa5+ 11.Bd2 gxf5 12.Bxa5 axb5 13.Bxb5 Rxa5 (White) plays a rather high price for Black’s Queen (as in Mohring-Hennings, Zinnowitz 1965); so there are two main alternatives left to White:
1) The sacrificial line 9.Nf5 Qxb2 10.Nxg7+ Kf8 11.Nd5 Nxd5 12.Qxd5
2) The solid line 9.Bg5 Qc7 10.g4 Bd7! 11.g5 Nhh5 12.Nd5 Qa5+ 13.c3.]
8.Qd2 O-O 9.Bc4 (Another basic move in the Rauzer Atttack. White occupies the important diagonal controls the central square d5.) 9…Bd7 10.O-O-O (This defines the position of White’s King too early. The more accurate order of moves is 10.a4, waiting for the opponent to clarify his plan of action on the opposite wing.) 10…Qb8 (Stein’s idea, which would be pointless after 10.a4 because of the positional 11.Nd5 or the attacking 11.a5.) 11.Bb3
[Fruitless is 11.Nd5 Nxd5 12.Bxd5 e6! 13.Bb3 (or 13.Bc4 Rc8) 13…a5. Also, too slow is 11.g4 b5! 12.Bb3 (if Black’s b5-pawn is taken, 12…Ne5 would follow) 12…a5 13.Nd5 Nxd5 14.Bxd5 with chances for both sides, Sutein-Keene, Hastings 1967/8. Interesting is 11.h4 Rc8 (weaker is 11…a5 12.Bh6! Nxe4? 13.Nxe4 Bxd4 14.h5 d5 15.Bxd5 Qe5 16.Bxf8 Qxd5 17.Qh6! Nb4 18.Rxd4 Qxd4 19.Bxe7 Black resigns, Spassky-Levy, Nice Ol., 1974) or 11…b5 offering a pawn sacrifice for the initiative in connection with Black’s Ne5.]
11…a5 12.Ndb5 [Because of his premature 10th move, White has no time for active play and is forced to defend. Interesting is 12.a4 Rc8 (Playable is 12…Nxd4 13.Bxd4 b5.) 13.Ndb5 Nb4 14.Kb1 d5 15.exd5 Bxb5 16.Bf4 Rxc3 17.Bxb8 Rxb3 18.Be5 Bd3 19.cxd3 Nfxd5 20.Bxg7 Kxg7, draw! 1/2-1/2, Browne-Sosonko, Wijk aan Zee 1975.] 12…a4 (This pawn sacrifice will displace White’s pieces and open the a-file to counterplay by Black.) 13.Bxa4 (The soundness of this pawn sacrifice could be better tested by 13.Nxa4 Na5 14.Qe2 Nxb3+ 15.axb3 d5 16.exd5 Qe5 17.f4 Qf5 18.Kb1 Rfc8 19.Na7 Rc7 with a complicated game as in Savon-Stein, 30th USSR Ch., 1962.) 13…Rc8 14.Qe2 Na5 15.Bb3 (Otherwise 15…Nc4 would follow.) 15…Nxb3+ 16.axb3 (Not 16.cxb3 Rxa2.) 16…d5 (Prepares the centralization of Black’s Queen, one of the points of Black’s 10th move.) 17.exd5 (White’s Knight on c3 is needed to cover the weakness of the long diagonal.) 17…Qe5 (The first threat is 18…Bxb5.) 18.f4 Ra1+! (If 18…Qf5 19.Nd4) 19.Kd2 Ne4+ 20.Ke1 (Black would penetrate more easily after 20.Nxe4 Rxc2+! 21.Kxc2 Qxe4+.) 20…Rxd1+ 21.Kxd1 (White has no better reply: both 21.Nxd1 Qxd5 and 21.Qxd1 Nxc3 look worse.) 21…Qf5 22.Kc1 (White has to spend time looking out for his King’s safety. 22.Nxe4 Qxe4 would make Black’s task easier.)
22…Ra8! 23.Kb1 Nxc3+ 24.Nxc3 Qf6! (Another key move in Black’s attack.) 25.Bc1 [The threatened mating combination starting with 25…Qxc3 forces White to lock king even more into its dangerous position. 25.Qd3 Bf5 26.Qc4 doesn’t work because of 26…b5. (One sample line is 27.Qc6 Rc8 28.Qxb5 Rxc3 29.bxc3 Qxc3 30.Qb8+ Bf8 31.Qe5 Qxc2+ 32.Ka1 Bg7! – RME)] 25… b5 26.Ne4 (White’s only remaining chance is to prepare an escape route on c2 and at the same time to try to cover that weak diagonal.) 26…Qa6 27.c3 Bxc3 28.Nxc3 (After 28.bxc3 Qa1+ 29.Kc2 Ra2+ Black would win immediately.) 28…Bf5+ 29.Ne4 Qa2+ 30.Kc2 Rc8+ 31.Kd2 Qxb3 32.Qd3 (White has to give the piece back with his King still in the open.) 32…Qb4+ 33.Ke3 Rc4 34.Nf6+ (The piece is lost in any case, and this way Black’s pawn mass may be less valuable.) 34…exf6 35.Qa3 Re4+ 36.Kf2 Qd4+ 37.Kg3 Qxd5 38.Qf3 (If 38.h3 Re2) 38…Qe6 39.Rd1 Kg7 40.Rd3 Rc4 41.Re3 Be4 42.Qe2 Qf5 [Here Black could have also had a won game by 47…Rxc1 48.Rxe4 Qc6 (Black’s threats include …f5 and …Rc2. – RME) White sealed his move now.] 43.Rc3 Ra4 (Of course, Black has to retain all his pieces on the board. His basic plan is to keep his Bishop on the long diagonal and to penetrate with his heavy pieces along the two central files.) 44.Qd2 Ra7 45.Qe3 Rd7 46.Rc5 Qe6 47.Kf2 (If White tried 47.f5, then 47…Qd6+ 48.Kf2 g5 would be the best play, capturing White’s f-pawn later.) 47…Qd6 48.b4 Bb7 49.h3 Qd1 0-1
Recently I was going over an old collection of some 1990s games.
I found this little-known gambit in the French. The opening moves were 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4, and now instead of 4.Nxe4 (the Rubinstein), White plays 4.f3. This tempts Black to play 4…exf3 5.Nxf3, and White has an extra developing move for the pawn.
I could not find a name for this gambit. So, I made one up. And in keeping with convention of naming openings that feature an early f3 and allowing Black to take the pawn apparently for free, I decided to name it, “The French Fantasy Variation”. Or FFV for short.
The first two games presented are the first two I found with these opening moves.
These games show some promise for the FFV! I am excited so far! Do these New Zealanders know something about chess opening that most other players don’t? I had to look up some more games, just to make sure that this opening, while definitely exciting, is also somewhat sound. I don’t want any negative surprises hitting me while playing this in an OTB or online tournament.
During my quest I found that Black can also do well. More troubling is that I didn’t find too many Master level games with this opening. Now it could be that 4.f3 was hardly played as there was very little theory on it, or the Master lever players didn’t think it was a great, or even a good, gambit to play. Of course, one way of deciding is to analyze it for oneself, namely me!
Let’s look at several games in which Black did well.