The “Lesser” Bishop Gambit?

Most chess players know the moves leading to the Bishop Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4). But how many of them know the moves leading to the “Lesser” Bishop Gambit?

Well, the moves are 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2. The main ideas seem to be preventing Black from checking on the e-file and placing the bishop on a square where it could not be easily taken or exchanged.

It seems strange that a player who would play a risky, tactically filled, opening, would want to play conservatively so soon in the game.

Nevertheless, we have this gambit.

So, let’s do a little research into it.

Black has several ways of responding to 3.Be2.

At the start, 3…Nf6 might seem to be a reasonable move. After all, it develops a piece and makes it easier for Black to castle. But after 4.e5, it is White that gains the advantage.

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 Nf6 4.e5

John Shaw-IM Peter Wells
London, 1993
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 Nf6 4.Nc3 d5 5.e5 Ne4 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.d3 Nxc3 8.bxc3 d4 9.O-O dxc3 10.d4 Bg4 11.Bb5 Qd5 12.Bxc6+ bxc6 13.Bxf4 c5 14.Be3 Rd8 15.dxc5 Bxc5 16.Qe1 Qc4 17.Rb1 O-O 18.Rb3 Bxf3 19.Rxc3 Qg4 20.Rxf3 Bb4 21.Rg3

21…Rd1 0-1

Philippe Jaulin-Frederic Coudray
Avoine Open, 1996
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 Nf6 4.e5 Ne4 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.d3
(A move that is often overlooked.) 6…Ng5 7.Bxf4 Nxf3+ 8.Bxf3 d6 9.Bxc6+ bxc6 10.O-O (Even better is 10.Qf3! as White gains a tempo or two.) 10…dxe5 11.Bxe5 Bd6? 12.Bxg7! Qh4 13.Qe2+ [Black’s best is 13…Be6. (not 13…Kd7? 14.Rxf7+). But even stronger is 13.Qe1+! as 13..Qxe1 14.Rxe1+ is check and the White’s has the attack and the material advantage.] 1-0

Black also has 3…Qh4+. And like in the Bishop Gambit, the White is dislodged from a good hiding square. The downside, again copying from the Bishop Gambit, is the Black queen is slightly out of play and facing all of White’s pieces on her own.

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 Qh4+ 4.Kf1

World Computer Ch., 1986
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 Nf6 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.e5 Bxc3 7.dxc3 Ng8 8.Nf3 Qh6 9.Qd4 g5 10.h4 Nc6 11.Qe4 Qg6 12.Nxg5 Qxe4 13.Nxe4 f3 14.gxf3 Nxe5 15.Bf4 d6 16.Re1 Bd7 17.Bc4 Kf8 18.Bxe5 dxe5 19.Nc5 Bc6 20.Rxe5 Rd8 21.Kf2 Nf6 22.Rf5 Rd2+ 23.Ke3 Rd6 24.Ne4 Bxe4 25.fxe4 Rg8 26.e5 Rc6 27.exf6 1-0

T. Winterbach-F. Llane
South Africa Open, 1986
[Gluckman, “Levitt Triumphs in 1986 Oude Meester S. A. Open”, The South African Chess Player, May/June 1986, pg. 73]
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 Nc6 5.d4 d6 6.Nc3 g5 7.Nf3 Qh6 8.Nd5 Kd8 9.h4 f6 10.g3 Qg6 11.Qd3 fxg3 12.hxg5 fxg5 13.Nxg5 g2+ 14.Kxg2 h6 15.Qf3 Nge7 16.Kf1 Be6?? 17.Nf4 +-
(and White won in 28)

Wurttenburg League 1987
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 Bc5 5.d4 Bb6 6.Nc3 d6 7.Nd5 g5 8.Nf3 Qh6 9.h4 c6 10.Nxb6 axb6 11.Nxg5 Qf6 12.Bh5 Nh6 13.e5 dxe5 14.Ne4 Qe7 15.dxe5 Qxe5 16.Nd6+ Ke7 17.Nxc8+ Rxc8 18.Qf3 Ra4 19.g3 Qb5+ 20.Kg2 Qd5 21.Re1+ Kf8 22.Bxf4 Qxf3+ 23.Bxf3 Ng8 24.Rad1 Rxa2 25.Bg4 Re8 26.Bd6+ 1-0

Fegan (1872)-Lazarevic (1416)
Southend Open, Apr. 21 2000
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 Nc6 5.Nf3 Qe7 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.d3 d6 8.Bxf4 Qd8 9.d4 Be7 10.d5 Nb8 11.h3 Nh5 12.Bh2 f5 13.Nd4 Nf6 14.exf5 O-O 15.Kf2 c5 16.Ne6 Bxe6 17.dxe6 Nc6 18.Rf1 a6 19.Kg1 b5 20.Nd5 Nxd5 21.Qxd5 Qc7 22.Qxc5 dxc5 23.Bxc7 Nd4 24.Bf3 Rac8 25.Bh2 c4 26.Be4 Bf6 27.c3 Nc6 28.Bd5 Kh8 29.a4 1-0

Klaus Bolding (2309)-Bruno Wagner (1943) X25
Rhone Open
Lyon, Apr. 27 2003
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 Nc6 5.Nf3 Qf6 6.Nc3 Bc5 7.Nd5 Qd6 8.d4 Bb6 9.Bxf4 Qg6 10.Bxc7 Qxe4 11.Nxb6 axb6 12.Bd3 Qe6 13.Qd2 Nge7 14.Re1 Qxa2 15.Qg5
(Even after 15…O-O White wins with 16.Bxh7+ Kxh7 17.Qh5+ Kg8 18.Ng5 +-) 1-0

3…f5 does amazing well.

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 f5

Mr. H. Jones & Sir Geo. Newnes – Blackburne
Manchester, England, Nov. 1878
[Blackburne, “Blackburne’s Chess Games”, #159]
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 f5 5.Qe2 Nc6 6.Nf3 Qh5 7.Nc3 Kd8 8.Bxg8 Rxg8 9.Nd5 Bd6
(An unnatural-looking move but necessary to defend the Gambit Pawn.) 10.d4 fxe4 11.Qxe4 Re8 12.Nxf4 Qg4 13.Ne5 (The Allies have nothing better; their position is hopeless.)

13…Nxe5 14.dxe5 Bxe5 15.Qf3 d6 16.Qxg4 Bxg4 17.Nd5 Kd7 18.c3 Re6 19.Bd2 Rf8+ 20.Kg1 Be2 21.Re1 Bc4 22.Ne3 Bd3 23.g3 Be4 24.Ng2 d5 25.Rf1 Rxf1+ 26.Kxf1 Rf6+ 27.Kg1 d4 0-1

Mr. Sutton-Blackburne
Simpson’s Chess Divan
London, 1884
[Blackburne, “Blackburne’s Chess Games”, #176]
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 f5
(Although a favorite defence of mine I do not recommend it to the young amateur.) 5.Nc3 (Qe2 is stronger.) 5…Nf6 6.d3 g5 7.Nf3 Qh5 8.h4 h6 9.Kg1 g4 10.Ne5 Rh7 11.Ne2 (An attack on the Queen persistently followed up in White’s succeeding play.) 11…fxe4 12.Bxf4 Qf5 13.Qc1 d5 14.Bb3 Nbd7 15.Ng3 Bc5+ 16.Kh2 Nxe5 17.Nxf5 (Now White has attained his object, but the fruit is of the Dead Sea.) 17…g3+ 18.Bxg3 (Any other move is equally fatal.) 18…Neg4+ 19.Kh3 Ne3 20.Bf4 Bxf5+ 21.Kh2 Neg4+ 22.Kh3 Nf2+ 23.Kh2 N6g4+ 24.Kg1 Nxd3+ 25.Kf1 Nxc1 26.Rxc1 O-O-O 0-1

London, 1896?
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 f5 4.e5 d6 5.exd6 Qh4+ 6.Kf1 Bxd6 7.d4 Ne7 8.Nf3 Qf6 9.c4 c6 10.c5 Bc7 11.Nc3 Be6 12.h4 Nd7 13.Qa4 h6 14.Bd2 g5 15.d5 Nxd5 16.Nxd5 Bxd5 17.Bc3 Ne5 18.Qd4 O-O-O 19.Qa4 Kb8 20.Rh3 g4 21.Nxe5 Bxe5 22.Bxe5+ Qxe5 23.Ra3 Bxg2+ 24.Kxg2 Qxe2+ 25.Kg1 a6 26.Qxf4+ Ka8 27.Re3 Qxb2 28.Rf1 Rd2 0-1

Vienna 1903
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 f5 4.e5 d6 5.d4 dxe5 6.dxe5 Qh4+ 7.Kf1 Bc5 8.Nh3 Be3 9.Nc3 Be6 10.Nd5 Bxd5 11.Qxd5 Nc6 12.Bc4 Qe7 13.Nxf4 Rd8 14.Bxe3 Rxd5 15.Nxd5 Qh4 16.Nxc7+ Kd7 17.Bxg8 Rxg8 18.Nd5 Qc4+ 19.Kf2 Qxc2+ 20.Kg3 h5 21.Rhd1 h4+ 22.Kh3 Ke6 23.Nc7+ Kf7 24.Rd7+ Kg6 25.Nd5 f4 26.Nxf4+ Kh7 27.g4 Qe4 28.Nd5 Qf3+ 29.Kxh4 Nxe5 0-1

Crowl-C. Purdy
Australia, 1946/8
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 f5 4.exf5 Qh4+ 5.Kf1 d5 6.Nc3 c6 7.d4 Bd6 8.Bd3 Ne7 9.Qe2 O-O 10.Nf3 Qf6 11.g4 fxg3 12.Bg5 Qf7 13.Bxe7 Qxe7 14.Qxe7 Bxe7 15.Re1 Bd6 16.Kg2 gxh2 17.Nh4 Nd7 18.Ne2 Nf6 19.Ng3 Ng4 20.Rhf1 Bd7 21.Kh3 h1=Q+ 22.Nxh1 Nh6 23.Kg2 Rf7 24.Re5 Re7 25.f6 Bxe5 26.fxe7 Bxd4 27.Rf8+ Rxf8 28.Bxh7+ Kf7 29.exf8=Q+ Kxf8 30.c3 Bf6 31.Ng6+ Kf7 32.Nf2 Bf5 33.Nh8+ Ke6 34.Ng6 Kd6 35.Kf3 Bb1 36.a3 Kc5 37.Ke2 Bf5 38.Nf8 Kc4 39.Bxf5 Nxf5 40.Kd2 Kb3 41.Kc1 d4 42.cxd4 Bxd4 43.Nd3 g5 44.Ne6 g4 0-1

Antwerp 1994
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 f5 4.exf5 Qh4+ 5.Kf1 d5 6.Nc3 c6 7.d4 Bxf5 8.Nf3 Qh6 9.Bd3 Bxd3+ 10.Qxd3 Bd6 11.h4 Ne7 12.g4 Nd7 13.Bd2 O-O-O 14.Re1 Qf6 15.h5 h6 16.Rh2 g6 17.hxg6 Qxg6 18.Qxg6 Nxg6 19.Re6 Ndf8 20.Rf6 Be7 21.Rf7 Ne6 22.Na4 Rde8 23.b4 Rhf8 24.Rxf8 Bxf8 25.b5 Ng5 26.Nxg5 hxg5 27.bxc6 bxc6 28.Rh5 Be7 29.Rh6 Rg8 30.Nb2 c5 31.dxc5 Bxc5 32.Nd3 Bd4 33.Nb4 Ne5 34.Nxd5 Rd8 35.Ne7+ Kb7 36.Nf5 Bc5 37.Rh7+ 0-1

But perhaps the best response is 3…d5, aggressively opening up more lines for an attack. White meets this best with 4.exd5 Nf6, and usually 5.Nf3.

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 d5 4.exd5 Nf6 (5.Nf3)

New York 1924
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 d5 4.exd5 Nf6 5.c4 c6 6.d4 Bb4+ 7.Kf1?! (7.Bd2) cxd5 8.Bxf4 dxc4 9.Bxb8 Nd5 10.Kf2 Rxb8 11.Bxc4 O-O 12.Nf3 Nf6 13.Nc3 b5 14.Bd3 Ng4+ 15.Kg1 Bb7
16.Bf5?! (White’s king needs some breathing room and a chance for activating his rook. He can do both, and even attack a piece, with 16…h3!) 16…Bxc3 17.bxc3 Ne3 18.Bxh7+ Kh8 (Even after 18…Kxh7? 19.Qd3+ Kg8 21.Qxe3 Black still has the advantage due to his more secured king.) 19.Qd3 Bxf3 20.gxf3 Nd5 21.Be4 Nf4 22.Qd2 Qh4 23.Kf1 f5 24.Bc6 Rf6 25.d5 Rd8 26.Rd1 Rxc6 27.dxc6 Rxd2 (Even Capablanca is known to make mistakes as Black does even better with 27…Qh3+ 28.Kf2 Qg2+. ) 28.Rxd2 Ne6 29.Rd6 Qc4+ 30.Kg2 Qe2+ 0-1

corres., 1947
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 d5 4.exd5 Qh4+ 5.Kf1 Nf6 6.c4 g5 7.Nf3 Qh6 8.d4 Ne4 9.Kg1 g4 10.Ne5 Qh4 11.Qf1 f3

(If 12.gxf3, then 12…gxf3 13.Nxf3 Rg8+ is painful. Even after the better 13.Bxf3 Rg8+ 14.Bg2 Bh3! 15.Qxf7+ Kd8 White is still lost. And 12.Bd1? f2+ is even worse.) 0-1

Norman Littlewood-Levente Lengyel
Hastings, 1963
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 d5 4.exd5 Ne7 5.Bf3 Nxd5 6.Ne2 Be7 7.O-O O-O 8.c4 Nf6 9.d4 g5 10.Nbc3 Kh8 11.b4 Nbd7 12.Bb2 Re8 13.d5 Ne5 14.Ne4 Nxe4 15.Bxe4 Bf6 16.Nxf4 gxf4 17.Qh5 Ng6 18.Rxf4 Bxb2 19.Rxf7 Bd4+ 20.Kh1 Bg7 21.Bxg6 h6 22.Rxg7 Kxg7 23.Bxe8 Qf6 24.Re1 Bf5 25.Rf1 Bg6 26.Qd1 Qc3 27.Bxg6 1-0

J. Meyer-Dickson
corres. 1983
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 d5 4.exd5 Nf6 5.Nf3 Bd6 6.c4 c6 7.d4 Bb4+ 8.Nbd2 O-O 9.O-O cxd5 10.c5 Ba5 11.Nb3 Bc7 12.Ne1 Re8 13.Bxf4 Qe7 14.Nc1 Bxf4 15.Rxf4 Qe3+ 16.Rf2 Ne4 17.Ned3 Nxf2 18.Nxf2 Nc6 0-1

corres. 1984?
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 d5 4.exd5 Nf6 5.Nf3 Be7 6.O-O O-O 7.c4 Ne8 8.d4 g5 9.Bd3 Ng7 10.Qc2 f5 11.Nc3 Bf6 12.c5 Nd7 13.Re1 g4 14.Ne5 Bxe5 15.dxe5 Nxc5 16.Bxf4 Nxd3 17.Qxd3 c6 18.Rad1 cxd5 19.Nxd5 Be6 20.Nf6+ Kh8 21.Qg3 Qe7 22.Qh4 Ne8 23.Bg5 Qf7 24.Bh6 Nxf6 25.Bxf8 Ne4 26.Bh6 Qg6 27.Rd8+ Rxd8 28.Qxd8+ Bg8 29.Qf8 Qb6+ 30.Re3 1-0

Mark F. Bruere (2250)-J.M. Vaassen
corres., WT/M/GT/284
ICCF, 1990
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 d5 4.exd5 Nf6 5.Nf3 c6 6.dxc6 Nxc6 7.d4 Bd6 8.O-O
(Castling seems to be overdone in the King’s Gambit Accepted. Better is 8.c4 claiming a stake in the center and still holding the possibility of castling on either side.) 8…O-O 9.c4 Bg4 10.Nc3 Rc8 11.Nb5 Bb8 12.b3 (12.d5!? needs to be investigated.) 12..a6 13.Na3?! (13..Nc3) 13…Re8 14.Nc2 Qc7 15.Bb2 Ba7 16.Kh1 Ne7 17.d5? (Opening attacking lines where Black is the only one who profits. And it also drops a pawn.) 17…Nexd5! 18.cxd5 Qxc2 19.Bxf6 Rxe2 20.Bd4 Bxf3! 0-1

Hessen 1991
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 d5 4.exd5 Bd6 5.Nf3 Nf6 6.c4 c6 7.dxc6 Nxc6 8.d4 O-O 9.O-O Bg4 10.Nc3 Nh5 11.Ne5 Bxe2 12.Qxe2 Qh4 13.Nf3 Qg4 14.Nd5 Rfe8 15.Qd3 Re6 16.h3 Qg3 17.Bd2 Rg6 18.Ne1 Qxd3 19.Nxd3 Nxd4 20.N3xf4 Nxf4 21.Nxf4 Rf6 22.Rae1 Bxf4 23.Rxf4 Rxf4 24.Bxf4 Nc6 1/2-1/2

Scottish Ch. 1993
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 d5 4.exd5 Nf6 5.Nf3 Bd6 6.O-O O-O 7.Nc3 c6 8.d4 Nxd5 9.Nxd5 cxd5 10.Ne5 f6 11.Nd3 g5 12.c3 Be6 13.Bf3 Nc6 14.Bd2 Qd7 15.b4 Kh8 16.Qb3 Qf7 17.Rae1 Rfe8 18.a4 Rad8 19.Rf2 g4 20.Bd1 f3 21.Bf4 Bf5 22.Rxe8+ Qxe8 23.Bxd6 Bxd3 0-1

C. Sánchez-A. Alexander
IECC 2000
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 d5 4.exd5 Nf6 5.Nf3 Bd6 6.c4 O-O 7.d4 b6 8.Ne5 c5 9.dxc6 Qc7
(9…Ne4, threatening, …Qh4+ is a possibility.) 10.Bxf4 Nxc6 11.Nc3 a6 12.Nxc6 (12.Bf3!?) 12…Qxc6 13.Bxd6 Qxd6 14.O-O Bb7 15.d5 Rae8 16.Qd2 Ne4 (> 16…c5.) 17.Nxe4 Rxe4 18.Bd3 Rh4? (Black is having problems and he needs to play 18…Re5. The text is simply a waste of time.) 19.g3 Rd4 20.Bxh7+ 1-0

Georg Schweiger (2187)-Martin Markl X25
Regionalliga SO
Bayern, 2000
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Be2 d5 4.exd5 Qh4+ 5.Kf1 Qd8 6.d4 Nf6 7.c4 c6 8. dxc6 Nxc6 9.d5 Ne5 10.Bxf4 Ng6 11.Be3 Bd6 12.Nc3 O-O 13.Qd2 Re8 14.Re1 Bf5 15.Nf3 Ng4 16.Bd3 Qd7 17.Nd1 Re7 18.Qc2 Bxd3+ 19.Qxd3 Rae8 20.Bd2 Rxe1+ 21.Bxe1 Nf4 22.Qd4 Qe7 23.Qd2 Bb4 24.Qxf4 Qxe1+ 25.Nxe1 Rxe1mate 0-1