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.
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.
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!
Anderssen-Kieseritzky 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.
Harrwitz-Kieseritzky 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 -+
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]
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.
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
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)
Tartakower-Capablanca 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
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
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
I briefly touched on the Hennig-Schara Gambit in my last post (an opening named after two players).
But after I reviewed it, I thought it might be a fascinating subject to share. So here are some surprising opening moves for you, the good reader.
The gambit starts with the moves, 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4. White gets an early advantage while Black develops. The game can easily enter lines where tactics and unclear continuations come into play.
Basically, with the c-file and d-file open, Black’s dream position would be one that he would castle queenside and have the enemy king stuck in the center. This obviously cannot happen in all games as can White castle kingside and Black often has a problem developing his b8-bishop, necessary for him to castle queenside.
But before going over the main lines, let’s first take a look at well-known trap that many Black players fall into, especially in speed chess.
Which leaves White with taking the pawn. He can either take it immediately with 5.Qxd4 or the move after with 5.Qa4+ Bd7 (played to disrupt Black’s development and close the d-file, at least for the moment).
White’s first plan, 5.Qxd4 is an obvious move. Black’s response is overwhelmingly in favor of 5…Nc6, if only because 5…Nf6 fails.
One line which we DO NOT recommend for White is: 6.Qd1 exd5 7.Qxd5 Bd7 8.Nf3 Nf6 9.Qd1 Bc5 10.e3? Qe7 11.a3 O-O-O 12.Be2? Bh3!
The following games demonstrate the reasons why.
Dr. A. A. Mengarini-M. Radoicic Third Forum Open New York, 1967 [Hans Kmoch, “Games from Recent Events”, Chess Review, July 1967] 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qxd4 Nc6 6.Qd1 exd5 7.Qxd5 Bd7 8.Nf3 Nf6 9.Qd1 Bc5 10.e3 Qe7 11.a3 (11.Be2 is urgent.) 11…O-O-O 12.Be2 (Now White returns the Pawn for no obvious reason. 12.Bd2 is indicated. White has a difficult job then but does after the text move also.) 12…Bh3 13.Qc2 Bxg2 14.Rg1 Bxf3 15.Qf5+ Kb8 16.Qxf3 Ne5 17.Qf5 g6 18.Qc2 Rd7 19.b4 Bb6 20.Bb2 Rc8 21.Rd1 Rdc7 22.Qb3
22…Bxe3!! (This brilliant breakthrough destroys whatever dreams of safety White has.) 23.fxe3 (On 23.Nb5, Black probably continues with 23…Bxf2+ 24.Kxf2 Ne4+) 23…Nf3+! 24.Bxf3 (Or 24.Kf2 Rxc3! 25.Bxc3 Rxc3 26.Qxc3 Ne4+, etc.) 24…Qxe3+ 25.Be2 (White has nothing better.) 25…Qxg1+ 26.Kd2 Qg5+ 27.Kc2 (Or 27.Ke1 Qh4+ 28.Kd2 Rxc3! or 28.Kf1 Qh3+ 29.Ke1 Ne4 30.Rd3 Qh4+ with a winning attack.) 27…Ne4 28.Rd3 Rxc3+! 29.Bxc3 Rxc3+! 30.Rxc3 Qd2+ 0-1
Eric Marathee (2068)-Herve Daurelle (2230) Paris Ch. France, July 24 1999 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qxd4 exd5 7.Qxd5 Nc6 8.a3 Nf6 9.Qd1 Bc5 10.e3 Qe7 11.Be2 O-O-O 12.Nf3 Bh3 13.Qb3 (13.Qa4 may be the only move here – RME.) 13…Bxg2 14.Rg1 Bxf3 15.Bxf3 Ne5 16.Bh1 Rhe8 17.Na4 Nd3+ 18.Ke2 Ne4 19.Bxe4 Qxe4 20.Bd2 Nf4+ 21.Ke1 Qf3 22.Qd1 Nd3+ 0-1
White has better luck with 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qxd4 as Black’s counter attack is slowed down by his bishop on d7.
“weiran” (1775)-“mrjoker” (1778) Blitz Game ICC, September 6, 2008 [The reason not to grab the “b” pawn, part 2. Louis Morin is presumably “mrjoker”.] 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qxd4 exd5 7.Qxd5 Nf6 8.Qxb7 Nc6 9.Bf4 Nb4 10.O-O-O (10.Rc1! was much better.) 10…Rc8 11.Kb1 Rxc3 (A little too fancy. I saw 11…Bf5+! 12.e4, but simply missed 12…Qxd1+! 13.Nxd1 Bxe4+.) 12.bxc3 (I was expecting 12.Rxd7. Even with the help of Fritz I cannot find anything better than a perpetual check after 12…Qa5 13.a3 Qf5+ 14.e4 Nxe4 15.Ka1 Nc2+ 16.Ka2 Rc5 17.Bb5 Nc3+ 18.bxc3 Nb4+ 19.axb4 Qc2+ etc.) 12…Bf5+ 13.Kb2 Qxd1 14.Qb8+ Kd7 15.Qxa7+ Kc6 16.Qc7+ Kb5 17.c4+ (Again it seems as if a perpetual check should be the logical outcome after 17.Qb7+ Kc4 18.e4+ Qxf1 19.Nf3 Nd3+ 20.Kc2 Nb4+ 21.cxb4 Qd3+ 22.Kc1 Qc3+ 23.Kd1 Nxe4 24.Nd2+ Nxd2 25.Qxf7+ Kd3 26.Qxf5+ Ne4 27.Qh3+ etc.) 17…Ka6 (Sorry, no more checks.) 18.Kc3 Qc2+ 19.Kd4 Qb2+ 20.Ke3 Qc3mate 0-1
Sometimes the opening is named after the pieces. The King’s Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.f4), the Queen’s Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4), the Two Knights Defence (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6), the Three Knights Defence (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 g6), the Four Knights Opening (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6), the Bishop Opening (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4), and the Bishop Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4).
Pawns are featured in the Two Knights Variation of the Caro-Kann (1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3), the Three Pawns Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 Be7 4.Bc4 Bh4+ 5.g3 fxg3 6.O-O), and the Four Pawns Variation in the King’s Indian Defence (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f4) and the Four Pawns Attack in the Alekhine’s Defence (1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.c4 Nb6 5.f4).
1-0 (White has a piece, two pins, and all the attacking chances; Black has nothing.)
But this, the opening names – not the opening play – can get boring.
Some openings are named after the first person who was successful with the opening moves. Others are named after a player or student of the game who first published the analysis.
Opening names such as Alekhine’s Defence (1.e4 Nf6), Fischer’s Defence in the King’s Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 and now 3…d6 instead of the usual 3…g5), Larsen’s Opening (1.b3), the Ruy Lopez (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 Bb5), the Marshall Attack (a variation of the Ruy Lopez going 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 O-O 8.c3 d5), the Albin Counter- Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5), Anderssen’s Opening (1.a3), the Najdorf (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6), and the Benko Gambit (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5).
And that’s just for starters.
We also have the Smith-Morra (1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 – actually named after two players), the Caro-Kann (1. e4 c6, another opening named after two players), the von Hennig-Schara Gambit (yet another opening named after two players):
The Greco-Counter Gambit, by the way, is named after Greco who the first known person to write about the openings. The opening moves are 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5!?. And the opening is also known as the Latvian Gambit.
This is a good time to segue into another area where chess openings are named after not just one or two players, but after a group of localized players who studied and popularized these openings. Not only do we have the Latvian, but also the Budapest (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5), the French (1.e4 e6), and the English (1.c4).
Making things interesting is that some openings are named after cities and countries. We have the Catalan (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3), the Saragossa (1.c3), the Italian (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4), the Berlin Defence (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6), the Vienna (1.e4 e5 2.Nc3), and the London (1.d4 Nf6 and White will play an early .Bf4).
Openings are also named after animals. Most players know of the Dragon (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 and Black will soon play …g6, …Bg7, and usually …Nf6).
And some might even know the Chameleon (1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nce2, and now White can continue with the Closed Sicilian with .d3 and .g3, or the Open Sicilian with .d4 cxd4 .Nxd4).
But how many players are familiar with the Elephant Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5), the Orangutan (1.b4), the Pterodactyl Variation (1.d4 g6 2.c4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.e4 c5 5.Nf3 Qa5), or the Vulture Defence (1.d4 c5 2.d5 Nf6 3.c4 Ne4)?
Some players would mistakenly add the Bird (1.f4). But this opening was named after the English player, Henry Edward Bird (1830–1908).
But there are some opening names that are mysterious.
For example, the opening moves 1.d4 Nf6 are collectively known as the Indian Defences, such as the King’s Indian Defence, the Queen’s Indian, the Nimzo-Indian, the Old Indian. But why? We don’t know either.
And who knows where the Fried Liver Attack (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.Nxf7)? It is said that Black, playing this variation, is dead as a piece of fried liver But, why Fried Liver and not, say, Fried Chicken or even Fried Zucchini? Surely, more people know what chicken and zucchini than Fried Liver? Maybe Fried Liver is less desirable or digestible? And Black is surely not dead after taking the knight on f7 – there are ways for him to fight on, and even to win. Ok, back to tropic.
We also have the Benoni (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5). Where did that name come from and how did it become popular? We know the latter comes from “a Hebrew term meaning “son of my sorrow” (cf. Genesis 35:18) – the name of an 1825 book by Aaron Reinganum about several defenses against the King’s Gambit and the Queen’s Gambit”, as least according to Wikipedia. But why and how did it become popular if it concerns itself with the Queen’s Gambit?
Finally, we have the Halloween Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nxe5), where it is said that this gambit is scary. We agree – but to which side?
I enjoy researching chess openings. There are many opening positions where the other side may falter, fall into a trap, or even just find himself in bad position. Knowing how to take advantage of these mistakes is essential in correspondence. So, yeah theory and knowing well-researched lines are important.
But occasionally, a player may want to venture into the unknown, or create a new line. There are many reasons for this.
One is that the competing players may eventually know what lines a player excels in and try to learn his favorite lines. For example, a dedicated Najdorf player may avoid playing in the Sicilian, just to throw one player out of sync. Another is that sometimes a player can get tired playing the same lines, even if he does well with them. Just how many times can one play the Euwe variation of the Advance French? Or perhaps he wants to enjoy a game, fresh and unburden with theory. He may study this new thought with analysis or not, depending on his confidence.
One quick and easy way to try out a novelty is a blitz game. There is less stress, and one does not have to worry about losing some well-earned rating points.
Escalante-“Avila83″ (1643) Blitz Game chess.com, Feb. 17 2021 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nf3 (A move I have been experimenting.) 3…a6 (3…Qe4+? 4.Be2 and White has a small lead in development.) 4.Be2 b5?! (Flanking in a Center Counter game!? Doesn’t seem consistent.) 5.d4 Bb7 6.Nc3 Qd8 7.Be3 [White has an interesting gambit here: 7.Ne5!? Bxg2 8.Rg1 Bb7 9.Bf3 c6 (not 9…Bxf3? 10.Qxf3 +-) 10.Ne4 and his development outweighs his pawn minus. This is something to research!] 7…Nf6 8.O-O g6 (> 9…e6.) 9.Qd2 Bg7 10.Rad1 O-O 11.Bh6 Re8 12.Bxg7 Kxg7 13.Rfe1 (13.Qe3!?) 13…Nbd7 14.Ne5 Qc8 15.Ng4?! (With the idea of 15..Nxg4? 16.Bxg4 with a pin on the d7-knight. But White has no good continuation. Only if the f6-knight moves does White have anything positive. Better is 15.b4 which blocks any queenside expansion with …c5.) 17…Nd5?? (Incredibly the f6-knight moves!) 16.Qh6+ Kg8 17.Nxd5 Bxd5 (Please forgive the next few moves. It was blitz game.) 18.Ne5 (18.Rd3! with the idea of Rh3 is hard to stop. In fact, it wins!) 18…Nf6 19.h3 (Bad, as it stops a future Rd3, Rh3. White can try a later Re4, Rh4. But why should he wait?) 19…e6 20.Bf3 Bxf3 21.Nxf3 Nh5 22.Ng5 Qd8?? 23.Qxh7+ 1-0
Escalante-“chessNrun” Practice the French Thematic Tournament, Round 2 chess.com, 2020/1 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 g6 5.Bg5 Be7
[White got a very good game in Kvick-Thuring, Sweden, 1978, which reached this position by transposition: 1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 e6 4.Nxe4 g6 5.Bg5 Ne7? (Black makes the best move by blocking, but with the wrong piece.) 6.Nf6# 1-0.]
[White 5…Be7 has been seen before, this move, 6.h4 is a true, almost untested gambit. Previous moves included the tempo wasting 6.Be3?!, which doesn’t give White anything to cheer about. I should be honest here. While preparing this game for this week’s post, I came across this game.
Imagine, my gambit idea was tried and tested in tournament 18 years before I ventured it. And by someone who is less than 16 years old! Ah, chess is hard enough even if you do not come up with original ideas!]
6…Bxg5 7.hxg5 Nc6 8.Nf3 Nge7? 9.Nf6+! (This is again a natural move. Black is in trouble, although it is hard to see to the end.) 9…Kf8 10.Qd2 Nd5 11.Ne4 Kg7 12.O-O-O a5 [Black, who can’t castle (on either side), has a blocked h8-rook, and doesn’t want to open the center, makes for a break on the queenside.] 13.c4! (If Black is not going to open the center, then White must.) 13…Ndb4 14.a3 Bd7 15.d5 exd5 [White is winning, but still has to be careful. 16.Nf6? Bf5! 17.Qc3 (or 17.axb4? axb4 and Black threatens 18…b3 and 19.Ra1#) 17…Na2+ and Black wins.] 16.cxd5 [Now two Black pieces are under attack, White has all the attacking possibilities, will win material, and Black is lost. 16…Bf5 is Black’s best. But he still loses after 17.axb4! (White gets rid of Black’s biggest threat) 16…Bxe4 (17…Nxb4 18.Qd4+ Kg8 19.Nf6+ Kf8 20.Nxh7+! Rxh7 21.Rxh7 Na2+ 22.Kd2 Qe7 23.Rh8#) 18.Qc3+ f6 (18…Kg8 19.dxc6 Qe7 20.Rd7 axb4 21.Qxh8+! Kxh8 22.Rxe7 Ra1+ 23.Kd2) 19.dxc6 Qe7 20.Rd7. Consider this position a +-.]
First, let’s talk about the name of the gambit. Many players are convinced that AMAR is an acronym for Absolutely Mad And Ridiculous. And they are at least half correct, it is an absolutely mad and ridiculous opening. But the opening is named after Charles Amar, a 1930s player from Paris.
What makes this opening so bad? Well, the opening starts with 1.Nh3. And with this move White gives up his claim for the center, loses a tempo with his knight, and retards his own development.
Black probably has the advantage after either 1…e5 or 1…d5.
After 1.Nh3 d5, the game can continue with 2.g3 e5 3.f4, and the position of the AMAR gambit has been reached. Let’s see what White has done. With 2.g3 and 3.f4, he not only has the same problems as before, but has also tacked on a few more problems. His kingside is considerably weakened, he has open lines to his king, namely the d8-h4 diagonal (the same one used in Fool’s Mate), and he has sacrificed (lost?) a kingside pawn.
What has White gotten for all this mess? If Black plays 3…exf4, then White can win back the f-pawn with 4.Nxf4. He then has an OK position for his knight. And White can try castling.
Black, however, doesn’t have to play 3…exf4, leaving White with an entirely lost position. White can still try to castle kingside and maybe have some play along the f-file. But he usually doesn’t have the time to castle or make any long-term plans.
Really, White does better with the King’s Gambit.
1) 3.f4 2) 3.f4 exf4 4.Nxf4 3) 3.f4 Bxh3
Black can decline the gambitted pawn. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, Black has stronger moves.
Certainly Black can take the pawn. Well, he ends up with a much better position than White, who finds himself on the defensive. It is not known if this is a forced win for Black, but it is close to one.
You might not find it in a magazine. And you might not find it in a book. But there is a gambit that seems appropriate for Halloween. It is known as the Frankenstein-Dracula Variation (or FDV for short).
In this gambit (perhaps attack would be more descriptive), Black gives up a rook and a few pawns and then proceeds to gain control over a large portion of the board and threatens White’s queen in numerous ways.
Is it any good? Let’s check it (sorry, bad pun) out.
L. Janse-GM J. Hector Paskturneringen Open Sweden, Apr 20 2019 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bc4 Nxe4 4.Qh5 Nd6 5.Bb3 Nc6 6.Nb5 g6 7.Qf3 f5 8.Qd5 Qe7 9.Nxc7+ Kd8 10.Nxa8 b6 11.Nxb6 axb6 12.d3 (White wants to develop his Bc1. As events will show White will not have the time to develop this bishop. 12.Ne2 is the better choice.) 12…f4 13.Qf3 Nd4 14.Qd1 Bb7 15.Nf3 Nxf3+ 16.gxf3 Nf5 17.h4 Nxh4 18.Rh3 Qg5 19.Qe2 Bc5 20.Kd2 Qh5 21.Rxh4 Qxh4 22.Qxe5 Re8 23.Qb8+ Bc8 24.Bc4 Bb4+ 0-1
Ray Bott-Roger D de Coverly Match, Game 7 London, 1988 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bc4 Nxe4 4.Qh5 Nd6 5.Bb3 Nc6 6.Nb5 g6 7.Qf3 f5 8.Qd5 Qe7 9.Nxc7+ Kd8 10.Nxa8 b6 11.Qf3 Bb7 12.Qh3 Nd4 13.c3 Bg7?!
14.Bd1? (White has to play 14.cxd4 and while Black runs wild over the board with his pieces, he is doing so with one less piece. White’s sole developed piece, his queen, is stuck in the open and becomes a target. The end is swift.) 14…Ne6! 15.d3 Bxa8 16.Ne2 f4 17.Kf1 Ng5 18.Qh4 Nf5 0-1
(Black could obviously try 7…O-O but I usually like to castle to the opposite side of my opponent – it opens more possibilities to attacking their castled king. R. Norman-M.Varner, corres., 1991 continued with 6…O-O 7.O-O Be6 8.Nc3 Nd7 9.b3 Nde5 10.Ne4 Nxf3+ 11.Bxf3 Bd5 12.Bb2 Bxe4 13.Bxe4 Qh4 14.Rf4 Bxf4 15.exf4 Qxf4 16.d3 Rad8 17.Qe1 Rfe8 18.Qc3 Nd4 19.Re1 Kh8 20.Bc1 Qxc1 21.Rxc1 Ne2+ 22.Kf1 Nxc3 23.Bf3 c6 24.a3 g6 …0-1.)
7.O-O h5 8.Nh4?! (8…c4!?) 8…Be6 9.Rxf6? (This might work if Black was forced to play 9…gxf6? and now either 10.Bxh5 or 10.d4. But even then Black has the advantage.) 9…Qxf6 10.g3 g5 11.Ng2 h4 12.g4 h3 13.Ne1 Qe5 (>13…O-O-O! which will save Black a tempo or two.) 14.Nf3 Qf6 15.Nc3 Bxg4 16.Ne4 Qf5 (>16…Qg6!) 17.Nexg5? (This can’t be good. Much better is 17.Nxd6+ cxd6 and White rids himself of an annoying bishop. The text move, moreover, freely opens the g-file to Black’s rooks without him having to work for it.)
17…O-O-O?! (A reasonable move. But not the best. Black should immediately use the open file that was freely given to him with 17…Bxf3 18.Bxf3 Qxg5+ or 18.Nxf3 Qg4+.) 18.Qf1 Bxf3 (A move best described as better late than never.) 19.Nxf3 Rhg8+ 20.Kh1 Rg2 21.Bd3 Qg4 22.Ng1?? Rxh2mate 0-1