What is the Borg? For Star Trek aficionados, they are an evil group of aliens who kidnap indigenous and sentient life forms and enslave them by use of electronic and computer implants.
But for the chess player, it is a dangerous, reply by Black against 1.e4. And when we say dangerous, we mean dangerous for Black, not White.
What makes this opening so bad for Black?
First of all, White can open the game with 1.g4 and Black can’t stop that move. But Black can really only play this move after 1.e4 (Both 1.d4 g5? 2.Bxg5 and 1.Nf3 g5? 2.Nxg5 quickly loses the game for Black).
Secondly, no one have ever claimed that 1.g4 is a good move. And it’s even worse when it is played a move behind for the following reason:
Thirdly, the move 1.g4 severely weakens White and since Black is a move behind, his reply 1…g5 weakens him even more.
But how did Black’s opening 1.e4 g5 get the name, Borg? Well, the move 1.g4 is known as Grob’s Opening. And Borg is Grob spelled backwards.
But this name only took hold after Star Trek, The New Generation introduced the Borg in an episode titled, “Q Who?”, which aired on May 8, 1989.
18.Nxf7+ Kc8 19.Nd6+!! (Much better than taking the rook and losing the initiative. Keep the enemy king on the run!) 19… Kd8 20.Qg5+ Nf6 21.Qxf6+ Kd7 22.Qf7+ Kd8 23.Nc4 Qxb2+ 24.Kxb2 b5 25.Bd6 a3+ 26.Kb1 bxc4 27.Qc7+ Ke8 28.Qe7mate 1-0
Alan R. LeCours-Richard Pugh New York Ch. Kerhonkson, Aug. 31 2003 1.e4 g5 2.d4 e5?! 3.d5 d6 4.Nc3 g4 5.Be3 Nf6 6.Qd2 Nbd7 7.O-O-O Rg8 8.Bd3 a6 9.Nge2 Nc5 10.Ng3 Bd7 11.Kb1 b5 12.Nce2 a5 13.c3 b4 14.c4 a4 15.Nc1 c6 16.f3 Qa5 17.Rhe1 Nb3 18.axb3 a3 19.bxa3 (19…Qxa3 20.Qa2, and White keep his extra piece.) 1-0
Escalante-“Chsstrrrst” (1637) Blitz Game chess.com, Jan. 16 2021 1.e4 g5 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.Bxg5 Qb6 5.Qc1= [The chess.com computer says this is an error and suggests the sharper 5.c4, and then the question becomes, can Black reasonably take the b2-pawn with his Queen?
5…Qxb2 6.Nd2, White’s best move, and now:
6…Qxd4?! 7.Ngf3 +/- Qg4 8.cxd5!, and the position between +/- and +- for White.
6…cxd4 7.Bxc4, and White has the advantage.
6…Nc6 7.Rb1 Qxa2 8.Ngf3, and there should be an infinity sign here (which means an unclear position, but I can’t upload that symbol here).]
6.cxd4 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Bd3 Bg4 8.Nbd2 O-O-O 9.O-O f6 10.exf6 exf6 11.Bf4 h5 12.h3 Bd7 13.Nh4 Nh6? (Better is 13…Ne5 as the move not only stops Ng6, but White can’t open the c-file with c4.) 14.Ng6 +/- Bg7 15.Nxh8 Rxh8 16.Nf3 Nf5 17.Re1 Nb4 18.Qd2 Nxd3 19.cxd3! (Finally, opening the c-file and Black is ill equipped to defend his isolated king on that file.) 19…h4
If Black chooses to ignore the Bxg5 threat, he might also want to counter-attack. And he occasionally succeeds.
IM Craig W. Pritchett-IM Michael J. Basman Great Britain Ch. Southampton, England, 1986 1.e4 g5 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 c5!? (This is an interesting, and possibly even a good, move.) 4.d5 h6 5.h4?! (This is possibly where White starts to go wrong. The position is closed and he should not open it up so soon.) 5…gxh4 6.Nf3 d6 7.Nxh4 Nd7 8.Nf5 Bxc3+ 9.bxc3 Ne5 10.Bb5+ Kf8 11.Be2 Qa5 12.Kf1 Bxf5 13.exf5 Nf6 14.Rxh6 Kg7 15.Rxh8 Rxh8 16.Kg1 Qxc3 17.Rb1 Ne4 18.Bh5 Qd4 19.Be3 Qxd1+ 20.Bxd1 Nc3 21.Ra1 Nxd5 22.Bc1 b5 23.Bb2 f6 24.Rb1 b4 25.Be2 Nf4 26.Bf1 Rh5 27.Bxe5 fxe5 28.g4 Rg5 29.f3 Kf6 30.a3 a5 31.axb4 axb4 32.Bc4 d5 33.Bf1 Rg8 34.Ra1 Rb8 35.Ra6+ Kg5 36.Ra7 c4 37.Rxe7 b3 38.cxb3 cxb3 0-1
But if White remains flexible, he can often take the pawn and still have enough pieces and space to engineer an attack. There is also the issue of Black trying to win the b2-pawn with his queen.
Vladimir Petrienko-Jan Svatos Trimex Open Pardubice, Czech Republic, 1992 1.e4 g5 2.d4 Bg7 3.Bxg5 c5 4.Be3 Qb6 5.Nc3 (Again, we have the question about Black taking the b-pawn with his queen. The biggest counter-threat from White is of course, Nd5. So, again, is it worth for Black to take the b-pawn? According to result of this game, the answer is No.)
A couple of decades ago I was reading a short story titled, “The Three Pawns Gambit”. It featured mysticism and the usual crazy chess hero.
But what is the Three Pawns Gambit? Does is lead to insanity? Or, perhaps more important to the average chess player, can you win with it?
Let’s look into it.
To get to the starting point of the three pawn gambit (3PG), you have to begin with the Kings’ Gambit Accepted (1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4). Then we move onto the Cunningham 3.Nf3 Be7). And then onto one of the many main lines of the Cunningham with 4.Bc4 Bh4+)
And now White usually continues with 5.Kf1.
If White continues instead with 5.g3, then we have reached with position that leads to the 3PG.
Now, wait, you might say, “White has only gambitted only one pawn, not three.
You are correct. But Black almost always takes the second pawn with 5…fxg3. And why not? He is ahead by two pawns and is ready to invade White’s kingside with his pieces.
And now White castles with 6.O-O, offering up a third pawn.
Let’s review all the moves so far as we’ll proceed rapidly from this point.
Newton-V. Jurgenson, 1994 [Escalante] 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 Be7 4.Bc4 Bh4+ 5.g3 fxg3 6.O-O d6 (6…gxh2+ is considered best. But no matter how good accepting a sacrifice, some players will still decline it.) 7.Bxf7+ (White says, “So if Black won’t take my pawn, he might not take my bishop”. Actually taking the bishop is dangerous due to 7…Kxf7 8.Nxh4+.) 7…Kd7 8.e5 gxh2+ 9.Kh1 Nc6 10.e6+ Ke7 11.Nxh4 Bxe6 12.Bxe6 Kxe6 13.Qg4+ Kd5 14.Nc3+ Kc5 15.d4+ [Interesting is 15.Rf5+!? Kb6 (better, but still leading to mate is 15…Ne5 16.d4+ Kc6 17.d5+ Kd7 18.Rxe5#) 16.Rb5+ Ka6 17.Qa4+ Na5 18.Qxa5#.] 15…Kb6 16.d5 Nf6 17.Be3+ Ka6 18.Qc4+ 1-0
“Ben_Dubuque”-“subhankars”) Blitz Game Chess.com, July 14 2017 [“Ben_Dubuque”] 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 Be7 4.Bc4 Bh4+ 5.g3 fxg3 6.O-O gxh2+ 7.Kh1 (The Three Pawns Gambit or the Bertin Gambit whichever you prefer.) 7…Be7 (Any move other than d5 is a mistake but d5 still allows White some compensation. Most engines will evaluate the position after d5 as maybe -1 which is surprisingly good considering White is down 3 pawns. 7…d5 8.exd5 Bg4 9.d4.) 8.Bxf7+ Kxf7 9.Ne5+ Ke8 10.Qh5+ g6 11.Nxg6 Nf6 12.Rxf6 Bxf6 13.Nxh8+ Ke7 14.Qf7+ Kd6 15.d4 Bxd4 (15…Qxh8 16.Bf4+ Be5 17.Bxe5+ Qxe5 18.dxe5+ Kxe5 19.Nc3) 16.Bf4+ Be5 17.Qd5+ Ke7 18.Qxe5+ Kf8 19.Bh6+ Kg8 20.Qg7mate 1-0
Two popular responses after 6.O-O gxh2+ 7.Kh1 are 7…Bf6 and 7…Nh6
Reshevsky-Doery Simul Berlin, 1920 [American Chess Bulletin, Nov. 1920, p.170] 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Be7 4.Nf3 Bh4+ 5.g3 (A lively continuation that is classified as Capt. Bertin’s Gambit. Steinitz was wont to play 5.Kf1 against Bird, one of the few masters who ever resorted to the Cunningham.) 5…fxg3 6.O-O gxh2+ 7.Kh1 Nh6 (Not to be recommended. The correct move is 7…d5) 8.d4 Qe7 9.Bxh6 gxh6 10.Ne5 Bf6 [The removal of Black’s King’s Knight has left the King’s Bishop’s pawn woefully weak and Rzeschewski (i.e. Reshevsky RME) knows full well how to take advantage.] 11.Qh5 Rf8 12.Nxf7 (In this fashion does the little fellow make the chess the “child’s play” which is beyond the comprehension of many who are highly accomplished along other lines, but cannot quite grasp the fundamentals of chess strategy.) 12…Qxe4+ (Rzeschewski had calculated upon the sacrifice of a piece and the gain of more than it’s equivalent a few moves later, viz.: 12….RxN; 13.BxR+ QxB, 14.QxQ+ KxQ 15.e5, etc.) 13.Kxh2 Qxc2+ 14.Kg3 (Fearlessly the White King marches out into the open. He does not dread Rg8+, for in that case the Knight is withdrawn with discovered check.) 14…Bh4+ (Black is in desperation, but if, to avoid the discovery, he were to play …Ke7, then Re1+ would force mate.) 15.Qxh4 Qxc4 16.Qd8mate (Short shift is meted out to the presumptuous one who takes a chance on anything escaping the keen eyes of the small “grand-master” as he was dubbed in Vienna two years ago.) 1-0
Dus Chotimirsky-Robine Hamburg, 1910 [Escalante] [White has a won game after his 12th move. But how he wins it is spectacular.] 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 Be7 4.Bc4 Bh4+ 5.g3 fxg3 6.O-O gxh2+ 7.Kh1 d5 8.exd5 Bf6 9.d4 Ne7 10.Ng5 h6? 11.Nxf7! Kxf7 12.d6+ +- Kf8 13.Qh5 Qe8
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
Martin Severin From (Apr. 8 1828-May 6 1895), an English player, came up with an intriguing gambit to deal with Bird’s opening (1.f4). It has proven to be so popular that it now the most common response to 1.f4 and is played in blitz chess, OTB games, and correspondence games.
But why this gambit so popular after 150 years? For one, it can lead to a quick mate for Black. Second, even if the game does not end in a quick mate, the initiative can quickly pass to Black. And all for the price of a pawn.
Many players have studied From’s Gambit and contributed to the it’s theory. It’s a labor of love, and because it’s chess, it is a complicated and forever friendship. Some players actually do fall in love with this opening.
Here is one of the earliest games played by it’s creator.
Mollastrom-From Copenhagen, 1862 1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.e4 Ng4 6.g3? (White falls into a thematic trap of the From’s.)
6…Nxh2! 7.Rxh2 Bxg3+ 8.Ke2 Bxh2 9.Nxh2 f5 10.Bg2 fxe4 11.Bxe4 Qh4 12.Qh1 O-O 13.Bd5+ Kh8 14.Qg1 Qh5+ 15.Bf3 Rxf3 16.Nxf3 Bg4 17.d3 Nc6 18.Bf4 Rf8 19.Bg3 Rxf3 20.Ke1 Qh6 21.Nc3 Nb4 0-1 Let’s look at some problems and early traps that can trouble and entrap White.
[White does not need to accept the offered pawn. He can play 2.f4 and the game is now a King’s Gambit. Which is another opening White having to learn. In any case, he is no longer playing a Bird’s. Or he can attempt other moves. But declining the gambit, unless it’s 2.f4, usually backfires.
Klaus Bernhard-F. Felgentreu Bundeswehr Ch. Stetten, 1988 1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.Nf3 g5 5.g3 f5 6.e3 Qf6 7.Nc3 Ne7 8.Bc4 h5 9.Rf1 h4 10.g4 fxg4 11.Ne4 Qg7 12.Nfxg5 Bxh2 13.Nf6+ 1-0 [But 5…h5, applying more pressure on White’s kingside, seems to work to keep the balance, with Black still having a slight advantage in the Initiative department and White still keeping his extra pawn.]
Guischard-Gedult Paris, 1972 1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.d4 Ng4 6.Nc3 Bxh2 7.Bg5 Bg3+ 8.Kd2 f6 9.Bh4 Nf2 10.Qc1 Nxh1 0-1 [He can play 5.g3, which is more complicated, but still equal in chances.]
When I was in High School, and just beginning to understand the theories of chess, an old man came to visit us at the table. This episode probably then happened a park.
He watched with some intensity, as I and my opponent were engrossed in our game. After the game ended (I think I won), he asked, almost with a sneer, “so what is the difference between checkers and chess?”
I didn’t exactly why he was asking this question. But I gave him my best answer and replied, “Chess is more complicated”.
With that, the old turned around and departed. Maybe he thought I was rude and me being a male teenager, that may be true. Or is because he didn’t expect the conversation to go that way. Or he may have thought he has interacting with younger teens (after all, when I was 14 I could still pass for a 12 year-old).
So, I got to thinking, what are differences between chess and checkers. And I drew up a list. Which I promptly lost. But I remember most of it. And now with the magic of the Internet, and blogging in particular, here is my list (corrected for spelling and grammar).
WHAT IS THE SAME
The boards are identical in size (8 x 8).
Each board has 64 squares.
A man moving to the 8th rank is promoted.
It is a game usually played by only two competitors.
WHAT IS DIFFERENT
Checkers is played on a red and black board. Chess is typically played on a white and black board.
In checkers, each player starts with only 12 men. In chess, each player starts with 16 men.
In checkers, all the men look the same, move the same way, and are of equal value. In chess, the pieces look different, move differently, and are worth different values.
In checkers, Black moves first. In chess, White moves first.
In checkers, a man reaching the 8th rank can only be promoted to a King. In chess, a man reaching the 8th rank can be promoted to a Queen, a Rook, a Bishop, or a Knight. But never to a King.
In checkers, players use only 32 squares of the board. In chess, both players use all 64 squares.
In checkers, players may only move their men diagonally. In chess, players may move their pieces diagonally, forward, backwards, and horizontally.
In checkers, a player captures a man by jumping over them. In chess, a player can capture a man by occupying their place on the board.
In checkers, only a king can move backwards. In chess, Knights, Bishops, Rooks, Queens, and Kings can move backwards. Pawns are the only units that may only move forward.
In chess, there are rules for en passant and castling. No such rules exist for checkers.
In checkers, captures are mandatory. In chess, players may decline a capture.
In checkers, openings are decided by lot. In chess, opening play is determined by the players.
And for us chess enthusiasts:
Chess has a high cultural value. People equate us chess players as possessing great intelligence, a fantastic memory, and in its purest form; grace.
It is possible to be a prodigy in math, music, or chess.
Frank Brady wrote “Bobby Fischer: Profile of a Prodigy”.
Wikipedia has an article titled, “Chess Prodigy”.
No checkers player has ever been known or labeled as a prodigy.
Recently I had an opportunity to analyze to the Dilworth variation of the Open Ruy Lopez.
To begin, let us look up the moves that lead up the Dilworth.
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 (This move defines the Ruy Lopez, named after the 16th-century Spanish priest Ruy López de Segura.) 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Nxe4 (The Open Variation of the RL. Black’s objective is to get good piece play by advancing his d-pawn and giving his pieces the freedom to roam across the board as well as pushing and protecting his d-pawn.) 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.c3 (9.Nbd2 Nc5 10.c3 d4 11.Ng5 leads to interesting Karpov Gambit. I’ve researched this line and IMHO, White’s attack is almost worth the pawn he sacrificed.) 9…Bc5 (Black can also play 9…Be7, which will give him a more closed game.) 10.Nbd2 O-O 11.Bc2 Nxf2!? (With this move Black gives up a knight for White’s f2-pawn and in return, gets a pinned White Rook and misplaced White King. And the Dilworth fight is on!) 12.Rxf2 (A forced move. The real analysis begins here.)
Black can certainly play 12…Bxf2+ at this point. But better is delaying this capture as not only is rook pinned, but it’s fixed position temporarily hinders the movement of White’s pieces.
Bobby Fischer-W. Stevens US Open Oklahoma City, July 24 1956 [White gets a small advantage but can’t do anything with it.] 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.c3 Bc5 10.Nbd2 O-O 11.Bc2 Nxf2 12.Rxf2 Bxf2+ 13.Kxf2 f6 14.exf6 Qxf6 15.Kg1 Rae8!? (15…Bg4 16.Nf1 Bxf3 17.Qxf3 Qxf3 18.gxf3 Rxf3 19.Be3 Ne7 20.Bg5! +/- ECO.) 16.Nf1 Ne5 17.Ne3 Nxf3+ 18.Qxf3 Qxf3 19.gxf3 Rxf3 20.Bd1 Rf7 1/2-1/2
Black must play 12…f6, or at least transpose into it.
We now continue.
Two moves White should now avoid are 13.Nb3 and 13.Qe2. Again, not necessarily bad, but he has a better alternative.
13.exf6! And now Black has to play 13…Qxf6 or 13…Bxf2+ .
We’ll look at 13…Qxf6 first.
White’s best is 14.Nb3! He wins most of the games as his knight move solidifies his position.
Ramon Ardid Rey-Jan Kleczynski X25 Paris Ol. France, 1924 [This game appears to be the first time the Dilworth variation was played in a master game.] 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.c3 Bc5 10.Nbd2 O-O 11.Bc2 Nxf2 12.Rxf2 f6 13.exf6
But 15.Kf1 Ne5 keeps the game going. It is doubled-edged and White just has to find the correct 16th move. He didn’t in this game.
Lee-Hanley La Palma C.C., 1982 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.c3 Bc5 10.Nbd2 O-O 11.Bc2 Nxf2 12.Rxf2 f6 13.exf6 Bxf2+ 14.Kxf2 Qxf6 15.Nf1 Ne5 16.Ng3?! (Too slow.) 16…Rae8! (Taking advantage of the extra tempo.) 17.Kg1 Bg4 18.Qxd5+?! (It is not a good idea to open lines when your opponent is the one doing the attacking, even if it is a check.) 18…Kh8
Some gambits are good for a surprise value only. Or they are thought to be simple enough to defend; no prior research is necessary to find a win.
But what if you really had to defend such a gambit? You never seen it before, you never analyzed it, but there it is, over the board and your clock has been started. You have a feeling that you should be able to beat it. But your clock is still ticking and you know you just have win this game, if for nothing except one’s own pride.
The Lolli Gambit is one of those gambits. You just know there is a defence. But what is the strategy? What are the moves?
I call it the Lousy Lolli. I originally called it that as it seems to be lousy for White. But if Black doesn’t find the right moves, then it can easily become very lousy for him.
According to Wikipeida, Giambattista Lolli (1698 – 4 June 1769) was an Italian chess player and one of the most important chess theoreticians of his time.
Let’s first define the gambit:
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.Bxf7+. White has sacrificed a piece in a position that resembles the Muzio. But he sacrifices his bishop too early.
Obviously Black can decline the gambit. But he has lost a pawn, cannot castle, and his king is misplaced. White has at least a “+/-”.
So Black is forced to take the offered bishop. Now the natural 6.Ne5+, causing further disruption of Black’s defensive plans, is almost automatically played. White played 6.O-O in the following game, winning mainly, and possibly only, because of Black’s greed.
12.Bb2+! Kxb2 (If Black was to play 12…Kd3!?, then White would castle queenside to continue the attack.) 13.Qe2+ Kxa1 14.O-Omate 1-0
By now, you have probably figured out that 6…Ke6? puts the Black in the way of further harm. The alternate move, 6…Ke8 makes White’s mating efforts much hard as Black can now put his pieces in front of his king, instead of behind him where they become mere spectators.
Let’s look at a few games with the idea of seeing additional opening themes and tactical possibilities. Black can win if he can sidestep the complications. And if he can’t …
Murcey De Villette – Maubuisson Paris, 1680 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.Bxf7+ Kxf7 6.Ne5+ Ke8 7.Qxg4 (The most common continuation. White needs to continue his attack and maybe win some material back. This move does both.) 7…Nf6 8.Qxf4 d6 9.Nc4 Qe7 10.Nc3 Nc6 11.O-O Bg7 12.d3 Rf8 13.Qg5 Be6 14.Ne3 Kd7 15.Bd2
(Black needs to either tuck his king in the queenside with 15…Rae8 and 16…Kc8 or try to simplify the board. He can’t do the first as he doesn’t have enough tempi. But his alternate plan is possible and probably even good. 15…Ng4! is his best move.) 15…Rae8?! 16.Ncd5 Bxd5 17.exd5 Ne5 18.Nf5 Qf7 19.Nxg7 Re7 20.Qf5+ Kd8 21.Ne6+ Ke8 22.Nxf8 Kxf8 23.Qxf6 1-0
Blackburne-N.N. Simul Canterbury, England, June 1903 [Based on the tactical ending, there is a good chance this game was played blindfolded. But I am unable to confirm this.] 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.Bxf7+ Kxf7 6.Ne5+ Ke8 7.Qxg4 Qf6 (The less aggressive, but stronger, move is 7…Nf6. Now White has a growing advantage.) 8.d4 Bh6 9.O-O Qg7 10.Qh5+! +- Ke7 11.Bxf4 Bxf4 12.Rxf4 Nf6 13.Qh4 d6 14.Nc3 c6 15.Raf1 Rf8 16.Nf7 Rxf7 17.e5 dxe5 18.dxe5 Nd7 19.exf6+ Nxf6
Fahad A. Al Turky (1903)-Abdulrahman A. Masrahi (1863) World Rapid Ch. St. Petersburg, Dec. 26 2018 [Black defends accurately, picks up more material, and the concludes with a fine sacrifice. A Black player’s dream!] 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.Bxf7+ Kxf7 6.Ne5+ Ke8 7.Qxg4 Nf6 8.Qxf4 d6 9.Nf3 Qe7 10.O-O Bg7 11.Nc3 Rf8! (The right ratio of defence and attacking possibilities.) 12.Qh4 Bg4 13.e5 Bxf3 14.Rxf3 dxe5 15.d3 Nbd7 16.Bg5 Qc5+ 17.Be3 Qd6 18.Raf1 c6 19.Bg5 Qd4+ 20.Qxd4 exd4 21.Re1+ Kf7 22.Ne4 Kg8! (If the king can’t find refuge on the queenside, then he should go to the kingside!) 23.Nd6 Nd5 24.Rg3 Kh8 25.a3 Be5 26.Rxe5 Nxe5 27.b3 Nf7 28.Nxb7 Nxg5 29.Rxg5 Rae8 30.h3 Rg8 31.Rf5
The term “Poisoned Pawn” appears twice in the opening naming lexicons. It can also be used in a more broader sense.
In general, the pawn on b2 is attacked by Black’s queen. If he does, he sure to face a massive, and sometimes very long, attack by the White’s pieces.
The question is, not can he take the pawn. But rather, can he withstand the attack? If he can, then he’ll be up a pawn in the endgame.
In a more literary sense, can Black eat the pawn without suffering indigestion? Now you know where the word, “poisoned” comes from.
Let’s get started.
The Poisoned Pawn in the Najdorf is defined by the moves; 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Qb6.
White usually continues with 8.Qd2, allowing Black to take his b2 pawn. He knows that if nothing else, he’ll be one attacking. But how best to attack? And what to do when Black, as he typically does, counterattack?
Fischer was the main advocate of this Najdorf version, who played it from the mid 1960s to the early 1970s. Here is Fischer in his prime.
To be sure, the response was cooked up by Spassky’s team both before and during the match. It was a quick defeat, and it’s no wonder that Fischer didn’t again in the match. Or ever again.
After winning the World Championship, Fischer disappeared for a couple of decades. During his absence several improvements were found for both sides. But without it’s chief proponent the variation is played by only a few top players.
Black can also offer a poisoned pawn. In this case the pawn is on g7.
The Poisoned Pawn Variation of the Winawer, offers a richer variation of play than the Najdorf. And it is played often.
The variation is triggered by the moves; 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Qc7 7.Qg4. Black has a number of ways to attempt to gain the upper hand.
Escalante-NM Adaar Thematic Tournament – Winawer Variation, Round 2 chess.com, Aug.-Sept. 2018 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 (The usual route to the Winawer. All games in the tournament began with this position.) 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Qg4 O-O (Some years ago Van der Tak wrote an article in NIC 8 titled, “Castling Into It?” where he explored Black’s kingside castling possibilities in the Poisoned Pawn Variation of the Winawer, and if it was a viable option for Black. I don’t think the resulting positions favor Black.) 8.Bd3 (Thanks to GM Van der Tak, and his article, I am convinced this is best move for White.) 8…Nbc6 9.Nf3 cxd4?? (This loses the game in a hurry.)
10.Bxh7+! 1-0 [Black resigns due to 10…Kxh7 11.Qh5+ (stronger than the traditional Ng5+ as the potential escape square, g6, is denied to Black) 11…Kg8 12.Ng5 and White mates.]
The term “Poisoned Pawn”, in a more general term, can be defined as a pawn on the b2 or g7 square that is offered to the enemy queen to lure her out of defending her king or deflecting her to an irrelevant area of the board.
The term can be used in the general sense.
GM Bent Larsen-IM Bela Berger Amsterdam Izt. Netherlands, 1964 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d3 d5?! 4.exd5 Nxd5 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.O-O Bg4?! 7.Re1 Be7 (Not 7…f6? because of 8.Nxe5! and Black is in a lot of trouble,) 8.h3 Bxf3 9.Qxf3 Nd4!? 10.Qg4!
11…O-O [Castling into the same area as the enemy queen is already attacking is usually not a good idea (see above). One has to think about self-preservation in addition to attacking factors. But in this case, Black is forced into it. White’s queen breaks in on both the center and kingside after 10…Nxc2 11.Rxe5 Nxa1 (hopeless is 11…Nf6 12.Qxg7 Kd7 13.Qxf7) 12.Qxg7 Rf8 13.Rxd5 Qc8 14.Qxh7 c6 15.Rf5. Even worse is 10…Bf6? The move is not only passive but it also loses a piece after 11.Qxd4. So Black has to risk it.] 11.Rxe5 Nf6 12.Qd1 (White has the extra pawn and better position.) 12…Bd6 13.Re1 Re8 14.Be3 c5 15.Nd2 Bc7 16.Nf3 Qd6 17.Bxd4 cxd4 18.Rxe8+ Rxe8 19.c3 dxc3 20.bxc3 Nh5 21.Qa4 Re7 22.Qxa7 Nf4 23.Qxb7 h5 24.Qc8+ Kh7 25.h4 1-0
Here, each side can offer their poisoned pawns, but don’t as they have nothing to compensate for their lost material. Material and and tempi are the requisites for giving up the pawn.
Ashraf Salimov-Vadim Razin Ukraine U16 Ch., ½ Finals Dnipropetrovsk, Nov. 11 2004 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.Bb5 Qb6 6.Bxc6+ bxc6 7.O-O Ba6 8.Re1 cxd4 9.Nxd4 Bc5 10.Be3 Bxd4 11.Qxd4 Rb8 12.b3 Ne7 13.Qc5 Nf5 14.g4 Nxe3 15.Qxe3 c5 16.Qg5 O-O 17.Nd2 Qb4 18.Nf1 f5 19.exf6 Rxf6 20.h3 Rbf8 21.Qe5 Rxf2 22.Qxe6+ Kh8 23.Qxa6 Qd4 24.Ne3 (24.Qe6 Rxf1+ 25.Kg2 Qf2+) 24…Qf4 25.Nf1 Qf3 (Black has too much pressure on White’s weak point and she has to concede the point.) 0-1
Many years ago. I was playing a tournament. Sometime between my morning game and afternoon game I met a young guy.
He was asking for help against the French Defence, saying he had a problem trying to figure it out so he could win as White.
He didn’t have a board or a set. I set up my pieces on my board so I can both see the moves. By the way, if you ever attend a tournament, ALWAYS bring a set with you. You want to show off you are making some investment in learning more about the game.
Anyway, I set up the board.
I then asked if he knew the Advanced Variation (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5).
He said, “It’s been analyzed to death and the only way for White to try to gain an advantage was to play the Milner-Barry.” “But,” he continued, “White still loses”.
I don’t completely understand what he was trying to tell me. It sounded like he was repeating someone who knew the names of the variations, but little else. Maybe I’ll unravel it.
I figured we both have the time. Let’s keep the conversation going.
I replied, “Ok, how about the Classical Variation (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5)?”
He answered me, “But it’s even more drawish than the Advanced Variation!”
“Ok. So what do you think of the Winawer (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4)?”
“Too much stuff to remember! And I don’t have the time to study all the lines.”
It turns out he didn’t want an improvement it the main lines. He wanted a brand-new way to counter 1.e4 e6.
I told him the French Defence got its name from a correspondence game between the cities of London and Paris in 1834.
And I concluded, “To find a new way to combat the French may not be possible.”
“Please anything! Even if it might be bad for White. I want something to at least try.”
OK, the opened the door a little.
The Schlechter Variation is defined by the moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Bd3. White’s bishop gets an early start in the game. However, it can be almost immediately challenged by Black’s knight.
But let’s not get too far ahead. Black can quickly lose the game (which is what my friend wanted to hear) if he falters.
Tarrasch-Kuerschner Nuremburg, 1893 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Bd3 Nf6 4.e5! Nfd7 5.Nf3 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.O-O f6 8.Re1 f5 9.Be3 c4?!(9…Be7, with the idea of 10…O-O is definitely better.) 10.Bc2 Be7 (Black plays this move a bit late and it doesn’t coordinate well with his previous move.) 11.b3 b5 12.a4 bxa4 13.bxc4 dxc4 14.d5 Ncxe5 15.dxe6 Nxf3+ 16.Qxf3 Nb6 17.Qxf5 Bf6 [Black has serious problems here. If 17…Rf8, then 18.Qh5+ g6 19.Bxg6+ hxg6 (or 19…Rf7 20.Bxf7+ Kf8 21.Bh6#) 20.Qxg6+ Rf7 21.Qxf7#.] 18.Bc5 Bb7 19.Qg6+! hxg6 20.Bxg6mate 1-0
Whitfield-Belson Toronto, 1934 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Bd3 dxe4 4.Bxe4 Nf6 5.Bd3 c5 6.dxc5 Bxc5 7.Nf3 O-O 8.O-O Nc6 9.c3 (Seems solid and reasonable.) 9…e5?! (There are not too many games with this position. But even with lack of games, this move seems to weaken Black too much for further consideration by other French players.) 10.Bg5 Re8 11.Qc2 h6 12.Bxf6 Qxf6 13.Nbd2 Bb6 14.Ne4 Qe7 15.Ng3 g6 16.Bxg6 fxg6 17.Qxg6+ Kf8 18.Nh5 Qf7 19.Qxh6+ Ke7 20.Ng5 Qf5 21.Rad1 Bd7 22.Qd6+ Kd8 23.Ng7 Qg4 24.N5e6+ 1-0
But Black can equalize in the main line after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Bd3 dxe4 4.Bxe4 Nf6 5.Bd3 c5 6.dxc5 Bxc5 7.Nf3 Nc6.
Tartakower-Torre Moscow, 1925 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Bd3 dxe4 4.Bxe4 Nf6 5.Bd3 c5 6.dxc5 Bxc5 7.Nf3 Nc6 8.O-O Qc7 9.Nc3 Bd7 10.Bg5!? (A move that may be slightly too aggressive.) 10…O-O-O 11.Qe2 e5 (ECO evaluates this position as equal. Personally, I think if any player has the advantage, it is Black.) 12.Be4 Bg4 13.Bxc6 Qxc6 14.h3 Bxf3 15.Qxf3 Qxf3 16.gxf3 Bd4 17.Nd1 Rd6 18.c3 Bb6 19.Ne3 Nh5 20.Nf5 Rd3 21.Rad1 Rxf3 22.Nd6+ Kc7 23.Kg2 e4 24.Nxe4 Rf5 25.Be3 Re5 26.Ng3 Nxg3 27.Bxb6+ Kxb6 28.fxg3 Re2+ 29.Rf2 Rhe8 30.Rd2 1/2-1/2
Here’s a game which shows my suggestion to my friend is not so unique after all.
IM Yan Teplitsky instructed his women team competing in the 35th Chess Olympiad in Bled to play this variation. Maybe there is something more about this opening.
Dina Kagramanov-Elenoara Ambrosi Women’s Ol. Bled, 2002 [IM Yan Teplitsky, “35th Chess Olympiad – Bled, Slovenia”, En Passant (Canada’s leading chess magazine), Apr. 2003] 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Bd3 (A rare line that does not have a very good reputation.)3…dxe4 4.Bxe4 Nf6 5.Bf3 c5 6.Ne2 Nc6 7.Be3 Qb6 8.b3 cxd4?![Now White gets to untangle her pieces. Much better is 8…Nxd4 (also for Black is to develop her queenside with 8…Bd7) 9.Nxd4 e5 10.Ne2 e4.] 9.Nxd4 Qa5+(While 9…Ne5 10.O-O Bc5 11.c3 Bd7 12.b4 Nxf3+ 13.Qxf3 Bxd4 14.Bxd4 Qc6 15.Qg3 is just as bad for Black, here 9…Bc5 10.Nxc6 Bxe3 11.fxe3 bxc6 12.Kf2 led to comfortable position for Black in Sirlett-Benggawanm Bled ol f (2) 2002, from the same match.) 10.Qd2 Qxd2+ (A funny continuation is 10…Nxd4 11.Qxa5 Bb4+ but White can just recapture the knight.) 11.Nxd2
11…Nxd4?[Black is behind in development, and has a much better way of playing by depriving White of the bishop pair with 11…Ne5! 12.Nb5 Nxf3+ 13.Nxf3 Nd5 14.c4 (but not 14.Bxa7? Bd7 15.a4 Bxb5 16.axb5 Bc5 and Black wins.) 14…Nxe3 15.fxe3 Bb4+ and Black is better.]12.Bxd4 Bd6 13.Nc4 Be7 14.O-O O-O 15.Na5! Nd5 16.c4 Nb4?(Black now loses a pawn. Much better is 16…Bb4 although Black still isn’t happy after 17.cxd5 Bxa5 18.dxe6 fxe6 19.Rac1.)17.Nxb7 Nc2 18.Na5 Nxd4 19.Bxa8 Bd7 20.Rad1 e5 21.Bd5 Rb8 22.Rfe1 Bd6 23.Nb7 Bc7 24.Nc5 Bg4 25.f3 Bc8 26.Rxd4 1-0