Thursday, 12 December 2013

Site update

I had a comment earlier about how it got confusing that some of the analysis at my "old" site had not been converted/updated over to the "new" site.  Well, I've set about rectifying that- my analysis of the Italian, Blackmar-Diemer, Staunton and From Gambits, as well as "1.e4 e5 2.d4- Black doesn't take on d4" has been ported over to the Weebly site.  I intend to update those, but for now, porting the original analysis over is probably better than nothing.

I haven't yet done a thorough coverage of the Two Knights Defence, which is why there is no link to analysis for that opening yet, but I was quite recently involved in analysis of the Fegatello/Fried Liver Attack (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.Nxf7) at the Chesspublishing forum.  The verdict was that 6...Kxf7 7.Qf3+ Ke6 8.Nc3 Ncb4 9.a3?! does not provide White with enough compensation if Black grabs the rook with 9...Nxc2+ 10.Kd1 Nxa1, but that 9.Qe4, 9.0-0 and 9.Bb3 were all looking OK for White.  To be honest, I am not sure that 6.Nxf7 is definitely inferior to 6.d4, since 6.d4 Be6 (as analysed in Kaissiber) probably restricts White to a small advantage.  Regardless, Black should avoid the obvious recapture on d5.

Finally, for a bit of light entertainment, a quick win that I had in a "thematic" internet game in the Muzio/Polerio Gambit, a fairly important line of the King's Gambit that Black often avoids by heading for the Hanstein Gambit.  I misplayed the early middlegame but after trading queens my opponent fell for a quick checkmate.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

A recent game in the Pribyl/Czech System

I had quite a nice win as White against the Pribyl System (or Czech Defence) recently.  There were a few minor mistakes but that's to be expected in club-level chess, and I was quite pleased with how I played on the whole.  I have to admit that I knew no theory past move 3, but I stumbled into a fairly mainstream response which has been used by some grandmasters (although most players prefer 5.Bd3 to 5.Bd2 according to the database).  Yes, it goes to show that I don't always play gambits, although admittedly I did leave my b2-pawn hanging for a couple of moves.

Meanwhile, there was some good bloodthirsty chess in Game 9 of the Anand-Carlsen match with both players pressing strongly for a win, but sadly Anand's aggressive play was abruptly cut short by a large blunder on move 28.  I found a good analysis of the game at the ChessBase website.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Albin Counter-Gambit

The Albin Counter-Gambit is used against the Queen's Gambit and begins with 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5, intending 3.dxe5 d4 whereupon the d4-pawn has a significant cramping effect on White's position.  It can be seen as a sounder relative of the Englund Gambit (1.d4 e5) because White has weakened the b4 and d4-squares by playing c2-c4. 

Unlike with the previously-discussed Englund Gambit, I find it difficult to answer the question, "Is the Albin Counter-Gambit sound?", since objectively Black falls a little short of full compensation for the pawn, but on the other hand, 2...e5 is probably only marginally worse theoretically than 2...e6, 2...c6 or 2...dxc4, while often giving Black greater counterplay.

The format for the Albin Counter-Gambit coverage and the updated Englund Gambit coverage now features a brief discussion of the main lines and ideas, a 4-part series giving games and analysis and an index of variations, to make it easier to determine which games correspond to which variations.

In the Albin, I focus on White's attempts to get in an early e2-e3, with the aim of swapping off Black's d4-pawn, and then on the three most critical lines: (4.Nf3 Nc6) 5.g3, 5.a3 and 5.Nbd2.  I have chosen to give some coverage to all of Black's main approaches (...Be6, ...Bf5, ...Bg4 and ...Nge7) in each case, as theoretically some of the lines following 5.a3 and 5.Nbd2 are looking quite dicey and it is worth having alternatives to fall back upon.  This coverage might need a bit of expansion in the future as I realise that after 4.Nf3 Nc6 I haven't mentioned White's minor fifth-move options (e.g. the rare 5.Bf4 was covered by Tim McGrew in A Fistful of Novelties)

My overall assessments haven't changed much though- the approaches with ...Nge7, favoured by Alexander Morozevich, are generally soundest but there are certain White responses that make it hard for Black to generate much counterplay, while the approaches with ...Be6/f5/g4 give Black counterplay but are less likely to come close to fully equalising.  I find the approaches with ...Bf5 the most fun, as there are various tactics for White to watch for on c2 and d3 and they lead to some good kingside attacks if White goes g2-g3, although I have tried out some of the ...Nge7 lines as well.  

In the meantime, the Anand-Carlsen match has sprung into life and seen Carlsen pull out two of his typical endgame wins from equal or slightly better positions.  While I would like Carlsen to win the match as I consider him to be the better player, I'd like to see Anand at least win one game, as per my original prediction (+3 -1 =8) and I think he still has a chance of pulling that off, though his chances of winning the match are now pretty low.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Anand-Carlsen- The Beginning

While I continue working on updates to my site (currently updating my coverage of the Albin Counter-Gambit and the Englund Gambit, both gambits based on meeting d4 with an early ...e5, of which the Albin is the more reliable) and again tinkering with the format, as I get more experienced with the pros and cons of PGN and HTML editing) I'll take another look at the Anand-Carlsen match.  Against my original prediction, it's opened with two rather cagey draws.

The official site offers game replays and computer engine analysis outputs so I'll link to the site for the benefit of those who would like to replay the games.

Game 1 was a pretty uneventful draw, but for me, the bigger disappointment was Game 2.  The following position was reached after 14 moves:
This is the sort of opposite-sides castling position that excites me at the club level as it often leads to rival attacks, but unfortunately, a series of piece trades followed and a quick draw resulted.  The computer analysis at the official site indicates a few junctures where either side could have attacked more (16...a5 followed by 17...a4, 18.Qd4 for instance).  Certainly when I castle queenside I often find myself having to reckon with the advance of that a-pawn.

However, it's understandable that neither player wants to take many risks at this early stage and World Championship matches have often got off to a cagey start in the past so hopefully this is just one of those situations and the match will flare up within a few more games.

Mayhem in the Morra- White's sacrificial play rebounds

I had a game in the Morra Gambit (1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3) by transposition that didn't turn out too well, but I got quite a good position out of the opening.  (I plan to get around to giving the Morra some discussion at my Gambiteer's Guild site eventually, but we might be talking a year or more later, depending on my progress with covering other variations.)

The game, with light annotations:

It's frustrating when you get to play one of your pet lines, emerge with a good position out of the opening and then screw up, but at least then you can't blame your loss on the opening!  As it happens, the whole game up to move 13, as observed in my notes, is covered in Marc Esserman's book Mayhem in the Morra (a book well worth getting if you are interested in this gambit, as he carries across a lot of enthusiasm for the opening as well as extensive coverage of the various lines).

Englund Gambit

I'm continuing to tinker around with the format of the articles as I get more to grips with the pros and cons of PGN/HTML editing.  The next "big" update will be on the Albin Counter-Gambit, which I've been using frequently with Black over the past couple of years, with reasonable results and some exciting games.

However, the latest update to my site has been on the Englund Gambit (1.d4 e5).  This is Black's only way to get a gambit on the board by force after 1.d4, but the downside is that it is not as reliable as the Albin or Budapest Gambits because White has not weakened the b4 and d4-squares with c2-c4.

I played the Englund Gambit with 1.d4 e5 2.dxe5 Nc6 3.Nf3 Qe7 quite a lot in casual games between 2004 and 2008, but have largely abandoned it since, partly because of the strength of 8.Nd5 in the main line and partly because I began to find the Albin and related lines (1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6!?) more attractive as well as being sounder.  The line is still playable at club level in my opinion, since there is only one particularly troublesome line for Black and in practice, White is unlikely to both get that far and know what he/she is doing, but it does arguably amount to "hope chess" in the sense that you're relying on your opponent not being booked up on the refutation.  I tried it out in one serious match game, which I won, though ironically it was me who ended up the pawn ahead and facing an attack:

Having looked through the different lines of the Englund Gambit, perhaps the best practical tries for Black after 1.d4 e5 are the Zilbermints Gambit (2.dxe5 Nc6 3.Nf3 Nge7) and Soller Gambit (3...f6), which are the lines that Stefan Bücker examined in Kaissiber 5 in some detail.  They concede a greater-than-usual advantage to White with best play but I don't know of an outright refutation.  That said, my occasional experiments with the 3...Nge7 variation in casual games have typically been unconvincing, and I typically felt that I was playing an inferior version of the Albin Counter-Gambit lines with ...Nge7.  3...f6 should not give Black enough for the pawn, since Black is playing a Blackmar-Diemer Gambit a tempo down, but a scan through the databases suggests that in rapid games, the BDG can be dangerous even after losing a tempo.  In slow games I have rather more doubts about 3...f6, however.

If White does not play 2.dxe5 and 3.Nf3 then White gets no more than a normal edge, and sometimes less (e.g. after 2.d5?! White is the one struggling to equalise).  One area where I differ from established theory is that I believe that 1.d4 e5 2.dxe5 Nc6 3.f4?! should be met by 3...d6!, rather than 3...f6?! 4.Nf3! fxe5 5.fxe5 which is probably as good for White as 3.Nf3.

I have to say, though, that if I was to take White against someone like Lev Zilbermints (I've seen quite a few of his short, sharp kingside attacks in the Soller Gambit in particular) then I would be strongly tempted by 1.d4 e5 2.e4!?, where it's often White who gets to be the gambiteer, making it a good psychological tactic.

Monday, 4 November 2013

The "draw problem"

While I get some more articles prepared at my site, another quick blog on a chess-related issue that interests me: draws at grandmaster level.  ChessBase has a two-part series on draws:

Having read various recent issues of Chess Monthly, it does seem to me that the problem of uneventful draws and players striving not to lose has declined at the grandmaster level over the past 5-10 yearss or so.

For me, the main issue is that chess has a large "drawing margin" and that when you reach a very high standard, you run into the following problem.  I quote from Michael Goeller's review of the book "Beating Grandmasters More Regularly" at

C]hess is one of the most drawish of sports, and trying to complicate matters, especially with Black, can easily lead to disaster against opponents who are willing to set up a solid position and just wait. I have literally chosen to lose games rather than acquiesce to a draw against such players, because I could not bring myself to accept that my superior knowledge and understanding were insufficient to yield enough winning chances when facing them. Therefore, I would often consciously take excessive risks and lose. Being uncompromising is, in general, a disadvantage in chess, as having the "serve" ...of the white pieces is too hard to overcome. Had I realized this fact at the beginning,I would have probably played chess only as an amateur, and chosen a
different sport to make a professional career.

Such a statement makes you feel good to play as an amateur, where there will always be winning chances in every game you play even if they tend to exist for both sides!
The above issue represents the main reason why I don't have an ambition to reach GM level and play professionally- for me chess is a hobby and, while I'd quite like to break the 2000 Elo barrier, my main ambition is simply to have fun and to give something to the chess community for the benefit of fellow amateurs.  A lot of people assume that playing chess is about maximising results and that the goal is always maximum improvement, but I don't go along with that.

I don't think there's a lot that can be done about the above issue of drawishness at the highest levels of chess.  Magnus Carlsen, who I discussed in my last article, was known as a developing player to have a bold, attacking style and a strong willingness to trade material for activity (e.g. see Carlsen-Ernst, Wijk aan Zee 2004 at which is in keeping with the theme of the opening systems discussed in this blog, but when he reached a high grandmaster standard he realised that it is often hard to make those sort of attacks work at that level and the associated openings are vulnerable to being neutralised by deep computer-assisted opening preparation, so he chose to become more subtle and positionally-based in his ways of generating winning chances.

For now, though, I think chess is in pretty good health, because grandmaster chess is still capable of producing some excitement, and less than 1% of players are grandmasters- for the other 99+% of us, games will typically feature numerous winning chances for both sides.  There is a risk that computers could end up "solving" chess in the way that they have with draughts/checkers (i.e. being able to prove a draw against best play), which would be likely to cause a problem at grandmaster level, but it is unlikely that amateurs would even come close to remembering any of the "solutions".

Friday, 1 November 2013

Carlsen vs. Anand World Championship match

A quick diversion from the main theme of this blog, as many chess fans are wondering about how the Anand-Carlsen match will pan out.

Like many others, I don't think Anand really has much of a chance.  I remember the Kasparov-Anand match from 1995, when Kasparov was uncharacteristically tentative and prematurely agreed to a lot of draws, before finally coming undone in Game 9, thanks to a powerful exchange sacrifice on d5 which he was probably unwise to accept. But then Kasparov bounced back immediately, with a fine attacking win in Game 10, and Anand subsequently collapsed.

Anand has better match play experience but I don't think his all-round game is quite as strong as it was in 1995, while I doubt that Carlsen will be particularly afraid of Anand. If Anand wins their first decisive game I reckon he will succumb to a similar comeback.

Carlsen, like Kasparov, is known for occasionally using 19th-century openings, including a fair number of King's Gambits in his blitz games (and even won with 1.a4 on one occasion), but I doubt that he will use any in the upcoming world championship match.  Most likely, he will use slightly-offbeat lines in closed games which may be marginally sub-optimal theoretically, but provide strategic and relatively uncharted middlegame positions that give him scope to positionally outplay Anand.  In keeping with the modern trend at grandmaster level, I expect to see a lot of 1.d4 and some of 1.c4 and/or 1.Nf3 and we may well see no more than a couple of games starting with 1.e4.

My prediction is that Carlsen will win 3 of the 12 games, Anand will win 1, and there will be 8 draws, giving a scoreline of 7-5 in favour of Carlsen.  I also think that the match will be worth watching, as Carlsen's general approach is resistant to computer-assisted preparation and is unlikely to result in many uneventful draws, regardless of how Anand chooses to combat it.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Urusov Gambit

The Urusov Gambit most often arises from the Bishop's Opening: 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nf3, but Scotch/Göring Gambit aficionados can also enter the line via 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Nf3, or 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Bc4.

White's idea is to meet 4...Nxe4 with 5.Qxd4, and if Black retreats the knight to f6, to put pressure on Black's kingside with Bg5 and Qh4 (hence Black does not really gain time on the queen by playing ...Nb8-c6).  The ideal setup for White is indicated here:

White continues with Bc4-d3, threatening Bxf6 and Qxh7 mate, and if Black plays ...h7-h6, then a strong Bxh6 sacrifice follows.  This position demonstrates the dangers of castling early against the Urusov Gambit.  Black may have formed the solid "Hungarian Defence formation" but it doesn't work against this sort of attacking setup and Black needs to improvise in order to distract White from getting the white pieces onto these squares.

At the Urusov Gambit section of my site I have chosen to give more of an "outline" type of coverage, highlighting the key lines and deviations and suggesting what I believe to be best play for both sides, while again offering some annotated illustrative games.  For those after a thorough analysis I recommend that readers have a browse of Michael Goeller's Urusov Gambit site, while Danish Dynamite contains some good analysis of the accepted lines of the gambit.

Some brief comments on the declined variations:

1.  Black's most reliable way to decline the gambit is with 4...Nc6 transposing to the Two Knights Defence, but 4...Bb4+ is also quite critical.  Here I recommend that White boldly sacrifices two pawns with 5.c3 dxc3 6.0-0, since 6.bxc3 d5 is strong for Black and I don't trust the line 7.Qa4+ Qd7 8.Qxb4 dxc4 9.Ba3 Nc6 10.Qxc4 Qe6.

2.  I am in strong agreement with Goeller that 4...d6 should be met by heading for a line of the Antoshin Variation of the Philidor Defence, with 5.0-0, followed by Re1 and Nxd4 in most cases.  My investigations into this line have suggested that it is promising for White.  4...c5 should also be met by 5.0-0, and if 5...Nc6 then 6.Ng5 intending f2-f4, and 6.Re1 intending c2-c3, are both sufficient to give White a theoretical edge and attacking chances.  However, 4...c5 is not as bad as it looks and should not be underestimated.  Finally, 4...Bc5 should be met instead by 5.e5 intending 5...d5 6.exf6 dxc4 7.Qe2+ Be6 8.fxg7 Rg8 9.Bg5 as recommended at Goeller's site.

3.  I don't think 4...d5 5.exd5 Bb4+ equalises.  My main recommendation against this is 6.c3 Qe7+ 7.Be2 dxc3 8.Nxc3 rather than the more popular 8.bxc3.  Estrin and Panov's recommendation against this, 8...0-0 9.0-0 c6, does not appear to equalise after 10.a3 forcing the b4-bishop away to an inferior square.  White can also get an edge with 6.Kf1, which wins a pawn in most lines, but White's king ends up misplaced and holding onto the extra pawn at d5 can be tricky, so it is probably not as easy to play.

And onto the accepted variations:

1.  After 4...Nxe4 5.Qxd4 Black has no good alternative to retreating the knight with 5...Nf6.  Then, I am in agreement with Goeller and others that 6.Bg5?! is inaccurate as it fails to cover the d5-square and thus runs into 6...Nc6 intending 7.Qh4 d5.

2.  6.Nc3 Nc6 7.Qh4 Bb4 is a tricky sideline as the threat of shattering White's queenside pawn structure forces White to change plans and castle short, and this gives Black greater scope to play ...h7-h6, inviting a Bxh6 sacrifice, without suffering an immediate disaster.   See D.Grobler-J.Antal, email 2011.

3.  The main lines all seem to be holding up well for White.  The main line of the Urusov Gambit Accepted is probably 6.Nc3 Be7 7.Bg5 Nc6 8.Qh4 d6 9.0-0-0 Be6 10.Rhe1! Bxc4 11.Qxc4 0-0.

Surely this position should be good for Black, who has castled, has no weaknesses, has almost completed development, and has an extra pawn, and has forced White's queen away from its aggressive post on h4?  Upon close inspection, apparently not.  White has several attractive attacking options, and the one that appeals to me the most is Max Burkett's innovation 12.h4, while 12.Rd3, 12.Re3 and 12.Qh4 also offer fair attacking chances. 

A key idea in many lines is the Rxe7 exchange sacrifice which undermines the protection of the knight on f6.  Carlos Torre (best known for beating Emmanuel Lasker with the Torre Attack, using 1.d4, 2.Nf3 and 3.Bg5) tried this sacrifice immediately at move 12 and won a fine attacking game with it, though it is probably better for White to defer the sacrifice until a better moment (e.g. after 12.h4 h6?! 13.Rxe7! and if 13...hxg5 then 14.hxg5!)

Monday, 21 October 2013

Danish Gambit- The Summing Up

I have completed the Danish Gambit coverage at my site and opted to update the format of the site again (the updated format has also been applied to the Scotch and Göring Gambit sections so far).

The main page features an introduction to the opening, then there are sub-pages providing a brief discussion of the critical lines (in article style) which contain links to the annotated games hosted at my 50webs site.  This allows me to combine the "encyclopaedic" and "illustrative games"-based openings coverage- this is likely to be helpful for some of the less-respected gambits due to the lack of high-quality, high-level games in some of the lines.

Unfortunately I haven't been able to find a way to host the HTML files directly at the Weebly site, but for those who don't like having to switch between two different sites, I've made all of the associated games available for download in PGN format directly from the Weebly site, at the end of each article.

Recapping on the previous blog entry, the 3...Ne7 declining variation is currently an issue because I keep coming across resources for Black.  For instance, I quite liked the look of the line 4.cxd4 d5 5.Nc3!? dxe4 6.Bc4 Nf5 7.Nge2 ("with compensation" - Danish Dynamite) 7...Nd6 8.Bb3.

It is too risky for Black to hold onto the e4-pawn so with accurate play, White rounds up the e4-pawn and is left with an isolated pawn on d4, but strives to compensate for this with active piece play.  However, Black can consider a kingside fianchetto with 8...g6 intending 9...Bg7 here and I don't think much of White's attacking chances against this.

The other line worth trying out is 5.e5 Nf5 6.Nc3 Be7 7.Nf3 0-0 8.Bd3 Nc6 (as per M.Voigt-J.Hector, Hamburg 2000) and now I think White has quite promising attacking chances on the kingside with 9.Bc2.  But Voigt more recently ran into 6...c5!? (M.Voigt-J.Sriram, Thailand 2011), which accepts an isolated pawn on d5 but gives Black a large share of the active piece play.  The game itself led to a rather dull draw.

The question of, "Which move-order?", is also dependent on which of the two Göring Gambit move-orders we're comparing with.  The brief lowdown is as follows:

A.  1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.c3.  This allows the Petroff (2...Nf6) but it avoids Black's third-move alternatives following 2.d4 exd4 3.Nf3. If Black plays 3...d6 then White can get a good line of the Ruy Lopez, Steinitz Defence (4.Bb5) or simplify to a slightly better queenless middlegame with 4.dxe54.Bc4 is also worth considering- it will probably transpose to a reasonable sub-variation of Philidor's Defence.

B.  1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.c3.  This avoids the Petroff and opens up some additional gambit sidelines, which may or may not be to White's taste, and there is also the line 3...d5, though this should be slightly better for White after 4.Qxd4.  If White wants to avoid the line 4...dxc3 5.Nxc3 Bb4, then this move-order is problematic because of 3...Bb4+, but if White is happy to play the white side of that line, then I don't see any major objections to it.  I've had a number of games in this line which reached a Urusov Gambit after 3...Nf6 4.Bc4.  If Black plays 2...d6 then White can play 3.dxe5 or 3.Nf3 (the latter leads to a Philidor Defence) and if 2...Nc6 then Göring Gambit fans can play 3.Nf3 and be happy that they have again side-stepped the Petroff Defence.

C.  1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3.  This move-order has the advantage over A that it avoids the Petroff, but I don't see many reasons to prefer C over B, even if White intends 3...dxc3 4.Nxc3.  After 4...Bb4, if 5.Nf3 Nc6, or 5.Bc4 Nc6 leaving White with nothing better than 6.Nf3 since 6.Nge2 Nf6 leaves White with insufficient control over the e5-square.
There is one line that can catch White out if White goes for 3...dxc3 4.Nxc3: 4...d6 should be met by 5.Bc4, since 5.Nf3?! Be7 6.Bc4 Nf6 allows Black to castle before White hammers f7, i.e. 7.Qb3 0-0.  However I still believe that 4.Nxc3, as Nigel Davies recommended in Gambiteer I, is fully sound.

The main line Danish Gambit with 4.Bc4 is looking shaky in my view, for as well as the "equalising" 4...cxb2 5.Bxb2 d5 6.Bxd5 Nf6 7.Bxf7+ Kxf7 8.Qxd8 Bb4+ 9.Qd2=, there is 5...Nf6 6.Nc3 (6.e5 d5 7.exf6 Bb4+ 8.Nc3 Qxf6) and Black chooses between 6...Bb4 and 6...d5!?, returning one pawn in order to assist development.  "PANFR" at the forum has recommended 5...Bb4+ which is also critical, though with best play it probably transposes to 5...Nf6 6.Nc3 Bb4.

There is also 3...d5 4.exd5 Nf6!? with the idea 5.Bb5+ Bd7 6.Bc4 b5!? which probably leads to equal chances for both sides.  4...Qxd5 5.cxd4 Nc6 does not force play into the Capablanca Variation because White has 6.Be3 as well as the idea 6.Nf3 Bg4 7.Nc3 Bb4 8.Be3.  I think 6.Be3 leads to similar positions after 6...Bb4+ 7.Nc3 Nf6 8.Nf3 Qa5 9.Qb3, but with Black not committed to ...Bg4, there are a few independent options for Black.  I tend to think that 6.Be3 is only worth a go if White doesn't like the line 6.Nf3 Bg4 7.Nc3 Bxf3 which leads to a sharp endgame with equal chances.

But for some, the main objection to move-order C may well be 3...Ne7 as discussed above.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Danish Gambit Declined

The Danish Gambit commences with 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3.

The Danish Gambit is essentially a Göring Gambit with the moves Nf3 and ...Nc6 omitted.  In some lines play often transposes into the Göring Gambit, especially the lines with 3...d3, 3...d5, and 3...dxc3 4.Nxc3, as Nf3 and ...Nc6 often follow, but there are some important differences.  I am currently preparing to upload some updated games and analysis to supplement the Danish Gambit part of my Gambiteer's Guild site and have been looking over the declined lines.  If White wishes to meet 3...dxc3 with 4.Nxc3 then the Danish Gambit move-order is probably no better or worse than the Göring Gambit version, but if White wants to offer the second pawn with 4.Bc4 then I strongly recommend that White plays Nf3 before c3, since the "pure" Danish Gambit with 4.Bc4 has numerous additional drawbacks.  In the next blog article I expect to be able to explore these after having looked at some recent games in the line.

Perhaps the most important difference in the declined lines concerns the declined variation with 3...Ne7, known as the Svenonious Defence, although this line continues to be surprisingly neglected at high levels of play, and there are few practical examples.  In the Göring Gambit version with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.c3 Nge7, White can get quite a good position with 5.Bc4 d5 6.exd5 Nxd5 7.0-0, but in the Danish Gambit version, White has no way to transpose into that line.  For example, 4.Bc4 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.Nf3, hoping for 6...Nc6, is thwarted by 6...Nb6, which gives Black a comfortable equality, while 4.Nf3 d5 5.exd5 (5.Qxd4 Nbc6 6.Bb5 Bd7) 5...Nxd5 6.Bc4 Nb6 transposes.

Thus White's best option against 3...Ne7 is 4.cxd4 d5 and now 5.e5 isn't too bad, since if 5...Nbc6, inviting 6.Nf3 Bg4, White side-steps the pin with 6.Nc3.  White will aim to generate play on the kingside while Black will try to undermine White's centre.  In the game Voigt-Hector, Hamburg 2000, following 5...Nf5 6.Nc3 Be7 7.Nf3 0-0 8.Bd3 Nc6 

9.Ne2 f6 10.a3?!, White got into trouble following 10...fxe5 11.dxe5 Nh4, but could have improved with 9.Bc2, or 10.0-0, both of which promise White some attacking chances although objectively the chances are approximately equal.  

5.Nc3!? is also worth investigating: 5...dxe4 6.Bc4 Nf5 7.Nge2 "with compensation" was suggested in Danish Dynamite, and play can then continue with 7...Nd6 8.Bb3.

With best play White will generally regain the pawn on e4 and emerge with a typical isolated queen's pawn position with equal chances for both sides, since it is risky for Black to try to hold onto the extra pawn.  For example, pushing with ...f7-f5 runs into Ne2-f4 and Black's light squares around the king end up very weak.

I don't think White needs to worry too much about 3...d3 4.Bxd3, with the idea 5.Nf3 and following one of the two favourable plans in the analogous Göring Gambit variation (either 0-0 with the idea Nd4 and f4, as in D.Velimirovic-A.Muratovic, Serbia 2005, or a plan with Bf4, Nbd2, Qc2, and castling to either side.)  Black ends up with a passive position.

3...Nf6 4.e5 is not much of an issue for White either, though following 4...Nd5 White's best is probably 5.Qxd4 since the attempt to transpose into Göring Gambit lines with 5.Nf3 runs into 5...d6, challenging the pawn on e5.

The most important of Black's declining lines, though, is 3...d5 which will be encountered very frequently in over-the-board play.

Here White has no good alternative to 4.exd5, since after 4.Bd3?! dxe4 5.Bxe4 Nf6, there is no knight on c6 for White to trade the e4-bishop for, and 6.Bg5 Be7 7.Bxf6 Bxf6 doesn't really help White.  Black keeps an extra pawn for limited compensation.

After 4.exd5 Black can try 4...Nf6!? after which White's best way to mix things is probably 5.Bb5+, when one of the most important continuations is 5...Bd7 6.Bc4 b5!? 7.Bb3 dxc3 8.Nxc3 b4 9.Nce2 Bd6.  Chances are roughly level in this position.

In the main line with 4...Qxd5 5.cxd4 Nc6, White normally transposes into the Göring Gambit with 6.Nf3, whereupon White can avoid Capablanca's Defence with Mark Nieuweboer's suggestion 6...Bg4 7.Nc3 Bb4 8.Be3, and if 8...Qa5 then 9.Qb3, though this allows the deviation 7...Bxf3 which leads to a sharp endgame which offers equal chances.  White has also experimented with 6.Be3, which will lead to a very similar situation after 6...Bb4+ 7.Nc3 Nf6 8.Nf3 (8.Nge2 is less convincing because of 8...Bg4), and again 8...Qa5 is dealt with via 9.Qb3.  This avoids the aforementioned 7...Bxf3 line, but allows Black a few alternatives to transposing with 9...Bg4, such as 9...0-0 (F.Nepustil-F.Cottegnie, email 2006), 9...Ne4 (which is best met by 10.Rc1) or 9...Be6.  I don't see a way for Black to prevent White from achieving dynamic equality, though, so 6.Be3 appears to be a reasonable deviation.

Finally, there is 3...Qe7, which counterattacks against e4 and is more effective than it is against the
Göring Gambit.  White should seek compensation for a pawn with 4.cxd4 Qxe4+ 5.Be3 (although the dubious second pawn sacrifice 5.Be2 Qxg2 might work in blitz games).  Danish Gambit aficionado Martin Voigt won quite an attractive attacking game as White in this line, although Black overlooked some important defensive resources (most notably 14...g6!)  My feeling is that White gets sufficient compensation for the pawn in this line, but no more, which means that the rather cheeky 3...Qe7 is a reasonable alternative to 3...dxc3 if Black wishes to hold onto an extra pawn.  Note that 4.Qxd4?! Nc6 5.Qe3 avoids the loss of a pawn but transposes into a poor line of the Centre Game (White would normally play Nb1-c3 rather than c2-c3).

Monday, 30 September 2013

King's Gambit Accepted- All important lines covered

I've had a pretty busy month, hence the lack of recent updates, but the latest update is a pretty big one!  I intend to go back to updating my coverage of the Danish/Urusov type lines next.

I have completed my coverage of the King's Gambit Accepted (there may be the odd significant line here and there that I missed out, but I think I've been pretty thorough).  The main summary can be found at and there are links to illustrative games and comments for the Modern Defence, Cunningham Defence (which includes some coverage of 3...Ne7, 3...h5 and 3...Nf6 also) and the Bishop's Gambit (3.Bc4) and the Mason Gambit (3.Nc3).

My previous update summarised my feelings on the Modern Defence, which now has some games and analysis devoted to it.  I think that the Modern Defence is looking fine for both sides at present.

The Cunningham Defence (1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 Be7) is a flexible line which can be followed up by a check on h4.  Following 4.Nc3 Qh4+ 5.Ke2 the chances are roughly equal, as White seems able to get away with having a centralised king in this line, and can sometimes even advance the king to e3 to support the centre.  However, 4.Bc4 Qh4+ 5.Kf1 is probably inadvisable for Black as the king ends up relatively safe on f1.  Black's safer option is 4...Nf6 5.e5 Ng4 which gives both sides active piece play, but with chances of an edge for White.  In many lines, Black plays ...d6 and an exchange of pawns and a queen swap down the e-file follow, in which Black is left with a slightly-misplaced king on e7.

The Wagenbach Defence (3...h5) is dubious as it neglects development, but White has to know what he/she is doing.  In particular, there are various lines where White has to sacrifice a piece on g5 at the right moment in order to secure an advantage.  The Schallopp Defence (3...Nf6) is quite dubious, but 3...Ne7!? is probably equal in value to the Modern Defence, generally intending to follow up with 4...d5, and has the additional advantage of being less well explored.

The King's Bishop's Gambit (3.Bc4) looks fully playable.  I feel that the most critical response is the relatively rare 3...Nc6 (a view also shared by Mark Morss and others at the forum), with the idea 4.Nf3 g5 leading to a Hanstein Gambit, while 4.d4 leads to active piece play for both sides but theoretically the onus is primarily on White to prove equality.  Instead, 3...Nf6 4.Nc3 c6 is the most common recommendation, leading to equal chances after 5.Bb3 d5 6.exd5 cxd5 7.d4, or 5.d4.
Tempting is the check at h4, but White's king turns out to be relatively safe on f1, while 3...d5 is well met by 4.Bxd5 which might confer a slight advantage to White.  One important point behind 3.Bc4 is that 3...g5 4.h4 is dubious for Black, since 4...g4 no longer hits a knight on f3.

The Mason Gambit (3.Nc3) is rather dubious because after 3...Qh4+ 4.Ke2 White is a pawn down with a misplaced king.  However, this isn't the end of the story, because White does tend to get a strong centre and attacking chances, which produces rather murky and complicated positions which offer practical chances.  The traditional recommendation 4...d5 is not a serious test of the soundness of 3.Nc3, but I think that Black has good chances of a theoretical edge after 4...Ne7 and 4...Qe7, and maybe 4...d6 as well, if Black finds John Emms's suggestion of 5.Nf3 Qd8!?.  Black can also try 3...Nc6, steering play towards lines that can arise via the Quaade Gambit, and here I have covered 4.d4!?, the Steinitz Gambit, which is the most consistent response for fans of the 3.Nc3 lines.  I was heavily involved in a thread questioning whether the Mason Gambit is playable, and I think the answer is definitely yes for casual and rapid games, but for slow tournament and correspondence play I have doubts.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Update on the King's Knight Gambit- Modern Defence

I've had a thorough look at the Modern Defence (1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 d5) and four of the minor defences (3...h5, 3...Nf6, 3...Ne7 and 3...Be7), of which the Cunningham Defence, 3...Be7, appears to be the most important by a fair margin, though 3...Ne7 is interesting and may not be significantly inferior.

I am yet to post the games and analysis up on my Weebly site- I intend to upload games and analysis of these lines, plus the King's Bishop Gambit (3.Bc4) and Mason Gambit (3.Nc3) in bulk.  I am currently moving over to looking at the latter two third moves.

Anyway, I'll start off with a summary of my main conclusions regarding the Modern Defence.

Modern Defence (3.Nf3 d5)

3...d5 appears to be a perfectly reasonable response for those who would rather avoid the complications of the lines that I've been through earlier, involving holding onto the f4-pawn with ...g7-g5.  Unlike many other such declining lines in the Open Games, it tends not to lead to sterility- in most lines there are enough imbalances left in the position to provide good scope for both sides to play for a win.  However, also unlike most other such declining lines, it doesn't generally score quite as well as holding onto the pawn (3...d5 is scoring 47% in the database while 3...g5 is scoring an impressive 53%).

I'd say that the choice appears to be a matter of taste, it's really down to how comfortable one feels as Black in the resulting positions.

After 4.exd5 Nf6 (4...Qxd5 is playable, but not as reliable- 5.Nc3 Qe6+ 6.Be2 Bd6 7.0-0 is one good response, while 5.d4 was played successfully in a couple of high-level games including  V.Zvjaginsev-Wang Hao, Taiyuan 2007) White then has a choice.

A) 5.c4 is fairly unusual but appears good enough for dynamic equality- White generally gets the better pawn structure but Black ends up with superior piece activity and some kingside attacking chances.  Most popular is 5...c6 which is scoring a healthy 50% for Black.  Magnus Carlsen tried 5.c4 with success in a 2012 blitz game against Nikoly Chadaev.

B) 5.Bb5+ is most popular, and generally produces the same result- White has the better pawn structure but Black has the majority of the piece play and attacking chances, and in practice Black is doing very well.  In H.Nakamura-A.Kosteniuk, Kings vs Queens 2011, Black replied with the inferior 5...Nbd7 and ended up worse, but after the superior 5...c6 6.dxc6 Nxc6, Black is scoring 59%.  InV.Zvjaginsev-A.Kunte, World Cup 2007, play continued 7.d4 Qa5+ which should have led to a slight advantage for White, but after 7...Bd6 defending f4, Black has good chances.

C) 5.Bc4 is the best practical chance, scoring a respectable 54% for White in the database, for in this line it tends to be White who gets the majority of the piece play and attacking chances, while Black tends to rely upon the f4-pawn to provide nuisance value. 

One recent stunbling block that has emerged for 5.Bc4 is the continuation 5...Nxd5 6.0-0 Be6 (6...Be7 7.Bxd5!? Qxd5 8.Nc3 worked out well for White in M.Carlsen-Wang Yue, Bazna Kings 2010, relying upon development and open lines to compensate for Black's bishop-pair) 7.Bb3 (7.Bxd5 Bxd5 8.d4 Be7 9.Bxf4 is still playable, but less promising than when White brings Black's queen out into the open) 7...c5.

This featured in a high-profile encounter between Hikaru Nakamura and Mickey Adams, London Classic 2011.  Play continued 8.Kh1 Nc6 9.d4 c4 10.Ba4 Bd6 and Black got the upper hand. White won, but only after Black squandered an opportunity to secure a large, probably winning, advantage at move 35 (35...b3!)

8.d4 is not very appealing for White after 8...cxd4 9.Nxd4 Bc5, setting up an irritating pin on the d4-knight, and Black is comfortable after, say, 10.Kh1 Bxd4 11.Qxd4 0-0. 

However, White has two reasonable alternatives, 8.c4 (this blocks in White's bishop for now, but White can redeploy it to c2, with ideas of a kingside offensive), and 8.d3, both of which deal with Black's threat of ...c5-c4.  8.d3 Nc6 9.Bxd5 Bxd5 10.Bxf4 is OK for White, since White's play down the e and f-files offsets Black's bishop-pair.  8.c4 Nf6 9.d4 cxd4 10.Bxf4 is another sample line, with equal chances.

Another double-edged possibility in Nakamura's game was 10.Bc4!?, with the idea of sacrificing an exchange following 10...Ne3 10.Bxe3 Bxc4 12.Bxf4 Bxf1 13.Qxf1.  I'm not convinced that White's compensation is sufficient after 13...Bd6, but it would have been a better try for White than the 10.Ba4 played in the game.

In conclusion, the Modern Defence is currently looking OK for both sides.  Despite the problem line that Nakamura encountered above, I still think that White's best bet is the line 4.exd5 Nf6 5.Bc4.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Update and what's coming next

I've been rather busy recently, but I've updated the Scotch Gambit coverage (in particular responding to some points from Mark Nieuweboer- there were indeed a couple of GM encounters in the line 4...Nf6 5.e5 d5 line which I had somehow missed first time around).

My next update, which is currently underway, is set to return to the King's Gambit Accepted lines.  I have had a good look at the Modern Defence (1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 d5) which, unlike many other ...d5 declining lines in the open gambits, rarely leads to a sterile equality, and both sides retain plenty of scope to play for a win, though in my database White is doing quite well after 4.exd5 Nf6 5.Bc4, as was favoured by Joe Gallagher and Mark Hebden when they frequently used the gambit.  Instead the popular 5.Bb5+ variation scores very well for Black.  Note that Black can use the move-order 1.e4 e5 2.f4 d5 3.exd5 exf4 here, with the aim of getting into a Modern Defence while denying White the option of 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 d5 4.Bxd5.

The other important defence is the Cunningham (3...Be7) which can be followed up by a check on h4, or playing to return the pawn and reach equality by playing ...Nf6, encouraging e4-e5, and then ...d6.  I have also taken a brief look at 3...Ne7 and 3...h5, the interesting but dubious Wagenbach Defence, which got a lot of coverage in Chess Monthly when Mike Fox was still alive and contributing to "Addicts' Corner".

I am also looking at the King's Bishop Gambit (3.Bc4) and the Mason Gambit (3.Nc3), which includes a look at the related Steinitz Gambit which arises after 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.d4, again encouraging Black to check on h4 and bring the white king out to e2.  After 3.Bc4, 3...Qh4+ is still playable but not as strong, as the white king is relatively safe on f1, so Black often opts for a different approach.  I don't intend to examine other white third moves as I don't think they are particularly promising for White or difficult for Black to handle.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

In-depth look at the Scotch Gambit

The Scotch Gambit arises after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 (or perhaps 2.d4 exd4 3.Nf3 Nc6) and then, instead of playing 4.c3 giving us the Göring Gambit, White plays 4.Bc4.

At my slowly-expanding Gambiteers' Guild openings site, I have uploaded a series of games and analysis, in the same format as my most up-to-date coverage of Göring Gambit and King's Gambit lines, covering the Scotch Gambit.  I have focused particularly on the continuations 4...Bc5 5.c3 Nf6 (which transposes to the Giuoco Piano) and 4...Nf6 (which transposes to the Two Knights Defence with 4.d4 exd4).  Both of these lines are commonly recommended to young and improving players, and offer reasonable practical chances at the club level too.

I have also provided quite an extensive list of internet articles for further reading.

A quick summary of the key points:

1.  Alternatives to 4...Bc5 and 4...Nf6 are not too challenging, though it is worth knowing about 4...d6 and 4...Be7 (both of which aim to steer play into a Hungarian Defence- in both cases 5.c3 is playable but 5.Nxd4 is objectively best) and 4...g6, against which I don't think White gets any advantage with 5.Nxd4, and should therefore prefer 5.c3.

2.  After 4...Bc5 neither side has a good alternative to accepting the transposition to the Giuoco Piano with 5.c3 Nf6.

3.  After 4...Bc5 5.c3 Nf6, 6.e5 and 6.0-0 are both fully playable and suffice for dynamic equality.  6.0-0 is a gambit continuation while 6.e5 tends to be more positional.

4.  After 4...Bc5 5.c3 Nf6 6.cxd4 Bb4+, 7.Nbd2!? is an interesting sideline which can lead to unbalanced and equal play, 7.Bd2 is safe but can lead to level situations, and 7.Nc3 is tricky but probably not fully sound.

5.  After 4...Nf6 5.e5, the Modern Two Knights, 5...d5 6.Bb5 Ne4 7.Nxd4 leads to relatively positional channels, but White can usually get some long-term attacking chances on the kingside.  5...Ne4 tends to lead to open and tactical play with chances for both sides, and White has three good responses, but 5...Ng4 (recently recommended by James Schuyler in his book The Dark Knight System) is currently proving problematic, with Black having a choice of promising continuations.

6.  After 4...Nf6 5.0-0, White gets good chances in the Max Lange Attack with 5...Bc5 6.e5 d5 7.exf6 dxc4 8.fxg7! Rg8 9.Re1+ followed by 10.Bg5.

7.  After 4...Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.Re1 d5, the Canal Variation 7.Nc3 appears dubious but 7.Bxd5 Qxd5 8.Nc3 leads to equal chances after 8...Qa5 or 8...Qh5Stefan Bücker has introduced an interesting pawn sacrifice idea that works in both variations (9.Nxe4 Be6 10.Neg5 0-0-0 11.Nxe6 fxe6 12.Bg5!?, with the idea 12...Re8 13.Re4) but it seems that even the traditional lines (8...Qh5 9.Nxe4 Be6 10.Bg5 for instance) offer both sides reasonable scope to play for a win below grandmaster level.

I've also tried to look at these lines from both sides' point of view- particularly the Two Knights lines as I also have a fair amount of experience from the black side of those.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Recent Giuoco Piano/Scotch Gambit game

I've been pretty busy this month so my blog has been slow on the updates front, but I've updated my King's Gambit coverage.  My next article will focus either on the Scotch Gambit (I'm about to update my coverage of the Scotch Gambit with some games and analysis) or further lines of the King's Gambit, since I intend to have a look at the Modern and Cunningham Defences and the 3.Bc4 (King's Bishop Gambit) and 3.Nc3 (Mason Gambit) lines in the future.  I have recently tried out 3.Nc3 in a couple of internet games- I don't think it is sound, but at rapid time controls it gives good practical chances.

Before this, though, I stumbled across an interesting line (in Chess Monthly magazine) which I've never seen before and didn't cover in my original Scotch Gambit analysis.  The line runs 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 (also reached via 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Bc5 5.c3 Nf6) 6.e5 d5 and now 7.Be2!?, instead of the normal 7.Bb5.  I doubt that it will suffice for more than theoretical equality, but it shows that there are still largely unexplored sidelines in these ancient variations. 

I'll certainly be including at least a brief mention of this possibility when I upload my most up-to-date coverage of the Scotch Gambit.

Friday, 3 May 2013

King's Gambit with Nf3 and ...g5

I have completed a sizeable "analysis and games" section at the King's Gambit part of my site on the various lines with 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5, or perhaps 3...d6, 3...h6 or 3...Nc6 followed by g5.  There are links to the individual articles/games/analysis for each of the lines, and I have also provided cross-links between the articles too.  As I quite often play these lines from the black side, I am interested in the resulting positions from both sides' point of view.

Although the King's Gambit does not provide a theoretical advantage, it often leads to a dynamic equality with best play, and many of these lines with Nf3 and ...g5 lead to wild complications, with White sacrificing further material in order to accelerate the attack.  But Black's idea of playing an early ...g5 is not just to hold onto the f4-pawn, defend and win the endgame- quite often Black gets counterattacking chances thanks to the advanced f and g-pawns, and opportunities to force White's king (which is relatively exposed thanks to White's early f2-f4) to go for a walk.

3.Nf3 and ...g5- A round-up from White's point of view

1) After 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5, 4.h4 g4 5.Ne5 is the sound and respectable Kieseritzky Gambit, which leads to interesting and equal play after 5...Nf6, 5...d6 or 5...Nc6, but I think generating good winning chances is tricky against 5...Qe7.

2) The Hanstein Gambit with 4.Bc4 is not as bad, or harmless, as its reputation.  There are various lines where Black castles queenside and White attempts to storm Black's queenside with the a and b-pawns, while the line with 4...Bg7 5.0-0 Nc6 6.d4 d6 7.c3 h6 8.Qa4!?, encouraging 8...Bd7 9.Qb3, wins the pawn back and probably suffices for dynamic equality.  Note that if Black plays 4...g4 then 5.0-0 gxf3 6.Qxf3, the Polerio or Muzio Gambit, is very dangerous.

3) A good alternative for White is to play d2-d4 and Nb1-c3, followed by g2-g3, challenging Black's f4-pawn.  The Rosentreter Gambit (4.d4) offers a piece sacrifice with 4...g4 5.Bxf4 gxf3 6.Qxf3, while the Quaade Gambit (4.Nc3) intends 4...g4 5.Ne5 and if 5...Qh4+ then 6.g3 fxg3 7.Qxg4.

4) The Allgaier Gambit with 4.h4 g4 5.Ng5, intending to sacrifice on f7, is somewhat dubious, but offers White dangerous attacking chances in over-the-board play.  The Hamppe-Allgaier Gambit, with 4.Nc3 Nc6 and then 5.h4 g4 6.Ng5, offers White better chances than the "pure" Allgaier, although objectively White probably falls a little short of full compensation for the sacrificed knight.

5) After 4.Nc3 Nc6, White's other main options are 5.d4, the Pierce Gambit (which strikes me as an inferior relative of the Rosentreter, for Black's c6-knight gives Black automatic counterplay against d4) and 5.g3!?, which appears reliable.

3.Nf3 and ...g5- A round-up from Black's point of view

1) I used to favour 3...Nc6 followed by ...g5, but against this, 4.d4 g5 5.d5 is rather irritating for Black, and often leads to queenless middlegames with a slight pull for White (though I'd point ambitious White players towards 5.h4 g4 6.Ne5 or 6.Ng5 in that line).  Those who prefer the early ...Nc6 lines should prefer 3...g5 followed by a quick ...Nc6 in most cases, and after 3...g5 4.d4 should settle for an alternative reply (4...g4, 4...Bg7 and 4...d6 are all reliable).

2) I don't think the Becker Defence with 3...h6 is particularly reliable because of 4.Nc3 g5 5.d4 (or 4.d4 g5 5.Nc3) with 6.g3 to follow, where ...h7-h6 is not particularly useful.

3) The Fischer Defence with 3...d6 is a good way to avoid the Kieseritzky and Allgaier Gambits, but commits Black to meeting 3.Nf3 g5 4.Nc3 and 4.d4 with 4...d6.  This is one of Black's better responses to those lines, but it means that Black's options there are more limited.

4) 3...g5 appears to be the most flexible of these continuations for Black, though it allows the Kieseritzky and Allgaier Gambits.  I don't think this should be much of a concern though, because Black has four good responses to the Kieseritzky, and the Allgaier leads to unbalanced play in which Black is theoretically better, though has to take care due to the exposed black king.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Göring Gambit Revisited

The Göring Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.c3, or 2.d4 exd4 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.c3 which tends to be my preferred move-order) is looking in quite a healthy state at the moment, in my opinion, as far as sub-master level play is concerned.

At my new chess site, I have published a series of articles covering all important lines of the gambit.  I have linked to my articles (which contain an introductory coverage of the key lines and ideas, and then annotated illustrative games).

For those who prefer the style of analysis at my old chess site, where I provided an analysis in PGN format, I have linked to that analysis too. 

But for those who just want a summary of the key points, here they are:

A) After 4...Nge7 White can get a small advantage with 5.Bc4 d5 6.exd5 Nxd5 7.0-0.

B) After 4...Nf6 5.e5 Ne4 White gets some advantage in a complicated position.  5...Nd5 is more solid, where in many lines White must settle for a small edge, with pawns on d4 and e5 and some chances of attacking on the kingside.

C) 4...d5 equalises, but White can avoid the irritating Capablanca Variation (5.exd5 Qxd5 6.cxd4 Bg4 7.Be2 Bb4+ 8.Nc3 Bxf3 9.Bxf3 Qc4) by playing 5.Bd3 (which often leads to White playing a gambit anyway), or by playing 7.Nc3, with the idea 7...Bb4 8.Be3 (suggested to me by Mark Nieuweboer).  Although the resulting positions are equal, White often scores well in practice.

D) After 4...dxc3 5.Nxc3 Bb4 6.Bc4 d6, 7.Ng5! gives White full compensation for the pawn (instead of the more popular 7.0-0 and 7.Qb3, which probably fall short).  Similarly, 6...Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 d6 is met by 8.Ng5!.

E) After 4...dxc3 5.Bc4 cxb2 6.Bxb2 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 Nf6, 8.0-0!? looks promising for White, and White can choose between following up with 9.Nd5, or 9.Qc2 first.

F) After 4...dxc3 5.Bc4 cxb2 6.Bxb2 d6 I think White has some improvements over John Watson's analysis of 7.Nc3, 7.0-0 and 7.Qb3, and all three lines are currently looking playable for White.

So, for those who have been interested in trying out the Göring but have been deterred by certain lines (most likely those stemming from either 4...d5 or 4...dxc3, which are the two theoretically best responses), I think it's well worth giving it a try.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

The Two Knights Defence with d4

Michael Goeller at his Kenilworthian blog has posted an article covering the line 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.e5 Ng4!?.  The position after Black's fourth move is important as it can also arise from the Scotch Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Nf6) and the Urusov Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nf3 Nc6).

In my most up-to-date coverage of the 5.e5 line, I also regarded 5...Ng4 to be a good response for Black, and Goeller's coverage, based on seven annotated games, has continued to reinforce that view.

But all is not lost for fans of the 4.d4 Two Knights lines or the Scotch or Urusov Gambits.  I feel that 5.0-0 gives White rather better practical chances at club level, and many of the 5.0-0 lines have been revived by Stefan Bücker and Lev Gutman.  For example see the article "A Rook With a View" which covers an interesting pawn sacrifice idea for White in the famous line 5...Nxe4 6.Re1 d5 7.Bxd5 Qxd5 8.Nc3.  Another important point is that the line of the Max Lange Attack with 5...Bc5 6.e5 d5 7.exf6 dxc4 8.fxg7!, with Re1+ and Bg5 to follow, is doing well for White.  My most up-to-date coverage of the 5.0-0 lines is available here.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Blackmar-Diemer Gambit Ziegler Defence

A while ago I wrote a blog article over at about the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, Ziegler Defence, and the related O'Kelly Defence.

Stefan Bücker and Lev Gutman have already established that White is doing OK in the line 1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.f3 exf3 5.Nxf3 c6 6.Bc4 Bf5 7.Bg5 e6 8.Nh4!, for example see
Stefan Bücker's article 

But what does White do against 7...Nbd7, intending to develop with ...Be7 and ...0-0?  Now 8.Nh4 doesn't work as well because of 8...Bg4, so White continues 8.Qe2 e6 9.0-0-0 Be7 (9...Bb4?! is met by 10.d5).  

Now Guido De Bouver's blog (well worth a look, btw, for fans of the Blackmar-Diemer) gives 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.d5 in his article, "Not yet equality, but close", but concedes that Black might be slightly better after 11...Qe7.

At move 10 I prefer 10.Rhf1, putting the rook straight onto the f-file, a line which I recall discussing with "ArKheiN" at the forum (via the move-order 7.Bg5 e6 8.Qe2 Be7, but unfortunately Black has the strong 8...Bb4! in that move-order).  

I'm not 100% sure that White's compensation is objectively sufficient, but I would certainly fancy my chances with White in that final position.  The g and h-pawns come rolling forward in the direction of Black's king.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

King's Gambit, Allgaier Gambit

To give readers a taster of what is to come, I have published an article on the Allgaier Gambit, 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ng5, a dubious but tricky knight sacrifice, offering an analysis of the key lines and five illustrative games, which are also available for PGN download.
As with many such unsound lines, it may pick up a fair number of points in casual and rapid games, since White always appears to get some sort of attacking chances, even in the most critical variations. I have occasionally faced the Allgaier and related lines with Black, and know that Black's defence is not quite as easy in practice as it should be in theory.

In summary, White leaves the knight without a safe retreat square, and thus after 5...h6, White must sacrifice the knight on f7 and bring the black king out into the open.  The Hamppe-Allgaier Gambit (with 4.Nc3 Nc6 and then 5.h4 g4 6.Ng5) gives White rather better prospects.

For a second opinion on the Allgaier Gambit, Tim Harding's articles for, Kibitzer #78 and #79, are worth checking out, though he mostly reached similar conclusions.

5...f3!? (recommended by "micawber" at the forum) is critical, since after 6.gxf3, cutting off the white queen's route to g4 and h5, Black can now get away with 6...f6.  However the main line is 5...h6 6.Nxf7 Kxf7.

Theoretically White is struggling to prove enough compensation for the knight after 7.Qxg4?! Nf6, 7.Bc4+ d5 8.Bxd5+ Kg7 9.d4 f3!, 7.d4 f3, and 7.Nc3 d5.  I tend to think that 7.d4 f3 8.Be3!?, preparing Qd2 and queenside castling, is White's best practical try, and 7.d4 also has the advantage that in practice Black often replies with 7...d5 or 7...Nf6, in which case White replies with 8.Bxf4 and may well get enough compensation for the sacrificed knight.

Meanwhile, here is an example of 7.Nc3:

Unfortunately for Allgaier Gambit fans, while the opening will always give practical chances, I don't think that it can be revived theoretically.  However, it's probably sound enough for some players to have a fair amount of fun with it in rapid and casual games.

In the next few weeks I intend to cover a range of King's Gambit lines, focusing mainly on approaches with an early Nc3 and d4 followed by g2-g3 against an early ...g7-g5 from Black, for I consider these to be more promising than the Kieseritzky (5.Ne5 instead of 5.Ng5, above) and the Hanstein (4.Bc4, which allows Black to set up a f4-g5-h6 pawn chain).  I am a bit busy with work right now, but will hopefully get a fair amount up in the next few weeks.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Garry Kasparov's 50th birthday

Garry Kasparov (known as Garry Weinstein in his childhood) was born on the 13th April 1963, and was FIDE World Chess Champion from 1985-1993 and PCA World Champion from 1993-1999.  In 1985, he was the youngest-ever world chess champion at the age of 22.

Although he isn't quite my all-time favourite chess player (I am a greater admirer of Nigel Short, Alexander Morozevich and David Bronstein for instance) he was certainly the player that I followed the most closely while he was active, partly because of how successful he was, partly because of his ruthless winning mentality, and partly because of his entertaining playing style.  Kasparov tended to favour unbalanced positions and played to keep the initiative, often at the cost of material.

He was a particularly strong exponent of the Sicilian Najdorf/Scheveningen formation, with the pawns on a6, d6 and e6, where White often gets attacking chances right from early in the game, but Black relies upon a structural advantage in order to hold the situation, while developing strong counterplay on the queenside, typically with ...Rc8 and ...b5-b4.  He was also very good at using the Queen's Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4) as a means of slowly developing a strong attack- take for example his 15th-round game against Nigel Short in their 1993 world championship match:

Although Kasparov mostly adopted positionally-sophisticated openings, as is a neccessity at Super-GM level where computer-assisted preparation makes it easier to equalise against those 19th-century gambits, he occasionally tried out some 19th-century gambits- take for example his crushing win over Anand in an Evans Gambit back in 1995:

One Kasparov game that I particularly recall was his sacrificial win over Topalov at Wijk aan Zee, 1999:

At one stage he was a rook and piece down, but he had correctly calculated that his attacking chances against Black's stranded king on the queenside were more than sufficient.  I particularly liked the retreat 36.Bf1!- it's surprising how often, amongst a series of checks, sacrifices and forcing moves, the key winning move is a quiet piece retreat that deflects an opposing piece away from a critical square.

Unfortunately during the latter stages of his career, some nervousness began to creep into Kasparov's play, which became evident in his 1995 match against Anand when he agreed draws in favourable positions in quite a few games.   He struggled to break down Kramnik during their 2000 world championship match, and ultimately opted to retire from professional chess in 2005, at the age of just 41.

As someone who also follows snooker, I've often felt that Kasparov's chess career has had a lot of parallels with that of seven-times snooker champion Stephen Hendry- both have relied upon an attack-minded approach and ruthless winning mentality for success but have proved less strong at defensive play, and both retired in their early forties while still playing to a high level, and took up commentary roles.  Kasparov's rivalry with British favourite Nigel Short also happened at around the same time as Hendry kept beating crowd favourite and entertainer Jimmy White.

For me, elite-level chess has never been quite the same since Kasparov's retirement, though there are signs that we're possibly moving towards a new "golden era" with the likes of Carlsen, Aronian, Grischuk, Nakamura and Radjabov battling it out with some long-term established players such as Anand, Kramnik and Ivanchuk, and there are strong signs that the trend is towards a unified world chess championship, following the damaging split between FIDE and the PCA.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Chess Blog

This is a new chess blog devoted mainly to Romantic (19th-century)-style chess openings, in which material (typically one or two pawns) is sacrificed early in the game in order to get rapid development and attacking chances right from the start.

I have a chess site at which provides an encyclopaedic coverage of some of these gambits.  I am also developing a new site at (still in its early stages of construction) which aims to produce articles accompanied by replayable illustrative games, and expect to blog a fair bit about these systems.

Certain Romantic gambits are occasionally seen even at grandmaster level, for instance Nigel Short often uses the Evans Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4), Alexander Morozevich likes the Albin Counter-Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5) and the King's Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.f4) is used as an occasional weapon by numerous grandmasters.

On the whole, though, the top GMs have largely abandoned these Romantic openings because defence at the highest levels of chess is very good, combined with deep computer-assisted opening preparation, and thus opponents can navigate their way through the complications and achieve at least equality.  Thus, most GMs tend to adopt more positionally sophisticated openings, against which the paths to equality as Black, or a slight advantage as White, are harder to find.

But the overwhelming majority of chess players never reach grandmaster level.  The 19th century gambits are an ideal training ground for tactics and the importance of getting your pieces out for beginners and improving players.  For players up to and including county standard, who enjoy wild attacking play, these openings can serve as openings for life and provide a lot of fun.