Monday, 11 November 2013

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.


  1. Valeri Bronznik in Beating the Guerilla's does a very good job beating the Englund. 3...Nge7 4.Nc3 h6 5.a3 Ng6 6.Qd5 Qe7 7.Nd5 or 5.e4 Ng6 6.Be2. After 3...f6 4.e4 fxe5 5.Bc4 White has a KGD with colours reversed and an extra tempo. Compare with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 f6 4.dxe5 fxe5 5.Bc4.

  2. The line 3...f6 4.e4 fxe5 5.Bc4 is also a Rousseau Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 f5 4.d3 fxe4 5.dxe4) by transposition. Stefan Bücker recommended 5...d6 6.Ng5 Nh6 7.Nc3 (7.0-0 is also good) Nd4 8.0-0 c6 against this in Kaissiber 5, but I had a closer look at 9.Ne2 and there's a strong case for assessing subsequent play as "+/-". Thus I doubt that 3...f6 (or 3...Bc5 for that matter- 4.Nc3 and if 4...f6 5.e4) is really any better than 3...Qe7.

    In the 3...Nge7 4.Nc3 h6 line I'm not as convinced by 5.e4 Ng6 6.Be2 because of 6...Bb4 but 5.a3 looks interesting- the idea is similar to the line I mention with 5.e3 Ng6 6.Qd5 Qe7 7.Nb5. In both cases Black should try 5...g5 instead in my opinion, but 5.e3 g5 6.Ne4 Bg7 7.Nf6+ Bxf6 8.exf6 is better for White, while in the case of 5.a3 g5 White could instead consider 6.e4. I think White's advantage after 3...Nge7 4.Nc3 is somewhere in between "+=" and "+/-".

    I've uploaded a minor update to the Englund Gambit section to reflect the above, and also my latest piece on the Albin Counter-Gambit and will be blogging about that (plus a little bit on Anand-Carlsen) tomorrow. I get a sense that the Albin is slightly sub-optimal theoretically but still considerably sounder than the immediate 1...e5.

  3. Bronznik is a coward who refused to test his ideas against me on Internet Chess Club. After 4 Nc3 h6 5 a3 Ng6 6 Qd5 Qe7 and now 7 Nd5 is impossible, since the White Queen occupies that square! Assuming that MNb suggested 7 Nd4, there might follow 7...Nxd4 8 Qd4 Qe5 9 Qe5 Ne5 10 Nb5 Kd8 11 Bf4 f6 12 000 a6 13 Nd4 Ke8 14 e3 d6 += when Black holds.

    Also possible is 7...Qxe5 8 Qxe5 Nge5 9 Nb5 Kd8 10 Nd5 Bd6 11 Nxd6 cxd6 when White has an edge because of Black's doubled pawns.

  4. I agree with your analysis and assessment of 4.Nc3 h6 5.a3 Ng6 6.Qd5 Qe7 7.Nd4 Nxd4 8.Qxd4 Qe5. However, in my previous post I had assumed that he meant 7.Nb5 (instead of 7.Nd4) which is somewhat more critical. 7...d6 8.exd6 cxd6 9.Bd2 or 7...Kd8 8.Bd2.

    Probably better is 5...g5 6.e4. There are many options for both sides but 6...Bg7 7.Be3 g4 8.Nd4 Bxe5 is a plausible line. Again I reckon White's advantage is somewhere between += and +/-.

  5. Tell me, who would play the line that Bronznik the Coward recommends? I have played the Zilbermints Gambit since 1993 and have seen my share of 4 Nc3 lines. In all these years, no one ever played 5 a3, not even in Internet Chess Club blitz or casual games! What I see after 4 Nc3 is either 4...Ng6 5 e4 or 4...Ng6 5 Bg5 Be7 6 Bxe7 Qxe7 7 Nd5 Qd8 8 e3.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.