Thursday, 24 April 2014

Another outing in the Göring Gambit, Scandinavian Gambits coverage completed

The Göring Gambit revisited

After many years of trying, I finally got a game in my favourite line of the Göring Gambit, which reaches this position after move 10:

Black's main options are 10...h6, 10...Ng6, 10...cxb5 and 10...Neg4, all of which lead to fascinating complications, though they have been heavily analysed.  My opponent went for 10...Neg4:

As is usual for club-level internet games, there were numerous mistakes, but it was certainly the sort of bloodthirsty and tactical game that I associate with the line.  Black's best response at move 12 is generally considered to be 12...b4, preventing White from taking on b5, after which White often ends up regaining the gambit pawn on h7 instead, whereupon the knight on h7 can turn out to be misplaced.  However, I don't see much wrong with 12...h6, which appears to lead to interesting and equal play.

I had previously intended to meet 10...Neg4 with 11.Be2, whereupon after 11...h6 12.Nf3 d5 13.h3, White hits out at the knight on g4, but Black has a few options that involve a tricky piece sacrifice, starting with 13...dxe4.

As well as adding coverage of "new" lines, I also intend, when I get time, to update the coverage of lines that I have previously covered at my Gambiteers' Guild site, with the aim of making the coverage more readable, with more explanations of the key ideas for both sides, cleaning up move-order issues, and doing a bit of trimming where I went into too much detail on some minor sub-sub-variation, and also getting some more practise with the ChessBase publishing format.   I have updated the Göring Gambit coverage at,, and but my opinions on most of the lines have not changed significantly since I last looked at them extensively.  

 Scandinavian Gambits revisited

I had posted earlier that I needed to put up coverage of White's important third-move deviations after 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6.  Otherwise, players itching to play 3.c4 e6 or 3.d4 Bg4 may be very disappointed if White wheels out 3.Be2 and then what?

I think the "Scandinavian gambits" and the Göring are quite closely related, as both involve challenging the opponent's e-pawn with the d-pawn and then offering it as a gambit, and Carl Theodor Göring, according to Stefan Bücker, also introduced the line 3.d4 Bg4 into master play.  The key difference, though, is that as Black has a tempo less, the approaches with an early ...c7-c6 tend to be unsound unless White plays c2-c4 first.

The last of those four links contains the analysis of 3.Nc3, 3.Nf3, 3.Be2 and 3.Bb5+.  Three of the four illustrative games feature the Australian grandmaster David Smerdon on the black side, who is the leading exponent of these lines from Black's point of view nowadays.  His games have suggested that the line 3.Nf3 Bg4 is probably as playable as 3.d4 Bg4.

My verdict, in short:

The Icelandic or Palme Gambit, 3.c4 e6, is reasonably sound, but White might be able to get a small theoretical advantage with best play.  The critical line is 4.dxe6 Bxe6 5.Nf3.  Black's objectively best tries are then 5...Qe7 6.Qe2 Nc6 7.d4 Bf5, and 5...c5, which lead to an early queen trade, but Black's piece activity comes close to providing full compensation.  The lines with 5...Nc6, and 5...Qe7 6.Qe2 Nc6 7.d4 0-0-0, are more double-edged, but concede a larger advantage to White.

The Portuguese or Jadoul Gambit, 3.d4 Bg4 is theoretically dubious, but if it can work at grandmaster level, it should be sound enough for use at club level.  The main line, 4.f3 Bf5 5.Bb5+ Nbd7 6.c4, gives Black just a small theoretical disadvantage and good piece play after 6...e6 7.dxe6 fxe6.  5.g4 requires rather more courage to play from the white side, but is more theoretically critical.

If Black is happy to risk 3.d4 Bg4 then I think there is a compelling argument for meeting 3.Nf3 with 3...Bg4 as well, which is similarly dubious, but similarly offers good practical chances.

3.Be2 wipes out Black's gambit ideas but Black can get a combative game with 3...Qxd5.

3.Bb5+ can be met by either 3...Nbd7 or 3...Bd7.  Dave Smerdon's preference 3...Nbd7 is more likely to lead to double-edged play, while I don't think much of Black's winning chances in the line 3...Bd7 4.Be2 Nxd5 5.d4- though I am left wondering if Black can get away with playing 4...Bf5 before recapturing on d5.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Update on changes to format of openings articles at my Gambiteers Guild site


After posting previously about an expected "trimming down" of the format, focusing just on providing verbal introductions rather than providing illustrative games, I got some feedback, notably from Mark Nieuweboer, warning that it could lead to a decline in quality.  It is an important point, as there is no point in producing these articles if their quality is not high enough to make them valuable to fellow chess players.

I had been generating the databases/PGN files using ChessBase 11 and could not find a way to output them to HTML in a "readable" format without having to do significant editing of the HTML, which, while not as time-consuming as producing the analysis, is harder to motivate myself to keep doing, especially as I do it as a hobby rather than as a profession.  The free PGN/HTML editor Palview, and its associated interface, PalMate, is pretty good for the amount of control that it gives over the formatting, but it still requires a fair amount of work to get it looking as I want it.

This also contains the problem that if I want to update the analysis, I have to edit the HTML formatting all over again.  However, ChessBase 12 has largely solved that problem by providing facilities to export the whole lot (including formatting, diagrams, labelling of key squares etc.) and host the games on my Gambiteers Guild website, using a replayable java board from ChessBase's own servers, so my (admittedly not inexpensive) solution has involved upgrading to ChessBase 12.


As a result, I don't expect the format of the openings coverage to change as significantly as suggested in my previous post.  The main change is that instead of the "games and analysis" sections being provided at an external site, they will be hosted at the main site, and if anything, the coverage may well end up more, rather than less, detailed, for it will be easier to provide captioned diagrams and illustrations of key squares and ideas for both sides, for example.

I also plan to carry this across to the openings coverage that I already have on the site, which shouldn't be too time-consuming as the main articles are stored in PGN/database files.

I am currently testing this method out, on what will soon become a new section on the Morra Gambit (or Smith-Morra Gambit, as it is more commonly known in the USA, after Ken Smith who used and promoted the gambit regularly, but had little success with it against grandmasters- I remember reading about Bent Larsen attaching a "?" to his opponent's 1.e4 e6, saying that "stronger is 1...c5 which wins a pawn").  The work-in-progress site is at for those who are interested to see how the annotated games may look.  I purchased a copy of Marc Esserman's book Mayhem in the Morra a while ago, which has helped to revive my enthusiasm for the opening (although I still quite often play the Open Sicilian too).

The downside of this format is that it is dependent on the availability of ChessBase's servers (the same problem as we get with the likes of pgn4web, another good free way of posting games to a website or blog, as I have done on several occasions with this blog), but I am relying on the probability of this happening in the near future being low.

Monday, 14 April 2014

"Scandinavian gambits" following 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6, and news on upcoming updates to the Gambiteers Guild site

Black can play the Scandinavian Defence (or Centre Counter) as a gambit, with 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 (2.d4 transposes to the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, but taking on d5 is objectively best, for as noted in earlier blogs, the BDG is probably not 100% sound) 2...Nf6.

Black's main weapons here are the Icelandic or Palme Gambit with 3.c4 e6!?, and the Portuguese or Jadoul Gambit with 3.d4 Bg4!?.  I think that 3.c4 e6 is fully sound, while 3.d4 Bg4 probably does not give Black full compensation for the pawn, but both lead to similar play and can produce many entertaining victories.

The following game of mine in the 3.d4 Bg4 variation, however, was a disappointment, as I lost after spurning a couple of good chances:

This game followed one of the most critical lines for the assessment of the 3.d4 Bg4 variation, although Black can also consider meeting 6.c4 with 6...a6. I played 16...Kb8 to avoid any tricks involving snaring the black king with Bf2-g3, but 16...Bd6 would have been a better way of covering this threat, for while ...Kc8-b8 is often a good prophylactic move after castling queenside, in this particular position it left Black vulnerable to tactics on c6 and b7. Then I somehow missed 20...Nd2, which would probably have left White with insufficient compensation for being an exchange down. In general, White is slightly better in this variation but it is not a serious threat to the soundness of 3.d4 Bg4. As Stefan Bücker has noted, 5.g4 is more theoretically critical, but it takes some guts to play this way as White, as the plan of cramping Black by pushing the kingside pawns forward leaves White's king lacking pawn cover.

I have added an article on these variations at my Gambiteers Guild website at and plan to expand on most of that site's openings articles to make them into more of a Wikipedia-style overview, to cater for those who would prefer to get a good overview without having to read through annotated games.  Although I have not got around to analysing any high-level games in these Scandinavian lines, I have added a PGN file containing 66 unannotated high-level games in the critical lines, to provide readers with good practical examples to browse through and reach your own conclusions about the practical chances that these lines offer..

I have started by expanding the discussion of the Albin Counter-Gambit at  There's nothing really new here in terms of analysis, although again, I have added a PGN file for the benefit of those seeking high-level practical examples in the important lines, this time containing 95 games.  It is an example of the sort of Wikipedia-style overview that I am thinking of.  I also removed the comment along the lines of, "just a small edge for White with counterplay for Black", because as Mark Nieuweboer pointed out to me a while ago, there is considerable room for argument with that statement, depending on how attractive or unattractive one finds Black's game in the lines following 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 d4 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.a3 and 5.Nbd2 (I believe that 5.Nbd2 is probably more accurate as 5...Nge7 and 5...Bf5 are both ineffective due to 6.Nb3, so Black should play 5...Bg4 or 5...Be6, whereupon 6.a3 follows, transposing back into 5.a3 lines).  However, I think it is harder to be dismissive of Black's practical chances in the 5.g3 variation following either 5...Bf5 or 5...Nge7.

In the coming months I expect to add some discussion on my Gambiteers Guild site of some other gambit lines, including some in relatively mainstream openings, e.g. I am interested in quite a number of pawn sacrifice lines in the Queen's Gambit, Ruy Lopez, French Defence and Open Sicilian, and I expect also to be adding an overview of the Morra Gambit (1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3) in the near future.  I am also still yet to address the glaring omission of the Evans Gambit, which has been played a lot with success by Nigel Short.  More offbeat stuff is likely too, e.g. I am envisaging covering the Latvian and Elephant Gambits at some stage (which, like the Englund Gambit, are theoretically bad, but have many followers who enjoy playing them and get good results despite their lack of soundness).  I have been playing a fair number of "thematic" online games at recently and experimenting with different openings at the chess club which has got me more interested in a wider range of openings.  I doubt I will have the time to produce analysis of annotated games in many of those lines in the future (perhaps just the odd such article, like I did in the 5...Nxd5 line of the Two Knights Defence).  However, I intend to maintain all of the analysis that I've already done on illustrative games, and keep the associated links working, and also produce PGN files containing a wide cross-section of relevant high-level games as a starting point for those with database and/or PGN software.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

The Two Knights Defence with 4.Ng5 Part 1

One of the soundest and most popular gambits for Black is generally not termed a gambit at all, the Two Knights Defence which arises from 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6.

Most of my recent games as Black in this line have continued with 4.d3, protecting the e4-pawn.  Against this I have had some success with a risky plan involving queenside castling and kingside play, while a sounder way of playing actively, as has been recommended a few times on the forum, is to play 4...Bc5 and 5...0-0 and strive for ...d7-d5 (the immediate 4...d5 is dubious because it leaves Black vulnerable to quick attacks down the e-file and the e5-pawn often drops off, but this is less of an issue once Black has castled).

However, this article focuses on some variations following the critical 4.Ng5, where White defends e4 and attacks f7.  Although Black can take advantage of White's violation of traditional opening principles (moving a piece twice early in the opening) this is only possible at the cost of material, which leaves the resulting positions dynamically balanced.

I had a recent game in the Ulvestad Variation (4...d5 5.exd5 b5!?) in which Black aims to generate compensation by placing the c8-bishop on the a8-h1 diagonal in many variations, pointing at White's kingside.  I don't think it is theoretically as good as 5...Na5, but at the club level it can be very effective as it is easier for White to go wrong (in particular White is unlikely to find the response 6.Bf1! unless he or she has specifically prepared for the line.)

OK, so as is typical at club level, there were quite a few errors.  White didn't respond very accurately, and I should have played 9...h6 intending 10.Nf3 e4, before White had the opportunity to get in d2-d3 (which White passed up, and so I took a later opportunity with 12...h6 13.Nf3 e4).  The sacrifice 19.Nxh6+ was virtually forced because of the threats to the white queen.  The other hiccup was at move 27, when I would have been winning after 27...f6, whereas after my 27...Bf6?, White could have played 28.Re8+! Bxe8 29.Bxf6, which would have forced me to give up an exchange to avoid mate, and would have left me with an extra piece for three pawns, which would have left me only slightly better.  I saw this idea during the game after I had played my 27th move but fortunately my opponent didn't spot it.

However the game provides quite a good illustration of the sort of attacking chances that Black gets in these lines.  As I say, the only really critical test of 5...b5 is 6.Bf1, which I intend to cover at my chess site in the near future.

However, firstly, I have taken quite a thorough look at the line 4...d5 5.exd5 Nxd5, where Black refuses to part with material.  What could be wrong with keeping the material level and then aiming to punish White for moving the f3-knight twice in the opening?  Well, the problem for Black is that White doesn't have to back-pedal with the knight on g5, and can happily sacrifice it on f7 in order to bring the black king out into the open.

This line has been analysed extensively by Dan Heisman, and my coverage will be somewhat more lightweight by comparison, but I have located a couple of recent games, one involving the immediate 6.Nxf7 (generally known as the Fegatello or Fried Liver Attack) and the other involving 6.d4, generally known as the Lolli Attack, in which White hopes to sacrifice on f7 under improved circumstances in the next few moves.

6.d4 is the more likely of the two to provide White with a theoretical advantage.  There are some tricky lines following 6...Nxd4 7.c3 b5 8.Bxd5 Qxd5, in which Black sacrifices a piece for compensation, though I think White should be able to retain the upper hand.  6...Be6 as played in the illustrative game is probably Black's most secure way of restricting White to just a small advantage, since there are now no knight sacrifices on f7 to worry about, though the game provides a good illustration of how White tends to retain long-term attacking chances.

However, in practice I would still be tempted to wheel out 6.Nxf7 which was always my preference when I played these lines as a junior.  The line forces Black's king out into the middle of the board, via 6...Kxf7 7.Qf3+ Ke6 8.Nc3 and now Black's only way to stop White from gaining a near-unstoppable attack is to attack c2 with 8...Ncb4.

In this position, the traditional "book" recommendation of 9.a3, sacrificing the rook on a1, is flawed, as Stefan Bucker and "Master_Om" at the forum have demonstrated.  Black grabs the rook on a1, 9...Nxc2+ 10.Kd1 Nxa1, and after the apparently strong 11.Nxd5, plays 11...Qh4.  Black is a whole rook up and so can afford to give back material in order to stifle the white attack.

However, after 9.Qe4, 9.0-0 or even 9.Bb3, I am convinced that White has at least sufficient compensation for the sacrificed knight, and the real question is whether or not it is sufficient to give White a theoretical advantage.  The illustrative game that I chose continued with one of the most critical lines, 9.Qe4 c6 10.a3 Na6 11.d4 Nac7 12.Bf4 Kf7 13.Bxe5 Be6 14.Qf3+ Kg8.

Black's king has retreated into relative safety but the h8-rook is hemmed in and White has two pawns and a strong centre as compensation for the sacrificed knight.  Actually, I feel that the line 12.f4 Kf7 13.fxe5 Be6 14.0-0+ Kg8 may be a slightly improved version of this for White, since White ends up with a half-open f-file and a strong pawn centre with pawns on d4 and e5.  But anyway, in the illustrative game White was able to demonstrate sufficient compensation for the piece and Black eventually succumbed to the pressure.

For these reasons I cannot recommend 5...Nxd5 for Black, even though it might theoretically only concede a small disadvantage with best play.