Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Boden-Kieseritzky Gambit

My coverage of the Two Knights Defence is effectively concluded with my coverage of the Boden-Kieseritzky Gambit, which runs 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bc4, or 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.Nf3, offering a sacrifice of the pawn on e4.

Although probably unsound, this gambit is better than it looks at first sight, since after 3...Nxe4 4.Nc3 Nxc3 5.dxc3, Black's only way to defend the e5-pawn is to play the weakening 5...f6, whereupon White can generate hacking chances on the kingside with 6.Nh4 threatening Qh5+, and meet 6...g6 by throwing the f-pawn forward (7.f4 Qe7 8.f5 Qg7 9.fxg6 being the typical continuation, leading to considerable complications).  Although Black can get the better chances with best play, there is plenty of scope for Black to go wrong (that said, in practice Black scores better than average according to my database).

White can instead defer the attack with 6.0-0, but this allows Black an extra move to organise a defence.  Probably best is 6...Nc6, leading to a position often reached via the Two Knights Defence (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Nc3 Nxe4 5.0-0 Nxc3 6.dxc3 f6).  Then after 7.Nh4 g6 8.f4, Tim Harding recommends 8...f5, but I also think John Emms's suggestion 8...Qg7 (in Play the Open Games as Black) is equally good, since White has to attend to the threat of ...Qc5+, and after, say, 9.Kh1 d6 10.f5 Qg7, White cannot play 11.fxg6 safely because after 11...hxg6 Black gets the half-open h-file pointing at White's king.  White gets some, but insufficient, compensation for the pawn, but in my opinion Black's position is easier to play than after 6.Nh4, and Black has a plus score in practice.

Two Knights Defence players interested in an analysis from a specifically Two Knights perspective should check out the notes to Game 3 (Fabri-Ashton, Blackpool 2014) which covers 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.0-0 and 4.Nc3, including the "fork trick" line 4.Nc3 Nxe4 5.Nxe4 d5.  It is important to bear this line in mind, since I think White actually has chances of an edge after 6.Bd3 dxe4 7.Bxe4 Bd6 (the standard "book" line) and so Black should look into alternatives at move 7, such as 7...Ne7 intending 8...f5 hitting out at the bishop on e4.  Via the Two Knights move order Black can also consider 4.Nc3 Nxe4 5.0-0 Nxc3 6.dxc3 Be7 (instead of 6...f6), returning the pawn, but I hesitate to recommend this because many games with this line end in draws (plus 6...f6 should be better for Black).

From White's point of view, the Boden-Kieseritzky Gambit may appeal to some players- it certainly gives practical chances- but those after a reliable way to sacrifice the e4-pawn would be better off looking into the Urusov Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d4, which can also be reached via 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Bc4, or 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Nf3).

For a second opinion, Tim Harding's article on the gambit is well worth checking out.


  1. Hence the best way to meet the Boden-Kieseritzky Gambit is 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bc4 Nxe4 4.Nc3 and 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bc4 Nxe4 4.Nf3 the clever waiting move Nc6! as 5.Nxe4 d5 is probably at least slightly better for Black. You mention this transposition; obviously this poses such a problem that it is hardly worth the effort to build a repertoire around the BKG.

    In the Rublevsky game Black also has 13...d6 14.Bd3 Qh5. Rybka evaluates the position quite positively for White, but White doesn't have a constructive way to improve his position.

    After 13...d5! 14.Bxd5 Bxf5 15.Rxf5 Bc5+ White can actually get decent compensation: 16.Be3 Bxe3+ 17.Qxe3 Qxh2+ 18.Kf2 c6 19.Be4 Nd7 20.Rd1 Kc7 21.Rxd7+! Kxd7 22.Rxf6. Alas this does nothing to help White's case. 15...Qxf5 16.Bxb7 Bd6! Krnjovsek-Pavasovic, SLOchY 1993 was disastrous for White.
    You're too cautious about 15.Bxb7 Be4 16.Bxa8 Bxa8 17.Rxf6 Nd7 18.Bxg5 Kc8. After 19.Rff1 (what else?) Bc5+ 20.Kh1 Rg8 Black has an ideal attacking position.
    So afaIc the BKG is dead and moribund. It doesn't work and if it would work Black could avoid it.

  2. I've updated the coverage of 13...d5- I think that even after 15...Bc5+ Black can get an advantage by playing 17...c6 before taking on h2, but 15...Qxf5 16.Bxb7 Bd6 is certainly strong. I think that in the 5.Nxe4 d5 "fork trick" line White isn't doing badly after the normal 6.Bd3 dxe4 7.Bxe4 Bd6 (though in my games from the black side I mostly face the inferior 6.Bxd5) but after 7...Ne7 intending 8...f5 kicking away the bishop I would rather be Black.

    Re. the previous article, in the 4.d3 Be7 5.0-0 0-0 6.Re1 d6 7.c3 Kh8 variation I picked up on a couple of comments of yours at Chesspublishing.com back in 2007:
    Kucynski-Naiditsch, Baden-Baden 2008 continued with 8.h3 but I have added in the notes that 8.Bb3 and 8.Nbd2 prevent Black's ...f5 plan from working effectively and so have suggested 8...Bg4 against both. In the 6.Bb3 d5 line I think the 9...Nd4 used in Radjabov-Ponomariov, Bazna Kings 2010 is more interesting (though not necessarily any better theoretically) than the 9...a4 used by Kasparov and given by John Emms.