Sunday, 11 December 2022

Some re-examination of the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, Euwe Defence, Qe2 ideas

 I was recently re-reading Christoph Scheerer's chapter on the Euwe Defence with 1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.f3 exf3 5.Nxf3 e6 and seeing that in several lines he likes the idea of Bd3 followed by Qe2.  I wondered if I could find something new involving Qe2 in positions where he doesn't mention the idea.

My first experiment was a failure.  Following 6.Bg5 Be7 7.Bd3 Nc6,

I've seen 8.a3 and 8.Qd2 suggested, and Lev Zilbermints has favoured the second pawn sacrifice 8.0-0 Nxd4 9.Kh1, but I wondered if 8.Qe2 might work, because after 8...Nxd4 9.Nxd4 Qxd4 10.0-0-0, White has a long lead in development and the black queen is facing the white rook on d1.

Unfortunately for me, Stockfish inconveniently points out 10...Qg4!, when White has to spend another tempo moving the queen, and Black is able to get time to consolidate.

Another variation where Christoph Scheerer doesn't mention the Qe2 possibility is after 7...c5 8.dxc5 (here 8.Qe2?! cxd4 doesn't work) Qa5.

Here he only gives the main line 9.0-0 Qxc5+ 10.Kh1, which, to be fair, gives White a fair amount of compensation for the pawn.  But here 9.Qe2!? looks quite good, e.g. 9...Nbd7 10.0-0-0 Nxc5 (10...0-0 11.h4 improves over the 11.Kb1 of Toussaint-Mercky, France 1999).

Now White has various options including Ne5 and Rhf1, keeping up a fair amount of pressure on the black position, and if Black plays ...Nxd3+, White can answer with Rxd3.

Generally I think these days that 7.Bd3 c5 (as recommended by Joe Gallagher and James Rizzitano some time ago) is not so challenging for White, and that the traditional main line 7...Nc6 is the most critical.  

I have most often played 7.Qd2 (instead of 7.Bd3) when I have had this line with White, but I am not sure about White's compensation after 7...c5, which is why I decided to revisit the traditional 7.Bd3.

Monday, 3 October 2022

Duck Chess gets some mainstream recognition

I haven't posted here for a while, but I haven't left the chess world.

During my long stint at Exeter Chess Club, Tim Paulden invented a new chess variant called Duck Chess, and we had quite a few informal "chess variants" tournaments that featured it.  

Recently, it has started to gain more mainstream recognition as has added it to their list of chess variants.  Over the past week several of the most prominent chess streamers, including Eric Rosen and Jonathan Schrantz, have picked up on it and tried it out on  

Essentially, you make a move and then you place the yellow duck on a square, and the duck serves as a blocker (so for instance if you play 1.e4 with White, and you don't want your opponent playing the Sicilian Defence, 1...c5, you can annoy them by putting the duck on c6 so that they can't move the c-pawn).  The technique for how to checkmate opponents in Duck Chess is rather different to the standard game of chess.  You can get some nice smothered duck mates with a knight, but if you try to deliver checkmates with the queen, and there's some distance between the queen and king, your opponent can keep blocking with the duck.  I remember learning that the hard way a few times when I was down in Exeter, and Eric Rosen found it out starkly towards the end of his game.

Meanwhile, over the past year I've really got into Levy "GothamChess" Rozman's series Guess the Elo, and the latest episode was particularly amusing for the variable quality of the play.

In addition to this I've been actively involved with a group called The Unsound Openers, who tend to dabble in a range of gambits from the blatantly unsound to ones that are near the margins of soundness, as well as some offbeat lines like the Borgcloud and the Grob.  There's plenty of unorthodox openings around on the YouTube channels of Eric Rosen and Jonathan Schrantz and to a lesser extent GothamChess, who I now follow regularly. 

Sunday, 31 October 2021

Another suitably festive post for Halloween

 I remember that one of my most recent updates to my site was on Halloween and featured an article on the Halloween Gambit.  I still need to update the site to address the fact that some pages are in disarray, but so far "life" has been getting in the way of me completing that.  I hope to manage it at some point in the next few weeks.

With it being Halloween, I've completed my first complete Lichess study (I've also got a couple ongoing on the Scotch Gambit and the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit) which is on the Halloween Gambit.

My conclusion is unchanged though from last time: it's dangerous, but unsound. I recently played in a thematic tournament where I played the 7...d5 line with Black and converted the extra piece, although my opponent missed an opportunity to complicate matters.  When I played White, my opponent went 7...Bb4 instead, and I had an opportunity to generate a strong, if not winning, attack, but I missed my chance and lost.

As I mentioned in the Introduction, Black can try to transpose to the Stafford Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 Nc6) with 4...Bc5.  Objectively the transposition with 5.Nxc6 dxc6 is good for White, but I'm inclined to suggest 5.Nf3 instead, which allows White to retain an extra pawn without permitting Black as many hacking chances as in the Stafford Gambit.  I'm currently playing in a thematic tournament in the Stafford, as it happens (the first time that I've ever played it with either colour), and have so far got good positions with both colours, but it's still early days there.

A good source on the Halloween Gambit and the history of it is Tim Krabbe's site at  My investigations seem to bear out the old masters' view that the lines ending 7...d5 and 7...c6 (Chapters 9 & 11) are the biggest test for White, but White still gets some (but objectively not enough) long term attacking chances there.

Sunday, 4 July 2021

Revisiting the Scotch Gambit: the Two Knights Defence with d4

I'm currently writing a Lichess study on the Scotch Gambit/Two Knights Defence position that arises after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 (or 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Nf6).

I think this is especially worth revisiting because there have been quite a few new developments since I last examined the line in some depth, mainly in the 5.0-0 lines:

(a) 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.Nc3?!, the Nahkmanson Gambit.  

Until recently I had rejected this out of hand, but I was first introduced to one of the key points behind this a couple of years ago at my local chess club (6...dxc3 7.Bxf7+, with the idea of Qd5+, and then usually Re1 followed by recapturing on e4).  It's not very sound, largely because Black can settle for a one-pawn advantage after 6...Nxc3 or 6...Nd6, so I can't recommend it as a serious tournament weapon.  But it has been gaining some popularity at online blitz in particular, where it offers White plenty of hacking chances, especially if Black accepts the piece sacrifice.  Thus, in the study that is currently work in progress I have devoted a chapter to this line.

(b) 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.Re1 d5 7.Bxd5 Qxd5 8.Nc3 Qd7!?.

I don't think I have previously covered that line in much detail, but it has emerged as a serious alternative to the main lines (8...Qa5, 8...Qh5).  It aims to improve over the 8...Qd8 line (Black probably isn't fully equalising after 8...Qd8 9.Rxe4+).  Graham Burgess gave it a good look in his updated version of Chris Baker's A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire.  After 8...Qd7 9.Nxe4 White should be no worse, as White can put the knights onto active posts so that they aren't inferior to Black's knight and bishop, but it is trickier to generate winning chances.

The Max Lange line with 5.0-0 Bc5 6.e5 d5 7.exf6 dxc4 8.fxg7 is now looking roughly equal with best play, although I'd still rather have White in that line, and it's still looking better than the old main line 8.Re1+ Be6 9.Ng5 Qd5.

Via a search of the ChessBase database, I have also found a new try for White in the main line of the Canal Variation (5.0-0 Nxe4 6.Re1 d5 7.Nc3 dxc3 8.Bxd5 Be6 9.Bxe4 Qxd1 10.Rxd1 cxb2 11.Bxb2 f6 12.h4) which complicates matters and so could be a good practical try for rapid games and especially online blitz, though I still think Black's better with best play in that variation and that 7.Nc3 is therefore not as reliable as 7.Bxd5.

My fresh investigations into the 5.e5 lines are only just starting, so I'll have to see if anything new turns up in those.

Monday, 28 June 2021

Managing too much of a monstrosity

I have a confession to make.  

I created the bulk of my site,, at a time when I wasn't in full time employment and had plenty of time to devote to thoroughly analysing a wide range of gambits.  In recent years I've been in full time employment and have inevitably had rather less time, and over time it has become rather too daunting for me.  This has resulted in a large number of pages falling into disarray as procrastination set in, my previous site got discontinued, support for Flash disappeared and some of the ChessBase-based replayable diagrams have stopped working properly.  

I haven't been blogging much or updating the site much recently partly because the whole thing has got too much for me to handle and has kept putting me off.  

Had I been older and wiser when I first started the site, I would probably have gone for a more selective, article based approach, possibly more along the lines of what Tim Harding used to do in his excellent column, writing about lines that particularly interest me and branching out over time to eventually end up with a pretty comprehensive site.  But then again, some of the tools that are currently available for this sort of thing weren't available back then.  I'm attracted to the idea of doing studies on and creating articles that essentially embed said studies into the articles.  When I first started out, the best PGN viewers were rather more primitive.

I wouldn't want to get rid of what I already have on the site, though.  I'm considering keeping it up as a sort of archive and then reverting to this more article-based approach, but I'm open to other suggestions.  It's not ideal, but I need to change something or I'll just keep on saying that I'm going to push forward with updates and then releasing one or two updates per year if I'm lucky.

In the meantime I've been discovering some famous chess streamers - I chanced upon Eric "Oh no my queen!" Rosen and then branched out from him to Levy Rozman ("GothamChess") and Alexandra Botez (who coined the concept of the "Botez gambit", where you blunder your queen and then do your best to pretend that it was a sacrifice). 

This well-known position arose from 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.Re1 d5 7.Bxd5 Qxd5 8.Nc3.  My opponent played 8...Be6??, allowing 9.Nxd5, but somehow I lost because I let Black's d4-pawn run forward and queen.  I played that game a long time ago so can't remember the specifics, but it was one of my most embarrassing losses (though in my defence it was just an online blitz game).  8...Be6?? is the move that most springs to my mind when I think of the Botez gambit.  Anyway, I'm pleased to see these people streaming and stressing the importance of playing chess primarily for fun.

Eric Rosen has been having a lot of fun with the Stafford Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 Nc6?! 4.Nxc6 dxc6) in online blitz games.  

When I first looked at it, I rejected it out of hand, seeing it as basically a tempo-down version of the Boden-Kieseritzky Gambit (which, although dangerous, is not fully sound), but when I looked closely, it's one of those lines that Tim McGrew might refer to as having a high "Caltrop Coefficient" - with best play Black ends up a pawn down for just vague hacking chances, but whereas a slip by Black tends to result in being a pawn down for nothing (which isn't such a big deal at fast time controls, especially online), a slip by White can often lead to instant ruin.  But it's quite telling that in Eric Rosen's recent over-the-board games in Vegas he passed up opportunities to play the Stafford Gambit, preferring the just mildly offbeat 2...Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bb4+ 5.c3 Bc5.  It's one of those lines that can be a lot of fun in online blitz and lead to good attacks, but in slow over the board games risks producing a number of depressing losses and draws where you never really had much for the pawn.

Interestingly one of his other pet lines is the London System (1.d4 and 2.Bf4) which, in contrast, has a reputation of being very solid and very sound, though it can certainly be played in an aggressive way, e.g. involving queenside castling and, if Black goes kingside, throwing forward the kingside pawns.  I guess he doesn't pre-move 2.Bf4, as otherwise the Englund Gambit (1...e5) would become very attractive.