Friday, March 28, 2008

The Englund Gambit

There are 3 minor gambits which Black sometimes plays against the Queen's Gambit Opening. I consider them related because all involve an early ...e5 by Black. I will deal with each, starting with the Englund Gambit.

1 d4 e5?!

This so obscure and unsound that I cannot even find it in BCO2. It is good only for surprise value, as entertainingly described in this blog:
The writer was in a critical last-round game for first place, knowing his opponent would have White, would be playing 1 d4, and was booked up. So, he surprised his opponent with the Englund and got the draw he sought to split first and second place money.

2 dxe5 Nc6 3 Nf3 Qe7 4 Nc3

There are many moves White can play here. A real clunker is 4 Bf4, which is actually what I played when faced with this position in my very first tournament game in Kansas, against Kansas City master Jack Winters. The problem with 4 Bf4 is Black's response 4...Qb5ch, hitting the Bishop on f4 and the Pawn on b2. Here is a collection of games, showing that even top players can fall into this little "trap".

Often played here is 4 Qd5, trying to hang onto the gambit Pawn. White must know what he's doing to play such moves! My personal preference against all 3 of these gambits is to play conservatively and develop, forcing Black to waste time recovering his gambit Pawn. If you try esoteric lines, you will get stung as White because surely Black knows them better than you do, since he chose the opening!

A check of the 38 games in the database with 4 Nc3 show Black scoring only 12.5, a success rate for White of more than two-thirds!

Play from here can continue in different ways, and there is no one established line. White often lets Black trade Knights on f3 and double his f-Pawns. He doesn't care because he plans to castle Queen-side.

Here is an entertaining game I just played this morning, vs. Bakela. Black plays the rare move 2...d6, a la the Fromm's Gambit. Only 7 database games with this, and White scores 5 and a half out of the 7. Black then follows up with the even stranger 3...Qxd6, allowing the trade of Queens. I sort of lose my way a bit during the game, but after 38 a4! mate is forced, and Black cannot avoid it even with sacrifices.
1. d4 e5 2. dxe5 d6 3. exd6 Qxd6 4. Qxd6 Bxd6 5. Nf3 Bf5 6. Nd4 Bg6 7. c3 Nf6 8. Bg5 Nbd7 9. Nd2 O-O-O 10. f3 h6 11. Bxf6 Nxf6 12. O-O-O Rhe8 13. e4 Nd7 14. Nc4 Bf4+ 15. Nd2 h5 16. g3 Be3 17. Re1 Bh6 18. Bd3 Nc5 19. Bc2 Ne6 20. f4 Nxd4 21. cxd4 Rxd4 22. Nb3 Rc4 23. Re2 Bxe4 24. Rhe1 f5 25. h3 Rd8 26. Kb1 Bxc2+ 27. Rxc2 Rxc2 28. Kxc2 b6 29. Nd2 Rd6 30. Nf3 Kb7 31. Re7 Rc6+ 32. Kb3 a5 33. Nd4 Rc5 34. Ne6 Rd5 35. Nxc7 Rd3+ 36. Kc2 Rxg3 37. Nb5+ Ka6? 38. a4! Rg2+ 39. Kb1 {Black resigns} 1-0

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