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Everyone dreams of being a wild gambiteer, even long in the tooth Grandmasters. So I couldn't resist picking up a copy of Thomas Johansson's self-published work, The Fascinating King's Gambit. I actually played the King's Gambit in my teenage years, but later gave it up in favour of the Ruy Lopez and then various flank openings.

Download PGN of May '05 1 e4 e5 games

Bishop's Gambit

Against the King's Gambit Accepted (1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4) Johansson advocates the Bishop's Gambit with 3.Bc4, which has been given the seal of approval by Britain's Nigel Short and the Icelandic (!) GM, Bobby Fischer:

Johansson delves deeply into the intricacies of this opening, checking everything with his 'little German friend' Fritz and coming up with a lot of original analysis.

Whilst I found myself questioning many of the assessments, there's no doubt that this is a terrific creative effort. And by way of paying homage, this month's update is devoted to the main line of the Bishop's - 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Nc3 and now 4...Bb4 or 4...c6.

The first two games are devoted to what may well be Black's most reliable answer, 4...Bb4:

In Koch - Payen White tries to improve on the critical line with 9.Qh5, and whilst he probably had a good position around move 12 it slipped away. The final result has very little to do with the opening, White lost through trying too hard to win.

Reinderman varies with the unusual 6.exf6 in Game 2 but was struggling throughout. 11...Nd4! is probably an improvement for Black whereas it seems hard to improve White's chances.

Against 4...c6 White's most reliable move has been 5.Bb3, and this is featured in Short - Karpov:

Short's unusual 8.Nf3 looks like a more practical choice than Fischer's nerve-wracking 8.Nge2 though 8.Qf3!? is also worth considering. Black seems to be OK in any case, though this might not be easy to prove against a well-prepared King's Gambit fanatic.

Heikki Westerinen has shown a liking for the sharp 5.d4 Bb4 6.e5 Ne4 7.Qh5!?:

The sharpest answer is 7...g6 8.Qf3 Qh4+, as in Westerinen - Hector, in which all sorts of interesting things happened in an ostensibly dull endgame. 7...d5 is the solid choice with Black keeping the attacking Finn at bay in Westerinen - Flear.

One of the more interesting byways against 4...c6 is 5.Nf3!?, a move which Johansson has nicknamed the 'Silversurfer Gambit':

The most likely outcome is a transposition into the 5.Bb3 line (and maybe Short - Karpov) after 5...d5 6.exd5 cxd5 7.Bb3!?, because 7.Bb5+, as played in Feletar - Palac, is quite ineffective.

I also like 5.Qf3!? as played in Pridorozhni - Geller. But the critical line is 7.Nge2, transposing into the 8.Nge2 note to White's 8th move within Short - Karpov. White's 7.Qe2+?! is tricky but ineffective.

Last, but not least, we come to Judit Polgar's speciality, 4.d3 (Polgar - Barle):

It's not a bad move at all, but the drawback is that it can lead to rather sterile middlegames. Barle makes light work of equality, and ends up with rather more than that when Judit throws her queenside pawns forward.

The Bishop's Gambit looks like an interesting and fertile field for study and experimentation. But I doubt that White can get an advantage, especially after 4...Bb4.

Nigel Davies

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Nigel Davies