Game Spotlight: The Gambit Stutter-Step

We’re often told that at some point in our Chess careers, we need to play gambits.  The point of this is to learn how to attack, and learn how important development can be.  The problem is we often get the impression that it’s necessary to go all-in on an attack as soon as possible, when this isn’t the case.  (Among the more impressive historical counterexamples, Mikhail Chigorin played a quiet variation of the Evans Gambit to a 13-6-5 record against World Champion Wilhelm Steinitz, including a record of 8-4-4 during their World Championship matches.  If only Chigorin never had to play the black pieces, Chess history might have been quite different!)

Of course, the purpose of any gambit is to trade some material (usually one or two pawns) for fast development.  As a return on this material investment, the gambiting player expects to get back a lot more, either ending with a material advantage or checkmate.  But there’s another way to play a gambit I’d like to explore a bit here — cashing in early for a longer-term positional advantage:

The titular stutter-step happened on move 10, when Tal won back his pawn in return for making the Black King unsafe.  It looked like he decided to give up any advantage for a more equal game, but instead he ramped up a new attack quickly against Black’s weak King defenses.

We’ll be looking at games played in the NCC Closed Championship next week.


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