Traps, Tricks & Mistakes: Slippery King’s Gambit
This post is a collaboration with Mr Andrew Crosby who is an expert in chess gambits.
Andrew usually plays them in his games with great success. He is also an active member of our virtual Chess.com club taking part in our online tournaments and matches.
Centuries XVIII and XIX featured the Romantic period in chess history. Back then one of the most popular openings was the King’s Gambit.
The “Immortal Game”, played between Anderssen and Kieseritzky in 1851 and considered a supreme example of Romantic chess, began with this gambit.
This most aggressive of openings is a dangerous gambit and epitomized the Romantic style of play that involved quick tactical manoeuvers rather than long term strategical planning.
As early as the second move, White offers the f-pawn. This sacrifice opens up the h4-e1 diagonal tempting Black to make a premature queen check on h4.
If Black accepts the gambit, then White can choose between two plans. The first is to recapture the f-pawn by playing d4 and Bxf4. The second is to prepare the attack on Black’s king with Nf3, Bc4, O-O utilizing the semiopen f-file.
It is generally considered that Romantic chess ended with the 1873 Vienna tournament where Wilhelm Steinitz (the first World Chess Champion) popularized positional play and the closed game. This signalled the decline of the King’s Gambit. Defensive abilities evolved and Black found ways to counter the gambit by giving back the pawn in exchange for piece development.
Nowadays, the King’s Gambit is employed for surprise value in games with short time controls when unprepared opponents will find it difficult to parry a violent attack.
That happened in today’s game between Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi and the Iranian young rising star GM Alireza Firouzja. They played in the prestigious Norway Chess 2021. The competition used a mixed format combining a double round-robin of classical games and an additional armageddon one in case of a draw. The latter proved necessary in the second round and led to Nepomniachtchi surprising Firouzja with the King’s Gambit. The Iranian player was probably unaware that his opponent had recently published an online course about the opening.
In any case, he lost his way and became confused by move 10 when he played a losing novelty.
Although rarely found in top tournaments, the King’s Gambit should prove to be a good surprise weapon at the club level and help you to achieve many quick victories. Because they often involve wild and unpredictable positions, gambits can lead to quick wins. Although modern chess theory considers the King’s Gambit as technically unsound, you can catch unprepared opponents off guard.
For example, Nigel Short surprised Garry Kasparov with this opening and won in 15 moves!! And former world champion Boris Spassky successfully employed this gambit and beat Bobby Fischer at Mar del Plata (1960). After his defeat, Fischer analyzed deeply the opening and in 1961, came up with the article “A Bust to the King’s Gambit” claiming to have refuted the gambit.
Because the gambit can be declined or accepted, when you study this opening be prepared for both instances.
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