Monday, February 15, 2010

The King's Gambit, Cunningham Variation

The "gambit" here is the White's f-pawn being offered to Black in order to build a strong center with d2-d4 and to attack f7.  In order for Black to maintain the pawn advantage, he may well be forced to weaken his kingside.

The King's Gambit was examined by the 17th century Italian chess player Giulio Polerio.[1]  and Luis Ramirez de Lucena.[2] The King's Gambit is now infrequently seen at master level, as Black can obtain a reasonable position by returning the extra pawn to consolidate.

GUNSBERG vs. Amateur
London, 1879
King's Gambit, Cunningham Variation

1. e4 e5
2. f4 exf4
3. Nf3 Be7
4. Bc4 Bh4+

Another move, Nf6, is vastly superior. White answers the Bishop check by sacrificing a handful of pawns.

5. g3 fxg3
6. 0-0 gxh2
7. Kh1 ....

White should never capture the h pawn. It would expose the King to danger. The h pawn, as it is, shields the White King. In return for the sacrificed pawns, White has a lead in development, open lines and attacking chances. Black must be on the guard.

7. ... d5
8. Bxd5 Nf6
9. Nc3 Nxd5
10. Nxd5 Bh3
11. Nxh4 Bxf1
12. Qg4 ....

12. ... 0-0

To a casual chess player, this may look like an obvious move. Yet it is a bad choice.

13. Nf5 g6
14. Nfe7+   Kh8
15. b3   Nd7
16. Bb2+  f6
17. Rxf1  c6

Of course.  But White has a staggering reply.

18. Qxd7   Qxd7
19. Rxf6   ....

White threatens 20.  Rxf8ch mate.  On 19. ... Rxf6 he replies 20. Bxf6 mate.  Black's best chance was 19. ....  Kg7   20. Rd6+ leaving White with a won ending.

19.  ....  h5?
20. Rf7 mate.

A remarkably interesting game.

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