Monday, March 1, 2010

The Scotch Gambit

The Scotch Game or Scotch Gambit is a chess opening that begins with the moves 1. e4 e5, 2. Nf3 Nc6, 3. d4 .....  The opening received its name from a correspondence match in 1824 between Edinburgh and London. Popular in the 19th century, the Scotch had lost favor among top players because it was thought to release the central tension too early and allow Black to equalize without difficulty. More recently the Scotch has regained some popularity and it has been used by grandmasters Kasparov and Timman as a surprise weapon to avoid the well-analyzed Ruy Lopez. 

White aims to dominate the center by exchanging his d-pawn for Black's e-pawn. Black usually plays 3...exd4, as he has no good way to maintain his pawn on e5 (this same position can be reached by transposition from the Centre Game 1.e4 e5, 2.d4 exd4, 3.Nf3 Nc6). After 3...d6, White is better after 4.dxe5 dxe5, 5.Qxd8+ Kxd8, 6.Bc4, or he may simply play 4.Bb5, when 4...exd4 5.Nxd4 Bd7 transposes to the Steinitz Defense to the Ruy Lopez.

Wilhem Steinitz, famous as the man who elaborated the idea of playing for "small advantages", was so brilliant a player in his youth that he was dubbed the :Austrian Morphy.  Here is one of his games.

Vienna, 1860

1. e4, e5
2. Nf3, Nc6
3. d4, exd4
4. Bc4, Bc5
5. 0-0, d6
6. c3, Bg4!

Stronger than 6. .... dxc3, which gives White a good initiative after 7. Nxc3 in return for the sacrificed pawn.

7. Qb3, Bxf3

Black does not fear the coming complications.

8. Bxf7+, Kf8
9. Bxg8, Rxg8
10. gxf3, g5!

Black hopes for an attack on the castled King.

11. Qe6, Ne5
12. Qf5+, Kg7
13. Kh1 .....

Here, 13. Bxg5 is a mistake: 13. .....Kh8; 14. h4 h6 and the Bishop is lost.

13. .... Kh8
14. Rg1, g4!

Black reckons on 15. fxg4 Qh4 with a powerful initiative for his aggressively posted pieces.

15. f4, Nf3
16. Rxg4 ......

Or 16. Rg2 Ne1, 17. Rg1 Nc2 and Black wins.

16. .... Qh4!

An unpleasant surprise. If 17. Rxh4 Rg1 mate.

17. Rg2, Qxh2
18. Rxh2, Rg1 mate.

A dashing win by the Austrian Morphy.  White's queenside pieces are still on their home squares -- typical of such games.

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