As Valentine’s weekend approaches, so too does the latest batch of Chessable courses in the big sale.
What advice can we give ahead of the big weekend?
Perhaps it will be something Rekindled; in this case, The Vienna Game.
Or maybe it is time for a little Understanding…the Ruy Lopez/Italian Structures.
Romantic Chess Openings
Traditionalists may pine for the old days, when romantic chess openings were still in vogue and heads were turned by the boldness of a chess player opening with 1.e4 e5 2.f4.
Time now to head back into chess history for a look at one of the wildest and most romantic of all King’s Gambit variations.
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nc3
According to IM Christof Sielecki in his course Fight 1.e4 like Caruana: ‘This move just does not work against best play.’
White positively welcomes the check on h4 and Black accepts the kind offer.
The course now recommends 4…Qe7 5.d3 Nf6 6.Bxf4 d5 and concludes: ‘We have an attack now with obvious moves like …Nc6, …Be6 and …0-0-0.’
Well, what a spoilsport. There is no romance there, after all.
A Better Way
Wilhelm Steinitz, the first official World Champion of chess, preferred a slightly different move order to reach a similar position: 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 exf4 4.d4. 2.Nc3 is the Vienna Game but 4.d4 is most definitely the Steinitz Gambit.
Here is a game showing Steinitz winning quickly with his own romantic opening. His king goes on an early excursion and tactics abound. Yet this was not merely an offhand game, where the result wasn’t going to matter very much. This was Game One of the first official match for the World Chess Championship, where the result certainly did matter!
Wilhelm Steinitz – Johannes Zukertort
World Chess Championship Match, 1886
1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 exf4 4.d4
4…d5 5.exd5 Qh4+ 6.Ke2
6…Qe7+ 7.Kf2 Qh4+ 8.g3 fxg3+ 9.Kg2
This all looks very risky. White’s premise is based on the idea that the Black queen will eventually lose time by being chased around and this will allow White to race ahead in terms of development. White also enjoys strength in the centre, thanks to his advanced pawns.
Tempting, but 9…Bd6 is stronger. Chigorin played this way against Steinitz in the London tournament of 1883 and won after 30 moves. Zukertort was there; he won the tournament, ahead of Steinitz!
The immediate point is that 10.dxc6 gxh2 leaves the white king in a perilous position, without any pawn protection at all. The g1-knight is in trouble too; 11.Nf3 loses instantly to 11…Qg3 or 11…Bh3 checkmate.
Steinitz now declines the exchange of queens to start his own attack and leave the black queen exposed, as a target.
11.Qe1+ Be7 12.Bd3
Limbering up for Rh4 without allowing …Nxc2.
12…Nf5 13.Nf3 Bd7 14.Bf4 f6 15.Ne4 Ngh6
White to Play and Win
Zukertort has been completely outplayed and this move hastens the end. He had to to try 15…Kf7 or 15…Kd8 but both of his royal pieces would remain in trouble.
16.Bxh6 Nxh6 17.Rxh6 gxh6
18.Nxf6+ Kf7 19.Nxg4 1-0
A big win for Steinitz, which should have given him confidence at the start of the match. However, he now proceeded to lose four games in a row. The romantic path is never a smooth one to take, but Steinitz went on to dominate the rest of the match to take the title.
Ah, memories of a simpler, more romantic time. A time before cards and flowers were unceremoniously replaced by texts and emojis; a time when I could read my own writing.
Never mind all the sophisticated chess openings, offering lengthy ponderous manoeuvres. 1.e4 is where the action is – and that is what today’s sale is all about.
Go on – dare to be different. Maybe YOU will be the last of the old romantics?