Halloween Gambit!

Tue, 2013-11-12 11:35 -- IM Max Illingworth
[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2013.10.28"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Warm-up Puzzle!"]
[Black "?"]
[Result "*"]
[ECO "C55"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "7"]
[EventDate "2013.??.??"]

{This week I'm going to investigate some chess openings themed around
Halloween! But first of all, a warm-up puzzle: how would you play as Black
after} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bc4 {? For the solution, see the next
game!} *
[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2013.10.28"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Warm-up Puzzle!"]
[Black "Solution"]
[Result "*"]
[ECO "C55"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "14"]
[EventDate "2013.??.??"]

{This week I'm going to investigate some chess openings themed around
Halloween! But first of all, a warm-up puzzle: how would you play as Black
after} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bc4 {? For the solution, see the next
game!} Nxe4 $1 {While other moves such as 4...Bc5 and 4...Bb4 are playable,
this move, known as the fork trick, is undoubtedly the critical continuation.
The idea is that after} 5. Nxe4 d5 {, the fork on White's minor pieces regains
the sacrificed material, and} 6. Bd3 dxe4 7. Bxe4 Bd6 {gives Black a solid
position with nice development and more space in the centre. Now let's move on
to some more gripping stuff!} *
[Event "Internet"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1997.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Brause"]
[Black "NN"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C47"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "27"]
[EventDate "1997.??.??"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nxe5 {This is the Halloween Gambit! For
maximum effect, say 'Trick or Treat!' while making the move! White does
sacrifice a piece, but gains a very strong centre, a lot of central space and
rapid development if Black hangs on to his extra piece after} Nxe5 5. d4 {.}
Ng6 (5... Nc6 {is the other knight retreat, but then} 6. d5 Ne5 7. f4 {
continues to kick the knights around the board. We'll see more of this later.})
6. e5 Ng8 7. Bc4 {White plays this to try and stop Black from playing ...d5
and consolidating his extra piece.} c6 $6 (7... d5 $1 {anyway is best,
returning some material to catch up in development with} 8. Bxd5 N8e7 9. Be4 {
and while White's imposing centre gives him practical chances, objectively
Black must be for choice.}) 8. Qf3 (8. Qe2 {might have been more precise to
prevent the freeing ...d6/...d5.}) 8... f6 $2 (8... d5 $1 9. exd6 Be6 {erodes
White's centre and} 10. d5 Ne5 11. Qe2 Nxc4 12. dxe6 Nxd6 13. exf7+ Kxf7 {
gives Black a decisive advantage.}) 9. O-O (9. Ne4 $1 {was again more to the
point, putting pressure on the kingside, but remember that this was only a
blitz game.}) 9... d5 {Opening the position while behind in development is
risky, but otherwise the queenside pieces won't see the light of day, and
Black does have to challenge White in the centre to avoid getting mowed down.}
10. exd6 Bxd6 11. Ne4 N8e7 $2 {A blunder, but even after the correct} (11...
Qc7 12. Re1 N8e7 {Black is holding on, though White keeps some compensation
with} 13. Kh1 {as Black can't castle and it is hard for him to untangle.}) 12.
Qxf6 $1 gxf6 {A blunder - perhaps Black was sick of his bad position!} (12...
Bb8 13. Qxg7 Kd7 14. Nc5+ Kc7 15. Re1 {is pretty hopeless for Black.}) 13.
Nxf6+ Kf8 14. Bh6# 1-0
[Event "Sydney Masters U18"]
[Site "Sydney"]
[Date "2005.07.05"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Stevens, Tristan"]
[Black "Mendes da Costa, Alex"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C47"]
[WhiteElo "1960"]
[BlackElo "1953"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "99"]
[EventDate "2005.07.04"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "AUS"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2009.11.30"]

{The Halloween Gambit was a favourite of the creative Adelaide player Alan
Goldsmith, who passed it on to Tristan Stevens who went on to play it
successfully: here is one of his wins.} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nxe5
Nxe5 5. d4 Nc6 6. d5 Nb8 $2 {This is too passive.} (6... Ne5 7. f4 Ng6 8. e5
Ng8 {is correct, though after} 9. d6 $1 cxd6 10. exd6 {White has a dangerous
initiative. Maybe a computer could defend this position, starting with} Qf6 $1
11. Nb5 (11. Qe2+ {is objectively better but Black can force the queens off
with} Qe6 {and at least won't get mated in a hurry.}) 11... Nxf4 $1 {, when}
12. Nc7+ Kd8 13. Nxa8 Qe5+ 14. Kf2 Bxd6 {gives Black a winning counterattack
against the White king. However no one has found this 11...Nxf4! move in an
over-the-board game - instead people have played 11...Kd8 and suffered.}) 7. e5
Ng8 8. d6 cxd6 9. exd6 {Already White has a very strong initiative - the
d6-pawn constricts Black's entire development and supports Nb5-c7 and Qe2.} Qf6
10. Nb5 Na6 11. Bc4 Nh6 12. Qe2+ (12. O-O $1 Kd8 13. Re1 {is a faster win.})
12... Kd8 13. h4 Qg6 14. Bg5+ f6 15. Bxh6 gxh6 16. O-O-O h5 17. Kb1 {White is
still completely winning after this safe move, but} (17. Rhe1 {would be almost
checkmating on the spot, e.g.} Bh6+ 18. Kb1 Re8 19. Qe7+ $1 Rxe7 20. dxe7+ Ke8
21. Nd6# {would have been a very lovely finish!}) 17... b6 18. Bd5 Rb8 19. Bf3
Qe8 20. Qxe8+ Kxe8 21. Bxh5+ Kd8 22. Rhe1 Bh6 23. Re7 Nc5 24. Nd4 Bf4 25. Rf7
Be5 26. Nf5 Bb7 27. g3 Be4 28. Ne3 Ne6 29. f4 Bd4 30. f5 Bxe3 31. fxe6 Bc6 32.
e7+ Kc8 33. Rf8+ Kb7 34. Rxh8 Rxh8 35. e8=Q Rxe8 36. Bxe8 Bf2 37. Rd3 f5 38.
Kc1 Be4 39. Rc3 Bc5 40. Bxd7 Bxd6 41. Bc8+ Kb8 42. Ba6 Bc7 43. Kd1 Bg2 44. Ke2
Bh3 45. Ke3 Bg4 46. Kd4 f4 47. Rxc7 Kxc7 48. gxf4 Kd6 49. Ke4 Ke6 50. Bc8+ 1-0
[Event "Email"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2003.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Torrecillas"]
[Black "Keiser"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C47"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "83"]
[EventDate "2003.??.??"]

{Nowadays in correspondence you couldn't get away with the Halloween Gambit -
the modern engines would rip you to shreds!} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4.
Nxe5 Nxe5 5. d4 Ng6 6. e5 Ng8 7. Bc4 Bb4 {This move isn't that great but it's
the sort of line you'll often get in quick games or at the club level.} 8. Qf3
f6 $6 (8... Qe7 9. O-O Bxc3 10. bxc3 Nh6 {does look a bit awkward for Black,
but he's up a piece and therefore can afford some luxuries. Unfortunately I
don't see full compensation for White here; maybe} 11. Qd3 {with ideas of
f4-f5 is his best practical try.} (11. g3 {with the idea of h4-h5 is Houdini's
preference. It looks slow but isn't so silly.})) 9. O-O Bxc3 10. bxc3 d5 11.
exd6 cxd6 12. Ba3 {White has good compensation for the piece, with a big lead
in development, the bishop pair, and the black king will be stuck in the
centre for a long time. In a practical game I'd definitely prefer to be White.}
N8e7 13. Rfe1 Qc7 14. Bb3 Kd8 15. c4 Bd7 16. Rad1 Qc6 17. Qc3 a5 18. d5 Qc7 19.
c5 b5 20. Qd2 b4 21. cxd6 Qxd6 22. Bb2 a4 23. Bc4 Ke8 24. a3 Ne5 25. Ba2 b3 26.
cxb3 axb3 27. Bxb3 Kf7 28. f4 N5g6 29. Re6 Qxf4 30. Qe2 Qb8 31. Ba2 Qa7+ 32.
Kh1 Kf8 33. d6 Ng8 34. Qc4 Nh6 35. Bxf6 gxf6 36. Rxf6+ Ke8 37. Rxg6 hxg6 38.
Qc3 Rh7 39. Qf6 Ba4 40. Qxg6+ Nf7 41. Rf1 Bc2 42. Qxc2 1-0 
[Event "Belgium Team Championship"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2011.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Rodriguez Martin, Emilio"]
[Black "Pliester, Leon"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C47"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "38"]
[EventDate "2011.??.??"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nxe5 Nxe5 5. d4 Nc6 6. d5 {Unfortunately for
White, Black isn't forced to keep his booty - he can return the material to
reclaim the initiative.} Ne5 (6... Bb4 7. dxc6 Nxe4 8. Qd4 Qe7 {is a variation
often considered to be a problem for White. However after} 9. Be3 f5 10. Be2
Bc5 11. cxb7 Bxb7 12. Qc4 Bxe3 13. fxe3 {White would only be a little worse.
Personally, I like Pliester's creative over-the-board inspiration.}) 7. f4 Ng6
8. e5 Bc5 $1 9. exf6 O-O {The attack down the e-file is far from easy to
rebutt.} 10. Ne4 $6 {After this move the game goes downhill for White, and
Pliester caps off with some brilliant tactics.} (10. fxg7 Re8+ 11. Be2 d6 {was
also a problem for White though, as his king is stuck in the centre for a long
time and Black has a huge lead in development. Already the computer wants to
play} 12. h4 {which gives you an idea of how awful White's game is.}) 10... Re8
11. Bd3 d6 12. g4 Qxf6 13. f5 Bxf5 $1 14. gxf5 Rxe4+ 15. Bxe4 Qh4+ 16. Kd2 Qxe4
17. Qe2 Qxd5+ 18. Qd3 Qxh1 19. fxg6 hxg6 {In conclusion I can recommend the
Halloween Gambit as a fun line for blitz and rapid, but objectively Black
gains a big advantage with correct play, and he has a number of solid ways to
return the material and spoil White's fun.} 0-1
[Event "Wch U20"]
[Site "Kochin"]
[Date "2004.11.20"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Sengupta, Deep"]
[Black "Petrosian, Tigran L"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C47"]
[WhiteElo "2359"]
[BlackElo "2539"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "58"]
[EventDate "2004.11.20"]
[EventRounds "13"]
[EventCountry "IND"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2005.01.01"]

{However, for those of you who want to sacrifice your knight early, there is
still hope! The gambit becomes a lot more respectable when g3 is inserted.} 1.
e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nc3 Nc6 4. g3 Nxe4 $5 5. Nxe4 d5 {The point is that
White's knight can no longer go to its best square, g3.} 6. Nc3 d4 7. Ne4 ({
Unfortunately for Black, White can bail out with} 7. Bg2 dxc3 8. bxc3 {,
transposing to a main line of the Glek (as this 4.g3 system is known). In this
case we just have to hunker down for a positional game after something like}
Bc5 9. O-O O-O {.}) 7... f5 8. Neg5 e4 9. Bc4 {White gives back the piece to
go on a counterattack. This leads to fireworks in our game.} exf3 10. Bf7+ Kd7
11. Be6+ Ke8 12. Bf7+ Ke7 (12... Kd7 {would repeat the position.}) 13. Bb3 Kf6
14. Nf7 $2 (14. Nxf3 {with approximate equality is the sane reply, but White
can't resist the material.}) 14... Qe8+ 15. Kf1 d3 $1 {Preventing White from
continuing his development with d3.} 16. Qxf3 $2 {A blunder, but White was
already struggling with ...Nd4, ...f4 and ...Bh3 to come.} Nd4 17. Qxd3 Nxb3
18. Nxh8 Qc6 (18... Nxa1 {was simpler.}) 19. Kg1 Nxa1 20. b3 Qxc2 21. Qd4+ Ke6
22. Qxa1 Bd7 23. Bb2 Bc6 24. h3 Bc5 25. Bxg7 Bxf2+ 26. Kh2 Qe4 27. Qf6+ Kd5 28.
Rc1 Re8 29. Rc4 Bg1+ 0-1
[Event "ROM-ch U20"]
[Site "Tusnad"]
[Date "2001.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Szabo, Gergely Andras"]
[Black "Manea, Alexandru"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C47"]
[WhiteElo "2331"]
[BlackElo "2301"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "46"]
[EventDate "2001.??.??"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "ROU"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2007.11.25"]

{This game shows what happens when the knight ducks back to b1 - that isn't
too nice for White either!} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. g3 Nxe4 5. Nxe4
d5 6. Nc3 d4 7. Nb1 (7. Nb5 a6 8. Na3 e4 9. Ng1 {also gives Black promising
compensation for the piece, for instance} Qf6 {prepares to attack f2 with ...
d3 and ...Bc5.}) 7... e4 8. Ng1 {This is how most people play the position.} (
8. Nh4 {is the computer's recommendation, but Black keeps good compensation
with} Qe7 {followed by ideas of ...d3 or ...Ne5/...g5/...Nf3.}) 8... d3 $1 {
This pawn proves again to be a major bone in White's throat, which threatens
to choke him if he cannot get his king out of the centre.} 9. c3 Bc5 10. Qh5
Qe7 11. Bh3 g6 12. Qh6 f5 {It's hard to dispute Black's advantage - White can
hardly move a piece!} (12... Ne5 $1 {may have been even better, intending to
jump into f3 if permitted.}) 13. b4 Bb6 14. Bb2 Be6 15. Na3 Rf8 {White has
tried to play around Black's beautiful pawn chain from h7 to d3 but his
position still fails to make sense.} 16. O-O-O $2 {Funnily enough, the king
was safer in the centre.} Bxa2 17. Rf1 O-O-O 18. Bg2 a5 {Once White's king is
opened up, he's toast.} 19. b5 Ne5 20. Nh3 Bc5 21. Nb1 Qf7 {White resigned as
he can't prevent ...Qb3-c2 mate and} 22. Kd1 Qb3+ 23. Ke1 Qxb2 {gives Black
the unstoppable threat of ...Qc1 mate.} 0-1
[Event "La Roda op 35th"]
[Site "La Roda"]
[Date "2008.03.23"]
[Round "9"]
[White "Starostits, Ilmars"]
[Black "Moreno Gracia, Daniel"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C47"]
[WhiteElo "2500"]
[BlackElo "2223"]
[Annotator "Illingworth,Max"]
[PlyCount "59"]
[EventDate "2008.03.19"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "ESP"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2008.05.06"]

{There is one variation in the Four Knights that offers an opportunity for a
Halloween Gambit sacrifice, though it's admittedly quite rare.} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3
Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. a3 {This move isn't entirely stupid - White prevents ...Bb4
and argues that Black doesn't have a useful move!} g6 {This is a Glek with
colours reversed, but now we can play our sack! Unfortunately you won't get to
play it very often as there are many moves more common than this one.} (4...
Bc5 5. Nxe5 {is a trick I once used to catch out a young Anton Smirnov in a
blitz game.}) (4... d5 5. Bb5 {meanwhile is complicated, with chances for both
sides. My suggestion for Black would be} Nxe4 6. Qe2 Nxc3 7. Qxe5+ Be7 8. Qxc3
O-O {with an equal position, as} 9. Bxc6 bxc6 10. Qxc6 Rb8 {gives Black space,
the bishop pair and a lead in development for the pawn.}) (4... Be7 5. d4 exd4
6. Nxd4 O-O {meanwhile looks passive, but White's a3 is useless in this
position, so Black should be okay.}) 5. Nxe5 Nxe5 6. d4 Nc6 7. d5 Nb8 ({Most
players bail out with} 7... Bg7 8. dxc6 bxc6 {when we have a Glek where White
has the slightly useful a3 move included. This might well be Black's best
continuation.}) 8. e5 Ng8 9. d6 cxd6 10. exd6 {White is doing extremely well
here - this is the Stevens-Da Costa game we saw, with ...g6 and a3 included.}
Bg7 $2 (10... Qf6 11. Nb5 Na6 12. Bc4 {was also very strong for White, though.}
) 11. Nd5 Na6 12. Bxa6 {Black could already have resigned here.} bxa6 13. Nc7+
Kf8 14. Nxa8 Bb7 15. Nc7 Bxg2 16. Rg1 Bc6 17. Rg3 Nf6 18. Re3 Kg8 19. Bd2 Ne4
20. Qe2 Nxd6 21. Ne8 Nf5 22. Nxg7 Nxe3 23. Qxe3 Kxg7 24. Qh6+ Kg8 25. O-O-O f6
26. Bc3 d5 27. Re1 Kf7 28. Bb4 f5 29. Re7+ Kf6 30. Qh4+ {Conclusion: The
Halloween Gambit is interesting and a lot of fun - against the right opponent
or at the right time control it can pose your opponents a lot of problems and
score you crushing wins. But strong players will either know how to meet it 
(getting an advantage out of the opening) or find a practical way to return
the material and obtain an equal or marginally better position. Fans of
eccentric lines might like to investigate 4.a3 instead.} 1-0