Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Part 1: King's Gambit (King's Knight's Gambit), Internet Chess Club

I played in the ICC Marathon tournament May 12-13, 2012.  ICC is the Internet Chess Club (http://www.chessclub.com/from/jientho).  Every 2nd month they have a 24-hour marathon of tournaments noon Saturday to noon Sunday (http://www.chessclub.com/help/Marathon).  I do relatively poorly, playing in the "standard" section (each player having a 15-minute budget per game), but I usually can get some membership extension prize by being in the top six in total number of games played.  For example this time I got 8 points out of 32 games (and that includes some "unearned" full-point byes, which happen sometimes when there are an odd number of players and the "lowest man" is thus not paired to play).  By comparison, the player with the highest number of games played won something like 20 points by playing 45 games; and the player with the highest score won something like 27 points from playing 33 games.  (The marathon consisted of 47 rounds total).

But I want to do better, and have more fun, so I want to publicly analyze one of my games here in great detail, trying to recall my thought process, and being brutally critical.  Maybe it can also help other lower-rated players like myself.

I have chosen a game whose opening I love to play as Black, the King's Gambit.  I got one each of the King's Knight's Gambit and King's Bishop's Gambit this marathon, and I'll do the Knight's game in this first post.  The Bishop's in a later post, if this one proves useful to me or to others ("on request"), also time permitting.  I am "jientho" on ICC.

So, this is the game One-DarkKnight (1644) - jientho (1277).

1.e4  Something like 43% of games start with e4, 40% with d4, and 18% other (mostly Nf3 and c4).
1...e5  Of the games where White starts 1.e4, Black's replies break down approximately as follows:
  1...c5, 47% (Sicilian Defense)
  1...e5, 26% (Open Game)
  1...e6, 12% (French Defense)
  1...c6, 7% (Caro-Kann Defense)
  1...d6, 3% (Philidor Defense, Pirc Defense, or Hedgehog Defense)
  1...g6, 2% (Modern Defense or Pirc Defense)
  1...Nf6, 1% (Alekhine's Defense)
  1...d5, 1% (Scandinavian Defense)
  1...other, 1%
Combining percentages, of all games, about 11% start with 1.e4 e5.

2.f4  And here is the King's Gambit.  White has not defended the f4 square before sending the f pawn there.  As such, the full intent of this move is to distract Black's e5 pawn or to force her into awkwardly trying to defend it.  Rather than wait until d3 or d4 is played first, when the f4 square would be defended by the bishop on c1, White holds the move d4 "in reserve" to attack the black pawn on f4 if Black accepts the gambit.  Another note here -- whenever the opponent moves f3, f4, or g4 early in the game, I keep in mind that that is half of the Fool's Mate: just in case the other shoe drops, I don't want to miss a mate-in-one.
2...exf4  I always take the offered material both because consensus is that this is best for Black and also because it leads to more interesting, attacking, dynamic, open positions.  This is called the King's Gambit Accepted or "KGA".  I'll mention one version of the King's Gambit Declined or "KGD" because it sets a trap for White, although I never play it because the White players who opt for the the King's Gambit surely know about it.  Called the Classical KGD, it's 2...Bc5, which "looks through" White's gap on f2 and prevents White castling while apparently not defending the e5 pawn at all.  But White loses the pawn on e4 and the rook on h1, if not the game, if she takes on e5 now, because of two sequential Queen forks, first of e1 with e4, then of e1 with h1:  2...Bc5 3.fxe5 Qh4+ 4.g3 (if 4.Ke2 (the only other move), then 4...Qxe4 is checkmate!) 4...Qxe4+ 5.Qe2 Qxh1.  So if White wants actually to threaten the e5 pawn in the Classical KGD, she needs first either to keep the queen off of h4 (3.Nf3) or to protect e4 (3.Nc3 or 3.d3).

3.Nf3  This is the King's Knight's Gambit.  The main/immediate purpose is prevention of the queen check on h4, which was made available to Black by 2.f4.  Normally g3 would be an effective block to that check (if e.g. Black tries the immediate 2...Qh4+).  But once Black has her pawn on f4 from 2...exf4, then g3 becomes ineffective as a block because it can be captured with advantage.  From the King's Bishop's Gambit: after 3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.g3? fxg3, the recapture loses because the h pawn is pinned (5.hxg3 Qxh1); meanwhile the discovered g2+ is threatened (winning the rook with promotion), as well as Qxe4+ winning the undefended bishop on c4.  White's only correct response after 3.Bc4 Qh4+ is 4.Kf1.

I wasn't going to do the Bishop's Gambit in this post, but in case I don't get to it in a separate post, I want to make a first confession.  I did not know White's best response to 4...fxg3 above and I did not know how Black should handle that response, in case White really does try 4.g3 to test Black's preparation.  White's best is not 5.Kf1 getting out of the discovered check, because 5...g2+, although it doesn't get the rook, still does the job (gains the bishop plus another pawn): 6.Kxg2 Qxe4+ 7.Nf3 Qxc4.  (5...d5 may be slightly better but is much more complicated).  White's best is actually to throw the bishop in a different way: 5.Bxf7+ Kxf7 6.Qf3+, both checking and guarding h1 so h2 is unpinned.  Black now must see that 6...Nf6 is best, allowing her to answer 7.hxg3 with 7...Qxe4+ and taking the queens off the board.  (If White doesn't take g3, then g2+ is still in the wind.)  If confronted with 6.Qf3+, I almost certainly would have panicked (in my novice way) that 6...Nf6 would be met with 7.e5 attacking the pinned knight.  But in that case, 7...g2+ is absolutely devastating: 8.Kd1 Qe4 and White must allow gxh1Q or give up her own queen to prevent it.

The lesson to learn is, always know your own leverage (the power of your threats) on the board, so you are never needlessly cowed by an opponent's weaker threats.  In the above case, even if White tries to hold everything but the rook by answering 8...Qe4 with 9.Qg3, and then answers 9...gxh1Q by taking the knight as feared, 10.exf6, the blocking move 10...Qeg2 is devastating, but 10...d5 is even better, a mating trap.  (For heavens sake just from a material standpoint, you've turned a pawn into a 2nd queen plus traded the knight for a rook.)  Although there are slightly better defenses after 10...d5, White would almost surely try to get Black to blunder into her own mate (or think she might get a perpetual) with 11.Qxc7+, but alas that is a road to a cute mate-in-4:  11...Kg6 (11...Ke8?? or 11...Kg8?? 12.f7#) 12.Qg3+ Bg4+ 13.Qxg4+ Qxg4+ 14.Ke1 Qhxg1#.

3...d6  The Fischer Defense.  The story goes that Fischer was so devastated by a 1960 loss to Spassky when using the Classical Variation 3...g5 (http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1080046) that he developed the little-used 3...d6 into a full-blown answer (he called it a "bust") to the King's Knight's Gambit.  Modern analysis shows that Fischer was actually ahead in that game until move 25 or 26, although I suppose it's possible that the 17-year-old Fischer, in pre-computer days, could have exaggerated the responsibility of the opening in his own mind.  Then again he was one of the top players in the world even then and probably knew better.  Regardless, he did show that the ideas used by White after 3...g5 don't work after 3...d6.  Most directly, after 4.d4 g5 5.h4 g4, White no longer has the Kieseritzky Gambit idea, 6. Ne5, available to her; and neither is the alternative Allgaier Gambit idea, 6.Ng5, workable because the bishop on c8 now holds the g4 and h3 squares for Black's g pawn, giving Black this resource: 6...f6 7.Nh3 gxh3 8.Qh5+ Kd7 9.Bxf4 Qe8 10.Qf3 Kd8.  So now the main line after 5...g4 is 6.Ng1 Bh6 and Black holds on to the extra pawn, with development.

Fischer may have busted the old ideas, but White has since found that 3...d6 opens the way for a new idea to help in relocating her knight if Black tries to kick it with g4, namely 4.Bc4.  After 4...g5 5.h4 g4 6.Ng5, now threatened is 7.Nf7 ouch, forcing Black to prevent first with 6...Nh6, and afterward Black's 7...f6 kick is not even a threat because the knight then has 8.Ne6.  So Black needs to answer 4.Bc4 with 4...h6.  And the King's Knight's Gambit itself is not busted.  Fortunately my opponent in this game didn't play 4.Bc4, but unfortunately I soon miss a correct continuation.

4.d4 g5  This is a standard "call and response" in the KGA.  White pulls the d4 move "out of reserve" attacking f4; Black tries to hold on to the extra pawn in the most economical way, also opening g7 (or sometimes h6) for her bishop.

5.Bc4  As shown by Fischer (see above under 3...d6) 5.h4 does not really work here.  But neither does anything else particularly.  5.h3 is a try.
White has waited too long to play Bc4: now that Black has played g5, the threat of g4 is too strong.  Unfortunately I miss it.

5...Bg7  Not a particularly bad move, g7 being, usually, a good strong outpost for the bishop in the Knight's Gambit, hitting d4 and also making h6 now a good response to h4 since the rook h8 is protected.  It's just that 5...g4 would have been much stronger: if the knight moves, Qh4+ is strong, e.g. 6.Ng1 Qh4+ 7.Kf1 f3 8.gxf3 Nf6; and otherwise the knight is lost, e.g. 6.O-O gxf3 7.Qxf3 Qf6 with the threat of Qxd4+ more than countering Black threats against f4 and f7.  This is like a Muzio Gambit except with d4 and d6 having been played.  The main line from here seems to be 8.e5 dxe5 9.dxe5 Qg6.

So what is the lesson?  When White has not played h4 nor castled, g4 is a strong move for Black.  Or more generally, look for simple attacks on pieces that have limited/bad escape squares and/or which are guarding squares you'd like to move to (Qh4 in this case).

5.O-O  Castling out of all the danger.  Best move.  Although I note the possibility of Bxd4+ later.

6...g4  A day late and a dollar short?  White now has the good safe e1 for the knight (and no more Qh4+ threat).

7.Bxf4 gxf3 8.Qxf3  In true gambit fashion, my opponent opts for sacrificing the knight anyway!  In return for big pressure toward f7, Muzio-style.

8...Bxd4+  Of course.

9.Kh1  Best.  In a previous over-the-board game in a similar setup my opponent opted for 9.Be3 perhaps thinking of the immediate exposure of f7 to his queen and rook, but of course 9...Bxe3+ being a check either gives Black time to cover up f7 or draws his queen off of f7.

9...Qf6  This always seems to be a necessary response to a Muzio setup.  Black must be in a position to trade off queens if/when White moves the bishop.  We've also entered a zone of maximum complexity in the position, i.e. the middlegame.  It's hard for either player to know for certain how to proceed.
Materially Black is a whole knight up, but she is at least 3 moves behind in development and still facing a barrage on f7. Black's immediate threat is of course Bxb2.  The straightforward 10.c3 Be5 followed by liquidation and gaining of the f7 pawn doesn't really give White enough back for the knight:  11.Bxe5 Qxf3 12.Rxf3 dxe5 13.Bxf7+ Ke7.  White's strongest seems to be 10.Qb3 which accomplishes 3 things at once:  attacks f7 albeit now from behind the c4 bishop, attacks b7 preventing Black from defending f7 with Be6, and removes the queen from the line of sight of Black's queen leaving the attack as rook vs. queen instead.  Black has to either defend with Nh6 (probably best), or else pull the trigger on b2 apparently resulting in a liquidation of 2 rooks for her queen and ultimately a likely draw by perpetual.  This would need to be further examined to be sure, but here is the line:  10.Qb3 Bxb2 11.Bxd6! Qxf1+ 12.Bxf1 Bxa1 13.Bxc7.

10.e5  A clear blunder.  Although e5 is "thematic" in the normal Muzio, my opponent must have overlooked that the d4 pawn is missing or thought that I couldn't retake with the d6 pawn for some reason...

10...dxe5 11.Re1  ...or that this rook pin would be sufficient to win the pawn back.  Of course, the pawn is now also protected by the bishop on d4.

11...Bxb2  The obvious attack.  White has some countering possibilities that I did not see, namely 12.Nc3 regaining control of e5 and thus getting my h8 rook in trade via Bxe5, and the immediate 12.Bxe5 forcing 12...Bxe5 and a trade of bishops, due to the pin, instead of rooks.  But trades are better for the one who is already up material.

12.Nc2  Neither did my opponent see those counterplays.

12...Bxa1  And now I am completely dominating.  How in the world did I lose this game?  Complications, my friend.  Stay tuned to find out in Part 2.  <cliffhanger/>

This is getting much longer than I thought it would, so I have decided to serialize it.  Until then...

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