Saturday, 1 October 2016
001. Playing That Rubbish
White: M. Mossekel - ICCF WT/M/644, 1994
A clubmate of mine, Kevin Simpson, recently played at the Paignton Congress, one of GM Keith Arkell's regular haunts. On learning that Kev was from Mansfield Chess Club, Keith quipped: “Are they still playing that Wagenbach rubbish?”
The answer to that is: Yes, Keith, we're still playing it — for 25 years now, and it's still not been refuted.
The “rubbish” to which Keith is referring is a defence to the King's Knight Gambit: 1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4 3 Nf3 h5!?, invented in 1991 by another Mansfield stalwart, János Wagenbach (aka ‘The Master’). Okay, “rubbish” is not unfair comment, given that 3...h5 did start out as a joke... the King's Gambit (itself) is such rubbish that I can even play 3...h5!? against it! Ha ha ha, very funny! — so how come I'm not winning?
And the more we looked at it, the less White seemed to be winning. What really caught my interest was the variation 4 Bc4 h4! 5 d4 g5 6 Ne5 Nh6 7 Qh5 Qf6.
Obviously 8 Nxf7 Nxf7 9 Bxf7+ Qxf7 10 Qxh8 just wins here – so much for that 3...h5 rubbish! – except that it doesn't. Black plays 9...Ke7! instead and White loses a piece. Quite a nice trap.
This scenario has played itself out in 63 games so far, at least up to 7...Qf6, at which point White usually realizes it's not going to be so easy after all and tries 8 Nc3 – as in the following game, my first with the Wagenbach at correspondence chess. (Both János and I had previously played 3...h5 over the board, the first recorded game being D.Newhouse-J.J.Wagenbach, Burnley rapidplay 1992.)
Actually, my response 8...Bb4 wasn't the best. It was later established that Nc3-d5 isn't a serious threat, so Black can simply continue 8...d6!, and if 9 Nd5 then 9...Qd8, or 9 Nf3 Rg8, threatening to trap the queen with ...Bg4. Yes, White can regain the gambit pawn with 9 Nxf7 Nxf7 10 Bxf7+, seeing that 10...Ke7 is no longer possible; but after 10...Kd8! 11 Qg6 Qxg6 12 Bxg6 Nc6 13 Ne2 Bg7 14 c3 Ke7!, followed by ...Kf6, the bishop on g6 is suddenly embarrassed and White loses the pawn once more, this time for no compensation whatsoever.