Saturday, 12 November 2016
005. A Different Gambit Declined
White: P. Dodd - BCCA thematic tournament, 2003
When I was around ten or eleven years old and competing in national junior training tournaments, I used to play the Göring Gambit (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 exd4 4 c3), having learnt it from Leonard Barden's The Guardian Chess Book (signed copy). I won brilliancy prizes as well, perhaps partly because Mr. Barden was awarding them and I was playing "his" opening, but it helped that people usually accepted the pawn(s). Whatever its objective theoretical assessment, the Göring Gambit Accepted (with 4...dxc3 5 Bc4!? cxb2 6 Bxb2) is not easy for Black to defend over the board. In practical terms, declining with 4...d5 makes a lot of sense.
The game below is a Göring Gambit Declined. And yet if you look at the opening moves, you'll notice it begins 1 d4 d5 2 c4 Nc6 – in other words, as a Queen's Gambit Declined: Chigorin's Defence. Before no one writes in to complain, I'll reiterate that I did say “1 e4 e5 – or transpositions thereto”. And if you continue on to White's 8th move, you'll find that it reaches the same position as after 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 exd4 4 c3 d5 5 exd5 Qxd5 6 cxd4 Bg4 7 Be2 Bb4+ 8 Nc3, which is indeed a Göring Gambit Declined.
I find that rather surprising myself – and it can seem much more so to White. As far as they're concerned, they're playing the Queen's Gambit and may have no idea the Göring Gambit even exists. Even worse, this is not a very good line for White anyway. After 8...Bxf3 9 Bxf3 Qc4! (as in F.Marshall-J.Capablanca, Lake Hopatcong 1926), Black scores an impressive 59.4% from 588 games in MegaBase. I've also done well (4/5 to date) from here – not least, I'm sure, because my opponents had never seen this position before; two in fact began with 1 Nf3, ruling out ...e7-e5 on their first move, and still ended up in an Open Game.
The most common course (after 9...Qc4) is 10 Bxc6+ bxc6 11 Qe2+ Qxe2+ 12 Kxe2, when White may have thoughts of exploiting a superior structure. In actuality their d-pawn is weaker than Black's doubled c-pawns. And sometimes you get a helpful a2-a3, driving the black bishop towards its desired post at b6, increasing the pressure on d4. In the game, too – where White offered the queen swap on b3 – Black has the more promising play. While White should expect to hold (the draw percentage is 47.8%), having to defend right from the opening clearly isn't the best use of the first move.
Incidentally, there's another surprise lurking after Black's 4...e5!?. The critical response is reckoned to be 5 Qb3 Bxf3 6 gxf3, as Steinitz played (twice) against Chigorin in their 1889 World Championship match. But if an unwary opponent tries instead to keep things solid with 5 Be2, then 5...e4 6 Nfd2 Bxe2 takes the game unexpectedly into a reversed French Defence, in essence a reversed Alekhine-Chatard Attack (1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bg5 Be7 5 e5 Nfd7 6 h4!? with 6...c5 7 Bxe7; the omitted ...h7-h5 is not significant), when the natural 7 Qxe2?! Nb4! already sees White in difficulties. Checking my files, I discover that I've won an online game (ChessWorld.net 2004) with this against a “Jonathan Dodd”. Okay, it's probably just a coincidence.