Tuesday, 19 June 2018

036. The King Steps Forth

Black: A. Gardner - BCCA DJKO 28/2, 1994

Back in 1993 (when I was reviewing books) I received a copy of Das angenommene Königsgambit mit 3.Sc3 by Volker Hergert & Alexander Bangiev (Schachverlag Reinhold Dreier). Translating for you, that means 1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4 3 Nc3!?. I duly added this to my repertoire as White.

The obvious drawback to developing the b1-knight first is that Black can reply 3...Qh4+, forcing the white king to step forward. But it's the kind of move that amuses me – and sometimes my opponents too. 4 Ke2. Straight face. Eye contact. It often gets a laugh.

The thing about this sort of opening is that it's never quite as bad as it seems. For the inconvenience caused by the queen check, White aims to gain a nice pawn centre with d2-d4, while the king can seek sanctuary via f2 or d3-c2. Keres played 3 Nc3 regularly in his young days, and both Spassky and Bronstein won with it. More recently, IM Kamran Shirazi has brought it out occasionally; GM Richard Rapport used it to win an Austrian League game; even World Champions Garry Kasparov and Magnus Carlsen have tried it in blitz. My own OTB record (after 4 Ke2) is P15, W9, D3, L3.

Theory generally dismissed this line, not least because 4...d5 5 Nxd5 Bg4+ 6 Nf3 Nc6 7 Nxc7+ Kd8 8 Nxa8 Ne5 9 h3 Bxf3+ 10 gxf3 Qg3 11 d4 Qxf3+ 12 Ke1 Qe3+ is a draw by perpetual check. However, Hergert and Bangiev showed that 9 Qe1!? Nxf3 10 Qxh4 Nxh4+ 11 Ke1 is a serious option, after which White gets rook and pawn (at least) for two knights – even if the a8-knight is simply removed from the board.

In the following game, utilizing a trick from the Jaenisch (13...Bb4+ 14 c3 Nxc3 15 a3 etc),
I got rather more than that – and my gōng hé king subsequently marched down the board to win on move 23.

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