Thursday, 31 October 2019

057. Not the Halloween Gambit

White: A. Faller - BCCL Premier Division, 1991

On October 31st I should be posting a game with the Halloween Gambit: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Nxe5. There are two reasons why that isn't happening:

1. It's rubbish. After 4...Nxe5 5 d4 Ng6 6 e5 Ng8 7 Bc4, GM Bologan's straightforward 7...d5! 8 Bxd5 c6 9 Bb3 Be6 is just good for Black.

2. Although not deterred by rubbish (as you'll see below), I haven't actually played any games with the Halloween Gambit, from either side.

So, instead, here's a Belgrade Gambit: 4 d4 exd4 5 Nd5!?. My reply 5...Nb4!? was unusual at the time, and the follow-up 6 Bc4 Nfxd5!? 7 exd5 Qe7+ even more so.

My plan was to win a pawn after ...Qc5, which I duly achieved. Unfortunately, White's lead in development more than made up for it. (Bologan, in 2014, rightly preferred 6...Nbxd5 7 exd5 Bb4+!.)

Inevitably, Stockfish puts up a better defence than I managed – first of all with 8...d3! (which I saw, but it wasn't my plan) and then 12...Qd6! (which I never considered at all).
A few moves later, my opponent went very wrong himself with 16 Rh5?? (the preliminary 16 Bxh7+! wins), when I might have escaped with 16...g6 but rejected this because of 17 Rxh7 Kxh7 18 Qh5+, overlooking 17...Bf6!.

And following that fine display I soon obtained the CC-IM title. Perhaps I should have turned it down.


  1. I haven't published the changes yet, but I did an update to my site's coverage of the Halloween Gambit on 31 October (I'm preparing to do a big update or two next year). Yes, your line, attributed to GM Bologan, ending in 9...Be6 looked to me like Black's securest way to get the advantage against it. I have played the Halloween Gambit myself on occasion, but only in casual or "thematic" games - I never trusted it enough to be willing to risk it in a serious game (and coming from me, that's saying a lot).

    There are several lines that I haven't yet covered that I hope to add to the coverage next year, and the Belgrade Gambit is one of them. I haven't looked at it in much detail as yet but many of the lines after 5...Nxe4 and 5...Nb4 look very interesting. The "safe" 5...Be7 is probably the main objection.

    1. Hi Ian. Thanks for the comment. And sorry for not replying earlier. I've been neglecting blogging over the past couple of months... in favour of politics... which turned out just great :|

      Anyway... No, the Halloween Gambit isn't very good. Except in the “king's rush” chess variant perhaps ;)