Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Vienna Gambit ~ more threats than a dog has fleas

Hi Pilgrims,

What is it about Vienna which raises so many exciting mental associations? Is it the fact the Ottomans were stopped at the gates of Vienna, thus saving Western Europe? Is it the Blue Danube and Strauss Waltzes? Could it be the excellent movie ‘The Third Man’, starring Awesome Welles as Harry Lime, with Joseph Cotten as the writer of westerns trying to convince a reading circle of his literary credentials? Could it be Alida Valli in the same movie? All that Zither music?

Maybe it’s the coffee-houses and chess. Steinitz honed his skills in Vienna. It was also the home of the antithesis of close, positional chess, of ‘The Last Knight of the King’s Gambit’, Rudolph Spielmann. If you ever get a chance to get a copy of Spielmann’s best games, do so, and enjoy some scintillating chess. You will encounter many fine attacks and combinations, and not a few Vienna Games.

Also inspirational were Tim Harding’s book ‘The Vienna Opening’, published by Batsford in 1976, as well as the chapter on ‘Other King-side open games’ in Barden and Harding’s book ‘The Batsford Guide to Chess Openings’ also published in 1976. If you can find copies of these old books, add them to your collection. They may be old theory, but if like me you are an ordinary club player, you will find much that is still good for you to use.

I took up the Vienna, because I like the way it misleads an opponent through suggested passivity combined with positional soundness. The move 2. Nc3 while good, seems to lack punch. Black is led to believe this by the so-called ‘experts’, who ply their trade with dreary close games or with the overrated Ruy Lopez. Black supposes he or she will have an easy time of it in the Vienna, but then comes a powerful attacking game after White has developed (the normal Vienna Game) or an attack almost immediately, with the Vienna Gambit.

It’s said by the ‘coffee-house’ style players here in Kinglake where I live, that while the Vienna Game is very good, real men play the Vienna Gambit.

George Eraclides VERSUS B. K. Tope

Correspondence Chess League of Australia 7-Player Tournament 1983/84

This game was nominated for a prize in the category of ‘Best Played Game with Sacrifice’ in 1984. It came second.

Vienna Gambit

1. e4 e5
2. Nc3 Nf6
3. f4 d5

3...exf4 4. e5 is a very good gambit for White after the following
plausible moves:
5. Qe2 Ng8
6. d4 with a strong initiative as long as White does not overeach.

4. fxe5 Nxe4
5. Nf3

Here 5. d3 is a major alternative which I have played to advantage (see
future Vienna postings).

5. ...........Bc5

The alternatives are numerous: Bg4, Bf5, Bb4, Be7 (common and safe), Nc6,
and Nxc3 all of them producing lively games if played with a will to fight.

6. Qe2

This is the sharpest alternative. Other lines lead to equality, for instance:
6. d4 Bb4
7. Bd2 Nxd2
8. Qxd2 Nc6
9. Bd3 Bg4
If 6. d3 Bf2+ and NxN+

6. ...............Bf2+

If 6...Nf2 7. d4 Nxh1 8. dxc5 and the h1 Knight will also fall; Nxc3 leads to
no appreciable improvement for Black; interesting is Larsen’s idea (now
there was a player who thought outside the opening’s square!) after 6...Bf5
7. Nd1 d5 8. g4 Bg6 9. Bg2.

7. Kd1 Nxc3+
8. dxc3

8. bxc3 is solid but slow in developing White’s game.

8 ..............Bc5!?

8...Bb6 is safer, as the later progress of the game shows.

9. Qb5+! Nd7
10. Bg5 c3!?

Theory has been left behind by the two players; 10...Be7 11. Bxe7 Qxe7
12. Qxd5 is Pachman’s analysis.

11. Qe2

Neither 11. Qxc5 or 11. Bxd8 appealed to me. Apart from some temporary
disruption to the position, there is no long-term crusher. The move played
keeps things complicated.

11 .............Be7
12. e6!?

This adds to the complications Black has to deal with.

12 .............Nf6!?

Black becomes disoriented by the ‘quiet complications’. By that I mean
situations where there is no thicket of variations but a strategic
complexity, where if one player goes astray then there may arise forceful
lines leading to a loss of the game. No clear cut strategy presents itself yet
there are no forcing lines. At times like these one needs the practical
wisdom of Lasker, and his art of doing nothing much and doing it very
well. Possible and even reasonable was 12...fxe6 13. Qxe6 with Nc5 or Nf6
to come. The position is unclear, because after White plays Qe3, Black has
control of e4 and can play his Knight there. Perhaps White has the better
long term prospects anyway. Now White compromises Black’s King side.

13. exf7+ Kxf7 (Kf8?!)
14. Ne5+ Kg8

14...Kf8 was possible but understandably, he prefers no to be on the open file.

15. Qf3 Be6
16. Bd3 Qb6

White has built up a menacing position and Black is forced to try and find

17. Kc1 Rf8!?

Defence and threat, but look at how cramped Black’s King-side looks.
White has a threat as well.

18. Qe2 c5

White threatened Ng6, a recurring motif from now on.

19. Re1 Bd8!

Black throws out some poisoned bait; 20. Ng6 is now possible but:
20 ...............hxg6
21. Qxe6+ Qxe6
22. Rxe6 Rxh2 and Black is suddenly showing a fine set of fangs.
White prefers to keep the tension going.

20. c4!

This is my favourite move of the game. I plan to stabilize things in the
centre and Queen-side before striking at Black on the King-side.

20 ...............d4

20...dxc4 21. Nxc4 is jolly nice for White.

21. h3

Because after an eventual Ng6 Black cannot target the h pawn with his Rook following hxg6.

21 ...............Re8

Now Black seems safe (he isn’t) but White continues with his plan initiated
at move 20. It’s a strategy you can try in correspondence chess, but which
would not be easy to do in regular chess with very strict time limits. You
need the extra luxury afforded by correspondence chess to work out a
position thoroughly in order to determine you can execute a plan which will try and place the King in safety on a2 and free up the Ra1 for attack. Black will
suppose he has beaten off the threats (he hasn’t) and perhaps be enticed
into a hostile demonstration. I have never had the time to think so
cunningly in regular chess, where making the time control was urgent
for a slow player like myself. On with the plan.

22. b3 Qb5

He takes the bait, presuming the Black squares are weak (they are not).

23. a4! Ba5

Or White plays Bd2 driving the Queen away and consolidating anyway.

24. Kb2!

Why not? The White King will be perfectly safe on a2 if Qc3+ is played.

24 ............Qb6!

Now a Rook must fall, but all is not as it seems.

25. Bxf6 Rxe1
26. Qh5! Bc3+
If 26...g6, Nxg6 wins; or:
26 ..............gxf6
27. Qxe8+ Kg7
28. Qe7+ Kg1
29. Rxe1 fxe5
30. Rxe5
Notice how safe and snug is the White King and how dynamic his forces.
Black is playing, in effect, with a piece down due to his glum old Rook
locked in the corner.

27. Ka2 Rc8

If Rf8, 28. Bxg7 with more threats than a dog has fleas.

28. Bxg7! Bxa1

Perhaps excessively materialistic, but he was lost anyway. For instance:
28 ..............Kxg7
29. Qg5+ Kf8
30. Rf1+ Ke1
31. Qf6 Rg8 (still glum)
32. Bxh7 and wins the house.

29. Qg5!

Perhaps Black hoped for Bxh8, with a little time to put up a defence.

29 ...........Bf7
30. Bh6+ Bg6
31. Qe7 Resigns

If Qc7, then 32. Nd7 interposing. This kind of blocking idea was also seen
in my game against Fenwick (see previously posted ‘George against the

I particularly liked the idea in this game, of securing the White King, and
after Black is lured into making a hostile demonstration, initiating a
deadly combination.

I have played the Vienna in regular chess and correspondence and it has
never let me down. Spielmann, Spassky and Larsen among other great players have used it for fun and profit. Try it.