Chess events in Oct/Nov

Winter is threatening to unleash itself on Bristol, so we thought we’d remind you of some all-weather chess events before Christmas

Chipping Sodbury Rapidplay – Sunday 21st October

Everyone’s favourite Sodbury – the Bristol league will once again proudly host some rapid wood-pushers in this charming town. Lunchtime visits to the antique/craft/charity shops and several pubs are recommended/obligatory. Details here.

7_Major Dave

Horfield vs. The League – Saturday 3rd of November

Still spaces left for Bristol league players of any playing strength to enter this friendly anniversary match. There will be two medium-length games, as well as puzzles with a difference, free refreshments, some history of Horfield & Redland club and perhaps a speech from their humble chairman.

Crosshands Blitz – Sunday 4th of November

More blitz action organised by Downend’s Elmira Walker – see their site for details – we hope to make this one!

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Remember places are limited on a first come first serve basis

…Nothing else happening in the chess world in November, right? 😉


mikecircle

Mike is co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times and plays regular league and tournament chess

Introducing the Philidor constellation at the Batumi Olympiad (YouTube)

Two Bristol League Players recently competed in the 43rd Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia.  On the latest episode we showcase two games from Lewis Martin who was competing for the International Chess Committee of the Deaf (ICCD). Lewis scored a remarkable 72% across 11 games of stiff competition and rumour has it has qualified for the FM title.  Lets take a look.

The first game is a lovely Sicilian Najdorf where both players decide to ignore the concept of defence.  The second game is a tricky “Black to play and win” in a tactical finale.

Introducing the Philidor constellation at the Batumi Olympiad (20 minutes)

Please remember to subscribe to the YouTube channel to receive regular updates and share with all your chess friends!

Until next time.


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

Bristol embraces Blitz chess

Longtime readers will remember a cracking night of blitz chess hosted last Christmas at the Cross Hands pub in Fishponds.  Well Blitzit Bristol is back and this time its becoming a monthly evening night complete with discount prices on drinks for players.  In addition, in November the Bristol & District chess league is pleased to launch the first Open Blitz Chess Championship! Lets get some more details on both of these events.

 

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Last Christmas, I gave you my rook. But the very next day…etc etc

Blitzit Bristol

Hosted by Elmira Walker of Downend & Fishponds chess club, Blitzit Bristol will be on the first Sunday of every month starting on the 7th October. Kicking off at 18:30, it offers five double rounds of blitz at 3 minutes +2 seconds increment.  Such a time control leaves plenty of time to get to the bar where Elmira and the Cross Hands pub are generously offering a 10% discount on drinks for all chess players!

But beware, such a great offer is limited to 32 places so if you want to send plastic horses flying across the room in a drunken haze then get in touch now! Its £3 to enter and the event poster is below:

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The address is The Cross Hands, 1 Stable Hill, Fishponds, Bristol, BS16 5AA.

1st Bristol League Open Blitz Chess Championship

Organised by Congress Secretary, Igor Doklestic, November 25th sees the launch of the 1st ever Bristol Blitz championship.  Eleven rounds of Blitz at 5 minutes +3 second increment offers plenty of blunder opportunities for established league players or newcomers alike.

Hosted at Bristol Grammar School, tickets are £12 and first prize of £50 is guaranteed.  Doors open at 10:00.  We will post up more details on this exciting addition to the tournament calendar as we get them.

Having successfully hosted the ECF Blitz qualifier earlier in the month it seems the local chess scene is really firing up for faster chess in the coming months.  If you need to practice your over the board speed skills (as opposed to blitzing on your phone) then don’t forget the weekly chess night at the King Bill pub on Kings Street.  An excellent training ground to discover exactly how many pints are detrimental to your calculating abilities. More details for The Bristol Pub Chess Knight (that never gets old) can be found on our Getting Started page.

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Always ready to take on a fresh face, The Bristol Pub Chess Knight has been running in the King William pub since 2006

Until next time


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

 

UK Open Blitz Championship comes to Bristol

The UK Open Blitz Championships is an innovation by the ECF, with 8 qualifying tournaments across the UK. Qualifiers range from Belfast to London, Edinburgh to Cardiff, but perhaps the most important qualifier being Bristol! Each qualifier will provide 2 main qualifying places to the Grand Finals as well as 2 female qualifiers to the Women’s Final held later in the year.

9_open

“Blitz chess kills your ideas. ~ Bobby Fischer”

“Like dogs who sniff each other when meeting, chess players have a ritual at first acquaintance: they sit down to play speed chess. ~ Anatoly Karpov”

On the 8th September, we will be making a usual return to Bristol Grammar School but instead playing in the newly built 1532 theatre rather than the 6th form centre. Starting at 11am, strap in tight for a whopping 15 rounds of FIDE-rated blitz chess to find out who will qualify for the Finals! There will be several grading prizes on offer as well to everyone playing, so players of all ages and abilities can come and compete for a prize. Also prepare for one stressed out arbiter trying to keep everyone under control, including regular writer for the Bristol Chess Times, Mike Harris!

“In blitz, the knight is stronger than the bishop. ~ Vlastmil Hort”

The Grand Finals will then take place on the 1st December in Birmingham with a prize pool of over £5000, with 1st prize in the Grand Final being £1000 and the Women’s Champion taking home £500; not bad for one day of Blitz chess! Everyone who qualifies to the Finals Day will receive a prize, so qualifying is not only honourable, but profitable!

“He who analyses blitz is stupid. ~ Rashid Nezhmetdinov”

For full details, rules and to enter the tournament, visit:
https://www.englishchess.org.uk/uk-open-blitz-championship/


TomThorpe

Tom Thorpe

Tom is an International Arbiter and used to play for North Bristol in the Bristol League. Now based in Exeter, he still pretends to play chess in-between organising events.

The Preview – Steve Boniface Memorial

We take a quick look back at the spring congress to see what’s in store this weekend – and an update on my training for the diving chess world champs.

The last bit of tournament chess before the season begins! Bristol will once again battle for five intense rounds in three sections – in honour of legendary arbiter Steve Boniface.

It’s yet to be confirmed whether regular GM Keith Arkell will return to seek revenge on IM Alan Merry for the final round defeat in the Spring – the 26-move French is shown below. Alan won the tournament along with FM Mike Waddington. The top of the player lists for all three sections is shown below – watch out for the return of the irrepressible Frank Palm, now resident in Germany.

entrants

Here is the miniature from Alan (or is a miniature less than 25 moves? I forget, but its a nice handling of the French defence anyway).

All three sections are packed with past champions so it should be a bloody weekend! Sadly neither of your editors will be playing. Jon is currently nursing multiple injuries (not chess-sustained) and expecting a second child imminently, whilst I am (perhaps more importantly) playing in the world championships of diving chess. If you don’t know what that is, watch this video on YouTube. But it’s basically chess – underwater. The clock is your ability to keep breathing.

Here is me on a recent intensive training camp in Tuscany:

chess1

Wish me luck, won’t you?


mikecircle

Mike is co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times and plays regular league and tournament chess

 

 

 

 

 

Two Latvian Gambit games from the Bristol Open 2018

Avid readers will recall that on June 15th I gave this advice for a must-win tournament situation against 1.e4: Play the Latvian Gambit – “…2.f5… Bd6, sack a rook and win the tournament in a blaze of glory”. That very night the Bristol Spring Congress commenced and as if I had scripted it – a player called Mike played the Latvian twice, won twice, and (jointly) won the tournament in a blaze of glory.

Unfortunately for me it was FM Mike Waddington – who in a cruel twist of fate also beat me with White after I played an ambitious f5, miscalculating after arriving 27 minutes late. But that’s another story.

Mike appears to also have a soft spot for the Latvian Gambit (and a better understanding of it). Here are his two wins which helped him on the way to 4.5/5 in a very competitive open field:

Gambit accepted: the exf5 line

“The best way to refute a gambit is to accept it”. After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5 White can play 3.exf5 – and the game is on.

latvian1

Mike appears to have read my advice (scroll to 3. exf5) and goes for e4, Qe7, Nc6 and rapid bishop development:

After Nxc6 dxc6, d3 and Bxf5 Black has some control and is not any material down – the engine gives it -0.44 (small advantage for Black). After a few more moves (play through the game below) the queens come off and Black is fine with the pieces on good squares and White’s d-pawn isolated.

The middlegame was not a typical Latvian tactics fest – but Mike eventually wins the endgame after a favourable exchange of the last piece.

Main Line

Mike got a second chance to play the Latvian and got the main line where the queen enjoys an early outing to g6: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5 3.Nxe5 Qf6 4.d4 d6 5.Nc4 fxe4 6.Nc3 Qg6

The engine gives it around +1 here, but as I discuss in the original article it is often officially good for White but actually difficult to play. For example in our game here, it becomes a dangerous prospect for White to castle on either side of the board.

Mike manages to get in d5 and gets the classic Latvian bishop to d6 after: 7.Ne3 c6 8.Bc4 d5 9.Bb3 Nf6 10.Ne2 Bd6. Looks comfortable enough:

And it gets uncomfortable for White after some pretty natural moves – f4 was played here to try to avoid the oncoming assault on the king:

After f4 we have Bg4 and the pressure switches to the centre and White’s queen is quickly needing some space. Lewis gives up the exchange instead but there is no real compensation. Mike ends up three pawns up after giving back the exchange to get a comfortable ending:

Well done to Mike who also won against 4th seed Graham Moore (and against me, but that’s less impressive), to tie 1st place with IM Alan Merry.

We hope to see some more Latvians played at the top level soon!

…And in fairness to Mike’s other victims, here is my game:


mikecircle

Mike is co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times and plays regular Bristol chess

GT Rapidplay report and Bristol tournament news

One of the hottest days of the year and a massive cycling event blocking a lot of roads in the centre of Bristol wasn’t the best day for chess – but the hardiest fans still arrived ready for a different kind of heat over the board (and the actual heat).

If you’re ever having a bad day, then my performance in this tournament may cheer you up. Casually late for round 1 I was lucky to get a half-point bye, then an undeserved win with White in round 2 gave way to four straight losses. From the benign to the blunderous and then the classic ‘forget your own surprise opening and burn a rook’.

But there was also some good chess happening – first of all in the Open there were many Cliftonites (Cliftonians?) setting the pace but one newcomer Antony Stannard from North Bristol managed to work his way through the pack to get to board 1 for the final round – a win over IM James Cobb would steal the title. Sadly no heroic tale this time, as James calmly took the title ahead of the other IM Cobb (Charlie, looking on from board two in the final round).

open
Anthony a pawn down in an ending – close but no cigar

In the major it was a cleaner sweep for North Bristol with Graham Iwi pipping Gareth Cullen to the post. Here is Graham surviving some pressure from Steve:

major
I assume that the next move was Rd8+, forcing the rook trade and then retreating the queen to cover the c3 pawn.

More North Bristol success came in the form of Waleed Khan who came third and also took the grading prize. We bring you one of his games against the top seed in the major. After some solid opening play, Gareth is on the attack – but Waleed finds the shuffling manoeuvre of Kh8, then back to g8, and Kh8 again to dodge the various attacking ideas – and he ends up a rook ahead with no danger left:

Well done to Clifton (particularly Igor and Dave) for organising, Geoff for arbitrating, and for North Bristol for a resounding success!

As for me I’ll hit the books.

News about upcoming tournaments

South Bristol Rapidplay (message from Roy Day):

To all our past entrants, friends and anyone that intended playing in the annual South Bristol chess clubs open tournament this year; I have been organising this tournament now for several years and thought I would give it a rest this year.
I apologise to all who may have intended playing but maybe this year with the present hot climate it may be for the best and we do not have air conditioning
All the best to all chess players

Downend Summer Tournament:

If you’re up for something a bit different then this may be up your street – a well-structured innovation from Downend to fit around busy summer calendars. Four nights of blitz chess but only your best three results count towards the total. So if you missed round 1, not to worry! The next round, conveniently after all the football and tennis excitement, is the 17th of July at Downend. You also play opponents with White and Black, so you can claim immediate revenge for that cheeky swindle…

Bristol Summer Congress:

Same place, similar huge field (probably) and cooler weather (probably) on the 24th-26th August.


 

mikecircle

Mike is co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times and plays regular league and tournament chess in Bristol

A useful technique for assessing your chess opening repertoire

Competitive chess is traditionally a winter sport and therefore the summer months provide the ambitious amateur an opportunity to review the state of their chess.  Chess players love to tell themselves stories (‘I am just like Tal’ or ‘I’m so Karpovian it hurts’) but the reality of the situation is often very different. Today I would like to talk you through a technique or framework that I’ve been mulling over to help club players assess their opening repertoire.

In a previous article (“Is the Scandinavian holding me back?”) I reviewed my opening statistics for the last two seasons of competitive chess in the Bristol & District Chess League.  The findings were fascinating, breaking many of the assumptions that I had about my personal chess ability and skill.  For those who haven’t read the article, a thorough review of 54 competitive games revealed a considerable personal weakness when I face 1. e4 compared to almost all other moves.  It wasn’t the objective score per se that shocked me so much as the fact that if you had asked me what my strongest opening was I would have comfortably stated the Scandinavian. This statistical review led to me thinking about other types of assessment, which lead to my proposal for a new tool for amateur players.

“Do you feel lucky punk?”

It occurred to me that whilst just looking at raw statistics is pretty much what every chess player does, it doesn’t quite capture the human element and the different types of chess game that we have all experienced at different times in our chess career.  For example, the loss in a won position, the lucky escape, the bore draw or the “how the hell did I win that?” type scenarios.

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At the conclusion of same games you know that both you and your opponent held the half point confidently…
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…whilst other times you know you took too many blows to the face because your opponent had faster feet.

It occurred to me that if we could create a classification for these emotional descriptions of game and then apply them to our games could this lead to a new level of insight about our repertoires and types of position we excel in?  Well lets give it a go!

To start us off I have identified six types of game:

  1. “I was amazing” – Totally deserved.  You played well throughout, perhaps utilising a favourite line, and sealed a comfortable full point.  Whether it was tactical or positional is not relevant at this stage, simply that you controlled the game and deserved the point.
  2. “Fair play mate” – Sooner or late you and your opponent had to shake hands.  This is the type of game where perhaps you probed a bit, so did she.  Perhaps you were up and then let your opponent back in.  Not a blunder per se more good play from the opposition.  In a solid draw, both parties have little room to argue over the result.
  3. “Ouch, I deserved that.”– A loss.  You were either never in the running or perhaps your opponent just knew more than you.  Perhaps you knew you were drifting and punched out with an unsound line.  Perhaps you were slowly crushed to death under the weight of your opponents play.  Either way, you recognise that your score sheet doesn’t deserve anything other than a zero in the column.
  4. “Phew! Let me buy you a drink” – This could be a win or a draw but either way your smile is bigger than it deserves to be!  Somehow you were up against it and have wriggled free from your opponent’s grasp. Perhaps they committed a gross blunder in the endgame.  Perhaps you tried the cheekiest most unsound move and it paid off.  Whilst it is possible to play in a lucky way (for example, always trying to get your opponent into time trouble”) sooner or later it will run out.  Look in the mirror and ask yourself if you truly understand the position you just escaped from or understand how you got into that mess?
  5. “I just about held that” – This type of game is a draw. But unlike the solid draw above, I’m classifying this as the type of game where you walk away with a share of the points but were only ever really playing for two results – a draw or a loss.  These are the kinds of games where you never felt like or indeed actually had any winning chances.   I also don’t consider these types of game a lucky escape.  You have justified the draw with good defence and play but victory was never in reach.  In football (soccer for our American friends) we might refer to it as “parking the bus”
  6. “Nooo, what have I done?” – The worst type of game.  We have all been there.  Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.  Great play that at the last minute has somehow turned to dust.  Typically thee games involve gross blunders but it can also be that we achieve a winning position and somehow let it slip through our fingers over several moves.  Perhaps we achieve a great position and implement the wrong plan?  Whatever happened, these ones hurt. A lot.

So there we have my six definitions of the different types of game that I am sure we have all experienced at some stage.  Im sure some readers may think of others or quibble with my particular definitions but for now, lets see how we could use this framework.

So is the Scandinavian really holding me back?

Again using the same 54 games dataset as previous, I worked my way through the 17 games of the Scandinavian that I have played in competitive OTB in the last two seasons.  Obviously applying this technique requires the chess player to be completely honest with themselves (unless you work through it with a friend or coach).

Here are my results:

  1. “I was amazing” (a deserved win) – 2 games
  2. “Fair play mate” (a deserved draw) – 3 games
  3. “Ouch, I deserved that” (a deserved loss) – 5 games
  4. “Phew! Let me buy you a drink” (a lucky win or draw) – 3 games
  5. “I just about held that” ( a solid tough draw that was never going to win) – 4 games
  6. “Nooo, what have I done?” (a tragic loss) – 0 games

I don’t know about you but I find this really interesting as an additional level of analysis to the statistical breakdown that most players start (and stop) with.

As a quick recap, from our 17 game sample of the Scandinavian I had scored 41% against opposition typically ranked 10 ECF / 75 ELO lower than me. Not great.

But by applying our framework we start to see that even in games where I scored some points, often they were in positions where I was lucky or was holding onto the draw.  Seven of the 17 games (1 win and 6 draws) I was able to classify as either a lucky escape or defensive rearguard action.  This does not install confidence that I know how to play the kinds of positions I am getting in the Scandinavian.  It also goes someway to explain the amount of games in the “Ouch I deserved that” column (5 games).  If you are constantly clinging on then sooner or later you will fall off.

Another telling piece of analysis is that it shows I have not been unlucky or riddled with blunders.  None of my games with the Scandinavian featured horrific blunders.

The application of this technique has really helped reinforce a belief that I already suspected regarding my play in the Scandinavian.  That is that my tactics are mostly good but I don’t seem to understand or play well in the positions I find myself.

I haven’t been swindled.

I haven’t thrown won games away.

I was never winning them in the first place.

Conclusion

I have found this technique a fast and rapid way to get some additional insight into my opening repertoire and fully intend to apply it to the rest of my games.  I feel that for the amateur player it could prove to be a valuable tool to break the cycle of telling ourselves false narratives around our play.

Its human nature in chess to remember the glorious wins whilst forgetting the crushing defeats but perhaps a lot of amateur players are missing a trick by blinding themselves with this bias.

Across the six types of game I have defined it seems possible to indicate a type of approach or teaching need for each type of game that you play with an opening:

  1. “I was amazing” – You obviously know the opening and understand the plans associated with it.  Well done!
  2. “Fair play mate” – You again understand the opening well but perhaps need to work on identifying the right plan to help you push ahead and convert those draws into wins.
  3. “Ouch, I deserved that” – Go back to school!  Something has gone wrong for you and if you are having a lot of games classified in this category then start at the beginning again or get a new opening.
  4. “Phew, let me buy you a drink” – A tricky conclusion.  Being lucky can feel great but it may be holding you back in the long term.  For example, always fluking a win against 1600 opposition may all be well and good but that might also explain why you don’t beat those 1800’s you so desperately want to.  Is your luck blinding your inadequacies in understanding?
  5. “I just about held that” – You get it.  You understand the opening.  But is it enabling you to push on.  Having learnt the opening, how do you find winning lines or should you look for something a little more double edged?
  6. “Noooo, what have I done” – Study tactics. Study endgames. Your problem isn’t the opening.

I hope you have found this technique interesting and can see the potential in spotting flaws (or even maybe coaching others).  Its early days and I am sure some readers have some comments on the classification scheme.  Keep talking to me and let me know how you get on using it.

Until next time!


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

From the Front Line – Bristol Spring Congress

A massive field and many new players this year – the Spring Congress was as tough as ever.

The Bristol tournament scene continues to go from strength to strength with a whopping 117 entrants to the Spring Congress – including a GM, two IM’s and a host of other masters in a very competitive Open field.

The British weather was compliant also – not taunting dedicated chess fans with too much sun streaming through the windows.

I entered the Open but I also had clubmates from Horfield in every section to cheer on, and a good excuse to loiter around the top boards and try to ‘improve by osmosis’.

The Open was more than twice the size of some previous tournaments which meant that drawn games were likely to cost you at the top. After 3 rounds nobody had a perfect score – though plenty on 2.5.

Before the final round there were three on 3.5 and GM Arkell lurking on 3. The Merry-Arkell match-up (seed 1 vs. 2) was the final round everyone wanted to see – this time Merry sealing the deal – he couldn’t take the prize outright though as Mike Waddington beat Graham Moore to also finish on 4.5.

Another dream final match-up was for the title of Bristol League champion – between league players only. Patryk Kryzyzanowski was leading on 3, whilst a host of others (including myself) were on 2.5. Steve Dilleigh got the honour of trying to leapfrog Patryk – and was doing well in a rook ending, up a pawn and with a slightly easier king position – could Steve emulate Carlsen and squeeze it to steal the title? After some calculated risks to keep his rook active, Patryk did enough to hold it and is now Bristol champion!

Over the last year the juniors have been threatening a takeover, this time the prize was shared between one of them (Yuyang Wang) and 3 ‘non-juniors’ (Bob Radford, winner on tiebreak; Brendan O’Gorman; and Chris Strong) with 4/5 each.

Bob won a crucial game in round 3 vs. Max Walker, where he showed tremendous resolve to come back a piece down – making use of a few tempi and some useful central pawns and eventually forcing a rook to drop – winning this game gave him the best progressive scores overall and the title of major champion!

More good news for my own club (Horfield) with Mike Jennings sharing first place along with three others: Daoyi Wang, William Taplin and John Harris.

It was a fantastic weekend for Bristol chess – the organisers have done a great job raising interest and ensuring everything runs smoothly; more players, more newcomers, more non-Bristolians and more prizes.

We’ll be back soon with analysis of a few games from the Open section.

Look out for the Steve Boniface memorial on the 24-26 August for more high quality chess bouts!


mikecircle

Mike Harris is co-editor of Bristol Chess Times and plays regular league and tournament chess in Bristol

Attack against e4 – The Latvian Gambit 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5!

This aggressive opening with Black could be your next surprise weapon – highly recommended for a must win game.

The Latvian is one of the most aggressive sound openings out there, but it is underused and largely unknown. If you’ve ever considered it before – you may have run it past an engine. They give it roughly a +1 after 3.Nxe5 (my engine lands on 1.17, meaning that it thinks White is even more than a pawn up, for nothing).

This alone may put you off reading any further – and if it does please do stop now. This opening is not for the faint-hearted. 2…f5 is basically an unmistakable statement that you intend to sack a lot of pieces for checkmate. If its stats you want, I’ve played this in Bristol league and tournament games about once a season for the last 4 years and I’ve won all 4 games – admittedly three against slightly lower rated opponents but one of them against a top coach.

It’s not played at the top level but there are a few masters and even world champions who dabble – even the great Bobby Fischer lost to it. Okay so Fischer was 11 at the time – but this game does show important attacking themes. Black benefits from the f-file being open quickly, and the bishop on d6 (staring at h2) is very typical for Latvian attacks. Because Black played f5 so early, White had no chance to calmly claim or block the centre, which means those nice diagonals are open for bishops.

Let’s see how the bishops can quickly triumph if White is greedy:

Aside: What’s a pawn worth?

Is an extra pawn going to win you the game? For Grandmasters maybe yes. It also may be the case in simple positions – one open file, obvious squares to contest, the player a pawn up can comfortably force trades and win with a pawn breakthrough. Again, simple positions. But if you are a long way off an endgame, forget about the material. It’s never just about the material, and in the Latvian gambit material is pretty much out the window.

move2

Back to move 2 – why f5?

First of all we must see the method behind the madness of f5. You should have a reason for every move you make, and it turns out f5 has many.
With e4 and Nf3 White is saying: “I’m going to castle kingside as soon as possible, distract you with defending e5, and have a comfortable life”
So what do we say in return? “Don’t get too comfy. Take my e-pawn, by all means; I’ll take yours. Or take my f-pawn and I’ll attack your only developed piece (with pawn e4 to e5). Castle kingside if you like, but I’ll quickly get a rook on the open f-file”

More strategically – you are opening the f-file for your own rook and threaten quick development by castling kingside. White can’t just let you do this, they must find something else to call an advantage.

After 2…f5!? we have several continuations. I’m not going to go into huge detail – I want to make you aware of the types of positions you get, and if you like what you see you can learn more about it on thechesswebsite.com, buy the book by Tony Kosten, or get a board out and try it yourself.

The main thing I want to tell you is that the engines have this one wrong. Well not totally wrong, but despite the evaluations a human playing White will have some major difficulty against the Latvian – unless of course they know it in great depth, which I would suggest is unlikely.

More to the point – the natural 3.Nxe5 is nothing to be scared of. The move to be mildly concerned about is 3.d4. But I will recommend a solid way to play in that case. Most of the time players will not play 3.d4 – and I’m talking about everyone below say 1900.

Why is this not played a lot?

There are some very simple answers here. It is sharp, a little bit wacky, difficult to play for both sides, and computers don’t think much of it. But the main reason I think is more psychological: Amateur players shy away from openings where they could lose quickly. Maybe it is fear of embarrassment, maybe it is the sunk cost of travelling to a venue to play a game of chess. But I’m here to convince you that is exactly the reason why you should consider these sorts of openings; because your opponent will have those same tendencies, and often will choose the safer (worse) option.

Let’s get down to some moves; so Black has two pawns en-prise – but the problem for White is they only have one move, not two. Either capture is okay for Black:

3. exf5

exf5

3…e4 4.Qe2 Qe7 5.Nd4 Nc6

and if they take our knight we take with the d-pawn, so that we recapture the f-pawn eventually and the other bishop settles on d6. They may try to hang on to the pawn but it’s not worth it.

6. Qh5+ Kd8

messy

and you can easily attack that pawn with d5, Qf6, Ne7 etc. G4 will lead to interesting games but Black should be better with the big centre and chances to make White’s queen look foolish.

3. Nxe5

Nxe5

3…Qf6
An alternative – for the real gambiteers, which I play on occasion – is 3…Nc6! 4.Qh5+ g6 5.Nxg6 Nf6! 6.Qh4 Rg8 7.Nxf8 Rg4! The engine still doesn’t love it but just look at the position below. Is White going to be loving life if they haven’t seen this before? We have rook takes e4 check coming (how many openings can say that?) with some awkward defence in store for White.

g6 line

Incidentally, Paul Keres dealt with 5.Nxc6 beautifully in this miniature.

After the main line 3..Qf6 we have 4. d4 d6 5.Nc4 and we recapture the pawn with fxe4; White stops us playing d5 with Nc3, but here’s one key move you’ll have to get comfortable with: Qg6. It seems strange to move the queen again, but we are okay – the knight comes to f6, we renew the threat of d5, and we can develop with Bd6, Bf5 or Bg4, castle and if needed tuck the queen back again with Qf7 and we are sitting pretty.

So after 6..Qg6 it is the start of the ‘main line proper’ – which is way too much to go into now, but Tony Kosten covers pretty much all the possible 7th moves for White:

mainline

Instead of capturing, White can of course ignore both pawns and develop:

3. Bc4

fxe4! 4.Nxe5 and either d5 or Qg5. Again things are going to get messy here. D5 is the most natural – but we do have to be comfortable with this line: 5. Qh5+ g6 6. Nxg6 Nf6! 7. Qe5+ Be7 8. Nxh8 dxc4 – and we are an exchange down but the knight is looking trapped – if White isn’t active then we can even walk the king over and take it.

Nxh8line

I don’t actually see Bc4 very often – but I’ll give a line that tempts White even more: 4..Nf6! Let these two games from Joseph Blackburne sway you. It’s the same opponent, who first tries to land a knight on f7, and then tries with the bishop – and gets pretty well crushed both times!

As I say, Bc4 is not too common. Among players who are unfamiliar with the Latvian, I believe the most common response will be:

3. d3

And this is just a different game. White tries to ignore the gambit and decides to save the light-squared bishop for defence. As Black we just continue with normal moves (Nf6, d6, Be7, 0-0) and plan on meeting exf5 with Bxf5.

The real test for you is when White decides to fight fire with fire, and opens up an attack on your e-pawn, with:

3. d4!

It’s a fairly decent move for White – but you’ll be okay if you memorise a few things:

  • Take the pawn that you threatened: 3..fxe4.
  • If they play Nxe5 and Bg5 then you’ll have to hold tight with Nf6 and Be7
  • Play either d5 or if you can’t then play d6 and kick the knight.
  • Remember the Latvian bishop – Bd6. For example in this game from Keres he plays d5 in response to Bc4, and his own bishop lands on d6. You don’t mind the knight staying on e5 – but you may have to get creative like Keres’ Kf8 and Kg7 to avoid tricks.

Conclusion

So – if you’ve read this far you hopefully view this opening as being worth a shot. With a bit of study, this is an awesome surprise weapon in your arsenal against 1.e4 and is a lot of fun to play.

Round 5 of a congress against the tournament leader who is half a point ahead of you? My advice is f5, Bd6, sack a rook and win the tournament in a blaze of glory.

I’ll leave you with none other than Boris Spassky employing the main line with great effect:


 

mikecircle

Mike is co-editor of The Bristol Chess Times and is a regular league and tournament player