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Just in time for Valentine’s Day

The word “romantic” possesses a variety of connotations. Quite a few chess players are unaware of the word’s connotation in relation to The Royal Game.

The term “romantic chess” refers to a swashbuckling playing style which was the norm back in the mid-1800’s. Players of that era were recklessly attack-oriented, often to the point of complete foolhardiness. Gambits and sacrifices were routinely offered, and one’s opponent was considered “unmanly” or even downright cowardly if he refused to take the offered material. Great romantic players of the day such as Paul Morphy and Adolph Anderssen have been idolized and revered ever since.

That style of play has come to be known as “romantic” chess and, happily, survives in the present day. Although you typically see gambits and sacrifices offered at the club level, we’re still occasionally dazzled by a top-level player chucking a pawn overboard (and winning) in a top-level event. Despite the fact that gambit play is still wildly popular among chess players, there have been (to my recollection) only two commercial products on the subject presented in the “classic” (e.g. text-driven) ChessBase format. One was ChessBase’s own Gambit Lexicon; sales of that disk were marred by the fact that the text was presented in German only.

I have a reputation as an irrepressible gambiteer; my old website a decade ago was devoted primarily to gambit play. In the course of my construction of that page I was contacted by an Italian player named Franco Pezzi who asked if I’d be interested in seeing his CD The Gambitingly Way. He was good enough to airmail me a copy from Italy and I immediately began to talk it up. I remember ChessCentral asking me if they should carry the disk and my answer was an emphatic “Yes!”

Gambitingly by Franco Pezzi, available from ChessCentral

It’s a decade later and The Gambitingly Way (a.k.a. Gambitingly for short) is still alive and kicking, and still available from ChessCentral. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, this CD crammed full of great games emblematic of chess’ Romantic Era is on sale for $24.95 (regularly $39.95).

The contents of the disk are in ChessBase format, meaning that any software (including the Fritz family of playing programs) which can read ChessBase data will be able to access the material on this CD. Gambitingly comes with the then-current version of ChessBase Reader as well as a Fritz6 demo, either of which can be used to access the databases. However, if you don’t already have ChessBase or any of its related playing programs, I recommend using ChessBase Light 2009 (available at ChessBase’s website) instead of using the antiquated demos included on the CD.

The gambits discussed on the disk are organized into folders, each corresponding to a category of openings: Spanish, Sicilian, Benko, French, King’s Gambit, and various 1.d4 and 1.e4 gambits.Countergambits for Black (such as the Blumenfeld and Budapest, as well as the aforementioned Benko) are included too, so this is not a strict “White-centric” gambit encyclopedia.

Typically each gambit is introduced by a short text piece in both Italian and English; Mr. Pezzi’s English isn’t “letter perfect” but the ideas he explains are easily understood. There are links to pre-generated ChessBase “opening reports”. The databases are fully searchable, and have attached opening indexes (meaning that the user has multiple ways to locate games of interest). Most openings also have a corresponding ChessBase opening tree, which not only provide quick overviews of statistically-important variations but which can also be used as opening books for the Fritz family of playing programs — you can force Fritz et al to play a particular gambit opening by loading a particular opening book.

It’s impossible for me to catalogue (or even briefly summarize) all of the material presented in Gambitingly; yes, there’s that much crammed onto the CD. Just a quick look at the database of Sicilian gambits reveals four introductory texts, over 12,750 games (more than 350 of which are annotated), a comprehensive opening key (including some named gambits that even I’ve never before heard of), and thirteen separate opening trees. Bear in mind that this is just for the Sicilian gambits and doesn’t even take other gambits on the disk into account. There’s a lot of material on this CD! (If you want some raw numbers, have a look here)

If you’re a gambit player (as I am) you’ll love The Gambitingly Way; it’s not just an instructional work but also a treasure trove of wonderful swashbuckling chess games which can be replayed and enjoyed over and over again. And if there’s a gambit-crazy chessplayer in your life, The Gambitingly Way is a wonderful (and thematic, dealing as it does with The Romantic Era) Valentine’s Day gift idea, especially right now during ChessCentral’s special offer on this remarkable CD by Franco Pezzi.

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