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The Steinitz Gambit

Check out Kevin Butler’s new chess video introduction to the Steinitz Gambit, covering the important ideas underlying this wild chess opening! After 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 exf4 4.d4 Qh4+ 5.Ke2 the White King is perfectly comfortable behind his strong central pawns, and the monarch even plans on better placement in case of any endgame. Very bold! Kevin’s video explains what’s going on, and shows how you can use the fighting King in your chess openings.



Chess Players – Starting Early, Staying Positive

A group of children in southwest Philadelphia are using chess to stay positive and avoid violence in their city. Will any of them be the next chess prodigies?

Check out this CNN video story where everyone wins:


A Discarded Chess Opening

Chess opening variations are subject to fashion, or rather periods of intense examination, as players explore sub-systems of popular ways to start a chess game. Naturally certain methods of playing chess openings recede into the theoretical background, perhaps for decades – perhaps never to be seen in Master practice again. In the case of Bird’s Opening with 1.f4 we find one such example in Lasker’s variation of From’s gambit, arising after 1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.Nf3 g5, an attacking idea introduced by world chess champion Em. Lasker. Here almost complete attention is focused on 5.d4 and 5.g3 for White, with thousands of chess games available for our perusal. But what about the sneaky little move 5.c3, invented by Henry Bird himself?

A mere handful of chess games exist featuring this continuation – probably because Bird lost horribly when he played 5.c3 against Isidor Gunsberg in their Hastings 1892 game. Several more rapid defeats for White ensued, and the whole line was quickly forgotten. However, a few recent internet blitz games show that Bird’s idea is worth a second look, and several hundred hours of computer assisted analysis confirm that 5.c3 is not only playable but may be as good as other White continuations. So let’s survey this – what to name it? – Bird’s Defense to Lasker’s Attack in the From’s Gambit variation of Bird’s Opening!

We called 5.c3 “sneaky” because it’s based on a trick of sorts. After 5…g4 (natural and best) White plays 6.Qa4+, thinking to make a place for his King when his Knight moves and he has to face the nasty …Qh4+ attack. The main sequence of moves, then, is 5.c3 g4 6.Qa4+ Nc6 7.Nd4 Qh4+ at which point Bird’s original 8.Kd1 gives us the following weird chess position:

Now the fun really starts, as Black tries to prove that his pawn minus was well invested. And unless Black plays one key move right now (the move Gunsberg played here) White has no problems at all, usually going 9.Nb5 next. Furthermore, even if Black plays exactly White has apparently the resources to meet any threat. But what is Black’s best try now, on his eighth move? While you work on that chess puzzle, consider that White can also choose a gambit of his own – instead of 8.Kd1 in the diagram above he can play 8.g3 instead:

This sacrifice is a recent invention never imagined by Henry Bird. Black is forced to go in for 8…Bxg3+ 9.hxg3 Qxh1, and when White continues 10.Nb5 the second player has nothing better than 10…Kf8 11.Nxc7 Rb8 to save his Rook. In the end White has a pawn for the Exchange, the Bishop pair and a compact central pawn structure. It is White’s move, in addition, but is all that enough compensation?

Chess players who like gambit play will want to consider these positions in more detail. Extra suggestions and ideas in this chess opening can be found here at the Free Chess Area, and a free chess download with games and plenty of analysis and commentary is available to ChessCentral Members; it’s easy to join, free to use and full of great chess downloads and articles. Those players who want to know more about Bird’s Opening should click here for the Big Bird PowerBase, the most complete resource on this interesting chess opening.

Until next time!

Wilhelm Steinitz

The first world chess champion is generally seen as the first scientific chess player, and is often called the father of modern chess. Steinitz put down in writing and formulated chess principles that the best players had always employed, even if unconsciously, in their own chess games. The guidelines found in modern chess manuals can all be traced back to Steinitz, who himself said that the modern school of chess was introduced in his published annotations and game commentary.

Gathering all the games of Steinitz, along with his notes on chess games, is the motive behind the Collected Works of Wilhelm Steinitz. This CD also includes the books written by Steinitz along with extended extracts from magazines and newspaper columns which he edited. But this collection can never be truely complete, seeing that Wilhelm Steinitz left behind such a vast body of chess literature.
That’s why Wilhelm Steinitz.com was created, where further research and discoveries about Steinitz can be accessed. Those who own the Collected Works CD can now find 10 new Steinitz games plus newly digitized articles by Steinitz “translated” into ChessBase format. Even casual visitors who may know little about Steinitz will discover much of interest – enjoy!

Click here to go to the Wilhelm Steinitz web site

Everyman E-book App for iPad

Have an iPAD? Now you can read Everyman chess e-books and enjoy the same interactivity as you do on your PC. Featuring a full iPad landscape and portrait support, search with autocomplete, support for zip files and full eBook store with inApp purchasing. When you launch your app you will see your book list, which will include the free chess book samples provided by Everyman. Your Book list is categorized into two sections:

1) Books which show eBooks customized by Everyman specifically for this app (including the samples)

2) PGN files which show any .pgn files you may have downloaded from the web or added from your hard drive

To get this great new app go click here

ChessCentral carries over 100 Everyman Chess E-Books. To browse the full line of e-books click here.

Play Chess Opening Gambits

If we play a chess opening gambit there’s no going back. The permanent loss of a pawn is serious and the deficit has to be made up in other ways – speedy development, open attacking lines, weakness in the enemy camp. The advantages of playing chess gambits are many, and the King’s Gambit, the Evans Gambit, the Benko Gambit or any number of chess opening pawn sacrifices are good ways to play chess. It’s fun to crunch somebody in nineteen moves!

A pair of chess opening gambits are responsible for many such quick wins, two mirror-image pawn sacrifices that are easy to learn and promise fast attacking development. Take a look at these diagrams:

Blackmar-Diemer Chess Opening

The Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, 1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.f3 exf3 5.Nxf3

Smith-Morra Chess Opening

Smith-Morra Chess Opening

The Smith-Morra Gambit, 1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3

It’s easy to see that we have the same type of chess position, the same structure – only in reverse! It should also be clear that both chess gambits can be learned together, since they rely on general principles rather that forced variations and share the same positional features. These two chess opening gambits are pure pawn sacrifices, with no hope of ever getting back our fallen foot soldier. Experience has shown, however, that White gets long term pressure based on rapid development and open central lines for the Rooks; in both “cousin” gambits this initiative can last into the endgame.

These related chess opening gambits, the Blackmar-Diemer and the Smith-Morra, are quite popular at the club level but not so much on the professional chess circuit. That works to our advantage, as much less “theory” exists about either gambit and so it’s easier to become a specialists in these two chess opening systems. Some Blackmar-Diemer chess software is available here and here , while Smith-Morra chess software can be found here and here. We might as well save study time and master two closely connected chess opening gambits at once!

Chess Openings for Beginners (Part 1)

Beginners at chess and even Novice chess players are today awash in a flood of books and software programs directed especially at them. New chess players risk drowning in a sea of advice about “courses” to take and “training” to do. In this circumstance even the strongest swimmers looks for a lifeline, so take hold of the following idea.

Don’t waste time on chess openings. It’s common knowledge that Dr. Tarrasch, after teaching the elementary checkmates, would then demonstrate chess endgames. After that came solid grounding in chess strategy and middlegame themes, tactics and piece coordination. Only then was there any discussion of the opening in chess, but only enough to illustrate the concept of rapid and fluid piece development.

We conclude, therefore, that Beginner and Novice chess players ought to look at the opening as something to be gotten past, to be survived in good enough condition to then pound one’s opponent. New chess players need a simple, plain and universal way to begin each chess game, devoting their time instead to tactics, strategy and chess endings. Far better to know the Lucena and Philidor Rook endgame than the latest wrinkle of Sicilian Defense opening theory.

Good. Then how do we do that? Suppose White plays 1.e4 and you have the Black pieces – what “simple system” gets you past the best chess opening move on earth? Or maybe White goes 1.d4 or any of a dozen reasonable first moves; or you get the White pieces yourself and what then? The choices seem limitless, and there’s no way to be ready for everything.

Perhaps not, but let’s find two or three universal chess openings for easy use by beginner and novice chess players. A chess opening “system” that allows us to live long enough to win with our acquired tactical and endgame skill. Next time we’ll offer some concrete examples…and meanwhile keep practicing that Bishop & Knight checkmate!