Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Italian Battleground: Round 3

Round 3 has started in the Chess.com "Italian Battleground" tournament, and I will be battling with docfb, 275Jukka,warwar, Abhishek29 and XristosGikas.

In my first 5 (concurrent) games, I have the black pieces 4 times, and in my 1 game with White, I am playing a Hungarian Defense - so, no Jerome Gambit so far. 

In Round 1, I scored with the Jerome against Abhishek29, and in Round 2 I did the same against warwar. It will be interesting to see if they let me play my refuted opening again - and, if so, what improvements they have come up with.

In Round 2, docfb played a Two Knights Defense, and beat me. I wonder if he will be satisfied to repeat, or if he will go with the easy win against the Jerome.

As for 275Jukka, we have not played before, but he went for the Hungarian Defense 3...Be7 right away. He must have a really good track record with the Hungarian, to turn down the offer of two pieces that allowing the Jerome Gambit would have achieved.

XristosGikas is new to me, as well, so perhaps he will oblige me and "blunder" into a win after 4 moves...


Sunday, January 6, 2019

Jerome Gambit: Probably Not This, Either

As I have explored the history, games, and analysis of the Jerome Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+), I have also looked for earlier opening examples that might have inspired Alonzo Wheeler Jerome to create and share his opening. This blog has many examples of possible Jerome Gambit instigators.

In this post I want to share some lines that most likely were not precursors of the Jerome. Purists can move on to the next blog post. Those who like fun chess - well, stick around.

For Christmas, my wife gave me Tim Sawyer's book Queens Knight 1.Nc3 & 1...Nc6 Second Edition Chess Opening Games (2018). I am familiar with Tim's work on the Blackmar Diemer Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.e4) but I see, of late, he has expanded to coverage of a whole range of openings.

Early on in the book, I encountered
The game Laird vs Bullockus began 1.Nc3 e5 2.Nf3 Bc5 3.Nxe5. What can Black do? The answer is a bishop sacrifice 3...Bxf2+! 4.Kxf2 Qh4+ and the Black queen will regain the piece on e5. 
This was a postal game between two California players. Scott W. Laird was a master in correspondence and in tournament play. 
Dr. Theodore Bullockus was an international arbiter and longtime postal chess player. His peak ICCF rating was 2299. 
Ted Bolluckus was a teammate of mine in the Correspondence Olympiad. We represented the USA in the 1980s. 
The Queens Knight Attack opening line is actually the reverse of an Alekhine Defence variation. Ted Bullockus was an expert in the Alekhine. In fact he influenced me to study it for many years. 
The Alekhine line goes 1.e4 Nf6 2.Bc4 Nxe4 3.Bxf7+ Kxf7 4.Qh5+ when White regains the piece on e4 with equal chances. In the Queens Knight Attack White has the added useful move 1.Nc3.
1.Nc3 e5 2.Nf3 Bc5 3.Nxe5 Bxf2+ 4.Kxf2 Qh4+ 5.g3 Qd4+ 6.e3 Qxe5 7.Qf3 Nf6 8.d4 Qe7 9.e4 d6 10.h3 0-0 11.Bc4 Nc6 12.Be3 Re8 13.a3 Kh8 14.Bd3 Be6 15.g4 Nd7 16.d5 Black resigned

Enjoyable, if not successful chess - this time.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Jerome Gambit Article: Followup Followup

Image result for free clipart man scratching head

I recently did a followup article to my posts on my Jerome Gambit article, lamenting the lack of information about how an author, or authors, came to label the Jerome Gambit player in Amateur - Blackburne, London, 1884 -  referred to as "Mr M" v Blackburne, in the May 10, 1884, Illustrated London News - as "Millner". A Facebook post led to a return post with a couple of links suggesting a couple of possible "Milner" players, and some bibliographical suggestions.

Alas, my InterLibraryLoan sleuthing has returned little.

The book Amos Burn: A Chess Biography, by Richard Forster (McFarland, 2004) does, indeed, list a "J. Milner" as playing (color not given) the 13th board in a 31 board match between Yorkshire and Lancashire, at Hudderfield, on March 11, 1899. He accomplished a draw against A. C. Haines.

That's it. (In a book of almost 1,000 pages.)

Add that to finding no "Millner" or "Milner" in Henry Joseph Blackburne: A Chess Biography (McFarland, 2015), by Tim Harding, and I pretty much have what my father used to call "a whole lot of nothing".

InterLibraryLoan also brought me Idel Becker's Manual de Xadrez, which Brazilian chess master Hindemburg Melão, Jr. in his article for the online chess site, SuperAjedrez, and, most recently, in the Facebook post, suggested might have the information I sought. Alas, I found only the game "Amador - Blackburne", that is Amateur - Blackburne. It could be that I was consulting the 4th edition, from 1969, which may have been changed since Becker's 1st edition, from 1948.

It could also be that the information was in the other book suggested by Hindemburg Melão, Jr., Ajadrez a la ciega, by Benito Lopes Esnaola - which the InterLibraryLoan was not able to provide for me.

I sense an upcoming visit to the White Collection, in Cleveland, to further research the issue. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Jerome Gambit: Another Game, More Lessons

I enjoyed my recent online Jerome Gambit game, and even though the computer had plenty to say about my play, afterward, I enjoyed that, too.

perrypawnpusher - atomsymbol
10 0 blitz, FICS, 2018

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ 

4...Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.Qh5+ Ng6

This is a solid move, but I am always glad to see it, because it seems to have a "do it yourself" feel. It is as if Black has reasoned "nobody would seriously sacrifice two pieces in the opening, so it seems reasonable, if not downright scientific, and, maybe, even necessary, to give one back, right away". Thank you.

7.Qd5+ Ke8 8.Qxc5 N8e7

The knight usually goes to f6, but the text is something that Jerome Gambit regulars such as AsceticKing, Bill Wall, chessmusings, MrBlack, MrJoker, shugart, vlastous and I have faced before, so it is worth being ready for. The Knight provides some protection for the King along the e-file, and leaves the f-file open for Black's Rook.

9.O-O d6 10.Qe3 Rf8 11.f4 Qd7

Komodo 9.02, in blunder check mode, does not object to this move, but it seems to block Black's Bishop, which blocks Black's Rook - a classic weakness in the Jerome.

On the other hand, it provides some restraint on White playing e4-e5, once his Queen has been enticed to the d-file, since the exchange of Queens would dampen any kind of attack. Perhaps Black should have tried 11...Nc6, as in perrypawnpusher - taman, blitz, FICS, 2010 (1-30).

12.f5 Ne5 13.d4 Nc4 14.Qd3 

Done almost as a reflex, and providing support for the pawn at f5, should I play e4-e5, but I probably should have looked at and evaluated 14.Qe2. (14...d5 would have been a good response to any of my choices.)  Interestingly, last year shugart chose 14.Qb3 in his game against oritelgavi (0-1, 36).

14...b5 15.b3 Nb6 16.Bg5 a6 17.Nc3 h6 18.Bxe7 Kxe7 19.Rae1 Kd8

Komodo now sees White as having equalized, meaning that it gives the first player some positional plusses in its evaluation to balance out the 2 pawns vs piece material disadvantage. Black lags in development (but he will quickly fix this) and his King is riskily placed.


Komodo's preference shows how chess computers have improved in their positional play: my move allows opening the e-file, but the computer prefers to see the Knight posted on e6, and suggests, even at the cost of time: 20.Ne2 Bb7 21.Nf4 Rg8 22.Ne6+ Kc8 It then anchors the Knight with 23.d5, with an even game. I need to learn to see the quieter moves.

20...Nxd5 21.exd5 Bb7 22.c4 Re8

Contesting the e-file. It is enlightening to see that Komodo prefers that Black castle-by-hand on the Queenside. The whole line of recommended play - well beyond my during-the-game investigations - ends up with a very unbalanced position which it assesses as better for Black, although White clearly has practical chances: 22...Kc8 23.Qe3 Qf7 24.Qe7 Kb8 25.Qh4 Re8 26.Re6 Bc8 27.Rxe8 Qxe8 28.f6 gxf6 29.Qxh6 Bb7 30.Qxf6 Qe3+ 31.Qf2 Qc3 32.Qf3 Qxd4+ 33.Qf2 Qd3 34.Rc1 Bc8 35.h3 Kb7 36.Kh2 Bd7 37.cxb5 axb5 38.Qc2 Qxc2 39.Rxc2

analysis diagram

I might not be able to hold this position with White, but a good number of stronger Jerome Gambiteers probably could.

23.Re6 Rxe6

This Rook exchange gives up too much. It is fascinating to see what Komodo believes is a better line of play, with Black forcing a draw: 23...Rg8 24.Rfe1 Kc8 25.Re7 Qd8 26.Qg3 Kb8 27.Rxg7 Rxg7 28.Qxg7 bxc4 29.bxc4 Qh4 30.g3 Qh5 31.f6 Ka7 32.f7 Qf3 33.g4 Rf8 34.Re7 h5 35.Rxc7 hxg4 36.Qxf8 Qd1+ 37.Kf2 Qf3+ 38.Ke1 Qe3+ 39.Kd1 and White cannot escape the checks, leading to a draw. Nice, but this was all beyond my assessments.

analysis diagram

24.fxe6 Qe7

White's control of the f-file, his Rook invasion point at f7, the possible invasion by the Queen at h7 (I missed that in the game) and Black's weak back rank all support the assessment that White is winning.


Even stronger was 25.Qh7 with back rank mate threats, as well as plans to pin Black's Queen with a Rook. Giving up a piece gives temporary respite 25...Bxd5 26.cxd5 Kc8 27.Qc2 The new weakness is the 7th rank and the c-pawn 27...Kb7 (27...c5 28.dxc6 Qxe6 29.Qd2 Qe8 30.Re1 Qd8 31.Re6 Ra7 32.Qe1 Qg5 33.d5 or 27...Qe8 28.Qc6 Qxc6 29.Rf8+ Kb7 30.dxc6+ Kxc6 31.Rxa8) 28.Qc6+ Ka7 29.Rf7 Re8 30.Rxe7 Rxe7 31.Qd7 Rxd7 32.exd7 Kb7 33.d8=Q  It will soon be "curtains" for Black.

25...Qe8 26.Qf3 

This move is fine, but 26.Qf5 was more precise. Why? Because, after the text my opponent could have surprised me with 26...Qxe6, and, while the move wouldn't have saved the game (27.dxe6 Bxf3 28.gxf3 Ra7 29.d5!?) any kind of suprise can be a weapon in blitz.


This leads to a quick end.

27.Rf8 Bxd5 28.Rxe8+ Kxe8 29.Qf7+ Kd8 30.Qd7  checkmate

Monday, December 31, 2018

Jerome Gambit: Took Less Time Than It Takes to Tell

If you know your Jerome Gambit, and can think and move quickly, bullet chess can be a successful arena of play for you.

Check out the following online game from angelcamina, who has a whole minute to get the Jerome Gambit to work for him, and does just fine.

angelcamina - janpecsok18
1 0 bullet, lichess.org, 2018

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+

4...Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.Qh5+ g6

So far, so good for Black - but is this part of a defense he knows, or is this a reflex reaction to the check?

7.Qxe5 Nf6

Reflex. Black returns a second piece, and tries to find his way in an opening he doesn't know - two pawns down.

8.Qxc5 d6 9.Qe3 Rf8

Castling-by-hand is a standard defensive maneuver, and maybe Black should have continued.

10.O-O Be6

Sometimes this move is okay, and sometimes it is bad, but it always screams "throw a pawn at me!" to White.

11.d4 Qd7

This might be aimed at preventing f2-f4-f5, or it might be a bit of quick development (the clock is ticking), but 11...Kg8 was probably more consistent.

12.f4 c5

Aimed at the growing White mass of pawns.


Or 13.d5

White's position is better, the first player knows what he is doing - and he might even be ahead on the clock.

13...dxe5 14.fxe5 Bf5

Trying to block the dangerous f-file, but Black can not afford to return any more material.

15.exf6 Kxf6 16.Qe5+ Kf7 17.g4 Black resigned

And that's that. Reminds me of the action sequence that "took less time than it takes to tell".

Nicely done.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Jerome Gambit: A Positional Dance

I have struggled to appreciate the Human + Computer vs Computer Jerome Gambit games that Bill Wall has sent me, and this has slowed my presentation of some of them. (For an over-all look, see "Jerome Gambit: Centaurs".)

I suppose that I had expected a series of one-sided crushes, revealing brutal new Jerome Gambit refutations and uncovering scintillating dynamic defenses. It didn't turn out that way - at times the game looks like a positional dance. Let's take a look.

Wall/Stockfish - Crafty
centaur match, 2018

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ 

Okay, we all should be expecting a win for White - Stockfish is a higher-rated computer program than Crafty, and it is partnered with Bill, who is pretty knowledgeable when it comes to the Jerome Gambit.

4...Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.Qh5+

Bill played two games with White with Critter as his partner, two with Houdini, two with Rybka, and two wth Stockfish. Each time, he played one 6.Qh5+ game and one 6.d4 game. (6.Qh5+ scored 2 - 4 - 2, while 6.d4 scored 2 - 5 - 1.)

6...Ke6 7.f4 Qf6 

Interesting: Black avoids 7...d6, which I have called the annoying or silicon defense, because it annoyingly drains much of the dynamism out of the position, and because it has been a primary choice of computer programs.

The Database has 208 games with 7...d6, with White winning 54% of the time. Instead, it has 133 games with 7...Qf6, with White winning 56% of the time.  

8.Rf1 g6

Even computers like to kick the enemy Queen, but 8...d6, working toward development, is probably a little bit better.

9.Qh3+ Ke7 10.fxe5 Qxe5

White has to be careful here (he cannot castle, Black threatens the pawn at e4) and probably should not go into this line without some preparation. That is one suggestion that 6...Qf6 might have been a "book" move inserted by a knowledgeable human.

11.Qf3 Nf6 12.Nc3 c6

The computers tut-tut at this move, which keeps White's Knight off of d5 and prepares ...d7-d5, preferring the more complicated 12...Bd4. They still give Black the advantage after the text.


Wow. This move has a tactical justification that comes from silicon thinking. Of course, now, 13...Qxe4? would blunder a piece to 14.Qxf6+. It takes a bit more work, however, to see that 13...Nxe4 is met by 14.d4 Bxd4 15.Bf4!?, when 15...Qa4+ 16.c3 d5 17.Nxd4 allows White to recover his sacrificed piece, with a roughly equal game. "Equal", as in mutually complicated; not "drawn".

Instead, a decade ago a couple of computers fought it out after the solid 13.d3 -   13...Bb4 14.Bd2 d6 15.d4 Qe6 16.O-O-O Ng4 17.d5 Qg8 18.Qg3 Ke8 19.dxc6 bxc6 20.Nb5 cxb5 21.Bxb4 Ne5 22.Rxd6 Nc4 23.Qg5 Nxd6 24.Qe5+ Qe6 25.Qxh8+ Kd7 26.Rd1 h5 27.Rxd6+ Qxd6 28.Bxd6 Kxd6 29.Qd8+ Black resigned, Fritz 8 - Fritz 5.32, D1N5TWD1, 2008

13...Rf8 14.d4

I (sort of) warned you about this move (and the next) in the previous post.

14...Bxd4 15.Bf4 Qc5

It was okay, instead, to take the e-pawn with 15...Qxe4 16.Qxe4+ Nxe4 17.Nxd4, as after 17...g5!? the game would resolve itself into a pawn-plus Queenless middlegame favoring Black with 18.Be3 Rxf1+ 19.Kxf1 d5.

Interestingly enough, 17...d5 (instead of 17...g5!?) would have led to a human game where White ground down his opponent: 18.O-O-O Bg4 19.Rde1 Kd7 20.h3 Bf5 21.Bh6 Rf7 22.Nf3 Re8 23.g4 b6 24.gxf5 Rxf5 25.Nd2 Ng3 26.Rxe8 Kxe8 27.Rxf5 Nxf5 28.Bf4 h5  29.Nf3 Ke7 30.Ne5 Kf6 31.Nxc6 g5 32.Bc7 g4 33.hxg4 hxg4 34.Nxa7 g3 35.Nb5 Kg5  36.Bxb6 Kg4 37.a4 g2  38.Bg1 Kg3 39.a5 Nh4 40.Nd4 Kf4 41.a6 Nf3 42.Nxf3 Black resigned, Vlastous 2344 - Daboa 1799, Chessmaniac.com, 2016.

Black is still for choice, but this is how computer games go - a small slip here, a slight goof there... it all adds up.

16.O-O-O Be5 17.b4 

Again: Wow.

Black is close to stabilizing his position with ...d7-d6, so White has to do something.


This doesn't work. The other (stronger) computers suggest 17...Bxf4+ 18.Qxf4 Qxb4, when 19.Qe5+ Kd8 accents Black's uneasy King and unfinished development. Stockfish 9 then likes 20.Nf4, while Komodo 9 prefers 20.Nd4, both leading to a balanced game, or the slightest edge to Black.

A decade ago, a computer vs computer game saw this continuation: 20.Rxf6 Re8 21.Re6 Rxe6 22.Qxe6 Qf8 23.Qe5 Qe7 24.Qd4 b6 25.e5 Bb7 26.Nc3 c5 27.Qg4 Bc6 28.Qf4 h5 29.Nd5 Bxd5 30.Rxd5 Rc8 31.Qa4 Rc7 32.Qe4 Rc6 33.Qa4 Qe6 34.c4 Rc7 35.Qd1 a6 36.Qe2 Rc6 37.g3 b5 38.h4 bxc4 39.Qxc4 Qf7 40.Qb3 Kc7 41.Qd3 Kc8 42.Rd6 Rxd6 43.Qxd6 Qf1+ 44.Kd2 Qg2+ 45.Kc1 Qc6 46.Qd2 Kc7 47.Qa5+ Kb7 48.Qd2 Qe6 49.Qb2+ Kc6 50.Qg2+ Kb5 51.Qb7+ Ka5 52.Qc7+ Kb4 53.Qb7+ Kc3 54.Qb2+ Kd3 55.Qc2+ Kd4 56.Qb2+ Kd5 57.a3 Qg4 58.Qb7+ Kxe5 59.Qc7+ d6 60.Qe7+ Kd5 61.Qb7+ Ke6 62.Qb3+ Ke5 63.Qb2+ Qd4 64.Qe2+ Kd5 65.Qg2+ Qe4 66.Qd2+ Ke5 67.Qb2+ Kf5 68.Qb8 Qd3 69.Qc8+ Ke5 70.a4 Qc4+ 71.Kd2 Qxa4 72.Qc7 Qd4+ 73.Ke2 Qe4+ 74.Kf2 Qd3 75.Qe7+ Kd5 76.Qe8 Qf5+ 77.Kg1 Kd4 78.Qb8 Ke3 79.Qb3+ Qd3 80.Qf7 Kd2 81.Qa2+ Ke1 82.Qa5+ Qd2 83.Qa1+ Qd1 84.Qc3+ Ke2+ 85.Kh2 Qd4 86.Qa3 Qf2+ White resigned, Fritz 8-Fritz 5.32/D1N5TWD1 2008

18.Nd4 Bxd4 

Have to get rid of that annoying Knight, but the exchange opens up dark squares in Black's position. White is now a bit better.



Black's two problems are related: uneasy King and under-development. In the game he works to move the King to a safer place. He should have chosen, instead, 19...d5, unblocking the Bishop that blocks the Rook - a standard defense ailment in the Jerome Gambit. Then, after 20.Bg5 Bg4 21.Bxf6+ Kf7!? 22.Qf4 Kg8, White will probably be able to untangle his pieces, with an edge.

The problem is that White has a powerful response to the text move. 


Remember when the doctor told you "Okay, this is going to hurt  a bit"?


What else?

21.Kb1 Re8

White now has a forced checkmate in 17 (!), but it is hard to find any acceptible alternative for Black.

Perhaps you are used to seeing computers display their brutal tactical skills, and this game is a good example of how many "positional" games are underlaid by tactical themes.  

22.h4 Qxh4 23.e5 Black resigned

Simply brutal. The more you look, the more painful it becomes for Black.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Jerome Gambit Article: Followup

Readers who have kept up with the 8 posts of my "Jerome Gambit Article" probably now know more about the opening than almost anyone else in the world!

Of course, those who checked out the "Afterword" for the list of names of people I thanked, personally, for their help saw only about 100 mentions - by now, the list would be twice as long. Many additional thanks to those who have shared games and analysis!

Finally, I have to touch on the most in/famous of Jerome Gambit games, Amateur - Blackburne, London, 1884, and recall, from an earlier blog post 
...the uncertainties mentioned by Brazilian chess master Hindemburg Melão, Jr. in his article for the online chess site, SuperAjedrez,
...Some sources indicate year of the game as 1868, others indicate 1888, and others indicate 1880. Some sources affirm that it was played in Manchester, others in London. Normally the name of the adversary is not given, having only "NN" or "Amateur", but in at least one source "Millner" is indicated as the name. Also it is not known if it was an individual game or part of a simultaneous display... [T]he game deserves to be cited as one of most beautiful pearls of blindfold Chess...

In the years since my Jerome Gambit article was written - 5 years after Melão's - Blackburne expert Tim Harding has clarified the location and year
That was "Mr M" v Blackburne, first published in the Illustrated London News on 10 May,1884 

Still, who is the amateur named "Millner"? Was the game part of a simultaneous exhibition? Was the game really played "blindfold"? (Blackburne did not mention either of the last two in his notes to the game in Mr. Blackburne's Games at Chess - I would think he would.)

What to do? Something I couldn't do when Melão first wrote - I posted on his Facebook page, (with the help of Google translation).
15 years ago you wrote an article for SuperAjedrez.com about a Jerome Gambit game by Blackburne. You named "Millner" as his opponent and said it was a "blindfold" game. Do you remember your source? Thank you, very much!
Very quickly I received a response.
Probably the source was " Ajadrez a la ciega " (by Benito Lopes Esnaola) or " Manuel de chess " (by Idel Becker), in both of which is the match. I don't remember the name of the black player, but I found 2 Milner (with 1 L) from that time: 
I hope I helped.

Very interesting. Of course, I immediately put in a request, through InterLibrary Loan, for the two books Melão mentioned. They were written many years after the Illustrated London News article, but you never know what research will turn up.

I also checked out the links to the Edo Historical Chess Ratings.

The first, John Joseph Milner [note the single "l"], does not have a lot of information, but, given that one reference is given as  Bignold's Australian Chess Annual, and that the one tournament mentioned is the 6th New Zealand championship at Christchurch in 1893 - unless he is a very well-travelled chess player, he may not have been Blackburne's victim. A search with Google Books provided me with a copy of Volume 1 of the Australian Chess Annual of 1896, and there J.J. Milner is listed as Treasurer of the Canterbury Chess Club, in Christchurch.

The second, J. Milner [again, the single "l"], has even less information, but mentions a drawn game with A.C. Haines, played in the 1899 Lancashire - Yorkshire County Match, at Huddersfield. That's about a couple hundred miles away from Simpson's Divan, in London, much less of a travel for a dedicated pawnpusher. As for the reference given, Forster's book on Amos Burn, I have requested that from ILL as well.

So - more puzzles, more clues. Many thanks to master Hindemburg Melão, Jr., and I will share what more I discover.