Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Jerome Gambit: Thematic and Aggressive

The following game shows how gambiteers would love the Jerome Gambit to proceed. White's play is thematic and aggressive, while Black's errors tend to be reasonable-looking moves that do not stand up to the situation they are played in. (I should point out that the time limit for the game was several days per move.)

obviously - vallabhan
GameKnot.com, 2004

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

4...Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.Qh5+ Ke6 7.Qf5+ Kd6 8.f4 Ng6

Elsewhere I have referred to this move as "somewhat inexact", as it saves one threatened piece while allowing another piece to go by the board. See "Reliable".

Stronger alternatives are the proactive 8...Kc6 and the counterattacking 8...Qh4+.

9.Qd5+ Ke7 10.Qxc5+ d6 11.Qf2

Putting the Queen on the f-file, where it can be backed up by a Rook on f1, and threaten the enemy King. It also increases the tactical complexity of the position by not guarding the pawn on e4.

11...Nf6 12.f5

I am amazed that this move hasn't been repeated, according to The (55,560 games) Database, as it is the essence of Jerome-ness.

The alternate move 12.d3 has 4 wins and 3 losses.


If Black plays the logical 12...Nxe4, then Stockfish 8's main line recommendation is 13.Qf3 Ng5 14.Qg3 Ne4 15.Qf3 with a draw by repetition - which may make sense to a computer, but probably not to a human.

I would be more inclined to answer 12...Nxe4 with 13.Qe2, when after 13...Bxf5 14.O-O Qd7 15.d3 Rae8 16.dxe4 Kd8 17.Nc3 Be6 the game is even, but not over.

13.d4 Nc6

This removes the Knight from danger, and puts pressure on White's d4 pawn. Nonetheless, cranky Stockfish 8 prefers 13...Nf7. (That move seems a bit defensive, and I am not sure that a human would be thinking "defense" a piece up - but maybe he should.)

14.Nc3 Re8 15.Bg5 Kf8 16. O-O-O h6 17. Bh4 Bd7

White's moves flow, and the position screams "pawn storm on the Kingside". It doesn't happen, but only because White breaks up Black's Kingside instead.

18.Rhe1 Qc8

Getting out of the pin of the Knight on f6, and getting off the possibly soon-to-be hot d-file; but Black needed to do something drastic, like 18...Kg8 19.Nd5 Rf8 20.e5 Nxd5!? 21.Bxd8 Rxf5 22.Qg3 Nxd8 23.exd6 cxd6 24.Qxd6 Bc6, when he would have three pieces for his Queen, but White should still be better. (Yes, I had help in figuring this out.) 

19.Bxf6 gxf6 20.Qh4 Kg7 21.Nd5 Qd8

Black is in a lot of trouble on the Kingside. The better way of defending his f-pawn, 21...Rf8, still leads to problems, for example 22.Qg4+ Kh8 23.Qg6 Bxf5!? 24.exf5 Qd7 25.Qxh6+ Qh7. Returning the extra piece has allowed Black's Queen to participate in the defense of his King, but White has two extra pawns - and his Rooks are bound to cause trouble as they move up and over to the g- and h-files.

22.Re3 Bxf5

Yes, White's e-pawn cannot capture the Bishop without giving up the Rook, but that was never the  plan.

23.Rg3+ Kh8 24.Qxh6+ Bh7 25.Qg7 checkmate

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Jerome Gambit: There Are Worse Things

I recently consulted The Database.

There are 315 games where I  played the Jerome Gambit with its regular move order, 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+. I scored 82%.

There are 59 games with the Italian Four Knights Jerome Gambit position, 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Nc3 Bc5 5.Bxf7+. I scored 74%.

There are 58 games with the Semi-Italian Jerome Gambit, 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 h6 4.0-0 Bc5 5.Bxf7+. I scored 88%.

There are 58 games with the Semi-Italian Four Knights Jerome Gambit, 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 h6 4.0-0 Nf6 5.Nc3 Bc5 6.Bxf7+. I scored 78%.

Not bad, for a refuted opening.

However, there are worse things than losing to the Jerome Gambit. For example, what if White, on top of playing his "busted" opening, suddenly blunders? His only chance is if... if...?

I should blush.

perrypawnpusher - Leoleon
2 12 blitz, FICS, 2017

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 h6 

The Semi-Italian Opening.

4.O-O Nf6 5.Nc3 Bc5 6.Bxf7+ 

The Semi-Italian Four Knights Jerome Gambit.

4...Kxf7 7.Nxe5+ Nxe5 8.d4 Bxd4 9.Qxd4 d6 

10.f4 c5

This is a novelty according to The Database. I have faced the alternative 10...Nc6 18 times, going 10-5-3. That's 64%, which is decent - but below my total score against the line.

11.Qe3 Nc6 12.b3 

Instead, 12.e5 looked premature.  


I racked my brain trying to figure this out. Was my opponent actually considering ...g7-g5 ? Actually, in light of his next move, this looks like a mouse slip.

13.Bb2 Re8 

A better placement. See the note above.


Better might have been 14.Qd3 followed by 15.Rae1

14...Kg8 15.Qf3 

Simply a blunder. I know we were playing a fast blitz game, but this is not due to the "33rd piece".


Of course. There are worse things than sacrificing two pieces in a dubious opening, and then going down to ignominous defeat - like sacrificing two pieces in the opening and then blundering away the exchange and then going down to ignominious defeat.


Of course.


Oh, no! The "34th piece" strikes again!

17.gxf3 Black resigned

Yes, there are worse things than losing to the Jerome Gambit - like White further blundering away the exchange, only to be "rescued" by a piece-dropping mouse slip by Black... My opponent could have played on, but I think he was no longer in the mood. I could sympathize mightily.

Friday, July 21, 2017


After the previous post I received an email from chessfriend Yury Bukayev who suggested that in the Semi-Italian opening, 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 h6, after 4.0-0 Bc5, along with the Jerome Gambit-ish 5.Bxf7+ White also has the Evans Gambit-ish 5.b4.

He reminded me of two articles that he had written on similar opening lines (see c50 and c51) - well worth a first (or second) look for readers who want to punish the timid 3...h6. Look closely and you will find a number of opportunities for a well-timed Bxf7+, as well!

Thank you, Yury.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Jerome Gambit: When In Doubt, Look Scary

Image result for free clip art scary face

In my most recent Jerome Gambit game, in a line that I was familiar with, I nonetheless ran out of ideas. Lucky for me, I was able to keep making scary moves - enough for my opponent to overstep his clock (we were playing 2 12).

perrypawnpusher - RcSm
2 12 blitz, FICS, 2017

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 h6 

The Semi-Italian Opening.

4.O-O Bc5

After the game I was surprised to discover that I had played three games previously against RcSm. Interestingly enough, none were Jerome Gambits. One game continued 4...Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 - perrypawnpusher - RcSm, 2 12 blitz, FICS, 2012 (0-1, 30) - and two continued 4...d6 - perrypawnpusher - RcSm, 2 12 blitz, FICS, 2013 (1-0, 30) and perrypawnpusher - RcSm, 2 12 blitz, FICS, 2014 (1-0, 41). 


The Semi-Italian Jerome Gambit.

5...Kxf7 6.Nxe5+ Nxe5 7.Qh5+ Ng6

Before this game I was 19 - 2 - 2 in games with this position, according to The Database. That's 87% - and one of those losses came after the mouse slip 8.Qe5??

8.Qd5+ Ke8 9.Qxc5 d6 10.Qe3 Qe7

This is a reasonable move, although there are only 2 other games in The Database with it. White is going to want his Knight to come to c3, and maybe later to d5, harassing the Queen. A pawn advance to f4 (and later, further) and one to d4 also seem relevant.

11.Nc3 Be6

In analyzing the game post mortem I was intrigued by Stockfish 8's suggestion that, instead, Black should castle-by-hand on the Queenside: 11...Kd8 12.f4 Bd7 13.b3 Kc8 with an equal game.

My opponent eventually did do something like that in this game, but it did not wind up as strong.

The text encourages my next move, which I guess came as a surprise to my opponent, as he first retreated his Bishop, then later advanced it to c4 - something he could have done right away.

12.f4 Bf7

An earlier game of mine continued 12...Nf8 13.f5 Bc4 14.d3 Bb5 15.Nxb5 Qd7 16.Nc3 g6 17.Bd2 Kd8 18.d4 Nf6 19.e5 dxe5 20.dxe5 Nd5 21.Nxd5 Qxd5 22.Bc3 Rg8 23.Rad1 Black resigned, perrypawnpusher - Macgregr, blitz, FICS, 2010.

13.d4 Kd8 

Here he goes.

14.f5 Nf8 15.e5 Bc4

A cold-blooded alternative for Black is 15...Nf6, as after 16.exf6 Qxe3+ 17.Bxe3 gxf6 White's possibilities for attack have diminished with the exchange of Queens. He would be down a pawn, although the chances of creeping toward a drawn Bishops-of-opposite-colors endgame would be there.

A more refined way of implementing the Queen swap (leading to a better pawn structure) is 15...Nd7 16.e6 Nb6 17.exf7 Qxe3+ 18.Bxe3 Nf6 and White's pawn on f7 will fall.

16.Re1 Kc8

"Come and get me, Copper!" My opponent pulls a James Cagney and challenges me to show that I have compensation for the sacrificed piece.

17.Qg3 Kb8

After the game Stockfish 8 suggested that in this position I had the equivalent of a Queen advantage. Can you see that much compensation, here? During the game I was still trying to get my sacrificed piece back.


This much is pretty clear to figure out, even with the time on my own clock ticking away...

18...Qd7 19.dxc7+ Kc8 

And now, what?

After the game, Stockfish 8 recommended 20.Ne4 (threatening the fork at d6) Bd5 21.Nc5 Qf7 22.Qd6 Nd7 23.Nxd7 Nf6 24.Nxf6 Bc6 25.Ne4, a line that I could not have imagined - White's Knight just marches in, captures two pieces, and leaves.

20.b3 Bf7

And now, what?

It is probably easier for you to see that - especially with Black's time slipping away - the idea is now for White to grab the pawn at g7, threaten the Black Rook, and let the defender do the thinking...


During the game I figured out that now 21...Bxd5 22.Nxd5 Qxd5 23.Re8+ had to be crushing, so the pawn was safe. Also, 21...Qxc7 could be answered by 22.Bf4, and again Black would have to do the figuring.

In figuring I could simply march this pawn to d6 to protect the one at c7, I simply overlooked 21.Qxg7.

21...Nf6 22.Ba3

A tactical idea! Abandoning the idea of d5-d6, which would have been playable, e.g. 22.d6 Qc6 23.Re7 Bh5 24.Bf4 N8d7 25.Qxg7.

Still, after the game Stockfish 8 preferred 22.Qxg7 Rg8 23.Qxf6


I would have been thrilled to follow the line 22...Qxc7 23.Qxc7+ Kxc7 24.Re7+ N8d7 25. Rxf7 when White's three extra pawns would be enough, in a calm and relatively simple position.

23.Re7 Nh5

Quick! I threaten his Queen, he threatens mine.


Black forfeited on time

Black's Queen can only escape danger with 24...Qxf5, when I would have played 25.Re8+ Bxe8 26.Qxe8+ Kxc7 27.Qxa8 which would have satisfied me as I would have been up two pawns.

Stockfish 8 laughs at that assessment, proclaiming a checkmate in 24 moves from that position. It sees as best play 24...Nf6 25.Rxd7 N8xd7 and I can live with that, too.  

Monday, July 17, 2017

Jerome Gambit: Bravery

I just discovered that a past post on Timo Vierjoki's blog, "64 square madness that some of us call chess" includes a game where Timo defended against the Jerome Gambit. He explores a lot of different openings on his blog, and I am glad to see the Jerome show up.

It would be even more fun if the Gambit had been successful, or if the blogger had been encouraging others to play it - but "as long as they spell your name right," right?

Hats off to the gambiteer who tried out the Jerome Gambit against someone rated 550 points higher!

Stop by. Check it out.

I am going to share the game here.

mouradrita - Vierjoki, Timo
Chess.com, 2010

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ 

4...Kxf7 5. Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.d4 Bxd4 7.Qxd4 d6 

8.O-O Nf6 9.f4 Nc6 10.Qd3 Re8 

11.Qc4+ Be6 12.Qa4 Qe7 13.b3 Bd7 14.Bb2 Qxe4 

15.Qb5 Qe3+ 16.Kh1 Qe2 17.Qxe2 Rxe2 18.Na3 a6 19.Rab1 Rae8

 20.h3 Ne4 21.Rg1 Re6 22.Kh2 Nd2 23.f5 Re8 24.Rbf1 Nxf1+ White resigned

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Jerome Gambit: BossGambler Video

Recently posted online was a video of a 5 0 game between the YouTube personality BossGambler and the Radio Shack 1850 chess computer. It is fun to watch.

The game is also presented below.

BossGambler - Radio Shack 1850
5 0 blitz, 2017

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ 

4...Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.d4 Bb4+ 7.c3 Bd6 

8.dxe5 Bxe5 9.Qh5+ Ke6 10.Qf5+ Kd6 11.f4 Qh4+

12.g3 Qf6 13.fxe5+ Qxe5 

14.Bf4 Qxf4 15.gxf4 Kc6 16.Qd5+ Kb6 17.Na3 c5 18.Qd6+ Ka5 19.Qxc5+ b5 20.Qxb5 checkmate

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Jerome Gambit: First There Is The Confusion Factor

I am reading IM Sam Collins' Gambit Busters* (Everyman Chess, 2010) with a know-your-enemy focus, and enjoyed the following, from the chapter "Escaping the Defensive Mindset"
It is well known that club players, typically, go to pieces when confronted by a gambit. Of course, for every player there are some gambit lines which they know, and perhaps their theoretical knowledge will suffice to get them to a safe position. But this won't be the case when they are confronted by an established gambit they don't know, an unusual or forgotten gambit, or where their opponent deviates from theory. 
To my mind, gambits are the situations where there is the single biggest gap between passively looking at a position at home, and facing something over the board. Skimming over an opening variation with a cup of tea, maybe Rybka muttering in the background, it all looks so straightforward - an "=" symbol (or something even more favourable), a bunch of crisp responses demonstrating the intellectual failure of our opponent's adventure. 
But at the board, things are rather different. First, there is the confusion factor...

Yes, indeed. At the level of play that the Jerome Gambit is exhibited, it is often "unusual" or "forgotten" enough to lead to success. Certainly it can lead to "confusion".

"Knowing" that the opening is refuted, looked askance at by "the book" and hooted at by computers, it must be infuriating (or embarassing) for the defender to be struggling against such a monstrosity.

I am remined of the story about chess great Aaron Nimzovich climbing on a table and bemoaning "Why must I lose to this idiot?" More recently, Bill Wall shared the scolding he received from his opponent after having the audacity to play - and win with - the Jerome Gambit. The opening is garbage, it would never work against a grandmaster, the world champion would never play such a thing...

Ah, yes. In my pre-Jerome Gambit days I would repeatedly defeat a friend who always protested "But I was winning!" I would reassure him that, yes, he was winning, right up to the point where I checkmated him.

(*I am enjoying Collins' work, and I appreciate the classic games that he chooses to illustrate his points. I was surprised, however, in the mentioned chapter, that after all that he wrote of the tribulations of "club players" he chose a game between super-Grandmasters Anand and Shirov to drive the point home.)