Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday Book Review: Attack With the Blackmar Diemer by Guido de Bouver

The Blackmar Diemer Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.f3) is the Captain Jack Sparrow (from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies) of chess openings.

One observer will cavil that Captain Jack Sparrow is, "without doubt the worst pirate I've ever heard of," while another will gush "That's got to be the best pirate I've ever seen."

So, too, with the Blackmar Diemer Gambit as a chess opening. It inspires side-taking.

Of course, a more objective, balanced, look at the BDG, say Christoph Scheerer's recent The Blackmar-Diemer Gambit: A Modern Guide to a Fascinating Chess Opening from Everyman Chess, is bound to give a more nuanced assessment.

The link in the above paragraph is useful: it connects to a review of Scheerer's book by Tim Sawyer, who has written a number of BDG texts himself. Further, the review is hosted at Tom's BDG Pages, by Tom Purser, a BDG player and author himself, and past editor of the long-running "BDG World" magazine. 

(It's hard not to add the name of Tim McGrew to this duo, as he has written on any number of unorthodox openings including the BDG. Scheerer references all three in his book, although he makes the humorous slip of calling all of them "Tim". Sorry, Tom.)

In his review, Sawyer is impressed with Scheerer's extensive investigation of the Blackmar Diemer Gambit, noting
Scheerer lists a 3 page bibliography of major articles, books, cds, dvds, databases, periodicals and websites.
Of import is what follows
Only the excellent works from 2010 by Eric Jego and by Guido de Bouver are missing.
Which brings us to the subject of today's review, one of those "excellent works", Attack With the Blackmar Diemer by Guido de Bouver, sub-titled A Computer Analysis of the Teichmann, Gunderam, O'Kelly and Vienna lines in the Blackmar Diemer gambit.

For those not so familiar with the BDG, that means 1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.f3 exf3 (or 4...c6, O'Kelly; or 4...Bf5, Vienna) 5.Nxf3 Bg4 (or 5...Bf5, Gunderam) Teichmann. 

I have to admit to a moment of unease when I first read that phrase "A Computer Analysis".

I know that no serious modern day opening analyst (or, as in the case of the Jerome Gambit, an un-serious opening analyst) dares to venture into a forest of variations without a silicon sabre at his (or her) side if only for clearing out unnecessary foliage and laying bare the main pathways.

Yet my experience with Gary M. Danelishen's fantastic and massive The Final Theory of Chess, to give one example, is that computers can lay open the minds of chess openings, at the risk of impoverishing their souls. That Danelishen placed the Blackmar Diemer Gambit at the center of his White piece repertoire is bold and energetic; but, coming away from the work I was far more likely to yell "amortize those non-convertible debentures, if you would" than sing out "Yo! Ho! Ho! and a bottle of rum!"

I shouldn't have worried. Writes de Bouver
The great majority of chess books assume you know how to keep your pieces safe. Thus, almost all popular chess books are filled with grandiose and subtle strategies to obtain a small positional advantage. As you glance through this book, you will realize that this opening and this book is different. It's about tactics and how a computer deals with them. It doesn't cover subtle positional play, something the average chess player doesn't understand, anyway – it's about the core business of chess – how to get an attack against the enemy king!
I like that.

I've complained elsewhere on this blog that while my best friend, Rybka 3, can spot a tactical shot from over the hill and far away, too often it makes suggestions in a supposedly quiescent position that look like "tweak, adjust, nudge, modify, align..." and I despair of it ever understanding an unbalanced (in all senses of the word) chess opening.

In Attack With the Blackmar Diemer, the human is driving the computer, not the other way around. Score one for de Bouver.

Here are the contents of Attack With the Blackmar Diemer:


1. Introduction     5
1.1. The Blackmar Diemer gambit     5
1.2. About this series and book     11
1.3. Isn't this refuted ?     13
1.4. The Teichmann defense     20
1.5. The Teichmann Exchange defense     22
1.6. The Gunderam defense     25
1.7. The O'Kelly defense     27
1.8. The Vienna defense     31
1.9. Blackmar Diemer versus Smith Morra     32
1.10. Does the Blackmar Diemer win by force ?     34
2. Teichmann defense     36
2.1. The main line     37
2.2. Variations from main line on move 9     51
2.3. Bennett's temptation     58
2.4. Variations from main line on move 8     61
3. Teichmann Exchange defense     67
3.1. 7th move variations     68
3.2. A delayed Ryder gambit     70
3.3. The normal development     72
3.4. Limiting the scope of the g pawn     83
4. Gunderam defense     85
4.1. 6th move variations     86
4.2. Caro Kann reply     88
4.3. Teichmann transpositions     97
4.4. 7th move variations     112
5. O'Kelly defense     117
5.1. Alternate main line     118
5.2. Main line     131
5.3. Critical O'Kelly position     141
5.4. 7th moves variations     144
5.5. The power of the Blackmar Diemer     146
6. Vienna variation     149
6.1. Capturing with the knight     150
6.2. Unzicker variation     151
6.3. Capturing with the bishop     154
7. Summary

After an Introduction (including a Preface and a page of References [score another one for the author] which did not make it to the Content table) the author continues with some information about Armand Edward Blackmar, the American player who developed the Blackmar Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.f3), and Emil Josef Diemer, who enlivened the gambit with the interpolation of 3.Nc3 before offering the f-pawn.

Mention is also made of Dr. Ryder, whose gambit (1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.f3 exf3 5.Qxf3!?) first enthralled Diemer, and Ignatz von Popiel, who advocated development of the dark-squared White Bishop instead of the offer of the f-pawn (1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5).

As the Contents indicate, early chapters discuss each defense and give an outline of the play that develops. Later chapters give deeper analysis and evaluations that are less wordy. This format works nicely.

The author does not cover every move and line for White, only those which provide him with the best chances for success. It's still quite a lot to keep the first player busy.

de Bouver is most sure about White's chances against the Teichmann defenses, and suggests that a well-prepared defender using the O'Kelly defense is likely to give White the most difficulty (with the Vienna and Gunderam defenses fitting in between the two). It is clear that he is dedicated to the BDG, but he does not allow his fervor to over-ride a sense of balance.

Attack With the Blackmar Diemer tackles the "playability" of the opening on several levels: first, by identifying the traditional "refutations" and giving lines of play against them; second, by alerting the reader to the fact that the opening needs a certain amount of upkeep and updating, lest White lose his edge and tumble off a thin and winding path; and last, by returning to the real world of over-the-board chess play of those who are likely to be using the book
Of course, if black takes the f-pawn, defends like Karpov and plays the endgame like Capablanca, then the proposed move... will not help the attacker, but then again, if you are really facing that kind of opponents, why are you reading this book? From the analyzed lines below, it shows that the attacker obtains dynamic compensation in every line for the offered pawn – which should satisfy every gambiteer...
So to answer the eternal question "Isn't that refuted?", every gambiteer should be happy to answer "Of course", and roll out a new baffling variation with a big smile on his face.
It is this kind of energy and bravado that caused IM Gary Lane, in one of his "Opening Lanes" columns at, to note
The good news is that [Guido de Bouver] apparently plans to publish a book on the BDG... My advice if you have a love of the opening is to seek it out and buy it at the first opportunity.
That is a strong endorsement, coming from someone who has written a book on the Blackmar Diemer Gambit himself!

As someone who has played the BDG for decades (and still play it, if someone wants to avoid my Jerome Gambit by playing 1...d5 to my 1.e4 – I counter with 2.d4!?) I happily recommend Attack With the Blackmar Diemer as well. It's a decision as easy as offering the f-pawn.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your nice words on my book - comparing the blackmar diemer with pirate jack Sparrow is a funny - but maybe a correct comparison.

anyway, thanks for your work.