Saturday, September 29, 2012

It's hard to explain...

Often I find myself explaining the Jerome Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+) to people in conversations that go something like this...

So, this Jerome Gambit thing, it must be some kind of great opening that wins all the time?

Well, actually, it's known as the "worst chess opening ever".

Oh... It must make you feel sad, losing all the time with it.

In truth, I win more than 3/4 the time. Maybe, 80 - 85%.

Aha! Beating up on all those weakies, I imagine!

Sometimes I give "Jerome Gambit odds" to players weaker than me, to even things up. Sometimes I play above my head, too. Looking at the strength of my opponents, I should score maybe 60%.

But you score 80% or more? What's THAT all about?

Members of the Jerome Gambit Gemeinde become experienced in the field of "the psychology of error".

Please explain.

The simplest idea is "the ticking time bomb". Willy Hendriks explains something like it in his Move First, Think Later: Sense and Nonsense in Improving Your Chess, only, of course much better than I do. Basically, stronger players err less often than weaker players.


Think of each player having a ticking time bomb that goes off whenever he or she makes an error. Grandmaster "booms" are relatively infrequent. Beginning player "booms" are much more frequent, like a series on a snare drum.

Or ticks of a clock?

In some cases, yes. Anyhow, even after the Jerome Gambiteer has presented an opponent with the gift of a "won" position, if White can use an understanding of the tactics and strategy of the opening to delay further "booms" on that side of the board, the opponent will have a chance to chime in.

"Boom" and the game is even?

Yes, and sometimes "boom" again, and White has the advantage. Or, sometimes it's simply "boom" and White wins.

That doesn't seem like "real" chess.

Well, Grandmasters would never play the Jerome Gambit, right, but there is much truth in Andy Soltis's book Catalog of Chess Mistakes when he points out the large number of games (especially at the club level) that are "lost" rather than "won".

Ouch. What else is involved in "the psychology of error"?

There is a whole lot more. For example...

[to be continued]

Friday, September 28, 2012

Not This Time

rego - zille, blitz, FICS, 2012
How often have we seen White, in the Jerome Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+), escape into the safety of a Bishops-of-opposite-colors endgame, even down material?

Or see White use his endgame experience in those bits of murkiness to out-play his opponent in an "objectively" equal game?

Alas, this time White found no slight-of-hand available, and agreed to split the point. Pity. Perhaps the clock was ticking down, after all...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Upon Closer Examination

ethanaaron - KlassAct, standard, FICS, 2012

In the above diagram, from a recent Jerome Gambit game, we can see that Black's pieces are active and that he is a piece ahead. 

Upon closer examination, however, it appears that White can simply advance his Queen, and then take back the piece on the following move.

The game continued:


Threatening the Bishop.

"No problem," thinks Black. "There is a defense to that nasty Queen!"


However, after

32.Rd8+ Rxd8 Black resigned

It is suddenly clear that White will collect three pieces (33.Qxd8+ Kf7 34.Qxc7+ and 35.Qxb7) and be a Rook ahead.

Black should have tried something like 31...Qc5 or 31...h6, after which White would have snapped off the Bishop with 32.Qxb7 with a roughly equal game.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Just throw anything at them...

The nice thing about defending against the Jerome Gambit and its relatives is that you can defeat them by just throwing anything at them. I mean, just throw something, right? Anything?? Right???

geojim - sickduck
blitz, FICS, 2012

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.0-0 Na5 

Here we have geojim, rated about 350 points below his opponent, looking for a really quiet Giuoco Piano, when his opponent decides to mix things up in a blitz game.

Sure, White can now play 5.Nxe5 with advantage, but what if he wanted to be just as snarky as his opponent?


Ah, yes, the "Jerome treatment."

5...Kxf7 6.Nxe5+ Ke8 7.d4 Bd6 

8.Qh5+ Kf8 9.Qf7 checkmate

It's a sad, sad day when you have to take a foolish opening seriously.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Here is the latest Jerome Gambit from Bill Wall. (Notes by Bill, unless otherwise indicated.) It features a Kingside pawn storm that proves to be Black's undoing.

Wall,B - Guest154187, 2012

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ 

4...Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.Qh5+ Ng6 

7.Qd5+ Kf8 8.Qxc5+ d6 9.Qe3 Nf6 

10.0-0 Kg8 

[This move seems to be a "TN", somewhere between the 10...h6 of Wall - LC,, 2012 (1-0, 20) and the 10...Kf7 of Wall - Vijay,, 2010 (1-0, 22) - Rick]

11.Qb3+ Kf8 12.d3 Ne5 13.f4 Neg4?! 

Better seems 13...Nc6

14.h3 Nh6 15.f5 Qe7 16.g4 Nf7 17.Nc3 c6 18.g5 Nh5 19.g6 Ne5

19...Nd8 looks stronger. White cannot penetrate yet.

20.d4 Qh4?

Black tries for counterplay, but he should defend with 20...hxg6 21.dxe5 dxe5 22.fxg6+ Nf6.


To stop the 21...Qg3+ threat.  

If 21.dxe5?? then 21...Qg3+ 22.Kh1 Qxh3+ 23.Kg1 Qg3+ 24.Kh1 hxg6 threatening 25...Nf4 mate


Not 21...Nd7?? 22.Qf7#

Best is 21...Nc4 22.Qxc4 hxg6 23.fxg6+ Ke8 24.Qf7+ Kd8 25.Bf4 and White should be slightly better. 

22.Nxg3  and Black runs out of good moves and resigns. 

He could play 22...Nc4, but now White plays 23.Rf3 and wins and not 23.Qxc4?? Qxg3+ 24.Kh1 Qxh3+ 25.Qg3+ 26.Kh1 hxg6+ and Black mates.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

Play 'em Like You Got 'em

I have been playing through a number of recent miniatures played by majorminor at FICS (he has over 100 games in The  Database, going back to 2005).

Sometimes he outplays his (often higher-rated) opponent, sometimes he seemingly scares him to death.

Two examples:

majorminor - srff 
rated standard game, FICS, 2012
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ Kxf7 5.d4 exd4 6.0-0 Nf6 7.Ng5+ Kg8 8.c3 d6 9.Qb3+ Kf8 10.Qf7 checkmate

majorminor - FatTiger
rated standard game, FICS, 2012
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ Kxf7 5.d4 exd4 6.Ng5+ Ke8 7.0-0 Nf6 8.e5 Nxe5 9.Re1 Black resigned

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Poor, Poor Computer

If I told you that an online player recently challenged a computer (rated about 350 points higher than himself) to a game of chess, choosing to play an often-refuted opening and facing its best-known defense (highlighted in a brutal miniature by a master known as "the Black Death") – well, you might be inclined to say "Poor, poor human."

Oh, but you noticed: this post is titled "Poor, Poor Computer" (my emphasis).

Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of the Jerome Gambit! 

radicalmove - LuigiBot
rated standard game, FICS, 2012

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ 

4...Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.Qh5+ g6 7.Qxe5 d6 

Blackburne's Defense, made famous by the game Amateur - Blackburne, London, 1885. See "Flaws (Part I) and Flaws (Part II)".

8.Qxh8 Qh4 9.0-0 Nf6 10.Qd8 

White's 10th move was suggested shortly after the Blackburne game was played, but it did not become widely known. Most players understand the end of Black's counter-attack to be a combination of "Nobody Expects the Jerome Gambit!" and "Mars Attacks!"


This is a move that computers are fond of. See "Ionman vs the Bots" for some examples. 


Instead, 11.Nc3 was seen in the game RevvedUp - Shredder 8, blitz 2 12, 2006 (0-1, 25) from the incredible match, RevvedUp vs Hiarcs 8, Shredder 8, Yace Paderborn, Crafty 19.19 and Fritz 8. See "Jerome Gambit: Drilling Down (1)" for starters.

11...Bd7 12.d3 Qd5 13.Nc3 Qc6 14.Qxc6 Bxc6 

LuigiBot has traded off its harassed Queen, but the situation looks kind of grim in any event. White is ahead the exchange and a couple of pawns; about a piece worth of material. Quite a change from less than a dozen moves ago!

15.Be3 Re8 16.Rae1 Re6 17.Bxc5 dxc5 18.Rxe6 Kxe6 

Radicalmove is content to continue to reduce the play to a basic endgame. 

19.a3 Kf5 20.h3 h6 21.b4 cxb4 22.axb4 Kf4 23.b5 

As if the current game were not bad enough, the two combatants played another game the same day (I do not know which was played first, but it might be the longer one) with the same result: 23.Re1 Bd7 24.h4 Bc6 25.g3+ Kf5 26.d4 Ne4 27.Nxe4 Bxe4 28.c4 b6 29.c5 h5 30.cxb6 axb6 31.Ra1 Bd5 32.Ra6 b5 33.Ra5 Ke4 34.Rxb5 Kxd4 35.Rb8 Kd3 36.b5 Kd4 37.b6 Kc5 38.b7 Kd4 39.Rd8 Ke4 40.b8Q Kd4 41.Qb7 Ke5 42.Qxd5+ Kf6 43.Rd7 Black resigned, radicalmove - LuigiBot, rated standard game, FICS, 2012.

23...Bd7 24.Re1 Bf5 25.h4 Bg4 26.g3+ Kf5 27.d4 Nd7 28.Na4 Bf3 29.Nc5 Nxc5 30.dxc5 Be4 

31.c4 Ke5 32.c6 a5 33.cxb7 Kd4 34.b8Q Bf5 35.Qb6+ Kxc4 36.Qxa5 Bd3 37.Qa4+ Black resigned