Saturday, June 1, 2013

Ask Houdini

A while back I bought Houdini 3, and have been enjoying its assessments, having placed it next to Rybka 3 as an analysis partner.

For fun, I set up the original Jerome Gambit sacrifice (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ Kxf7) and asked Houdini the best follow-up for White. Not surprising, after 3 hours of "infinite analysis" it chose the classical 5.Nxe5+ as its top line, but only about a quarter of a pawn behind that move were 5.c3 and 5.d3.

Checking The Database, I noticed there were 1040 games with 5.c3, and White scored 44% with it. By comparison, there were 842 games with 5.d3, and White scored 31%. (There were 4165 games with 5.Nxe5+, with White scoring 54%)

I again challenged my silicon assistant, how to follow up after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5, and after 3 hours of "infinite analysis" it chose 6.Qh5+ (heading for the "boring defense"), but only by a bit less than a half-pawn over 6.d4.

There were 2,886 games with 6.Qh5+, with White scoring 55%, versus 1,075 games with 6.d4, with White scoring 50%.

Allowing for all the cautions associated with statistics, and there are many, I think it's time for me to take a closer look at 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ Kxf7 5.c3, and maybe give a second glance at 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.d4.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Jerome Gambit: Winning Strategy #1

The following game illustrates the Number One "winning strategy" for the Jerome Gambiteer, what I like to call "Lose Slowly"; to which my son Jon, no stranger to the Jerome added, "Give your opponent time to make a mistake."

perrypawnpusher - trombose

blitz, FICS, 2013

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ 

4...Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.Qh5+ Ke6 7.Qf5+ Kd6 8.f4 Nc6

This is one of a number of ways for Black to return a piece (see "Chances", "Follow Your Friends", "No Need to Get a Big Head" and "Charlatan" for others), that, while not "best", still leaves him with an advantage.


This move is an improvement over 9.e5+,  which was seen in Superpippo - MattMeister, FICS, 2002 (1-0, 60) and Ghandybh - ishahir,, 2009 (1-0, 17), the only precedents for 8...Nc6 in The Database.

9... Ke7 10.Qxc5+ d6 11.Qe3 

After the game, Houdini 3 suggested 11.Qf2 as another way of retreating the Queen.

11...Nf6 12.O-O Rf8 13.e5 

Probably premature.

13...Ng4 14.exd6+ Kxd6 

15.Qa3+ Kd7 16.Nc3 

I tend to get lost in these nebulous positions. After the game, Houdini 3 suggested 16.h3 Nf6 17.Rf3!? with the kind of attacking ideas your can find in Bill Wall's games.


A Queen exchange will blunt White's "attack", and there is little that I can do - so I try to ignore it. Curiously, for a while, so does my opponent.

17.Qa4 Qb4 18.h3 Nf6 19.b3 Qd4+ 20.Kh1 

As will be seen, 20.Kh2 was more prudent.

20...a6 21.Bb2 Qxa4 22.Nxa4 Nb4 


More to the point was the tactical skirmish, 23.Ba3 a5 24.c3 Ne4 25.Rfe1 Rxf4 26.cxb4 axb4 27.Bxb4 Nf2+ 28.Kg1 Nxh3+ 29.gxh3

Rxb4, when Black would have a slight edge.

23...b6 24 d4 Nd3 25.Bc3 Nh5 26.Bd2 

Focusing on trapping Black's Knight, I overlooked the loss of the exchange.

26...Ng3+ 27.Kg1 Nxf1 28.Rxf1 c5 

Instead, 28...Bb7, which must have been on Black's mind (perhaps he was spending too much time wondering what I was up to, or how he was going to retrieve his Knight), would have steadied his winning game - a Rook up.


Correct was 29.Nxb6+, as White actually needs his Bishop to help his own Knight escape, when Black's edge would be minimal.

Both my opponent and I were suffering from "nerves" at this point.

29...Nb4 30.Bxb4 

Same criticism as above:  30.Nxb6+ was a better move, and winning.

30...cxb4 31.Nxb6+ Black resigned

Black must have been discouraged, seeing himself drop the exchange, as I had, earlier. The fact is, after 31...Kc6 32.Nxa8 Kb7 (or 32...Bf5) Black will gather in White's Knight, and, with a piece for three pawns, the game would be dynamically equal.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013



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Sunday, May 26, 2013

One Step Ahead

I remember that in the first years that I played chess, I would occasionally checkmate an opponent, only to hear him say, "It's a good thing that you did, because I was going to checkmate you the next move," as if that were going to come as a surprise to me - like the many bogus chess games on TV or in the movies that end with one player announcing "Check" only to have the other one surprise him completely with "Check and mate".

In the following game, Black has a similar "consolation."

Wall,B - Josti, 2013

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ 

4...Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.Qh5+ Kf8 

The Jerome Defense to the Jerome Gambit.

7.Qxe5 Qe7 8.Qf4+ Qf6 9.Qg3 

As Bill notes, not 9.Qxc7? Qxf2+ 10.Kd1 d6 

9...d6 10.Nc3 Ne7 11.0-0 Be6 12.d3 Kf7

Black prepares to castle-by-hand, holding the advantage. It is up to White to provide enough mischief to make a game of it.

13.Bg5 Qg6 14.Nb5 Bb6 15.Kh1 Rhf8 16.c4 

16...Nc6 17.c5 dxc5 18.Nxc7 Bxc7 19.Qxc7+ Kg8 20.Qxb7 


Bill suggests 20...Nb4 21.Bd2 Nxd3 as better.

21.f4 h6 22.Bh4 Qg4?! 

Black sees the opportunity of either grabbing a pawn or turning White's Bishop into a large pawn. There was more heat in 22...Rfb8 23.Qc7 Rxb2. 

23.Bg3 Ne2 24.Rf3 

It looks for all the world like Black is attacking - and he is. Now, however, he overlooks a critical line.


Instead, Houdini 3 shows the road to advantage for Black, but it is a surprisingly rocky one, and a Jerome Gambit player might not be at all unhappy with the resulting position for White: 24...Rfb8 25.Qc7 Rxb2 26.f5 Rxa2 27.Rxa2 Nxg3+ 28.hxg3 Bxa2 29.Qb7 Re8 30.Qxa7 Bf7 31.Qxc5 Rb8 32.Qc2 Qg5 33.Kh2 Ra8. 

25.Rxg3 Qxf4 

Threatening mate with 26...Qf1+ 27. Rxf1 Rxf1 mate, but...

26.Qxg7 checkmate

("I was winning," an opponent once told me in one of my games; and I agreed, "You were, right up until the point where you resigned."

graphic by Jeff Bucchino, the Wizard of Draws