Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Verdun Gambit (Part 2)

From the chess column of the Western Mail  of Perth, Australia,  Friday, November 9, 1917 (page 26) titled "THE JEROME GAMBIT" we continue the tale of "The Verdun Gambit" started last post.

As before, I have added diagrams and changed the notation from descriptive to algebraic - Rick.

Our readers will recollect that some months ago we published an account of how the Veteran played the "Verdun" Gambit against the Exile and got badly beaten.

The opening moves of this gambit are as follow

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ 

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

This is really the Jerome Gambit, and it was only the Veteran's facetiousness that dubbed it the "Verdun."

Memories of this great conflit have been recalled by the receipt of the following remarks from a valued correspondent, who modestly hides his identity under the nom-de-plume of "Subscriber." He says:  "In connection with one of the games you published which was played at Boans, I wish to ask you if, in your opinion, that opening is not good enough? White has a piece and two pawns in
exchange for two pieces, and the two pawns he has are most important ones, and Black's position is, I think, unpleasantly broken up. Your opinion will much oblige." 

Although the Jerome Gambit is well worth playing occasionally in
offhand games, there is no recorded instance of its having been tried in any important tourney.The reason for this is obvious; White gives up a piece for two pawns but he does not gain, a compensating attack and must lose with anything like accurate play on the part of Black.

The chief book line of play is as follows:

6...Ke6 7.Qf5+ Kd6 8.d4 Bxd4 9.Na3 c6 10.c3 Qf6 11.cxd4 Qxf5
12.exf5 Nf7 13.Bf4+ Ke7

And Black, with a piece for a pawn, has the best of the deal.

In our opinion Black's simplest and best defense is 


when the play might proceed 

7.Qd5+ Ke8 8.Qxc5 d6 9.Qc3 Nf6 10.d3

"Cook's Synopsis" says that White has now some attack for his lost
pieces. He has a fine unbroken array of pawns, but he can hardly hope to win.

[I am not sure how "important" a tournament would have to be to satisfy the columnist, but if the Australian Open is important enough, then about 100 years after the above column was printed in Western Mail, "Cliff Hardy" played the Jerome Gambit and won there with it. - Rick]

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Verdun Gambit (Part I)

The Jerome Gambit is not always called the Jerome Gambit. For example, many years ago George Koltanowski saw an example of it in action, and named it "the Ashcan Opening".

So I was not too surprised to find the following chess column in the Friday, July 13, 1917 issue of Western Mail (page 33) of Perth, Australia, entitled "THE VERDUN GAMBIT".

I have added diagrams and changed the notation from descriptive to algebraic - Rick (By the way, Boans was the name of a department store established by Harry and Benjamin Boans.)

All sorts and conditions of men foregather in the cosy corner so kindly provided by Messrs. Boans Bros. for players of chess and draughts.  Some ponder long over their moves, with much wrinkling of brows, whilst others shift the wood with such rapidity that their arms must ache, rather than their heads. There are two incorrigible skittlers - one a grizzled veteran, who keeps up a running fire of irrelevant remarks, whilst the other is popularly regarded as a youthful master who fled from his native land to avoid arrest as a political prisoner.  Writer watched them one day, and this is what he saw -

The Old Hand - The Exile
Boans, 1917

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ 

4...Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.Qh5+ 

At this point the Exile looked up, slightly dazed, and asked -"What do you call this opening?"

"Oh, this is the Verdun Gambit" replied the Old 'Un,"so called because its very hot whilst it lasts, but the defence must win in the end, if no mistakes are made."

The pair played several games beginning with the Verdun attack,
and oftener than not, the attack won.

But now for the sequel, M. Russki looked over the books, and found that the opening was really known as the Jerome Gambit.  More than this, he came across an instance in which a certain rash amateur had the temerity to play the opening against Blackburne.

It chanced that I was present when the pair again met, and they opened in the usual fashion, as given above. Now, mark what happened!

6...g6 7.Qxe5 d6 8.Qxh8 Qh4 9.O-O Nf6 10.c3 Ng4

At this stage the Veteran began to wear a worried look.

11.h3 Bxf2+ 12.Kh1 Bf5 13.Qxa8 Qxh3+ 14.gxh3 Bxe4 checkmate

Amidst the breathless suspense of the onlookers, the Veteran growled: "Absurd, let's try that again.

"By all means," chirped his opponent. And they tried it again, not once, but two or three times, and on each occasion the Exile came through with flying colours, to the undisguised disgust of the Veteran.

I met the latter in the street a day or two later, and asked innocently "Have you discovered the answer yet to Blackburne's counter-attack?"

"Answer," he snorted, "Why any kid of six could see that all White has to do is to play d4, at move 10. Wait till I meet Russki tomorrow."

I heard afterwards that when the pair met on the following day the Exile opened every game with the Queen's Gambit, and that the Veteran was in serious danger of having an apoplectic stroke. This I believe to be a piece of baseless calumny. The Veteran told me in confidence the other day that he'd got one or two new moves up his  sleeve which would astonish young Russki considerably at their next meeting. I am still wondering if anything happened.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Another Charlick Gambit

Henry Charlick was known for his gambit 1.d4 e5!?, (also known as the Englund Gambit). That was not his only sacrificial creation, however. One is reminiscent of a reversed Jerome Gambit.

From the Adelaide Observer, Saturday, June 14, 1884 (page 44) column CHESS, "Chess in Adelaide". Notes are from the column, changed from descriptive notation to algebraic notation. Diagrams have been added.

Appended are two [see previous post for Charlick - Cooke, Adelaide Chess Club, 1884, a Jerome Gambit - Rick] of a series of even games now being contested between Messrs. H. Charlick and W. Cooke, of the Adelaide Chess Club. The notes are by Mr. E. Govett, of the Semaphore Chess club.

Cooke, W. - Charlick, H.
Adelaide Chess Club, 1884

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Bc5!

The Charlick Gambit. This move will probably not more surprise our readers than it did Mr. Cooke. No walnut shells are needed. Mr. Cooke humourously dabbed this "alarming sacrifice" the " Charlick Gambit."

[The line is also known by the modern name the Busch-Gass Gambit, although Salvio's analysis of the line, from Il Puttino, altramente detto, il Cavaliero Errante, del Salvio, sopra el gioco de Scacchi, dates back to 1604. After a further 3.Nxe5 Nc6 it is known as Chiodini's Gambit. The similarity to a reversed Jerome Gambit is noted. - Rick] 

3.Nxe5 Bxf2+!!

"Let shining charity adorn your soul."

4.Kxf2 Qh4+ 5.g3 Qxe4 6.Nf3 Nf6 

7.Qe2 d5 8.Qxe4+

This must have placed Black in the same uncomfortable position as the woman who - 
Before her face her handkerchief she spread  
To hide the flood of tears - she did not shed.

8...dxe4 9.Nd4 O-O


He should stop the range of the N. 

10...Ng4+ 11.Ke2 f5 12.h3

Somewhat weakening. He should develop his pieces quickly.

12...Ne5 13.d3 c5 14.Nb5 Nbc6 15.dxe4

The Black pawns have a sinister look, but there is nothing immediately dangerous about them if White's position is assisted by Be3, Nd2, and so on. Taking the P only opens out Black's game. 

15...a6 16.Nc7 Nd4+ 17. Kd2 Ra7 18.Na3 b5 19.c3 Ndc6 

20.Nd5 fxe4 21.Ke3 b4 22.Nc2 Nc4+ 23.Kxe4 Rb7!!


Out of the frying-pan (...Bf5+) into the fire (an exquisite little mate in two). 24.Bf4 would have enabled him to hold out a little longer.

And Black mates in two moves. Time, 80 minutes.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Jerome Gambit: Overlooking Something in the Notes

When presenting a chess game, it is easy to overlook something in a suggested line. Modern annotators have the help of computer chess engines, but 130 years ago, they were, of course, not available.

From the Adelaide Observer, Saturday, June 14, 1884 (page 44) column CHESS, "Chess in Adelaide". Notes from the column, by Mr. E. Govett, of the Semaphore Chess club, have been changed from descriptive notation to algebraic notation. Diagrams have been added.- Rick

Charlick, H. - Cooke, W.
Adelaide Chess Club, 1884


This is a sacrifice of the same kind as that in the previous game
[Cooke - Charlick, Adelaide, 1884, a Charlick Gambit, see next blog post - Rick]. It is a sacrifice of sound chess to benevolence.

1...e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ 

4...Kxf7 5.Nxe5+

This is good after the fourth more. White obtains two Pawns for his piece, and has withal a fairly open position. 

5...Nxe5 6.Qh5+ Ng6 7.Qd5+ Ke8 8.Qxc5 b6 9.Qe3 Bb7 

10.d4 Nf6 11.Nc3 Qe7! 12.O-O 

We prefer 12.f3, as by the text White lays himself open to the loss of a Pawn or two with no compensating advantage. 


But Black does not avail himself of it. He should play 12...Nxe4 when one of the two following continuations would probably follow 13.Nxe4 (13.Nb5 0-0 [the columnist forgets that Black can no longer castle - Rick] 14.Nxc7 Rac8 15.Nb5 Rxf2 with a fine game [I have corrected move numbers - Rick. The Saturday June 21, 18814 CHESS column in the Adelaide Observer - the next week - noted "In the Jerome Gambit, published last week, the note to Black's 12th move should have had the moves numbered 12, 13, 14, &c., instead of 16, 17, 18, &c." There was no correction, however, about the suggestions to castle - Rick] 13... Bxe4 14.c4 0-0 and he should win [But Black is still unable to castle - Rick]. 

13.Qg3 Nf6 14.Bg5 d6 

Disastrous. He should play 14...Qf7

15.e5 dxe5 16.dxe5 Nxe5 17.Rfe1 Qf7 18.Rxe5+ 

And finishes off with no difficulty. 

18...Kf8 19.Rae1 Qg6 20.Nb5 Rd8 21.Nxc7 Kf7 

22.Qb3+ Nd5 23.Nxd5 Bxd5 24.Rxd5 Rxd5 25.Qxd5+ Kf8 

White mates in two moves.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Jerome Gambit: Balderdash

Not everything that I have discovered in my recent forays into historical research has been of enduring value.

For example, the "CHESS" column ("Conducted by A. G. Johnson") of The Oregon Daily Journal  of Portland, Oregon, for  October 25, 1914 (page 29) has the following
Of the many chess openings in vogue, two are particularly interesting because they are of American origin. The "Jerome Gambit" was first developed in Cincinnati about 40 years ago. S. A. Charles of that city made a thorough analysis of the opening and met with great success in playing the "Jerome" against prominent players. Even Steinitz, then in the zenith of his career as world's champion succumbed in his first attempt to defend the gambit. Although the opening is theoretically unsound, and involves the sacrifice of two pieces for two pawns, the adversary's king is displaced and drawn into the center of the board where all kinds of complications may arise. The following variation of the Jerome, which is rather favorable to white, reveals some of the possibilties of the gambit: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.Qh5+ Ke6 7.Qf5+ Kd6 8.d4 Bxd4 9.Na3 Ne7 10.Qh3 Qf8 11.Nb5+ Kc5 12.Nxd4 Kxd4 13.Qe3+ Kc4 14.a4 with slight advantage to white.
Where to begin??

Of course, the Jerome Gambit was "first developed" 40 years before the ODJ column was written, by Alonzo Wheeler Jerome of Paxton, Illinois, having published his first analysis of the "New Chess Opening" in the April 1874 issue of the Dubuque Chess Journal.

S. A. Charles, of the Cincinnati, Ohio, Chess Club, wrote opening analyses, first for the Cincinnati Commercial Gazette, then later for the Pittsburgh Telegraph. It is in the latter newspaper that in 1881 he presented his examination of the Jerome Gambit, which later found itself in different chess magazines (e.g. the October 1881 issue of Brentano's Chess Monthly) and opening books (e.g. Cook's Synopsis of Chess Openings, 3rd edition, 1882).
In 16 years of researching and analyzing the gambit, I have not uncovered any game examples (or references) of Charles meeting "with great success" while playing the Jerome Gambit "against prominent players"- or any games of his with the gambit at all. I have found a half-dozen correspondence games where Charles defended against the Jerome Gambit - played by Alonzo Wheeler Jerome. Of course, it is possible that there is much more to be discovered, and I have missed it all, but, still...
By the way, it can be fairly said that Charles regularly acknowledged his games and exchanges of ideas with Jerome; it was only the passage of time that seems to have stripped the inventor's name from certain analyses of his invention.

I was absolutely gobsmacked by columnist conductor A. G. Johnson's contention that Steinitz, "in the zenith of his career as world's champion" actually "succumbed in his first attempt to defend the gambit." With all due respect to Blackburne, whose Queen sacrifice leading to checkmate is probably the best known repudiation of the Jerome Gambit, and to Emanuel Lasker, who - I recently discovered - summarily dispatched the Jerome Gambit in a simultaneous display, a loss by a reigning world champion (not to mention a defensive genius) to the Jerome would be one of the most amazing (and horrible) master games played to date. (There was a note in the Oregon Daily Journal that Johnson, after two years of work, was going to be stepping down after 100 columns, so there is always the possibility that his Steinitz story was a parting little joke; although it did not read that way.)

The analysis that Johnson presents in his column goes back to Freeborough and Ranken's Chess Openings, Ancient and Modern, 1st edition, (1889), although he is more likely to have had the 3rd edition (1903, reprinted 1905) lying around. The move 11.Nb5+ is an improvement over Jerome's 11.0-0 in his analysis in the January 1875 issue of the Dubuque Chess Journal. The concluding evaluation, "slight advantage to white" is too modest - White has a forced checkmate in 6 moves. (It was Black's faulty 10th move that reversed his fortunes.)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Jerome Gambit: Historical Precedent

My historical discoveries continue...

From the Western Mail, Thursday, March 31, 1932 (page 12) chess column, noting
THE JEROME GAMBIT.A good specimen of the little-known Jerome Gambit, played at Norwich. 
[Move notation changed to algebraic; notes remain in the article's descriptive format; diagrams added - Rick]

Temple, W. - Thornton, F.
Norwich, 1932

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Bc5 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.Bxf7+ 

4...Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.Qh5+ Ke6

Black could interpose Kt when White would ch at Q 5 and then take B. This gambit is, of course, unsound, but productive of brilliant play against a weaker opponent.

7.Qf5+ Kd6 8.f4 Qf6


9.fxe5+ Qxe5 10.Qf3 c6

Weak. Kt to KB3 was the proper move.


White finishes prettily.

11...g5 12.c3 Qf6 13.Qg3+ Ke6 14.Rf1 Qe5 15.Qg4+ Ke7 16.Bxg5+ Ke8 17.Qh5 checkmate

[A couple of additions:

The game begins the same as Jerome - Shinkman, Iowa, 1874, (0-1, 21), according to the July 1874 issue of the Dubuque Chess Journal (the earliest example that I have of Jerome playing his gambit) although in that earlier game Black varied with 10...Nf6.

The Temple - Thornton game had been anticipated. The Chess Player's Chronicle of November 10, 1886 (p. 116)  quoting from the "Leeds Mercury", gave identical moves, noting
A brilliant specimen of the Jerome Gambit, played on the 16th September 1886, between Messrs J Keeble and J W Cubitt, two strong amateurs of Norwich.
"All is new that has been forgotten."]

Monday, December 18, 2017

Jerome Gambit History Tidbits

A few of my recent Jerome Gambit discoveries...

Amateur - Blackburne, London, 1884
Stumbling over the infamous Jerome Gambit game Amateur - Blackburne, London in the Australian Town and Country Journal (Saturday, March 21, 1885, page 31) I found another comment that supported 1884 as the year of the game (as if there needed to be more than Dr. Tim Harding's words from the English Chess Forum, which I presented in "Jerome Gambit: Dr. Harding Checks In")
We reprint from the Adelaide Observer...The following affair occurred to the great blindfold player a few months ago in London... 
But the best part was the columnist's comment on the stunning move 4.Bxf7+: "So early in the morning!"

Emanuel Lasker, columnist
The Evening Post: New York  from Wednesday, November 30, 1910, (page 11) had Emanuel Lasker's "CHESS AND CHESS PLAYERS" column, including the following news
...At the rooms of the Rice Chess Club in the Cafe Boulevard, the team representing the Temple Chess Club of the Baptist Temple of Brooklyn encountered the team Stuyvesant High School, and, although handicapped by the absence of two players, causing forfeiture on two boards, the Brooklyn players carried off the victory by the score of 3 points to 2... The Temple Chess Club players had the white pieces on the odd-numbered boards. The Jerome gambit, king's bishop opening, and French defence were adopted at the last three boards...
Although the copy of the paper is at times difficult to make out, it appears that Board 3 was a match between E. E. Brodhead of the Temple C.C. and Gadiowitz of Stuyvesant H.S., with Brodhead's Jerome Gambit carrying the day. I have not yet discovered the game.

It should be recalled that Lasker, responding to a letter to “Our Question Box” in the March 1906 issue of Lasker’s Chess Magazine had already said his peace about the opening 
No; the Jerome gambit is not named after St. Jerome. His penances, if he did any, were in atonement of rather minor transgressions compared with the gambit.

Emanuel Lasker, Simultaneous Exhibition 
The Observer (Adelaide) of Saturday, December 29, 1906 (page 49) has in its CHESS column, under CHESS NOTES, the following
Simultaneous Chess. - Lasker, playing at Pittsburg, Pa., lately, out of 28 games won 24, drew 2, and lost 2, a fine score of 25-3. The openings adopted were varied - Sicilian Defence 3, Centre Gambit 5, Petroff 1, Evans 4, Four Knights 2, Vienna 1, Jerome 1, King's Knight 1, King's Gambit 5, French 2, Allgaier 2 and only 1 Ruy Lopez.

It would seem that the source of Observer column was the October 18, 1906 (page 9) Pittsburgh Press article titled "DR. LASKER PLAYED 26 GAMES OF CHESS AT ONCE.  He Succeeded in Winning 22 of Them and Drawing 2." It is unclear why the two news reports differ in the number of games reported being played and won; and the Pittsburgh Press names 27 club members who were seated against Lasker, so apparently at least one board was covered by two players.

The Jerome Gambit (neither a win nor a draw for White) was played by E. H. Miller. (This is likely Emlen Hare Miller, who, a decade later, had a win [opening unknown] against Frank J. Marshall in a simultaneous exhibition.)

Of note
Before the contest began Lasker made an address on "The Game of Chess and the Game of Life," which was highly appreciated by his listeners.
How I would love to discover how Lasker defended against the Jerome Gambit!
Beware, chess students, the dreaded Jerome Gambit
The Telegraph (Brisbane) of Saturday, December 14, 1929, (page 13) had a "CHESS" column that gave the Jerome Gambit a greater sense of scariness than I had realized it had ever projected   
Chess students are early taught to watch out for the dreaded Jerome Gambit, an attack however that owes its success mainly to the inexperience of the attacked. Unsound it undoubtedly is, but white obtains a ferocious offensive requiring on the part of black the very greatest care. An ounce of practice, we are told, is worth a ton of theory, so the following game in the case isoffered. It is a win by the famous Blackburne with the black; of course it is not given to us all to be Blackburne...

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Jerome Gambit: Adding to History of a Gem

My chess researches recently took me to The Maitland Weekly Mercury, of New South Wales, Australia, for Saturday, November 18, 1899 (page 6)
The following brief and dashing game is interesting, as an example of the attack which this very unsound opening gives when the defence is rather weakly played. D. Y. M. is, no doubt, Mr. D. Y. Mills, the Scotch champion. 

D.Y.M. - Anonymous, 1899

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ 

4...Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.Qh5+ Ke6 

7.Qf5+ Kd6 8.b4 Bxb4 9.c3 Ba5 10.Ba3+ c5 

11.Bxc5+ Kxc5 12.Qxe5+ Kb6 13.Qd6+ Kb5 14.a4+ Kc4 15.Qd5 checkmate.

This gem is obviously the game "Played recently at a Garden Party given to the Edinburgh Chess players" according to The Newcastle Courant, Saturday, September 9, 1899 p.2 - see "Research: British Newspaper Archive (2)". The 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Jerome Gambit: Black is Better, It Will Not Last

"I was beating you," my chessfriend would lament, years ago.

"Right up until the point I checkmated you," I would counter.

Back then I had not yet encountered the Jerome Gambit, but I was already familiar with its dynamics.

As in the following game...

Wall, Bill -Guest624070, 2017

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

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

Here we have a standard Jerome Gambit position. There are 357 game examples in The Database. White scores 44%.

It is relevant to note, however, that Bill is 42-3-3 (91%) in games with this position (and has a draw with the Black pieces). This compares favorably with his 92% scoring in 405 games for the Jerome Gambit in general.

Next to skill, experience is a positive factor in playing the obscure Jerome Gambit.


Frequently experimenting, Bill tries out something new. (Not surprisingly, the only other game with this line in The Database was his.) He has also played Alonzo Wheeler Jerome's 8.Nc3 and 8.0-0.

8...Nf6 9.b3

If White's Knight is going to d2, it makes sense that his Bishop will go to b2 - but not always: 9.O-O Rf8 10.Re1 Be6 11.f4 Nc6 12.Qc3 Kg8 13.Nf3 Bg4 14.Qb3+ Kh8 15.Ng5 Qd7 16.f5 h6 17.Ne6 Rfe8 18.Qxb7 Na5 19.Qxc7 Nc6 20.Bf4 Ne5 21.Qxd7 Nfxd7 22.Nc7 Black resigned, Wall,B - Guest2467942, 2017.

9...Nc6 10.Qc3 Re8 11.Bb2 Kg8 12.O-O Qe7 

White is ready to begin advancing his "Jerome pawns." His Rooks are linked and plan on working on the center files.

Black is better, but that often is the case in the beginning in the Jerome Gambit. It will not last. 

13.f4 d5 14.Rae1 d4

Bill notes the threat along the a1-h8 diagonal: 14...Nxe4 15.Nxe4 dxe4 16.Rxe4 Qxe4? 17.Qxg7 checkmate.

15.Qd3 Qd7

16.Nf3 Nb4 

"I can resist everything except temptation" said Oscar Wilde.

Black spoils his position and drops a piece by pestering White's Queen. The first player cannot count on that always happening, but he needs to be ready to recognize it, when it does.

17.Qc4+ Nbd5 18.exd5 Rxe1 19.Rxe1 Nxd5

Black has returned the sacrificed piece, and is temporarily level in material. However, he is lagging in development, including the typical Jerome defender lament: his light-squared Bishop is blocked in on its home square, and in turn restricts his Rook.

He should have played 19...Qxd5, even at the cost of allowing 20.Qxc7.


Instead of grabbing the d-pawn, White appears to assembling a Kingside assault, whereas he actually threatens 21.Qxd5+ Qxd5 22.Re8 mate


Missing the point. After 20...c6 21.Qxd4 Nf6 White would simply be better, a pawn up; but the game would continue, and Black could even harbor visions of a Bishops-of-opposite-colors endgame.

21.Qxd5+ Black resigned

The simple threat is 21...Qxd5 22.Re8 checkmate.

The second point is that if Black defends by moving his King with 21...Kh8, White can offer the Queen a different way, while threatening mate: 22.Qf5. There is only 22...Qxf5 23.Re8+ Qf8 24.Rxf8 mate, or 22...Kg8 23.Qxh7+ Kf8 24.Qh8+.