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.

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