Saturday, March 10, 2018

Jerome Gambit: The Science of the Draw?! (Part 2)

[continued from previous post]

Part 1, the last post, ended with my computer assistant, Stockfish 9, in a rage at foolish human behavior...

In the above position I captured Black's Knight on d5. The silicon choice for White was, instead, 17.Qh3+!?, preferring to capture the Bishop after 17...Kb8 with 18.Rxf7. This doesn't gain a pawn immediately, as Black has 18...Nb4 19.Nc3 Nc2 20.Rb1 Qd4+ 21.Kh1 Qxc4. 

Analysis diagram

Stockfish 9 now sees White as almost 4 pawns better - it took me a while to see that it does not think that Black's Knight on c2 will escape. Yet the computer rates lines without the mischief-making 18...Nb4 followed by 19...Nc2 as even worse.

By the way, in the analysis diagram the Knight at e7 is not hanging, due to the threat of checkmate at f1. White's best is 22.e6!? - but then I am back trying to figure out why the first player is "clearly" winning.

Oh, well, back to the game. From the first diagram on this page:

perrypawnpusher - Krisstianes_017

"Italian Battleground",, 2018

17.cxd5 Bxd5 18.Nc3 Bc6 

White's development is better, but he has that nagging pawn on e5 that looks more weak than strong. Stockfish 9 sees an advantage for the first player after 19.Qh3+!? Kb8 20.Be3 b6 21.e6!? but, during the game, I didn't see it - and began to look for a draw. Clearly a failure of nerve!

Consider that: the "psychology" of the Jerome Gambit had been turned on its head. Again, props to Krisstianes_017.

19.Qg5 Ng6 

My opponent is no fool. His King will be safer after an exchange of Queens, even if his Rook is still trapped at a8.


This is silly, but according to my plan.

20...Rxd8 21.Bg5 Rf8 22.Rad1 Rxf1+ 23.Kxf1 b6 24.Rd8+ Kb7 25.Rxa8 Kxa8

By dint of brute force (and ignorance) I have turned a won position into a (probably) drawn one. My next goal was to get rid of the pesky Knights.

26.e6 Kb7 27.Ne2 h6 28.Bd2 Bd5 29.Nf4 Bc4+ 30.Kf2 Nxf4 31.Bxf4 Bxe6 

My opponent has reached a pawn-up endgame, and was pleased. I could tell, because in a few moves I offered a draw, and he declined.

32.a3 c5 33.h4 Kc6 34.Be5 g6 35.Ke3 Kd5 36.Bg7 h5 37.Kd3 Bf5+ 38.Kc3 b5 

Black can advance his pawn majority, but White's King and Bishop (which can operate on the intersecting a1-h8 and b8-h2 diagonals) have the blockades in place.

39.g3 a5 40.Bf8 b4+ 41.axb4 axb4+ 

Or 41...cxb4+ 42.Kb3 Kc6 43.Ka2 Be6+ 44.b3 and the game will still be drawn.

42.Kd2 Kd4 43.Be7 b3 Drawn (my opponent offered)

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Jerome Gambit: The Science of the Draw?! (Part 1)

I just completed my second Jerome Gambit game in the ongoing "Italian Battleground" tournament at It put me very much in mind of the questions raised in the recent post "Jerome Gambit: The Eternal Question of Draws".

It felt, at first, like I was dropping 1/2 a point, but by the end of the game it appeared like I had won 1/2 a point. In any event, it is appropriate to speak well of my opponent, Krisstianes_017, whose scientific approach to defending against the opening was successful - if you call achieving a draw against a "refuted" opening a success. (Another "eternal question".)

(Although my "escape" into a drawn endgame a pawn down was very much "scientific" as well, as it involved knowledge and experience with Bishops-of-opposite-colors.)  

perrypawnpusher - Krisstianes_017
"Italian Battleground",, 2018

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ 

4...Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.Qh5+ Ng6 

The same line chosen by Abhishek29 in my other Jerome Gambit (so far) in the same tournament. For a short while I was worried that I would be playing the same game, twice.


Again, the "nudge".

7...Ke8 8.Qxc5 d6 9.Qe3 Nf6 10.O-O Be6

Black is developing his minor pieces, but this move is probably not best, as it summons the move f2-f4 (threatening a pawn fork with f4-f5) from White.

After the game, in preparing this blog post, I asked Stockfish 9 to evaluate the move 10...Be6. At a depth of 30 ply, it saw the resulting position as equal. That is worth thinking about. Should Black be happy? Should White be happy?

It is funny to note, however, that after White plays 11.f4, Stockfish 9 - again, at 30 ply analysis depth - recommends returning the Bishop with 11...Bc8!? and evaluates the result as a slight edge to Black!

I have just recently begun using version 9 of Stockfish to help me understand my completed games, and this is not the only quirky output it has provide me.  

In any event, the computer prefers 10...Nh5!? (preventing f2-f4?) instead of the text.

11.f4 Ne7 

Interesting and good.

I faced 11...Bc4 in perrypawnpusher - avgur, blitz, FICS, 2009 (1-0, 43) as well as 11...Ng4 in perrypawnpusher - Verlen, blitz, FICS, 2010 (1-0, 23) and 11...Kd7 in perrypawnpusher - dirceu, blitz, FICS, 2010 (1-0, 16).


Stockfish 9's recommendation is 12.f5 Bc8 13.c4 Nc6 14.d3, apparently seeing ...d7-d5 as worth preventing.


Courageously planning to castle-by-hand on the queenside. I can see why my opponent would not want to strike at the center until his King was safe.

Still, the computer's suggestion is 12...d5, and I faced that move in perrypawnpusher - nmuffjgp, blitz, FICS, 2010 (1-0, 22).

13.d5 Bf7 14.c4 Kc8 


My plan was to open the center and use my "Jerome pawns" to cause havoc amongst Black's minor pieces.

Amazingly, after the game Stockfish 9 recommended the line 15.Bd2 Kb8 16.Nc3 h5 17.Rae1 a5I was reminded of my ancient Fidelity Chess Challenger 7, that, when it assessed its King to be safe (wherever it was) and the position balanced, couldn't "think" of what to do, and so would advance its Rook pawns...  


This seems natural to me, but the computer doesn't like it, and prefers 15...Ng4 with an even game.

16.fxe5 Nfxd5 

Again, in the post mortem Stockfish 9 had a fit with this idea. I thought it was rather "scientific" to give back the sacrificed material and leave me with an isolated pawn.


Sigh. After the game, the compter had a fit with this move, too. I am glad I wasn't working with the old "talking" Fritz computer program that had a whole CD full of insults and sarcasm!

[to be continued] 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Jerome Gambit: Full Stop

I have just completed my first Jerome Gambit game in the ongoing "Italian Battleground" tournament at (3 days / move). It was one of those not infrequent games that was very interesting - until it suddenly ended.

(For the record, it was a win for me.)

perrypawnpusher - Abhishek29
"Italian Battleground" tournament,, 2018

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

4...Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.Qh5+ Ng6

I have always been glad to see this move, as it seems to me to be based upon common sense - block the check, keep the Black King off of the back rank to facilitate castling-by-hand, remove the Knight from danger, return one of the two sacrificed pieces, and be ready to kick the White Queen with ...d6 - which suggests that the defender is figuring the opening out as he goes along, rather than having studied an ultra-sharp line to strike back with (although 6...Ng6 can still be considered one of the "refutations" of the Jerome Gambit).

I was therefore surprised to see, after checking with The Database, that out of 127 games of mine that have reached this position, I scored 79% - versus the overall 82% that I scored in 318 games with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+.

More research with The Database led to more surprises.

Against the sharper 6...Ke6 - which usually means either that Black is unfamiliar with the Jerome Gambit and wants to hang on to every bit of his material (good for me), or that he is ultra-familiar with the Jerome, and has a nasty "surprise" in store for me (not so good) - I scored 85% in 78 games.  

Even moreso, against 6...g6 - either a reflex block by Black of the Queen check (good for me) or a segue into the Blackburne Defense (mixed; how much does my opponent know about Amateur - Blackburne, London, 1884?), where I have scored 85% in 13 games, or Whistler's Defense ("objectively" very scary), where I have scored 83% in 3 games - I have done better than average: 89% in 46 games.

The biggest trouble I have had, in terms of main Jerome Gambit opening lines, has been with 6...Kf8, where I scored only 77% in 33 games. (The Four Knights versions have given me similar trouble: the Semi-Italian Four Knights Jerome Gambit has scored 78% for me in 58 games, while the Italian Four Knights Jerome Gambit has scored 74%.)

Now, with a caution concerning the above - Your mileage may vary - back to my recent game.


The "nudge". Good enough for Alonzo Wheeler Jerome, good enough for me. White uses a move go give Black a chance to spend some time puzzling over Why?. If Black is going to castle-by-hand, he will have to give the move back, anyhow, with ...Kf7.

7...Ke8 8.Qxc5 d6 9.Qe3 Nf6 10.O-O Qe7

Black's pieces put pressure on White's center. If only he could ...0-0, his advantage would be very clear.

On the other hand, a Black Queen on the e-file, in front of her King, is a signal for White to play Nc3 (with the idea of Nd5), and to think about opening the e-file with a Rook aiming at the royal couple.

11.Nc3 Rf8

Thinking about artificial castling on the Kingside.

Another plan was seen in perrypawnpusher - Vaima01,, 2012, which is worth showing again: 11...Be6 12.f4 Bf7 13.f5 Ne5 14.d4 Nc6 15.Qd3 Kd7 16.e5 Ne8 17.e6+ Bxe6 18.fxe6+ Kd8 19.d5 Ne5 20.Qf5 h6 21.Bf4 Rf8 22.Qh3 Rf6 23.Ne4 Rf8 24.Bxe5 dxe5 25.Qg3 Nf6 26.Qxe5 Nxe4 27.Qxe4 Qc5+ 28.Kh1 Ke7 29.Rf7+ Rxf7 30.exf7+ Kxf7 31.Qe6+ Kf8 32.Rf1+ Qf2 Black resigned.

12.f4 Ng4 

Black tucked his King away in an earlier game: 12...Kf7 13.f5 Ne5 14.d4 Neg4 15.Qe2 Kg8 16.h3 Nh6 17.Bxh6 gxh6 18.e5 dxe5 19.dxe5 Qc5+ 20.Kh1 Nd5 21.Qh5 Nxc3 22.bxc3 Qxe5 23.Rae1 Qf6 24.Re3 Bxf5 25.Ref3 Qe6 26.Rxf5 Rxf5 27.Qxf5 Qxf5 28.Rxf5 Rd8 29.Rb5 Rd2 30.Rxb7 Rxc2 31.Rxa7 Rxc3 32.a4 Rc1+ 33.Kh2 Ra1 34.Rxc7 Rxa4 35.Rd7 Ra2 36.Re7 drawn, perrypawnpusher - chingching, FICS, 2011

The text move illustrates the atraction of attacking White's wayward and overactive Queen. "Objectively" it is not best, as it leads to a relatively balanced game, but it reminded me of a series of unfortunate games I played against a difficult opponent (see "Nemesis") - and one particular game (see below).

13.Qg3 Nf6 

Black retreats the Knight. I wondered for a moment: What if I played 14.Qe3? Would he play 14...Ng4, agreeing that the position had leveled out? I didn't think so.

Besides, I was heartened by the gift of two tempii, especially after my recent blog post about some lines of the Jerome Gambit being one tempo away from being playable.

To mention, a few years ago I had faced two alternative ideas:

13...Bd7 14.f5 N6e5 15.d4 d5 16.Nxd5 Qd6 17.dxe5 Nxe5 18.Bf4 Qc5+ 19.Kh1 Nf7 20.Nxc7+ Ke7 21.Nxa8 Rxa8 22.Bg5+ Ke8 23.c3 Bc6 24.Rae1 h6 25.Be3 Qc4 26.Qxg7 Bxe4 27.Qg8+ Kd7 28.Qxa8 Qc6 29.Rd1+ Kc7 30.Bf4+ Kb6 31.Qg8 Black resigned, perrypawnpusher - obturator, FICS, 2012; and

13...Nxf4 14.Rxf4 Qe5 15.Rxg4 Bxg4 16.Qe3 Qf6 17.h3 Bd7 18.d4 Rf7 19.Bd2 Kf8 20.Nd5 Qd8 21.Rf1 Rxf1+ 22.Kxf1 Kg8 23.Qg3 Qf8+ 24.Kg1 c6 25.Nc3 Re8 26.Bf4 Re6 27.e5 dxe5 28.Bxe5 Rg6 29.Qe3 Qf5 30.Kh2 Qxc2 31.d5 Qxg2 checkmate, perrypawnpusher - MRBarupal, FICS, 2010

14.f5 Ne5 15.d4 Nc4  

I suspect my opponent considered the better move, 15...Nc6, but figured that both moves guarded against White's threat e4-e5, and his choice threatened the pawn at b2 as well. 


White can play this move, anyhow, because 16...Nxb2 would be answered by 17.e5.


Black probably needed to play something more challenging, such as 16...Nh5!? suggested by Stockfish 9 after the game. After 17.Qh4 Qf7 18.e5 White's attack in the center, towards Black's King, will be very strong - but also very complicated, giving the defender chances.

17.Bh4 Bd7 18.Nd5 

White's pieces are causing all sorts of mischief, especially the Knight on d5 (recall the note to move 10!) After 18...Qf7 19.Nxc7+ Kd8 20.Nxa8 Kc8 21.Bxf6 gxf6 22.b3 White will be the exchange and 3 pawns ahead. There is too much going on for Black to count on trying to balance things a bit more by grabbing the Knight on a8.

In fact, Black focuses on the upcoming Knight fork at c7, overlooking the Knight's greater threat.

18...Kd8 19.Nxe7 Black resigned

Ouch. Perhaps this is the result of the outside world intruding, providing more important things to think about than defending against the Worst Chess Opening Ever.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Dealing With the "Jerome Pawns"

The following game shows a classic Jerome Gambit matchup between Black's pieces and White's pawns. The defender is doing fine in diagram 3, but quickly destroys his chances with his 9th move. This is a familiar tale: Black needs to be wary if he is unfamiliar with the Jerome.

Wall, Bill - Pelk, 2018

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 h6 

The Semi-Italian opening.

4.Nc3 Nf6 5.O-O Bc5 6.Bxf7+ 

The Semi-Italian Four Knights Jerome Gambit.

6...Kxf7 7.Nxe5+ Nxe5 8.d4 Bd6 9.f4 

White adds another "Jerome pawn" to the center picture. Of course, he could also have played 9.dxe5 Bxe5 10.f4.


What to do? What to do? What to do? Black would be doing fine after the retreat 9...Nc6. He is, after all, ahead two pieces. Instead, his bold move blows up the position.

10.fxe5+ Nf6 11.Nd5 Be7 

Black admits that he will have to give back a second piece. Perhaps he overlooks that there is already a forced checkmate. (Admittedly, it is a mate-in-14, but it is not difficult to work out.)

12.exf6 Bxf6 13.Qh5+ Kg8 14.Nxf6+ gxf6 15.Qg6+ Kf8 16.Rxf6+ Black resigned