27 July 2012

Staunton Gambit vs. the Dutch Defense

Three weeks ago, I posted "Staunton Gambit," describing a variation of the Staunton Gambit against the Dutch Defense in which White does not actually gambit a pawn. That assertion, however, was not entirely accurate. The way I decided to play this line in two games--one correspondence, one over-the-board,--Black has the option of snatching a pawn. In my correspondence game, my opponent did so. Nonetheless, I quickly won back the pawn, and then due to an error on his part, gained another.

Stripes,James (2089) -- Opponent (2248) [A83]
www.ChessWorld.net 2012

1.d4 f5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bg5 e6 4.e4 fxe4 5.Nxe4 Be7 6.Bxf6 Bxf6 7.Qh5+

Part of what I found attractive about this variation was its relative simplicity, combined with a strong scoring percentage for White.* In my two initial efforts with this idea, I maintained a lasting initiative. Errors were made by my opponents, and by me, but I was never worse in either game. Computer analysis has me always a minimum of 1/3 pawn ahead (even when materially down a pawn).

CB 11 data on games between players over 2000
7...g6 8.Qh6

Black to move

Here Black has the option of snatching the pawn on d4. My opponent did so. It has been a rare choice in the database, although a superficial glance would suggest the move has merits. White's initiative and less vulnerable king more than compensate for the pawn.

8...Bxd4 9.0–0–0 Bf6 10.h4 Nc6

Hiarcs 12 prefers 10...Qe7, which was played in Krouzel -- Fiala, Czechia 2000.

White to move


The immediate 11.h5 maintains the clear advantage. 11...Qe7 12.Nxf6+ Qxf6 13.hxg6.

11...Qxf6 12.h5 Ne7 13.Bd3

Black to move

White has considerable pressure against g6. When I first explored this line by looking through some games, I noticed a few where White won an endgame due to a kingside pawn majority. Black usually gains a queenside majority, but without any passed pawns. That's an opening that can excite me: immediate pressure via surprising opening moves, lasting initiative, and endgame advantage.


Black's move is a clear error, but perhaps the best move is not so easy to find. 13...Rg8 maintains equality.


White has a strong position, and objectively a decisive advantage. Nevertheless, there remains much play in the position. Continuing to find accurate moves will lead to victory, but errors may let Black back into the game.

14...Qxh6+ 15.Rxh6 0–0 16.gxh7+

16.Rxh7 is slightly better.

16...Kh8 17.Nh3 b6

White to move


I might have started the g-pawn thrust here, but was playing too cautiously.

18...Bb7 19.f3 Nf5 20.Rg6

My long-term plan was to keep Black's rooks tied down to defense of his king, and to prevent the promotion of my h-pawn. Meanwhile, Black had to move something. Eventually, I thought, Black would be forced to make weakening moves.


20...Nh4 disrupts White's plans slightly.

21.Ng5 Rg7 22.Rxg7 Kxg7

White to move


I failed to see the tactical shot 23.Nf7!

23...Nh6 24.Rh3 Rf8 25.Kd2 e5 26.Ne4 Bd5 27.c4 Bf7 28.g5 Nf5 29.Nf6 Be6

White to move

White has an excellent position. Black's pieces are all tied down to defense, while White can choose his targets. The pawn on h7 is a constant reminder to Black that he must defend accurately.


I overlooked the necessary defensive resource. Better was 30.Bxf5 Bxf5 31.Rh6.

30..Kh8 31.g6 Ng7 32.Rg3 Bxg8 33.hxg8Q+ Kxg8

White to move

My pawn promoted, but the queen was quickly lost. I no longer have a material advantage, and my positional advantage is no longer overwhelming. Black remains in a difficult position. Defending against a constant attack can make errors more likely. Indeed, Black erred under the pressure just as he was nearing equality.

34.Be4 c6?!

Just the sort of weakening move that I anticipated would come. 34...Ne6, or Ne8 would have offered more stubborn defense. Sometimes it is best to sit and wait, to let the opponent prove that he has a means of breaking through. In this position, it is not altogether clear that White can make things happen.

35.Rg1 Nf5 36.Rg5 Nd4?!

36...Nd6 was better.

37.Ke3 Kg7?

37...d6 was necessary.

White to move


Again, White has a clear and decisive advantage.

38...Ne6 39.Rh5 Nc5 40.Rh7+ Kf6 41.Bc2 a5 42.f4

Black to move

42...d5 43.cxd5 cxd5 44.f5 Ne4 45.Rf7+ 1–0

*See "Playing with Databases" for a discussion of some strategies for using such data in correspondence chess.

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