13 November 2014

Lesson of the Week

Three by Greco

My students this week are seeing one or more of model games composed by Gioachino Greco (1600-1634).* Beginning students are seeing a short opening sequence with two critical errors. I discuss every move. Advanced students see this brief game with less commentary and then two others. A few students should be familiar with these games because they were part of the curriculum in my 2013 summer camp.

Gambett VII (Greco) [C54]


Best first move for a beginner and a popular choice for World Champions. It opens lines for the bishop and queen while staking a claim in the center.


As good as any other response for the same reasons.


Considered by many to be the best move. It immediate presents Black with a problem: the pawn on e4 is under attack.


Defends the e-pawn in the most active way. White can capture the e-pawn, but at the cost of a knight.


The most popular move in Greco' day and still a frequent choice at all levels of play. White puts pressure on Black's most vulnerable spot, the f7 square.

3.Bb5 The Spanish Opening is more popular today.


Answering attack with counterattack. Black puts pressure on f2.


White prepares to play d2-d4. This move is the most popular one in the position.

4.Nc3 is popular with beginners and does get played by masters.
4.d3 has been a choice of World Champions.
4.0–0 is worth considering, tucking the king away safely while bringing the rook to the center.
4.b4 was invented in the 1820s and is sometimes popular.


Black attacks White's e-pawn


Attempting to control the center; attacking Black's bishop and pawn.

5.d3 is a solid alternative.


Retreating the bishop. The first error.

5...exd4 seems to be Black's only reasonable reply.


Winning a pawn and threatening the knight.


This move is a blunder that loses a piece.

6...Ng4 offers hope of defense 7.Bxf7+ Kxf7 (7...Kf8 8.Bg5 Ne7 9.Bh5 Nxf2 10.Qb3) 8.Ng5+ Ke8 9.Qxg4 Nxe5 10.Qg3±.


A killer fork, threatening the knight and checkmate. White has a winning advantage.

Gambett VI (Greco) [C54]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+

Already Black has improved dramatically over the previous game.

7.Nc3 Nxe4

Black has won a pawn.

Black to move


8...Bxc3 is better and was offered in at least one of Greco's model games. That game continues 9.d5 Ne5 10.bxc3 Nxc4 11.Qd4 Ncd6 (11...0–0 Is the improvement missing in Greco's model games) 12.Qxg7 Qf6 13.Qxf6 Nxf6 14.Re1+ Kd8 15.Bg5 Nde8 16.Rxe8+ Kxe8 17.Re1+ Kf8 18.Bh6+ Kg8 19.Re5 1–0

9.bxc3 Bxc3 10.Qb3 Bxa1

White to move 

 Black is materially ahead, but has a hopelessly lost position.

10...d5 was played for the first time in 1928.
10...Bxd4 is also offered by Greco with similar results to the present game.

11.Bxf7+ Kf8 12.Bg5 Ne7 13.Ne5 Bxd4 14.Bg6 d5 15.Qf3+ Bf5 16.Bxf5 Bxe5 17.Be6+ Bf6 18.Bxf6 gxf6 19.Qxf6+ Ke8 20.Qf7# 1–0

Gambett VIII (Greco) [C54]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 Nxe4 8.0–0 Nxc3 9.bxc3 Bxc3 10.Qb3 Bxa1 11.Bxf7+ Kf8 12.Bg5 Ne7 13.Ne5

Black to move 


Black tries something different than the previous game.

14.Qf3 Bf5 15.Be6 g6

15...Bxd4 is more stubborn. 16.Bxf5 Nxf5 17.Qxf5+ Qf6 18.Bxf6 Bxe5 19.Bxe5+ Kg8 20.Qd7 Kf8 21.Qxg7+ Ke8 22.Bxc7 d4 23.Re1#.

16.Bh6+ Ke8 17.Bf7# 1–0

*Greco's games are usually presented in books and databases as Greco vs. Nomen Nescio (N.N., that is, name unknown). However, in his day no one was in the habit of writing down games as they took place. Rather, teachers composed illustrative studies that reflect scenarios that could occur in actual play. My source for the games this week is Francis Beale's 1656 edition of Greco's games, The Royall Game of Chesse-Play (London).

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