18 January 2015

The Scotch Gambit

The 6.Qh5!? Line

My game of the week features a Scotch Gambit refuted by Paul Morphy (see "Meek -- Morphy 1855"). In the annotations to that game, I mentioned but did not explore 6.Qh5!? At first site, this aggressive line looks dangerous. However, with accurate play, Black gets the better game.

A handful of games in the nineteenth century revealed the main ideas and tactics.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4

The Scotch Opening

3...exd4 4.Bc4

The Scotch Gambit

White sacrifices a pawn for rapid deployment.


4...Nf6 is also playable.

5.Ng5 Nh6 6.Qh5!?

Black to move

Black has three reasonable replies:

a) 6...O-O

b) 6...Qf6

c) 6...Qe7

For each of these Black replies, I offer an illustrative game.


A. Johnston played the Scotch Gambit twice in the Second American Chess Congress, Cleveland 1871. He had an advantage for much of the game in this encounter.

Johnston,A -- Smith,Harsen Darwin [C44]
USA–02.Kongress Cleveland, 1871

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Bc5 5.Ng5 Nh6 6.Qh5 0–0 7.Bxf7+

A more recent game continued 7.0–0 d6 8.h3 Ne5 9.Bb3 Qf6 10.Kh1 Kh8 11.f4 d3? and Black threw away a nice position with a series of errors. Facchetti,G (2159) -- Bisignano,G (2055)/Gorgonzola 2003. White won in 24 moves.


Obviously not 7...Nxf7 8.Qxh7#.


Black to move


Black should have played 8...Bb4+ 9.c3 Nxf7 10.cxb4 Nxb4 11.Qd1 when Black has good compensation and a pawn for the exchange.

9.Qxc5 d6

The position is similar to the main line, except that White is ahead an exchange.

10.Qc4 Qe7 11.Qe2 Nfe5 12.0–0 Be6 13.Na3 Rf8 14.f4 Bg4 15.Qb5 Ng6 16.Qxb7 Qxe4 17.Qb3+ Kh8 18.Qg3 Bf5 19.Qf3 Qe8 20.Bd2 Be4 21.Qg3 Nce7 22.Rae1 d5 23.f5 Nxf5 24.Qxc7 Ngh4 25.Rf2 Qg6 26.Qg3 Qe8 27.Qh3 h6 28.g4 Qg6 29.Rxe4??

29.Rf4 Rc8 30.Kf2

29...dxe4 30.Kh1 e3 31.Rxf5 Nxf5 32.gxf5 Qc6+ 33.Kg1 exd2 34.Qd3 Rxf5 35.Qxd2 Qg6+ 0–1


The last ten moves of Max Lange's thrashing of Hermann Pollmacher offer a study in piece coordination.

Lange,Max -- Pollmacher,Hermann [C44]
Leipzig, 24.09.1856

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Bc5 5.Ng5 Nh6 6.Qh5 Qf6 7.f4

White has other options, but this aggressive move is in the spirit of his play so far.

Black to move


A pawn sacrifice appears to be Black's best option here. 7...d5! 8.Bxd5 Bg4 9.Bxf7+ is White's only move (9.Qh4 leads to a worse position quickly. 9...Nb4 10.Bb3 d3 and Black is running over the top of White's position.) 9...Qxf7 10.Nxf7 Bxh5 11.Nxh8 Nb4 12.Na3 (12.h3 Nxc2+) 12...0–0–0 with an initiative for Black.

8.h3 0–0 9.0–0 Be6? 10.Bd3 Qg6 11.Qxg6 hxg6 12.f5 gxf5 13.exf5 Bd5 14.f6

Black to move




Even more convincing is 15.Nh7!

15...Kg7 16.Rxh6 Kxh6 17.Ne6+! Kh5 18.Nf4+ Kh4

18...Kh6 offers small hope 19.Nxd5+ Kg7 20.Nxc7 Rac8±.

19.Nxd5+- f5 20.Bf4 Ne5 21.Nd2 c6 22.g3+ Kxh3 23.Bf1+ Kg4 24.Kg2 Kh5

24...cxd5 25.Be2+ Nf3 26.Bxf3#.

25.Ne7 Ng4 26.Be2 Rae8 27.Rh1# 1–0


6...Qe7 is probably Black's best choice. Adolf Anderssen was one of the first to play this move.

Von Eckstadt,Count Vitzthum -- Anderssen,Adolf [C44]
Leipzig, 1855

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Bc5 5.Ng5 Nh6 6.Qh5 Qe7 7.f4

7.0–0 may be better.

7...d6 8.h3

Black to move


Better might have been the simple 8...Bd7 9.0–0 0–0–0 Black's lead in development gives him an edge.

9.Bd3 Nf5 10.Nxf7

10.Qxf7+ offers White better prospects of equality. 10...Qxf7 11.Nxf7 Kxf7 12.exf5.

10...g6 11.Qe2

11.Qf3? Kxf7 12.0–0 Ne3 13.Bxe3 dxe3–+.

11...Ng3 12.Qf3 Nxh1 13.Nxh8 Qh4+ 14.Kd1? 

14.Kf1 is more stubborn.

14...Nf2+–+ 15.Ke2 Nxd3 16.Qxd3

16.cxd3 Qf6 17.Nxg6 hxg6–+.

16...Be6 17.Qb5+ Nc6 18.Qxb7

Black to move

18... d3+! 19.cxd3 Nd4+ 20.Kd1 Bg4+ 21.hxg4 Qh1+ 0–1

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