17 May 2016


Two Miniatures

Max Euwe describes the games of Gioachino Greco as "chess fairy-tales on the age-old theme of the conflict between riches and honour" (The Development of Chess Style [1966], 1). One side grabs material while the other plays for checkmate.

In early April, I played a game that might have been lifted from the pages of Greco. I knew when my opponent grabbed my rook on a1 that I would either gain the queen in exchange or win by checkmate.

Stripes, J (1876) -- Internet Opponent (1870) [C54]
Live Chess Chess.com, 05.04.2016

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 

This opening is known as the Greco Gambit.

7.Bd2 is considered a better way to block the check. In blitz, however, I prefer the reckless gambit approach.

7.Nbd2 Nxe4 8.d5 Nxd2 9.Bxd2 Bxd2+ 10.Qxd2 Ne7 11.d6 cxd6 12.0–0 d5 13.Bxd5 0–0 14.Rad1 Nxd5 15.Qxd5 d6 16.Qxd6 Qxd6 17.Rxd6 Be6 18.a3 Rfd8 19.Rd4 Rxd4 20.Nxd4 Rd8 21.Rd1 f6 22.f3 Kf7 23.Kf2 Rd5 24.Ke3 Re5+ 25.Kd3 Rc5 26.Re1 Bd7 27.Kd2 Rd5 28.Kc3 Rc5+ 29.Kd2 Rd5 30.Kc3 Rc5+ 31.Kd2 ½–½ Nakamura,H (2799) -- Giri,A (2776) Khanty-Mansiysk 2015

7...Nxe4 8.0–0 Nxc3

8...Bxc3 is better.


Black to move


9...d5 may be best.

10.Qb3 Bxa1?? 

Now, Black is lost.

10...d5 11.Bxd5 0–0 and White is only slightly better.

11.Bxf7+ Kf8 12.Bg5 Ne7 13.Ne5

13.Re1 d6 14.Bxe7+ Qxe7 15.Rxe7 Kxe7 16.Bg8

Black to move


13...Bxd4 14.Bg6 d5 15.Qf3+ Bf5 16.Bxf5 Bxe5 17.Be6+ Bf6 18.Bxf6 Ke8 19.Bxg7 1–0 Greco,G-Analysis 1625.

14.Qf3 Bxd4N 

Two other games in ChessBase's database continued 14...Bf5 15.Be6 Bxd4 16.Bxf5 Ng8 (16...Bxe5 17.Be6+ Nf5 18.Bxd8) 17.Bxd8.

15.Be6+ Ke8 

15...Nf5 is more stubborn.

16.Qxf5+ Qf6 17.Bxf6 g6 18.Nxg6+ hxg6 19.Qxg6.

16.Qf7# 1–0

Then, yesterday morning, I won another quick game when my opponent grabbed a rook instead of protecting his king. This game, although completely different in opening plans and structure, is linked to Greco's via the mating attack that follows a materialistic rook grab.

Stripes,J (2083) -- Internet Opponent (2107) [A80]
Another Chess Site, 16.05.2016

1.d4 f5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bg5 e6 4.e4

I have played this line in correspondence chess and over-the-board. See "Staunton Gambit".

4...fxe4 5.Nxe4 Be7 6.Bxf6 Bxf6 7.Qh5+

7.Nf3 is popular among strong players.

7...g6 8.Qh6 Qe7 9.Nxf6+ Qxf6 

White to move


10.Nf3 seems necessary.

10...Qxd4 11.Nf3 Qxb2 12.Rd1 Qxc2

12...Qb4+ 13.Rd2 Qf8 14.Qg5 White has minimal compensation for the pawns.

13.Bd3 Qc3+ 14.Rd2

Black to move


Black wins material, but disregards the safety of his king.

14...Nc6 and Black is better.


Only move, but leads to a clear advantage.

15.Rd1 Qxh6 and White can resign.


15...Qc3 was the last chance. 16.h5±.

White to move


White has a decisive advantage.


16...Kd8 17.Qg5#.

16...Ke7 17.Qg7+ Kd8 18.Qf6#.

17.Qxh8+ Kf7

17...Ke7 is best, although White has a forced checkmate in thirteen: 18.Qg7+ Ke8 19.Ne5 c5 20.Qf7+ Kd8 21.Qf8+ Kc7 22.Qxc5+ Nc6 23.Qd6+ Kd8 24.Nxd7 Qh2 25.g3 Nb8 26.Nf6+ Bd7 27.Rc2 Qxf2+ 28.Kxf2 e5 29.Qf8+ Be8 30.Qxe8#.

18.Ng5+ Ke7 19.Qg7+ Kd8 

19...Ke8 20.Qf7+ Kd8 21.Qf8#.

20.Qf8# 1–0

Sometimes it is best to play for a material advantage, but not when the king is vulnerable.


  1. Oh man, the Greco gambit! I played it faithfully for almost 10 years. I recall a blitz game in my very very early chess days, when Black made this ...Bxc3xa1 mistake. I got the position you had, with White to move on move 13, but did not know what to do! Finding moves like 13.Ne5 (not a capture or direct threat) was tough for me back then.

    Sadly, I was forced to give up the gambit, because eventually it seemed that 100% of players knew to bang out 8...Bxc3 9.d5 Bf6 10.Re1 Ne7 11.Rxe4 d6 12.Bg5 Bxg5 13.Nxg5 h6 14.Qe2 hxg5 15.Rae1 Be6 16.dxe6 fxe6 and White is suffering.

    Your move order against the Dutch reminded me of this great game: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1259009

    1. Thanks for the comment, Todd. Last week in online blitz, my opponent let me follow Greco more closely, resigning after 18.Bxf6.

      In the line that you give, which shows the failings of the Greco gambit for serious play, 16...fxe6 is a game losing blunder. Black should play 16...f6. Then, as you say, White is suffering.

      Edward Lasker's famous game against Thomas would be fun to replicate in my own games, although I doubt I'll ever get to do that.