Openings for Tactical Players: the Bishop's Opening.
Sep 27, 2009, 12:00 AM
Today we will examine the favorite opening of most beginners- 1.e4 e5 2. Bc4 which is the Bishop's Opening. Of course, most beginners play 2.Bc4 with the sole purpose of playing 3. Qh5 and then 4. Qxf7 checkmate. Pretty quickly we all learn that the Fool's mate doesn't happen too often when you play strong opponents, so we abandon the 3.Qh5 first and then in most of the cases the 2.Bc4 as well and switch to more sophisticated openings. But 2.Bc4 is a perfectly good move. And even 3.Qh5 can be a good move in certain situation. Just imagine these moves: 1e4 e5 2 Bc4 Be7?. Here 3. Qh5! is the best move which wins a pawn right away! The most popular Black's response is 2...Nf6 where White has a choice. The move 3. Nc3 leads to the Vienna game. The solid 3.d3 leads in most of the cases to a slow positional struggle. But what if we play 3.d4? This move immediately creates some problems for our opponents to solve. Let's examine Black's possible responses.
If Black captures the e4 pawn by 3...Nxe4 then after 4. dxe5 White creates a strong threat 5.Qd5, which wins a piece right away, due to the threat of checkmate on f7. By the way, you can notice, that even though this is called the Bishop's Opening, in most of the variations the real star is the White Queen. We'll see many variations where the Queen decides the game pretty quickly.
This nice game could have been another great example for one of our previous discussions (see "Typical Patterns Everyone Should Know. The dangerous 'h' file.")
Let's get back to the critical position. It is better for Black to capture the d4 pawn by 3...exd4. Now the tempting 4.e5 isn't good due to a standard Black reply 4...d5! Instead of 4.e5 White should keep developing his pieces by 4.Nf3. But doesn't this move drop the e4 pawn? What happens after 4...Nxe4? This is the so-called Urusov Gambit. It is amazing how quickly Black can find himself in a lost position if he doesn't know what he is doing. After 5. Qxd4 (the Queen is coming again!) it takes just one wrong move 5...Nd6? and the game is suddenly over. Want to see the proof? I am glad you asked!
Of course, the natural move 5...Nf6 is much better than 5...Nd6. Even in this case Black is not out of the woods yet, as the next short game demonstrates.
The Urusov gambit has been known for about 200 years already but is not very popular these days. It must be refuted, and no Grandmaster would play it, right? Guess again! As the next game shows, even 2600+ GMs use this lethal weapon sometimes. The following game doesn't have a fantastic combo or unbelievable sacrifice, but the whole attack was so instructive, that I decided to use it as a quiz, even though many moves for both sides are not forced.
So, is Black losing after 4...Nxe4? And why isn't this gambit that popular these days? The answer is no, Black is not losing after 4...Nxe4, but he will have to defend for a long time. A much safer and simpler option is 4...Nc6! which transposes the game into a regular Two Knights Defense. And that also explains why this opening is not a very common guest in GM games as this particular line of the Two Knights defense is considered very safe for Black. So, what should we do if our opponent transposes the game into the Two Knights Defense?
This is going to be the subject of our next column!