The Latvian Gambit | Chess Openings for Tactical Players

The Latvian Gambit | Chess Openings for Tactical Players‎

GM Gserper
24 | Tactics

Before we start the discussion about the Latvian Gambit (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 f5), I have a confession to make.  I never really trusted in this opening. It is one thing to play a risky King's Gambit and it is a totally different thing to play the same King's Gambit being a tempo down (I am sure most of the readers noted that if we look at the position after 1.e4 e5 2. f4 Nf6 and ask Black to play a second move in a row, then it will be exactly the Latvian Gambit with reversed colors). Yet, the Latvian Gambit has many devoted followers, so I thought it would be unfair to ignore this sharp opening.

It is easy to discuss this opening from the White point of view since you can find many reliable ways for White to get an advantage. For instance, you can follow in the footsteps of young Vassily Smyslov who decided that it is better to avoid the complications and just underline the positional deficiencies of this opening.

Of course this is not the only strategy.  White can accept the complications since in most cases they are favorable for him as the next short game shows.

So, what should Black hope for when he plays the Latvian Gambit?  Since the motto of the opening is "Complications for the sake of complications," if White doesn't play energetically enough he can easily end up in a very bad position as the next game shows. Please notice that unlike Smyslov in the first game, White didn't play d3, preferring d4 instead and therefore leaving the dangerous e4 pawn alive.

Of course White played very passively in the previous game and was punished for that.  But the next game is a true delight for any Latvian Gambit connoisseur. White attacked practically the whole game and it looked like the Black King was going to get checkmated very soon... yet it was the White King that got in trouble!

The conclusion is pretty simple.  Even though the Latvian Gambit isn't a completely sound opening it still requires your opponent to know some theory and be alert since one tactical mistake can completely turn the tables. This is an ideal opening for the daredevils who care more about the excitement of the game than the final result.   

Good luck! (you will need it, if you play the Latvian Gambit).

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