Openings for Tactical Players: Von Hennig-Schara Gambit

Openings for Tactical Players: Von Hennig-Schara Gambit‎

GM Gserper
30 | Tactics

Some openings have unsolved mysteries and questions that will probably never be answered. The Von Hennig-Schara Gambit is one of them. It starts after 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c5 4. cxd5 cxd4!?  It is named after Heinrich Von Hennig, yet in the game I found (Von Hennig - Benzinger, Duisburg, 1929) he played White and lost in 23 moves!  It makes me wonder why they named an opening where Black gambits a pawn hoping to get an attack after the guy who played it as White and lost very quickly?   Another mystery is that even though this gambit was played by many very strong players with good results, leads tovery interesting play, and was never refuted, yet it has never become really popular.  I have no answer for these questions.  But I think this variation will be very interesting for the readers and also answer the question from the comments for one of my previous articles ( where I was asked "Can black castle on the queen side in response to a QP opening and have a chance to attack a king-side castle by white?"  I am happy to inform you that in the Von Hennig-Schara Gambit Black castles Queen's side and has a direct attack against the White King in most situations!

Anyway, lets see how Alexander Alekhine employed this variation to defeat GM Pirc (the author of the popular Pirc Defence) in just 24 moves.  By the way, this game was played in Alekhine's most famous tournament triumph: Bled 1931 (+15 =11, 5½ points ahead of the second winner GM Bogoljubov).


In the next game White clearly misplayed the opening and his King got stuck in the center.  GM Zaitsev used his advantage very energetically and his final combination shows why this imaginative chess player was Anatoly Karpov's second for more than 20 years.
The next game answers the question if there is such a thing as humor in chess.  I find it very funny how two identical Bishop's shots decided the game.
Judging by the number of games played by strong chess players recently, the Von Hennig-Schara Gambit is slowly getting more popular.  The following game caught my attention because I know GM Alexander Volzhin personally. We played in the same tournaments more then once and the only game we played was a draw.  I respect his theoretical knowledge and this is exactly the reason why I was shocked to see him being literally wiped off the board in just 24 moves! I recommend you to replay the whole Black attack since it is a true text book example. Judge for yourself:
 My usual advice and disclaimer should be applied towards the Von Hennig-Schara Gambit more than anywhere else.  In this article I didn't try to prove that Black is winning in all the variations or that this line is the best for Black against 1.d4. My goal was just to explain the main ideas, to demonstrate typical attacking patterns and to share the spirit of this exciting variation. I hope you replayed the whole games and not just the positions shown on the diagrams (Remember that you can always replay a whole game from the first move if you click "Solution" and then "Move list"). If you liked what you saw so far, then it is a good starting point for your own investigation of the opening. I can tell you one thing for sure: if you decide to give this variation a try, I can guarantee you an interesting game and a lot of excitement.
Good luck!
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