The Medusa Gambit In Honor of Clyde Nakamura

Jun 2, 2012, 3:07 PM |

The Medusa Gambit

Note: This article is entirely written by Clyde Nakamura and copied by chessolite. Please note that this article is pure Clyde and 0.00000000001% me for copying.

In 1987 I had discovered another fascinating new gambit.  I thought about the Budapest Defense (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5) , but it had occurred to me that instead of playing 2...e5 as in the Budapest, why not play 2...g5!   I had tested this gambit in blitz games and against my computer software program called Psion.  The middle game positions that occurred were "ugly".  Thus I named it the "Medusa Gambit".

According to Greek mythology Medusa was a mortal woman who was transformed into a Gorgon.  A Gorgon was a hideous creature with wings, claws, enormous teeth and snakes for hair.  Medusa was slain by Perseus, but even in death Medusa was still so frightful that it turned any onlooker into stone.

For a long time I had thought that the Medusa Gambit was unsound, but the more I played it, the more I liked it!  Maybe I had too much fun playing it.

If White declines the gambit by playing 3.Nc3 then the game transposes into a Killer Grob type position where Black has pawns at h6, g5, e6 or d6 and his bishop at g7.  In the  Medusa Gambit games, White almost always plays the accepted line 3.Bxg5.  Black then plays 3...Ne4 attacking White's bishop. White has various replies: 4.Bh4; 4.Nf3; 4.Be3; 4.Bd2; 4.Bf4 and 4.Bc1.  Black then plays 4...c5 for any of these five possible White moves.  Black later moves his queen to b6 or a5 to take advantage of White's weak pawn at b2.

Yet the Medusa Gambit will be more.


In the accepted lines Black’s main strategy is to exploit the White weakness on the b2 square.  Because White had played c4 early in the opening the b2 square becomes vulnerable after the bishop moves away from its original square at c1.  If the white pawn were at c3 instead of c4 there would be no weakness at the b2 square.  A second strategy is the trading of the c and center pawns by Black for White’s center pawns.  This would leave Black with advanced center pawns deep into White’s position.  This occurred in the game Chess Genius – Nakamura.  A third strategy would be to lock center pawns and if White and Black have both castled kingside, then Black can swing all of his forces towards the kingside.  Black can utilize the half open g file to double rooks and set up for a kingside attack.

in the game Genius5 – Jerry Flowers.

A fourth strategy for Black is the positional strategy of posting a knight on white’s third rank in the middle of the board. And black can squeeze white’s position by controlling key open files and create threats to tie up white’s position.  This occurred   

3…Ne4  This is the move that I normally play after 3.Bxg5.  It attacks the white bishop at the g5 square.  From here there are various white replies:

A. White plays 4.Bh4.  I believe that this white bishop is out of play.  More game testing needs to be done on this line.

B. White plays 4.Nf3.  This is a computer move.  White does not lose a tempo move.

C. White plays 4.Be3.  Eric Schiller played this line in a blitz game against me.  It  blocks the white pawn push e4 and also blocks the development of the white king bishop.

D. White plays 4.Bd2.  This move appears to be defensive but it is also flexible because this white bishop at d2 can be later posted at c3.

E. White plays 4.Bf4.  This is the main line in the Medusa Gambit accepted.

F. White plays 4.Bc1.  This move undevelops the white's queen bishop.  White has lost 2 moves, but there is no real weakness on the b2 square and on the queen side.

Accepted Line 4.Bh4

Analysis Accepted Line 4.Bh4   Nakamura & Comet B68  2006

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g5 3. Bxg5 Ne4 4. Bh4 c5 5. Qc2 (5. Nf3 Qa5+ 6. Nbd2 Bg7 (6... cxd4 7. Nxd4 Bg7 8. N4b3 Qe5 9. Rb1 Nc6 10. e3 Nxd2 11. Nxd2 Qa5 12. Qb3 d6 13. Be2 Rg8 14. Bf3 h6 15. h3 Be5 16. Bd5 Nb4 17. Be4 a6 18. Ra1 Ra7 19. f4 Bh8) 7. b4 Qxb4 8. Rb1 Qc3 9. Rb3 Qa5 10. Rb5 Qc3 11. dxc5 Nc6 {=}) 5... Qa5+ 6. Kd1 Nd6 7. d5 Bg7 8. Nd2 Na6 9. Ngf3 Nb4 10. Qb3 Nf5 11. e4 Nxh4 12. Nxh4 d6 13. a3 Bf6 14. Nf5 Bd7 15. Ke2 Na6 16. f4 O-O-O {=}

Chess Genius accepted the gambit pawn at g5 and played the 4…Bh4 accepted line of the Medusa Gambit. Black maneuvered to strengthen his center in the opening and early middlegame. White did not castle kingside because black’s forces were ready for a kingside attack. Black broke through the center with the center pawns which threatened the white’s king and threatened to win some minor pieces. White could not adequately defend his position and had to resign.

Chess Genius – Nakamura (2100)  Test Game  1994

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g5 {The Medusa Gambit.} 3. Bxg5 Ne4 4. Bh4 c5 5. Qc2 Qb6 6. Nf3 {White cannot play 6.Qxe5 because it drops the exchange with 6..Qxb2 and black wins the R at a1.} f5 7. Nc3 Nc6 8. d5 Nd4 9. Nxd4 cxd4 10. Nxe4 fxe4 11. Bg5 {White realizes the B at h4 was out of play.} Qg6 12. Bd2 Bg7 13. g3 O-O 14. Bf4 {If 14.Bg2 then black plays 14...d3.} e5 {Black intends to strengthen his center with this move.} 15. dxe6 dxe6 16. Rc1 e5 17. Bd2 Bf5 18. Qb3 b6 19. Bg2 Rac8 20. Bb4 Rfe8 21. Qa3 a5 22. Bd2 Bf8 23. Qb3 Bc5 24. Rf1 {White does not castle kingside. It was probably  

dangerous for white to castle kingside.} Kh8 {A deep defensive move to move the black K away from a possible future possible Q check.}25. Qb5 Qh5 {Attacking both white's h pawn and e2 square.} 26. Rh1 d3 {Black threatens mate at the e2 square with Qxe2 checkmate.}27. f3 [diagram]

27...e3 28. Bxa5 {A desperado move. White is lost.} d2+ 29. Bxd2 exd2+ 30. Kxd2 Rcd8+ 31. Ke1 Qg5 32. f4 exf4 33. Bd5 fxg3 {-+ and mate in 11 according to Fritz8.} 0-1

Black won the exchange of knight for rook in the opening and had the edge coming out of the opening. The only problem with white’s game is that the white king was trapped in the middle of the board and not safe from a black attack. The black attack wins white’s queen but the endgame was far from over because of white’s passed kingside pawns. Black queens his pawns first and wins the game.

Chess Genius 2 – Nakamura (2100)       Test Game     12/23/94

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g5 {The Medusa Gambit} 3. Bxg5 Ne4 4. Bh4 c5 5. Qc2 Qb6 6. e3 { White cannot play 6.Qxe4 because of 6...Qxb2 dropping the R at a1.} Na6 7. Nf3 d6 8. Nc3 Nxc3 9. bxc3 Bg4 10. Be2 O-O-O 11. Ng5 Bxe2 12. Nxf7 Bxc4 13. Nxh8 Bg7 14. Nf7 Rf8 15. Ng5 h6 16. Ne4 Rf7 17. Nd2 Be6 18. f3 Kb8 19. Qa4 Qd8 20. Rb1 Nc7 21. dxc5 dxc5 22. Qc6 b6 23. Bg3 Bd7 24. Qxc5 Rf5 25. Bxc7+ Qxc7 26. Qxe7 Bxc3 27. e4 Re5 28. Qf8+ Kb7 29. Qxh6 Qc5 30. Qf4 Bb5 31. g3 Re7 32. a4 Ba6 33. Kd1 Rd7 34. Re1 Bxd2 {[The other 2 possible moves were 34.Qf2 and 34.Qa5. After 34.Qf2 Qe3 35.Rxe2+ it is not clear how Black should play. 34.Qa5 looks more promising because if 34...Re2 35.Bxe2+ wins an exchange and after 35...Kxe2 36.Rxd2+ is strong]} 35. Qxd2 Rxd2+ 36. Kxd2 Qd4+ 37. Kc1 Qc3+ 38. Kd1 Bc4 39. g4 Qd3+ 40. Kc1 Bb3 41. Rxb3 Qxb3 42. Kd2 Qxa4 {Although Black had won the white Q, the game is still far from over. White has still has some dangerous passed pawns on the kingside.} 43. h4 Qd4+ 44. Ke2 a5 45. Rd1 Qc4+ 46. Ke3 a4 47. g5 a3 48. Kf4 a2 49. Ra1 b5 50. h5 b4 51. h6 Qf7+ 52. Ke3 b3 53. Rh1 Qh7 54. g6 Qxg6 55. h7 Qg7 56. h8=Q Qxh8 57. Rxh8 a1=Q 58. Rh7+ Kb6 59. Rh6+ Kc5 60. Rh5+ Kc4 61. Rh7 Qe1+ 62. Kf4 b2 63. Rb7 b1=Q 64. Rxb1 Qxb1 65. Ke5 Qb5+ 66. Kf4 Kd4 0-1

Jack Young played both rook pawns to the fifth rank and both rooks to the sixth rank and created two passed pawns on the queenside. Black’s bishop on g7 supported the passed pawns on the queenside and black sacrificed both rooks for the exchange. White could not stop the two passed pawns and had to resign. A very interesting and unique game.

Constellation Level 7 (2015) - Jack Young (2285)      1991

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g5 3. Bxg5 Ne4 4. Bh4 {I have always felt that this move was not good for white because the bishop at h4 is out of play.} c5 5. e3 Qa5+ 6. Nd2 Bg7 7. Ngf3 Nc6 8. d5 Ne5 9. Nxe5 Bxe5 10. Rb1 Nxd2 11. Qxd2 Qxa2 12. Bd3 a5 13. Qe2 a4 14. Bg3 Bg7 15. O-O {A rook lift to start an attack on white's kingside.} Ra6 16. Qc2 h5 17. h3 Rhh6

18. b4 Qxc2 19. Bxc2 cxb4 20. Bf4 b3 {This could be an error by black because it drops the exchange of bishop for rook.} (20... Rh8 21. Rxb4 a3 22. Rbb1 d6 {-+ 2.12})21. Bxh6 Bxh6 22. Bd1 Bg7 {the black B returns to the key diagonal to support the passed pawn push down the queenside.} 23. c5 b2 24. Be2 a3 (24... Ra5 25. Bc4 Rxc5 26. Ba2 b5 27. Rfd1 b4 28. d6 Ba6 {-+ 5.53 white is definitely lost}) 25. Rxb2 axb2 26. Bxa6 bxa6 27. g4 hxg4 28. hxg4 a5 29. Rb1 a4 30. Rxb2 Bxb2 31. c6 0-1

My friend Jerry Flowers is a master strength player who played a beautiful positional Medusa Gambit game against the computer chess program Chess Genius5.  Black posts a knight at e3 and later threatened mate at g2 with the black queen.  White is being slowly strangled because black is slowly squeezing white with positional moves such as moving the black rook to control the c file.  White finally had to resign when the black rook penetrates white’s weakened first rank.

Genius5 – Jerry Flowers    Offhand Game 1997

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g5 3. Bxg5 {White accepts the Medusa Gambit} Ne4 4. Bh4 c5 5. Qc2 Qa5+ 6. Kd1 f5 7. f3 Nd6 8. e3 Nc6(8... cxd4 9. exd4 Bg7 10. c5 {+/=}) 9. Bg3 (9. Be1 Qb6 {+/-}) 9...cxd4 10. Bxd6 exd6 11. e4 ({better is} 11. exd4 {!? should be considered} Bg7 12. Qd2 {+/=}) 11... Bg7 =/+ 12. exf5 O-O {White is up a pawn but has development problems.} 13. Bd3 {Blocks the pawn on d4} Nb4 14. Qd2 Qc5 (14... d5 15. cxd5 Qc5 16. Na3 {=/+}) 15. Ne2 (15. Na3 {!? =/+ is interesting}) 15... d5 {-/+} ({Less advisable is} 15... Nxd3 16. Qxd3 Re8 17. Nf4 {=}) 16. cxd5 (16. b3 dxc4 17. Bxc4+ d5 18. a3 dxc4 19. axb4 Qc6 20. bxc4 Bxf5 21. Ng3 Bg6 22. c5 a5 23. bxa5 Qxc5 {-+ 1.72}) 16... Nxd5 17. Ke1 Ne3 {The black N at e3 is very well posted. It causes major problems for white.. Here comes the goal-getter} 18. g4 Qe7 (18... Qc6 19. Rg1 {-/+})19. Kf2 Qh4+ (19... Qh4+ 20. Ng3 b6 {-/+}) 20. Kg1 Qh3 21. Ng3 d5 22. Qf2 Bd7 23. Nd2 Rac8 24. Rb1 (24. Nb3 Be5 {-/+}) 24... Ba4 (24... Bh6 25. Ndf1 {-+}) 25. b3 Bd7 26. Ndf1 Bh6 27. Re1 Rfe8 28. f6 Rc3 29. Bf5 Bb5 (29... Bxf5 30. Nxf5 Bf4 31. N1g3 {-/+}) 30. Nd2 {?? further deteriorates the position} (30. f4 Bxf1 31. g5 Qg2+ 32. Qxg2 Bxg2 33. Rxe3 Rexe3 34. Kxg2 {=}) 30... Nxf5 {-+} 31. Rxe8+ (31. Nxf5 Be3 32. f7+ Kxf7 33. Nd6+ Kg6 34. Nxe8 {-+}) 31... Bxe8 32. Nxf5 (32. g5 Bxg5 33. Ndf1 Nh4 34. f7+ Bxf7 35. Ne4 dxe4 36. a3 Nxf3+ 37.Qxf3 Rxf3 38. Ne3 Bxe3#) 32... Rc1+ (32... Rc1+ 33. Qf1 Bxd2 34. Qxc1 Bxc1 {-+}) 0-1

More to come soon!