Opening Myths: The Anderssen Gambit

Opening Myths: The Anderssen Gambit


One of the greatest controversies of 2020 (not really) came in December when I posted my Ultimate Poll: "What is your favourite chess gambit opening?"

Of the exhaustive list that I used, I did not include the most important chess gambit of all: The "Anderssen Gambit!" (Not really)

The user @Levent_Acemi was the first to realise my blunder:

Till this day I still don't know what "Pog" means. I just thought it was those circular discs that was popular when I was a kid. "Pog" was merely just the start of this powder keg of controversy (Not really).

I immediately embarked on writing a detailed press release: It would be up to me to prove to the chess world that my poll was wrong! As one orange-faced philosopher once said: I should "Stop the count..." Alternatively, I could double-down and claim that the gambit is so uncommon by using science and statistics, and "strawman the argument" on the inclusion of the Anderssen gambit claiming that if I included this gambit, I might as well include the Botez Gambit!:

I thought that would be it... What followed next really surprised me...

Outrage! Scandal! How could I ever publish such nonsense. The controversy would end up reaching the highest authority in the land: Greta Thunberg...

I was mortified by my arrogance! Furthermore, hypocritically, how could I have not included this gambit that had only featured three times on the masters database, when I had honourably mentioned the "Jerome Gambit" - An opening with only one game on the database! It was up to me to repent for my chess sins and I decided to give the "Anderssen Gambit" the honest and constructive treatment it deserved by writing a blog post analysing this particular gambit. 

The Anderssen Gambit

Joking aside now, since the poll, I became very interested in reviewing this strange gambit line forged in the Romantic era. Adolf Anderssen, considered by many to be one of the greatest players of the early 1850s, (until the arrival of Paul Morphy) has many chess openings named after him: 

  • The Anderssen Opening (1.a3) - "The earliest form of flexing in chess" - Nonetheless Anderssen had bested Morphy with it in one of their games.

Apart from the Anderssen opening, (which to be fair he played in a lot of casual games against "NN" to give black the advantage of the first move) the other two lines are fairly respectable from the Romantic player. 2/3 isn't bad right?

The Anderssen Gambit

At first glance, I didn't think this gambit is totally unsound. At the cost of a pawn (and a flank pawn at that) black gets the following compensation: 
  1. Complete control of the centre
  2. Better development 
  3. Nice semi-open files on the queenside to attack along

What could be so bad about this opening? I have seen way worse black gambits. If anything, it plays like a reversed Evan's gambit right?

The opening also reminded me of a line in the Two Knight's variation: The Ulvestad variation 

The b-pawn sacrifice coming later
Sadly though, things are not always what they seem. I have neglected to include a good line against this variation: 4.Ba4
"The Butcher" has already covered this line in detail: [Starts at 6:24]
So they can't play d5. What about Anderssen's reccomendation: 4...Bc5
In Conclusion
Sadly it would appear that if white knows plays the 4.Ba4 line, which too be honest with you is not too difficult to spot, the gambit is pretty much sunk in the water. You are essentially hoping that white, confused by your initial gambit gets flustered and plays 4.Bc4 and you gain the centre. Otherwise you are simply giving up a pawn and you have a poor pawn structure as compensation..
Thank you for reading this blog, if you liked this blog, please let me know in the comments below. If you like this series, make sure you follow my profile for any future blogs I post and to also check out my other "Opening Myth" blog post on the Mokele-Mbembe varition.