Halloween Gambit


Grandmasters nor supercomputers would ever play the Halloween Gambit. And neither should you, if you’re facing them. Or maybe it wouldn’t matter so much, as they will probably win regardless of your opening choice. But if you’re facing a <2000 opponent, the Halloween Gambit might prove an excellent choice. Why? It is considered unsound. So even players who don’t know how to refute it, have often little respect for it. So they don’t prepare for it. Result: A White attacker, just two points behind in material, will launch a coordinated attack, using open lines against a vulnerable king. In front of him an unprepared, undeveloped and uncastled opponent, risking a cramp to hold on to his “material advantage”. I for one know at which side of the board I prefer to be.


So before we’re going through my latest game with this opening, let’s quickly browse through the opening moves, as displayed in above diagram. In the symmetrical position of the Four Knights Game, White decides to give his knight for the central e-pawn. This is called the Halloween Gambit, Müller–Schulze Gambit or Leipzig Gambit. Black has little choice than to accept the offer. White in its turn uses his pawns to push the knights back and gain territory. The knight can run to g6 after which the other knight returns to his stable on g8, leaving White with a huge lead in development. Or the knight can flee to c6, try to avoid going back home, get kicked around another two times, and finally giving in anyway. Here White is able to place a pawn on the d6-square, splitting Black’s camp in half and hindering Black’s development even more. Below a game where Black opted for the g6-run.


The Halloween Gambit was my first “minor-piece-gambit” and I’ve enjoyed it ever since. Giving away material in the opening phase often disrupts your opponent. You’re just not supposed to do it. But if you do, you have to go all the way – no half measures. If your game-plan is to recover the lost material or get to an advantageous endgame, you won’t benefit from this opening. But if you adopt an all-or-nothing-at-all mindset, burning your ships and investing everything in a mating quest, I’m sure you’ll appreciate with the opportunities presented to you by the Halloween Gambit.