Chess in the Wild, Part 1

Apr 27, 2010, 5:02 PM |

Take a walk with me on the wild side . . . of chess.
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 When Tarrasch wrote ". . .Sg5 , den ich für einen richtigen Stümper zug halte." [4. Ng5, I consider this a patzer's move (even compared to 4. d3)],  he recommended 4. 0-0 or better yet, 4. d4,  probably in line with his dogma that condemned moving the same piece twice in an  opening.  But most people agree that, despite flying in the face of a basic chess principle, after 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6,  4.Ng5  poses some serious difficulties for Black

The usual responses to  4.Ng5, and the more sound . . . and the more boring,  include 4...d5 5.exd5 (after which most folks avoid 5...Nxd5, in  light of the notorious Fegatello - 6.Nxf7 Kxf7 7.Qf3+ Ke6 8.Nc3.) 5 ... Na5, followed by some well tested variation such as the Morphy (6. d3),   or the Steinitz (6.Bb5+) or  The Fritz (5...Nd4) or the interesting Ulvastd (5...b5).
In 1875, according to Tim Harding,  Zukertorte even suggested the interesting, complex but likely unsound,  4. . .Nxe4?!  (sometimes called  the Ponziani-Steinitz Gambit)

However the most exciting and poetic, and probably sound, response, the one that answers White audacity with an audacity of its own, is the seemingly suicidal 4.  . . Bc5.  This is the beginning to the Traxler or the Wilkes-Barre.

Nick DeFirmian wrote: "the Wilkes-Barre Variation 4...Bc5!? looks crazy--Black ignores White's threat to f7--yet there is no known refutation  of it.  In Europe, it is known as the Traxler Variation."

While Alex Dunne wrote:  "The logic behind 4. ... Bc5 is simple and bloodthirsty: the attack belongs to the better developed side. By  branding 4. Ng5 a "beginner's move," moving a piece twice in the opening, Black prepares his own systematic attack on f2, backed up with  an extra developing move or two. If a pawn or two, a rook, or even a few pieces go into the box, what does it matter when a king is at stake?."

5. Nxf7 Bxf2+ 6. Kxf2 Nxe4+ 7. Kg1 Qh4 8. g3 Nxg3 9. hxg3 Qxg3+ 10. Kf1 Rf8 11. Qh5 d5 12. Bxd5 Nb4 13. Bc4 b5! with advantage to Black. . . -Alex Dunne

5. Bxf7+  Ke7 6. Bd5
Black will have two attacking moves ... Nd4 and ... Rf8. Black's pieces will focus on White's kingside. So, for a small amount of material, Black will have a large amount of attack. - Alex Dunne
6. ... Rf8


         Let's digress for a moment and look at Karel Traxler's original game.Karel Traxler
Traxler (1866 – 1936) was a Roman Catholic priest from Veselí nad Lužnicí in South Bohemia. A chess aficianado, best known as a chess problemist, he developed this particular line around 1892.  I've read several places that he didn't play tournaments due to his religious affiliation, but that doesn't seem to be the case. While his tournament play might have been restricted by his responsibilities, I noted where he did, in fact play in tournaments, such as the 8th Czech Congess of 1907; Winter has him identified as playing in a tournament in Osyky in 1900; he was one of two judges for Best Game in the 1st International Prague Chess Tournament 1908 and he entered countless problem tourneys - indicating he had no religious hesitation to participate in tournaments.
OCC gave his name as Peter Karel Traxler.  I don't know their source. I've encountered his name as P. K. Traxler, but took that to mean Pater Karel Traxler, pater being latin for father. Anders Thulin give Traxler's pseudonyms  as Karel Kaplan, but I haven't been able to connect the two names.



I'll end Part 1 here, but for anyone interested, NM Ernest Colding did a series of articles on the Traxler - the Wilkes-Barre - Opening. He had planned on a longer series, but for some reason quit posting with the series unfinished. 
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

There's also a Traxler-Analysis group  here ( - I don't belong to it) that you can join and contribute to or just get ideas from.