Chess in the Wild, Part 3.

May 9, 2010, 1:07 PM |

    With best play, does Black have a chance with 1.e4  e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 Bc5

   White's historically questionable 4th move, 4. Ng5, gives Black a little lattitude and
4 . . . Bc5 supplies the perfect answer to that question.
This leads to the natural speculation into White's response.
There are 3 suitable moves for White at this juncture - and curiously enough, two of them White had threatened with it's  previous move, 4. Ng5 :
                                        5. Bxf7+5. Nxf7+  or 5. d4
Now the theory on all this is terribly ponderous and far beyond the scope of any blog article. But in my explorations, I learned some interesting things.

Most people I talk to regarding the Traxler consider 5. Bxf7+ the strongest response simply because it wins a pawn and sentences Black's King to the center of the board. It's true that most experts agreed with this assessment - until quite recently. Several experts, including NM Dan Heisman, FIDE master Stefan Bücker and Maarten de Zeeuw who wrote the analysis  [also 1, 2, 3, 4 ] for NiC,  tend to believe that very scary 5. Nxf7+ is White's only real chance to refute the Traxler.

Stefan Bücker claims "In the last decades White used to play 5. Bxf7+ Ke7, followed by either 6. Bd5 or 6. Bb3. White may have a slight advantage, but Black keeps substantial compensation for his sacrificed pawn.  Lev Gutman concentrated on 6. Bd5, published in 1996, which he analyzed on dozens of pages. At that time the theoreticians still preferred 5 Bxf7+ over the alternatives.
Only four years later Christophe and Moll claimed in that the real refutation of the Traxler was 5. Nxf7 Bxf2+ 6. Kxf2 Nxe4+ 7. Ke3!, a courageous winning attempt that had been underestimated by theory.

"According to [Maarten de Zeeuw], the strongest line begins with 5. Nxf7 Bxf2+ 6. Kf1."


All this and the following entries will attempt to present are games that exemplify some of White's attempts to refute the Traxler and hopefully give the reader some sort of insight into the complexities, and the possibilities, the opening offers.

Let's start with the often-overlooked  5. d4!?

After this move, Black has several possible responses:
5... d5,  5... Bxd4,  5... Nxd4, 5...exd4

Of all these responses, 5... d5 seems the most popular, and successful.

1.e4  e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 Bc5 5. d4 d5


1.e4  e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 Bc5 5. d4 Bxd4

1.e4  e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 Bc5 5. d4 Nxd4
1.e4  e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 Bc5 5. d4 exd4