Winning with The Jack o' Lantern Attack!

Winning with The Jack o' Lantern Attack!

Mar 5, 2010, 12:01 PM |

Although pioneered by Tailler Citrouille, Wilhelm Steinitz' favourite punching bag, the Jack o' Lantern and related "Halloween Systems" have largely fallen into disuse. One can only suppose this was due to tacit agreement, behind the scenes in 19th Century Anglo-European chess. There is strong anecdotal evidence that chess guilds met at the second Munich Chess Conference and agreed to abandon it. Too many weaker players were using the Jack o' Lantern to annihilate stronger contenders to the European chess throne. Zukertort called the Jack o' Lantern "that stupid thing" and refused to play against it, prefering to walk away from the board and forfeit the game; and in one case an entire match. Even Alekhine had respect for it, deciding against playing it as White because of the lack of written theory, but when observing a game when a player attacked with the Jack o' Lantern, he would always rise to his feet, so great was his fascination and respect for this bizarre but seemingly omnipotent opening.

Just read some of these quotes and see if this opening doesn't grab your interest:

"The worst thing White can play! It's insane. But very deadly..." - Adolf Anderssen

"I despise the Pumpkin! It's beaten too many players who didn't deserve to lose." - Sammy Reshevsky

"This opening should be banned! It ruins good games and better players!" - Mikhail Tal

"It begins with d4, so it's crap! d4 leads to nothing!" - R. Fischer

So what is this incredible opening, and how does one add it to one's repertoire?

It usually arises from 1. d4 e6

Naturally, playing 1. d4 with an eye for the Blackmar Diemer SEMTEX Attack is a good thing. If however, Black responds with ...e6 (expecting 2. e4 ) aiming to avoid the BDG while heading for the calmer waters of a transposed French Defense, White has a horrifying response: 2. d5!

As Nimzowitsch put it so well: "By playing 2. d5! White indicates that he is no friendly visitor to Black's home, but carriesĀ  concealed in the folds of his cloak, a horrifying, grinning, glowing, Jack o' Lantern which he will use to paralyze Black's sentries and hammer down the door of his stronghold. Once past the portcullis of pawns, White will commit Regicide. He will slaughter the Royal Family, set fire to the palace library and after dragging the King to the town square, burn him at the stake!"

If Black plays 2...exd??? White will respond with Qxd!!! and the rest is simply a matter of technique.

The Jack o' Lantern is, quite simply, White's best psychological attack. Its incredible power lies in it's absolute stupidity. It is a moronic move, but when played forcefully and confidently, it can rattle an otherwise sane and stable chess player, destroying his preparation and throwing his game off the rails. (Note that it works against 1...d6 too, as in the game below, where the Jack o' Lantern won in less than 6 moves!)

Here's a link to a game I played today. Note that my opponent bailed when he was taken out of his opening book and realized he was facing the horror of the Jack o' Lantern!

The key is to make the move 2. d5 and then immediately comment:

"The Jack o' Lantern Attack!" I sometimes capitalize the word "ATTACK" which shocks Black even more; the name of the opening conjuring up all sorts of hideous and nightmarish childhood states from horror films and archived memory. I use this confusion to press my assault, as my opponent either freezes and asks "...what's that?!?", or simply takes as much as a full minute to make his second move. All hilarious of course.

One opponent responded "I know what it is!" and quickly lost.

So when this all becomes mainstream and the next round of World Champions are taking scalps with this brilliantly stupid opening, remember you read it in my blog first...

Now get out there and play the Jack o' Lantern ATTACK!

And let me know what happens...