Sup's Traxler Diary
Learning the Wonderful Traxler Counterattack

Sup's Traxler Diary

Nov 3, 2017, 10:51 AM |
I figured if I'm going to spend time studying an opening in some depth I may as well share it!  I will keep adding to this until I feel I've mastered the opening.
C57: The Traxler Counterattack is an extremely sharp defence against the Fried Liver Attack, characterised by 4. Ng5  Bc5?!.  Substantial material is sacrificed in most lines; the justification is that White's queenside pieces will often never develop (material is equal, even if White's is still on the board and Black's isn't), and taking a seemingly free piece at the wrong moment can be a terrible blunder.  It's especially effective because of the aggressive nature of the Fried Liver: if White plays 4. Ng5, he most certainly wants to attack - but attacking instead of defending after Bc5 is extremely risky!
The Traxler aims to rip the initiative from White's grasp, taking them way out of their comfort zone until the bitter end.
        5. Nxf7
I'll focus on 5. Nxf7 first, as it seems to be the most popular continuation (White wins a pawn and forks Black's Queen and h-Rook) and is incidentally the move recommended by engines.  I'll talk about 5. Bxf7+ (where White opts for a more positional advantage) later on.
You seems to be facing immediate material loss, and instead of moving the Queen to safety you decide to play 5. ...  Bxf2+!!.  White has 3 legal moves here: 6. Kf1 (+1.15), 6. KxB (+0.77), and 6. Ke7 (-1.41).  Let's look at them in order, from best to worst:
6. Kf1 gets the King out of danger immediately - we are forced to play Qe7 to save the Queen, and after NxR we also have to retreat the bishop (7. ...  Bb6 is best, setting up a battery after Qc5).  Stockfish gives White a ~1.5 edge in this position, but both sides must play extremely carefully from here on out.
 6. KxB is also playable, however Black can now snatch the initiative with 6. ...  Nxe4+ and 7. ...  Qh4. 
        Exploiting Mistakes
This is the most entertaining aspect of this opening - spotting and punishing the many, many mistakes White can make!
1. Mate-in-7.  White has just grabbed your h-Rook with his Knight - punish his greed!


2. Material gain.  White has just played Rf1, to prevent any Queen checks.  Why was this a blunder?