Opening Gambits! Tactical Ideas | 50+2 Chess Quick Wins! Book

Opening Gambits! Tactical Ideas | 50+2 Chess Quick Wins! Book

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#tactics #gambits #viennagambit #goringgambit #smithmorra #englund #quickwins 

50+2 Chess Quick Wins: Tactical ideas for exciting chess for beginner players. Buy on Amazon! US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | NL | AU

There is something that is exciting in getting a quick win in chess against your opponent. For the beginner player encountering a quick win (or a quick loss) for the first time, the introduction to these lines can feel like discovering a secret society!

My book, "50+2 Chess Quick Wins: Tactical ideas for exciting chess for beginner players" was published and released on Amazon in October 2023. This is the second video and article of a series that will cover the first section of the book, that explains tactical ideas and themes that underlie many quick win games!

Learning to play named opening gambits is often the best way to practice a romantic and aggressive style of chess that lends itself to a potential quick win. Some specific gambits have well recognised early traps, with varying levels of risk.

Individual gambits will have specific tactical ideas related to the position. However, there are some overarching tactical themes that are shared among many of the gambits. Recognising these themes will allow you to understand the system and play tactically, along with finding opportunities when the game moves out of established lines of theory. A major conceptual idea is the following:

  1. The gambit is one of offering material – potentially enticing the opponent to capture what appears to be a free piece, usually a pawn. The gambit itself can sometimes be directly disruptive to the opponent's opening plan.
  2. The compensation the gambit player receives is usually in the form of accelerated development. While the opponent expends a move capturing our proffered material, we use that opportunity to develop other pieces which creates immediate and short-term tactical possibilities.
  3. Sometimes by capturing our material, our opponent’s piece moves to a tactically unfavourable square, and they may need to use further turns defending the material or evacuating their piece.
  4. There is sometimes an opportunity to use that difference in development to launch a winning attack very early in the game.

Let's have a look at a few well-known opening gambits to see these ideas in action!

The Vienna Gambit – 1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. f4

Those who follow my channel will know that my favourite opening in all of chess is the Vienna Gambit! Let’s consider the logic to White’s gambit (3. f4) in the context of the above conceptual idea.

White is offering the f-pawn to Black, which seemingly is undefended and free. Should Black accept the gambit by capturing the pawn, White now has the fantastically disruptive follow up move by pushing the e-pawn forward, attacking Black’s knight on f6. Black’s best response here is to undevelop their knight to its starting square (3… exf4 4. e5 Ng8).

For the cost of one point of material (the f-pawn has been lost), White had diverted Black’s central e-pawn to the side, reducing Black’s central control. The pawn is also potentially overextended and not easy to defend without risk (e.g., g5 defends the f-pawn but might significantly weaken Black’s kingside). White is also significantly “ahead on development”, which can be thought of as being functionally equivalent to having had “extra turns”, something that can be very impactful at the beginning of the game when neither side has had the opportunity to make many turns. Black has potentially given White two additional moves by developing and undeveloping the king’s knight.

The Göring Gambit – 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. c3

The Double Pawn Sacrifice Variation of the Göring Gambit is a great example of this general tactical approach to opening gambits. It comes out of the Scotch Game where on move 4, rather than moving down the Main Line with (4. Nxd4), White gambits the c-pawn. The very natural move for Black with their pawn on d4 that seems indefensible is to accept the gambit (5. Bc4). White now gambits yet another pawn by developing their bishop (5. Bc4) rather than capturing! With their pawn now well too far in their opponent’s territory, Black will sensibly continue to capture down the chain and White finally captures the errant Black pawn with another bishop developing move (5… cxb2 6. Bxb2).

At the beginning of move 6, Black is materially ahead by two pawns, so two points of material. However developmentally, White has four pieces potentially ready to attack Black’s kingside! In the first five moves, Black moved the same pawn FOUR times, and that pawn now no longer even exists! White has a massive tactical advantage over Black in terms of the initiative despite being down two points of material. While Black has yet to develop and be able to counterattack, the loss of pawns by White might not be felt in the game. The curious thing here is that according to Stockfish 16 NNUE, the best chess engine at the time this was written, at high depth this unbalanced position is equal at [0.00]. A human interpretation of this phenomenon – equal computer evaluation but one side has a material deficit – is that the player with less material has a better position that compensates for the material. In practice, it can often be easier for the player with the better position to play for a win – which is why opening gambits work at all!

The Smith-Morra Gambit – 1. e4 c5 2. d4

The most common line down the Smith-Morra Gambit Accepted, which the computer evaluates as the accurate line for Black, has similarities with the Göring Gambit above. White uses this against the Black’s Sicilian Defense, arguably the best response that Black has against the King’s Pawn Opening especially when playing for a win. By immediately playing (2. d4), we potentially force Black’s hand to capture, and then with (3. c3) divert Black’s pawn yet again and then capture it with knight development (4. Nxc3).

So, at the beginning of move 4, Black has not only moved the same pawn for all three of their moves, but it is no longer on the board! White is ahead on development and opportunities (all of Black’s remaining pieces are on their starting square). However, there is another strategic advantage. The Sicilian Defense is a complicated and very good opening, and often Black can get to dictate the direction the game goes. This gives the player with the Black pieces the advantage of knowledge and experience asymmetry. Simply, the Sicilian player should be better at the Sicilian, than a non-Sicilian player, all other things being equal. The Smith-Morra Gambit is a disrupter – it pulls the game out of Sicilian lines taking away Black’s advantage.

The Englund Gambit – 1. d4 e5

I’m going to quickly demonstrate two quick wins in recent games of the Englund Gambit! The computer hates the Englund Gambit, and it is unsound. Nonetheless, it can be very effective at the beginner-intermediate level and in fact, it is the named gambit that features the most frequently in my book!

Like the Smith-Morra Gambit, the Englund Gambit for Black is a disrupter – it wreaks the attempt by White to play a Queen’s Pawn Opening based setup. For instance, the closed Queen’s Gambit lines don’t usually occur. And the one opening it pretty much prevents completely is the infamous and annoying London system. With a black pawn on e5, White cannot play the London bishop to f4. Indeed, for the careless London player who pre-moves Bf4, the game pretty much ends immediately as Black will now capture the hanging bishop!

In the first game, my opponent declines the Englund Gambit with (2. e3), the “Reversed French Variation”. One of the things with the Englund Gambit is that although it is “bad”, White’s only good move is to accept the gambit, making it quite forcing. Declining the Englund Gambit instantly returns the game back to mostly neutral territory, or even a slight advantage for Black, but with the advantage that White most likely will not be able to play their planned opening! The central tension immediately clears and we’re pretty much in the opening tactical territory that I like, and very conducive to a quick win! With basically no development, the e-file is already fully open, which gives many tactical opportunities which can be a little uncomfortable for players who prefer closed and positional games!

For instance, White develops their bishop to a normally sensible square, only for it to be immediate attacked by a pawn (5. Bf4 g5). A few moves later, White struggles to find a sensible looking move and on move 10, blunders their bishop, realises this, and resigns! The best moves in that position according to the computer are unintuitive (for instance, developing either knight to the edge of the board)!

In game 2, White accepts the Englund Gambit and we move down the Main Line, and I play the “Black Killer Queen” triple fork (2. dxe5 Nc6 3. Nf3 Qe7 4. Bf4 Qb4+). Like in the first game, this game looks nothing like a typical Queen’s Pawn Opening game and requires White to have some familiarity with the Englund Gambit, which is not a given at the beginner-intermediate level. In this game, White continues to navigate the position correctly to move 6, fantastic!

The mindset when playing the Englund Gambit is to double down on the threats, even though each one is an escalating mistake according to the engine! In this line, Black throws everything into the attack and the initiative, allowing White to develop while defending. So, I play (6… Nb4), which the engine evaluates the position as winning for White at [+3]. However, if White is not careful, will result in a loss of their queen. White sees the threat and plays the right move and moves their knight to defend the c2 square with (7. Nd4). I up the tension again by attacking White’s knight on d4, and here White makes a move with the correct tactical idea (to attack my queen), but with the wrong execution (8. Na4). In the high-pressure environment, this is a blunder and the evaluation shifts from better than [+5] to around [-2]. By moving that knight, they lost sight of continuity, giving an escape for my queen and hanging their knight on d4 in the process. Trades occur, and White is left down a full piece and a smashed queenside.

Facing an attack of this nature is often disorientating. Rattled, White immediately blunders another piece at the end of that attack (11. Nc5 Bxc5). Two moves later, and about to lose their rook and suffering from emotional damage, White resigns. GG!

The big takeway? Learn and try some opening gambits, or at least, understand the opening tactical ideas behind gambits. And consider buying my book!

Game 1:
Game 2: