Vienna Gambit | KING SAFETY is number 1 PRIORITY! 1️⃣♟️😅

Vienna Gambit | KING SAFETY is number 1 PRIORITY! 1️⃣♟️😅

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#viennagambit #kingsafety #principles 

This was a game I'd recently completed against another Team Australia member, @theminorkey in an Easter Tournament. They'd crushed me in the first match with White, playing an Italian so I was looking to equalise in this match, and of course, I played the Vienna Game with White!

Black responded with the king's knight, Falkbeer Variation, I play the Vienna Gambit, and they decline the gambit with d6 (1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. f4 3. d6). Those of you who are Vienna Gambit aficionados will know that there is only one good response to the (Falkbeer) Vienna Gambit, which is d5, entering the Main Line. The second-best move is indeed declining with d6, and curiously, the analytic engine labelled this a "book move". I'd recently started using the new update to Stockfish, version 16.1 NNUE for analyses for my videos and blogs, and it gave an evaluation of [+0.5] to the position (advantage White), which to my recollection is more favourable than older versions of Stockfish.

The simple tactical idea for White is that we want to take the full centre with d4, but to do that, we'll need to double defend that square. Otherwise, after d4, and captures-captures with exd4 Qxd4, Black wins tempo with Nc6. So first, we must develop our king's knight (4. Nf3).

Black then "delay-accepted" the gambit with (4... exf4) and White's best move is clear; (5. d4) as per our previous idea and opening the diagonal for the dark square bishop to win back the pawn.

One of the things about the Vienna Gambit Declined 3... d6 lines at the beginner-intermediate level, is that many moves that seem to "make sense" for Black are relative inaccuracies. Although White doesn't have a killer move in the opening, it is often possible to have a winning advantage by the middlegame with the accumulation of incremental gains.

Case in point, Black now played (5... Bg4). This move seems to make sense, pinning the knight to the queen. However, it's suboptimal as White will be able to chase the bishop away, gaining tempo, or Black will need to trade their bishop for White's knight. Three moves later, that's exactly what happens (8. h3 Bxf3?! 9. Qxf3). The extraordinary thing here is that although there is material equality, White has a favourable evaluation of [+3 to +4]! This can be understood from the position: White is full developed, has control of the centre, and can castle in either direction. On the other hand, Black's position is cramped, and they cannot castle immediately.

On move 10, I castle long, and Black opted to advance their queen's knight (10... Nb6?!), hoping to gain space with an attack on my seemingly hanging c4-bishop. However, they should have castled their king out of the centre and into safety, as we shall see. Stockfish identified that I could ignore the threat to the bishop with an immediate attack with e5. This is as there is a double-attack with the e-pawn on the f6-knight, and the queen on the b7-pawn.  Moreover, Black's queen is potentially very exposed on the e-file as it could get pinned by one of White's rooks moving to e1 should the e-file open.

In the game, I did see e5, but opted to play (11. Bb3) first. Although this is less accurate, it does mean that White is less critically exposed should they make a mistake! The next move, I play (12. e5) and Black's position completely crumbles... (12... dxe5 13. dxe5) and I reveal an attack on Black's queen with the opening of the d-file! To understand how dire the position is for Black, Stockfish recommends in this position that Black's best move is to long castle and to sacrifice the queen! Black blocked the attack on their queen with (13... Nfd5), but I control the d5 square with FOUR pieces! So, (14. Nxd5 Nxd5 15. Bxd5), and once again, one of Stockfish's top recommendations is for Black to sacrifice their queen to trade off one of my attacking pieces.

Instead, Black attempts to counterattack with their queen with (15... Qa4??), but it's just not quick enough. At high depth, Stockfish can see a forced checkmate in no more than [+M13]. Obviously, this is impossible to calculate for a human, but the weakness if fundamentally a result of Black's king being trapped in the centre of the board, facing open centre-files, controlled by my queen and rooks! This was why it was critical for Black to have castled their king back on move 10!

What follows was a very nice tactical pattern with my light square bishop and queen on the long light square diagonal, slicing the board in half! Firstly, (16. Bxb7) removing White's b-pawn and the defender of the c6 square. This then allowed (17. Bc6+), a royal fork [+M6]! To delay checkmate, Black couldn't even trade their queen for my bishop, but they did (17... Qxc6), bringing forward the mate [+M2]. The king, trapped in the centre files could not escape and was forced to bongcloud to his doom (18. Qxc6+ Ke7 19. Qd7#). GG!

The big takeaway from this game is that the first imperative is king safety. In this game, Black's delayed castling in the early middlegame while behind on development ended up being a strategic mistake that lost them the game.


Hi!  I'm vitualis, the chess noob (aka chessnoob64), and I run the "Adventures of a Chess Noob" YouTube channel and blog.  I'm learning and having fun with chess! 

I restarted playing chess recently after my interest was rekindled by the release of "The Queen's Gambit" on Netflix.  I mostly play 1 or 2 games a day, and am trying to improve (slowly!).  I document some of my games and learning experiences on my blog and YouTube channel from the perspective of a beginner-intermediate player!

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