Silman on the Latvian Gambit

  • 5 years ago · Quote · #1


    I would reference Mr. Silman's article on the Latvian as lacking in intellectual rigor.  Here is the article:


    "The line you faced is known as the Latvian Gambit. There is a whole community of players who live for this opening, but the fact that no grandmasters use it speaks volumes for its true lack of soundness."


    Oh, really, well how about many masters and IMs that have used it for surprise value especially in speed chess?    Spassky had a significant win playing the Latvian when he was younger as did many other developing future GMS.

    "As for the line Joseph faced (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5 3.Nxe5 Nc6), this actually has some fans since the rapid development Black often achieves gives rise to complications that are far from easy to solve. For example, in Joseph's game 4.Qh5+ g6 5.Nxg6 Nf6 6.Qh4 hxg6 7.Qxh8 Qe7 leads to a very difficult position where Black has definite compensation (Even if it's not quite enough, Black's practical chances are excellent.)."

    Actually, 6...hXg6 is not the mainline here, but R-g8


    "White's best (instead of Joseph's 8.Qh3) is 8.d3, which scores pretty heavily for White. Nonetheless, John Nunn's 4.d4! seems to put 3…Nc6 on ice (see the Watson analysis below)."

      On 3...Nc6 4. d4 Qf6 is quite playable.  I have won many games with this line.


    The definitive book on the Latvian IMO is Tony Kosten's book devoted to most all lines.  The fact that chess journalists of Mr. Silman's prolific nature do not have complete chess libraries is somewhat disquieting. 

  • 5 years ago · Quote · #2


    I don't think being a good practical/blitz weapon and possessing "a true lack of soundness" at the GM level are mutually exclusive ideas.

    I agree with everything Silman says, and I also agree with most everything you say...except the stuff where you complain about Silman himself.  Having personal success in a line (e.g., the Qf6 stuff) doesn't make it sound.  It's makes it useful for you.  Kudos!

    This is like two people arguing about water, and having one yell, "It's wet!" while the second shouts, "No, idiot, it's clear!"

  • 5 years ago · Quote · #3


    Probably Silman deals with many beginners who want to impugn openings that have been around for centuries.  The "Greco-counter" gambit is a great classic and it bothers me when "authorities" like Silman disparage it. 

    Here is the Spassky win with the Latvian:



    Here is Bobby Fischer's loss against the Latvian:



    Here are a bunch of other wins with the Latvian Gambit:


    I rest my case.  And when I asked GM Nakamura about it ten or so years ago he dismissed it as garbage.  Pride goes before....

  • 5 years ago · Quote · #5


    Possibly the best programs in the world could come up with something definitive, but until they "prove" it is lost I will keep playing it. 

  • 5 years ago · Quote · #7


    My opening standards go a bit further than whether it's refuted or not.  In other words, if your defense of the opening is "you can almost refute it, but not quite" then that's what speaks volumes.

    It'll take more than a few games (and a list comprised of many games before 1930) to convince me of your word over titled players  "you rest your case" lol 

    My old chessbase database gives 3.Nf3xe5 as scoring 85% with 1000 games.  It may not be fully refuted, but it doesn't do well in practice.  It does even worse when I filter it for modern games with players rated 2300 or above.

  • 5 years ago · Quote · #8


    pfren wrote:

    Actually I find mr. Silman being too modest in that article (there are also a couple of revisions on it, as well as some analyses on chesspub by a strong correspondence master, who defended the gambit, but eventually gave up on it). The gambit is certainly worse than what Silman suggests: After either accepting with 3.Nxe5, or declining with 3.Nc3, black simply has a bad game.

    Oh, FYI Silman does have Kosten's book ( actually he reviewed it quite some time ago- ), and Kosten, being a moderator at chesspub, never disputed the analyses of mr. Alejandro Melchor (to name the Latvian afficionado I mentioned before).

    I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but you should really pick a better opening to defend.

    I would have to be witness to that discussion over at chesspub.  There are numerous players for and against.  And the Greco-counter or Latvian is worthy of play as it was 150 years ago.  And as I said before many of Mr. Silman's assertions were debatable, I did not see any elucidation of those points.  I would not want to play it against someone thoroughly booked up on it or against an IM like you, but chess is not a mathematical theorem that needs to be proved unless there is a critical line requiring it.  Professional arrogance is one of the great obstacles to educating the young.  And as long as masters who are scholastic teachers dismiss significant openings with arrogant pronouncements, they are truly doing the young players a disservice.  And this also applies to many other disciplines where professional arrogance and ignoring specific questions creates many unfortunate problems. 

  • 5 years ago · Quote · #9


    So which is worse?  Professional arrogance or amateur arrogance?

  • 5 years ago · Quote · #10


    What I am voicing is concern for the sake of honest and thorough journalism.  We have a sort of strange double standard where very few books are online because of copyright restrictions, but many videos are readily available online.  I went through Mr. Kosten's book on the Latvian pretty thoroughly and though it may not be rigorous on the IM level, it does answer the so-called "refutations".  Years ago they said that 3Bc4 was a "refuation" and search and search as they might, they could not find it.  So now they are saying it leads to "a bad game".  There are dozens of openings they say are unsound or lead to "bad games".  Why?  Because they want you to play "standard" orthodox lines that are "proven".   Life would be very dull if we all followed the "experts".

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #11


    It deserves exploring.  I too have been told by experts and up that it isn't playable at higher levels, but I looked it up in Modern Chess Openings and although white can hold a small edge in most lines, it is complicated, and black certainly isn't bad...

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #12


    Actually, I am thinking of playing the Latvian myself. The fine gentleman that beat Yasser Seirawan was Victors Pupols, a player in the Seattle/Tacoma area of Washington State. Mr. Pupols, according to a book about him with a forward by Yasser, and as quoted in that forward, has the best record against Yasser with seven wins! One was the Latvian. My USCF rating is just 1624, and at class B levels I think the Latvian might be okay.

        I haven't had the pleasure of playing Victors Pupols (and certainly it would be losing to him), but have watched a few of his games at the National Open some years ago. He is known as a real fighter.

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #14


    The Latvian Gambit was my main tournament opening against 1.e4 a long
    time ago. My friend Reynolds (master) is really arrogant about his views
    on this opening. There is the Svendenborg line which is dead drawn. If
    White tries to win then he will lose. See Chessville article on this line.
    There are several lines covered at this web site. Also IM Stefan Buecker
    of Germany wrote about a line that went 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5 3.Nxe5 Nf6 at
    the Chess Cafe website called Over the Horizons. I believe that this is
    fertile ground for analysis of the Latvian Gambit.

    Bobby Fischer never defeated Viktors Pupols Latvian Gambit and
    also GM Johnny Hector had also played the Latvian Gambit. We
    should exsamine the Latvian Gambit games from both players to
    come up with better lines for the Latvian Gambit.

    Now the question becomes how can an opening be busted when
    one line is dead drawn? It should be busted in all lines.

    The line that Reynolds plays is 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5 3.Nxe5 Qf6 4. Nc4
    the Leonhardt Variation which is very dangerous for Black because
    Black is behind in development. Black has to play Bb4 to pin the
    N at c3 and not take the pawn when White plays d3 because this
    will give White very active pieces. Reynolds students have not
    beaten my Latvian Gambit from the White side in blitz games
    the past couple of years playing this line.

    Best Regards

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #15


    If Black plays the Svendenborg line White cannot force Black to play
    other lines.

    Best Regards

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #17


    DarthMusashi, what is it you mean by 'the svendenborg line'? The actual variation seems to change with time (after previous lines are refuted, perhaps?)

    do you mean this: 1.e4 e5 2. Nf3 f5 3. Bc4 fxe4 4. Nxe5 d5 5. Qh5+ g6 6. Nxg6 Nf6

    Or perhaps this: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5 3.Nxe5 Nf6 4.Bc4 fxe4 5.Nf7 Qe7 6.Nxh8 d5

    Or something else entirely?

    Oh, I also noticed that here:

    You posted this:

    "The most dangerous line for Black is the line 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5 3.Nxe5

    Qf6 4.Nc4. I lost 2 tournament games to this line. Black has to be
    careful because he is behind in development."

    ^that doesn't sound like 'dead drawn' to me.

  • 4 years ago · Quote · #20


    Pacifique wrote:

     (4... Nf6 5.Ng4!) 

    Ng8 is kind of funny :).
    Nxe4 is quite bad then ^^.

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