Wednesday, May 18, at 6pm, members of the Decorah Sjakklubb (chess club) will begin to congregate at The Landing in order to challenge one another to some chess matches. Come to learn and/or just to play.
In today’s post, I’m going to cover a small portion of the Englund Gambit, which occurs after a queen pawn opening. The beginning line is 1. d4 e5 and looks like this.
This is an interesting line for somebody who has not studied it, and if white is not careful, can fall behind to black rather quickly. The appropriate response for white is to take the free pawn. The next few moves that usually occur are as follows:
2. dxe5 Nc6 3. Nf3
Here, a trap can be set by black that isn’t easy to see how to defend for those playing the line for the first time. Let’s say black continues to put pressure on the e5 pawn with 3. … Qe7. Take a look at the position now and see what you would do with white to move.
If you happened to find either Bf4 or Bg5, both are fine. Moving the bishop to f4 to offer protection to the pawn, or moving the bishop to g5 in order to attack the queen are both decent moves. Let’s say that play continues with 4. Bg5 Qb4+ and produces the following position for white. Look at it and see if you can find the best move for white.
Although it feels like retreat is not the answer (as you just developed your bishop), the correct move here is to either retreat your bishop with Bd2 or put the knight in front with Nc3. When I first played this, I thought trading queens was best with Qd2 (and I’ve seen a surprising number of chess players who have not seen this line resort to this). Black’s answer? Black doesn’t want to trade when he can have your rook! The (incorrect) line continues 5. Qd2 Qxb2
How is white going to keep the rook in this situation? Look at the position above a while and see what you can come up with before reading on. This is a difficult position indeed, as black is winning.
Playing this for the first time players may try and trade queens again, thinking this time it will surely work with Qc3. It turns out, this is a huge blunder. Why? Black will skewer the queen with the bishop with Bb4. White is losing horribly on the sixth move of the game! 6. Qc3 Bb4
So, what should have white done? Let’s back up to the position before the fifth move. There are two moves that work. White has either Bd2 or Nc3. If black elects to take the pawn on b2, then white plays the other move (if Bd2 was played first, then Nc3… if Nc3, then Bd2). So, the fifth and sixth moves could look like this:
5. Nc3 Qxb2 6. Bd2 Bb4
The good response by black is to bring the bishop down to b4 to put two attackers on the knight with only the one defender. If white answers correctly here with 7. Rb1, then it will be a pretty good game from here with a slight advantage for white.