Four gambit tournaments
Gambits in open games were the popular openings in the nineteenth century. This preference changed when Lasker became the world champion. Solid positional play became the style of many new masters. Gambit tournaments were organised at the beginning of the twentieth century. The aim was to revive the popularity of gambits.
Four main events were:
- Wien 1903 (King’s Gambit Accepted; Chigorin won),
- Wien 1904-05 (King's Gambit Defence; Schlechter won),
- Abbazia 1912 (King’s Gambit Accepted; Spielmann won), and
- Baden bei Wien 1914 (King’s Gambit, Danish Gambit, Evans Gambit, Scotch Gambit and Göring Gambit; Spielmann won).
KING'S GAMBIT DECLINED
1. e4 e5 2. f4 Bc5 (King's Gambit Defence) creates the weakness f2. If White reacts quietly, the problem will be solved. He has to make an adventurous advance in the centre for a battle.
1. e4 e5 2. f4 d5 leads to Falkbeer's Counter-gambit. White can gain an edge, but Black has sufficient compensation for the sacrificed pawn.
KING'S GAMBIT ACCEPTED
1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4
White can avoid a black pawn avalanche on the kingside by playing 3. Bc4 (Bishop’s Gambit). It brings no advantage to White. If the old variation 3. .. d5 4. Bxd5 Qh4† 6. Kf1 is chosen, a great turmoil begins. Sometimes White gains an advantage, because his development in the centre is easy to handle and the black counteraction on the kingside has its tactical difficulties. Suddenly a sharp forward thrust might open the centre for white pieces, storming towards the black king. A quiet line in the days of the gambit tournaments was 3. .. Nf6 4. Nc3 Nc6. The improvement 4. .. c6! would lead to a black plus in later days.
3. Nf3 brings the King Knight’s Gambit.
The Schallopp Defence 3. .. Nf6 and Gianutio’s Counter-Gambit 3. .. f5 can be answered by 4. e5! and White has taken the initiative.
If Black plays 3. .. d5 (Abbazia Defence), he makes the least compromising move. Nevertheless, an interesting battle might develop.
3. .. g5! answers the attack in the centre by a counterattack on the kingside.
The Muzio Gambit 4. Bc4 g4 5. 0-0 was answered in the tournaments by the Brentano Defence 5. .. d5. Black got a plus but was often crushed due to blunders. The similar Quaade Gambit 4. Nc3 and McDonnell Gambit 4. Bc4 g4 5. Nc3 are dubious.
4. Bc4 Bg7 5. h4 leads to the Philidor Gambit. Black does not attack the king’s knight but strengthens his kingside. This brings a cohesive defence by Black.
4. h4 g4 leads to the Kieseritzky Gambit by 5. Ne5 or Allgaier Gambit by 5. Ng5. Black can strive for the initiative in the Kieseritzky Gambit by 5. .. d6! 6.Nxg4 Be7! The Allgaier Gambit seems to be unsound.
1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. c3 reaches the Danish Gambit. Schlechter had discovered the counter gambit 3. .. dxc3 4. Bc4 d5! Réti and Tartakower followed this advise successfully in Baden bei Wien 1914.
The invention of Captain Evans 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 was a main opening in the nineteenth century. The gambit was refused and accepted in Baden bei Wien 1914.
The Evans Gambit lives! If Black refuses the pawn, White controls more territory and calm positional play begins. If the sacrifice is accepted, White has to avoid major exchanges and will be able to gain the initiative by creative play.
SCOTCH AND GÖRING GAMBITS
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 was played in Baden bei Wien 1914. 4. Bc4 led to the Scotch Gambit and 4. c3 brought the Göring Gambit. If Black accepts the pawn sacrifice, White has a sufficient compensation. Several games continued with 4. Bc4 Nf6 (Two Knights). The opening can lead to interesting play.
Spielmann achieved great successes with the King’s Gambit in Abbazia (Opatija) 1912 and Baden bei Wien 1914. His victories stopped in Karlsbad 1923 and Mährisch Ostrau 1923, where he opened majestically six times and scored +1, -5. His article ‘Vom Krankenlager des Königsgambits’ ('from the sickbed of the King’s Gambit') describes his misfortune. The King’s Gambit had become a little popular opening.
Nowadays, gambits are unpopular in general. However, the Scotch and Evans Gambits can be regarded as serious alternatives for the Ruy Lopez.