Monday, January 22, 2018


Less than 2 months ago as every year there was again a lot of tension at home. The Saint Nicholas-day was approaching so my children were writing their wish-list of things they like to get as presents. Next it is always necessary to temper the expectations as the demand is always bigger than the supply. However the chat with my 8 year old son didn't proceed this time as forecast.
- I: "Do you really need to get this? Wouldn't that be a better present for you?
- My son: "It is probably again too expensive for you?"
- I: "Mmm? For me?
- My son: "I meant for Saint Nicholas of course."
- I: "Do you know something more already about Saint Nicholas?"
- My son:"Well I saw my ante Ellen when she was hiding the chocolate-eggs when I was 5 years old. I saw mama putting the coin of the tooth-fairy under my pillow when I lost my first tooth. So I also have figured out a long time ago who is Saint Nicholas."
- I:"Oh and I hoped to keep enjoying for awhile your innocence. Why didn't you tell me earlier?"
- My son:"Ach I just played my role so I wouldn't miss any presents. Does this mean that I won't get any this year?

Of course I didn't deny him his presents. All children are dreaming about it and each culture has its own children-day. In Russia this is the 31st of December: Дед Мороз & Снегурочка (Grandfather frost and his granddaughter Snegoerotsjka). Like Saint Nicholas in Belgium you can meet him/them regularly in shopping-malls or even on the street. You can see them showing up in many advertisements. Even some gigantic statues are made of them whereby it is queuing to make a picture together with the children.
My 2 children posing next to the statues.
Of course this means they can profit of some more presents. Grandpa and grandma (kortatei and nanei we call them conform their Tatar background) spoiled them with candy and a nice amount of pocket money to spend to whatever they liked.

We don't participate with our family at other children-days although I notice that Halloween becomes more and more popular in our country. In my childhood this day wasn't celebrated at all but today there are a lot of activities around Halloween. While being in Open Le Touquet there was a real trick or treating organized by the government see e.g twitter VilleduTouquet.

However it is not because I haven't experienced Halloween as a child that it is something new for me. Via chess I already got acquainted decades ago with Halloween. I am of course talking about the Halloween-gambit and this finally steers the story to the real subject of this article. I like not standard introductions.

The Halloween-gambit was originally called Muller-Schulze gambit or also Leipzig gambit (see wikipedia).  Only after an article of Jakob Steffen was published in 1996 the new name became popular. Halloween-gambit sounds much better so the old names were quickly replaced. At amateur-level the gambit became somewhat popular thanks to the scary character of the resulting complications. An article on the site of Tim Krabbe:  "A breeze in the sleepy Four knight's game" added some more fuel to the fire. However this also meant simultaneously the end of the gambit. The extra attention attracted some theoreticians and very quickly some anti-dotes were discovered. I still remember a less known anti-dote from that  period which I still like to play online, see example below.
[Event "Rated game, 1m + 0s"] [Site "Main Playing Hall"] [Date "2013.08.09"] [Round "?"] [White "Wielkiipotezny"] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C47"] [WhiteElo "2219"] [BlackElo "2309"] [PlyCount "58"] [EventDate "2013.12.22"] [Sourcetitle ""] [CurrentPosition "r1bqk2r/pppp1ppp/3b1n2/3Pn3/4PP2/2N5/PPP3PP/R1BQKB1R w KQkq - 1 8"] 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nxe5 Nxe5 5.d4 Nc6 6.d5 Ne5 7.f4 Bd6 { (By returning the piece, black avoids the complications. Besides the engines evaluate the position as slightly better for black as the control of the e5-square is very important. Online I already encountered this position 35 times with a clear positive score.) } 8.fxe5 Bxe5 9.Bd3 O-O 10.O-O h6 11.Be3 Qe7 12.Ne2 d6 13.c3 Re8 14.Kh1 Bg4 15.Qd2 Bxe2 16.Bxe2 Nxe4 17.Qc2 Qh4 18.g3 Nxg3+ 19.Kg1 Nxf1 20.Bxf1 Bxh2+ 21.Qxh2 Qxh2+ 22.Kxh2 Rxe3 23.Bg2 Re2 24.a4 Rxb2 25.a5 Re8 26.a6 b6 27.Rg1 Ree2 28.Kh1 Rxg2 29.Rxg2 Rxg2 0-1
That is the disadvantage of many gambits. You can often return the piece and maintain a nice position. Nevertheless the gambit is still sometimes used as a surprise-weapon. Hereby also some new refined versions of the gambit were discovered which are less dubious. I refer to the Halloweengambit against the glek which is sometimes also called the reversed Halloween-gambit. Even some strong players have tried this system with some success.
[Event "CZE-chT 0304"] [Site "Czechia"] [Date "2004.??.??"] [Round "6"] [White "Smirin, Ilia"] [Black "Macieja, Bartlomiej"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C47"] [WhiteElo "2656"] [BlackElo "2627"] [PlyCount "47"] [EventDate "2003.10.??"] [Eventtype "team"] [Eventrounds "11"] [Eventcountry "CZE"] [Sourcetitle "EXT 2005"] [Source "ChessBase"] [Sourcedate "2004.11.15"] [Sourceversion "1"] [Sourceversiondate "2004.11.15"] [Sourcequality "1"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.g3 Nxe4 5.Nxe4 d5 6.Nc3 d4 7.Ne4 { (Today most players prefer to return the piece immediately with Bg2 which transposes to a mainline of the Glek.) } 7...f5 8.Neg5 e4 9.Bc4 { (Eventually white also returns the piece but in a more original manner. The engine evaluates the position as equal.) } 9...exf3 10.Nxf3 Qe7+ 11.Kf1 Be6 12.d3 Bxc4 13.dxc4 Qd7 14.Kg2 O-O-O 15.a3 h6 16.h4 Bd6 17.b4 Ne5 18.c5 Nxf3 19.Qxf3 Be5 20.Rb1 Qd5 21.Rb3 Bf6 22.Re1 Qxf3+ 23.Rxf3 Rd5 24.Rd3 1/2-1/2
Finally there is also something like the double reversed Halloween-gambit or should we call it the reversed Glek. Also in that version the gambit is perfectly playable. This was already demonstrated by a very young Magnus Carlsen. His fondness for off-beaten openings, is something he clearly got from childhood.
[Event "Helsinki ShakkiNet-A 4th"] [Site "Helsinki"] [Date "2002.06.25"] [Round "2"] [White "Carlsen, Magnus"] [Black "Nyysti, Sampsa"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C47"] [WhiteElo "2163"] [BlackElo "2242"] [PlyCount "83"] [EventDate "2002.06.24"] [Eventtype "tourn"] [Eventrounds "11"] [Eventcountry "FIN"] [Eventcategory "4"] [Sourcetitle "CBM 089 Extra"] [Source "ChessBase"] [Sourcedate "2002.09.10"] [Sourceversion "2"] [Sourceversiondate "2002.09.10"] [Sourcequality "1"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.a3 g6 5.Nxe5 { (The double reversed Halloween-gambit or just a variant of the reversed Glek.) } 5...Nxe5 6.d4 Nc6 7.d5 Nb8 8.e5 Ng8 9.d6 cxd6 10.exd6 Qf6 11.Nb5 Na6 12.Bc4 Bh6 13.Qe2+ Kf8 14.Be3 Bxe3 15.fxe3 Qh4+ 16.g3 Qh5 17.Qf2 Qf5 18.Qe2 Qh5 19.Qf2 Qf5 20.Qe2 Nh6 { (If black knew that white would become a worldchampion 11 years later then probably he would've here not avoided the repetition.) } 21.Rf1 Qh5 22.Qf2 Qf5 23.Qe2 Qe5 24.O-O-O Kg7 25.Rd5 Qe8 26.Qd2 Rf8 27.Qd4+ f6 28.g4 b6 29.g5 Nf5 30.gxf6+ Rxf6 31.Rdxf5 gxf5 32.Rg1+ Qg6 33.Rxg6+ Kxg6 34.Bd5 Rb8 35.e4 Bb7 36.exf5+ Rxf5 37.Qg4+ Kf6 38.Qh4+ Kg6 39.Bc4 Nc5 40.b4 Ne4 41.Nc7 Nxd6 42.Qg3+ 1-0
Maybe this history is something already known by the reader and this article just refreshed your memory. The double reversed Halloween-gambit was already covered by an article published in 2008 on the blog of Sverre Johnsen but I assume few are aware about that. However I did knew about it which was something my opponent in round 3 of the Open Leuven experienced. The surprise failed and I quickly got a comfortable position especially after white hallucinated.
[Event "Open Leuven 3de ronde"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Boucquet, E."] [Black "Brabo"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C47"] [WhiteElo "2175"] [BlackElo "2283"] [PlyCount "61"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [CurrentPosition "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"] 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.a3 g6 5.Nxe5 { (I knew that Emiel loves gambits but this was of course a surprise. Nevertheless I am familiar with this double reversed Halloween-gambit thanks to an article on the blog of Sverre Johsen published in 2008.) } 5...Nxe5 6.d4 Nc6 7.d5 Bg7 { (It is this simple anti-dote that made this line never very popular. Besides keeping the extra piece does not guarantee any advantage.) } 8.dxc6 bxc6 9.Bg5 h6 10.Bh4 g5 { (Breaking the pin is playable but not necessary. Directly castling is likely a bit more solid.) } 11.Bg3 O-O 12.Bd3 d5 13.O-O Rb8 14.e5 { (The start of a serious miscalculation although technically there is not wrong with this move.) } 14...Ng4 15.Re1? { (White continues undisturbed with his plan but now this is a mistake.) } ( 15.Qd2! Nxe5 16.Rae1 Qd6 17.f4! gxf4 18.Bxf4 Rxb2 19.Qe3 Re8 20.Qg3 $44 { (White sacrificed 2 pawns but clearly has compensation.) } ) 15...Re8 16.e6 Rxe6 { (Only here white realized that Qxg4 fails due to Rxe1+.) } 17.Rxe6 Bxe6 18.h3 Ne5 19.Na4 Nd7? { (The extra pawn is not enough yet for the win and these kind of safe moves don't improve my chances.) } ( 19...Nc4! 20.b3!? Bxa1 21.Qxa1 Nd6 22.Qc3 $17 { (I had noticed this exchange-sacrifice for white during the game but the engine calculates everything is fine for black. The weakened black squares around black's king are defensible.) } ) 20.Qd2 Nb6 21.Qa5? { (This doesn't work tactically. With a new clever pawn-sacrifice via Nc5 white could find sufficient counterplay.) } 21...Qc8? { (I also investigated Nxa4 during the game but did not manage to evaluate it properly.) } ( 21...Nxa4! 22.Bxc7!? Qf8 { (The most accurate square for the queen.) } 23.Bxb8?! { (Objectively Qxa4 is stronger.) } 23...Nxb2 24.Qxa7 Nxd3 { (Black wins a piece as the white rook hangs.) } 25.Rb1 Nb2 $19 { (The a-pawn looks dangerous but again the engine tells us that black has everything under control.) } ) 22.Nc5 Nc4 23.Bxc4 dxc4 24.Na4? { (We both praised this move after the game but the engine shows once more that we were wrong.) } ( 24.Nxe6! Qxe6 25.Re1 Rb5 26.Rxe6 Rxa5 27.Re8+ Kh7 28.c3 Rb5 29.Re2 Rb7 $13 ) 24...Qb7? { (This is too slow and gives white again counterchances.) } ( 24...Bf5! 25.Rc1 Qd7 26.Qxc7 Rd8 27.Qxd7 Rxd7 $17 ) 25.Re1 Rc8 26.Be5 Qb5 27.Qc3 { (This fantastic move was a complete surprise for me. Even today's top-engines have some difficulties to evaluate properly the consequences. I do believe Emiel also only realized a couple of moves later which beauty he found and played. ) } 27...Bf8 ( 27...Bxe5!? 28.Rxe5 Bd5 ( 28...Qxa4?? 29.Ra5 $18 { (I assume Emiel decided to play 27.Qc3 mainly because of this trick.) } ) 29.h4 { (I used half of my remaining minutes to evaluate properly the tactics and in the end rightly decided not to accept the sacrifice as it is too dangerous. Emiel told me he also looked at this move while I was calculating.) } 29...f6 ( 29...Qxa4 30.hxg5 h5 31.Re3 Be6 32.g6 Bf5 33.gxf7+ Kxf7 34.Rg3 Rg8 35.Qe5 $11 { [%eval 27,35] } ) 30.Qh3 Rf8 31.Qf5 fxe5 32.Qg6+ Kh8 33.Qxh6+ $11 { [%eval 0,45] } ) 28.Qf3 Bg7 { (I also looked at Be7 and Qxa4 but again chose for the safest continuation.) } ( 28...Be7!? 29.Bc3 Rd8 ( 29...Qxa4 30.Qh5 Bf8 ( 30...Qxc2 31.Qxh6 Qh7 32.Rxe6 Qxh6 33.Rxh6 f6 34.Bxf6 Bf8 35.Rh8+ Kf7 36.Bxg5 $18 { [%eval 261,32] } ) 31.Rxe6 Qxc2 32.Rf6 Qh7 33.h4 Rd8 34.hxg5 Rd6 35.Qg4 $11 { [%eval 5,37] } ) 30.Qh5 Qf5 31.Qxh6 Qh7 32.Qxh7+ Kxh7 33.Bb4 Bf6 34.Nc5 $11 { [%eval 13,36] } ) ( 28...Qxa4?? 29.Qf6 Kh7 30.g4 Qxc2 ( 30...h5 31.Qh8+ Kg6 32.Qxh5# ) 31.Qh8+ Kg6 32.Qg8+ Bg7 33.Qxg7# ) 29.Qc3 { (After the game I told Emiel that he could have avoided the repetition with Bxg7 but he missed that possibility.) } ( 29.Bxg7 Kxg7 30.b3 ( 30.Qc3+ Kg6 31.Re5 Bd5 32.h4 Qxa4 33.hxg5 hxg5 34.f4 gxf4 35.Qh3 Be6 $11 { [%eval 0,41] } ) 30...cxb3 31.Qc3+ Kh7 32.Nc5 Qc4 33.Qxc4 Bxc4 34.Nxb3 Bd5 $11 { [%eval -14,40] } ) 29...Bf8 30.Qf3 Bg7 31.Qc3 1/2-1/2
I sometimes hear parents complain that their children lose games due to those kind of dubious gambits. They find it lame that some players try to win by using traps so preventing their children to play a full game of chess. However traps are also an important part of chess which you need to deal with. Or you adapt the repertoire to avoid those kind of gambits or you learn the anti-dotes often after a number of losses. Recently I was again criticized of not willing to let my son play some main-openings. This would be bad for this development. Personally I don't see what the benefit is of letting my son lose games in less than 20 moves due to some traps. Today it is more important to let him play long games. First priority for him should be to build up a solid position and how to proceed instead of learning a number of theoretical moves.


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