The Queens’ Gambit: Openings from Other Lands

Moscow, Paris, Mexico City

Kentucky, Columbus, Las Vegas, New York, Mexico City, Paris, Moscow: the chess matches span much of the globe. So do the openings, or they could have – there was a distinct preference for the Sicilian Defense, then (naturlich) some Queen’s Gambits. Had they chosen a more geographically representative set of openings, here is what they might have done …

Mexico City: Ruy Lopez aka the “Spanish Torture”

Vibrant, lush, historic scenery of Mexico City

Chess sets from Latin America often have the theme of Aztecs v. (Spanish) Conquistadors as with the first set shown. In an ironic twist of history, the light Aztec side is shown here perpetrating a Ruy Lopez attack on the very Spanish whose Ruy Lopez de Segura is credited with inventing what has come to be known as “The Spanish Torture” – an unrelenting attack on Black’s Pawn on K4 (e4) and the center in general, preparing P-Q4 (d4) with P-QB3 (c3), pointing both Bishops towards Black’s castled King, and swinging both Knights over to the attack as well in many continuations.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 can be torturous: Ruy Lopez aka The Spanish Torture

The same theme can be seen with the next set, a gift from our oldest daughter who interned in Ecuador one summer; the Equator (after which the country is named) monument is pictured on the board. An obligatory Spanish Torture opening is shown,

Basic Ruy Lopez after 5. O-O Open Variation after 8. dxe5 Be6

After 1. e4 e5; 2. Nf3 Nc6; 3. Bb5 a6; 4.Ba4 Nf6; 5.O-O White indirectly defends against 5. … NxP since
6. Re1 Nf6; 7. Nxe5 recovers the pawn. However, by capturing with 5. … Nxe5, Black enters the Open Variation of the Ruy Lopez:

5. O-O Nxe4
6. d4 b5
7. Bb3 d5
8. dxe5 Be6 as shown above

Black has an active position, but White is a little more quickly developed, and will target Black’s advanced N on e4 with Nd2, c3, Bc2 and even Qe2/Rd1

Danish Gambit

Though I have no Danish chess sets, suffice it to say that just as insidious for the purple Aztec side to wreak on their unsuspecting Conquistadoring opponent is the Danish Gambit, which offers pawn (1.e4 e4 2. d4 exd) after pawn (3. c3 dxc) after pawn (4. Bc4 cxb; 5. Bxb2) in order to aim its warriors at the flat-footed Black ruler.

Danish Dynamite: 1. e4 e5; 2.d4 ed; 3.c3 dc; 4.Bc4 cb; 5. Bxb2

For the cost of a two pawn deficit, White has both Bishops aimed at the Black Kingside and is ready to follow up with Qb3 or Qd5; though Black often neutralizes matters by giving some pawns back to liquidate some attackers with 5. … d5!; 6.Bxd5 Nf6; 7. Bxf2 ch Kxf2; 8.Qxd8 Bb4 ch!; 9.Nc3 Rxd8

The board is nearly as colorful as the Caribbean Island whence it was found – St. John, USVI “Trunk” (indeed) Bay

Parisienne Interlude: The Philidor

The Philidor Defense, brain-child of 18th century French composer considered the strongest chess player of his day, François-André Danican Philidor (7 September 1726 – 31 August 1795), is now considered a sturdy if unexciting defense to 1.e4. In its day, however, its cobra like pawn structure lay in wait to spring itself on the unsuspecting White forces.

Philidor‘s French Cultural and Musical Pedigree

Thus, the Philidor might also have been a worthy opening to display in The Queen’s Gambit Paris tournament. Benjamin Franklin, whose fondness for chess was well known (also a nice article here, Ben Franklin and Chess). In his essay The Morals of Chess, Franklin stated that

“The game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of the mind,
useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired or strengthened by it, so as to become habits,
ready on all occasions … foresight … circumspection … caution … and lastly, we learn by chess the habit
of not being discouraged by present bad appearances in the state of our affairs, the habit of hoping
for a favorable change, and that of persevering in the search of resources”

Franklin spent time in France between 1767 and 1785, and was appointed Minister to France in 1779. He there befriended Madame Brillon, whose daughter Cunegonde Franklin hoped to marry to his grandson William; Franklin and Madame Brillon’s relationship was described as platonic but very coquettish and chess-centric.

Painting of Benjamin Franklin playing chess with Lady Caroline Howe, the painting depicts Franklin being placed in checkmate by Lady Howe while a dog sleeps on the floor and Admiral Lord Richard Howe stands in the background, the chess games were the pretense under which Franklin met with the admiral, London, England, 1831. From the New York Public Library.

But alas, the chess … “Black” ‘s idea [though our plastic, not the typically bone, 18th century style pieces here show Red as Black] is to hold the center with his pawn on e5, defended by the pawn on d6 and knight d7 (thus avoiding the torturous Ruy Lopez, as well as the Italian Guioco Piano attack, both discussed previously, here and/or in The Queen’s Gambit: Puzzling Positions in Kentucky, Mexico City and Paris), with the pawn on c6 further buttressing the center as well as serving as a springboard for later queenside ambitions, such as b5, Qb6 or Qa5, etc. Philidor’s original intention can be seen in one game taken from Philidor’s famous 1749 book, Analysis of the Game of Chess, in which he stated

“My intention is to offer to the public something new, I have in mind the role of the pawns. They are the very spirit of chess, they are at the base of attack and defense and their handling is crucial for the outcome of the game. A player, who has no stimulus to play with pawns (even if he can do that well) is like an army general who has tremendous experience, but is not familiar with the theory of war.”

1.e4 e5
2.Nf3 d6
3.Bc4 f5
4.d3 c6 (position shown below)
5.exf5 Bxf5
6.Bg5 Nf6
7.N(b)d2 d5
8.Bb3 Bd6 (position shown below)

The Ideal 18th c. Philidor

Such pawn-nirvana does not always occur quite so effortlessly however. Perhaps for Philidor, who typically played game minus a piece or pawns (piece-odds or pawn-odds) since he was so much stronger than the competition of his day. Nevertheless, in the modern era, White found that he could easiloy obtain the advantage of having 2 bishops with the following sequence of moves

1.e4 e5
2.Nf3 d6
3.d4 Nd7
4.Bc4 Be7
5.O-O c6 (shown below)

The Modern Philidor after 5.O-O c6

White continues, threatening with

6.Ng5 Bx(N)g5 else, the nasty Q-R fork Nxf7 was threatened
7.Qh5 … threatens Qxf7 mate, otherwise recovers her piece on g5
7. … Qe7 defends vs. mate on f7
8.Bx(B)g5 N(g)f6

7. Ng5 threatens mischief 9.Qe2 White retreats with the Bishop pair in hand

To avoid this, and thus rehabilitate the 18th century Philidor for 21st century man, arguably in the spirit of
Neil Postman‘s

Building a Bridge to the 18th Century, with Postman and Philidor

Red has the improvement at its scarlet-ey disposal

1.e4 d6 faking a venerable Pirc Defense, which the author has otherwise enjoyed using quite often
2.d4 Nf6
3.Nc3 e4

White now has a choice between a) normal developing moves,
or b) exchanging pawns and then Queens, leaving Black/Red unable to castle

a) With normal, natural developing moves, specifically

4.Nf3 N(b)d7

White’s Queen can no longer hop to h5 to simultaneously threaten f7 and collect on g5, so Red need not trade
off the King Bishop to stop such a threat. Play thus proceeds with normal, natural developing moves, Red gets in c6
eventually and can hold her center and launch a Queenside pawn initiative after castling Kingside, etc.

b) White may seek to punish Red’s impudence with

5.dxe dxe
6.Qxd8 Kxd8 as shown below.

Here, Red can no longer castle, but with Queens off the board, it is not as big of a deal; so Red’s calling White’s bluff
with 3. … e4, yet results in a very playable position, and not probably the swashbuckling attacking game Whine originally envisioned, who wants to trade their most powerful piece at move 5?? Play may thus continue like the following:

7.Bc4 Ke8
8.Nf3 Bd6
9.Bg5 N(b)d7
9.O-O-O and Red is fine, the Crimson Monarch may wander safely in about any direction imaginable

6. Qxd8 Kxd8 9.O-O-O and King Crimson is free to (safely)
roam about the country!
Postman and others urge you to turn off your phone
(unless it’s how you arrived at this wonderful website)
and play the Philidor!!

The Dutch Defense

In the spirit of Philidor’s spirited pawn play in response to 1.e4, the Dutch Defense offers just such a pawn-centric
response to the Queen side pawn opening, beginning with 1.d4 – then f5, the Dutch Defense.

Dutch Futbol Wunderkind Johan Cruyff 1.d4 f5 Dutch Defense

Two main systems characterize the Dutch Defense: the stolid, solid Stonewall and the more fluid Leningrad system.

Dutch Leningrad more fluid and prettier as it were

1.d4 f5
2.g3 Nf6
3.Bg2 g6
4.Nf3 Bg7
5.O-O O-O
6.c4 d6
7.Nc3 Qe8

Real Dutch Masters play … The Stonewall

The classic Stonewall system:

1.d4 f5
2.c4 Nf6
3.g3 e6
4.Bg2 d5
5.Nf3 c6
6.O-O Bd6

and Black will continue with O-O and often Q-e8-g6 or h5, or to e7/b6

Moscow’s Cousin: Budapest Defense & Gambit

Buda-Pest (aka Pest-Buda, officially joined in 1873), a lovely, watery city on the Blue, Blue Danube

While the pesky South Americans are concocting feisty defenses and attacks, the combative Budapest Defense comes to mind. Shown here on an Onyx board picked up on a cruise ship stop in Cancun, Mexico. As the capitol of Eastern Europe’s Hungary,
they may be considered an heir to the long Russian tradition in chess (Russia outdistancing the closest national competitor in percentage of people likely to play chess once in a year, at 43%).

Budapest’s Boon to the Translating World: “I’ve never met a ruder pest, than that man from Budapest” “Her blood was as blue as the Danube … she could only be HUNGARIAN!”
Green Acres also benefitted from the charms of Budapest

White’s designs on control of the center of the board are contested from the start with

1.d4 Nf6
2.c4 e5 (!)

Black has two options after White captures with 3. dxe: 1) Ng4 directly seeks to recover the pawn, and 2) Ne4 is more of a gambit, seeking active play and threats instead of recovering the gambit pawn

Budapest Defense: 2. … e5(!) 3.dxe Ng4 variation

Dogged efforts by White to retain the pawn lead to lines like the following

4. Bf4 Nc6
5. Nf3 Bb4 ch which can continue
6. Nc3 Qe7
7. Qd5 Bxc3 ch
8. bxc Qa3

5. Nf3 Bb4 ch 8. bxc Qa3 Black has some pressure

Alternatively, 8. … f6; 9.exf Bxc3 ch; 10.bxc Nxf6; 11. Qd3 d6 followed by … O-O, … Ne5 and … Nc4 provides Black an active position, down a pawn but with a Knight parked comfortably and strategically in front of White’s doubled c pawns on c5

9. Rc1 f6 (since with … Qxa2 Black wastes too much time in the corner, ex. 10.h3 Nh6; 11.e4 Qa3; 12.Be2 and White is better)
10. exf Nxf6
11. Qd2 d6
12.Nd4 O-O
13. e3

12. Nd4 12. … O-O; 13.e3 the fun is about to begin (for Black)

13. … Nxd4
14. cxd White straightens out his pawn structure, but
14. … Ne4 the attack begins!
15. Qc2 Qa4 ch

13. … Nxd4 14.cxd 14. … Ne4; 15.Qc2 Qa4 ch

16. Ke2 Rxf4!
17. exf4 Bf5
18. Qb2 Re8!
19. Kf3 Nd2 ch
20. Kg3 Ne4 ch
21. Kh4 ?? … 21. Kf3 h5! the attack continues ex. 22.g3 Ng5

19. … Nd2 ch 21. Kh4 Re6!

… Re6!
22. Be2 Rh6 ch
23. Bh5 Rxh5 ch
24. Kxh5 Bg6 ch
25. Kh4/g4 Qh5 check and mate

22. … Rh6 ch; 23. Bh5 24. … Bg6 ch; 25.K-h4/g4 Qh5 check mate

The aggressive potential of the Budapest is thus demonstrated. Other 3. … Ng4 lines include
4. e4 Nxe5; 5.f4 for instance, followed by … N(e)c6; then
6.Be3 Bb4 ch; 7.Nc3 Qh4 ch; 8.g3 Bxc3 ch; 9.bxc3 Qe7; 10.Bd3 Na6 with an equal game (not shown),


4. e4 Nxe5; 5.f4 N(e)c6; 6.a3 g6; 7.Be3 Bg2 and somehow … d6 also got made there (below, shown, oops!)

3. … Ng5; 4.e4 Nxe5; 5.f4
Cancun Beach Settlement, complete with the friendly, helpful local guide “Eduardo”

For an even more aggressive Budapest Defense, we now consider 3. … Ne4 lines:

Budapest Defense: 2. … e5(!) 3.dxe Ne4 gambit variation

1.d4 Nf6
2.c4 e5 Ne5

White can proceed in various ways here, such as

4. Nf3 Bb4 ch; 5. Bd2 Nxd2; 6. N(b)xd2 Nc6; 7.a3 Bxd2; 8.Qxd2 Qe7, or

4.a3 Nc6; 5.Nf3 d6; 6.Qc2 Bf5; 7.Nc3 Nxf2; 8.QxBf5 NxRh1; 9.e6 fxe6; 10.Qxe6 ch Qe7 with White on the offensive

though below we show the line

4. Qc2 Bb4 ch; 5.Nc3 d5; 6.exd en passant* Bf5 (shown below) with an equal game likely resulting after 7.Bd2 Nxd6; 8.e4 Bxc3; 9.Bxc3 Bxe4; 10.Qd2 O-O; 11. O-O-O Nd7

* “en passant” (also “e.p.”) refers to the ability of a pawn on the 5th rank to capture a pawn moving past it in a single, 2-space move, as if to say
“nyah-nyah: thought you’d sneak by me, did y’all?” The pawn moves forward diagonally to land where the opposing pawn would have been captured had it more honestly moved just one square and been subject to normal, direct capture. The sneaky pawn is duly removed. The move sounds more exotic in French, which translates as “in passing.”

after Ne4; 4.Qc2 Bb4 ch; 5.Nc3 d5 <left> then 6.exd e.p. Bf5 and Black scares up some pressure

Before we leave the proud Budapestians, we take note of the many human flowers they have issued forth to the garden of humanity. Truncating the list slightly, I must admit that only Vaclev Havel and Eva Gabor were names I could say I had heard of before.

More Espanola: The Catalan

A quiet, Queen pawn opening, the Catalan combines a Queen’s Gambit setup (1.d4, 2.c4) with the fianchetto of the King’s Bishop (3.g3 4. Bg2) to pressure the center, rather than wait to recapture the gambit pawn on c4 (which White can recover with the Queen anyway). Despite the colorful Catalan traditions, it is highlighted here on a replica of Yoko Ono’s World Peace chess set, a replica of which is on display at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and available play on daily. The laudable idea is that everyone can win, so you play until the (both all white) forces become indistinguishable, then you just have a cup of Darjeeling Tea and discuss the prospects for world peace. But, for the enterprising, it should be fun to play until the bitter/sweet end, though I have only gotten halfway into such a game thus far; the cause of world peace is irresistible (actually, it was outdoors and it got dark).

1. d4 Nf6
2.c4 e6
3.g3 d5
4.Bg2 dxc
5.Nf3 Be7
6. O-O O-O
7.Qc2 a6
8. Qxc4 (not shown) and White can recover the gambit pawn on c4

The Catalan begins … after 4.Bg2 dxc 7. Qc2 a6 then 8.Qxc4

A more aggressive defense by Black includes an early … c5 to batter what remains of White’s original; dynamic pawn duo (d4,c4). Thus

1. d4 Nf6
2.c4 e6
3.g3 d5
4.Bg2 dxc
5.Nf3 c5
6.O-O Nc6
7. Qa4 or Ne5

7. Qa4 Catalan … c5 variation 7.Ne5

Ruy Lopez: ‘Black’s Marshall Gambit

While in Espanola, we return to the Ruy Lopez, and consider the ambitious Black gambit defense to it, the Marshall Attack

The Ruy Lopez (again) and Marshall Gambit defense, 8. … d5!?

The basic Ruy opening moves of

1.e4 e5
2.Nf3 Nc6
3.Bb5 (shown above, left) lead typically to 3. … a6
4.Ba4 Nf6
5.O-O Be7
6.Re1 b5 White’s pawn on e4 is protected, so Black must prevent 7.Bxc6 then 8.Nxe5
7.Bb3 O-O
8.c3 d5!?

‘Black’ (a relative term here) sacrifices his center pawn to launch a quick attack

9.exd Nxd5
10.Nxe5 Nxe5
11.Rxe5 c6
12.d4 Bd6
13.Re1 Qh4 ‘Black’ has open lines for both Bishops aiming towards White’s King, and the Queen now threatens mate

11. Rxe5 mate is threatened after 12. … Qh4

Continuing, we see how ‘Black’ develops a lasting initiative, White is on her heels!

14.g3 Qh3
15.Be3 Bg4
16.Qd3 R(a)e8
17.Nd2 and ‘Black’ can continue with ideas like Re6-h6 or Qh4 then Bf5

with 17.Nd2 the Marshall battle begins …

Ruy Lopez: Black’s Schliemann counterattack

Another active defense by Black when facing the Spanish Torture is the quick counterattack 3. … f5

The Schliemann 3. … f5 also generally unexpected

1.e4 e5
2.Nf3 Nc6
3.Bb4 f5 !? The Schliemann

Play might continue, ideally for Black

4.Nc3 fxe
5.Nxe4 d5

Black achieves an ideal central pawn duo (e5,d5)

one game continued
6. … Bg4; 7.h4 Bxf3; 8.Qxf3 Nf6; 9.O-O Bd6; 10.Nh5 e4; 11.Nxf6 ch Qxf6; 12.Qxf6 gxf;13.d3 O-O-O “=”

Otherwise, should White accept the gambit immediately with 4. exf, play might continue

4. exf e4
5.Qe2 Qe7
6.Bxc3 dxc3
7.Nd4 Qe5 (center figure below) after which play might continue

Had The Queen’s Gambit shown more of an interest in futbol (as do many chess players, leaving opera aside for now),
they might have shown some Dutch Defense games, a distinctly non-Asiatic (not an Indian Defense, as discussed briefly here),
alternative to the Queen Pawn opening (and/or Gambit).

5. … Qe7 7. … Qe5 12.Bb2

8.Ne6 Bxe6
9.fxe Bd6
10.Nc3 Nf6
11.b3 O-O-O
12.Bb2 and Black has an active game

Next up, the Francophile Philidor / the Slav / Game of the Century … / Scotch? / Scandinavian?

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