Matthew Lunn: Dealing with the Englund

8/9/2016 – The author writes: "The Englund Gambit, 1.d4 e5, is in my opinion the second worst opening in the whole of chess (top position belongs to 1.e4 f5, the glorious Fred). This is not something that is likely to crop up in too many standard play games, although it is a common enough customer in blitz chess – its awfulness is mediated by a the presence of a few funny ideas (and one big trap) that White may struggle to get to grips with in the course of a few minutes." In CHESS Magazine Matthew provides extensive analysis that will serve you well.

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Dealing with the Englund

Matthew Lunn analyses and explains how to counter a dubious gambit

I have chosen the Englund Gambit, 1.d4 e5, as the subject of this month’s article for three reasons: (i) It would be advisable knowing how to avoid the ‘one big trap’, which sees White either lose a lot of material, or get mated; (ii) when White avoids the trap, the subsequent lines are an absolute joy to play; and (iii) White has a counter trap, which, while less strong than the main line, leads to a quirky position which would be very instructive to play over the board, thus making it suitable for blitz or study.

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[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Englund Gambit"] [Black "?"] [Result "*"] [ECO "A40"] [Annotator "Matthew Lunn"] [PlyCount "31"] [SourceTitle "Chess 2016 #08"] [SourceDate "2016.07.24"] 1. d4 e5 {The Englund Gambit.} 2. dxe5 {Any other move is nonsense.} Nc6 { The main line.} ({Otherwise: -- a)} 2... d6 3. Nf3 (3. exd6 Bxd6 {is still good for White, but proponents of the Englund Gambit are likely to appreciate the small lead in development}) 3... Nc6 {and now White can irritate Black with } ({or} 3... Bg4 {and White can continue with the thematic} 4. Bg5 {, though he is not short of options;} (4. Qd4 {, for instance, is a funny alternative, threatening Qxg4 and exd6, whereby ...Bxd6 is impossible due to the hanging pawn on g7, and meeting} Bxf3 5. exf3 Nc6 {with} 6. Bb5)) 4. Bg5 {, after which Black must make a concession:} Be7 ({if} 4... f6 5. exf6 Nxf6 {and Black really doesn't want a pawn on d6}) 5. Bxe7 Ngxe7 6. exd6 cxd6 {and Black has minimal compensation.}) ({b)} 2... f6 {is a valiant idea, as after} 3. exf6 (3. e4 $5 Nc6 4. Nf3 fxe5 5. Bc4 {when White has easy development, and Black can't castle kingside}) 3... Nxf6 {, Black can claim a bit of compensation for the pawn, as he is ahead in development and may have future prospects on the half-open f-file. However, as ...f6 only makes sense if White captures the pawn, I would advocate 3 e4.}) ({c)} 2... Qe7 {is likely to transpose to the main line after} 3. Nf3 {.}) ({d)} 2... Bc5 {isn't very threatening, given that ...Nf6 is impossible and as a consequence, the f2-pawn is unlikely to be attacked in a hurry:} 3. Nf3 Nc6 ({or} 3... f6 {and again, White's best option is to decline the extra pawn and play something like} 4. e4) 4. Nc3 Nge7 { and there are numerous ways for White to secure his advantage, including the intriguing} 5. Ne4 Bb6 6. h4 {. After a future h5, Black will struggle to win back the pawn, and White can play Bf4 without the possibility of ...Ng6.}) 3. Nf3 Qe7 (3... Nge7 {is a 'playable' alternative, but it's very slow - White can consolidate his advantage with} 4. e4 (4. Bg5 {looks very sensible, but I think the forcing} h6 5. Bh4 g5 6. Bg3 Nf5 {is more appealing for Black than a lot of lines; after the natural} 7. e4 Nxg3 8. hxg3 Bg7 {, Black's position is a little ropey, but he has a strong dark-squared bishop, which compensates a little for his kingside weaknesses}) 4... Ng6 5. Nc3 Ngxe5 6. Nxe5 Nxe5 7. Be3 {, with Be2 and f4 to follow.}) 4. Bf4 {[#]And now, we enter murky waters - with many a trap for the unwary player.} Qb4+ (4... d6 {is favoured by the computer (possibly due to the objective flaws of the main line);} 5. Bg5 ({ the idea being that} 5. exd6 {is met by} Qf6 {. Nevertheless, White seems to be doing pretty well after} 6. e3 Qxb2 7. Nbd2 Bxd6 8. Rb1 {;} (8. --)) 5... Qe6 {, however, isn't as bad for Black as it looks:} 6. exd6 ({and} 6. Nc3 dxe5 {leaves Black with a reasonably playable position}) 6... Bxd6 {offers him a fair bit of developmental compensation.}) 5. Bd2 ({For reasons that I fail to recall, I found myself analysing this gambit with Scottish player Hugh Brechin at the 2011 Pardubice tournament. It was he who first brought the counterintuitive} 5. Nc3 $5 {[#]to my attention. --- Indeed, this move has two possible psychological benefits: -- i. Black realises that you're not going to fall for the 'one big trap'. -- ii. Black may think that you've simply blundered the f4-bishop. --- Either way, if Black captures the piece, you may be entering a line that you've analysed, but he hasn't - thus giving it credibility as a 'counter trap'. --- After} Qxf4 (5... Qxb2 6. Bd2 {transposes to the main line}) 6. Nd5 {(the point, as Black can't prevent Nxc7+, forking the king and rook; Black is likely to regain the knight, and the subsequent positions are delightfully unbalanced), Black has:} Qe4 {, preparing to pick up the e5-pawn, is the most logical. After} (6... Qf5 {looks a reasonable alternative to 6...Qe4, but after} 7. Nxc7+ Kd8 8. Nxa8 Nxe5 {, White has an additional plan:} 9. Qd4 {, threatening the knight on e5 and the a7-pawn. Then} Nc6 ({after} 9... Nxf3+ 10. gxf3 Qxc2 11. Bh3 {, the d7-pawn begins to look a little uneasy; as White is also threatening Qxa7, Black may be advised to swap queens with} Qc5 12. Qd2 Qb4) 10. Qh4+ Nf6 ({after} 10... Qf6 {, the computer recommends} 11. g3 $1 {, meeting} Qxh4 {with} 12. gxh4 {, after which White can enjoy play on the half-open g-file}) ({or} 10... Be7 11. Qg3 {, threatening Qxg7 and Qc7+}) 11. O-O-O {, I think White is clearly better, though there are a lot of double-edged lines that require further analysis: for instance,} Be7 12. Qc4 Ne4 13. Rd5 Qe6 14. Nd4 Qf6 {.}) 7. Nxc7+ Kd8 8. Nxa8 Nxe5 {[#]White has a couple of options:} 9. Ng5 $5 (9. c3 {is very solid, overprotecting the d4-square, and preventing a black piece from landing on b4. Then} b6 10. Nxe5 Qxe5 11. Qa4 {compels Black to play the funny-looking} Qb8 { , after which} 12. O-O-O {leads to the sort of unbalanced position that White can study to his heart's content.} ({However,} 12. Nxb6 {is a mistake, as Black is doing pretty well after} Qxb6 {- although White has won a pawn, his development is stifled by the fact he can't castle queenside, as Black's queen is now eyeing the f2-pawn.})) 9... Qf4 (9... Qb4+ {makes things a lot less complicated, although White can mix things up with} 10. c3 $1 Qxb2 11. Rc1 Qxa2 12. e3 {, after which it is unclear how well placed the black queen is on a2}) 10. Qd5 {leads to very complicated play:} Qxg5 (10... Qb4+ 11. Kd1 Bd6 12. c3 ( 12. e3 {is sensible and good}) 12... Qxb2 13. Rc1 {and things are going to get very complicated after a move like} Ke7 ({or even} 13... Qa3 14. f4 Qa4+ 15. Rc2 Nc4 16. Qe4 Nh6 17. e3 {and goodness knows what's going on.})) 11. Qa5+ b6 12. Qxa7 Bd6 13. h4 {(forcing the queen to commit to a position, and preparing for a future rook lift)} Qf4 14. Qxb6+ Ke7 {and whilst the position is extremely difficult to assess, Black probably has the better practical chances. --- 5 Nc3 looks like good fun, as well as a decent surprise weapon, but we should now return to the main move in practice, 5 Bd2.}) 5... Qxb2 {[#]} 6. Nc3 {White is now significantly better.} (6. Bc3 $4 {is what Black has been hoping for since move one - after} Bb4 {, White loses material, since} 7. Qd2 (7. Bxb4 {is probably best, but Black is simply winning after} Nxb4 {, threatening ... Qxa1 and ...Nxc2+}) 7... Bxc3 8. Qxc3 {runs into} Qc1# {.}) 6... Bb4 {This gives Black the largest chance of survival.} ({Instead, if} 6... Nb4 7. Nd4 a6 {is a less effective way of protecting the b5-square:} ({and now} 7... c6 { looks best, as it's essential to stop a white knight landing on b5. Nevertheless, White is doing very well after} 8. Rb1 Qa3 9. e3 {, where there is a stark contrast between the potential of White's and Black's pieces: for instance,} Nh6 10. Bc4 Qa5 11. a3 Na6 12. f4 {.}) ({Otherwise,} 7... c5 8. Rb1 Qa3 9. Ndb5 Qa5 10. a3 Na6 11. Nd5 {leaves Black with an unplayable position;} (11. --)) 8. a3 Bc5 ({or} 8... Nc6 9. Nb3 {with Ra2, trapping the queen, to follow}) 9. Rb1 Qxa3 10. Nb3 {, with Bc1 to follow, wins the knight, as the only way to save the queen will be to play ...Nxc2+.}) 7. Rb1 Qa3 ({If} 7... Qxc3 8. Bxc3 Bxc3+ 9. Nd2 Bxe5 10. g3 {and Black is struggling to prove any compensation for his material disadvantage.}) 8. Nd5 Bxd2+ ({After} 8... Ba5 { , White gets} 9. Rb5 {in for free, as the threats to a5 and c7 mean that Black has nothing better than} Bxd2+ {, except after} 10. Qxd2 {,} Qxa2 {no longer makes sense, as White's rook isn't hanging.}) 9. Qxd2 Kd8 {[#]} (9... Qxa2 10. Rd1 {makes defending c7 problematic, as} Kd8 {is well met by} 11. Ng5 Nh6 12. e6 $1 {. However, even after the text White has an excellent position, which offers Black minimal aggressive options.}) {White has numerous ways to continue, but I particularly like:} 10. Ng5 {(giving up the e5-pawn for an attack on the black king)} (10. Qg5+ Nge7 11. Nxe7 Nxe7 12. Qxg7 {is also very promising.}) 10... Nxe5 ({If} 10... Nh6 11. f4 {and White is happy to give up the a-pawn:} Qxa2 12. Nc3 {with e3 to follow.}) 11. Rb3 Qf8 (11... Qxa2 12. Qc3 {hits the knight on e5 and the c7-pawn.}) 12. Nxc7 $1 Kxc7 13. Qa5+ {[#]} Kb8 ( 13... Kd6 14. Qb4+) 14. Qxe5+ d6 15. Qf4 Nf6 16. g3 {preparing Bg2, and Black's position is highly dubious, whilst White has yet another attack on the black king to look forward to.} *

The above article appeared in the August 2016 of the British magazine CHESS

CHESS Magazine was established in 1935 by B.H. Wood who ran it for over fifty years. It is published each month by the London Chess Centre and is edited by IM Richard Palliser and Matt Read. The Executive Editor is Malcolm Pein, who organises the London Chess Classic.

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Interested in unorthodox openings and traps? There are a number of interesting ChessBase DVDs that include the Englund. The best way to find them: go to the Position Search page and enter the moves on the board (it is useful to remember this function!).

We particularly recommend the DVD Unorthodox Chess Openings by Valeri Lilov, who devotes 24 lectures to various unorthodox openings - some more popular with super GMs like Alexander Morozevich and others less known - yet all aiming at one and the same goal: to strengthen your opening repertoire and provide you with more weapons for the opening stage. The Chigorin Defence, the Chicago Gambit, and Grob’s Attack are among the systems included for White, with the Hippopotamus Defence and the Elephant Gambit are intended for Black. Lilov effectively teaches the best plans and ideas in each of these unique openings and guarantees success with each and every one of them. Video running time: 5 hrs 16 min.

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joscho joscho 8/10/2016 10:03
@hadron: Good point. I did not read the analysis or investigate on the author because as an e4 player I will hardly run into an Englund... ;-)
I appreciate any discussion about the value of an analysis or the credibility of an author. I dislike "I spotted a typo" comments - in particular if they are as wrong as the criticized post. And I do not believe typos are an indication of bad journalism...
hadron hadron 8/10/2016 09:30
Leaving aside the now corrected cleric error (tsk tsk Chessbase), I think two things are telling.
One, Chessbase normally point out the qualification of any articles author. In this case, they did not. Which lead one to wonder, Matthew who? A quick Google tells us that a one Matthew Lunn has a rating of 2065 standard and is rated a staggering 23, 199th in the world of all active players.
Two, the article (or the snippet of an article) uses highly technical terms like “ropey” with some quick subjective meanderings while skirting over the only line that even comes close to working, the Stadelmann Zilbermintz Gambit. I am not saying it S-Z line is 100 perfect but the 1998 article on the it from Kaissiber No 5 is far more convincing.
Aighearach Aighearach 8/9/2016 07:27
@joscho: When you run a site with "news" in the name, you should have proofreaders and be able to correct errors without needing a fourth and fifth reader reporting them. Chessbase is so awful at the job they've chosen for this site that yes, they need to be consistently encouraged to meet minimum standards of journalism. Right now when the subject of "where can I get good chess news" comes up, the answer I give at the club is, "there are a couple good national magazines, but there is no good general chess news." Chessbase could do a lot better, but they don't care to try. They don't respect chess, so they don't think that chess journalism requires journalism basics. They think, oh it is just a game, so it doesn't matter, so even though we're trying to make money at it, we can just do it like it doesn't matter. It is a really weak attitude. If readers keep complaining, who knows, maybe some day some bean counter at chessbase will read the comments and realize why so many readers leave for other sites, and maybe hire an editor with experience as an editor, or do an audit on, "what do our editors actually do during the work day? Who edits?"
KOTLD KOTLD 8/9/2016 01:50
Thanks Mr. Lunn, this is just what i was looking for.
(You see a lot of these gambits in fast online games.)
joscho joscho 8/9/2016 10:58
Taking a look at the complete article and the notation it is obvious that "1. e4 d5" is simply a typo you can ignore easily. Is that really worth three comments with some containing errors themselves?
hardric hardric 8/9/2016 09:14
Black also needs to know how to meet the Centre Gambit 2.e4 exd4 3.Qxd4; or the Scotch Gambit 2.e4 exd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 or even the Danish Gambit with 4.Bc4. These lines may not be objectively as good for White but it could be unsettling for Black to end up on the other side of a gambit, and it's easy for Black to go wrong
GregEs GregEs 8/9/2016 08:10
1.e4 d5 is the center-counter defence

1. d4 e5 is Englund Gambit. Some correction above the article is needed. I smiled when I saw the pic and the 1.e4 d5 which I know has some mistakes either in picture or the written article.
Justjeff Justjeff 8/9/2016 05:30
1.e4 d5 is the Scandinavian. The Englund is 1. d4 e5
AbangFir AbangFir 8/9/2016 05:26
"I have chosen the Englund Gambit, 1.e4 d5, as the subject ...."

Englund Gambit is start with 1.d4 e5 :)