The Bryntse Gambit: A queen sacrifice

by Jonathan Speelman
5/5/2019 – This week JON SPEELMAN marvels at an obscure queen sacrifice in the opening (on move six!) that USA expert Dana Mackenzie used to ensnare two titled players in over-the-board tournament games! Send in your own games! Jon can always use more material from readers. If your games are selected for the Agony column, not only will you get free detailed commentary of your games by one of chess’s great authors and instructors, and former world no. 4 player, but you also win a free three-month ChessBase Premium Account!

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The modern Grand Prix Attack The modern Grand Prix Attack

The Grand Prix Attack is one of White’s most enterprising weapons against the Sicilian Defence, and a favourite among club players and Grandmasters alike. This is an opening that must be treated with both caution and respect. Over the past few years Grandmaster Gawain Jones, arguably the world’s leading expert on the variation, has used the Grand Prix Attack to defeat a number of world class opponents, which demonstrates that underestimating its potential can cause casualties even at the highest level. This DVD will provide you with a comprehensive repertoire that explores all of Black’s ideas against the Grand Prix set up.


Speelman's Agony #97

This week's pair of games both feature an extremely poisonous and very little-known gambit (I'd certainly never heard of it before) in the Grand Prix Attack against the Sicilian: The  Bryntse Gambit.

They were played eight years apart by Dana Mackenzie a science and mathematics writer in his early sixties against two formidable opponents, IM David Pruess and Grandmaster Sergey Kudrin. In the first, he won while in the second he rather Agonisingly agreed a draw in a position which turned out to be clearly winning. He writes:

The two games I am submitting for the Agony/Ecstasy column both feature the same opening variation, the Bryntse Gambit. After 1.e4 c5 2.f4 d5 3.f3!? de 4.g5 f6 5.c4 ♝g4?! 6.xg4!! White sacrifices his queen on move six — getting just two pieces and a pawn as compensation! Nevertheless, he obtains a nearly perpetual bind on the position.


Try it for yourself (play 6.♕xg4) against the engine on the diagram above!

The first game, played in 2006 against IM David Pruess, was my lifetime masterpiece. The game was the subject of a spirited post-mortem session including GM Victor Mikhalevski, GM Jesse Kraai, and IM Emory Tate, all of whom had watched the game. Jesse even said, “This is the greatest game ever played!” which of course was an overstatement but made me feel pretty good. The game has appeared in Chess Life, Informant, and Game of the Day on, so it definitely has gotten some publicity. But I would love to show it to your readers as well!

Mackenzie vs Kraai

Mackenzie facing Kraai | Photo: Frank Brown / Dana Mackenzie Facebook page

Eight years later I got my chance to play a sequel. That game, my Agony game against GM Sergey Kudrin, has not been published anywhere to my knowledge, so your readers will be the first to see it. It could have been even better than the Pruess game, because I managed to get a won position against a grandmaster this time, which would have been my first win ever against a GM. But at a critical moment, Kudrin offered me a draw. To my shame, I accepted his offer, because a draw guaranteed me a substantial prize in the tournament (first place under 2300). I felt by no means certain of my ability to win the endgame, and I didn’t want to blow the prize money by making a blunder. However, postgame analysis showed that I had virtually a forced win in the final position, so my caution was completely unjustified.

MackenzieI’m sending you these games because I hope your readers will be as fascinated by this opening variation as I am! It is virtually nonexistent in opening books and offers rich scope for imagination. I would be thrilled if some IM or GM would see this and actually try the queen sacrifice as White. It would be especially exciting to see a human GM play it against a strong computer program like Stockfish or AlphaZero, because I think the human would have a chance to prevail. Computers do not understand this opening. Until then, I will have to be satisfied with torturing my home computer, as well as the occasional IM or GM!

Professionally, I am a freelance mathematics and science writer. Perhaps I can put in a plug for my most recent book (co-written with Judea Pearl), The Book of Why: The New Science of Cause and Effect. It was published in 2018, and it was named as one of the top science books of 2018 by National Public Radio’s Science Friday program. I live in Santa Cruz, California, with my wife, our dog Daisy, our cat Max, and an ever-changing crew of foster kittens.”

Dana has annotated both games excellently in detail and I've added just a few comments of my own as JS. They're both wonderful games and I hope that readers enjoy them as much as I did.


Click or tap the second game in the list below the board to switch games

A Gambit Guide through the Open Game Vol.1 and 2

To avoid them or to play them, you have to know them. In two Volumes we see gambits such as Frankenstein-Dracula Gambit, the Cochrane Gambit, the Belgrade Gambit, the King's Gambit, Marshall Gambit, the Scotch Gambit, the Jänisch Gambit and many more.

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Jonathan Speelman, born in 1956, studied mathematics but became a professional chess player in 1977. He was a member of the English Olympic team from 1980–2006 and three times British Champion. He played twice in Candidates Tournaments, reaching the semi-final in 1989. He twice seconded a World Championship challenger: Nigel Short and then Viswanathan Anand against Garry Kasparov in London 1993 and New York 1995.


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