Saturday, April 5, 2008


[Bobby Ang]

During the Melody Amber tournament GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov defeated the “unbeatable” Vladimir Kramnik with the Budapest Gambit. Now that is a sensation, since 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 is not considered one of the sound lines that you can play against a super grandmaster.

Let’s take a look at that game first before proceeding with our story.

Kramnik,Vladimir (2799) - Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar (2760) [A52]
Amber Rapid Nice FRA (3), 17.03.2008

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4

There is this cousin of the Budapest, known as the Fajarowicz, which goes 3...Ne4. Many players consider it to be unsound, but even up to now it still scores its fair share of victims. Here is an attractive exhibition by the so-called "Executioner of Berlin": 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.e3 d6 6.exd6 Bxd6 7.Nbd2 Nc5 8.a3 Qf6 9.Nb3 Nxb3 10.Qxb3 Bg4 11.c5 (11.Qxb7 0–0!) 11...Bxc5 12.Qc4 Bxf3 13.gxf3 0–0–0 14.Bg2 (14.Qxc5? Qxf3 threatening the rook on h1 as well as mate on d1) 14...Ne5 15.Qb3 Nd3+ 16.Ke2 Qa6 17.Kd2 Bxe3+! 18.Kc2 (18.fxe3 Nc5+) 18...Nb4+ 0–1 Strasdas-Richter,K/ Berlin 1933. It is mate after 19.axb4 Qg6+ 20.Qd3 Qxd3.


This is a new idea. Previously, White's main lines were either to hold on to the extra pawn with:
(a) 4.Nf3 Bc5 5.e3 Nc6, or
(b) 4.Bf4 Nc6 5. Nf3 Bb4+ 6.Nc3 Qe7 7.Qd5 Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 or
(c) 4.Bf4 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bb4+ 6.Nbd2 Qe7

Another idea is to build up a strong pawn center with Alekhine's maneuver 4.e4 Nxe5 5.f4.

Kramnik prefers not to hold the pawn nor occupy the center. He goes for an edge based on control of d5. He will later on embark on Ng1–h3-f4.

Please do not fall for:

1. 4.f4 Bc5 5.Nh3 Nxh2 6.Rxh2 Qh4+ 7.Kd2 d5! 8.Qb3 Bxh3! 9.Qxh3 Qxf4+ 10.Kc2 Qxf1 11.Qc8+ Ke7 12.Qxh8 Qxe2+ 13.Bd2 Nc6! 14.Qxa8 Nb4+ 15.Kb3 Qxc4+ 16.Ka4 b5+ 17.Ka5 Bb6# 0–1 Helmer-Krejcik/Vienna 1917; or

2. 4.a3 d6 5.exd6 Bxd6 6.g3 Nxf2 0–1 Warren-Selman/Corr 1930(6...Nxf2 7.Kxf2 Bxg3+).

4...Nc6 5.e3 Ngxe5 6.a3

Kasparov played this way in the two instances when he faced the Budapest. I will show you what happened in the following notes.


Here is the Kasparov treatment:

1. 6...a6 7.f4 Ng6 8.g3 Bc5 9.b4 Ba7 10.Nf3 d6 11.Bg2 Be6 12.Qd3 Qd7 13.0–0 Nge7 14.Kh1 Bg4 15.Nd5 Rb8 16.Bb2 0–0 17.Ng5 f5 18.Qc3 Nxd5 19.Bxd5+ Kh8 20.Rae1 Rbe8 21.e4 Bd4 22.Bxc6 Bxc3 23.Bxd7 Bxb2 24.Bxe8 Rxe8 25.h3 White is the exchange up and about to win another pawn. The game is already resignable. Kasparov - Mercury Asset Management, London 1993;

2. 6...Be7 7.f4 Ng6 8.g3 d6 9.Bg2 Be6 10.Nd5 Qd7 11.b4 Bg4 12.Qd3 0–0 13.Nf3 a5 14.b5 Nd8 15.Bb2 Ne6 White has a strong center but Black has enough counterplay. Kasparov-EuropChess, Madrid 1997 1/2 (37)


The same typical maneuver as Kasparov plays, the difference being that Garry would follow-up by fianchettoing his f1–bishop while Kramnik prefers to put it on d3.


After 7 moves all Black has to show for his troubles are two developed knights, one of which is not so well placed on g6. This is only a temporary situation, though, and White has to proceed vigorously to make it count.

8.Bd3 Bc5 9.Qh5 d6 10.Nf3 a4 11.Bd2 0–0 12.Ne4

There is a threat of Neg5, ...h6, Nxf7 in the air.

12...Qe8 13.0–0–0

[13.Neg5? h6 14.Nxf7 Nxf4!]

13...f5 14.Nxc5 dxc5 15.Kb1

Kramnik does a "Leko". After building up a strong position he shies away from continuing aggressively and plays safe moves. In one of those slow openings this might be OK, but with the Dynamic Budapest this one tempo might be all that Black needs to turn the tables. Take a look at how Black manages to claw back. Probably better is 15.g4! Na5 (15...fxg4?? 16.Ng5) 16.Rhg1 (16.gxf5?? Nxf4 wins) 16...Nb3+ 17.Kc2 Nxd2 18.Kxd2 Ne7 with chances for both sides.

15...Nge7 16.Qh4 h6 17.Bc3 Be6 18.Rhg1 Rd8 19.Ka1?!

caption: position after 19.Ka1

Was Kramnik provoking the exchange sacrifice that follows? Probably not, because it is too strong.

19...Rxd3! 20.Rxd3 Bxc4

After the rook retreats then ...Nd5 sets up a strong counter-attack. Kramnik panics.

21.Bxg7? Kxg7 22.g4 Ng6 23.gxf5 Rxf5 24.Rc3 Bf7 25.Qf2 Qe6

Overlooked by White. The threatened mate on a2 gives Black the time he needs to kick his own attack into high gear.

26.b3 axb3 27.Nh4 Rh5 28.Kb2 Qf6 29.Nxg6 Bxg6 30.e4 c4! 31.Qd2

[31.f5 is met by 31...Ne5 (threatening ...Nd3+) 32.Kb1 Kh8 and the hanging queen on f2 saves Black's bishop]

31...Qd4 32.Qxd4+ Nxd4 33.Rcg3

[33.f5 Rxh2+ 34.Kb1 Nb5 35.Rcg3 Nxa3+ 36.Ka1 b2+ 37.Ka2 b1Q+ 38.Kxa3 Qa2+]

33...Rxh2+ 34.Kb1 Kf7 35.Rxg6 c3 36.Rg7+ Ke8 37.R7g2 Rxg2 38.Rxg2 Nf3 39.Kc1 Nd2 0–1

The Budapest Gambit can be grouped together with openings like the Alekhine, Scandinavian and Chigorin – Black does not have a pawn center and counts on rapid development and piece play to keep White on his toes.

A lot of us don’t really study such openings. Having invested a lot of money in goods about opening principles and classical set-ups, we assume to have an easy time meeting those “unsound gambits” over the board. As the German Siegbert Tarrasch once said, “people use gambits to get a reputation as a dashing player at the expense of losing a game.”

I assure you that this is absolutely the wrong attitude to take. Our foremost Filipino player of the Budapest, the late Ramon Lontoc, Jr. (8-time Philippine Champion) gives us an example:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.Bf4 Bb4+ 6.Nbd2 Qe7 7.a3 Ncxe5 8.axb4?? Nd3#

Lontoc also tell us that he witnessed this mate executed no less than three times in various serious tournament competitions in groups of strong players.

How about the following game:

Reitz,R - Legky,Nikolay A (2465) [A52]
St.Ingbert op (1), 1989

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.Nf3 Bc5 5.e3 Nc6 6.Nc3 0–0 7.Be2 Ncxe5 8.0–0 Nxf3+ 9.Bxf3 Ne5 10.Be2 Re8 11.a3 a5 12.b3 Ra6 13.Bb2 Rh6 14.h3 d6 15.Ne4 Bxh3 16.Nxc5 Bxg2 17.Bxe5 Qh4 18.f4 Qg3 0–1

or this one:

Laszlo,Deli - Alfoldy,Laszlo [A52]
Budapest master, 1933
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.Qd4 d6 5.exd6 Bxd6 6.Nf3 0–0 7.h3 Nc6 8.Qe4 Re8 9.Qc2 Nb4 10.Qc3 Ne3 11.Na3 Nbc2+ 12.Nxc2 Bb4 0–1

Nobody is immune to the sudden tactics of the Budapest. The best way is to take a look at its ideas, understand where the attacks are coming from.

We will continue this discussion on Monday.

Reader comments/suggestions are urgently solicited. Email address is

"This article first appeared in Bobby Ang's column in Businessworld (Philippines) on 04 April 2008"

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