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Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Elephant Gambit

  1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5 I don't know where they get these names...to me this was always the QP Counter Gambit, or the Englund Gambit. The general opinion has always been that black has no compensation, so the line is unsound. My feeling has always been why deliberately give your opponent the better position PLUS material; I have a hard enough time trying to win anyway without starting out with a disadvantage.
     But, I have gotten tired of engine play in correspondence and drawing most games so went back to Queen Alice only to discover that the site owner abandoned the site and it is crawling with spammers, hackers and people with multiple accounts. As a result, I came up with another idea for play on LSS. I decided to try out weird, offbeat openings just to see if they are really as bad as their reputation. 
     For example, I've tried the Urusov Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d4) and guess what? I am +1 -0 =4. I have also tried 1.a4 and 1...a5 which so far has not resulted in a lot of disasterous losses. The move usually results in positions very similar to some regular opening with the exception that I have thrown in a superfluous advance of the a-Pawn. This may result in getting a stragecially lost position against a GM, but so far it's held up well against engines which don't understand strategy, especially opening strategy, that well anyway. The Grob Attack (1.g4) has resulted in a plus score. The Milner-Barry Gambit (1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4) has held up well, too. The Sicilian Wing Gambit did not fare too well until I delayed it and played 3.b4.  For reasons I don't understand playing 2.Nf3 first seems to make an important difference.
     This is interesting because these openings are supposed to be bad and they may very well be, but the engines seem to have trouble refuting them which explains why the advice is to play grandmaster approved book moves and never trust the engines until move 15 or so. At least that's the theory if you're a top-rated CC player. The judgment of GM's is more reliable in the openings than engine evaluations. However, since I don't play GM's, it seems pretty obvious that as long as an opening does not have a clear refutation then just about any opening is OK to play even when my opponent is using an engine.
     Recently I've been giving the Elephant Gambit a whirl and so far nobody has blown be off the board! Tim Harding says it is one of the "grey area" gambits and he does not believe it should be sound, or even especially dangerous, but still White must be careful.  Here is a site with some old analysis...Rapporto di apertura
     One line I've recently been messing around with is 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5 3.exd5 Bd6. This move is not in the Rybka2 opening book but it's in the Fritz 12 book. I do not have any analysis on this move but did refer to the Harding article where it's recommended. In one game white played 4.Qe2 The only Fritz 12 book move is 4.d4 and 4...e4 is the only 'human' move in the book but there are no recent examples by strong players.  Here's the position:

Black to move
     There may be some analysis or a database with games from this position somewhere, but I am unaware of such. The point is that already on move 4 we have reached a position where I could not locate any analysis or games and the engines were evaluating the position at nearly dead equal. Interesting! There appears to be plenty of room for experimenting here and the position seems to offer equality if you believe the engines. Maybe I will continue to experiment with even more silly stuff just to make playing with engines fun again. But what, you ask, are the effects of playing risky openings going to have on my rating?  Drew Carey sums it up:

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