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Happy days for fans of the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit! After a long time of literary negligence, quite a number of new books featuring this swashbuckling opening have recently arrived on the market. And it gets even better: It is my pleasure to present you an update on the Blackmar-Diemer-Gambit right here on, where it has been neglected for quite some time, too.

Download PGN of May '11 d-Pawn Specials games

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Blackmar-Diemer Gambit Declined [D00]

Given the vigorous debate about (in some cases) very specific lines of the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit on the d-Pawn Specials Forum, it is quite obvious that at least a few subscribers are true connoisseurs of the opening, who may very well own at least one (or even more) of the aforementioned books. As it was my aspiration to offer something new to everyone, preparing this update was especially challenging; even more so as it is quite difficult to find new (relevant) games featuring the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, given the fact that at higher levels the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit is considered to be 'off-beat' at best. However, one of many things I learned when I wrote my own book about the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit is that there already is a vast amount of material, with many hidden treasures still to be found. It is therefore my hope that, beginning with this update, there will indeed be something new for everyone!

Lemberger Counter Gambit [D00]

Those of you who have read my book already know that I started my examination with the so-called Lemberger Counter Gambit, which arises after the moves 1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 e5:

Starting with the Lemberger makes sense from both a historic and didactic standpoint. Soon after Armand Edward Blackmar published analysis of his original Blackmar Gambit (which arises after 1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.f3?) in Brentano's Chess Monthly in 1882, the reply 3...e5 soon proved to be the coffin nail for the gambit. A few years later, in 1889, Ignatz von Popiel refined Blackmar's original idea by playing 3 Nc3 first, but 3...e5 was still considered to be the best reply at that time. Many theoreticians (e.g. John Cox or Yelena Dembo) are recommending this move even today, which is why I want to show you the current state of theory in this update.

I will begin with the most natural continuation, 4 dxe5 (the so-called Endgame Variation), which was also von Popiel's choice when facing the Lemberger Counter Gambit (and which is Andrew Martin's recommendation on his Blackmar-Diemer Gambit CD):

The ramifications of this move are simple: White regains his sacrificed pawn and threatens to win another one, but after 4...Qxd1+ he is faced with a rather important decision: Should he lose his castling rights with 5 Kxd1 in order to keep an eye on black's e-pawn, or should he play 5 Nxd1, which keeps the possibility to castle but loses contact with the black e-pawn? My comments to Von Popiel,I - Egiazarov will show the consequences of each decision.

In general, the question whether to use the Lemberger Counter Gambit or not is psychologically interesting. As the examination of the Endgame Variation shows, White may choose to "play for two results" (with a draw being more probable, though) if he so desires, which means that Black cannot risk playing this line in a must-win-situation ... unless White is in a must-win-situation, too! Which brings us to the next question: What line should the white player choose in order to create optimal winning chances?

Sneiders Attack [D00]

In their book Winning with the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, Ken Smith and John Hall recommend the enterprising Sneiders Attack, which is characterized by the bold 4 Qh5:

With this move White is launching a direct attack against the weakest spot in the black camp, the f7-pawn, all the while threatening not only to regain, but to also win a pawn by snatching the pawns on e5 and e4 in succession. As far as I could see Eric has only dealt with 4...Nc6 so far; as it turns out, this is indeed the best move, but nonetheless, I would like to take the time to show you why Black has to play quite accurately.

For example, Black might be tempted to take the d-pawn with 4...exd4?!, which seems quite logical at first. However, 5 Bc4! immediately shows what White is after:

Since 5...g6?? loses to 6 Qe5+, Black has to protect his f-pawn with his queen, but after either 5...Qd7 or 5...Qe7 White gets good attacking chances, as you may see in Burk,D - Müller,M (even though White ultimately lost this game).

As I already pointed out above, 4...Nc6! is the best move against 4 Qh5. Black "protects" his e-pawn, enabling him to play 5...g6, should White choose to carry out his attacking plans with 5 Bc4 nonetheless, which will allow him to take the white d-pawn under more favourable circumstances:

This means that White, in order to get his pawn back, has to play 5 dxe5; however, this is problematic insofar as now the e5-square is blocked and therefore not accessible anymore for the white queen, again allowing Black to play ...g7-g6 should he be forced to do so. Tim Sawyer, in his Keybook II, believed that White is equal after this. I am not so sure, even though for a different reason I originally gave in my book: There, I gave the line 5...Nd4, and after 6 Bb5+ c6 7 Ba4 Bf5 I stated that the position is "better for black":

This is not necessarily the case, though, as we will see in Burk, D - Jensen, N; however, I still do think that Black may very well play for an advantage, accurate play provided of course.

Rasmussen Attack [D00]

A much more popular method of facing the Lemberger Counter Gambit is the so-called Rasmussen Attack, which arises after the move order 1 d4 d5 2 e4 dxe4 3 Nc3 e5 4 Nge2!?:

The move 4 Nge2 is quite cunning; not only does White protect his d-pawn, the knight also serves other purposes, such as reinforcing the other knight (in case of a possible pin).

The immediate benefit of 4 Nge2 can be seen after the natural 4...exd4, a move I faced almost exclusively whenever I employed the Rasmussen Attack in blitz games on the Internet Chess Club. After 5 Qxd4 Qxd4 6 Nxd4 White is still a pawn down, but in return both of his knights are already right in the thick of it:

Playing like this only makes sense for Black if he can somehow manage to hang on to his extra pawn; however, with queens traded off, the point c7 suddenly proves to be quite weak. A look at the game Hickman, H - Rasmussen, E will illustrate this.

As it turns out, 4...Nc6 is once again the critical move. As well as in the Sneiders Attack from above, Black protects his e-pawn while attacking the white d-pawn once more at the same time. After the forced 5 d5 Nce7 6 Ng3 it is Black who is at a crossroads:

Should White be able to win the pawn on e4 (without having to make any more concessions), he will have a distinct advantage. This means, that Black should think of ways of attacking the d-pawn, before White manages to achieve his objectives. The conservative way of doing this is 6...Nf6, when after 7 Bc4 Black should continue with 7...c6. He failed to do so in Trumpf, W - Breslin, W, and was duly punished.

Another way of protecting the pawn is 6...f5. This looks compromising at first (with the light squares being weakened), but it is not easy for White to crack open the center:

While working on my book, I considered this move to be the ultimate test for the Rasmussen Attack. Since Black weakened his light squares as well as the a2-g8 diagonal, I considered 7 Bc4 to be the most logical move; following 7...Nf6 8 Bg5 Qd6 9 Bxf6 Qxf6 10 Nb5 Kd7! 11 0-0 a6 12 Nc3 Ng6 we arrive at a position that has been assessed as "clearly better" in a discussion led on the forum:

Right now I don't have anything new to add to this position; however, it may be that White doesn't have to play 7 Bc4 immediately. An idea I stumbled across was 7 Bg5!?:

The main idea of this move is to pin the knight, threatening 8 Bb5+ (since neither 8...c6 nor 8...Bd7 are possible then). Black could play 7...a6, but then 8 Bc4 leads to a position that could also have arisen via 7 Bc4 a6 8 Bg5, which is better for White. The reason for this, and other ways of meeting 7 Bg5, are discussed in Sawyer, T - Owens, J.

Lange Gambit [D00]

Finally, (after 1 d4 d5 2 e4 dxe4 3 Nc3 e5) we have the enterprising Lange Gambit, which is characterized by the move 4 Nxe4:

The idea behind this move is quite simple: White regains his pawn and threatens to win another one. The most natural way to react for Black, obviously, is to take the white d-pawn. But with which piece?

Intuitively, 4...exd4 seems to be the right move. Black leaves his queen at home, saving her from being harassed by the white minor pieces. This, however, opens up new possibilities for White as well: With Bf1-c4 being possible now, Black must give additional security to his weak point f7; and with the e-file now open, danger threatens should White be able to castle quickly. A good illustration is 5 Nf3 Nc6 6 Bc4 Bf5 7 0-0!, which was played in Pape, R - Rasmussen, E:

Conclusively, 4...Qxd4 is the critical move against the Lange Gambit. Black places his queen right in the middle of the board, where it may be the target of the white minor pieces. After 5 Bd3 Nc6 6 Nf3 Qd5! however, there does not seem to be an immediate way for White to exploit this:

Now, In my book I rejected 7 0-0 because of 7...Bg4 8 Nc3 Qd6 9 h3 Bh5 10 Nb5 Qe7 11 Be4 a6 12 Bxc6+ bxc6 13 Nc3 f6, after which I stated that Black is better:

Guido De Bouver from Belgium (who also wrote a book about the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit) questioned this assessment and offered some interesting lines after 14 Re1. To conclude this update, I will take a look at this in Leisebein, P - Lange, S.

Cheers, Christoph

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