Tom Green vs. Gary Sahr

bishop on a green and buff board

This game was published in Chess Life (April 1982) with the following preface:

Our last game features a King's Gambit. Both players had identical 1288 ratings in a wild, but short, affair. [note: this postal rating used a different base than today. For comparison, add 500 points]

Golden Knights 1978 Semi-final section 101 (1980) [C31]
1 e4 e5 2 f4 d5 3 exd5 c6 4 Nc3 exf4 5 Nf3 Nf6 6 d4 Bd6 7 Qe2+ Kf8 8 Ne5 cxd5 9 Bxf4 Nc6 10 0-0-0 a6 11 Qe3 Be6 12 Be2 Qc7 13 Rhf1 b5 14 Bxb5! Bxe5 15 dxe5 d4 16 Rxd4 Ng4 17 Qe4 axb5 18 Rd6 Rc8 19 h3 Ngxe5 20 Bxe5 Nxe5 21Qxe5 b4 22 Qxe6 bxc3 23 Rxf7+ 1-0

This game was later used as an illustrative game of the Falkbeer Variation in Grandmaster Christiansen's book, The King's Gambit As White (Thinker's Press, 1984). The game is reprinted here with Christiansen's notes:

1 e4 e5 2 f4 d5 3 exd5 (Nf3!?)

The position is double-edged and a fierce struggle can already be predicted. Black has disrupted the center to attain open diagonals for both of his bishops with a view toward easy development. In some lines Black even elects to remain a pawn down to disorganize White's forces. Still, White can expect the better chances by carefully wending his way through the tactical maze of this countergambit.

First of all, 3...ef4 (on 3...Bc5 the retort 4 Nc3! [with advantage] deters 4...e4 and prepares 5 fe5) 4 Nf3 transposes to the Modern Variation (cf. Ch. 9). Alternatively, Black can grab a center pawn with 3...Qd5. After 4 Nc3 Qd8 5 Nf3 (fe5!?) Bc5 6 Bb5 [with advantage], however, White threatens both fe5-d4 and Qe2.

Quite different lines arise from 3...c6, the Nimzovich Continuation. One accurate response, 4 Nc3 (better than 4 dc6 Nc6 or 4 Qf3 ef4 5 dc6 Nc6 6 Bb5 Qb6! although 4 d3 Qd5 5 Qe2! warrants consideration) allows Black several roads from which to choose. Unreccomendable next is 4...Bb4 due to 5 Nf3 Bc3 6 dc3 e4 7 Ne5 cd5? 8 Bb5 [with advantage], e.g. 8...Nd7? 9 Qd5 [with clear advantage]. Somewhat steadier is 4...cd5. Nevertheless, 5 Bb5! [with advantage] intending 6 Qe2, much improves over Estrin's 5 fe5 d4 6 Ne4 Qd5 7 Bd3 (7 Qe2 Nc6 8 Nf3 Bg4 9 c4 dc3 10 dc3 0-0-0 11 Bf4 Ne5 12 Be5 Bf3 13 Qf3 Qe5 14 Be2 f5!) Nc6 8 Qe2 since 8...Ne5 9 Bb5 Bd7 10 Bd7 Kd7! [with the idea]...Re8 would permit Black to become too active.

Here 5...Nc6 (5...Bd7 6 Qe2) 6 Qe2 e4 7 d3 Bb4 8 de4! cuts across Black's plans. As 8...Bc3 9 bc3 [with the idea] Ba3 offers White a pair of might bishops, Black must turn to 8...d4. However, with 9 Qc4! White remains in command. For instance, if 9...Bd7, then 10 Bc6 Bc3 11 bc3 Bc6 12 Nf3! is hard to meet.

Going back to diagram 11A-1, following 3...c6 4 Nc3, Black might prefer exf4 [with the idea] Qh4. Then 5 Nf3 leaves Black with two main possibilities: 5...Bd6 and 5...Nf6. Quite commonly seen is 5...Nf6 (5...cd5 6 d4 transposes) when 6 d4 Bd6 7 Qe2+ presents Black with yet another decision. On one try, the radical Kf8!?, White has 8 Ne5 cxd5 9 Bxf4! Nc6 10 0-0-0 Be5 (for 10...a6 cf. {11 Qe3 Be6 12 Be2 Qc7 13 Rhf1 b5 14 Bxb5! Bxe5 15 dxe5 d4 16 Rxd4 Ng4 17 Qe4 axb5 18 Rd6 Rc8 19 h3 Ngxe5 20 Bxe5 Nxe5 21Qxe5 b4 22 Qxe6 bxc3 23 Rxf7+ 1-0} whereas 10...Bf5 can be met by 11 Qe3 [with advantage]) 11 de5 Bg4 12 Qd2 Ne4 13 Ne4 Bd1 (13...de4 14 Qd6[with advantage]) 14 Nd6 [equal/unclear] with comfortable compensation for the exchange.

As Black must retreat his Bd1, he cannot hold his pawn on d5. Clearly 14...Bh5 15 Qd5 [with advantage] [with the idea] Bc4-Rf1-e6 gives White excellent attacking prospects, but even after 14...Bg4 Black stays on the defensive. A typical sequel is 15 Qd5 Be6 16 Qc5 Qe7 17 Nb7 Qc5 (17...Rc8 18 Nd6 Rc7 19 Bb5[with advantage]) 18 Nc5 [equal/unclear] with two pawns for the exchange and a promising ending for White. Examples include 18...Ke7 19 Bg5 f6 20 ef6 gf6 21 Ne6! Ke6 22 Bc4 [with the idea] Bd2/Bh4 and 18...Bf5 (18...Ba2? 19 b3+-) 19 c3 Rd8 (19...Rc8 20 Ba6 Rc7? 21 e6+_) 20 Bc4 h6 (20...Ke7? 21 Bg5! [with the idea] Re1+-) 21 e6! with strong pressure.

Returning (from Diagram 11A-1) to 3...c6 4 Nc3! ef4 5 Nf3 Nf6 6 d4 Bd6 7 Qe2, safer is 7...Qe7, though 8 Qe7 still keeps Black busy. Necessary, of course, is 8...Ke7 (8...Be7? 9 dc6 [with the idea] Bf4 [with advantage]) when White can improve on 9 Ne5 Bf5 10 Bf4 cd5! [with the idea ...Nc6= with 9 Bc4 [with slight advantage].

Now on 9...Bf5 10 Ne5 (0-0) the reply 10...cd5 (also weak are 10...Bc2 11 dc6! Nc6 12 Nf7 Rhe8 13 0-0 and 10...Be5 11 de5 Nh5 12 d6 [with the idea 0-0) loses its punch to 11 Bd5! Nd5 12 Nd5 Ke8 (12...Kf6 13 Nf4) 13 Bf4 [with advantage]. An interesting option is 9...b5; however, after 10 Bb3 (Bd3!?) b4 11 Ne2 Nd5 (11...cd5 12 Bf4 Re8 -- 12...a5 13 Bg5 or 12...Nc6 13 a3 -- 13 0-0 Nc6 14 Rae1[with advantage]) 12 Bd5 (Ne5) cd5 13 Bf4 Bf4 14 Nf4 Be6 15 a3 [with advantage], White's potential for piling up on Black's a-pawn or d-pawn maintains the edge.

Finally (from Diagram 11A-1), on 3...c6 4 Nc3 ef4 5 Nf3, Black does best with 5...Bd6, intending to meet 6 Qe2?! by 6...Ne7. Next White should favor 6 Bc4! since he cannot meet ...Ne7 with c4 as in the Modern Variation 9contrast Diagram 9A-2). The line 6...Ne7 7 0-0 0-0 8 dc6 Nbc6 9 Ne4 Bb8 (on 9...Bc7 Black must watch out for d5 [with the idea] d6) 10 d4 [unclear] results in a complex game which offers chances for both sides.

White's primary task here is to continue developing as quickly as possible while avoiding tactical tricks on d4. One logical plan would incorporate c3-Qd3-Bd2-Rae1-(Nc5)-(Kh1) with queenside expansion and, perhaps, a relocation of White's king bishop to c2. Whenever black selects ...h6-g5, White might also be on the lookout for favorable piece sacrifice, especially on Black's f4. Sharpest may be 10...Bg4 11 c3 h6 12 Qd3 with complicated play ahead.

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1996 Thomas A. Green

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15 July 2009