Boden-Kieseritsky Gambit - ECO C27

" In a gambit, you give up a pawn for the sake of getting a lost game."
    - Samuel Standidge Boden (1826 - 1882)

Introduction

Named for 19th century chess talents Samuel Standidge Boden and Lionel Adalbert Bagration Felix Kieseritsky (Say that ten times quickly!), the Boden-Kieseritsky Gambit is an exciting gambit line in the Bishop's Opening. It can also be reached from the Petroff with a different move order.

I very recently discovered this gambit while desiring something else--and sharp--to play besides the Urusov Gambit in the Bishop's Opening after 2. ... Nf6. It's nice to pull out an alternate gambit from time to time, particularly against regular opponents. A brief hunt uncovered this little gem which leads to much more bizarre pawn structures for black with weak white squares on the kingside and fun for everyone! Well, no, hopefully it'll only be fun for you and your opponent will leave the table in tears. But at the very least it's a nice little surprise to keep in your bag of tricks if you play the Bishop's Opening.

Definition

The Boden-Kieseritsky is defined by the position arrived at after 1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nxe4 4. Nc3 Nxc3 5. dxc3 (See Diagram 1). The seeming positional disadvantages to white are overwhelmingly negated by his or her activity and development. Obviously, wandering hopelessly into an endgame with a missing pawn and doubled c-pawns is not desirable, so, as in most true gambits, a direct assault is required. The major lines follow.


                         Diagram 1: After 5. dxc3
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |BR |BN |BB |BQ |BK |BB |   |BR | 8
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |BP |BP |BP |BP |   |BP |BP |BP | 7
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 6
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |BP |   |   |   | 5
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |WB |   |   |   |   |   | 4
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |WP |   |   |WN |   |   | 3
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |WP |WP |WP |   |   |WP |WP |WP | 2
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |WR |   |WB |WQ |WK |   |   |WR | 1
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                      A    B   C   D   E   F   G   H
                        

Lines

  • 5. ... f6

    This is, historically, black's normal reply. Steinitz went so far as to call it "The only move" for black. The f6 advance is intended to shore up the e5 pawn, but it also introduces serious light square weakness on the kingside. You can't see it in my diagrams, but the a2-g8 diagonal is all light squares. The same light squares and same diagonal along which your c4 bishop is presently breathing fire.

    For white, there are two replies to this:

    • 6. Nh4
    • Here we have a strange-looking and aggressive move (see Diagram 2) which puts your knight on the rim, but where it is also threatening to set up shop on the weakened kingside. From here, black's only reply is 6. ... g6, then 7. f4 tickling the center while preventing the g-pawn advance which would chase your knight away. The idea being to push the pawn to f5 and pry open the kingside or at least further pressure on the already weak light squares.

      If there is a direct refutation of this line, it's 7. ... c6! followed by 8. f5 d5 (see Diagram 3). Now any compensation white had for the e-pawn is long gone, the bishop is either chased away from its optimal diagonal or sacrificed (in some lines), and a lot of the thrust is removed from white's attack. There are still chances for a kingside attack on the weak white squares, but honestly I wouldn't want this position as white. Which brings us to our next line.

      
                               Diagram 2: After 6. Nh4
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                           |BR |BN |BB |BQ |BK |BB |   |BR | 8
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                           |BP |BP |BP |BP |   |   |BP |BP | 7
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                           |   |   |   |   |   |BP |   |   | 6
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                           |   |   |   |   |BP |   |   |   | 5
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                           |   |   |WB |   |   |   |   |WN | 4
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                           |   |   |WP |   |   |   |   |   | 3
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                           |WP |WP |WP |   |   |WP |WP |WP | 2
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                           |WR |   |WB |WQ |WK |   |   |WR | 1
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                            A    B   C   D   E   F   G   H
                              
      
      
                                Diagram 3: After 8. d5
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                           |BR |BN |BB |BQ |BK |BB |   |BR | 8
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                           |BP |BP |   |   |   |   |   |BP | 7
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                           |   |   |BP |   |   |BP |BP |   | 6
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                           |   |   |   |BP |BP |WP |   |   | 5
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                           |   |   |WB |   |   |   |   |WN | 4
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                           |   |   |WP |   |   |   |   |   | 3
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                           |WP |WP |WP |   |   |   |WP |WP | 2
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                           |WR |   |WB |WQ |WK |   |   |WR | 1
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                            A    B   C   D   E   F   G   H
                              
      

    • 6. O-O
    • Castling kingside (see Diagram 4) before placing your knight on h4 does a number of beneficial things. First, it gives your opponent a chance to screw up and make a silly move. More importantly, though, it brings the rook into play either to support the f-pawn advance or to bring it to the half-open e-file depending on the situation. In practice, white scores about the same in this line as with 6. Nh4, but the position is somewhat less dodgy and therefore your ability to regain your footing should you commit an error (pretty common in blitz) is higher. It doesn't pack the opponent stunning power of Nh4, but it looks to me to be a slightly better move.

      Of course, the strength of this move is also it's greatest weakness. You've commited your king to castle on the side where black's pawns are already advanced, and with a little mobilization on your opponent's part, an overwhelming kingside attack could bring an unfavorable end to your game.

      
                               Diagram 4: After 6. O-O
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                           |BR |BN |BB |BQ |BK |BB |   |BR | 8
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                           |BP |BP |BP |BP |   |   |BP |BP | 7
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                           |   |   |   |   |   |BP |   |   | 6
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                           |   |   |   |   |BP |   |   |   | 5
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                           |   |   |WB |   |   |   |   |   | 4
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                           |   |   |WP |   |   |WN |   |   | 3
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                           |WP |WP |WP |   |   |WP |WP |WP | 2
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                           |WR |   |WB |WQ |   |WR |WK |   | 1
                           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                            A    B   C   D   E   F   G   H
                              
      

  • Other Fifth Moves For Black
  • Black has also tried a number of other ideas (like 5. ... c6 and 5. ... Be7 and so on), all of which are worse than f6. Remember that you already have two key attacking pieces in play and open and two half-open center files and your ability to overwhelm your opponent lies in that simple fact. Your bishop is pointed straight at the cliche-ridden f7 square where many a game has been decided, and your knight is threatening both the e-pawn and subsequently f7. If your opponent makes one of these alternate moves, punish them quickly and overwhelmingly for their error.

In Closing

The Boden-Kieseritsky Gambit is a fun and interesting gambit in the Bishop's Opening. With correct play, black can make things difficult for you, but that's true of any real gambit. Use your advanced development to storm the barricades and deliver checkmate to your worthy opponent.


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