The Cunningham Variation is a black continuation for the King's Gambit chess opening. Like the Falkbeer Counter-Gambit the Cunnigham Variation is an active defense for black that tries to steal whites' thunder and exploit the inherent structural weaknesses of the King's Gambit. Nothing is more annoying to face as a King's Gambit player as white then the Cunningham, lets look at the chess notation so you will be able to share in my disgust.

1. e4   e5
2. f4   exf4
3. Nf3  Be7

There are other benefits to white bringing out the knight on the third move but the main reason is to cover the H4 square so black can't give the early queen check (see King's Gambit for a couple examples of why this can be bad). Blacks reply to the Knight move is to bring the bishop out in front of the Black King and threaten to check white on the H4 with the bishop which is now protected by the queen.

The main problem with the King's Gambit is that once your F pawn is sacrificed your King is open to an early check. That's the deal you make, rapid development for weak king side defense and the possibility that you will not be able to castle (if you don't move your Knight out to guard the H square you can easily lose your chance to castle though black may lose tempo in doing so). When your opponent plays the Cunningham it is now up to them whether or not you will be able to castle. After they serve up the first check you can only capture with your knight or move your king (if your wondering why you can't defend with the g pawn see King's Gambit the same principals that apply to the queen attack apply to the bishop). If white captures the bishop queen will check and white must move its King.

So what can be done as white? Move your king out of the way this much I know. Roll with the first attack and counter hard. I never kill the black bishop, its beter to leave it there and make black waste a tempo repositioning it. White still has good rapid development possibilties and just has to be careful and capitalize on them. How do you do that? I don’t know, I always mess this up. But here are a couple Grand Master games where white ended up winning the game. I especially like the first one,

Dubois - Tresh 1990

1. e4   e5
2. f4   exf4
3. Nf3  Be7
4. Bc4  Bh4+
5. Kf1  d6
6. d4   f5
7. e5   dxe5
8. Nxe5 Nh6
9. Qh5+ Kf8
10. Bxf4 Qxd4
11. Qxh4 Qd1+
12. Qe1 Qxc2
13. Qb4+ Ke8
14. Nd2 b6
15. Re1 Kd8
16. Nf7+ Nxf7
17. Qe7#
This second one is hardcore, you need alot of moxy to play, like Bronstein
Bronstein vs Brisum 1990

1. e4   e5
2. f4   exf4
3. Nf3  Be7
4. Bc4  Bh4+
5. g3   fxg3
6. O-O  gxh2+
7. Kh1  d5
8. exd5 Bh3
9. Qe2+ Kf8
10. d4  Bxf1
11. Qxf1 Bf6
12. Nc3 Nd7
13. Bf4 Nb6
14. Bb3 Ne7
15. Bxh2 Nexd5
16. Ne4 Qd7
17. c4  Ne7
18. d5  Bxb2
19. Rd1 Nf5
20. Qf2 Bf6
21. c5  Nc8
22. d6  cxd6
23. cxd6 Nb6
24. Nfg5 Nh6
25. Nxf6 gxf6
26. Qxf6 Qc6+
27. Nf3 Rg8
28. Qe7+ Kg7
29. Be5+ Kg6
30. Qg5#
Chess Openings
King's Gambit
ECO chess codes C3

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