Damiano's Defense

Damiano, an Italian chess player, analyzed this opening with condemnation; perhaps to his regret the opening was attributed to him by calling the opening with his name. Freeborough and Ranken call it, "The Damiano Gambit: so named by Chess writers for purposes of identification, without regard to authorship." Hence Damiano's Defense. In any double King-pawn openings with 2. Nf3 Black has the choice of either disregarding the Knight and playing 2. ... Nf6 (The Petrov), or guarding the e-pawn. Black can guard the e-pawn by Nc6 leading to many openings, but commonly the Ruy Lopez. Another option Black has is to guard the e-pawn by pushing the d-pawn up a square to d6 (Philidor's Defense). Of course all openings can transpose into another one. The one option that Black should not play (unless you're an expert on this opening - you're not because only Sam Sloan is, you're extremely lucky, or you want to throw your opponent a curve) is 2. ... f6. The following in an examination of Black's poorer choices, and how White must take advantage of them. Go to this link if you would like diagrams of the first five moves of 3. Nxe5 fxe5.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 f6
3. Nxe5


                          Diagram 1: After 3. Nxe5
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |BR |BN |BB |BQ |BK |BB |BN |BR | 8
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |BP |BP |BP |BP |   |   |BP |BP | 7
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |   |BP |   |   | 6
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |WN |   |   |   | 5
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |WP |   |   |   | 4
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 3
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |WP |WP |WP |WP |   |WP |WP |WP | 2
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |WR |WN |WB |WQ |WK |WB |   |WR | 1
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                      A    B   C   D   E   F   G   H
                        

Only good reply (Sam Sloan uses to beat players under 2100 USCF_:
3. ... Qe7
4. Nf3 d5
5. d3 dxe5
6. dxe4 +=
Schiffers-Chigorin, St. Petersburg 1897.
Black will recapture the pawn, but with the f-pawn pushed to f6 has a weakened position. Fritz 8 gives white a +.59 position after Qxe4. I have never seen this opening (without searching for it) in tournament due to Black's slightly lacking position. Go to this link and scroll down if you want the full game.

Black's bad replies - and what White should do to take advantage. I teach these to my students - and they find multiple wins against even good players who misunderstand opening theory. Move 2. ... f6 is harmful without knowledge on how to use it properly.
3. ... fxe5 (Dubious)
4. Qh5+ (two replies for Black)


                          Diagram 2: After 4. Qh5+
                            (Two replies Bolded)
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |BR |BN |BB |BQ |BK |BB |BN |BR | 8
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |BP |BP |BP |BP |BK |   |BP |BP | 7
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |   |   |BP |   | 6
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |BP |   |   |WQ | 5
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |WP |   |   |   | 4
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 3
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |WP |WP |WP |WP |   |WP |WP |WP | 2
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |WR |WN |WB |   |WK |WB |   |WR | 1
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                      A    B   C   D   E   F   G   H
                        

4. ... g6 (Blocking check)
This loses the Rook with a fork by the Queen against the King and Rook.
5. Qxe5+ Qe7 (Black can get out of check more than one way.)
6. Qxh8 (With a winning advantage)

4. ... Ke7
5. Qxe5+ Kf7 (Forced)
6. Bc4+ (Two replies)

6. ... Kg6 (Mate within 11 moves)
7. Qf5+ Kh6
8. h4
I used to play 8. d3 or 8. d4 here but it can take an additional three moves for mate if they sac their Bishop ;). Also, 8. h4 gains control over the extremely important g5 square.


                          Diagram 3: After 8.h4
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |BR |BN |BB |BQ |   |BB |BN |BR | 8
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |BP |BP |BP |BP |   |   |BP |BP | 7
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |BK | 6
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |   |WQ |   |   | 5
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |WB |   |WP |   |   |WP | 4
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 3
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |WP |WP |WP |WP |   |WP |WP |   | 2
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |WR |WN |WB |WQ |WK |   |   |WR | 1
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                      A    B   C   D   E   F   G   H
                        

8. ... Qe7 (All other moves lead to mate three or more moves quicker)
9. d3+ (or d4+) g5
10. hxg5+ Kg7
11. Bd2 d5
12. Bc3+ Nf6 (losing the Knight)
13. gxf6+ Kf7
14. Qh5+ Kg8 (Ke6 15. Qxd5#)
15. Qxd5 + Be6
16. Qxe6+ Qxe6
17. Bxe6#

6. ... d5 (Fritz gives +- (3.97) White with an advantage enough to win) 7. Bxd5+ Kg6 8. h4
All other moves lose the advantage back to less than a point.
8. ... h4 (or h5)
9. Bxb7!
If Black captures the Bishop White has mate in two (Qf5+...)
9. ... Bd6
10. Qa5
Again, all other moves lose the advantage down to less than a point.
10. ... Nc6 (Black must lose a minor piece on the following White move)
11. Bxc6 Rb8 (Saving the Rook)
White can then play out over twelve possible moves with an advantage of +3 or more. 12. Nc3 (Fritz: +-(4.06) Now that White has done the work, Black should resign.)


Previous chess writeup: en passant. Next: The Opposition, King vs King and single pawn

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