1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.Nf3 Bg4?! 4.Bb5+
 

by Michael Goeller

I have always hated playing against the Portuguese Gambit (1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.d4 Bg4!?) and have even experimented with playing it myself. So when I saw various authors recommending 3.Nf3! as a universal antidote to Black's idea, I was very happy to add it to my repertoire as the "Anti-Portuguese" method of playing against the Scandinavian Defense (or Center Counter). I recently had a chance to test out the line over the board with good results. But when I looked at the "theory" after my game (to make sure "I played it right"), I realized no one had really put forth a thorough analysis. Here is my attempt to do so, using my own game as the illustration.

Michael Goeller - Neil Marcus [B01]

U.S. Amateur Teams East/Parsippany, NJ (1) 2005


1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Nf6 3. Nf3

The purpose of this move instead of 3.d4 is to prevent Black's next.

 

3... Bg4?!

Well, I knew this was supposed to be wrong. But then I had some trouble figuring out exactly why.

 

4. Bb5+ Nbd7

Also played is 4... c6!? 5. dxc6 Nxc6 6. h3! Bh5 (6... Bxf3 7. Qxf3 Rc8 8. O-O ) And now White should play 7. Bxc6+! bxc6 8. d3 e6 9. Nbd2! Bc5 10. Qe2 O-O 11. O-O Qd5 12. Ne4!

 

5. h3!

Jeremy Silman at his website may have been the first to identify this as the most critical move. The supposed "book" move 5. c4?! does not hold up well after 5... e6! 6. dxe6 fxe6 7. d4 c6 8. Ba4 e5!?  Donaldson / Emms

 

5... a6!?

This is Silman's recommendation for Black. Others do not work out so well either.

 

a) 5... Bxf3 6. Qxf3 a6 7. Bxd7+!? (better 7. Ba4! b5 8. Bb3 Nc5 (or 8... Nb6 9. Nc3 b4 10. Ne4! Nfxd5? 11. Ng5! f6 12. Ne6 Qd6 13. Bxd5 Nxd5 14. Qxd5! Qxd5 15. Nxc7+ +- Silman) 9. c4! Chandler / Silman / Emms) 7... Qxd7 8. c4 O-O-O (8... e6 9. dxe6 Qxe6+ 10. Qe3) 9. O-O b5?! (better 9... e6! 10. d4! (10. dxe6 Qxe6 11. d3 Nd7 with compensation ) 10... exd5 11. c5 ) 10. d3 c6 11. dxc6 Qxd3 12. c7 Kxc7 13. Bf4+ Kb6 14. c5+ Ka7 15. Qc6 Nd5 16. Bc7 Rc8 17. Bb6+ Nxb6 18. Qxb6+ Ka8 19. c6 1-0 Page-Heng, AUS-ch u18 2000

 

b) 5... Bf5 6. c4!? (6. Nc3!? a6 7. Ba4 b5 8. Nd4! Bg6?! (better 8... bxa4 9. Nxf5 Nb6 10. O-O Nbxd5 11. Nxd5 Qxd5 12. Ne3) 9. Nc6 Qc8 10. Bb3 Nc5 11. Qf3 Nxb3 12. axb3 Bxc2 13. d3 Bxb3 14. Nd4 Ba4 15. Bf4 Qd7 16. Be5 h6 17. O-O Rd8 18. Nc6 Rc8 19. Bxf6 gxf6 20. Ne4 Bg7 21. Nc5 Qd6 22. Qg4 O-O 23. Ne4 1-0 Kerr-Silson, AUS Corr. 2001) 6... a6?! (6... Bd3?! 7. Ne5!) (6... >= e6 7. Qe2 Be7 8. Nd4!+/=) 7. Ba4 (7. Bxd7+!?) 7... b5 8. cxb5 Nxd5 9. d4 Nb4 10. bxa6 Nd3+ 11. Kf1 Nxc1 12. Qxc1 Rxa6 13. Nc3!? c6 14. g3 e6 15. Kg2 Bb4 16. Bc2! Qa5 17. Bxf5 Qxf5 18. a3 Be7 19. Qf1 Rb6 20. Qe2 O-O 21. Rhd1 Bf6 22. Rd2 Rfb8 23. Rad1 Qa5 24. Ne5 Qa7 25. Ne4 Nf8 26. Rc1 Bxe5 27. dxe5 Qc7 28. Nd6 Ng6 29. Rcd1 Rb3 30. Nc4 Nf8 31. Qe4 R8b5 32. Rc1 Rd5 33. Qc2 Rbb5 34. b4 Nd7 35. f4 c5 36. Rxd5 exd5 37. Nd6 Rb6 38. Qf5 Nf6 39. Rxc5 Rc6 40. exf6 1-0 Day-Kegel, Toronto Open 1995

 

c) 5... Bh5 6. Nc3 Recommended by Larry Kaufman, this move gives back the pawn with the idea of getting the standard edge for White. It may be better to try to hang onto the pawn with 6. c4!? a6 (6... e6!? Emms 7. g4 Bg6 8. Qe2) 7. Bxd7+ Qxd7 8. d4 but this "is just bad for Black" according to Silman 8... O-O-O 9. Nc3 e6 10. g4! Bg6 11. Ne5 Qe8 12. O-O! exd5 13. Re1! "and Black has problems down the e-file" says Emms) 6... a6 7. Be2 Nb6 8. d4 Nbxd5 9. Nxd5 Qxd5 10. c4 Qd8 11. Qb3 Rb8 12. d5 Bxf3 13. Bxf3 g6 14. Be3 Qc8 15. O-O Bg7 16. Ba7 Ra8 17. Bc5 Nd7 18. Ba3 Ne5 19. Rae1 O-O 20. Bxe7 Re8 21. Ba3 Qd7 22. Be2 g5 23. f4 gxf4 24. Rxf4 Ng6 25. Rff1 Bd4+ 26. Kh1 Re3 27. Bg4 Rxb3 28. Bxd7 Rd3 29. Bf5 Re3 30. Rxe3 Bxe3 31. Re1 Bg5 32. c5 Rd8 33. d6 cxd6 34. cxd6 Nf8 35. g3 Bf6 36. Kg2 a5 37. b3 b6 38. Re7 Bd4 39. d7 1-0 Santo Roman-Santos, Loures POR 1997

 

6. Bxd7+!?N

A novelty in this position, but perfectly good it appears.

 

a) 6. Be2! is recommended by Emms 6... Bxf3 (6... Bf5 7. Nh4 Be4 8. c4) 7. Bxf3 Ne5! (7... Nb6?! 8. d6! Emms 8... c6 (8... Qxd6 9. Bxb7 Rb8 10. Bxa6 Na4 11. Qe2) 9. dxe7 Bxe7 10. d4 O-O 11. O-O Bd6 12. Nc3 Bc7 13. Bg5 Qd6 14. g3 Nbd5 15. Nxd5 Nxd5 16. c4 Qg6 17. cxd5 Qxg5 18. dxc6 bxc6 19. Qc1 Qf6 20. Qxc6 Bd6 21. Qc3 Rab8 22. Rac1 Rb5 23. Kg2 h5 24. h4 g5 25. a4 Rf5 26. Be4 Rf4 27. gxf4 Qxf4 28. Rg1 Qxh4 29. Qh3 Qxh3+ 30. Kxh3 f6 31. Rc6 1-0 Aguilar-Mejias, Logrono 2002) 8. Nc3 (Emms's suggestion may work here also, though it is more complicated than Emms describes: 8. d6! Nxf3+ (8... Qxd6 9. Bxb7 Rb8 10. Bf3 Nxf3+ 11. Qxf3 Qe6+ 12. Qe2 Qc6 13. O-O Qxc2 14. Qxa6) 9. Qxf3 c6!? 10. dxe7 Qxe7+ 11. Qe2 (11. Qe3 O-O-O 12. O-O Nd5 with compensation ) 11... O-O-O 12. Nc3 (12. Qxe7 Bxe7 13. d3 Rhe8 14. O-O Nd5 with compensation ) 12... Re8!? 13. Qxe7 Bxe7 14. Kd1! (14. O-O Bb4 with compensation) 14... Bb4 15. d3 Re6 16. Re1) 8... Qd7 9. d4 Nxf3+ 10. Qxf3 O-O-O?! (better 10... Rd8! 11. d6 (11. Bf4 Nxd5 12. Nxd5 Qxd5 13. Qxd5 Rxd5 14. O-O-O Kd7 15. c4=) 11... cxd6 12. d5 e6 13. O-O Be7 14. Qg3 O-O= 15. Bh6 Ne8 16. Rad1 Bf6=) 11. Bg5! h6 (11... Nxd5 12. Qxf7+/=) 12. Bxf6 exf6 13. a3! Re8+ 14. Kd2 g6 15. Rae1 Bg7 16. Rxe8+ Rxe8 17. Re1 Rxe1 18. Kxe1 f5 19. Ne2 Kd8 20. Qb3 Kc8 21. c4 h5 22. Qe3 Kd8 23. h4 Qa4 24. Qd3 Kd7 25. Kd2 Bh6+ 26. f4 Bg7 27. Qc2 Qa5+ 28. Qc3 Qa4 29. Qc2 Qa5+ 30. Qc3 Qa4 31. Qb4 Qxb4+ 32. axb4 b5 33. Kd3 Bf8 34. Kc3 Kd6 35. g3 f6 36. Kb3 Be7 37. Nc3 g5 38. Ne2 Kd7 39. Kc3 Ke8 40. Kb3 Kf7 41. Kc3 Bd6 42. c5 Be7 43. Kd3 Ke8 44. Nc3 Kd7 45. Nd1 Bf8 46. hxg5 fxg5 47. fxg5 Ke7 48. Ne3 Kf7 49. Nxf5 Kg6 50. d6 1-0 Santo Roman-Dias, Loures POR 1997

 

b) 6. Ba4?! Bh5 7. c4 b5 8. cxb5 Nxd5 9. d4 e6 10. bxa6 Rxa6 11. g4 Bg6 12. Ne5 c6!=/+ Silman

 

6... Bxd7 7. c4 e6

More complicated may be 7... b5!? 8. d3 c6! 9. dxc6 Bxc6 10. O-O Qd6 11. Be3 Rd8 12. Na3 or 7... c6 8. dxc6 Bxc6 9. d4 though White has the extra pawn here as well.

 

8. Qe2 Qe7?!

This seems a mistake, since it practically commits Black to an exchange of Queens later. 8... Be7! 9. dxe6 Bxe6 10. O-O O-O 11. d4 looks good for White, though Black retains the two Bishops and lots of activity for the pawn.

 

9. dxe6 Bxe6 10. O-O O-O-O

10... Bf5!? 11. Re1 Qxe2 12. Rxe2+ Be7 13. b3!

 

11. d4

Now it appears that White simply has a pawn advantage -- and a quite useful pawn at that since it helps him dominate the center and think about developing a Queenside initiative.

 

11... Qd7?!

I knew that my opponent was now eyeing the Bxh3 sac, but it is not good.

 

12. Be3 Bxh3 13. Ne5! Qe6 14. gxh3 Bd6 15. f4!

Attack over...or so I thought.

 

15... Bxe5!? 16. fxe5 Qxh3!? 17. Rf3

Not 17. exf6? gxf6 18. Kf2 Qh4+ 19. Kf3 Qh5+ gives Black at least a perpetual 17. Qf3 Qxf3 18. Rxf3 Ng4 19. Nc3 Nxe3 20. Rxe3 Rxd4 gives Black two pawns for the piece, but it is hardly enough

 

17... Qh5!?

I had expected 17... Qg4+ 18. Qg2 Qxg2+ 19. Kxg2 Ng4 20. Bg1!+-

 

18. Nc3!?

Safety first. I felt no need to get greedy, though Fritz thinks 18. exf6 is now playable: 18... gxf6 (18... Rhg8!?) 19. Kf2 Qh4+ 20. Rg3 Rhg8 21. Qf3 Rxg3 22. Qxg3 Qh1 23. Qg2 Qd1 24. Qh3+ Kb8 25. Qxh7 +-

 

18... Ng4 19. Rg3 f5 20. exf6 Nxf6 21. Qxh5 Nxh5

The Queens are off, the rest is easy.

 

22. Rf3 Rd7 23. Nd5! Re8 24. Bg5!?

with the idea of eliminating his Knight

 

24... h6

24... Rd6!? 25. Rh3 g6 26. Rf1 +-

 

25. Rh3! hxg5 26. Rxh5 Re4 27. Rxg5 Rxd4 28. b3 Rd2 29. Rg2 Rd3 30. Rf1 b6 31. Rf8+ Kb7 32. Rg8

There goes his g-pawn.

 

32... Rd1+ 33. Kh2 Rf1 34. R2xg7 Rff7 35. Rxf7 Rxf7 36. Re8!

Threatening to kill off his Rook with Re7.

 

36... Rh7+

36... c6?! 37. Re7+ Rxe7 38. Nxe7 +-

 

37. Kg3 Rh6

Black should seek to exchange pawns with 37... b5! when White probably needs to keep the Rooks on to avoid drawing tactics.

 

38. Re7 Rc6

This is much too passive a position for the Rook. I now play a few moves to make time control and end up getting my Knight into a better position.

 

39. Nb4 Rc5 40. Nd3 Rh5 41. Nf4!

This actually forces the win of a pawn.

 

41... Rc5

41... Rh1 42. Nd5+- 41... Ra5 42. a4! Kc6 43. Nd5 +-

 

42. Ne6! Ra5

Black can no longer defend because 42... Rc6?? 43. Nd8+ +-

 

43. a4! Kc6 44. Nxc7 Kd6 45. Rh7 Kc6 46. Nd5

There is a problem-like win here with 46. b4!! Rxa4? (46... Re5 47. Nxa6+-) 47. Ne8! Ra3+ 48. Kf4 and Black cannot avoid mate starting with Rc7+. I did see the basic idea, though, and long-considered 46. Ne8!? Kc5[] (46... b5?? 47. Rc7+ Kb6 48. c5#) 47. Rh5+!? Kb4 48. Rxa5 Kxa5 (48... bxa5!?) 49. Nc7 when I figured White should win but feated I may be overlooking some brilliant drawing tactic since Black can draw if he eliminates all the pawns or even all but the a-pawn in some cases.

 

46... b5 47. Rh6+! Kc5

47... Kd7 48. b4 Rxa4 49. Nb6+ +-

 

48. b4+ Kxc4 49. bxa5 bxa4 50. Nb6+! Kb3 51. Nxa4!

I will soon be up a Rook and Pawn and should have no problem mating!

 

1-0

 

[Michael Goeller]

Game in PGN