By Michael Goeller

The strategy I used in this recent ICC game is a good one against the Antoshin Variation of the Philidor's Defense generally--but especially by transposition from the Bishop's Opening when White is committed to Bc4 and therefore cannot play the more standard Anti-Antoshin approach with Bf4, Qd2, and O-O-O.

goeller (1708) - ByoB (2441) [C43]

ICC 2 2 u/Internet Chess Club 2006

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nf3 d6

The game now generally transposes to the Antoshin Variation of Philidor's Defense. This line against 4...d6 via the Urusov move order was among my better improvements on existing theory, which had previously settled for 5.Ng5 when Black has 5...d5! 6.exd5 h6! 7.Nf3 Bb4+ with at least equality (which had been overlooked). White must risk that Black will try to retain the gambit pawn either by ...Bg4 or ...c5, but then White's compensation is at least sufficient and generally better. Interestingly, over many years of playing this line, I cannot remember any forcing me to play a gambit. I think anyone who chooses to play 4...d6 does so with the intention of transposing to the Antoshin and so they are not tempted to dangerous side-lines.


5. O-O! Be7

You can see more detailed analysis of Black alternatives at my Urusov Gambit website (see link at the bottom of this page).

a) 5... Bg4?! 6. e5! with the idea if 6...dxe5 7.Bxf7+ etc.

b) 5... c5?! 6. Ng5! resembles a bad line of the Two Knights for Black.

c) 5... Nc6 6. Nxd4 Ne5 7. Bb3 yields White a clear edge in the center.

d) 5... Nxe4? 6. Re1 d5 7. Bxd5 Qxd5 8. Nc3 gives White a critical extra tempo over familiar Two Knights lines.

6. Re1

The alternatives are not promising:

a) 6. Bg5?! c5!? MacDonnell--Steinitz, London 1866 was usually cited by theory as the reason for rejecting this line, but the game was poorly played by White.

b) 6. Nxd4 Nxe4!

6... O-O

The safest move. Black can still force White to play a gambit (and this is a better moment to do so) with either:

a) 6... c5 7. c3

b) 6... Bg4!? 7. e5 dxe5 8. Bxf7+

7. Nxd4 a6! 8. a4

An interesting alternative might be 8. Nc3 b5 9. Bf1 (9. Bd5!?) 9... c5 10. Nde2 Bb7 11. Nf4 Nbd7 12. a4 Solak--Gelashvili, Chania Crete 1999. But I want to put a stop to Black's potential queenside play -- and also avoid the Noah's Ark possibilities of a quick ...b5, ...c5, and ...c4 if my Bishop retreats to b3.


8... Bd7?!

To prevent the doubling of his pawns after ...Nc6. This seems like an error. Black is close to equal after the two standard moves:

a) 8... Nc6 9. Nxc6! bxc6 10. Nc3

b) 8... c5 9. Nf5!? Bxf5 10. exf5 d5 11. Bf1 Nc6 12. g4

White would stil pursue a strategy similar to that in the present game, but without the free tempo.


9. Nc3 Nc6

10. Nf5!

A standard idea in these positions but especially effective here, since it stamps 8...Bd7 as a clear waste of time. The resulting pawn formation gives White chances of a pawn storm on the kingside. Fritz suggests instead 10. Nxc6 Bxc6 11. Nd5 Qd7 12. a5 which yields a slight positional edge. I prefer the attack! Other moves allow Black play with ...Ne5, ...c5, and possibly ...b5!? etc.


10... Bxf5

Black naturally wants to eliminate the troublesome Knight and clear the way for ...d5, but it is probably better to wait on this exchange by 10... Ne5!? You can tell that Black has no idea what I'm up to...


11. exf5 Ne5?!

This move seems to help White with his plan of a kingside pawn storm since the Knight will be a target. The Bishop now retreats to f1 where it will help protect the White King as the pawns advance and will often go to g2 to attack the d5 square (especially if Black advances the pawn to d5). Black should try instead:

11... Qd7! 12. g4! (12. Nd5!? Nxd5 13. Bxd5) 12... h6 13. f4!


12. Bf1! Qd7 13. f4 Neg4?!

13... Nc6 14. g4


14. h3 Nh6 15. g4! d5?

15... Ne8 16. Nd5 Bh4 17. Re2 Bd8 18. f6!


16. g5 Bc5+ 17. Kh1

More accurate may be 17. Kh2! to avoid the Knight check at g3.


17... Nh5

17... Nxf5 18. gxf6 Ng3+ 19. Kg2 Nxf1 20. Qxd5!!


18. gxh6 Ng3+ 19. Kh2

White preserves more options after 19. Kg2! but the text works out ok. It's just better to put the king on a square where he can avoid more checks--something I have a problem with in blitz!


19... Nxf1+ 20. Rxf1 Qxf5 21. Qxd5 Qxc2+ 22. Qg2 Qf5??

White also wins after the superior 22... Qxg2+ 23. Kxg2 Rad8 24. hxg7 Kxg7 25. f5


23. Qxg7#

Black checkmated


Game in PGN

For more analysis, see Urusov Gambit Line E.