Max Lange Gambit Revived

Michael Goeller

I have been following the revival of the Max Lange Attack and the related Max Lange Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.O-O Nf6 5.d4!?) for a few years now, as regular readers of The Kenilworthian know. So I was not surprised the other day to see a couple of Super-GMs slugging it out deep into the theory of this distinctly 19th-Century line in the very modern setting of the Corus tournament at Wijk aan Zee. The resulting victory for Sergey Movsesian over Mickey Adams should do much to encourage other strong players to dust off this forgotten variation. I will be watching for developments. Meanwhile, I have included my latest thoughts on the line, and the game, in the notes below.

Sergey Movsesian (2751) - Michael Adams (2712) [C55]

Corus A/Wijk aan Zee NED (2) 2009

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. O-O Nf6

For those wishing to avoid the structural problems that follow, 4... d6 5. c3 Nf6! 6. d4 Bb6! (Emms) looks like the safest bet, and White may actually do best to steer the game more toward the "quieter" Giuoco lines by 6.d3 or 6.b4 followed by d3.


5. d4!?

ChessBase notes: "A move which has been recommended to club players, in one or two repertoire books of the 'Win with White by force in 20 moves' variety, but it has never been taken very seriously at GM level. Maybe the present game will force a change in attitude." The move was recommended by George Koltanowski (who played it frequently in simuls), then became the focus of Chris Baker's "A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire" and Jude Acers and George Laven's "The Italian Gambit System." More recently, however, the move has been given a much more careful analysis and has gained some respectable GM supporters. GM Lev Gutman produced some extensive analysis of the line (as well as the related Max Lange Attack) in Kaissiber volumes 22-25 (and more recent volumes as well). And GM John Emms simplified and improved upon Gutman's analysis in the first two chapters of "Dangerous Weapons: 1. e4 e5." It seemed inevitable that GMs would pick up the idea, though they seem to have used it mostly in rapid play events until now. Movsesian seems the natural champion for this line, since he is known to favor the Giuoco Piano (often by transposition from the Bishop's Opening).


5... Bxd4

a) 5... Nxd4?! (a move that Koltanowski loved to see in a simul -- and frequently did!) 6. Nxe5 Ne6 7. Bxe6 fxe6 8. Nd3 Be7 9. e5 Nd5 10. Qh5+ g6 11. Qf3 (or 11. Qh6 Gutman) and Black was in trouble in Tyomkin - Noritsyn, Canadian Ch 2004.


b) 5... exd4 (As Emms points out, you are not likely to get this transposition to the wild Max Lange from a player who avoids the complications of the Two Knights Defense. But it's good to know that new analysis by Gutman and others suggests that the Max Lange is more viable than previously thought.) 6. e5 d5 7. exf6 dxc4 8. fxg7! (8. Re1+ Kf8! Gutman) 8... Rg8 9. Re1+! (Though Emms remains undecided whether this is the best move, his analysis convinces me that 9.Re1+ is more direct than Horowitz's 9. Bg5 Be7! (9... f6!? is also complicated) 10. Bxe7 Kxe7 11. Re1+ Kf6!? as discussed by Koegler in Kaissiber) 9... Be6 10. Bg5 Be7! 11. Bxe7 Kxe7 (11... Qxe7!? 12. Nxd4 Rd8 13. c3 Nxd4 14. cxd4 Rxg7 15. Nc3 Kf8!? 16. Qf3!? Emms) 12. Re4! f5 (12... d3 13. Nbd2! Emms) 13. Rh4 Kf7 (after 13... Rxg7!? 14. Nxd4 Ke8! Koegler 15. Qh5+ Bf7 16. Qe2+ is the best route to an edge, as Emms shows) 14. Rxh7 Rxg7 15. Rxg7+ Kxg7 as in the stem game Fahrni - Tartakower, Baden-Baden 1914, which continued with 16.Nbd2?! but White can do better by 16. Qd2 (or 16. Na3!?) 16... Qf6 17. Qf4 (Acers), some of which I covered in my article on the "Modern Horowitz Variation of the Max Lange Attack" -- now superceded by Gutman and Emms.


6. Nxd4 Nxd4 7. f4 d6 8. fxe5 dxe5 9. Bg5 Be6

a) 9... Qe7 10. Na3! Emms

(better than 10. Rf2!? (Gutman) 10... Be6!? (10... Bd7) 11. Na3 (11. c3! Bxc4 12. cxd4 O-O-O 13. d5) 11... O-O-O! 12. Qf1 Rhg8!? 13. Kh1 Qc5!? 14. Bxf6 gxf6 15. c3 Bxc4 (15... Nc6 16. Rxf6=) 16. Nxc4 Ne6 17. b4 (17. Rxf6!) 17... Qe7 18. Ne3 (18. Rxf6 Nf4 19. Rf5) 18... c6 19. a4 Kb8 20. Rb1 Ng5! 21. Nf5 Qd7 22. Qe1 Qd3! 23. Re2 Nf3!! 24. Qf2?? Qxb1+ 25. Qf1 0-1 Kosmo,S-Nyback,T/Mantta FIN 2008 (25) which seems unconvincing for White, despite the errors by both players.)

10... Bd7 11. Qd2!? (11. Qe1 Gutman) 11... Nxe4!? (11... O-O-O 12. Qf2! Qc5 13. Bxf6 gxf6 14. c3 Ne6 15. Qxc5 Nxc5 16. Rxf6 Nxe4 17. Rxf7 Emms) 12. Bxf7+ Qxf7 13. Rxf7 Nxd2 14. Re7+ Kf8 15. Rxd7 N2f3+!? 16. gxf3 Nxf3+ 17. Kg2 Nxg5 18. Rf1+ Emms.


b) 9... c6 10. c3! (10. Qd3?! b5! 11. Bb3 Be6 Gutman) 10... Ne6 11. Qxd8+ Nxd8! 12. Bxf6 gxf6 13. Rxf6 Ke7 14. Rf2 Be6 15. Nd2 Gutman.


c) 9... b5!? (the immediate 9...Bg4? is met by 10.Bxf7+!) 10. Bd3 Bg4 11. Qe1 Qd6 12. Nc3 c6 13. a4 (13. Qh4!? MG) 13... b4 14. Nd1 (Gutman) probably deserves attention.


10. Na3! Qe7

a) 10... h6?! 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. c3 Nc6 13. Qf3!? (13. Bxe6!) 13... Qe7 14. Qxf6 Bxc4?? 15. Qxh8+ 1-0 Tkachiev,V-Eljanov,P/Moscow RUS 2008 (15).


b) 10... Bxc4 11. Nxc4 Nc6?! (11... Qe7 12. Bxf6 gxf6 13. c3 see below) 12. Bxf6 gxf6 13. Ne3 (13. c3!?) 13... Qd4 14. Qxd4 Nxd4 15. Rxf6 Rd8 16. Raf1 O-O 17. Ng4 Nc6 18. R6f5 f6 19. Nxf6+ Kh8 20. Nd5 1-0 Karpatchev,A-Moncamp,G/Marseille FRA 2006 (38).


11. c3! Nc6

a) 11... Bxc4 was seen in another game of Movsesian's and should probably be considered the main line: 12. Bxf6! gxf6 13. Nxc4 Ne6 14. Ne3 (Gutman's recommendation, but at least two other moves are playable: 14. Kh1!? Rg8 15. Ne3 c6 16. Nf5 Qc7 17. Nd6+ Ke7?! 18. Nf5+ Kf8 19. Qh5 Ng5?? 20. Qh6+ Ke8 21. Qxf6 (21. Ng7+!) 21... Ne6?? 22. Nd6+! Kd7 23. Nxf7 (23. Rad1!) 23... Rg6? 24. Nxe5+ 1-0 Ogonowska,K-Nagel,G/Leutersdorf 2006 or 14. b4! which is Emms's preference, to keep the Black Queen out of c5.) 14... Qc5

15. Qe1?!

(Better was 15. Qd2! Rd8 (not 15... Ng5?! 16. Rad1! O-O 17. Kh1 Gutman) 16. Qf2 Nf4 17. Kh1 Rd3 18. Rae1 Qc6 19. Qf3! f5 20. Qg3! Kf8 21. Qf2! with advantage according to Gutman. Perhaps the GM forgot the theory here?)

15... O-O-O 16. Kh1 Nf4 17. g3 Rd3 18. Nf5 Ne6 19. Qe2 Rhd8 20. Nd4 R3xd4!? (20... Qc4!) 21. cxd4 exd4 (21... Nxd4 22. Qh5 Qc6 23. Rae1) 22. Rad1 Qe7 23. e5 fxe5 24. Qxe5 Kb8 25. Qe4 h5 26. Rf5 Qd7 27. Rdf1 Qd6 28. b4!? a6 29. b5 d3 30. bxa6 Qxa6 31. Rd5 Rd6 32. Rxd6 Qxd6 33. Rxf7? d2! 34. Rf1 d1=Q 35. Rxd1 Qxd1+ 36. Kg2 Qd2+ 37. Kh1 Qc1+ 38. Kg2 Qc6 0-1 Sergei Movsesian-Peter Leko/Moscow Rapid RUS 2008 (38).


12. Kh1!?

a) According to Emms, best is 12. Rf2! (the type of move that Gutman likes, but not one he discusses in this position) 12... Rd8 13. Qe2 followed by Raf1 with advantage -- a line that is very similar to the game continuation and may have inspired it.


b) Gutman also examines 12. Bxf6 gxf6 13. Bb5!? which looks promising.


12... Rd8!?

After this move, Black will not be able to safely castle on either side. We are also now out of book -- on move 12! The only other game to have gotten this far continued instead 12... h6 13. Bxf6 gxf6 14. Qf3 (better 14. b4!? says Gutman) with unclear play in Lakos - Frosch, Vienna 1996.


13. Qe2

Also of interest might be 13. Qb3!?


13... h6?!

And this is typically a wasted tempo since White plans to capture on f6 anyway. Black is aleady in trouble.


14. Bxf6 gxf6 15. Rf2! Rg8 16. Raf1 Rg6 17. Nc2! Kf8 18. Ne3 Nb8 19. Qh5

19. Nd5!? Bxd5 20. exd5 makes it possible to play Bd3 driving away the Rook, but Movsesian eventually gets that in with even more power later.


19... Kg7 20. Qf3 Kh7 21. Nd5! Bxd5?! 22. exd5! e4

Black needs to block the diagonal to his King, but his pawns are scattered and loose, presenting White with lots of targets -- in addition to the exposed Black King.


23. Qf4 Rd6?!

Better 23... b5 24. Bb3 Na6 and ...Nc5 "to defend the e-pawn" notes ChessBase, but White is clearly better after 25. Qe3 Nc5 26. Rf5


24. Re2! Nd7 25. Rxe4 Ne5 26. Bb3!

The Bishop heads for the b1-h7 diagonal where it will have a devastating effect.


26... Kg8 27. c4 b6 28. Bc2 Qf8 29. Re3 Rg5 30. Bf5 Kh8 31. Rfe1 a5 32. b3 c6 33. dxc6 Rxc6 34. h4 Rg8 35. Rd1 a4?

Necessary was 35... Ng6, but it is an ugly situation for Black at this point.


36. Rd8! Qg7

Of course, not 36... Qxd8?? 37. Qxh6#.


37. Rxg8+ Kxg8 38. Rg3

A great performance by Movsesian. Such a high profile win is sure to elevate the status of the entire Max Lange Gambit and related lines.


download pgn

Game in PGN


Bücker, Stefan. "The Magic of Move Orders." ChessCafe

ChessBase. "Wijk R02"

Emms, John. Dangerous Weapons: 1.e4 e5

Goeller, Michael. "The Modern Horowitz Variation of the Max Lange Attack."

Gutman, Lev. Kaissiber 22-25 plus.

Lane, Gary. "Poirot Investigates." ChessCafe


Copyright © 2009 by Michael Goeller