Alterman on the Urusov

by Michael Goeller

GM Boris Alterman's The Alterman Gambit Guide: White Gambits (Quality Chess 2010) is an excellent opening book for its intended audience. However, some of the "theoretical overviews" to the openings it covers are a bit sketchy, especially in the section on the Urusov Gambit. I thought I'd review some of the interesting Urusov sidelines that receive only cursory mention in the book.

Jean Marc Degraeve (2551) - Radoslav Jr Dolezal (2422) [C55]

Bundesliga 2006-2007/Koelln, Germany (3.4) 2006


1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d4 exd4

Black has a number of playable alternatives here which deserve more than the passing reference Alterman provides:

A) 3... Nc6 4. d5 and White gains "more space" notes Alterman, but the resulting positions -- reminiscent of the Nimzovich Defense but with White's Bishop misplaced at c4 -- are quite playable for Black.(4. Nf3 is probably best, transposing to positions from the Two Knights Defense that Black can also reach via 3...exd4 4.Nf3 Nc6) (4. dxe5?! mentioned by Alterman, is less good due to 4... Nxe5 5. Be2 (5. Bb3 Bc5 Lasker) 5... d5!= (5... Bb4+!? 6. c3 Bc5=) 6. f4 Ng6 7. e5 Ne4) 4... Ne7 5. Nc3 Ng6 6. Nge2 Bc5 7. O-O d6 8. Bb5+ Bd7 9. Bxd7+ Qxd7 10. Qd3 O-O 11. Bg5 Ne8 12. Ng3 Qg4 13. Be3 Nf4! 14. Qd1 Qg5 15. Qf3 g6 16. Bxc5 dxc5 17. Rfe1 Nd6 18. Nge2 Nh5 was fully playable for Black though eventually 1-0 in Bannasch T-Boege W/Badenweiler 1988 (42).

 

B) 3... Nxe4 receives some attention from Alterman: 4. dxe5 Nc5 (4... d5? is what I most often see in blitz, when White wins by 5. Bxd5 Nc5?? 6. Bxf7+ while 4... Qh4!? 5. Be3! is another tricky line analyzed at my website) 5. Be3! (Alterman gives 5. Bf4 to discourage d6 by Black, but Black should go ahead with 5... d6!? 6. exd6 (6. Nf3 Be6=) 6... Bxd6 7. Bxd6 cxd6 gaining adequate play despite his slight structural problem.) 5... Ne6 (5... d6?? 6. Bxc5 dxc5 7. Bxf7+) 6. f4! Bb4+ 7. c3 Ba5 (7... Bc5 8. Bxc5 Nxc5 9. Nf3) 8. Nf3 Bb6 9. Qe2 O-O 10. f5 Nc5 11. Bg5! Qe8 12. f6!? Ne6 13. fxg7 Nxg7 14. Nbd2 d5 15. Bxd5 c6 16. Ne4 Nd7 17. Bc4 Bd8 1-0 Flierl P-Pensold H/Mehlingen Germany.

 

4. Nf3










The Urusov Gambit proper. As many writers have noted, it is difficult to believe that White has enough for the pawn until you start analyzing it closely. It is nice to see a GM of Boris Alterman's caliber agreeing with that assessment.

 

4... Bc5

A) 4... Nc6 is, as Alterman notes, "Black's most common choice," transposing to well known lines of the Two Knights Defense. Alterman concludes: "the real problem with the Urusov Gambit is that Black may not let you play it!" Fortunately, Alterman offers interesting coverage of these lines as well.

 

B) 4... d5 5. exd5 Bb4+ is the line most often recommended in books, when 6. c3! is probably the best way for young gambiteers to proceed.(6. Bd2!? is Alterman's preference, but it is rather boring after 6... Bxd2+ 7. Qxd2 (Alterman simply gives 7. Nbxd2 O-O 8. O-O Nxd5 9. Nxd4 "and the position is fairly equal") 7... O-O 8. Nxd4 Nxd5 9. O-O Ne7!? Hooper evaluates this as "=" 10. Rd1!? and White has a small pull in an otherwise equal position.) 6... Qe7+ 7. Be2 dxc3 8. bxc3 Bc5 9. O-O O-O 10. c4! (10. Bg5!?) 10... Re8 11. Nc3 Ne4?! (handing White a significant lead in development)(11... Bb4 12. Qb3! Bxc3 13. Qxc3 Qxe2?? 14. Re1 is bound to happen in blitz) (11... c6 12. Qb3 leads to interesting play.) 12. Nxe4 Qxe4 13. Bd3 Qe7 14. Qb3 b6 15. Bb2 Nd7 16. Rae1 Qf8 17. Ng5 g6 18. Rxe8 Qxe8 19. Nxh7!! Kxh7 20. Bxg6+! Kg8 21. Qh3 Kf8 22. Qh8+ Ke7 23. Re1+ 1-0 Gazivoda S-Savic M/ corr YUG

 

C) 4... Nxe4 5. Qxd4 Nf6 This line is the focus of Alterman's analysis and he has a few useful insights to share, as in the following famous game. 6. Bg5?! (More precise, as Alterman points out, is 6. Nc3 c6 7. Bg5 transposing to the game) 6... c6 (6... Nc6! 7. Qh4 d5) 7. Nc3 d5 8. O-O-O Be7 9. Rhe1 Be6 10. Qh4 Nbd7 11. Bd3 c5?!










12. Ne5 (Here Alterman points out that White missed "an immediate shot": 12. Bxf6! Nxf6 (12... Bxf6 13. Qh5) 13. Ng5! Qc8 14. Nxe6 fxe6 15. Bf5! exf5 16. Nxd5 Nxd5 17. Rxd5 As you can imagine, this game is frequently referenced and analyzed in the literature on the Urusov Gambit, but this is the first I have seen anyone point out this most straightforward refutation!) 12... Nxe5 13. Rxe5 d4 14. f4 Nd7 15. Bb5 Bxg5 16. fxg5 Qc7 17. Bxd7+ Kxd7 18. Qe4 Qc6 19. Rxc5 Qxe4 20. Nxe4 1-0 Gennadi Timoshchenko-Anatoli Karpov/01, Moscow 1967 (54).

 

5. e5!










5. O-O!? Nc6

(5... d6! is easier for Black, e.g.: 6. Nxd4 (6. c3 d3!= Spielmann-Alekhine, Stockholm) 6... h6 (6... Nxe4?! 7. Re1 O-O (7... d5 8. Qh5! (8. Bxd5 O-O!) 8... O-O 9. Rxe4!) 8. Rxe4 d5 9. Qh5 (9. Bxd5 Qxd5 10. Nc3 Qd7 11. Be3) 9... dxe4 10. Qxc5 Nd7 11. Qa5 Nb6 12. Qc3 c5 13. Nb3 Qd1+ 14. Bf1 c4 15. Qd4 Rd8 16. Qxd1 Rxd1 17. Nc3 Re1 18. Nd4) 7. Nc3 O-O= 8. Nf5?! (8. h3=) 8... Bxf5 9. exf5 c6 10. Kh1 d5 11. Bd3 Nbd7 12. Bf4 Re8 13. Bg3 Ne5 14. h3 Qd7 15. Ne2 Nxd3 16. Qxd3 Ne4 17. f3 Nxg3+ 18. Nxg3 Re3 19. Qd2 Rae8 20. Ne4 Bb6 21. c4 d4 22. c5 Bc7 23. f6 Be5 24. Rad1 Qd5 25. fxg7 Bxg7 26. b4 f5 27. Ng3 Qe5 1/2-1/ 2 P D Bolland-Arthur J Mackenzie/Weston (77))

 

6. e5

This transposes to the Max Lange Attack, where Alterman considers both modern and classical approaches and even analyzes the tricky sideline:

6... Ng4!?

(6... d5 7. exf6 dxc4 8. fxg7! Rg8 9. Bg5 yields the "Modern Horowitz Variation," recently analyzed by Lev Gutman in Kaissiber 22 and discussed by Alterman as well.)

7. Bf4 d6 8. exd6 Bxd6 9. Re1+ Kf8 10. Bxd6+ Qxd6 11. c3! Bf5

(a) 11... Qc5 12. Nxd4! Qxc4 (12... Bd7 13. Be6!) 13. Nxc6 Bf5 14. Nd4

(b) 11... dxc3 12. Nxc3 Qxd1 (12... Qc5?! 13. Ne4! Qxc4? 14. Nd6!!) 13. Raxd1 Bf5 14. Nb5 Rc8 15. Bd5 "and White is dominating" notes Alterman.

12. cxd4 Rd8 13. Bb5 g6 14. Bxc6 Qxc6 15. Nc3 Nf6 16. Rc1 Qb6 17. Na4 Qd6 18. Nc5 Qb6 19. Qd2 Kg7 20. Re3 Rb8 21. Rb3 Qc6 22. Nxb7 Qa6 23. Qa5 Qxa5 24. Nxa5 Be6 25. Rxb8 Rxb8 26. b3 Rb5 27. Nc6 a5 28. Rc5 Rxc5 29. dxc5 a4 30. Ncd4 axb3 31. axb3 Bd5 32. Kf1 Ne4 33. b4 Bc4+ 34. Ke1 Kf6 35. Nd2 Nxd2 36. Kxd2 Ke5 37. Kc3 Bf1 38. g3 Kd5 39. h4 h5 40. Nf3 Be2 41. Ng5 f6 42. Nh3 Ke4 43. Nf4 Bg4 44. b5 Kf3 45. b6 cxb6 46. cxb6 Bc8 47. Nxg6 Kxf2 48. g4 hxg4 49. h5 1-0 Rossolimo,N-O'Kelly de Galway,A/ Trencianske Teplice 1949.

 

5... d5

Alterman does not mention how White refutes the alternatives:

a) 5... Ng4?! 6. h3! (6. Bxf7+?! Kxf7 7. Ng5+ Kg8!) 6... Nh6 7. Bg5! Be7 8. Bxh6 gxh6 9. Qxd4 and White's lead in development and Black's kingside pawns pretty much decide the outcome, e.g.: 9... Rg8 10. Qf4 Rg7 11. Nc3 Bg5 12. Qe4 Kf8 13. h4 Be7 14. O-O-O

b) 5... Ne4?! 6. Qe2 (6. Bd5!? f5) 6... d5 7. exd6 O-O!? This leads to interesting complications -- White has to watch the pin on the e-file. 8. dxc7 Qxc7 9. Qxe4! Bb4+ 10. Nbd2 (10. c3) 10... Qxc4 11. c3 f5! 12. Nxc4! fxe4 13. Nxd4 Bc5 14. Be3 and White was up a pawn with the better position in Jones--DeCoverly, London 1973.

c) 5... Ng8?! 6. Ng5! (6. Nxd4?! Qh4! 7. Qf3! Qxd4 8. Qxf7+ Kd8 9. Qxg7 Qxc4 10. Qxh8) (6. O-O! is also fine 6... Nc6 7. Ng5 Nh6 8. Ne4) (6. c3 d5) 6... Nh6 7. Ne4 Bb4+ 8. c3 dxc3 9. bxc3 Be7 10. Bxh6 gxh6 11. Qh5

 

6. Bb5+?!

The only line discussed by Alterman here. I don't know how he could recommend this unnatural move unless he was persuaded by its success in database games.

Theory goes: 6. exf6 dxc4 7. Qe2+ Be6 8. fxg7 Rg8 9. Bg5! Bb4+! (9... Be7 10. Bxe7 Kxe7 (10... Qxe7 11. Nxd4) 11. Qe4! Nc6 12. Qxh7) (9... Qd6!? 10. O-O! Rxg7 11. Rd1! Nd7 (11... Qb6 12. Nbd2) 12. Nc3!) (9... Qd5 10. Nc3! dxc3? (10... Bb4 11. O-O-O!? (11. O-O Bxc3 12. bxc3 Rxg7 13. h4 Nc6 14. Rad1) 11... Bxc3 12. bxc3 Nc6 (12... Qa5 13. Rxd4! Nc6 14. Re4 Rxg7 15. Rxe6+ fxe6 16. Qxe6+ Kf8 17. Re1!) 13. h4! Qa5 14. Nxd4 Qa3+ (14... Nxd4 15. Rxd4 Qxc3 16. Qe5!) 15. Kb1 Qxc3 16. Nxe6 Qb4+ 17. Kc1 Qa3+ 18. Kd2! Qa5+ 19. Ke3! Qe5+ 20. Kf3 Qxe2+ 21. Kxe2 fxe6 22. Bf6 is an interesting line that I worked out through intensive analysis back in 1980 without computer assistance. Today, Fritz can find the entire line in a few minutes. This position repays some close attention and training.) (10... Qf5? 11. g4! Qxg4 12. Nd5!) 11. Rd1 cxb2 12. O-O b1=Q? (12... Qd7! 13. Rxd7 Nxd7 14. Rb1 Rxg7 15. Rxb2 is harder than it looks for White, and I'd recommend you play some training games against your computer to learn how to win it) 13. Rxd5! Bxf2+ 14. Qxf2 Qxf1+ 15. Kxf1 Bxd5 16. Qc5 Nc6 17. Qxd5 Rxg7 18. Ne5 Nd8 19. Qd7+ Kf8 20. Be7+ Kg8 21. Qe8# Goeller - Hall, Union County Ch) 10. c3 dxc3! 11. Nxc3 (11. O-O!? Be7 12. Bh6) 11... Qd3 12. Qxd3 cxd3 13. O-O-O Bxc3 14. bxc3 Rxg7 15. Rxd3 Nc6 16. Rd2 1-0 (34) Zavanelli-Nielsen, Reg Gillman Memorial Correspondence 1999.

 

6... Nfd7!

Best, but not mentioned by Alterman. Most games from this position continue along the lines that Alterman mentions:

6... Bd7?! 7. exf6! ( More common actually is 7. Bxd7+? Nfxd7 8. O-O O-O when Black is fine, e.g.: 9. b4!? (9. c3 dxc3 10. Nxc3 c6) 9... Bxb4 10. Qxd4 Nc6 11. Qg4 Re8 12. Bb2 Bf8 13. Qg3 d4!? 1/2-1/2 Bergez,Luc - Karim, Israel/ Paris Ch 2006 (53)) 7... Bxb5 8. fxg7 Rg8 (8... Qe7+ 9. Kd2 Rg8 10. Re1) 9. Nxd4! Qf6 10. Be3! and White has the better attacking chances, e.g.: 10... Bc4!? (10... Ba6 11. Nc3 c6 12. Qg4) 11. Nd2 Qxg7 12. Nxc4 Qxg2 (12... dxc4 13. Qe2! and O-O-O) 13. Rf1 dxc4 14. Nb5! (14. Qe2!?) 14... Qc6 15. Bxc5 Qxc5 16. Qe2+ Kf8 17. O-O-O Na6 (17... Nc6 18. Nxc7) 18. Rd7!

 

7. O-O










a) 7. Bg5?! Be7 8. Bxe7 Qxe7 9. O-O (9. Qxd4 c6 followed by O-O and Re8 is similar) 9... c6 (9... Qb4!?) 10. Ba4 O-O 11. Qxd4 Re8 (11... Nb6 12. c3 c5 13. Qd1 Nxa4 14. Qxa4 Nc6 15. Re1 f6 16. exf6 Qxf6) 12. Re1 f6 13. Nc3 fxe5 14. Nxd5!? Qd8! 15. Bb3 cxd5 16. Qxd5+ Kh8 17. Rad1 Nc6

b) 7. c3 dxc3 8. Nxc3 c6 9. Bd3 f6! 10. e6?! Nf8.

 

7... c6?!

Unnecessarily passive. Black appears to gain the advantage by simply developing.

7... O-O! 8. Re1 (8. Nxd4 Nxe5) (8. Bf4 f6! 9. Nxd4 Nxe5) 8... a6! 9. Bxd7 Qxd7! 10. Nxd4 Bxd4! 11. Qxd4 Nc6 12. Qd3 Re8 13. Bf4 Qf5

 

8. Bd3 Nf8!?

a) 8... O-O?! 9. Bxh7+! Kxh7 10. Ng5+ Kg8 11. Qh5 Nf6 12. exf6 Bf5 13. fxg7 Kxg7 14. Nf3 Qf6 15. Bh6+ Qxh6 16. Qxf5

b) 8... Be7?! 9. e6! Nc5 10. exf7+ Kxf7 11. Nxd4

 

9. b4!?

9. Nbd2 Ne6 10. Nb3 Bb6 followed by c5 allows Black to retain his pawn.

 

9... Bxb4 10. Nxd4 Bc5

10... Ne6 11. c3

 

11. Nb3 Be7 12. f4 c5 13. Bb5+ Nc6 14. Nc3 a6 15. Bxc6+ bxc6 16. Ba3

16. f5!?

 

16... c4 17. Bxe7 Qxe7 18. Nd4 Ne6 19. Nf5 Qa7+ 20. Kh1 O-O 21. Nd6 f6 22. f5 Nc5 23. Qd4 Nd7 24. Qxa7 Rxa7 25. e6 Ne5 26. Rab1 a5 27. Rb8 Bxe6 28. Rxf8+ Kxf8 29. fxe6 Re7 30. Rb1 Rxe6 31. Rb8+ Ke7 32. Nf5+ Kf7 33. Rb7+ Kg6 34. Nxg7 Rd6 35. h3 f5 36. Ne2 d4 37. Nf4+ Kg5 38. Nge6+ Kf6 39. Rxh7 d3 40. cxd3 cxd3 41. Rh6+ Kf7 42. Rh7+ Kf6 43. Ng7 Kg5 44. g3 Rd7 45. Kg2

Despite the result of this game, it is clear that Black should gain excellent chances against the 6.Bb5+ plan recommended by Alterman. I think he clearly could have done a better job in the "Theoretical Overview" section of most chapters in The Alterman Gambit Guide, including the one on the Urusov. But overall it is an impressive book.

1-0

[Michael Goeller]

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Game in PGN

Copyright © 2010 by Michael Goeller

For more information about the Urusov Gambit, see my website on The Urusov Gambit System.