The Albin Counter Gambit:
By Michael Goeller
The Albin Counter Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5!?) has been
played and written about since it was first popularized by Adolf Albin in
the 1890s. Recent use of the countergambit by GMs Morozevich and Nakamura
has revived interest of late. During the early years of
the gambit, White players tried a number of ideas until they hit upon the
King's Bishop fianchetto with 3.dxe5 d4 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.g3, which remains a popular
approach. Black usually responds then 5...Bg4, 5...Be6, or (most interestingly)
5...Bf5!? -- but recent attention has focused on Morozevich's 5...Nge7!? (a
move first used by Frank James Marshall and then by Ariel
With Black doing well with a variety of answers to 5.g3, attention has shifted to 5.Nbd2! which has been recomended (e.g.: by Eric Schiller and Angus Dunnington) as the easiest anti-Albin line, but few sources discuss the Morozevich and Nakamura response of 5...Nge7, which may now be one of the most important theoretical lines for the evaluation of the Albin as a whole. Those that do discuss this line at all give 6.Nb3 Nf5 7.e4 dxe3 8.Qxd8+ Nxd8 (8...Kxd8 9.Bxe3! Nxe3 10.fxe3 += Bilguer!) 9.fxe3 += with an endgame edge for White as proven in several games. Yet no GM has tried this widely accepted "refutation" against Morozevich or Nakamura! One can only guess that they assume the two are fully computer-prepped, and that the doubled e-pawns on an open file are a significant long-term weakness. My own analysis of these lines is far from conclusive and I do not feel confident in Black's chances.
The following three games present 5...Nge7, which I think should be called the "Morozevich-Mengarini Variation," against White's three main 5th moves: 5.Nbd2, 5.g3, and 5.a3. It is also playable against other White fifth moves, including 5.Bf4 (as discussed by McGrew), but these are the three critical lines. Readers who wish to learn more about the Albin are urged to do their own research and analysis. Appended to this article is a complete bibliography of recent sources and a complete PGN file of my analysis that should be helpful to your work.
Game One: 5.Nbd2 Nge7
Ivan Sokolov (2685) - Alexander Morozevich (2741) [D08]
Corus/Wijk aan Zee (9) 2005
This move may well be best, especially since the alternatives are not so promising:
6. g3 Ng6 7. Qa4 (7. Bg2 Ngxe5=)
7... Be7 (7... Bd7!?)
The critical line is considered to be:
(Perhaps the alternate recapture with 8... Kxd8 offers better chances, though the stem game looked good for White after 9. fxe3 (9. Bxe3! Nxe3 10. fxe3 Bilguer) 9... Bb4+ 10. Kf2 Be7 11. Nbd4 Bd7 12. Bd3 Nh4 13. Nxc6+ Bxc6 14. Nd4!? (14. Bd2 Ng6 15. Bc3 ) 14... Bxg2 15. Rg1 c5 16. Nb3?! Bc6 17. Rxg7 0-1 Pillsbury,H-Brody,M/Montecarlo 1902 (37))
(9... Bb4+?! 10. Kf2 Ne6 11. Bd3 Nc5 12. Nxc5 Bxc5 13. a3 a5 14. b3
O-O15. Bd2 Rd8 16. Ke2 c6 17. g4 Ne7 18. h3 Ng6 19. Bc3 Bb6 20. Rhd1 Re8 21. Bf5 Bc7 22. Bxc8 Raxc8 23. Rd7 h6 24. Rad1 1-0 Fluvia Poyatos,J-Fluvia Poyatos,J/Badalona 2005 (56))
10. Bd3 Nfe7 11. Nbd4 Bg4 12. h3 Bxf3 13. Nxf3 Ng6 14. Bxg6 hxg6 15. Ke2
O-O-O16. b3 Nb4 17. Bb2 Nd3 18. Bd4 Nc5 19. Ng5 1-0 Lehmann - Smederevac, Beverwijk 1965 (62). Surely Morozevich and Nakamura have something in mind to meet this line, but what it might be is not clear to me.
9. g3 a5 10. Bg2 a4 11. g4 g6 12. Nbd2 Ng7 13. h3 h5 14. Qe4 Qd7 15. g5 Ra5 16. Qf4 Bf5 17. h4
An alternative may be 11. Ne4!?
Game Two: 5.g3 Nge7
Sergei Tiviakov (2618) - Gert Ligterink (2391) [D09]
Staunton CC Albin Theme Invitational/Groningen NED (3) 2001
8... Bxe7 9. Qa4
O-O!?10. Bg2 f6!? 11. exf6 Bxf6 12. O-ORfe8 13. Rfe1 Re7 14. Nb3 Rae8 15. Nc5 Qc8 16. Bf1 Ne5 (16... d3!?) 17. Nxd4 b6 18. Ncb3 (18. f4?! Ng4 19. Nxf5 Qxf5 20. Nd3 Qh5! with an attack) 18... c5 19. Nxf5 Qxf5 20. Nd2 Ng4 Ilivitzki (Ilivich?)-Shamkovich, Gorki 1945)
(7. exd4 Nxd4! (7... Bxf3 8. Qxf3 Qxd4 9. Be2 Qxe5 (9... Ng6! 10. e6 fxe6 unclear) 10. Nc3 Matera-Mengarini, USA Eastern Ch. 1978 10... Nd4!? 11. Qxb7 Rd8 Lamford(11... Rc8!?) 12. Bf4! Qe6 ) 8. Bg2 Nec6! )
White has a wide variety of alternatives:
(b2) 9... Nd7?! 10. e3 Nc5!? (10... dxe3?! 11. Bxe3 Be7 12. Nc3 c6 13. Rad1 Qa5 14. Rfe1
O-O15. Bd2 Winkstrom-Erikson SWE Corr Ch 1980-1981) 11. Qd1 d3 12. Nc3 (12. b4? Qf6) 12... a5 13. Ne4! c6 14. Bd2 Be6 15. Nxc5 Bxc5 16. Bc3 Qd6 17. Bxg7! (17. Qh5 O-O18. Rfd1 f5 19. b3 ) 17... Rg8 18. Bc3 Bxc4 19. Qd2 a4 20. Be4 Rg4 21. Bxh7 )
(b3) 9... c5!? 10. Bf4?! (better 10. e3! Be7! (10... Qb6? 11. exd4 Qxb3 12. axb3 cxd4 13. Re1) 11. Re1 Nc6 12. Nd2 ) 10... Nc6 11. Na3 Bd6 12. Bxd6 Qxd6 13. Nb5 Qe7 14. Rfe1 Meyer-Mengarini, US Open 1978)
(b1) 7... f6!? Chetverik/Mozny 8. exf6 gxf6 9. Bd2! Be6 10. Qa4 Qd7 11.
O-OBh3 (11... O-O-O12. b4 Kb8 13. c5 Horvath-Chetverik, Harkany 2001) 12. e3 Sorin-Mozny, Biel 1992 and Arlandi-Mozny, Imperia 1996)
(11... Be7?! Krasenkov-Morozevich, Podolsk 1993 12. Bxe7 Qxe7 13. Qc2 Qf7 14. Ne1
O-O15. Nd3 Kh8?! (15... Nge7 16. f4 exf4 17. Rxf4 Bf5 18. Raf1 Qe6 Raetsky and Chetverik) 16. b4 Bg4 17. Rae1 Rae8?! (17... a6 18. a3 Rad8 Raetsky and Chetverik) 18. b5 Nd8 19. Qa4 1-0 in 59)
(22... Nd3!! Raetzky and Chetverik)
(b) 12. Qb5 Qc7 13. b4 d3 14. Nxe5 Nxe5 15. exd3 Nxd3 16. bxc5 Bg4 17. Nb3! an impressive positional exchange sacrifice that helps the powerful fianchettoed Bishop emerge and the queeside pawns gain power (and much better than 17. Rdb1 Rab8 18. c6 bxc6 19. Qxc6 Rxb1+ 20. Rxb1 Qa5=) 17... Bxd1 18. Rxd1 Rad8 19. Qxb7 Qe5 20. Qe4 Qc3?! (Black can hold on with 20... Qxe4 21. Bxe4 Nb2 22. Rxd8 (22. Rb1 Nxc4 23. Rc1 Na3 24. c6 Nb5=) 22... Rxd8 23. Bb7 Nxc4 24. c6 Nd6 25. c7 Nxb7 26. cxd8=Q+ Nxd8=) 21. Qe3! Rfe8 22. Be4! Qb4 23. c6 Ne5 24. Rxd8 Rxd8 25. c7+- Rd1+ 26. Kg2 Qxc4 27. Qe2!! Qxc7 28. Qxd1 Koerholz-Mozny, Policka 1993, 1-0 in 40)
(9. Nbd2 Qe7 (9... a5 10. a3 a4! 11. Qd3 Ba5! 12.
O-O O-O13. Nxd4 Ngxe5 14. Nxc6 Bxc6 15. Qxd8 Rfxd8 16. Bxc6 Nxc6 17. Nf3 Nd4 18. Be3) 10. a3 Ba5 11. Qd1 Bxd2+ 12. Qxd2 Ngxe5 13. Nxd4 O-O-O14. O-OQc5 )
15... Qe7 16. h4 h6 17. Rac1 Re8 Threatening to win a pawn by g7-g5-g4 and Qxe2. 18. h5 Ra6 19. Re1 Rf6! 20. a3 (20. Bg2 Bf5 21. Qd1 a3 ) 20... Rb6 21. Qd2 Rb3 22. g4 Qh4 23. Bxc7 Bxg4 24. Qf4 d3!! 25. e3 d2 26. Bxg4 Bxe3!! 0-1 Dunning-Mengarini, Massachusetts 1979
"Here Black definitely has reasonable compensation for the pawn. He has the bishop pair and White's pawn structure is a bit shaky" writes Hoeksema in NIC.
But Black will have to find an alternative to this blunder. Two options present themselves in 11....Nb4 or 11.....Rb8 which both defend the b-pawn and present Black with good counterplay ideas. But things are messy for both sides.
(12. Rc1 d3! (also playable is 12... a5 13. c5! (or 13. a3 a4 14. Qd1 Nc6= with the idea of Bc5 and Qe7 according to Hoeksema) and Black holds his own, but the central pawn push is more forcing) 13. e3?! Nc2+ 14. Kf1 Bb4! 15. a3 Bxd2 16. Nxd2
O-O17. c5+?! Kh8 18. Kg1 Bh3! 19. Ne4 (not 19. Bxh3 Qg5+ 20. Bg2 Rxf2!-+) 19... d2 20. Rd1 Bxg2 21. Kxg2 Ne1+ 22. Rhxe1 dxe1=Q 23. Rxe1 Qd7 24. e6 Qc6 25. f3 Rae8)
Better 13... Rb8.
Game Three: 5.a3 Nge7
V. Topalov (2757) - A. Morozevich (2741) [D08]
Amber Rapid/Monte Carlo MNC (7) 2005
The best move.
Consistent and best. White's alternatives are not promising:
The best way to defend g2 without immediately surrendering the initiative to Black.
Counter-attack or die!
Black wants to remove the Queens and trap the Bishop at a7--a deep conception for blitz and one unfathomable by computers.
Black's in no hurry to pick up the Bishop.
The Bishop must stay on the a2-f7 diagonal to combat Be4, and thanks to some tactics it can with advantage!
Even better is 29... Bd4!
Stopping Nf4 and Be4
and White never had time for Be4!
The trapped Bishop has sold himself for a pawn, but Black remains up a dangerous outside passer, with the two Bishops and a likely second pawn on the way. White's position is hopeless.
An amazingly good fighting game from both players!
Games in PGN
Bibliography of Albin Resources (focused on ...Nge7)
Books and Articles
Jeroen Bosch, "Morozevich’s Pet Line in the Albin" Secrets of Opening Surprises 2 (New in Chess 2004)
I actually have not seen this article, though I will likely be getting hold of it soon, especially if I decide to present my analysis. I imagine it is the most important piece on the Albin in recent years.
Angus Dunnington, Attacking with 1.d4 (Everyman 2001)
In a rather short but influential chapter on the Albin, Dunnington recommends 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 d4 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.Nbd2! Interestingly, he does not even mention Morozevich and Nakamura's response of 5....Nge7. But his analysis of other lines does suggest why 5....Nge7 has become the standard Black response: the rest give Black only trouble!
Tim Harding, Counter Gambits: Black to Play and Win (British Chess Magazine 1974)
Covers mostly 5.a3 and 5.Nbd2 with a note on 5.g3.
Luc Henris, Albin Counterambit / Albins Gegengambit (ChessBase CD 2003)
This is likely the most important current Albin resource, with many games and excellent text files. The Albin, though, is still very much open territory in many lines and there is little theoretical concensus. Henris thinks 5.Nbd2 Bf5!? is best.
Paul Lamford, The Albin Counter-Gambit 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5!? (Batsford 1983)
Some very good analysis that holds up fairly well against more contemporary sources. He suggests in a footnote that the game Pillsbury-Brody, Hanover 1902, puts the line 5.Nbd2 Nge7 6.Nb3 Nf5 7.e4 dxe3 8.Qxd8+ into question with 8....Kxd8!? But this seems a dubious idea.
Ariel Mengarini, Predicament in Two Dimensions: The Thinking of a Chess Player (Thinker's Press 1979)
Mengarini discusses the game Dunning-Mengarini, Mass. 1979, where he takes credit for playing and analyzing lines featuring 5...Nge7. I wonder if J. S. Hilbert (who inherited Mengarini's unpublished game scores) can confirm that?
Susan Polgar, "The Albin Counter-Gambit" Chess Life (February 2005)
A useful little article that inspired Nakamura to play the 5...Nge7 line against her (see links below).
Alexander Raetzki and Maxim Tschetwerik, Albins Gegengambit (Kania 1998)
Written in Informant-style notation by Raetsky and Chetverik, this book is quite useful for those studying the line. The same pair that wrote the article below (and many other books and articles), but with a different spelling....
Alexander Raetsky and Maxim Chetverik, "A 'Suspect Variation' in a Suspect Counter-Gambit." New in Chess Yearbook 155-159
Explores Morozevich's 5.g3 Nge7, which had been tried previously by co-author Cheterik with success and has a longer pedigree than is widely realized (including games by Ariel Mengarini they do not mention).
John van der Weil and Erik Hoeksma, "Still Suspect" New in Chess Yearbook 129-136.
Uses Chris Ward's book (see below) and the games from the Groningen Theme Tournament (see links below) as a focus for discussing the latest theory on the Albin.
Chris Ward, Unusual Queen's Gambit Declined (Everyman 2002)
Very solid coverage though not the most in-depth since the book also covers the Chigorin and Baltic.
The X-Rated Albin by Andrew Martin
A good fun article on the vulgar caveman way to play the Albin against 5.g3 by simply going straight for the standard attack with Be6 (or f5 or g4), Qd7, O-O-O, Bh3, and h5-h4.
Polgar-Nakamura, Virginia Beach 2005 annotated by Susan Polgar
An Albin featuring Morozevich's 5...Nge7 and analyzed above.
Adolf Albin and the Genesis of the Albin Counter Gambit, Part One and Pat Two, by Olimpiu G. Urcan
Despite the title's promise, these articles are more about Albin and his contributions to chess than about his (or was it really someone else's?) famous opening concept. But there is enough of a historical survey of the gambit to make these articles worth reading.
An excellent piece of analysis and a complete statistical survey of the opening from Scid.
From the Chess Corner Opening Survey site, with several sample games to view online.
How to Meet the Albin by Eric Schiller
This piece on the 5.Nbd2 line has vanished from the web and cannot be found in the Archive, but you can still find it in the Google Cache.
A Fistful of Novelties by Tim McGrew
Includes an interesting novelty in an Albin sideline with 5.Bf4 Nge7.
Albin Counter Gambit Tournament, Groningen 2001
A powerful thematic tournament, with games to download in PGN format.
Tiviakov-Brenninkmeijer, Groningen 2001, annotated by Tiviakov
Albin Counter Gambit Thematic E-mail Tournament
Tournament sponsored by CCN, with completed games in PGN format and in Java replay.
Ippolito-Shapiro, NJ Open 2001 annotated by Dean Ippolito
A Marvelous Combination of the XX Century by Boris Schipkov
A very well-annotaed game, though one with a White bias.
Checkpoint #58 by Karsten Hansen
Includes a review of and excerpt from Luc Henris's excellent Albin CD.
Levitt-Speelman, Torquay 1982 annotated by Jon Edwards
Interesting game annotated by US Correspondence champ and former chess blogger.
Kokesh-Hammer 1997 annotated by Kokesh
An interesting game by two experts.
Download 470 PGN Albin Games from the Pitt Archive
A mystery personal site with insufficient information. Includes games from other openings without explanation for club players.
Contre Gambit Albin Focuses on the more unusual White replies.
Queen's Gambit Declined, Albin Countergambit from Chessgames.com
A nice collection of games to play over online.
Albin CounterGambit Thematic Email Tournament
Sponsored by CCN, 2002 A collection of games from the theme tournament, some of which reveal interesting ideas.