Catching the Queen in the French Wing Gambit
By Michael Goeller
In my article on The Caveman Caro-Kann, I wrote about the unusual Rook sac line that begins 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.h4 h5 5.Bg5!? Qb6 6.Bd3!? Bxd3 7.Qxd3 Qxb2 8.e6!! and Black gets in trouble if he takes the Rook at a1. It struck me then that this was a true caveman tactic: the Queen is trapped "like a wooly mammoth ... blundering its way to extinction." Since then I have been collecting such "mammoth traps," which make for an interesting study, especially because it's a bit unclear whether these traps actually work! After all, it is no small matter to kill a wooly mammoth even after it has fallen into your trap!
The following line from the French Wing Gambit is a case in point. Though the Queen is essentially trapped at a1, it is not at all clear that White can win her against best play. But with the Queen exposed to threats and out of play at a1, White has plenty of opportunities to generate an attack!
This line is important to theory since it may well refute a line that is offered by many books as the simplest "refutation" of The French Wing Gambit. The following game (found at ChessBase) was played in 1967, yet remains strangely unknown to theory.
Argentino Rodolfo Redolfi - Osvaldo Bazan [C00]
Cordoba Open/Cordoba, Argentina (5) 1967
White seeks to eliminate Black's c-pawn so that he can take full control over the d4 square. He would then have greater control of the center, combined with open lines or prospects of attack on either side of the board, making for a potentially dangerous initiative. Black can decline the gambit in a number of ways, following the Steve Stoyko principle of "Why give him what he wants?" Steve, in fact, has advocated the simple 4... b6!?
5. a3 is considered inaccurate by advocates of 5.d4 due to 5... d4! e.g.: 6. Bb2 Nc6 7. Bb5 Bd7 8. axb4 Bxb4 9.
This is widely seen as the "refutation" of White's system, pinning the a-pawn and preparing to exchange the light-squared Bishops. Surprisingly, it is not even mentioned in Nigel Davies's Gambiteer I (Everyman 2007), which is the most recent book to make the case for the Wing Gambit against the French. I don't know how Davies could overlook it since this is given as Black's best in several other important works, from Tim Harding's Four Gambits to Beat the French (Chess Digest 1998) to Steffen Pedersen's French: Advance and Other Lines (Gambit 2005). In fact, Pedersen uses this line to dismiss 5.d4 in favor of 5.a3 as the main line.
The alternate Queen placement at b6 does not achieve as much and leads to play which resembles many of the main lines of the French Wing Gambit:
Black was also unsuccessful with 9... h5 10. Na3 Qc6 11. Qd3 g6 12.
O-ONd7 13. Bg5 Nh6 14. Rfc1 Nf5 15. c4! dxc4 16. Rxc4 Qa6 17. Rac1 Nb6 18. Nb5! Nd5 19. Qc2 Bg7 20. Rc8+ Kd7 21. Qc7+ 1-0 Bodisko,A-Gergs,W/Bad Wildbad 1993.
Also fine is 11. Qd3 a6 12.
O-Ob5 13. Bd2 Ne7 14. Ng5! h6 (14... Nf5 15. Qh3) 15. Nh7! g6 16. Nxf8 Kxf8 17. Nc2 Kg7 18. h4 Nb6 19. h5 Na4 20. Qf3 Ng8 21. Ne3 Nb6 22. Ng4 Nd7 23. Ra2 gxh5 24. Nh2 f5 25. Qxh5 Ne7 26. Rfa1 Ng6 27. Nf3 Qc8 28. g3 Ne7 29. Kg2 Nf8 30. Rh1 Ng8 31. Rh3 Ng6 32. Nh4 Qe8 33. g4 fxg4 34. Qxg4 Kh7 35. Nf3 Kg7 36. Rg3 N8e7 37. Qxe6 Rf8 38. Nh4 1-0 Carrascoso Morales,A-Giua,F/Ankara 2007.
O-ONe7 13. Qe2 a6 14. Ne1 Nc8 15. Nd3 Ncb6 16. f4 g6 17. g4!? Be7 18. Nc5 Nxc5 19. dxc5 Nc4 20. Nc2 a5 21. Nd4 Qa6 22. f5 gxf5 23. gxf5 Rg8+ 24. Kh1 exf5 25. e6! fxe6 26. Nxe6 Kd7? 27. Nd4 Qg6 28. c6+ Kd8 29. Rg1 Qf7 30. Qe6! Rxg1+ 31. Rxg1 1-0 Lorincz,I-Serdt,S/Budapest 1995.
Black has two other retreats:
a) 8... Ba5 9. Ba3 Nc6 10. Bc5 (10. Qd2 Nge7 11. Bd3) 10... Qd8 11. Bd3 Rc8 12. h4!? Bb6 13. Bd6 Bc7 14. Ba3 Nge7 15. Qe2?! (15. h5! h6 16. Nh4!? with ideas like Qg4 and Rh3-g3 or 16...
O-O17. Bc2! with Qd3 to follow.) 15... Na5 16. Ng5 Ng6? (16... h6! 17. Qh5 g6 18. Bxe7 gxh5! 19. Bxd8 Bxd8 20. Nf3) and in Helin,M-Weclawski,D/Copenhagen 1998 (eventually 1-0) White overlooked an immediate win by 17. Qf3! f6 18. Nxh7)
b) 8... Be7 9. Bd3 Na6 (9... Bb5!? 10. Qb3 Ba6 11. Qa4+) 10. Qe2 Nc7 11. Na3 a6 The battle as so far focused on b5, where White has prevented the liberating Bb5. 12.
O-ONh6 13. Bg5!? (13. Bxh6! gxh6 14. c4) 13... Nf5 14. g4!? h6 15. Bxe7 Nxe7 16. c4 Rc8 17. Rfb1 Qa7 18. c5! White's complete dominance of the center gives him great long term compensation for the pawn. 18... h5 19. h3!? Bc6 20. Ng5 hxg4 The open lines on the kingside can only aid White. 21. hxg4 Rh6 22. Kg2 f6? 23. exf6 Rxf6 24. Rh1 (24. Qe5!) 24... Kd7 25. Qe5! Ne8 26. Nh7 Qb8 27. Nxf6+ gxf6 28. Qxb8 Rxb8 29. Rh7 1-0 Sochacki,C-Morabbi,A/Paris 2006 (59).
9... Ne7 10. Bd3 Na6 11.
An earlier and incorrect version of the Mammoth Trap occurred in the same year and is widely cited: 7. Bd3?! (this clearly wastes a tempo compared to 7.Bd2) 7... Bb5 8. axb4?! (8.
Perhaps Black should not play along with White's scheme but instead ask how he intends to develop his Queenside pieces after simply 7... Nc6! 8. Bd3 (8. c3!?)
8... Nge7 9.
Springing the trap! Black's Queen falls into the pit!
8. Bxb5+!? is not so bad for White either after 8... Qxb5 9. axb4 Bxb4 10. Bxb4 Qxb4+ 11. c3 Qb6 (11... Qc4 12. Nbd2 Qd3 13. Rb1)
12. Na3 Nc6 13. Rb1 Qa5 14. Nb5! White's Knight is headed for d6. 14...
Black's Queen sometimes escapes but Black loses time and his Queen remains out of play, giving Black the basis of a strong attack, e.g.: 9... Nd7 10.
This is the critical and thematic move. All others allow the prey to escape unscathed:
a) 10. c3?! a5! 11. bxa5?! (11. Qc2) 11... Qxa5 and Black sho uld have been fine but allowed White to develop a powerful kingside initiative: 12. Bd3 Qa4 13. Qe2 h6 14.
O-ONge7 15. h4 Nc8 16. Bb5 Qb3 17. Be3 Nb6 18. Nfd2 Qa2 19. f4 g6 20. h5 Nc4 21. hxg6 fxg6 22. Bxc4 dxc4 23. Qg4 Kf7 24. d5! exd5 25. f5 g5 26. e6+ Ke8 27. Qh5+ Kd8 28. Bb6+ Ke7 29. Qf7+ Kd6 30. Qd7+ 1-0 Rahls,P-Zschaebitz,K/Berlin 2001 (30).
b) 10. Bc3?! Qa2 11.
O-Oa6! 12. Bxc6+ bxc6 Black's Queen now has a path out of the ditch via the light squares. 13. Ng5 Nh6 14. Qd2 Qa4 15. f4 Qb5 16. h3 Qb7 0-1 Fidalgo Fernandez,L-Garcia Millan,L/ Madrid 2005 (31) and Black's Queen escapes, leaving White without compensation for the Exchange.
Black must be able to improve on this move, especially since he has a wide array of reasonable alternatives. But it looks like White gets at least some edge in all lines:
a) 10... Qb2 11. cxd5 (11. c5!? a5 (11... a6? 12. Bc3!) (11... Nge7 12.
O-OQa2 (12... Nf5 13. Qa4) 13. Nc3) 12. Bc3 Qa2 13. bxa5 Rxa5 14. Bxc6+ bxc6 15. Bxa5 Qxa5+ 16. Qd2 Qb5) 11... exd5 (11... a6 12. Bxc6+ bxc6 13. d6) 12. O-OBxb4 13. Qa4 Bxd2 14. Bxc6+ Kf8 15. Bxd5 etc.
And the Black Queen is trapped!
The Queen sells herself dearly, but Black remains essentially down a piece.
White uses his extra forces to effect a mating attack, which is the best way to win in the position.
Black resigns as mate is unavoidable. White's wild and wooly mammoth trap was a great success in its first outing, so it's strange that theory remains silent on this game.
Game in PGN
Bosch, Jeroen. "Outflanking the French." Secrets of Opening Surprises, Volume 1. New in Chess 2003.
ChessBase online database.
Davies, Nigel. Gambiteer I. Everyman 2008.
Goeller, Michael. Caveman Caro-Kann.
Harding, Tim. Four Gambits to Beat the French. Chess Digest 1998.
Nakamura, Clyde. French Wing Gambit file. Unorthodox Chess Openings . Updated April 14, 2008.
Yahoo Newsgroup. Requires registration to access.
Pedersen, Steffen. French: Advance and Other Lines. Gambit 2005.
Tate - Chipkin, New York Open 1995
A game you will not find in the databases, though it is cited by Davies.
Watson, John. Play the French. 3rd Edition. Everyman 2004.
Copyright © 2008 by Michael Goeller