Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A trap in the Vienna Game

The trap below has caught a number of players over the years. After 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bc4, 3...Nxe4 is the well-known "fork trick," envisioning 4.Nxe4 d5, when Black regains the piece with equality. More common is the sharp 4.Qh5! (attacking both f7 and e5) Nd6 (virtually forced) 5.Bb3 (5.Qxe5+ is equal). Then Black can choose between the solid 5...Be7 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Nxe5 0-0, and the wild sacrificial line 5...Nc6!? 6.Nb5! g6 (6...Nxb5?? 7.Qxf7#) 7.Qf3! f5 8.Qd5! Qe7 (8...Qf6!? is also playable) 9.Nxc7+ Kd8 10.Nxa8 b6, which Eric Schiller christened the "Frankenstein-Dracula Variation."

White's 4.Bxf7+?!, as in the game below, isn't very good unless Black falls into the trap in this game. After 4...Kxf7 5.Nxe4, Black should play 5...d5!, meeting 6.Qf3+ with 6...Kg8! 7.Ng5 Qd7!, when Black has the bishop pair, his king is safe, he owns the center and will soon drive back White's pieces. After the plausible 5...Nc6?! 6.Qf3+! Kg8?? (6...Ke8!) 7.Ng5! Black is suddenly lost. White has the terrible dual threats of 8.Qf7# and 8.Qd5#, and 7...Qxg5 8.Qd5# doesn't help.

The British chess writer G.H. Diggle wrote an amusing account of having lost a club match game this way (Davids-Diggle, London 1949) in all of two minutes, while his teammates' games were just getting started. His later investigation revealed the same game had been played in 1899 between Imbusch and Goering (see Irving Chernev's 1000 Best Short Games of Chess, p. 6) and that the British Chess Magazine in 1901 had described 6...Kg8?? as "a common blunder in this and similar positions."

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