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John Watson Book Review (62)

Danish Dynamite

Danish Dynamite

Danish Dynamite Karsten Mueller & Martin Voigt; 233 pages; Russell Enterprises 2003

Before plunging into more general works again I'd like to have some fun examining Karsten Mueller & Martin Voigt 'Danish Dynamite'. Their book actually covers the Danish Gambit, the Goering Gambit, some Scotch Gambits, and the Urusov Gambit. It is exceedingly dense and has more information in one place than any other book that I have seen on most of this material. At first 'Danish Dynamite' reads mostly like a well-researched recital of games and others' analysis with little commentary. Indeed, the authors have given us almost no verbal explanation, but a close look reveals very many precise notes and suggestions for both sides as well as assessments that show how very carefully the material has been examined. GM Mueller's name alone lends Danish Dynamite the high credibility that is often lacking in books by lesser-used openings. Having said that, the book is very hard to navigate in and could have been laid out in a much friendlier manner just by expanding the number of sections and having a better index.

I have gone over this book rather thoroughly because I had the opportunity to make direct comparisons between 'Surviving and Beating Annoying Chess Openings', a book that I wrote with Eric Schiller and published in 2003. It deals with a selection of variations after 1.e4 e5, giving recommendations for both sides. Normally I don't compare analysis in any of my own books with books that are on the same subject. That's because I have a forum on TWIC in which to make my own work look good relative to those under review. Here, however, I don't think there's serious competition between these books about such obscure variations (furthermore, Mueller and Voigt's is encyclopedic). I also can't imagine that any adherent of these gambits won't want to have a copy of 'Danish Dynamite' regardless of such details

Mueller and Voigt (henceforth 'M&V') did have a copy of our book ('SBACO') but perhaps it came late, because I see only one mention of it. They quote and cite our book in the line 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 Ne7. This is an extremely short section (less than a column) in M&V, especially considering that the line seems to equalize fairly easily and quickly (and that co-author Voigt got a horrible position with it in the only game they or we cite). Perhaps the authors aren't too happy with such a solution when they have devoted so much fine analysis to the well-known Capablanca Defense. 3.c3 d5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.cxd4 Nc6 6.Nf3 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 Bg4 8.Be2 Bxf3 9.Bxf3 Qc4!. The section's assessments seem fair, however, and don't claim any advantage for White. Speaking of which, The Introduction quotes 3 strong players who suggest that the Danish Gambit is not refuted. That's not saying too much about an opening that is defined by moves 3 and 4 and in which White has the advantage of moving first! To me, the real test of these openings is not whether White is worse by force after move 4, but whether one comes out of them with interesting and equal play.

I systematically compared SBACO with M&V's and came up with these lines that seemed to be the most interesting and that I had most of the responsibility for (thus the use of 'I' a lot). Remember that Eric and I tried to cover about 42 openings and many more variations, so our time and space for the three openings below was necessarily limited. In all modesty, however, I think that we did a pretty good job of covering them.

Now for more theory than most of you will ever examine:

I Danish Accepted A

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.c3 dxc3 5.Bc4 cxb2 6.Bxb2 d6 and:

A. 7.Qb3 and:

(a) 7...Qd7 8.Bc3 Nh6 9.0–0 f6 10.Nbd2 Nf7 11.Rad1 Ncd8 (A poor move; I gave the obvious improvement 11...Nce5! 12.Be2 [12.Nxe5 Nxe5 13.Be2 Qf7] 12...Nxf3+ 13.Nxf3 Be7 and Black is better) 12.Nd4 Be7 and 13.Nf5 was unclear – M&V.

(b) 7...Nh6 isn't very common but threatens ...Na5, for example, 8.Bc3 (8.Na3 Na5 9.Qa4+ c6 and I give 10.Bd3 b5! etc. while K&M cite a game with 10.Be2 b5!, both good) 8...Qe7 9.0–0 and M&V's suggestion 9...Ng4! looks good, e.g., 10.Nbd2 Nge5 11.Bd5 Nd8µ. We gave 9...a6?! 10.a4 Ng4! etc. which gives White more options on move 10.

B. 7.0–0 Be6 8.Bxe6 fxe6 9.Qb3 Qd7 10.Ng5 Nd8 11.f4 Nf6

Here M&V don't give our suggested alternative 11...Ne7!?, which looks fine: 12.Nd2 (12.f5 exf5 [12...e5] 13.exf5 Qc6 14.Kh1 h6) 12...Nec6 "which avoids having a knight on f6 getting hit with tempo after e5." Then we quote a game that should have led to a nice advantage for Black.

12.Nd2 (12.f5!? e5 13.Nc3 and both SBACO and M+V suggest 13...c6! which I feel is very strong) 12...Be7 13.e5 (After 13.f5?!, I suggested 13...d5! 14.fxe6 [14.e5 Ng4] 14...Nxe6 15.e5 [15.Qxb7 0–0] 15...Nxg5 16.exf6 gxf6 17.Qxb7 0–0 and wins. And 13.Rad1 0–0 leads to -/+ according to M+V) 13...dxe5 14.fxe5 Nd5 with two extra pawns and the better position.

So is the whole 7.0–0 Be6 line good for Black?

C 7.Nc3 Be7 8.Qb3 Nh6


At this point M+V say "Astonishingly, we found no games with 9...0-0'. Likewise I had said: 'What could be an interesting and straightforward solution is 9...0–0(!) Then the move 10.Qc3, which was probably thought to be the problem, looks quite satisfactory for Black', giving 10...Bf6 11.Nxf6+ Qxf6 12.Qxf6 gxf6 13.Bxf6 Be6. M&V give exactly the same line and suggest 13...Ng4; both are great for Black.

Therefore M&V suggest 10.h3, but instead of their 10...Kh8, 10...Be6! looks very strong: 11.Qxb7 Na5 12.Qa6 Nxc4 13.Qxc4 Bxd5 14.exd5 (14.Qxd5 Rb8) 14...Bf6.

So 8...Nh6 apparently poses real problems for the viability of 7.Nc3 and 8.Qb3.

II Goering Gambit Accepted

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.c3 dxc3 5.Nxc3 Bb4 6.Bc4 d6 7.0–0

On 7.Qb3, I recommend the order 7...Bxc3+! , and if 8.bxc3, 8...Qd7 follows, when the idea of ...Na5 costs White time, e.g., 9.Ng5 Nh6! again threatens ...Na5.

M+V correctly prefer the other recapture 8.Qxc3. Then after 8...Qf6 M+V give 9.Qb3 Nge7 10.0–0 0–0 11.Bg5 Qg6 12.Rae1 unclear /=+. I think White has something, but not enough after 12...Bg4, e.g., 13.Bxe7 Nxe7 14.e5 Nc6! =+. This doesn't say much for the 7.Qb3 line!.

7...Bxc3 8.bxc3 Bg4 9.Qb3 Bxf3 10.Bxf7+ Kf8

Surely this is one of the richest positions of the Goering Gambit, leading to fascinating complications.


Critical is 11.Bxg8 Rxg8 12.gxf3 Qd7 13.f4 (13.Kg2 b6 14.Be3, when Black is still well-placed after 14...g5 or 14...Re8) 13...Qg4+ 14.Kh1 Qf3+ 15.Kg1 Re8! 16.Re1. Here M&V give a game with 16...g5 17.Re3, eventually unclear. A huge improvement that I gave in our book is 16...Qg4+! 17.Kh1 g5! 18.f5 (18.Qd1 Rxe4!) 18...Rxe4, with a winning game.

11...Ne5 12.Bxg8 Rxg8

M&V give 3 densely packed pages about this line, with subvariations labeled all the way out to 'B2b2233222'! Fortunately I only have to follow my recommended one. The next few moves are best:

13.f4 Nf3+ 14.Kg2 Nh4+ 15.Kh1

I agree with M&V that 15.Kg3 g5 isn't good, but they give the bare note" 15.Kh3 Ng6 =+", which I ignored only just now analysed out to an unclear position after 16.f3! followed by f5.



M&K suggest that Black is 'okay' after 16.f5 (I think that Black actually stands better), so they say White should look more carefully into 16.c4. I agree, and according to my new analysis both of our books underestimate this move:

(a) 16...Re8 works out very nicely for White, contrary our judgments, because of 17.f3! Qh3 (17...b6 18.f5 Qf7 19.Rg1) 18.Rf2 b6 19.Bd2 Qd7, and they quote a game that was drawn at this point, but 20.Rg1 is hard to meet. But 19...Ng6 is also unconvincing after 20.Rg1 Qh5 21.Rfg2±;

(b) 16...g5!? 17.f5! (K&M give 17.f3 gxf4 18.Bxf4 Rg2 19.Rg1 Qh3 20.Bg3 'unclear'-K+V, but White looks better; here a fascinating line is 17.f3 Qh3 18.Rf2 g4! with the idea 19.Qxb7 g3! 20.Qxa8+ Ke7 21.Qxg8 gxf2 22.Qg7+= !) 17...Qc6 18.f3 Re8 (they call this 'unclear') 19.Rf2! Ke7 20.Bb2 Kd7 21.Rd1 Kc8 22.Qb5! and White is just better;

(c) 16...Qg4 (best, I think, but not for any reasons shown before) 17.Qg3 and:

(c1) 17...Qe2?! 18.Be3, when they quote 'unclear-Botterill'. But again, after the best move 18...Ng6, both of us should go further: White has a real advantage after 19.f5! Ne5! (19...Ne7 20.c5 d5 21.Rae1) 20.c5! Qg4 21.Qxg4 Nxg4 22.Bf4 dxc5 23.f3;

(c2) 17...Qf3+! may save the day: 18.Qxf3 Nxf3 19.Rb1 (19.Kg2 Nd4 20.Rd1 Ne2!? 21.Bd2 Kf7) 19...b6 20.Rb3 Nd4 21.Rh3 h6 22.Bb2 Ne6 and Black should be fine.

[Perhaps it also should have been mentioned that 16.Rg1 Qc6! is very strong, for example, 17.Qd5 Qxd5 18.exd5 Re8 etc.]

16...Qc6 17.f3 Re8 Now everything is okay for Black. 18.Qc2 K&M say "?!" and by implication they like 18.Bg5, but then 18...Rxe4 19.Bxh4 Rxh4 20.Rae1 Rh6 or 20...Rc4 is very strong. 18...g5 19.fxg6 Nxg6 etc. and Black is better.

III Goering Gambit Declined

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.c3. Here one of our recommended lines is 4...Nge7, which is given only the shortest attention in M+V. We wanted something simple and safe. There are naturally options, but the most critical idea is 5.Bc4 d5 6.exd5 Nxd5. Black seems to attain easy play: 7.0–0 I also talk about 7.Qb3, leading to a good game for Black. After 7.0-0, I proposed 7...Bg4?!, which is too committal. But I also suggested the same move that M&V give: 7...Be7, which should be equal. After 8.Qb3

my suggestion was 8...Be6!, a move not mentioned by M&V; they give 8...Na5 leading to a position slightly better for White. The play can go 9.Nxd4 (9.Qxb7 Na5 10.Bb5+ Kf8!--threatening ...Rb8--11.Qa6 c5, now threatening ...Bc8--Black has good play) 9...Nxd4 10.cxd4 0–0=, since 11.Qxb7 Rb8 12.Qxa7 Ra8 draws.

I actually spend more space on 5.cxd4 d5 6.e5 Bg4, with Black again coming out well.

IV Danish Declined

1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 Ne7 was our simple solution, as with the Goering Declined above. There are several White moves, but M&V only deal with these:

(a) We give 4.Nf3 d5 5.Qxd4 Nbc6 6.Bb5 Be6 (6...Bd7 7.Qe3 dxe4 8.Qxe4 a6) 7.Ng5?! (M&V quote our book and correctly say that 7.exd5 Qxd5, which we don't assess, is equal after 8.Qxd5 Bxd5 9.Nbd2. A good point) 7...a6 8.Nxe6 fxe6 9.Bxc6 Nxc6 10.Qe3 Be7;

(b) 4.cxd4 d5 5.e5 (M&V make the interesting suggestion 5.Nc3 dxe4 6.Bc4 Nf5 7.Nge2, which must be a better try) 5...Nf5 6.Nc3 Be7 7.Nf3 0-0 8.Bd3 Nc6 9.Ne2 f6, and instead of the move Voigt played in his game, 10.a3?, Mueller and Voigt suggest 10.0-0=.

V Danish Accepted B

Another recommended Danish Gambit line is 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Bc4 cxb2 5.Bxb2 d5 6.Bxd5 Bb4+!

Here 6...Nf6 7.Bxf7+ leads to a famous ending that M&V exhaustively analyze 7.Nd2, But instead of the normal 7...Bxd2+, they don't mention a move of mine that is not only in our recent book but in our 1995 Book of Busts : 7...Kf8! This avoid Qa4+ and covers g7. We give as sample lines 8.Ngf3 Or 8.Ne2 Nf6; 8.Qf3 Bxd2+ 9.Kxd2 Be6. 8...Nf6 9.Qb3 Nxd5 10.exd5 Qe7+ 11.Kf1 Na6 12.Re1 Qd8 and White lacks compensation.

Also after 6...Bb4+, there's 7.Nc3 Bxc3+ 8.Bxc3 Nf6 9.Qf3, the main continuation of both of our books is 9...Nxd5, but we also give the straightforward move 9...0–0, 10.Bxf6 Qxf6 11.Qxf6 gxf6 12.Nf3 Na6! intending moves like ...c6 and ...Nc5, or 10.Ne2 c6 11.Bb3 a5 12.0–0 a4 13.Bc2 Bg4 14.Qe3 Qe7. 9...0-0 should at least be mentioned.

VI Scotch Gambit

In the Scotch Gambit after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4, 4...Bb4+!? is one of our two suggestions, normally met by 5.c3 dxc3, and:

(a) 6.0–0 Qf6!? 7.e5 (Other tries are 7.Bg5 Qg6 8.Nxc3 Bxc3 9.bxc3 Nge7; and 7.Nxc3 Bxc3 8.bxc3 Nge7 intending ...d6 and ...0–0) 7...cxb2!? 8.Bxb2 Qf4 (this fairly obvious move is not given in M+V, they give 8...Qg6, which is not to say which is better, but I like 8...Qf4) and Black intends 9.Qb3 Nge7 or 9.e6 f6.

(b) 6.bxc3 Qf6!? 7.0–0 Be7 (A move not given by M+V, who say 6...Qf6'?!' and don't discuss any other White 7th moves) and we analyse 8.Ng5 Ne5 9.Bb3 h6 10.f4 hxg5 11.fxe5 Qxe5 12.Bxf7+ Kd8 13.h3 Schilpper-Sternberg, Crailsheim 1995, when winning was 13...Rxh3!; intending 14.gxh3 Qg3+ 15.Kh1 Qxh3+ 16.Kg1 Bc5+ etc., and 8.Re1 d6 9.Qb3 (9.Bg5 Qg6), with both 9...Nh6!? intending 10.Bxh6 gxh6 11.Na3 0–0+= and 9...Qg6!? 10.e5 dxe5 11.Nxe5 Nxe5 12.Rxe5 Bd7.

In general, Mueller and Voigt have completed an amazing task. If the lines above are typical, however, I think that they could have been generally more critical. Also, by departed from existing theory more often, they might have gotten closer to the truth. In any case, if you are an aficionado of or are interested in any of the Danish, Scotch, Goering or Urusov Gambits, get this book!

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