The Spirit of the King’s Gambit

I have always feared the King’s Gambit. As most phobias, it can be traced back to my childhood. I was taught to play chess by my father, who was a player of candidate-master strength who liked to attack and sacrifice. So when we played at home he would always go after my king, usually sacrificing half of his pieces before checkmating me. In those early days I was playing 1…e5 and that would always be met with the dreaded King’s Gambit. This happened often enough for me to develop an aversion to touching the e-pawn, so soon enough I switched to the Sicilian and avoided touching the e-pawn even before the game while adjusting my pieces.

You might argue that in the Sicilian the king is also under attack, but at least there black gets to attack too. In my early Sicilian days I also developed a phobia, this time about the Closed Sicilian (yeah, I know), but this is another story.

The years passed, the Sicilian was serving me well, but the King’s Gambit phobia remained. There was no need for me to address it, after all I had no contact with the dreaded opening with either colour. But things change…

Some years ago, in view of the ever-increasing popularity of the 1 e4 e5 openings I started to look at them myself, in order to play them with black. Naturally, the first opening I analysed and made sure that I would have no problems meeting was the King’s Gambit. Theory had advanced immensely in the last 30+ years since I suffered in the King’s Gambit and I realised that actually almost any line is good for black. I analysed a couple of those and felt confident that history won’t repeat itself when somebody plays it against me (yes, when, not if, because I was sure that sooner or later my fear will materialise).

The first two rounds of the new 4NCL season were played in November. Not having played since the Olympiad I wanted to keep things solid and calm. In my first game I played a relatively weak opponent whom I managed to beat without too many problems. The second game was going to be more serious, as I was facing FM Robert Eames. I noticed in my preparation that he liked to attack and sacrifice and that he played the King’s Gambit occassionally (he even dared to play it against Michael Adams!). Even though I didn’t think it very probable, I refreshed my memory of some of the lines and thought I could keep things under control. But can you keep under control such a vagabond and violent spirit that undoubtedly exists in the King’s Gambit?

And so I won. A crazy, irrational game, in the true spirit of the opening. Was I enjoying it? Hell, no, I was suffering like when I was a kid, but at least I hope that with this win I purged the fear from my mind and that future gambits (oh, yes, there will be future gambits) will bring me the same result but with less pain.

This year is reaching its end and I am working on several new projects for the new one. One of these projects is working on a new version of my site and another one is creating an Inner Circle. I am inviting my readers to become part of a closely-knit community where I will be sharing much more than in my posts – opening analyses, ideas, psychological insights, advice, you name it – I will be responding to your questions personally with the hope that I can help you solve your problems. In order to do this I will ask for your email address and as an exchange I am giving away a file with analysis of all the games from the match Carlsen-Karjakin. I revisited and updated the analysis from the ones already published on my blog so this is a much better version. You can download it here.

I am looking forward to seeing you as part of my Inner Circle and I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

Alex Colovic
A professional player, coach and blogger. Grandmaster since 2013.
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  • Dec 22,2016 at 3:38 pm

    Thank you!

  • Anonymous
    Dec 22,2016 at 10:12 am

    Excellent article, Alex. Very honest analysis not only chess but also psychological. I am glad that you succeed to purge the fear. Very good lesson for young people.

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