The Staunton Gambit

 

The Staunton Gambit is used against the Dutch Defence: 1.d4 f5 2.e4.It can be seen as a sounder relative of the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.e4), since unlike 1...d5, 1...f5 weakens Blackís kingside and does nothing to help Blackís development, and this makes meeting it with a centre-pawn gambit easier to justify.

However, after 2...dxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6, White should not play the immediate 4.f3?! (the normal and best policy in the Blackmar-Diemer) because while 4...exf3?! 5.Nxf3 works out very well for White, Black has the strong 4...d5!, reinforcing the centre, aiding development and holding onto an extra pawn.Mark Morssís analysis of this line at his Hard Chess column still appears to hold up well today- I donít see much compensation for White in these lines.

Instead White should play 4.Bg5, which was also Howard Stauntonís preference when he used the gambit.The idea in most cases is not to take on f6 and regain the pawn on e4 (for Bxf6, exf6, Nxe4 is often hit by ...d7-d5), but rather to continue with 5.f3, and get an improved version of the lines following 4.f3.For example, 4...g6, and 4...c6 are well met by 5.f3, and in both cases, Black is unable to develop as harmoniously as after 4.f3, and this makes it straightforward for White to demonstrate enough compensation for the pawn.

The main problem with 4.Bg5 has traditionally been 4...Nc6, which intends to meet 5.f3 with 5...e5.Mark Morss also analysed the 4.Bg5 Nc6 variation back in 1999, but since then the continuation 5.d5 Ne5 6.Qe2!? has become critical, and I have given it as my main line.I donít think it promises White a theoretical advantage, but it leads to complicated positions where both sides often have multiple good choices at each move, and Black has to exercise some care, as Blackís king often ends up without a safe shelter.There has been some good analysis of the line at the Chesspublishing.com forum, particularly stemming from Helmut Froeyman, which I have cited in a few places.

Black does not have to take on e4 at move 2, but there are no other equalising options.The Balogh Defence (2...d6) is playable but concedes some advantage to White, and 2...e6 also doesnít equalise.I have not covered these in much detail, but those who are interested in the Balogh Defence can check out the following thread at the Chesspublishing.com forum: http://www.chesspub.com/cgi-bin/yabb2/YaBB.pl?num=1287567859/all

 

1.d4 f5 2.e4

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Staunton Gambit coverage

 

Coverage of all lines

I have not gone into much detail on the alternatives to 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.f3 and 4.Bg5, as they tend to be somewhat sub-optimal.4.f3 is also dubious because of 4...d5, but I opted to cover it in some detail to illustrate why White generally plays 4.Bg5 first.I have focused especially on the line 4.Bg5 Nc6 (which makes 5.f3 inadvisable due to 5...e5) 5.d5 Ne5 6.Qe2.

 

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