Travail Pursuit #21: Play our gambit!

The hero of today's post is Milan Vidmar. Does he look like the kind of guy who'd play the Budapest Gambit to you?

The hero of today’s post is Milan Vidmar. Does he look like the kind of guy who’d play the Budapest Gambit to you?

The story of how Milan Vidmar won the Berlin tournament of 1918 begins in an interesting fashion. It was a four player double round robin format and the other three participants were Akiba Rubenstein, Carl Schlechter and Jacques Mieses. The young Yugoslav Vidmar faced the daunting prospect of playing Rubenstein with Black in round 1. Rubenstein was, at that point, ranked the fourth best player in the world, he had a reputation for being an iron willed positional player and he was one of the world’s leading exponents of the Queen’s Gambit. Vidmar was at a loss as to which opening to essay against his illustrious opponent. By chance, before the first round he fell into conversation with his friend the Hungarian player Istvan Abonyi and he told him about his dilemma.

“I don’t know what I’m going to play against Akiba”
“It’s easy”, replied Abonyi, “play our gambit!”

He proceeded to show an intrigued Vidmar the main ideas behind the (at that time) virtually unknown Budapest Gambit. Vidmar liked it enough to try it against Rubenstein and he won the game in just 24 moves. No one had ever thrashed Rubenstein so terribly with Black! Buoyed by his triumph Vidmar went on to win the tournament whilst poor old Rubenstein, completely discombobulated, went on to lose to Mieses and draw with Schlechter who both adopted the Budapest for their games against him.

Although it had been played at an elite level before (the stem game often referenced is Adler vs. Maroczy, Budapest 1896) the Budapest Gambit had formally arrived. Rarely can the employ of an offbeat variation have had such a huge impact on the outcome of a tournament. The Budapest became a vogue opening during the ‘20’s as leading lights such as Tartakower and Tarrasch started to use it. White players even started to dodge the opening altogether by playing 2.Nf3 after opening with d4. Eventually, reliable antidotes were found and by the end of the 1920’s the opening was thought to be dubious.

More recently the Budapest has once again made an occasional appearance at the highest level. At this year’s Tata Steel tournament the Hungarian Richard Rapport showed a strong appreciation for his country’s chess heritage by adopting the Budapest against Boris Gelfand. Rapport won. In the B section of the same tournament meanwhile Baadur Jobava deployed a very unusual line against Radoslaw Wojtaszek and was also victorious. Top Azeri Grand Master Shakhriyar Mamedaryov has been known to adopt the Budapest from time to time as well and once used it to beat Vladimir Kramnik (albeit in a Rapidplay game).

Although I’ve already featured one Budapest Gambit in this series it can hardly be held up as a typical example of the play so I’m considering today’s post to be my first on this opening. The game below was played in an online correspondence competition and it follows one of the critical lines where White responds to 2…e5!? with 3.Nf3 (this is known as the Adler Variation as this was the line played in that stem game mentioned above). This game features several thematic ideas in this variation including:

  • Black aims to quickly surround the e5 pawn with pieces in order to win it back whilst maintaining his lead in development
  • The activity of both White’s bishops is somewhat restricted after he plays e3
  • Black responds to White’s pawn thrust a3 with a5! which introduces the unusual idea of a rook lift to transfer his queen’s rook to the king’s side or the e-file early on in the game
  • Black sacrifices his a-pawn to give himself more time to mount an direct assault on White’s king



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    […] Travail Pursuit #21: Play our gambit! Yorkshire Chess The story of how Milan Vidmar won the Berlin tournament of 1918 begins in an interesting fashion. It was a four player double round robin format and the … […]

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    […] weekend. Of course we’ve mentioned the Budapest Gambit several times in previous posts (#’s 21 and 23). This game illustrates the dangers that lurk for White if he chooses to ‘freestyle’ it […]

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