Saturday, September 1, 2012

Mission: Checkmate! with the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit by Eric Schiller

      The Blackmar–Diemer Gambit (1.d5 d5 2.e4) arose as a development of the earlier Blackmar Gambit, named afterArmand Balckmar, a relatively little-known New Orleans player of the late 19th century who popularized its characteristic moves (1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.f3) and published analysis on it. The popularity of the original Blackmar Gambit was short-lived because it was basically unsound but in 1889 Ignatz von Popiel came up with the idea of 3.Nc3. The modern form of this gambit owes much to the German master Emil Diemer (1908–1990) when, after many years of analysis, wrote a book on it in the late 1950s, titled Vom Ersten Zug An Auf Matt! (Toward Mate From The First Move!).
      The gambit is considered an aggressive opening, but its soundness continues to be the subject of much debate both on and off the chessboard. It is dismissed by many masters but embraced enthusiastically by many amateurs. Of course, I tend to go with the judgment of masters and GMs, but what do I know? The gambit is rarely seen in top-level play but enjoys popularity among amateurs. There was even a time when it was often seen in correspondence play, but in these days of engines...never!
      Sam Collins (Understanding the Chess Openings) wrote, "Nobody who plays good chess plays this line, and nobody who plays good chess ever will." And IM Wndrew Martin said, "playing the Blackmar–Diemer Gambit is like shopping for a tombstone." I like that one! The late Ken Smith thought amateurs should play all kinds of gambits while GM Alex Yermolinsky discourages it, so the debate is never ending.
      In July, 2012, Shiller, writing on Chessdot com, said of this book: For the last few months I've been working on a new book on the Blackmar Diemer Gambit. This gambit is sort of a Rodney Dangerfield of chess openings, it just doesn't get any respect...The opening promises an exciting game with great attacking possibilities for white, even in the most reliable of defenses. In the past I have held a slightly negative view of the opening because I thought it could be handled rather easily ...white has good attacking possibilities and this view was confirmed recently in a new book by Scheerer."
      "I have not tried to cover all of the theory in great detail in my new book
. Instead, I have written it in the spirit of the early books on the gambit which stress White's ability to play for checkmate from the very first move. So what I have tried to do is show the possibilities of building a checkmate attack in each of the variations."       Shiller then makes a curious comment: "For detailed repertoire analysis and computer." I have no idea what this sentence fragment means and knowing Schiller's reputaion for publishing junk, I am not surprised by this sentence. But speaking of computers, I would recommend when examining lines of these weird, offbeat openings that you heavily analyze them with an engine and don't be afraid to make notes in the book or print out your engine analysis and insert it into the book! Authors of these kinds of books have been known to use games played by amateurs and not examine critical lines that might refute their ideas. Schiller goes on to say, "I refer you to any of the other excellent publications on the opening." Is he saying there are other, better books on the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit out there and you are advised to buy them too?!
Schiller notes that Black has a lot of possible defenses but, still, is not easy to defend against the Blackmar Diemer gambit since White will maintain the initiative for a long time. That said, with careful play Black is likely to survive, and if he plays flawlessly he might even wind up with an extra pawn for his efforts. This opening is flirting with danger because, as Schiller points out, "If you stumble as White, Black, will laugh all the way to the bank. If, however Black makes the first mistake he may not live to see his deposit clear." Shiller adds, "This is a book for chess players who love to play for checkmate from the very first move."and "is intended for amateur players who are trying to improve their attacking skills."
This book is NOT an encyclopedic treatment of variations nor does it have detailed notes. What it DOES have, and this is a good idea, is most games are fully given. It is ALWAYS a good idea to play over games all the way to the end...those opening books that stop at move 12 or 15 are not to be recommended. If you are in the camp that believes in playing gambits, the Blackmar is probably worth a try and this book, while not the best, is cheap enough that you can use it to get your feet wet and see if it's something you want to try.

1 comment:

  1. I have had good success at the club level using the Stonewall. I have had this book for a couple of years and have found it very helpful. Like you said i don't play masters so that's not a problem.