The Byrntse gambit

Finding something new about an opening is always fun for a chess student like myself, and finding something radically wild and crazy is… well, a lot of fun. I can only think of a handful of lines that involve a queen sac in the opening (the Golubev line in the Sicilian Dragon that resurrected the 9…d5 pawn push against 9. 0-0-0 comes to mind), but the sparks that fly in the the Bryntse Gambit are hard to match. The Bryntse is a variation in the 2. f4 Sicilian or so-called McDonnell attack. After 1. e4 c5 2. f4 d5 3. Nf3 dxe4 4. Ng5 Nf6 5. Bc4 Bg4, we have the following position:

Here, White has the surprising 6. Qxg5! The idea being that White will get two minors for the queen and a wicked initiative. After 6…Nxg5 7. Bxf7+ Kd7 8. Be6+, White will pick up the knight on g4 and push with a healthy initiative despite being down the lady for two minors. I had found this idea on another chess blog, dana blogs chess, where there were several awesome posts on this idea, including the same idea against the Caro in a post titled “Why Not Nuke the Caro?” A list of relevant ideas for how to handle the white pieces is as follows:

  1. Aim for active piece play. This is is by far the most important ingredient. With only two pieces for the queen, White needs to get such good coordination between his pieces that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
  2. Restrain Black’s queen. The queen must not be allowed to invade White’s position, and all potential points of entry must be covered.
  3. Keep files closed. This is the most counter-intuitive point; having sacrificed material, White would normally want to open the position. But open files tend to work to the advantage of Black’s rooks and queen, because Black has three “vertical” pieces to White’s two. White is glad, on the other hand, to open up diagonals because he has three diagonal pieces to Black’s two. Eventually White can open up some files, but only when he is sure that he can control them and use them for attack on Black’s king.
  4. Don’t cash in too early. White should resist the urge to chase an exchange or a pawn, if it will cost him tempi. If White plays correctly, Black will eventually beg him to take an exchange in order to relieve the bind.
  5. Try to exchange your knight for Black’s bishop. This will leave White’s two bishops completely unopposed. The two bishops with no Black bishop to oppose them (or in some positions, no Black minor pieces of any kind) are sometimes as strong as Black’s two rooks.

You can see these ideas at work in this game:

I really encourage you to check out Dana’s blog and read these articles. I love finding these kinds of original thoughts and surprise weapons. He also mentions that Black can simply play 5…e6 and gain simple equality rather than “fall for it” with 5…Bg4.