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Alex Dunne: The Check is in the Mail
February 1999. Additional Alex Dunne columns are available in the Correspondence Chess Forum.

World Champion of the Latvian Gambit

The First Latvian Gambit World Championship has been won by an American, Michael Downey, a 41-year old podiatrist from Moorestown, New Jersey. The event was sponsored by John Elburg of the Netherlands, who invited 26 Latvian Gambit players with more than half of them ICCF Masters.

All participants opened the game with the moves 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 f5, the Latvian Gambit, and played two games, one with White and one with Black. Thus each player had 50 games to play, a test of endurance in itself!

When all the stamps had been canceled, Michael Downey had scored 411/2-81/2 for an undisputed first place finish ahead of Inesis Budovskis of Latvia and ICCM Kjell Krantz of Sweden. This victory, impressive as it is, was not Michael's first success with the Latvian Gambit. He first played in a Latvian Gambit thematic in 1978 after he had read in an article that a young player could learn tactics better by playing a gambit opening. By sheer luck in his first assignments he was matched up with two of the strongest proponents of the gambit.

Anyone who is interested in playing in a Latvian Gambit tournament or subscribe to the Latvian Gambit Newsletter may contact Latvian Correspondence Chess & Latvian Gambit Newsletter, c/o Val Zemitis, 436 Citadel Drive, Davis, CA 95616.


Sometimes the best defense is to take a long walk with the king. Here Mike's king exhibits bravery under fire.

LATVIAN GAMBIT [C40] W: Ernst Grobe (2285) B: Michael Downey (2372) Latvian Gambit Thematic, 1998

Notes based on those of Michael Downey

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 f5 3. Nxe5 Qf6 4. Nc4

This variation is recommended by the German Master Leonhardt and remains a very popular choice for White against the Latvian Gambit. White aims for rapid piece play as opposed to the other common move 4. d4.

4. ... fxe4 5. Nc3 Qf7 6. d4

Several other good options exist here, including 6. Ne3, 6. Qe2, 6. Ne5, and 6. d3. Of course 6. Nxe4? is not a good choice since 6. ... d5 7. Ne5 Qf5 follows, winning a knight. The 6. d4 line is considered by many to be White's best continuation.

6. ... Nf6 7. Bg5 Bb4 8. Ne5 Qe6 9. Bc4 d5!

This move is not even mentioned in ECO and is much stronger than the recommended 9. ... Qf5 as in the game Dubinskij-Cebotarev (USSR 1968). That game continued 10. Bxf6 gxf6 11. Ng4 Qg6 12. Ne3 f5 13. Ned5 Bxc3+ 14. bxc3 Kd8 15. Qd2 c6 16. Nf4, and White is clearly better.

10. Bxf6 gxf6 11. Qh5+ Ke7

12. 0-0!?

Perfectly playable, but one has to be comfortable in such positions. More straightforward is 12. Bxd5 Bxc3+ 13. bxc3 Qxd5 14. Ng6+ Kd6 15. Qxd5+ Kxd5 16. Nxh8 Be6 17. Rb1 Kc6 18. c4 Bxc4, which leaves Black okay.

12. ... Bxc3 13. Ng6+ hxg6 14. Qxh8 Bxb2 15. Rab1 dxc4 16. d5

Better is 16. Rxb2 f5 17. f3 exf3 18. Rxf3 Nc6, although Black is still ahead.

16. ... Qf5 17. Rxb2 Nd7 18. Rbb1 Kd6 19. f3 exf3 20. Rbe1 b6 21. Re6+ Kxd5 22. Rd1+

A last trap: 22. ... Kxe6 23. Qe8 mate. Similarly, after 22. Qg8, Black must play 22. ... Kc5 23. Rxf3 Qg5, winning.

22. ... Kc5 23. Qe8 Qxc2, White resigns.

The First e-mail Chess World Championship is scheduled to start early this year. There will be three stages to the contest. Recognized by FIDE, this event, played via the Internet, should be very strong as all FIDE and ICCF grandmasters are entitled to play. The new world e-mail champion should be crowned in 2005.

Lee LaFrese contributes this list a la David Letterman of the top 10 differences between OTB play and correspondence chess:

10. OTB players' most feared opponent: Garry Kasparov. Correspondence players' most feared opponent: Ted Kaczynski.

9. OTB players invest in expensive digital clocks. Correspondence players invest in a calendar.

8. OTB players keep records of their games in a $2 score pad. Correspondence players keep records of their games with a $2000 computer and a $300 database.

7. OTB players dream about winning a $10,000 class prize in the World Open. Correspondence players dream about winning $100 in the Postal Beauty Contest in Chess Life.

6. OTB players complain about ever increasing entry fees. Correspondence players complain about ever increasing postage.

5. OTB players in time pressure make frantic moves just before their flag falls. Correspondence players in time pressure make frantic drives to the post office just before it closes.

4. OTB players play about 50 rated games a year. Correspondence players play 50 rated games at the same time, but they take two years.

3. OTB players enjoy playing 5-minute blitz on the Internet. Correspondence players enjoy playing one move/day blitz chess on the Internet.

2. OTB players annotate their moves after they finish the game. Correspondence players annotate their moves before they play them.

And the number one difference:

1. OTB players worry that their opponent will play like a computer. Correspondence players worry that their opponent IS a computer.

The following game appears incredible, but it was played in a thematic tournament where the opening moves were mandatory. After that comes madness. Black finds an interesting novelty on Move 14. For more on this opening, see Andy Soltis' column March 1985.

WILKES-BARRE [C57] W: Daniel Dudzik (2071) B: Tadeusz Szafranski (2411) Thematic Tournament 1998

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5 Bc5 5. Nxf7 Bxf2+ 6. Kxf2 Nxe4+ 7. Ke3 Qe7 8. c3 Nd4 9. Kxe4 Qh4+ 10. Ke3 Qf4+ 11. Kd3 d5 12. Bxd5 Bf5+ 13. Kc4 b5+ 14. Kc5 Qf2 15. Qg1 Qh4 16. Nxe5 Qe7+ 17. Kxd4 c5+ 18. Ke3 Qxe5+ 19. Kf2 Qxd5 20. c4 Qxc4 21. d3 Bxd3 22. Qe1+ Be4 23. Nd2 0-0+ 24. Nf3 Rxf3+ 25. gxf3 Rf8 26. f4 Qd4+ 27. Kg3 Rf6 28. f5 Rxf5 29. Bf4 g5 30. Rg1 Rxf4 31. Rd1 Rf3+ 32. Kg2 Re3+, White resigns.

Dave Malize writes that he went through the full gamut of emotions during this game from thinking he would win, to thinking he would draw, to thinking he would lose. Be prepared to be entertained!

FLANK GAME [A05] W: Dave Malize (1973) B: Bob Turmell (1828) 1996 Golden Knights

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. b3 d6 3. d4 e6 4. c4 c6 5. Nc3 Be7 6. e4 0-0 7. Bd3 c5 8. e5 Nfd7 9. h4 dxe5 10. Bxh7+ Kxh7 11. Ng5+ Kg8 12. dxe5 Nxe5 13. Qh5 Qd3 14. Nce4 Bxg5 15. hxg5 Qxe4+ 16. Be3 f6 17. gxf6 gxf6 18. Rh3 Nf7 19. Rh4 Qf5 20. Rg4+ Ng5 21. Bxg5 e5 22. 0-0-0 Nc6 23. Rh1 fxg5 24. Rxg5+ Qxg5+ 25. Qxg5+ Kf7 26. Rh7+ Ke8 27. Qg6+ Kd8 28. Qd6+ Ke8 29. g4 a5 30. g5 Ra6 31. g6, Black resigns.

In the following game Black seems to be doing well, but when the problems come, they do not come single file. Black is overwhelmed by a knight on b6.

SICILIAN DEFENSE [B22] W: Jack Shaw (2059) B: James Johnson (2013) 1997 Golden Knights

1. e4 c5 2. c3 d5 3. exd5 Qxd5 4. d4 Nc6 5. Nf3 Bg4 6. Be2 e6 7. 0-0 Nf6 8. c4 Qd8 9. dxc5 Bxc5 10. Nc3 0-0 11. Bg5 Be7 12. Qb3 Na5 13. Qa4 h6 14. Be3 a6 15. c5 Nc6 16. Rac1 Qc7 17. Rfd1 e5 18. h3 Bf5 19. b4 g5 20. Nh2 e4 21. Ng4 Kg7 22. Nxf6 Bxf6 23. Nd5 Qb8 24. Nb6 Ra7 25. Qb3 a5 26. b5 Ne5 27. Rd6 Be7 28. Qd5 f6 29. Bd4 Bg6 30. Bxe5 fxe5 31. Qxe5+ Bf6 32. Rd7+ Kh8 33. Qxb8 Rxb8 34. c6 Bf5 35. c7, Black resigns.


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