The Fabulous 10’s: King’s Gambit Mystery

King’s Gambit Mystery

In the finals of Cap d’Agde Rapid, 2010, we had Vassily Ivanchuk playing white against Hikaru Nakamura.  Actually, in the other rapid game with colors reversed, it was also a King’s Gambit! But let’s focus on this one.

The game featured a King’s Gambit mystery:

1. e4 e5 2. f4 Nc6 3. Nf3 f5?!

This?

Pablo Zarnicki experimented with this in the past a few times, but I remember Khalifman writing white is better.  Doesn’t it look like black is trying for too much, too soon?  At any rate, Ivanchuk in this game quite surprisingly produced 4. d3 (?) to “avoid preparation”, I guess.  Although the game after 4. d3 (?) is dead equal.  The mystery is what does black do after the simple 4. exf5! – I don’t see an equalizer.

Sample lines:

4. exf5! exf4 5. d4 d5 6. Bd3! guarding f5 6…Bd6 7. Nc3! (idea Nb5) Nf6 8. Qe2+! Qe7 9. Nb5! and white has the desired edge.

Or,

4…e4 5. Ne5 Nxe5 6. fxe5 Qe7 7. d4! (previously the weak 7. Qh5+? Kd8 was seen, giving black a free tempo on white’s queen after a later Ng8-f6; GM Hammer as black defeated GM Fier in a 2009 ICC rapid encounter.)  7…exd3 8. Bxd3 Qxe5+ 9. Qe2 Qxe2+ 10. Kxe2 d5 11. Re1 c6 12. Bf4 Nf6 (the computer likes the strange looking 12…h5 here) 13. Nd2 and white is happy.

Also, crazy lines occur after 4….e4 5. Ne5 Nf6 6. Nc3 Bd6 7. Ng4! Bxf4 8. Nxf6+ Qxf6 9. Qh5+ Kd8 10. Nd5! but white always retains some edge.

All in all, 4. exf5 must promise more than 4. d3 so I am wondering about that.  Will we see 4. exf5 when the line is tested again at a high level?

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