Wild and Wicked – The Mason-Keres Gambit in 60 Minutes

You thought the usual King’s Gambit was crazy? Try this variation. On the third move, after 1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4, White plays 3 Nc3 – discouraging …d5, but allowing 3…Qh4+ pushing the king up the board: 4 Ke2. But there is method in this madness – White is going to play the knight to f3 to gain time against the queen. Korchnoi and Zak described 3 Nc3 as ‘A risky move leading to great complications in which a single inaccurate move by either side can have fatal consequences.’ If that’s the kind of chess you like playing, you are in the right place.

It was first played by the legendary Irish player James Mason in Paris in 1878. The first strong player to explore the line was a young Paul Keres in the early 1930s in a series of correspondence games. Which explains why it is often known as the Mason-Keres Gambit. With the current trend in online games for the king to advance early on, you might also call it the Bong Cloud Gambit. Magnus Carlsen has played it in online games. Kasparov played it in a blitz game against Karjakin. Richard Rapport is the strongest player to play it in a classical game – with success. I have some experience with this line: I played it in my wild teenage years – with fantastic results. If you want to confuse your opponent, this could be a great way to do it. The download is broken down into five videos going into the detail of Black’s main options. Interestingly, computers often think that White’s position is satisfactory. In variations where the machines frown upon White’s set-up, some tricky human ideas are recommended to keep the game tasty. Have courage, have fun, and good luck!


Sample video


  • Introduction
  • 3...Qh4+ 4.Ke2 d6 - Wall-Ippolito
  • 3...Qh4+ 4.Ke2 g5 5.Nf3 Qh5 - Van der Kemp-Godat
  • 3...Qh4+ 4.Ke2 Qd8 - Black retreats the queen
  • 3...Qh4+ 4.Ke2 d5 5.Nxd5 Bg4+ 6.Nf3 Bd6 - d5 pawn sac with Bd6
  • 3...Qh4+ 4.Ke2 d5 5.Nxd5 Bg4+ 6.Nf3 Nc6 - d5 pawn sac with Nc6

King's Gambit

The King’s Gambit was the fashionable opening of the 19th century. On move two, such great combinatory players as Paul Morphy (1837–1884) and Adolf Anderssen (1818–1879) were willing to sacrifice the f-pawn, so that after the opening of the play which follows 2... exf4 they would be able to obtain an advantage in development and then mount an assault with their pieces. Unforgettable masterpieces such as Anderssen’s “Immortal Game” were created with the King’s Gambit. But also more recent players such as Boris Spassky and David Bronstein (1924–2006) have won games with White.

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