Bulletin No.34 – Halloween Gambit Horrors!

Something ghoulish and very creepy is happening in the local chess world tonight!

Welcome to your darkest fears … welcome to the horrific Halloween Gambit!

Be prepared for some creepy crawly action – this is not for the faint-hearted.

We think this would be great for bats, sorry we mean Blitz!

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nxe5!

What is happening, can White really get away with this gifting yet devilish move? Is it some kind of sorcery or perhaps even a curse? Read on if you dare!

4…Nxe5 5.d4

The point is revealed. White wants to control the very dark central passageways with bloodsucking creatures, sorry we mean pawns!

Now we have the parting of the ways but witch dark passage will your confused yet wary opponent choose? Here are a few sample lines to make your blood curdle!

A) 5…Nc6

Be afraid, very afraid … you may hide behind the sofa but the nasty ghouls will seek you out as they march forward in numbers! 6.d5 Ne5 (If 6…Nb8 White plays 7.e5 Ng8 8.d6 and will already have the much healthier position. Can the undead ever be healthier?) 7.f4 Ng6 8.e5 Ng8 9.d6 and suddenly White could have lots of spine-chilling fun against unsuspecting victims! Nb5 is the lethal potent threat!

e.g. 9…cxd6 This is the best move

9…c6 may seem best to stop any Nb5 and Nd5 curse but Black’s poor defenceless pieces are so locked in and completely stranded, almost lifeless, that White already stands much better by developing its ghastly creatures normally. 9…a6 may therefore seem more logical but White can still swoop like a bat with 10.Nd5! If 10…cxd5 then 11.Be3 threatening Bb6 and with some wizardry action, White is completely winning!

10.exd6 Qf6 This is the only move to truly sample and test White’s ‘Witches Broth’.

10…Qb6 may look a better escape from the vultures of the night but is a weaker passage to choose. After 11.Nb5! White has wicked practical chances and it could be Black who is screaming! A sinister line could be 11…Kd8 (best) 12.f5 Ne5 13.Bf4 f6 14.Qd2 and if Black tries to unravel from the sticky web with 14…Nh6? then 15.Bxe5 fxe5 16.Qg5+ Ke8 17.Nc7+ Kf7 18.Bc4 mate!

If 10…Nf6? or most other non-queen moves then 11.Qe2+ looks simplest with early munchings on e7!

11.Nb5 and the position looks scary for Black. If 11…Rb8?! 12.Be3 b6 13.Qe2 Kd8 14.0-0-0 and White has already cast a wicked spell.

Only some garlic or a stake to the heart may now save Black!

B) 5…Ng6

This move seeks to remove the knight from the shadows of darkness but with 6.e5 the little creatures march on, unrepentant in their search for blood!

The knight must retreat or face being eaten alive!


6…Qe7!? is the alternative but this hardly looks like a natural safe haven for the Queen. 7.Be2! is best and if 7…Nxe5 8.dxe5 Qxe5 9.0-0 with Re1 to follow when White has some spine-chilling compensation for the pawn.

7.Bc4 d6

7…Bb4 is met in the same way with 8.Qf3. 7…f6?! looks worse e.g. 8.0-0 fxe5 9.dxe5 Nxe5? 10.Qh5+ Ng6 11.Re1+ Ne7 12.Qf3 winning. 7…c6 looks logical to play d5 but 8.Qf3 again looks fun and frightening. An unknown ghostly game instead went 8…f6?! 9.0-0 d5 10.exd6 Bxd6 11.Ne4 N8e7 12.Qxf6!! gxf6 13.Nxf6+ Kf8 14.Bh6 mate – a great trap!

The best means for escape from White’s grasp might therefore be 7…d5 but who would dare to play this counter sacrificial move? 

8.Qf3 Qe7?!

If instead 8…Qd7 9.0-0 dxe5 10.dxe5 Nxe5 11.Re1 Bd6 12.Bf4 f6 13.Rad1 and White has excellent compensation for the knight creature that has been sacrificed.

9.0-0 dxe5 10.Bb5+!

Now 10…Bd7? to protect the King from the powers of darkness loses immediately to 11.Qxb7 whilst 10…c6 allows 11.Bxc6+.

Best is 10…Kd8 but then 11.Rd1 and the wicked incessant king hunt continues. The king may run but it cannot hide!

C) 5…Bb4

Too scared of the consequences of taking the ghoulish goody bag on offer at the drawbridge door and run, Black may wish to leave behind the defenceless knight as the sacrificial lamb to the slaughter in the hope that with the returned gift offering the danger passes, but beneath the dark night sky White is not interested in any peace piece offering, it is the King of the castle that is sought. e.g. 6.dxe5 Nxe4 7.Qg4! and White can have a stomach churning feast!

The game might continue 7…d5

7…Nxc3 8.Qxb4 Nd5 9.Qg4! or 7…Bxc3+ 8.bxc3 d5 9.Qxg7 Rf8 10.Bh6 Qe7 11.Qxf8+ when White players are rewarded for their thirst for blood.

8.Qxg7 Rf8 9.Bd3 Nxc3 10.Bd2 Nxa2 11.c3 Nxc3 12.bxc3 Be7 13.Bh6

And White will have the better night time feast!

D) 5…Bd6

is another way to avoid the onslaught of creepy ghouls and slimy creatures.  6.dxe5 (6.f4!? may also be fun!) Bxe5 7.Nd5! again descending on enemy territory with interesting play.

If Black chooses 7…Nxe4?! then 8.Qe2 0-0

If  8…f5 9.f3! Qh4+? 10.g3 Bxg3+ 11.hxg3 Qxh1 12.Nxc7+ winning

9.Qxe4 Re8 10.Qe2 Bxb2 11.Bxb2 Rxe2 12.Bxe2 and White’s R+B+N creatures will have more ghoulish fangtastic fun than Black’s Q+2P.

Feeling Really Dark?

The Halloween Gambit can also scarily be played with Black to haunt the White players in their castle!

e.g. 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.g3 (some Four Knights players play this) Nxe4!

Here after 5.Nxe4 d5 the White pawn on g3 may even work to Black’s ‘trick or treat’ advantage as firstly, the knight can only retreat to the stenchy c3 square with 6.Nc3 (instead of the impossible 6.Ng3) and secondly, sometimes the f3 square can prove to be a sinister and fatal trap door. Play might follow 6…d4 with similar play to the White side of the Halloween Gambit! In this position though White may be too scared to play 7.Ne4 as after 7…f5 the knight could soon find itself meeting certain death!

Here is a game continuation played by IM Eric Rosen (as Black) in 2020 …

7.Ne2 e4 8.Ng1 d3! 9.cxd3 exd3 and Black is now already much better!

10.Nf4 Qe7+ 11.Nge2 Nb4 12.Bg2 Nc2+ 13.Kf1 dxe2+ 14.Nxe2 Nxa1 and Black has managed to grab an extra rook in its spider’s web!


Darkness falls following the sacced knight
The midnight hour is almost in sight
Chess pawns pushed in search of blood
To terrorize your king’s neighbourhood

And whatever (chess) pieces shall be found
Without the soul for getting down
Must face Halloween’s Gambit of hell
And rot inside a chess box shell

The chess pawns squeal in sheer delight
It’s you they spy, so plump, so right
For although the en passant is hard to beat
It’s still you facing certain defeat

You try to run, you try to scream
But no more chess you’ll ever see
For evil reached from the crypt
To crush you in it’s gambit grip

The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of our lockdown year
And grizzly pawns from every tomb
Are closing in to seal your doom

And though you fight to stay alive
Your chess grade starts to quiver
For no mere mortal can resist
Halloween, the Gambit thriller!


So there you have it, a creepy fun-filled repertoire to really get your teeth into!

Image by Helgi Halldórsson
CC BY-SA 2.0
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