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I dislike open, highly tactical games. I wouldn't mind them so much if I won them, but that isn't what happens.

I was recently destroyed by the Albin Counter Gambit. I'm curious if there is a known effective way of declining the gambit, blunting black's counterattack, or otherwise maintaining a closed position?

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You can start the game with 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 and that avoids Albin, of course this limits your options in other lines. –  Akavall Jan 25 '13 at 14:49
    
@Akavall Could still transpose into the Albin with 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c4 e5 4.dxe5 d5 though this can be avoided with 4.Nxe5. –  bof Jul 31 at 22:58

3 Answers 3

The Albin Countergambit is not to be feared, particularly. White does quite well after the simple 3. dxe5. My chess database of master games shows that white wins or draws 80% of the games after 3. ... d4 which is Black's best response.

Now, before I go down the rabbit hole, please bear in mind that strong masters probably don't visit this site. For amateurs, almost anything is playable. In any of the games we play, a master could win either side on any move as long as the game isn't blatantly lost. The moves are there. So temper everything I say regarding what is and isn't playable.

This is one frequently played variation:


[fen ""]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 d4 4. Nf3 Nc6  

It yields a generally fun time for White. Tese are, statistically, Black's best moves. However, there seems to be a trap of sorts: 5. g3 is White's most common response but there are 7 games with the uncommon Black response of 5. ... Bg4. From 7 master games, Black wins or draws 5. I'd avoid g3 :-D

Here's a sample game where White did not. Nathan Birnboim v. Itzhak Veinger, Munich 1987. ECO D09.


[fen ""]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 d4 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. g3 Bg4 6. Bg2 Qd7 7. O-O O-O-O 8.  Qb3 h5 9. h4 f6 10. exf6 gxf6 11. Rd1 Bh3 12. Bh1 Bc5 13. Nc3 Qg4 14. Na4 Bd6  15. Kh2 d3 16. Rxd3 Nge7 17. c5 Bxg3+ 18. fxg3 Bf1 19. Bf4 Bxe2 20. Rxd8+ Rxd8  21. Bg2 Kb8 22. Re1 Rd3 23. Qc4 Rxf3 24. Bxf3 Bxf3 25. Qe6 Qg6 26. Qc4 Bd5 27.  Qc3 Bxa2 28. b3 Qf7 29. Qd2 Bxb3 30. Qd7 Ne5 31. Qd8+ Nc8 32. Ra1 Qc4 33. Bxe5  Qe2+ 34. Kg1 Qxe5 35. Rf1 Qxg3+ 36. Kh1 Qxh4+ 37. Kg2 Bxa4 38. Rxf6 0-1  

Everything looks normal until move 7, where Black's Queenside castling pretty much declares he's uninterested in a draw. Such games are generally razor-sharp. On move 8, Black announces he's uninterested in a long game. He believes White's King's position is weak and he's exploiting it now. 9. h4 hurt my face. I had to invoke Stockfish which didn't have a huge problem with (or particularly like) 8. ... h5 9. h4. Stockfish didn't have a problem with 12. Bh1, either. At move 12 White is ahead a little, but Black has chances. Black's playing aggressively but White solves the problems. Stockfish didn't care for 13. ... Qg4 and considered 15. ... d3 a blunder. If I can read the tea leaves, after move 15 Stockfish considers White up by about 2 pawns.

To this point Black has had the initiative and has aggressively posed problems for White. Both players have erred between moves 15-19 but White has increased his advantage to the point he'll probably win.

But a won game is sometimes hard to win! White starts to falter on move 24. Whites 24th, 25th, 26th, 28th, and 29th moves are poor. Black plays well and erases White's advantage completely. It's a horse race again!

So where are we? on move 30, Black has a glaring back-rank weakness but the Knight on e7 protects c8. White's Kingside pawns are slightly better but the backward g pawn negates most of the advantage. White's Queenside pawns dropped like flies. Black's 3-to-1 advantage will eventually be worth a piece. Black's Knights aren't aggressively placed but defend very well. Black's queen can rampage and is otherwise uncontained. White's Knight is looking silly there on the rim but his Queen and Rook are well placed. White's biggest problem is his exposed King. While I couldn't foresee the position when he played 9. h4, I can't say I am surprised. Black is always going to have a 'get out of jail free' card as long as Queens are on the board. White will be better off if that Black Bishop is removed; the Bishop's mobility is devastating with the White king being so exposed.

White loses the game on move 32. Ra1 is a terrible blunder. Here's what Stockfish recommended instead.


[fen "1knQ4/ppp2q2/5p2/2P1n2p/N4B1P/1b4P1/7K/4R3 w - - 4 32"]

( I can't get the replayer to work: Here are the moves: 1. Nb6 axb6 2. cxb6 cxb6 3. Qh8 Bc4 4. Rxe5 fxe5 5. Qxe5+ Ka7 6. Qb8+ Ka6 )

We see White start a combination that culminates in the destruction of the Black King's safety. White counters his biggest problem by sticking Black with the same problem.

Back to the main line, the ghastly 32. Ra1 sort of hits a7 while defending the misplaced Knight. White loses tempos bigtime. Black's 32. ... Qc4 is menacing in itself, but now we see the Knight on e5 is a monster. If it makes it to g4, it's going to be lights-out for White. f3 a good square too. White kills the Knight but then gets a demonstration of a Zwischenzug - an in-between move. Instead of the knee-jerk recapture with the f pawn, Black checks with the Queen, snags the Bishop, and forks the Rook and g-pawn.
Black threatens something like 1. ... Qxg3+ 2. Kf1 Bc4# When White prevents this with Rf1, Black scoops up both reminaing Kingside pawns then scoops up the Knight on a4. Brutal.


Backing waaaay up now, I'd choose a different move that 5. g3.

Instead, I'd consider the prophylactic (and most common White move behind 5. g3) 5. a3 Black's best response is 5. ... Nge7. 18 games featuring other responses yielded -0- wins for black. Ouch. This seems to be one of those cases where both players have chances but one side (in this case Black) has to play much better to achieve a good result.

The first 10 moves are straight out of theory; there was no deviation in the master games.

I'll present the last games to amuse us - I have no more time for running the engine or providing b-player analysis.

This is an ECO D08. White is Anatoly Karpov and Black is Rustam Kasimdzhanov - two heavyweights, to be sure. This encounter is from the Keres Memorial at Tallinn on January 8th, 2006.


[fen ""]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 d4 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. a3 Nge7 6. b4 Ng6 7. Bb2 a5 8. b5  Ncxe5 9. Qxd4 Qxd4 10. Bxd4 Nxc4 11. Nfd2 Nd6 12. a4 Nf5 13. Bc3 Bc5 14. e3 O-O  15. Nb3 Bb6 16. N1d2 Nd6 17. Nc4 Nxc4 18. Bxc4 Re8 19. O-O Ne5 20. Be2 Be6 21.  Nxa5 Rxa5 22. Bxe5 Bb3 23. Bf4 Rxa4 24. Rxa4 Bxa4 25. Ra1 Bb3 26. Bf3 Bc4 27.  Rb1 Bd3 28. Rb3 Be4 29. Bxe4 Rxe4 30. Rc3 Rb4 1/2-1/2

The game is blown wide open. If Karpov can stand it, you can too.

Here are two more samples with the same 10 first moves. The viewer may not show it but White wins both.

Fernando Peralta v Manuel Perez Candelario, Nov. 8th, 2006.


[fen ""]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 d4 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. a3 Nge7 6. b4 Ng6 7. Bb2 a5 8. b5  Ncxe5 9. Qxd4 Qxd4 10. Bxd4 Nxc4 11. e3 Nd6 12. Nbd2 Bd7 13. a4 f6 14. Be2 Ne7  15. O-O Nd5 16. Rfc1 c6 17. bxc6 Bxc6 18. Bc5 Nf5 19. Nb3 Nb4 20. Bb6 Bd7 21.  Bxa5 Nc6 22. Bb6 Be6 23. Nc5 Bxc5 24. Bxc5 Kf7 25. Rcb1 Na5 26. e4 Ne7 27. Nd4  Bd7 28. Nb5 Ng6 29. Nd6+ Ke6 30. Bg4+ 1-0

And one more. Mihajlo Stojanovic v. Branko Tadic, March 12th, 2007.


[fen ""]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 d4 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. a3 Nge7 6. b4 Ng6 7. Bb2 a5 8. b5  Ncxe5 9. Qxd4 Qxd4 10. Bxd4 Nxc4 11. e3 Nd6 12. Nbd2 Bd7 13. a4 f6 14. Bd3 Bf5  15. Be2 Ne4 16. g4 Nxd2 17. gxf5 Nb3 18. fxg6 Nxa1 19. Bxa1 Bb4+ 20. Kf1 hxg6  21. Kg2 O-O-O 22. Rc1 Kb8 23. Nd4 Rh4 24. Bd3 Bd6 25. h3 Rdh8 26. Bxg6 Rxh3 27.  Nf3 R3h6 28. Bd3 g5 29. Rc4 Rd8 30. Bf5 Re8 31. Bc3 b6 32. Rg4 Reh8 33. Re4 Rf8  34. Nd4 Rh2+ 35. Kf3 Kb7 36. Ne6 g4+ 37. Rxg4 Rh5 38. Be4+ Ka7 39. Nxf8 f5 40.  Rg8 1-0

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Very fun read. Thanks for the work! –  Daniel Jan 30 '13 at 16:29

A flexible and well respected approach is to take the e-pawn, put knights on f3 and d2, and follow up with a king side fianchetto. You will find this article very useful on how to deal with it. Patience is the key. Don't try to "refute" it as soon as you can. It is a perfectly playable opening for black. But play prophylactic moves that develop and reduced black's counterplay, and you will be fine.

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Declining the gambit

Not really. White is at an advantage accepting, and will fall to a disadvantage if the gambit is declined.

Maintaining a closed position

Well, considering White aggressively played 1. d4 .. 2. c4 there is no closing this position up. The rest of the game will be open.

Maybe 3. e3

This option is so-so.

[FEN ""]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5 3. e3 Bb4+ 4. Nc3 Ne7 5. dxe5 Nbc6 6. Nf3

Blunting black's counterattack

Yes. This is the route you should travel and it will bear fruit. Be aware of Black's main attack which is exploiting e3 when a bishop check Bb4+ is available. That can be very deadly and is known as the Lasker Trap. Do not allow Black to check on Bb4 while dxe3 is available. Accept the advantage, fiancetto the king side, and move into a positional advantage, fully defended, and ahead in development:

[FEN ""]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 d4 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. g3 Nge7 6. Bg2 Ng6 7. Bg5 Qd7 8. O-O Ngxe5 9. Nxe5 Nxe5 10. Nd2 h6 11. Bf4 Ng6 12. Nb3 Nxf4 13. gxf4 c5 14. e3 Be7 15. exd4 cxd4 16. Qxd4
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