I am currently reading Chess Openings: Theory and Practice - I.A Horowitz. The first opening displayed in the book is a variation of the bishops opening: 1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nf3. Seemingly the best continuation for black, if they can defend properly, is to continue 4 ... Nxe4 and to 5. Qxd4 respond with 5 ... Nf6.

From this point Horowitz goes on to consider the variation 6. Bg5 Be7 7. Nc3 c6:

rnbqk2r/pp1pbppp/2p2n2/6B1/2BQ4/2N2N2/PPP2PPP/R3K2R w KQkq - 0 8

This seems fine for white (to me) by basic chess principles (good development, castling around the corner). However I have two questions:

What if black had responded with 6 ... Qe7+? It seems like white either trade queens and is worse or moves the king allowing Nc6 and is just worse?

What can white do after 5 ... Nf6? My thinking is that 6. Bg5 is the mistake so perhaps 6. Nc3.

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    You have to keep in mind that the book you're reading was written in the 1960's. Chess opening theory has come a long way since then, and it's almost a guarantee that most of the lines given in the book are severely outdated. In this case the problem seems to be that the gambit line itself is not worth it; White doesn't get enough compensation for the pawn no matter what, as far as I can see. – Scounged Nov 5 '20 at 21:43
  • What could be the continuation after 6.Qe7+ 7.Kf1? – David Nov 6 '20 at 7:13
  • @David In that case I think something like 7 ... Nc6 8. Qh4 d5 9. Bxd5 Qd6 10. Bxc6 Qxc6 would work, leaving black with the bishop pair and open lines for them to develop, not completely winning but I like to play black in that situation . Stockfish 11 (on chess.com) otherwise suggests after 7 .... Nc6 and 8 Qf4 the move 8 ... h6 simplifying the position after 9. Bxf6, again with bishop pair for black. – André Armatowski Nov 6 '20 at 14:25
  • Good comment @Scounged! I will keep that in mind while reading. Being a lower rated player I still find it beneficial to look at the openings, as my opponents are yet not to good at responding to them. Also, the book has helped me get better at calculating. I think my best plan would be to pick up another book as well or consider studying something like chess.com's database for something more viable! – André Armatowski Nov 6 '20 at 14:44
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    For a good lecture about the Urusov Gambit and related openings, I suggest you the monograph by the Kenniltworth Chess Club: kenilworthchessclub.org/urusov/gambit/index.html It is thought for players of white pieces. – djnavas Nov 10 '20 at 5:22

Using Caissabase or the lichess masters database we can see that instead of Nxe4, Nc6 is more popular to avoid this gambit idea (the Urusov gambit) which is.... dubious but not so simple and seemingly scores fine enough. White has additionally scored p decently.

Qe7+ has only been played in one game, but seems good (black won that game, and SF12 gives -0.89 at depth 37, which is quite good). Nc6 and Be7 are both fine, but Nc6 is probably slightly better, judging from the fact that the lichess database shows it as most common with quite a hefty advantage for black, as opposed to the noticeably higher win rate for white (seemingly due to this very variation, as it turns out!). SF also likes Nc6 best, with an evaluation of -0.86 at depth 40.

After Nf6, Nc3 is seemingly more popular nowadays (as the lichess masters database), but has worse results.

My recommendation would be to consider not playing this gambit in the first place, since the Urusov Gambit is somewhat iffy, although it's probably still playable at a sub-master level, or to get a more recent book on this. This book is from the 1960s, as @Scounged very nicely pointed out, and as such is almost entirely useless- the only cases where it's useful are for general plans and opening names, and even here it will be severely lacking. If you want a starting opening book, Fundamental Chess Openings by Paul van der Sterren is great, although again note that many of the lines will be incorrect (esp in theoretical openings e.g. e4 e5 or the Sicilian)- focus instead on plans and names, and supplement with other sources (books, videos, courses).

  • Thank you for the analysis! Your advice seems sound. I will check out Paul van der Sterren's book. Do you happen to have a good recommendation for a book if I would like to go further into the theoretical openings (something that perhaps focuses, almost entirely, on the Sicilian)? Or is a database, e.g chess.com's, more viable for learning? – André Armatowski Nov 6 '20 at 15:04
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    For the Sicilian there's definitely books on it, but I'm not sure- I know there's a course by IM Christof Sielecki about a new (yet sound apparently) variation of the Sicilian, called "The Dirty Harry Sicilian" There are also many youtube channels with opening videos, but treat them like older books- that is to say, with caution and checking. Databases can serve as an additional resource to books to patch up questions/holes you see, but cannot serve as a sole resource due to the plans/ideas not being explained. – pulsar512b Nov 6 '20 at 19:45
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    And if you want other openings, generally searching the opening name on some chess book site or Chessable will show you plenty of options for courses/books on it- most recent is generally going to be best. – pulsar512b Nov 6 '20 at 19:45

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