4

My experiment is inspired by Hikaru Nakamura's "Botez Gambit Speedrun". The term "Botez Gambit" refers jocularly to the act of blundering your queen.

Let's say you had the black pieces, and you're going to play against either Magnus Carlsen or an engine. You agree that your opponent, who has the white pieces, will give up his queen without getting too much in return.

Let's say the game goes:

[FEN ""]
 1. e4 c5 2. Qg4 d5 3. Qxc8 dxe4 4. Qxb8 Qxb8

From the resulting position, I've tried numerous times to play with the black pieces and to defeat Stockfish under blitz conditions.

The engine evaluation happens to be that Black is ahead by 4 points, so I should be able to do it. But I just couldn't.

It seemed to me that there was so much counterplay available for white to use, with the light-squared bishop going to b5, the knight going to e5 or g5 in order to threaten f7, the rooks coming to the central files to go after a king that can't manually castle so easily... scary stuff, at least on the surface.

Therefore, the position raises my curiosity.


Here's my question. I'm not an expert, but I suppose many on this forum are.

If you have 10 minutes to calculate and strategize on your own, before playing a blitz game from that position, what would your plans and thoughts be?

2
  • 1
    @BrianTowers I've deleted one of the two queries in my question, is it ok now, cheers May 11 at 0:37
  • Simplification!
    – David
    May 11 at 7:00

2 Answers 2

1

Yes you should be able to get a good position against Magnus/engine.

Obviously, Magnus/engine is going to start with Bb5+ Kd8 to misplace our king, and I'm going to assume d3 to break open the position further. From here, we can finally start to think.

We are behind in development, and our king is sort of stranded in the center, but we need to accurately assess that our king is not in any danger. Any bishop check can be blocked with Nf6 (a healthy developing move we want to make anyway), and any potential rook check can be blocked by Bd6 (a healthy developing move we want to make anyway) or potentially even Ke7 if we've already gotten our bishop out.

Focusing on development above all else immediately has got to be the name of the game, but we can definitely afford to take on d3 if white offers us the tempo, since both cxd3 and Bxd3 (retreating) don't bring out more pieces with time.

We possibly also want to be able to harass the light squared bishop which is just hanging out on our side of the board with a6 because it cannot keep its strong diagonal towards our king with Ba4 because b5 Bb3 c4 traps the bishop (if d3 has not been played). This would be a serious weakening of the queenside pawns if we choose to do this, so ultimately I'm thinking our king is better placed on the kingside. That is, e7, or later f8/g8.

Therefore, I think the game should go:

[FEN ""]
 1. e4 c5 2. Qg4 d5 3. Qxc8 dxe4 4. Qxb8 Qxb8 5. Bb5+ Kd8 6. d3 exd3 7. Bxd3 e6 8. Nf3 Bd6 9. O-O Nf6 10. Re1 Ke7

From here I think we can all agree that white has no more initiative, our pieces are almost fully developed, and therefore black is just up a queen. While you can't predict the entirety of the game, you should be trying to break open the position (especially if you can attack your opponent's king) so that your queen is much more of a queen instead of a bishop like it currently is. If there are checks in the position, then loose pieces are going to drop off everywhere. The only hope for white is to maintain a fortress where every single piece/pawn is defended. Ultimately though, we can always sacrifice an exchange or something similar in order to make a decisive breakthrough towards the king (or even on the queenside), so a fortress shouldn't ever really be a concern.

2

I'm confident a GM will beat Stockfish from that position. The key is to simplify the position ASAP. You can even give up material to do so as long as you retain enough material/advantage to win.

Here's an example of GM David Smerdon doing it against Komodo. Komodo gave knight odds, i.e. GM Smerdon plays Black every game and White starts without the g1- or b1-knight. They played six rapid games.

Game 1 was important, because it shows you can blunder and if you do the computer will punish you, and once the evaluation is ~0.00 in a complicated position then it is really hard to avoid losing. But game 2 shows what you can do as the human player. Smerdon gave up a pawn to get the queens off the board, and then another pawn to simplify the position and stop Komodo's counterplay. The computer eval of his position undoubtedly worsened (i.e. became closer to 0.00), but the position was still winning, and more importantly it was easier to play. GM Smerdon repeated this in game 3, giving up a beautiful bishop to force the queens off, and got to another technically winning endgame. Something similar happened in games 4-6, and GM Smerdon came out the comfortable winner.

So that is the general plan: develop your pieces, stop your opponent's counterplay, don't blunder, simplify simplify simplify, and reach a technically winning endgame. Easier said than done of course, but it's something a GM should be able to manage.

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