Reviewed by P.P.O. Kane
The King’s Gambit for the Creative Aggressor
By Thomas Johansson
Schachverlag Kania, 2005
Quite an old book, having made its first appearance in 1998, but the King’s Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.f4) is itself a venerable opening and moreover one that has always promised entertaining and enterprising play, right from the start. It is still nowhere near to being refuted; and this excellent book provides, still, a useful survey of the opening.
The many complex positions that the King’s Gambit gives rise to present an ideal opportunity for learning how to exploit an initiative or a lead in development, and of course for learning how to attack. Johansson’s recommended repertoire is quite narrow and focused, as he himself concedes in the introduction, but it is thorough in regard to those lines that he does recommend. And note also that, like Joe Gallagher in Winning with the King’s Gambit (1993), he considers only the King Knight’s Gambit (3.Nf3) not, for example, 3. Bc4, the move favoured by Fischer.
Johansson begins by looking at various ways by which Black can decline the gambit (e.g. 2…Bc5 and 2…Qh4+) or go onto the offensive (with Falkbeer’s 2…d5 or 2…Nc6 3.Nf3 f5!?) at move two. His focus then shifts towards the intricacies of the King’s Gambit proper, where Black accepts the pawn (2…exf4 3.Nf3), including Fischer’s supposed ‘bust’ (3…d6) and the various tendrils that make up the Kieseritzky Gambit (3…g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ne5; and, incidentally, an interesting original suggestion of Johansson’s is 5.Nd4!? instead of 5.Ne5).
One practical advantage to playing the King’s Gambit is that you cannot get sidetracked into other openings. If you play the Spanish or the Scotch, for example, you have to reckon with encountering the Philidor or the Petroff (amongst others) instead. There’s none of that here: with 2.f4 White sets out his stall and determines the future course of the play.
This book is a good guide to some of the wares that the King’s Gambit has to offer.
About the reviewer: P.P.O. Kane lives and works in Manchester, England. He welcomes responses to his reviews and you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org