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Nabokov, The Defense


The Elephant Walk

Every die hard gambit player is always looking for a black opening that will fit his or her slash and burn style of chess. However, my personal experience is that playing a gambit as black is a bit more dicey than playing it as white. I suspect it has something to do with being a bit behind since white has the first move and, at least theorhetically, falling a bit further behind by giving up the gambited pawn. Now that's red flag enough right there for you fient hearted positional players to start hitting the back button. But, gambit players as a whole aren't known for their timid tactics and black gambits such as the Elephant suit them just fine.



These are the crucial elements for the Elephant Gambit. You can't get there without white's help in the form of 2.Nf3. Most successful adherents to the gambit insist on 3. ..Bd6, whatever white's third move. Though far from an expert on any opening, I agree with this dogma on the Elephant. Enough of hearsay (I can't even call this theory), let's look at couple of games.


[Event "?"]
[Site "corrs.-"]
[Date "1897"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Zambelly"]
[Black "Maroczy"]
[Result "0-1"]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5 3.exd5 Bd6 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.Bb5+ c6 6.Ba4 e4 7.dxc6 O-O 8.Nd4 bxc6 9.Nxc6 Qb6 10.Nxb8 Rxb8 11.Bb5 Rd8 12.O-O Bxh2+ 13.Kxh2 Ng4+ 14.Kg3 Qc7+ 15.f4 exf3+ {e.p.} 16.Kxf3 Rd4 17.d3 Bb7+ 18.Ne4 Bxe4+ 19.Kxg4 Qh2 20.dxe4 Qxg2+ 21.Kh4 Rxb5 22.Qxd4 Rh5+ 23.Kxh5 Qh3+ 24.Kg5 h6+ 25.Kf4 g5+ 26.Ke5 Qe6 0-1


As you can see from the date on the above game, the idea of the Elephant has been around for at least 100 years. Maroczy worked his magic with the 3. ..Bd6 ploy. Now, look at this later game where a different tact is taken on the third move.


[Event "?"]
[Site "Liege Open"]
[Date "1983"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Debast"]
[Black "EJ, Diemer"]
[Result "0-1"]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5 3.exd5 e4 4.Qe2 Nf6 5.Nc3 Be7 6.Nxe4 O-O 7.d3 Nxd5 8.Be3 f5 9.Nc3 Bb4 10.Qd2 f4 11.Bd4 Re8+ 12.Be2 Nc6 13.a3 Bg4 14.Kf1 Rxe2 15.Qxe2 Nxd4 16.Qe4 Bxc3 17.bxc3 Nxf3 18.gxf3 Bh3+ 19.Ke1 Qd7 20.Kd2 Re8 21.Qd4 c5 22.Qxc5 Rc8 23.Qxa7 Nxc3 24.Rhe1 Qc6 25.Qd4 Nb1+ 26.Rexb1 Qxc2+ 0-1


Notice the venerable Herr Diemer takes a less subtle approach to move three with 3. ..e4, probably the most popular thrid move for the Elephant player.

Here are a couple of more Elephants that were previously on my main page, including the recent game by Tom Purser who co-authored what may have been the key text on the gambit, now, unfortunately, out of print. If you want to lean more about the opening do two things, surf over to the Chess Digest and order Englishman Jonathan Rogers little booklet Winning with the Elephant Gambit then write Tom and encourage him to get his book back in print. In the meantime enjoy the games.

Tom rides the elephant![Event "ICC u 2 12"]
[Site "Internet Chess Club"]
[Date "1997.05.14"]
[Round "-"]
[White "NN"]
[Black "Purser,T"]
[Result "0-1"]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5 3.exd5 Bd6 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.Bb5+ Bd7 6.Bxd7+ Nbxd7 7.O-O O-O 8.d3 h6 9.Nd2 Nb6 10.Nde4 Nfxd5 11.Nxd6 Nxc3 12.bxc3 Qxd6 13.Bb2 Na4 14.Qc1 Nxb2 15.Qxb2 b6 16.Rfe1 c5 17.c4 Rfe8 18.Re4 f5 19.Re3 Re7 20.Rae1 Rae8 21.Rf3 f4 22.g4 Qd7 23.h3 h5 24.Kh2 hxg4 25.hxg4 Qxg4 26.Rh3 f3 27.Rg1 Qf4+ 28.Rhg3 Re6 29.Qc1 Rh6+ 0-1


[Event "KO-109"]
[Site "IECC"]
[Date "1997.5.14"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Scott, Ken"]
[Black "Mongle, John"]
[Result "0-1"]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5 3.exd5 e4 4.Qe2 Nf6 5.d3 Qxd5 6.Nfd2 Bb4 7.c3 Be7 8.Nxe4 O-O 9.Bf4 Qc6 10.Nbd2 Nd5 11.Qf3 f5 12.Ng5 Bxg5 13.Bxg5 Re8+ 14.Kd1 h6 15.Bxh6 gxh6 16.Be2 Be6 17.Re1 Qa4+ 18.Kc1 Na6 19.Bd1 Qd7 20.d4 Rad8 21.Bc2 Bf7 22.Rxe8+ Rxe8 23.Nb3 Bg6 24.h3 c6 25.Kd2 Qe7 26.Rg1 Qg5+ 27.Kd1 Bh5 28.g4 fxg4 29.hxg4 Bg6 30.Nd2 Bxc2+ 31.Kxc2 Qg6+ 32.Kd1 Rf8 33.Qe2 Nf4 34.Qc4+ Kh8 35.f3 Nd3 36.Qb3 Nf2+ 37.Ke1 Nd3+ 38.Kd1 Nc7 39.Rg2 Re8 40.Ne4 Nd5 41.Kd2 Qf7 42.Qd1 Nxb2 43.Qh1 Nc4+ 0-1

I f you are hungry for more Black gambit play here is Greg's complete Elephant compliation from ICC for download in PGN format. If you have any thoughts or theory on the Elephant Gambit you are willing to share, please drop me a line.