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Alapin-Diemer Gambit: ECO C00

"All openings are sound below master level."
    - GM William Lombardy (1937-?)

Introduction

Do you sigh--heavy with melancholy--when your chessic opponent plays the French Defense? If so, you're not alone. Since the discovery of this incredibly boring opening, people have sought high and low for ways to spice it up. Don't fluff up the pillows for that nap yet, though, as I'm going to show you a gambit in the French that leads to an open game with sharp tactics all around.

While it lacks the in-your-face attitude of the less popular Diemer-Duhm Gambit (DDG), the Alapin-Diemer Gambit (ADG), also known by some as the Alapin French, is possibly more sound as it sees much more master level play than the DDG1. Best of all, there's very little theory to memorize. Just some key ideas and concepts to remember and then a lot of attacking.

The Alapin-Diemer Gambit is named for Simon Alapin, the first player known to have played it, and Emil Joseph Diemer, who seems to have his name attached to every strange gambit he ever played. It is a highly playable gambit and an unpleasant surprise for your opponent leading him instantly out of his memorized theory and into tricky territory riddled with landmines for the unwary.

Definition

The Alapin-Diemer Gambit is defined by the moves:

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Be3


                         Diagram 1: After 3. Be3
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |BR |BN |BB |BQ |BK |BB |BN |BR | 8
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |BP |BP |BP |   |   |BP |BP |BP | 7
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |BP |   |   |   | 6
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |BP |   |   |   |   | 5
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |WP |WP |   |   |   | 4
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |WB |   |   |   | 3
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |WP |WP |WP |   |   |WP |WP |WP | 2
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |WR |WN |   |WQ |WK |WB |WN |WR | 1
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                      A    B   C   D   E   F   G   H
                        

By playing 3. Be3 you are stating that black has no business playing with the stodgy old French Defense, and that you'll pay no more attention to his or her assertion into the center than you will to your e-pawn, which is about to fall. It's an insulting move, and a fun one. A few years ago I played this line in a tournament game, and after I played 3. Be3, my opponent wrinkled up his nose, rubbed his temples, and burned 15 minutes on his clock on move three. Even if it were totally unsound, the psychological edge of such an opening in amateur play can be enough to unbalance your opponent. Fortunately, it's not unsound, either.

ADG Accepted 3. ... dxe4

This is really the only way for black to play in this opening. By accepting the gambit pawn, your opponent is attempting to call your bluff and show the weakness of your gambit, but happily, you're not bluffing. The main continuation follows with 4. Nd2 Nf6 5. f3 (see Diagram 2) pressuring black's pawn on e4 to give up and capture so as to allow your knight on g1 to develop to f3 with a gain of tempo. With the center ripped open, all that remains is storming the enemy camp. The light square bishop usually goes to d3 (after the black pawn on e4 has been removed, obviously), to support the kingside assault. Castling, if done at all, should be queenside so that you can support your kingside offensive with your kingside pawns.



                         Diagram 2: After 5. f3
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |BR |BN |BB |BQ |BK |BB |   |BR | 8
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |BP |BP |BP |   |   |BP |BP |BP | 7
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |BP |BN |   |   | 6
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 5
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |WP |BP |   |   |   | 4
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |WB |WP |   |   | 3
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |WP |WP |WP |WN |   |   |WP |WP | 2
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |WR |   |   |WQ |WK |WB |WN |WR | 1
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                      A    B   C   D   E   F   G   H
                        

ADG Declined 3. ... Nc6?

This is really a bad line for black, so it's unlikely that you'll see it very often, but for the sake of completeness, I'll include it here, so that you can see what needs to be done should black decline you gracious offer of a pawn that you may punish him or her appropriately.

The typical continuation is 4. e5! Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. c3 (see Diagram 3) leaving white with a large, powerful, and easy to defend pawn center, and black totally undeveloped and likely to remain cramped for the entire game. The usual middlegame ideas are again, a kingside attack, perhaps going for a pawn break on the f file eventually. The queen possibly supporting the dark squared bishop (and the pawn on b2) by Qd2 and so on. If you get this position as white, just play good moves and you'll have a comfortable position with tons of space as white.


                         Diagram 3: After 6. c3
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |BR |BN |BB |BQ |BK |BB |   |BR | 8
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |BP |BP |   |BN |   |BP |BP |BP | 7
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |BP |   |   |   | 6
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |BP |BP |WP |   |   |   | 5
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |WP |   |WP |   |   | 4
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |WP |   |WB |   |   |   | 3
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |WP |WP |   |   |   |   |WP |WP | 2
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |WR |WN |   |WQ |WK |WB |WN |WR | 1
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                      A    B   C   D   E   F   G   H
                        

In Closing

In essence, the Alapin-Diemer Gambit is a sharp and usable attack against the tiring French Defense. You will usually end up way ahead in time and space for the pawn sacrifice, and can rain fire upon your opponent's kingside and center and perhaps convince them to play something a little more interesting in the future. This opening (or any gambit, really) is not for the faint of heart, but playing it will sharpen your tactical play.



1 The ADG sees 260 games in ChessBase's 2003 Big Database, as opposed to 61 games of the DDG.

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