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The Vienna Game is an old chess opening for White that is not played so much any more at master or beginner level, because it is generally a lot easier for Black to equalize early on than in other king's pawn openings. White develops his queen's knight instead of his king's knight on the second move, often with the intention of playing 3.f4 to start a kingside attack in a form of delayed King's Gambit. However, there are a wide variety of possible setups for White in this opening, depending on his preference, including some extremely sharp lines which can take unprepared players by surprise. The opening moves are:

1.e4 e5
2.Nc3

By developing this knight, White forgoes the chance to put immediate pressure on Black's centre, choosing instead to solidify his own centre. The initiative is very important in chess, and the slight passivity of this move is probably the reason why Black has an easier time in the Vienna Game than in the lines beginning 2.Nf3. However, many top grandmasters have tried this opening, including, Boris Spassky, Vassily Smyslov, Nigel Short, and the current British number one, Michael Adams.

There is a very sharp and interesting line of the Vienna, called the Frankenstein-Dracula Variation (seriously!), in which White basically goes all-out to try and checkmate Black, and Black responds by sacrificing the exchange (rook for minor piece) to lead to an unclear and crazy position. The line goes:

1.e4 e5
2.Nc3 Nf6
3.Bc4 Nxe4! (if White now plays 4.Nxe4 then 4...d5 regains the piece for Black with easy equality. White can try 4.Bxf7+ Kxf7 5.Nxe4, but after 5...d5 Black is doing very well despite his displaced king. SO...
4.Qh5!? Nd6 (preventing checkmate on f7. White can now regain his pawn with 5.Qxe5+ but this only leads to equality.)
5.Bb3 Nc6
6.Nb5 g6 (If Black plays 6...Nxb5 then 7.Qxf7++ is goodnight)
7.Qf3 f5
8.Qd5 Qe7! (Black sacrifices some material to blunt White's initiative)
9.Nxc7+ Kd8
10.Nxa8

In this position Black will quickly capture the White knight trapped on a8, and even though White has won material, he has spent so much time getting it that he is in serious danger of being overrun in the center. A difficult position to play for both sides, and one which has not been exhausted despite decades of analysis. It is thought that Black is doing well here, but one slip can be fatal.

A new book on the Vienna, giving up-to-date analysis of this underrated opening, is Vienna Game by International Master Gary Lane (Everyman Chess, 2000)

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