1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 Be7 4.Bc4 [4.Nc3 is another major variation which almost demands the following bishop check is played 4...Bh4+ 5.Ke2 this is similar to the Steinitz Gambit variation of the Kings Gambit. Whether the White king is safe on e2 or not (where it also prevents development of the Bf1) is the tricky question. Black can try two ways to open the position to attempt to prove the king is exposed on e2. One is the most frequently played move 5...d5 an example of which is (and the second way is the relatively rare 5...f5 an example of which is 6.e5 d6 7.d4 Nc6 8.Bxf4 dxe5 9.dxe5 Be6 10.g3 Be7 11.Kf2 h6 12.h4 Bc5+ 13.Kg2 Nge7 14.Bb5 Qxd1 15.Rhxd1 Rd8 with an eventual draw in Basman-Stephenson, Manchester 1968.) 6.Nxd5 Nf6 7.Nxf6+ Qxf6 (7...Bxf6!? has also been anlaysed by GM Shaw.) 8.e5 (another line is 8.d4 which has been played by GMs Short and Gallagher.) 8...Qe7 9.d4 Bg4 10.Qd2 f6 11.Qxf4 Bxf3+ 12.gxf3 fxe5 13.Qxe5 Qxe5+ 14.dxe5 Nc6 15.f4 g5 16.Be3 gxf4 17.Bxf4 Nd4+ 18.Kd2 Rf8 19.Bg3 Bxg3 20.hxg3 0-0-0 21.Kc3 Rf3+ 22.Bd3 Rxg3 23.Rae1 Nxc2 24.Kxc2 Rdxd3 1/2:1/2 Basman-Stephenson, British Championship 1968.]
4...Nf6 5.e5 [5.d3 d5 6.exd5 Nxd5 7.0-0 0-0 and already Black had a good game in Bielby-Stephenson, Middlesbrough v Sunderland 1972 and went on to win (the game is annotated in the "Both sides of 1. e4 e5" article now in the archive section of this web site for Nov.-Dec. 2015).]
5...Ng4 6.0-0 By far the most commonly played move in this position. However, since the main game was played, and with many additional games played since then, plus much analysis, GM Shaw in his 2013 book no longer considers the move the most promising. Instead the following move is given an exclamation mark: [6.d4 which was given as the main line by Thomas Johansson in his 1998 book on the Kings Gambit. An example of subsequent play is the game Donnelly-Pyrich, Reg Gillman Memorial corr 1999 (cf "Brevities 15" article in the archive section of this web site).]
6...Nc6 7.d4 d5 8.Bb5?! [8.exd6 despite allowing rapid development of the Black queen or bishop, compensated in the latter case by the possibility of a check on e1 by the White rook or e1/e2 by the queen, is far and away the most common move here. It is played by the majority of highly rated players of the White pieces but; 8.Be2 is not bad at all, and was played by White in an earlier game which continued 8...Ne3 9.Bxe3 fxe3 10.c3 Be6 11.Qd3 Qd7 12.Qxe3 Bielby-Binks, BCF Major Open, Whitby 1962.]
8...0-0 Sensible play castling into safety. Black could risk [8...g5 but then the play could become rather murky after 9.h3 (as well as after 9.c4 Naumann-Stern, GER-ch Heringsdorf 2000.) 9...Nh6 Nacer-De Smet, Support for Africa ICCF E-mail 2008. This feature would have likely benefited White, more so than Black in the main game, as the former had remarkably fast, and far more often than not, sufficiently accurate appraisal of all types of positions. Playing in this manner helped White achieve some high places in the British Championships in the past and more recently jointly winning the British Seniors Championship.; whilst 8...Ne3 9.Bxe3 fxe3 10.Qd3 0-0 11.Qxe3 recovering the pawn with a co-ordinated game for White would justify the placing of the bishop on b5 as in Moulton-Durao, ENG-AUS corr. 1990.]
9.Bxf4 [Best since 9.h3 now just encourages 9...Ne3 10.Bxe3 fxe3 when Black has a number of interesting continuations after 11.Qe2 f6 (also feasible is 11...Nxd4 ; or 11...Bg5 ) 12.exf6 Bxf6 13.Qxe3 Bf5 and Black had a promising game in Bwalya-Mwali, Mansa Chilufya Memorial 2017.]
9...f6 By attacking the restrictive e5 pawn Black frees his game.
10.exf6 More or less forced. [10.h3 is bad due to 10...fxe5 11.dxe5 (11.Bxe5 Ne3 ; 11.Bxc6 exf4 ) 11...Rxf4 ; and 10.Bxc6 bxc6 11.h3 (11.exf6 Nxf6=/+ ) 11...fxe5 12.Nxe5 Nxe5 13.Bxe5 is also better for Black who has the two bishops and possible play on the b-file.]
10...Nxf6 11.Nc3 Bg4 12.Be5 Qd7 Again solid play. Instead Black could offer a pawn with [12...Nxe5 13.dxe5 Ne4 14.Qxd5+ (14.Nxe4 is good for Black after 14...dxe4 15.Qxd8 (or 15.Qe2 exf3 16.Qc4+ Kh8 17.Qxg4 Qd5 ) 15...Raxd8 ) 14...Qxd5 15.Nxd5 but play would have become extremely complex and difficult to judge in a practical game after 15...Bc5+ 16.Kh1 Nf2+ 17.Kg1 c6 18.b4 ]
13.h3 Bf5 14.Nh4 Ne4?! Initiating somewhat dubious complications as White could have gained a large edge. Instead [14...Be4 keeps the game balanced.]
15.Nxf5 Rxf5 16.Nxe4 Rxf1+ [16...dxe4 is a touch better although White has the much more promising game following 17.c3 Rxf1+ 18.Qxf1 Rf8 19.Qe2 a6 20.Ba4 (instead 20.Bc4+ Kh8 21.Qxe4 Nxe5 22.dxe5 Qd2 is less clear as Black has some threats for the pawn.) 20...b5 21.Bb3+ Kh8 22.Bg3+/- ]
17.Qxf1 dxe4 18.Qe2 Good enough to win but even more emphatic was [18.Qc4+ Kh8 19.Bxc6 Qxc6 (for if 19...bxc6 20.Qf7 Rg8 21.Re1+- mops up the e-pawn, leaves Black with broken pawns and White still having a grip on the game and threatening Rg4.) 20.Qf7 Bf8 21.Rf1 Qe8 22.Qxc7-+ ]
18...a6 19.Bc4+? Whilst winning a pawn this allows Black some "wriggle room". Instead [19.Qc4+ is again too strong eg 19...Kh8 20.Bxc6 Qxc6 21.Qf7+- ]
19...Kh8 20.Qxe4 Nxe5 21.dxe5 [21.Qxe5 allows Black to recover the pawn via 21...Bf6 22.Qd5 Bxd4+ 23.Kh1 Qxd5 24.Bxd5 c6 with a level game.]
21...Rf8 22.Bd3 Alternatives show that Black has some hidden resources: [22.Qxb7 Qd4+ wins a piece.; 22.e6 Qd6 gives Black some play eg 23.Re1 (or 23.Rf1 Rxf1+ 24.Bxf1 c6 and the opposite coloured bishops make it difficult to exploit the extra (and well blockaded) pawn.) 23...Rf4 24.Qd5 Qb4 ]
22...g6 Of course not missing the mate threat.
23.Re1 Whilst securing the extra pawn this task, at present, ties up two of White's major pieces and also the Bd3 is not now very active. Hence Black has surprisingly some slight compensation for the lost pawn. [23.Qxb7 is again too precipitous as after 23...Qd4+ 24.Kh1 Qxe5 the threat of Bd6 is dangerous for White.]
23...c6 24.Kh2 Qc7 25.h4 Bf6 Preventing the advance of the pawn and putting pressure on e5.
26.Qf4? White replies with a counter unpin/pin but Black exploits this to attain even chances. The best reply was [26.g3 Re8 27.e6 Kg7 28.Kh3 when White has made some progress albeit not yet achieved anything like a winning position.; but clearly not 26.h5 Re8 27.hxg6 Rxe5 and suddenly Black is winning.]
26...Bg7 27.Qg3 Re8 28.Kh1 Returning the pawn in this manner leads to some slight problems for White so better was [28.e6 Qxg3+ 29.Kxg3 Bxb2 with a more clearly level game.]
28...Rxe5 29.Rxe5 [29.Rf1 is also level after the rook unpin and guarding of the back-rank with 29...Qd8 ]
29...Qxe5 30.Qxe5 Bxe5 31.h5 This can be forced by Black playing Bg3 but the loss of a pawn can only give Black some (slight) winning chances. A remarkable turn-around from the game just 5 or 6 moves earlier.
31...gxh5 32.b3 [If 32.c3 then 32...a5 followed by placing the b- and c-pawns on black squares is irksome for White as Black can build up some pressure on the queens-side by a king and pawn advance in that sector of the board.]
32...a5 33.Kg1 Bd4+ 34.Kf1 Kg7 35.Ke2 The opposite coloured bishops means Black is not able to make much of the extra doubled pawn.
35...h6 36.Be4 [36.Bf5 is marginally more accurate as White's pieces are more active than in the game continuation following 36...Kf6 37.Bc8 b6 38.Kd3 ]
36...Kf6 37.Kd3 Ke5 38.a4 Black has more space and a touch of pressure but White holds the game together by placing all pawns on White squares so they may be guarded by the bishop.
38...Bf2 39.Bf3 h4 40.Bg4 b6 41.Kc4 Here the game was drawn. A nice save by both players ! White in an ending a pawn down, but principally for Black a pawn down in a very complex but losing middle-game. 1/2-1/2