1.e4 e5 2.f4 Although I've previously played this gambit in otb games this was the first occasion I've played it in a correspondence game.
2...exf4 3.Nf3 Be7 4.Bc4 Nf6 A logical development move, revived by Kmoch after WW2, and just a bit more popular than the bishop check on h4. Also played here is the central break [4...d5 5.exd5 Nf6 6.Nc3 0-0 7.0-0 Bg4 8.d4 and Black has a decent game. Now the previously unplayed move 8...Bb4!? deserved a better fate but did not work out after 9.Qd3 Bxc3 10.Qxc3 Ne4? (10...Nxd5!? ) 11.Qb3 with a decisive advantage 11...g5 (or if 11...Nd6 then 12.Bxf4 is very strong for White.) 12.Ne5 Bh5 13.Qxb7 Nd7 14.Nc6 preventing Rb8 and defending d4 14...Qf6 15.Qxc7 and White won in a few more moves as Black has insufficient compensation for the two pawns in Donnelly-Dobedoe (R), Training game with clocks, Coventry 1990.]
5.e5 Ng4 Black can also choose between two other interesting knight moves: either [5...Nh5 ; or 5...Ne4 These have been occasionally used by strong players such as Malaniuk in the first case, and Sokolov in the second case]
6.d4 There are numerous transpositional possibilities here depending on the order white plays d4, Nc3 and 0-0 each with subtle differences. For example, an early 0-0 allows Qe1+, if black plays as in the game, with Nh4 to follow hitting the bishop on f5.
6...d6 [6...d5 is the most usual line for black when play may continue 7.Bb3 (7.exd6 is a better option when the game can transpose to the main game but my opponent chose instead 7...Qxd6 in a latter game Chazalette-Pyrich, NFL-ch ICCF 2011 or Black can enter complications with (7...Bh4+ as played a couple of times by Mark Hebden.) ) 7...Bh4+ 8.Kf1 b6 9.Bxf4 Ba6+-/+ is the well known game Kramer-Euwe, Match Holland 1941.]
7.exd6 Bxd6 8.Qe2+ Kf8 GM Gallagher in his opening book only comments here "Not recommended" but matters did not seem that simple at the time the main game was played. In fact, some 18 years later analysis published on the ChessBase web site indicates the move is fully playable. [8...Qe7 is more usual but then 9.Qxe7+ Kxe7 10.0-0 gives White the better ending as pointed out by Thomas Johansson in his fine book "The Kings Gambit for the Creative Aggressor.]
9.Nc3 [9.0-0 can transpose into the main game via 9...Nc6 10.Nc3 or lead to independent play with 10...h6 (or 10...Nxd4 11.Nxd4 Bc5 12.Rxf4 Bxd4+ 13.Kh1 Nf6 14.Be3 Bxe3 15.Qxe3 Riva-Trani, The Climb ICCF 1997.; as well as after 10...g5 11.Ne4 Be7 12.c3 f5 13.Nexg5 Bxg5 14.Nxg5 Qxg5 15.Bxf4 Ninov-Georgiev, BUL-tch Plovdiv 2004.) 11.Bd2 g5 12.Ne4 Bf5 Popovych-Flear, Benedictine open, Manchester 1982.]
9...Nc6 [9...Bf5 is also playable for Black but did not fare well in the following game after holding the pawn the f4 pawn more securely with g5 10.0-0 g5 11.h3 Nh6 12.h4 f6 13.hxg5 fxg5 14.Ne4 Bxe4 15.Qxe4 Nc6 16.d5 Na5 17.Nxg5 and White is winning as in Gallagher-Timmerman, Douai 1993.]
10.0-0 [10.Nd5 is recommended by Glaskov and Estrin but it seems to me that Black has a reasonable game after, for example, 10...Be6 since if 11.Nxf4 then 11...Bxc4 12.Qxc4 Qe7+ is good for Black. In addition, Black may even consider 10...g5 by analogy with the note on move 11.; 10.Bd2 with the idea of an early queen-side castling is an interesting possibility which I have discussed with Thomas Johansson but without agreeing on an assessment of the resulting position!]
10...Bf5 [10...Nxd4 11.Nxd4 Bc5 12.Rxf4! Bxd4+ 13.Kh1 Nf6 14.Qd3 is good for White a line suggested by Thomas Johansson in his book on the Kings Gambit and improves on the play in the Riva game given earlier.]
11.h3 [11.Nd5 is generally thought of as good for White but Glaskov and Estrin point out 11...g5! and I could find no way for White to get a comfortable game.; 11.Bd2 Qf6 12.Rae1 Nxd4 13.Nxd4 Qxd4+ 14.Kh1 g5 15.Nb5 Qb6 16.Bc3 f6 17.h3 h5 was Vega-Durao Sevilla Open 1999 but is an unconvincing offer of a second pawn even though White won.; 11.Ne4 is the other idea played by White and leads to unclear play after 11...Bxe4 (or 11...h6 12.c3 g5 (but not 12...Qe7 13.Nxd6 cxd6 14.Bxf4 Qxe2 15.Bxe2+/- Gabrieksen-Pedersen, Four Nations Tjele 1994.) ) 12.Qxe4 Qf6 Melo-Verenhitach, corr Brazil CXEB 1995.]
11...Nf6 12.Nb5 Ne4 [12...a6 wastes a move and White is then better eg 13.Nxd6 Qxd6 14.c3 Ne4 (14...Re8 15.Qd2 ) 15.Ne5 (15.Nh4 is less clear due to 15...Ng3 16.Qf2 g5 (and not 16...Nxf1 17.Nxf5 Qg6 18.Qxf4+- and the knight is trapped.) ) ]
13.Nxd6 Qxd6 [13...Ng3 allows White to instigate a range of interesting ideas some of which win outright. For example, 14.Qd2 (or 14.Nxf5 Nxe2+ 15.Bxe2 g6 16.Nh6 with 3 pieces for the Q+P and a strong attack.; and 14.Qd1 Nxf1 (14...Qxd6 15.Re1 ) 15.Nxf7+- ) 14...Nxf1 15.Qxf4+- ]
14.Bxf4 The point of White's play from move 11.
14...Qxf4 15.Ne5 Nxd4 [If 15...Qd2 16.Nxc6 Qxe2 17.Bxe2 bxc6 (17...Ng3 18.Bc4 Nxf1 19.Rxf1 bxc6 20.Rxf5 f6 21.Rc5 gives sufficient play for the exchange due to a lead in development and Black's poor pawn structure.) 18.Rxf5 Ng3 19.Rf2+/- ]
16.Rxf4 Nxe2+ 17.Bxe2 Nd6 18.Raf1 Increasing the pressure on f5, and indirectly f7, which can also be achieved by 18. Nc4. However, the tactical shot [18.Nxf7 doesn't work as Black is fine, for instance via 18...Kxf7 19.g4 Kf6 20.Raf1 g6 21.Bd3 Rhg8-/+ ]
18...Be6 19.c4 [Alternatives favour black for example 19.Rxf7+ Nxf7 20.Nxf7 Bxf7 21.Bc4 Ke7 22.Rxf7+ Kd6 23.Rxg7 Rae8-/+ ; or 19.Bg4 f5 (19...Ke7 is OK for White with decent play for the pawn eg 20.Bxe6 fxe6 21.c4 Rhf8 22.c5 Rxf4 23.Rxf4 Nf5 24.g4 ) 20.Bxf5 Nxf5 21.g4 g6-/+ ]
19...c5 [19...f6 20.c5 Nf7 21.Nxf7 Bxf7 (21...Kxf7 22.Bh5+ g6 23.Bf3 and White has the initiative for a pawn (the obvious 23.Rxf6+ is not so good due to 23...Ke7 24.Bg4 Bf5-/+ (and not the pawn grab 24...Bxa2 25.R6f4+- ) ) ) 22.Bf3 with Ra4 to follow gives plenty of play for the pawn.]
20.b4 g5 [20...Rc8 defends c5 but then White can play 21.Bg4 Ke7 22.Nxf7 (not 22.Bxe6 fxe6 23.Nf7= ) 22...Nxf7 23.Bxe6 Kxe6 24.Rxf7 cxb4 25.Rxg7 Rxc4 26.Rxb7 with an edge in the double rooks ending.; Instead 20...cxb4 21.c5 Nf5 22.Rxf5 (and 22.c6 bxc6 23.Rxf5 Bxf5 24.Rxf5 f6 25.Nxc6 ) 22...Bxf5 23.Rxf5 are both promising for White.]
21.Rf6 [After 21.Rf6 long analysis by both players had indicated, perhaps somewhat suprisingly, the position is roughly dynamically balanced where both parties seem in danger of losing! A draw was agreed at this point in the game. A brief summary of key lines indicates some of the complexities: 21...Ke7 22.Bg4 Ne4 23.R6f3 (23.Rxf7+ is another White option 23...Bxf7 24.Rxf7+ Kd6 25.Rf5 (or also 25.Nd3 cxb4 26.Rd7+ Kc6~~ ) 25...Rhf8 26.bxc5+ Kc7 27.Nf3 h6 28.Rd5 Nf6 and now 29.Nd4 leads to very obscure complications.; Also rather obscure is 23.Rh6 cxb4 24.Re1 Nc3 25.Nxf7 Kxf7 26.Rhxe6 h5 27.Rf1+ Kg7 28.Re7+ Kg6 29.Bf5+ Kf6 30.Re6+© ) 23...Nd2 24.Rxf7+ Bxf7 25.Rxf7+ Kd6 26.Nd3 Nxc4 27.bxc5+ Kd5 28.Rxb7© Sadly my opponent recently passed away and will sincerely be missed by many friends and chess players. George was always very objective and pleasant in his comments about our several correspondence games and was a Correspondence Chess International Master player of some note. He also did a tremendous amount of work in the sphere of Correspondence Chess organisation both for Scotland and also the ICCF. It was a genuine pleasure to meet him face to face for the first time at the ICCF Congress in Cardiff in 2015.] 1/2-1/2