by Steve Lopez

Oh, man, I've died and gone to gambit heaven!

This past Thursday I received a mail package from Germany. I greedily tore it open and discovered a new ChessBase CD inside: The Gambit Lexicon by Alexander Bangiev.

This is some good stuff! Anyone who has checked the links at the end of each issue of ETN knows what a tremendous gambit freak I am. To keep me from sacrificing a pawn in the opening, you have to either nail them all to the board or threaten my life. Gambits are fun to play and lead to some very rich tactical positions. To be blunt, I'd rather lose an interesting game than win a boring one and gambit games are nearly always exciting.

What this disk appears to be (and I'm sure my German friends will correct me if I'm mistaken) is a collection of the games from ChessBase's various gambit floppies, collected on one CD with some introductory information supplied by GM Bangiev. Additional information from the ChessBase Opening Encyclopedia and ChessBase Magazine has been added as well.

I'll give you the bad news first: all of the text and multimedia files are in German. The games themselves are annotated primarily with Informant-style symbols; any text within the games will be either in English or German, so the disk is still very useful for non-German speakers. I don't understand German, so I will confess to a bit of disappointment at my inability to use the text introductions. But the great game collection alone is worth the price of admission.

There are 38 introductory texts in German, followed by nearly 116,000 gambit games (over 9000 are annotated). Nearly all gambits are covered here to some extent. Of course, you'll find the big favorites like the King's Gambit, the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, and the Smith-Morra Gambit. But I went in and checked some of the off-beat lines that I enjoy and discovered a lot of those here as well.

Here are some sample game totals to show you what to expect:

As you can readily see, the main gambit lines are covered in hundreds (or even thousands) of games. But what about the truly weird gambits? Just for laughs, I checked the Sicilian Halasz Gambit (1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.f4) and, sure enough, it's here (21 games). Even the Nimzovich line in the French Advance (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.Qg4) was represented by over 200 games in this database.

Even if you can't read German, games are pretty easy to find in The Gambit Lexicon. You can use the standard Search mask functions. The database has its own opening key. The openings are divided into three sections: Open Games (double-King pawn openings), Semi-open Games (1.e4 followed by something other than 1...e5), and Closed Games (all non-1.e4 openings). Once you go into one of these keys, you'll see opening names given in English and German, followed by hierarchal move orders in the deeper sub-lines.

The CD also contains an opening tree which can be used for statistical study or as an opening book for Fritz/Junior/Nimzo/Hiarcs. Just load the opening book and you can turn your program into a veteran gambiteer (or practice your own gambit play against a tactical powerhouse).

While not an encyclopedia of every gambit known to man (one of my current objects of study, the Troon Gambit, 1.e4 g5 2.d4 h6 3.h4, was omitted along with some similarly rare and weird lines), you should find The Gambit Lexicon to be an interesting and valuable addition to your ChessBase collection. Everybody either plays gambits or faces them at some point in their chess career, so it pays to be prepared. Studying the games on this CD will get you where you need to be as either a gambiteer or a crusher of gambits.

New CDs on the way! In upcoming ETN issues, we'll be looking at some more new CDs from ChessBase:

Until next week, have fun!

You can e-mail me with your comments, suggestions, and analysis for Electronic T-Notes. If you love gambits, stop by the Chess Kamikaze Home Page and the Yahoo Chess Kamikazes Club.