08 January 2023

Book completed - The Fabulous Budapest Gambit (New Edition)

The "New and Updated" (2017) edition of The Fabulous Budapest Gambit by GM Viktor Moskalenko, which I recently completed, was probably the first openings book I studied more for general chess skills benefit rather than as a deliberate addition to my openings repertoire. That said, I probably will put the knowledge to use at some point and it seems like a very interesting and at times fun opening to play.

Table of Contents (from New in Chess site)

Moskalenko (as can be seen above) enjoys using some more creative, thematic and even poetic ways of classifying concepts and variations. This translates into (after 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 Ng4):
  • Chapter 1: 4. Bf4 (Rubinstein Variation)
  • Chapter 2: 4. e4 (Alekhine System)
  • Chapter 3: 4. Nf3
  • Chapter 4: 4. e3 and sidelines, including the gambit declined
  • Chapter 5: The Fajarowicz Gambit (3...Ne4)

The primary reasons I went through this book, first using a physical board for initial study then entering chosen lines into my repertoire database, were to get exposed to new and different ideas, along with an appreciation and enjoyment of Moskalenko's teaching style. He starts and ends each chapter and sub-part with a discussion of key ideas for both sides, annotating a selection of complete games as showcases. These include everything from classic games by early 20th century giants up to contemporary tournament and internet games. 

While Moskalenko makes judgments about each line, it is deliberately not a fixed repertoire book and he encourages exploring different approaches and ideas. In that sense it is also a very practical book, not simply searching for the best theoretical line. At the same time, he does not flinch from pointing out serious difficulties and issues. The fact that he has real experience playing the opening at the tournament level is reflected in his ability to evaluate the practical chances in various lines and also present the opening as more of a living, breathing complex of ideas rather than a stale academic study.

It is important to evolve your openings repertoire over time, so that it (and you as a player) do not become stale and bored. For success in tournament play, it is also important to have more unbalanced openings in your toolkit, to be able to increase your winning chances in key situations. The surprise factor is also no joke, especially if your particular opening choice does well against "standard" or "obvious" moves played by an opponent unfamiliar with it. The Budapest Gambit appears to meet that need against 1. d4, as tactics lurk throughout it and in most lines it offers Black significant attacking chances. That said, there is still no "free lunch" and if your opponent plays solidly, as in most games of chess it will end up being your knowledge of the resulting middlegames and how to play them that determines how well you do against them.

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