Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Taking up the Polar Bear

Polar Bird?

The past seven years I have played almost solely gambits.

With white:
King's gambit.
Alapin Diemer gambit against the French.
Caro kan with 3.Qf3 gambitline.
Myers gambit against the Alekhine defense.
Smith Morra gambit.
Wing gambit against the sicilian.

With black:
Marshall gambit in the Scandinavian.
Portuguese gambit in the Scandinavian.
Icelandic gambit in the Scandinavian.
Fajarowitsch variation of the Budapest gambit.
Hartlaub-Bloodgood gambit against the QP.
Albin counter gambit (a 20 or so cc-games)
Benko gambit.
Fromm gambit against the Bird.
Bellon gambit against the English.

Further I created a few gambits of my own on the fly.

I always liked the description of Tim Harding how an opponent experiences a gambit:
  • Move 5: I can refute this gambit in half a dozen ways!
  • Move 10: Maybe my opponent has slight compensation, but I'll soon neutralize it.
  • Move 15: Maybe one of the other refutations was clearer.
  • Move 20: X is the best move, but if I play it my opponent can force perpetual check/a level endgame.
  • Move 25: I definitely underestimated his attack!
  • Move 30: I resign.
It shows exactly what a good gambit is all about: long term compensation. There is no need to hurry, but you can't afford to lose time. Make every move count but don't attack prematurely.
From the 3 main benefits of a gambit, lead in development, wrecked enemy structure and open lines, I consider the opening of lines as the most important. Which is typically a long lasting advantage. Since it is long lasting, you can afford to build up the attack well. A gambit can only be good if the opponent is worse off if he declines it.

I started with gambits in order to become better in tactics. Without false modesty, I can say the gambits served their goal. I gained about 250 ratingpoints, which can solely be attributed to my improvement in tactical play. I haven't played a single dull game when it was a gambit. My enjoyment in the game has grown immense by playing gambits.

All the gambits above are perfectly playable at my level and beyond. Yet I found that something is itching lately. Maybe you have noticed. Now my opponents become stronger, the edge I used to have because of playing a gambit fades away more often than not. That doesn't mean that they refute the gambits, but that the game is often about level at the end of the middlegame.

I want more. It is evident that the level of my positional play is way below my tactical skills. I want to improve my positional skills too. In spite all the benefits I had from gambit play I never had the feeling that it suited my style. That's why it was so beneficial for me, it was very alien to me. That why it's so enriching. Lately I have played the Polar Bear a few (<25) times in my cc-games and in one serious yet unrated OTB game. The positions I get triggers something in me. Allthough I still mistreat the opening from time to time, I like the long term pressure you get. Slowly squeezing the enemy is more according to my character than a risky assault. Being able to do both is having the best of two worlds.

My positional play is below all standards. In order to improve in this area, I have decided to play the Polar Bear with both black and white. For now only in cc-games and unrated OTB games at the club. Since my positional play is below the standards of my opponents, I can't permit to use the Polar Bear in rated games at the moment yet. Except with black, since for the moment I don't have a better opening against 1.d4. But with hard work that gap in positional level between me and my opponents will soon be bridged. Of course the Polar Bear is slow. But not any slower than 1.d4 or 1.c4.
I really look forward to it!


  1. so... it seems like gambits are in fact positional openings: losing material to gain positional advantages. sounds almost like the opposite of a tactic. :)

  2. WW,
    maybe that my choice of gambits discloses my character. I consider gambits which only give piece play, disturb the opponent, bring him out of book and/or are speculative as bad gambits. A good gambit gives you a positional edge. In practice that often means that the tactics flow easier.

  3. all your work, before and after must be resoundingly applauded.

    all very smart, forces tactics, throws not all but the great majority of opposition upon its own resources, and allows you to focus MORE on chess and less on book memorization, while allowing you to have a plan.

    funny, my first glance at the polar bear, and i think: "wormwood would like this", and there he is in the comments.