Budapest Gambit, The

Tim Taylor

Reviewer: John Donaldson
Everyman Chess
239 pages

The Budapest Gambit (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5) use to be a theoretical backwater. Though the gambit dates back to at least Adler-Maroczy, Budapest 1896 and has been seriously analyzed since 1916, until recently one could count the number of books devoted to it on one hand. The publication of Lev Gutman’s Budapest Fajarowicz (Batsford 2004) and Viktor Moskalenko’s The Fabulous Budapest Gambit (New in Chess, 2007) along with its occasional adoption by super GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, have done much to bring the Budapest into the mainstream. The latest word is The Budapest Gambit by American IM Tim Taylor.

Taylor, who has made a reputation as an author willing to challenge prevailing opinion, believes that White’s most challenging line against the Budapest is 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.e4. He is hardly alone in holding this opinion but what he thinks is Black’s best reply will surprise many – try 4……h5! (exclamation mark T.T.). This idea of Richard Reti, keeping the Knight in White’s territory for at least one more move, has been rarely played. Taylor is convinced that it is the answer to Black’s problems after spending 42 pages on move four alternatives. After 4…h5 Taylor suggests meeting 5.Be2 with 5……Nc6! and 5.f4 with 5……Bc5 with quick development compensating for the pawn. The author’s final conclusion is that the main line is 4…h5 5.h3 Nxe5 6.Be3 and that 6……Bb4+ offers good play. Taylor offers plenty of original analysis and ideas in the chapters on 4.e4 which make up over a quarter of the book.

While the Los Angeles based IM likes the early advance of the h-pawn in the e4 variation, he does not endorse its cousin – 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.Bf4 g5 – despite its adoption by Mamedyarov. He sees no reason to be optimistic about Black’s position after 5.Bg3 Bg7 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.h4!

This reviewer has always considered the variation 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.Bf4 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bb4+ 6.Nc3 Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 Qe7 8.Qd5 f6 9.exf6 Nxf6 10.Qd3 d6 11.g3 to be one of White’s most testing tries. Taylor agrees but believes that 11……0-0 12.Bg2 Bg4 13.0-0 Rae8 14.Rae1 Kh8 offers Black equal chances.

Another line that has posed problems to Budapest Gambiteers for years is 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.Bf4 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bb4+ 6.Nbd2 Qe7 7.e3 Nxe5 8.Nxe5 Nxe5 9.Be2 0-0 10.0-0. White avoids playing a3 hoping to gain a tempo if …Bxd2 is played without provocation. Taylor points out that Black has tried not only 10……Bxd2 but also 10……Re8, 10……d6 and 10……a5 with generally miserable results. These moves force the second player to either surrender the two Bishops or allow pawn weaknesses, or both. The author’s solution is the little known 10…Bd6!? which he spends seven pages examining. Clearly IM Taylor’s The Budapest Gambit is an original book!

While Taylor has warm feelings for the Budapest proper (3…Ng4), he does not share them for its little cousin the Fajarowicz (3……Ng4). To quote the author after 3…Ne4, “I have to admit right here that I don’t understand this gambit. Black is a pawn down but unlike in the regular Budapest, has no threat to get it back and no significant lead in development.

In From’s Gambit after 1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 Black at least has a mating threat, but I don’t see anything here – and therefore White can develop with a threat of his own.”

Taylor feels the most convincing sequence for White against the Fajarowicz is 4.Nd2 Bb4 5.Nf3 Nc6 6.g3 Qe7 7.Bg2 Nxd2 8.Bxd2 Bxd2+ 9.Qxd2 Nxe5 10.Nxe5 Qxe5 11.0-0 when Black has recovered his pawn but White has a lead in development and more space.

IM Taylor’s latest book is must reading for all that play the Budapest Gambit, particularly club players that want to meet 1.d4 with something a little spicier than normal. That said I must offer one caveat, which doesn’t have anything to deal with the viability of the Gambit. After 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 (intending 3.c4) I don’t see a good partner for the Budapest in the way that the Albin or Chigorin player can meet 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 with 2……Nc6. To this reviewer it would appear that the Budapest is not the ideal choice for the player looking for one stop shopping against 1.d4 the way the King’s Indian, Dutch or various Queen’s Gambit/Slav variations do.