Litsitsin’s Gambit

This game was played in the sixth round of the Chess Championship of the Netherlands:
GM Van Wely, Loek (2657) – GM L’Ami, Erwin (2650)
ch-NED 2014 Amsterdam NED 2014.07.12
1.Nf3 f5 2.d3 Nc6 3.e4 e5 4.g3 Nf6 5.Bg2 fxe4 6.dxe4 Bc5 7.Nc3 O-O 8.O-O a6 9.Nd5 Nxe4 10.Qe2 Nxf2 11.Qc4 Ba7 12.Bg5 b5 13.Ne7+ Kh8 14.Ng6+ 1-0
In his remarks to the opening of his game with WFM Y. Cardona (2270), IM Mark Ginsburg writes:
“1. Nf3 f5?! An inaccuracy on the first move! To get to a Leningrad Dutch, much more circumspect is 1…g6 2. c4 and only now 2….f5 to avoid a nasty pitfall in this particular move order.”
This leaves open the possibility of White playing 2 e4 and there is no Dutch. IM Ginsburg continues:
“The problem here is that white has the surprisingly strong 2. d3! as demonstrated by GM Magnus Carlsen recently in a crushing win versus veteran Russian GM Sergei Dolmatov. As a New In Chess Secrets of Opening Surprises (SOS) book analysis noted, “this move argues that 1…f5 is weakening.” So it does! That game went 2…d6 3. e4 e5 4. Nc3 Nc6 5. exf5 Bxf5 6. d4! and white had an obvious plus. After 2. d3, black is not having any fun at all. Why didn’t I play it? I knew about it, but didn’t really remember how the Carlsen game went. Still, 2. d3! is strongest and I should have played it.
Side note. There is another attempt for white – in the 1980s and 1990s, GM Michael Rohde revived the Lisitsin Gambit (2. e4 fxe4 3. Ng5) with success but in the intervening years, methods were found by black to combat that try. Nevertheless, 2. e4 is exceedingly dangerous and black has to be well prepared for it. This is moot, though, given the strength of the apparently modest 2. d3!
In the game, I played the insipid 2. g3?! and play reverted back to the Leningrad proper.” (
Why should Black fear the attempt to improve on Litsitsin’s Gambit with 2 d3? The human World Champion, Magnus Carlsen has played the move, and so does the number three program, Houdini, but numbers two, Komodo, and three, Stockfish, opt for different moves, so the jury is still out on the best second move for White.
I “annotated” the Van Wely- L’Ami game above, using the three programs used on Chess Arena at Chessdom (, and at the Chessbase database (
1.Nf3 f5 2.d3 (SF has c4 & e3 tied while Komodo plays d4; only Houdini plays the move in the game) Nc6 (SF has the game move tied with Nf6 & d6; Komodo plays d5, while Hou plays d6. The databases show Nc6 scoring best.) 3.e4 (SF-e3 or c4; Kom-Nc3; Hou-e4. The Houdini shown on the CBDB plays c4. e4 has been played most often, but has scored less well than the other choices.) e5 (Total agreement this is the best move) 4.g3 (Nc3 has been played most often with poor results. SF plays d4; Kom Nc3; & Hou exf5) Nf6 (SF & Kom play d6, with Hou opting for d5) 5.Bg2 (Total agreement on 5 exf5) fxe4 (All agree) 6.dxe4 (Ditto) Bc5 (Ditto) 7.Nc3 (SF has this move tied with Qd3 & O-O; Kom has it tied with O-O; while Hou simply castles) O-O (I can find no games with this move at the CBDB. SF & Hou play d6; Kom O-O) 8 O-O (SF has Qd3 tied with the game move; Kom plays Be3; Houdini shows a3) a6 (Universal agreement d6 is the best move) 9.Nd5 (SF & Komodo have this tied with Bg5 while Houdini has it best) Nxe4 (Hou plays this move, but SF & Kom play d6) 10.Qe2 (All agree) Nxf2 (Ditto) 11.Qc4 (SF-Be3; Kom-Rf2; Hou-Bg5) Ba7 (SF & Kom play this move, but Hou prefers Ne4+) 12.Bg5 (Total agreement. Imagine that…) b5 13.Ne7+ Kh8 14.Ng6+ 1-0
In addition this game was found on 365Chess. Although a different opening, we have the same position after six moves.
Buchicchio, Giancarlo vs Tribuiani, Renato (2146)
Nereto op 8/16/2000 rd 6
ECO has it listed as B00, while 365Chess calls this the “Colorado counter.” If anyone knows why, please leave a comment.
1. e4 Nc6 2. Nf3 f5 3. d3 e5 4. g3 Nf6 5. Bg2 fxe4 6. dxe4 Bc5 7. O-O d6 8. Bg5 h6 9. Bxf6 Qxf6 10. Nc3 Bg4 11. Nd5 Qf7 12. h3 Bh5 13. g4 Bg6 14. Nh4 O-O-O 15. c3 Bh7 16. a4 a5 17. Nf5 g6 18. Nxh6 Qg7 19. g5 Bg8 20. Nxg8 Rdxg8 21. Qd2 Rh4 22. Bf3 Qd7 23. Bg2 Rgh8 24. Nf6 Qe7 25. Bf3 Nd8 26. Bg4+ Rxg4+ 27. hxg4 Ne6 28. Rab1 Nf4 29. b4 Ba7 30. Rb3 Rh3 31. Rfb1 Qd8 32. c4 Qh8 33. Nh5 gxh5 34. Qxf4 exf4 35. Rxh3 h4 36. bxa5 Qd4 37. Rf3 Qxe4 38. Rbb3 Qe1+ 39. Kh2 Bxf2 40. Rxf2 Qxf2+ 0-1
Rarely have I had to face the Litsitsin Gambit. The last time was some years ago against Tim Bond, one of the Road Warriors and fellow Senior, the “Dude” from LA, which means “Lower Alabama” to Southern folk. The game was a hard fought draw. The Dude became dejected upon discovering I had missed a King move that would have won a piece. It was strange to me because I had seen the move in earlier deliberations, but missed it when given the opportunity later. Little has been written about the Litsitsin Gambit, but I seem to recall an article in “Inside Chess” by GM Michael Rhode, or was it Larry Christiansen? Maybe Michael used one of Larry’s games…Whatever… It is easy to recall because of the fact that I have faced both GM’s over a backgammon board.
This is the game that caused interest in the move 2 d3, and a game played a decade later:
Magnus Carlsen vs Sergey Dolmatov
3rd Aeroflot Festival (2004)
Zukertort Opening: Dutch Variation (A04)
1. Nf3 f5 2. d3 d6 3. e4 e5 4. Nc3 Nc6 5. ef5 Bf5 6. d4 Nd4 7. Nd4 ed4 8. Qd4 Nf6 9. Bc4 c6 10. Bg5 b5 11. Bb3 Be7 12. O-O-O Qd7 13. Rhe1 Kd8 14. Re7 Qe7 15. Qf4 Bd7 16. Ne4 d5 17. Nf6 h6 18. Bh4 g5 19. Qd4 1-0

Carlsen, Magnus (2881) – Rodriguez Vila, Andres (2437)
Four Player Rapid KO/Caxias do Sul (1) 2014
1. Nf3 f5 2. d3 Nf6 3. e4 d6 4. exf5 Bxf5 5. d4 Qd7 6. Nc3 g6 7. Bd3 Bg7 8. O-O Nc6 9. d5 Nb4 10. Bxf5 gxf5 11. a3 Na6 12. Nd4 Nc5 13. b4 Nce4 14. Nxe4 fxe4 15. Ne6 Rg8 16. Bb2 c6 17. c4 Bh8 18. Re1 Rg6 19. Bxf6 exf6 20. Qh5 Qf7 21. Qf5 Qg8 22. g3 Kf7 23. Rxe4 1-0
And for the one (because there is always one) player out there somewhere in the one hundred plus countries reading the AW who now has to have more about Georgy Lisitsin and his gambit, I provide enough links to more than whet your appetite.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s