The Thrilling Jaenisch Gambit


Yesterday we looked at the basics of the Jaenisch Gambit, which is one of Black’s most aggressive ways of meeting the Ruy Lopez opening. It arises after 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 f5.

We also looked briefly at 4 Nc3, which is one of White’s best responses to the Jaenisch Gambit.

Today we delve into the new Chessable course on The Thrilling Jaenisch Gambit by Grandmaster S.P. Sethuramantake, to take a look at the other main reply, which is 4 d3.

Jaenisch Gambit 4 d3

Winning Chess Openings

According to the course, this is ‘a calm move, just holding on to the central pawn on e4. This option has been the trend against the Jaenisch and remains an acid test for Black. Unlike the forced variations arising after 4.Nc3, 4. d3 gives more of a positional character.’

How Should Black Meet 4 d3?

It is interesting that such a small, unassuming move can demand an accurate response from Black. The threat of capturing on f5 is real, as Black’s natural counterplay with …e5-e4 is not going to do anything apart from carelessly lose a second pawn, with the white pawn already in d3 and just waiting to pounce.

Black is advised to capture first, with 4 …fxe4. The subsequent natural moves are: 5 dxe4 Nf6 6 0-0 bringing us to this position.

Jaenisch Gambit Open f-file

Back now has an interesting choice.

‘Here Black has two plans. Either to develop the Bishop to c5 or e7 by 6…. d6 followed by 7…Be7. The first option lands the Bishop to a more active square but the drawback is that it loses the e5-pawn. The second is more of strengthening the center but then the Black Bishop on f8 remains passive.’

I feel sure aggressive club players will prefer to examine the delights offered by 6 …Bc5. This posts the bishop on the most active square and it is already pointing directly at the white king. The impending arrival of a rook on f8 will add to the pressure. This really is a gambit, though, as White can win a pawn with the obvious moves.

7 Bxc6 bxc6 

8 Nxe5 0-0

Compensation for the Pawn Sacrifice

What does Black have for the pawn? We can’t just give them away and hope the best, so there must be suitable compensation in this position.

As well as the useful f-file and the pressure on f2, Black has a good chance of forcing central occupation with a pawn, starting with a timely …d7-d5. The half-open b-file beckons the rook from a8, which will have another easy option on the f-file. The bishop pair could turn out to be potent and there is the additional psychological impact of having ‘forced’ White to part with the famous Ruy Lopez bishop.

I don’t want to give away too much from the course, but it makes sense to present a couple of positions resulting from this line, to show how Black’s potential can develop.

Jaenisch Gambit: Exhibit One

Gambit Compensation

‘The other Rook will join the party and serves as decent compensation for Black.’ With two bishops against two knights, lots of open lines and the major pieces all still on the board, it seems the practical chances are with Black. The extra pawn doesn’t seem particularly relevant at the moment.

Jaenisch Gambit: Exhibit Two

Pin on the e-file

Who would you rather be in this position? Black has just played 21 …Rae8 which connects the three major pieces and helps to enforce a strong pin down the e-file. I can’t imagine many people would prefer to be White here.

Chessable Courses

The Thrilling Jaenisch Gambit Course

The course for the Thrilling Jaenisch Gambit can be found here and there is also a Short and Sweet version.

Anyone who like ton complete their 1 e4 e5 repertoire may also be interested in Grandmaster S.P. Sethuramantake’s companion course, which is here.

There are some samples from the course and more about the Jaenisch Gambit on Grandmaster S.P. Sethuramantake’s Twitter page.

Is it time to take up the gambit and have a little more fun in 2021?