Lucchini Gambit: A Little Known Chess Opening

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Learn a lot about attack and defense in chess with the unheralded Lucchini Gambit.

  • For those players who relish exciting chess and are not afraid to sacrifice material, the Lucchini Gambit is tailor-made for you.
  • Learn about a position Stockfish assesses as 0.00 even though Black is an entire rook down.
  • Deepen your understanding of chess by looking for improvements for both sides.

The Ideas Behind the Lucchini Gambit

Gambits are an intriguing part of chess that often get us to think of quick victories or traps that win us lots of material. There is lots more to gambits than a quick checkmate or winning material.

Sometimes a gambit only gives us a lead in development or provides us with the initiative. It is up to us to put the time we’ve gained to good use.

Learning how to make the most of this time is a skill we have to learn, and the best way to learn is to play gambits. Gambits like the little-known and seldom played Lucchini Gambit.

When choosing a gambit, the theory is not as critical as the positions that arise. If you feel comfortable playing these positions, you ought to try the gambit.

Of course, if you feel uncomfortable playing positions reached from a particular gambit, then it is best to avoid the gambit no matter what theory, your chess friends, or chess fashion says.

We reach the starting position of the Lucchini Gambit after:

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.d3 f5

Starting position Lucchini Gambit

One of the first things you notice about the move 4…f5 is that Black cannot castle short because the bishop on c4 covers the g8 square. This fact makes it pretty straightforward if you dislike exposing your king to danger, then the Lucchini Gambit is not for you.

If king safety is a high priority for you, then 4…Nf6 or 4…d6 are much better options for you to play in the Quiet Italian Game.

Apart from exposing your king, the move 4…f5 practically begs White to attack you with 5.Ng5 when the knight threatens to land on f7 and fork the queen and rook.

This is the obvious starting point when considering playing the provocative Lucchini Gambit. Now would be a good time to start your chess engine because there are few master games in the Lucchini Gambit.

The Lucchini Gambit With 5.Ng5

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.d3 f5 5.Ng5

White plays the ultra=aggressive 5.Ng5

The simplest way to deal with the threat of Nf7 would be to capture the knight on g5, but this would not help because the bishop on c1 defends it. Instead, we must accept the loss of the rook on h8 and see what we can get in return.

A flank attack is always best met with a counter-strike in the center. Well, almost always because each position must be judged on its merits and tactical opportunities.

However, that is not to say 5…d5 does not work, only that it might not be the best response. Here is how the game might proceed after 5.Ng5 d5

6.Bxd5 Nf6 7.Nf7 Qd7 8.Nxh8 Nxd5 9.exd5 Qxd5 10.0-0 Qg8

According to the engines White has a decisive advantage of between 3.4 and 4.2

Depending on your chess engine of choice, White has a decisive advantage of either +3.4 (Komodo Dragon 2) or +4.2 (Stockfish 14+ NNUE).

This did not stop Black from winning the next game.

The Lucchini Gambit With 5.Ng5 – Plan B

Another way to respond to 5.Ng5 is to use our bishop on c5, which aims at the weak f2 square. Once again, we sacrifice the rook, only this time we take the fight to White and play 5…f4!

Remember, White only has two minor pieces developed – a bishop and a knight – and one of those pieces will end up out of the game on h8. Black must accept a loss of material in a gambit opening and seek to get the best compensation available.

In only a few moves, Black can develop the queen to h4 with tempo, the knight to f6, and the bishop to g4, winning a second tempo. The knight on c6 is only one move away from joining the attack with …Nd4.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.d3 f5 5.Ng5 f4

Black's best defense to 5.Ng5 is 5...f4 with 6.Nf7 getting met with 6...Qh4 threatening checkmate on f2.

Now, if White continues with the plan to win at least an exchange with 6.Nf7, Black can generate strong counterplay against White’s king.

6.Nf7 Qh4 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Nxh8 d5 9.Bxd5 Bg4 10.Qe1 f3

This is the game Moor versus DuBois from 1850.

How Much Compensation Can Development get You?

Stockfish evaluates this position as 0.00 but suggests Black could have got a winning advantage with 8…Ng4, threatening …Qxh2 checkmate or …Nxf2.

After 9.h3 Nxf2 White is forced to give up the rook with 10.Rxf2 or else Black has an excellent combination with …Nxh3 double check and …Ng5 checkmate.

Black can make use of many threats after 10.Rxf2 Qxf2 when the White queen is tied down defending the back rank. Thanks to the f4 pawn controlling g3, Black is threatening …Qg1 checkmate if the white queen leaves the first rank.

The knight on c6 will join the attack with …Nd4, and Black has …d5, allowing the light-squared bishop to enter the game.

Even in the diagram above, the fact that Black is an entire rook down and Stockfish evaluates it at 0.00 should clearly indicate the attacking potential Black has in this position.

Of course, a striking feature of the position is that White has not developed a single queenside piece, and Black has four pieces plus the pawn on f3 attacking the white king.

Under all this pressure, it is hardly surprising that White’s defense did not hold, and the game between Moor and DuBois ended with a pretty checkmate.

In Conclusion

The Lucchini Gambit is an exciting gambit for Black to play. One of the benefits of the Lucchini Gambit is how much you will learn about attack and defense as you study this fantastic opening.

Please pay attention to the chess engine’s suggestions for Black and note how it defends for White. There is a lot to learn about chess by working through the Lucchini Gambit with an engine.

Be sure to take your time and see if you can understand why the engine suggests a particular attack or defensive strategy. Use a coach or an online forum if necessary because deepening your understanding of chess is vital for making progress.

There is a lot of unexplored territory in the Lucchini gambit and opportunities for you to uncover new resources in this gambit.

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