Craig Evans Tuesday, June 20, 2017
I am aware that some of my analysis articles have gotten many people talking (usually about how they will inflict revenge!), but it was lovely to hear from the protagonist himself recently about some additional information regarding his Ponziani preparation.
Hello Craig Evans. Thank you for your sympathetic and insightful articles featuring my recent Ponziani games. I agree with everything you say about the probability that the Fraser Gambit (5.....Bc5) is likely to be a refutation of the Ponziani, given that White has little option to avoid it after 3....Nf6. There is an interesting prologue to this game v. Grieve . I have for several years been running a thematic choice correspondence tourney for the BCCA which offers Gambit and Counter choices from a range of options. This year (my last before retiring from this post) I included the Fraser Gambit for the first time. My introductory comments in the BCCA journal 'Correspondence Chess No. CC196 Summer 2016) said that Taylor and Hayward ('Play the Ponziani' 2009) had concluded the gambit to be "basically unsound". My view differed and I went on to write 'Perhaps that is also the conclusion reached by various other reputable modern writers on the Ponziani who have chosen to completely ignore the move 5....Bc5 in their analyses. Well don't believe them! Fraser's move 5...Bc5 is extremely dangerous for both sides and leads to fascinating double-edged chess of uncertain outcome. Have a go and reach your own verdict on this neglected, and I believe underestimated, 19th Century gambit'.
Given that I had never actually faced this Gambit before, It was then something of a shock to find that my opponent in the Ward Higgs (Grieve) confronted me with it this year!! Moreover I believe his 7....Bb6 is a significant improvement over the Taylor and Hayward 7....bxc6 mainline recommendation. So I had to work hard on my analysis and concluded that my 12 Qd5 c6 13. Qd2 was the best hope (to draw!!) A possible desperate alternative here might be 12. Qxb6 Rxb6 13. Kxf2, but really I think there is no way forward for White who is simply struggling to draw in all variations. I thought you might like to hear this little story. I shall still play the Ponziani OTB and perhaps occasionally CC , but since you have perhaps made this gambit more popular I may have to be better prepared to meet it more often! Incidentally, Russell played in my Gambit Tourney, but I've not yet asked him whether he tried or faced the Fraser Gambit!
Some very interesting stuff from Fred; it is a relief to know my feelings about the gambit's strength were not misplaced!
In terms of 'resurrecting' the line for white, 12.Nbd2 and 12.Na3 seem to warrant closer attention - things are not as clear as they seem in these lines. 12.Nbd2 was discussed very briefly in the analysis to the game (see my previous posts!) as leading to an advantage with an edge for black; however, this is not necessarily a won endgame and OTB may be well worth a crack. 12. Na3... well, I leave analysing that as an exercise to any interested readers, but the idea is to again go for a material balance of two pieces against rook and two pawns, where white has a pair of bishops as some compensation for any nominal material defecit. Any engine will help the reader find the only playable continuation (for both sides almost!) - you can judge for yourself whether you think the endgame for white is worth a shot!
Finally, I hope that the gambit doesn't put Fred (or others) off the opening - I think it will remain a well-kept secret on these pages for some time, and there's something romantic about openings like the Ponziani being played still in the 21st Century - it would be a shame for it to be disposed of in this brutal fashion!