Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On a Wing and a Gambit

by John Hurt, 1973 Tennessee Chess Champion

According to chess writer, Elliot Fletcher, the title "Wing Gambit" was applied to the variation of the King's Bishop's opening when White played 3. b4 after the moves 1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Bc5 3. b4

However, for the past seventy years, it has been used to denote the move b4 by White against the Sicilian Defence (after 1.e4 c5).
The idea behind b4 is to challenge Black's c5 and obtain control of the center by d4.  Also, it opens up the Queen's side for deployment of White's pieces Bb2 or Ba3 and Rb1.  Although current chess theory regards the Wing Gambit as being impetuous, the Gambit produces interesting and exciting chess.

The main line of the Sicilain "Wing Gambit" goes as follows:  1.e4 c5 2. b4 cb4 3. a3 d5 4. ed5 Qd5 5. Nf3 e5 6. ab4 Bb4

Now White has three moves: A) 7. c3   B) 7. Na3   C) 7. Ba3.  We will give one example from each:




On his third move Black may try 3. . . e6,

Or 3. . . Nc6,

Or 3. . . ba3,

Or 3. . . e5,

Or 3. . . d5,

This gambit may be declined by Black on his second turn with 2. . . b6  or 2. . . d6  or 2. . . e6  or 2. . . Nf6  or 2. . . d5  or 2. . . e5, but none of these moves give White trouble.

Some (including Keres) consider it even stronger for White to delay the Gambit one move as follows:


Addendum to Variation B (7. Na3) - In "Larry Evans on Chess" in Chess Life and Review Feb. 1974 the sub-variation 9. Nc7 (Instead of 9. Be2) is examined. This line proceeds thusly:

Sample Games:

(Editor:) In conclusion we give some of the games John has played with this gambit, some of which have appeared in previous TCN issues and others that have not seen print. (Click on the bar above the Black pieces to examine more than one game.)

(On a Wing and a Gambit: WWII phrase On a Wing and a Prayer.)

The gambit generated much discussion, after the post.  Check out these links:


  1. I had never played the Wing Gambit of the Sicilian. I did try, with mixed results, after reading John Hurt's article. I like the idea, and each person against whom I employed the gambit seemed taken back, but it's very hard to ascertain the right continuums though the definitely exist. It a fun opening to experiment with.

  2. Capablanca played the Wing Gambit in several games and won! He did lose one in 1911.