When I first picked up this book by John Shaw I thought, "Wow! 680 pages!" Years ago I was offered a contract to write a book on the King's Gambit (like I did on the BDG), but I knew I was not the man for the job. John Shaw has done what I wish I could have done. There are a lot of games, a lot of analysis, a lot of variations and a lot of diagrams. John Shaw carried on years of computer analysis to prove the viability (or not) of every line.
Grandmaster Shaw gives many options for both sides and expresses his preferences. The multitude of variations can be confusing. Playing a gambit is sometimes scary, but the more you play it, the less overwhelming it becomes. The best way to learn is to play it all the time and look up your opening moves in the book after each game. Then after 30-50 games you will understand the basic ideas very well. After 80-100 games, even the theoretically equal lines in your hands will be a dangerous threat to your opponents.
Now for a few specifics. Of the 21 chapters, 14 of them cover 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3. The two most popular lines for Black are 3...g5 (my personal favorite) and 3...d5. Against 3.Nf3 g5, Shaw devotes 80 pages of dense analysis. He likes both 4.h4 g4 5.Ne5 Nf6 6.Bc4 and 4.Nc3. After 3.Nf3 d5 4.exd5 Nf6 5.Bb5+ the author suggests a "new direction". John Shaw considers 3.Bc4 to be no longer playable since 3...Nc6! favors Black in all lines.
In the KG Declined I mention recommendations by John Shaw vs two major options: First in the Classical 2.f4 Bc5 3.Nf3 d6 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.Bc4 Nc6 6.d3 Bg4 7.Na4 or 6...a6 7.Nd5. Second against the Falkbeer 2.f4 d5 3.exd5 e4 4.d3 Nf6 5.dxe4 Nxe4 6.Nf3 Bc5 7.Qe2. Over 150 pages are dedicated to 2...Bc5 or 2...d5, and then he covers more!
Shaw mentions almost every played branch of this opening and does well editing out the worst. He does not waste space of deep analysis of rarely played choices. Consider two of my pet off-beat lines. First, vs 3.Nf3 Qe7 (Diemer) Shaw recommends 4.Nc3 but does not cover my 4...d5. And vs 2.f4 Nc6 3.Nf3 f5, Shaw gives 4.exf5 but not my 4...exf4. Of course my lines might be much weaker than what he presents.
From my early years of chess, the King's Gambit had an amazing impact on my life. Ray Haines and Graham Cooper chased me enough that by 1974 I fled the Open Game for the Caro-Kann. But I kept coming back to the King's Gambit from both sides of the board. I purchased about every book on the KG written in the past 40 years.
Tim Bishop recently sent me a Kings Gambit game by two masters: Stanley Elowitch vs Graham Cooper in the Maine State Championship in April 1980. I played in this event in 1977. Against Fischer's 3...d6, Shaw recommends 4.d4 in Quaade style aiming for a Nc3 / g2-g3 set-up. Cooper gets the best out of the opening, but Elowitch manages to hold his own in final 20 moves of flying pieces and complications.
Elowitch - Cooper, Maine State Championship, 04.1980 begins 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 d6 4.Bc4 h6 5.d4 [5.h4!? Shaw] 5...g5 6.c3 [6.0-0 Bg7 7.c3 Nc6 8.Qa4 Bd7 9.Qb3=] 6...Bg7 7.Qb3 Qe7 8.0-0 Nc6 9.g3 [If 9.h4 Nf6 10.hxg5 hxg5 11.Nxg5 Nxd4-+] 9...fxg3 10.hxg3 Nf6 11.e5 dxe5 12.dxe5 Ng4 13.Nxg5 hxg5 14.Bxf7+ Kd8 15.Qd5+ Qd7?! [This throws away the advantage in a complicated position. Houdini 3 gives 15...Bd7! 16.e6 Nce5-+ and Black remains up a piece.] 16.Bxg5+ Ne7 17.Bxe7+ Kxe7 18.Qc5+ Kd8 19.e6 Qd3 20.Qg5+ Bf6 21.Qxg4 Rh1+ 22.Kxh1 Qxf1+ 23.Kh2 Qf2+ 24.Kh3 Ke7 25.Na3 Bd7 26.exd7 Kxf7 27.Qh5+ Kg7 28.Qg4+ Kf7 1/2-1/2
You may also like: Caro-Kann (1.e4 c6) and Queen Pawn (1.d4 d5)
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