Center Game

Infobox chess opening
openingname = PAGENAME

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moves=1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. Qxd4
ECO=C21,C22
birth=
nameorigin =
parentopening = Open Game
AKA=
chessgid=1815460&move=3.5&moves=e4.e5.d4.exd4.Qxd4&nodes=21720.21721.62581.62582.1815460
The Center Game is a chess opening that begins with the moves:1. :2. :3.

Black's next move is almost always 3...Nc6, developing with a gain of time due to the attack on the white queen.

The Center Game is an old opening. Mostly abandoned by 1900 because no advantage could be demonstrated for White, Mieses, Tartakower, and Spielmann, seemed to be the last strong players who would adopt it. Following World War I, the Center Game was rarely played by elite players, until Shabalov revived it in the 1980s. Later, Shirov, Adams, Judit Polgar and Morozevich also contributed to the theory of the Center Game by forcing revaluation of lines long thought to favor Black.

White succeeds in eliminating Black's e-pawn and opening the d-file, but at the cost of moving the queen early and allowing Black to develop with tempo with 3...Nc6. In White's favor, after 4.Qe3, the most commonly played retreat, the position of the white queen hinders Black's ability to play ...d5. The back rank is cleared of pieces quickly which facilitates queenside castling and may allow White to quickly develop an attack. From e3, the white queen may later move to g3 where she will pressure Black's g7-square.

Main variations

After 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4,

*3.c3 (Danish Gambit)
*3.Qxd4 Nc6
**4.Qa4 (Scandinavian Defense Reversed)
**4.Qe3 (Paulsen's Attack-Main Line)
***4...Bb4+
***4...Nf6
***4...g6
*3.f4?! (Halasz Gambit)
*3.Nf3
**3...Bc5 (Alekhine)
**3...Nc6 (Scotch Game, by transposition)
**3...d6 (Philidor Defense, by transposition)
**3...Nf6 (Petrov's Defense, by transposition)
**3...Bb4+
*3.Bc4 with the same choice as after 3.Nf3

The Danish Gambit in which White offers a pawn with 3.c3 is considered a separate opening.

Postponing recapture of the queen pawn is a standard idea in the Center Counter Defense (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5 3.exd5 Nf6), but 3.Nf3 is very rarely played in the Center Game. Black can safely transpose to the Scotch Game or the Petrov's Defense, or play a line recommended by Alekine, 3...Bc5 4.Nxd4 Nf6 and now 5.e5 would be met with 5...Qe7.

The Halasz Gambit (3.f4?!) is another rare try. Although the move dates back to at least 1840, it has been championed more recently by the Hungarian correspondence chess player Dr György Halasz. The gambit seems dubious but it hasn't been definitely refuted.

The nearly universal sequence of moves in the Center Game is 3.Qxd4 Nc6. Now White has a choice of retreat squares for the queen. Although 4.Qa4 corresponds to a fairly commonly played variation of the Scandinavian Defense (1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5), it is rarely played in the Center Game because tournament experience has not been favorable for White in this line.

The best move for the queen seems to be 4.Qe3, known as Paulsen's Attack. White intends to castle Queen's side in this line. Black usually continues 4...Nf6 when a typical line continues 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.Bd2 0-0 7.0-0-0 Re8. White may try to complicate play by means of the pawn sacrifice 8.Qg3!? intending 8...Rxe4 9.a3! - Shabalov's move. Black's best reply seems to be the quiet 9...Ba5. Still, this line definitely gives White some compensation for the pawn.A more reliable option for Black is the natural 5...Be7! intending d7-d5 (sometimes even after White plays 6.Bc4), opening up lines as soon as possible. Black also seems to get a good game with 4...g6, and 4...Bb4+ has been played successfully as well.

External links

*Harding, Tim (August 1999). [http://www.chesscafe.com/text/kibitz39.txt "The Vampire Gambit: Can We Bury It Now?"] . "ChessCafe.com", The Kibitzer.
*Harding, Tim (December 2004). [http://www.chesscafe.com/text/kibitz103.pdf "The Center Game takes Center Stage" (pdf)] . "ChessCafe.com", The Kibitzer.


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