A tribute to Anthony Santasiere

Anthony Edward Santasiere was a strong American chess master, born December 9, 1904. He was US Open Champion in 1945 and three times New York State Champion. Along his career, he beat strong opponents such as Frank Marshall (1931), Arthur Bisguier (1945), Robert Byrne (1946), Larry Evans (1946), Italian Enrico Paoli (1953) and even young Bobby Fischer (1957 – with whom he got a score of 1.5-0.5). Santasiere is best known for the Opening 'Santasiere's Folly' 1.Nf3 followed by 2.b4, but he contributed to chess theory with some others peculiar ideas. You cand find a short biografy of him at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Santasiere and a good collection of his games at http://www.chessgames.com/player/anthony_santasiere.html.
When I was a fighting candidate master I’ve often played the b4 Wing gambit to face Sicilian defence. I found out Santasiere’s idea of putting up a strong pawn center with 3.c4 (after 1.e4 c5 2. b4 cxb4) in a book printed in 1985: “Sicilian defence – Wing gambits” by Thomas Kapitaniak. There was less than half a page dedicated to this line, but it attracted me a lot.
Here is the paragraph.
“1.e4 c5 2.b4 cxb4 3.c4!? e5
Also possible is 3…bxc3 4.Nc3 e5 5.f4 d6 6.d4 exd4 7.Qxd4 Nc6 8.Bb5 Bd7 with an unclear game.
4.Bb2 Nc6 5.Nf3 d6 6.d4 Bg4 7.d5 Nd4
7…Nb8 is worse, for example 8.Be2 Na6 9.Nxe5 Bxe2 10.Qa4+ and White stands better.
8.Bxd4 exd4 9.Qa4+ Qd7 10.Qxb4 Be7
with a position full of tactical possibilities. A. E. Santasiere gives a lot of interesting ideas on this variation, but without serious practical game experience it is very difficult to definitely evaluate this variation”.

Santasiere analized this variation in a period where computers didn’t even exist and Fritz was just a (German) name. He concentrated his attention on 3.c4 bxc3 4.Nc3 e5 5.f4, a Wing-King gambit which, in his analysis, gives a very good compensation for White. Unfortunately Black has a more promising defence then 3…bxc3/4…e5 and can also play 6…exd4 in the main line reported above, as in Hector-Kudrin, Baleares open 1989, the only game I know in which two GMs have met on this ground.
My personal experience with “Santasiere gambit” is not so good. I’ve won some games, I’ve lost some others, but I’ve almost never obtained a good compensation after the opening. Playing a tournament in Lecco twelve years ago, I won with Black against Alberto Miatello, who is now a candidate master. After the game Alberto told me: “What a pity! I had a surprise for you, but I played with the wrong pieces!”. He knew I would have played 2.b4 Wing gambit and then 3.c4 against Sicilian and he was prepared for it. After 1.e4 c5 2.b4 cxb4 3.c4 e5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.Bb2 he had planned 5…Bc5 6.Nxe5 Qf6. This is not a new idea: Santasiere himself gives a quick look to it in his analysis. Unfortunately the American master doesn’t evaluate it correctly: after 7.d4 Black is all but forced to playing 7…Bxd4. The strongest move is 7…Nxe5, after which White has a forced variation: 8.dxc5 (8.dxe5 Qxf2#) 8…Nf3+ 9.gxf3 Qxb3 10.Nd2. Ok, White is not losing and the position is about equal. But nobody plays a gambit to reach such a position.
That’s why I’ve soon left this variation and tried another line: 3.d4 with the idea 3…d5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.c4 bxc3 6.Nxc3, gaining a tempo for developing pieces.
I only play blitz games on the web nowadays and I’ve sometimes employed the “old Santasiere”; after losing too many games against less rated opponents, I’ve tried a new idea, a postponed Santasiere: 1.e4 c5 2.b4 cxb4 3.a3 bxa3 (you can’t obviously play this variation in case of 3…d5 :-( ) 4.c4. I won a (quite) nice 3 minutes game with this opening just a few weeks ago (ok, it is not perfect…) and I report it here, as well as two other wins achieved with Santasiere Wing gambit in 1994 and 1977 (not by me :-) ). Anthony E. Santasiere died January 13, 1977, 30 years ago: this is my little tribute to him.

Mione,D (2254) – “Mataphor” [B20], Playchess 6.3.2007
1. e4 c5 2. b4 cxb4 3. a3 bxa3 4. c4 d6 5. d4 e6 6. Bxa3 Nf6 7. Bd3 Be7 8. Nf3 O-O 9. Bb2 Nc6 10. O-O e5 11. Nbd2 Bg4 12. Qb1 exd4 13. Nxd4 Nxd4 14. Bxd4 b6 15. h3 Be6 16. f4 Ne8 17. e5 g6 18. f5 dxe5 19. Bc3 Bc5+ 20. Kh1 Bd7 21. Bxe5 Ng7 22. Bxg7 Kxg7 23. f6+ Kh8 24. Ne4 Bd4 25. Qc1 Rg8 26. Qh6 Qf8 27. Ng5 1-0

Bungo,G - Puckett,M [B20], USA-open Chicago 1994
1.e4 c5 2.b4 cxb4 3.c4 bxc3 4.Cxc3 d6 5.d4 Cf6 6.f4 e6 7.Cf3 Ae7 8.Ad3 0-0 9.0-0 b6 10.De2 Ab7 11.Ab2 Cbd7 12.Tad1 Tc8 13.e5 dxe5 14.dxe5 Cd5 15.Cxd5 Axd5 16.f5 Dc7 17.f6 gxf6 18.exf6 Axf6 19.Cg5 Axg5 20.Axh7+ Rxh7 21.Dh5+ Ah6 22.Txf7+ 1-0

Hannibal,T - Church,J [B20], Cleveland open 1977
1.e4 c5 2.b4 cxb4 3.c4 bxc3 4.Cxc3 e5 5.f4 exf4 6.Cf3 g5 7.Ac4 Ag7 8.d4 Cc6 9.0-0 g4 10.Ce5 Cxe5 11.dxe5 Axe5 12.Axf7+ Rf8 13.Axf4 Db6+ 14.Rh1 Axf4 15.Txf4 Ch6 16.Cd5 Db2 17.Ah5+ Rg7 18.Tb1 De5 19.Axg4 Tf8 20.Txf8 Rxf8 21.Df3+ Rg7 22.Tf1 Rg6 23.Ah5+ Rg5 24.g3 1-0

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I do like this gambit ~ especially if playing against someone who has a higher rating ~ I remember playing it and destroying a player in the last game of a round robin tournament. he had not lost a game over the three days. he was devastated that a minor player like me could annilate him.