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The Traxler Counter Attack

The Traxler is a swashbuckling variation of the Two Knights Defence. The first key position arises after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 Bc5. Black's idea is to sacrifice his bishop on f2 and to launch a terrific attack on white's king. The generally recommended course of action is to play 5.Bxf7+ but that's not very interesting so here is some analysis of the much more interesting 5.Nxf7 line. Though I have checked this stuff with chess software some of the positions are fundamentally unstable and so the computer's assessments (and my assessments!) cannot be completely trusted. For this reason, all assessments on this page should be considered capable of long term tactical refutation. Even if the lines are not completely correct I hope that you will at least find them interesting.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 Bc5 5.Nxf7 Bxf2+ 6.Kxf2 Nxe4+ 7.Kg1 Qh4

The alternative is 7...Qe7 and now we will look at three options for white.

a) 8.Nxh8 Qc5+ (8...d5 9.Bb5 [9.Qf3 Be6 10.Qe3 dxc4 is winning for white] 9...Bd7 10.Bxc6 Bxc6 is winning for white) 9.d4 Qxc4 10.c3 exd4 is winning for white.

b) 8.Bd5 Qc5+ (8...Rf8 9.Bxe4 Qxf7 10.Qf3 Qxf3 is winning for white) 9.d4 Qxd5 10.Nxh8 Qxd4+ is clearly better for white.

c) One game went 8.d4 Nxd4 9.Be3 Rf8 10.Nxe5 Nf5 11.Bd4 c5 12.c3 cxd4 13.cxd4 Ne3 14.Qb3 Nxc4 15.Qxc4 Nf2 16.Nc3 Nxh1 17.Nd5 Qd6 18.Nc7+ Kd8 19.Nxa8 b5 20.Nf7+ Rxf7 21.Qxf7 Qxd4+ 22.Qf2 0-1


White has at least two other options:

a) 8.Qf3 Nd4 (8...Qe1+ 9.Qf1 [9.Bf1 Rf8 10.Nc3 Rxf7 is winning for black] 9...Qxf1+ 10.Kxf1 Rf8 is slightly better for white) 9.Qe3 (9.Qf1 Rf8 10.Nc3 Ng5 is clearly better for black) 9...Nxc2 10.Qe2 Rf8 is slightly better for black.

b) There was a game which continued 8.Qf1 Rf8 9.d3 Nd6 10.g3 Qd4+ 11.Kg2 Nxc4 12.dxc4 Qe4+ 13.Qf3 Qxf3+ 14.Kxf3 Rxf7+ 15.Kg2 Nd4 16.Na3 b6 17.Re1 Bb7+ 18.Kh3 d6 19.c3 Nf3 20.Rf1 Kd7 21.Be3 Raf8 22.Rfd1 h5 23.c5 bxc5 24.Nc4 g5 25.g4 hxg4+ 26.Kg3 Rh7 27.Kxg4 Nxh2+ 28.Kg3 Rf3+ 29.Kg2 Rxe3+ 30.Kg1 Rg3+ 31.Kf2 Rg2+ 32.Ke1 Nf3+ 33.Kf1 Nd2+ 0-1


Worse is 8...Qf6 as 9.Qe1 (9.Qe2 Ng5 10.Nxg5 Qxg5 is winning for white) 9...Ng5 10.Nxg5 Qxg5 is winning for white.


White could try;

a) 9.d3 Rf8 10.hxg3 Qxg3 which is slightly better for white.

b) 9.hxg3 has been seen in practice, 9...Qxg3+ 10.Kf1 Rf8 11.Qh5 Na5 (better might be 11...d5 which has also been played: 12.Bxd5 Nd4 13.Qh2 Qg4 14.Qxe5+ Be6 15.Bxe6 Qf3+ 16.Kg1 Ne2+ 17.Kh2 Qf2+ 18.Kh3 Qf3+ 19.Kh2 Qf2+ 20.Kh3 Qf3+ 21.Kh4 Qf2+ 22.Kh5 Rxf7 23.Bxf7+ Kxf7 24.Rh2 Qf3+ 25.Kh4 g5+ 26.Qxg5 Rg8 27.Qh5+ Qxh5+ 28.Kxh5 Ng3+ 29.Kh4 Nf5+ 30.Kh5 Ng3+ 31.Kh4 -) 12.Rh3 Qf4+ 13.Rf3 Qxc4+ 14.d3 Qd5 15.Nd6+ Ke7 16.Rxf8 Kxd6 17.Nc3 1-0

c) One game went 9.Qe1 Qxc4 10.Nxh8 Nxh1 11.Na3 Qd5 12.c4 Qf3 13.Nb5 d5 14.Nxc7+ Kd8 15.Nxa8 Bh3 16.Qh4+ Kc8 0-1

9...Nxh1 10.Qe2 d5.

The position is unclear but I think black is okayish. Play might continue as follows:

11.Bb5 Bh3 12.Bxc6+ bxc6 13.Kxh1 0-0-0 14.d3 Rxh8 15.Be3 d4 16.Bg1 Rf8 17.Nd2 Qf4=

Black has just enough compensation for his slight material deficit.

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