Review of The Scotch Gambit by Alex Fishbein


An opening that has been making its way around my chess club a bit lately is the Scotch Gambit. Leave it to Russell Enterprises to publish a timely volume on this particular opening.

The book The Scotch Gambit subtitled “An Energetic and Aggressive System for White” may appear to be a slim volume, coming in at just 128 pages, but the material contained within fully explores the ins and outs of this opening.

Written by American GM Alex Fishbein, the book is designed to appeal to those who are looking to break away from the more maneuvering lines found on the the White side of the Italian or Berlin systems which involve playing d3. The Scotch Gambit starts 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4

The most common move here is 4…Nf6 which transposes into the Two Knights Defense. The second most common move is 4…Bc5 which heads for the Italian Game territory.

The book is broken down in to ten chapters, each of which is designed to cover a different branch of the main ideas in the modern Scotch Gambit. The majority of those chapters contain both a theoretical section in which the theory itself is discussed, and an illustrative games section which gives games which are annotated in detail.

Importantly, especially for the level of the target audience for a book such as this (i.e. non-GM’s) many verbal explanations are given. In fact, at one point GM Fishbein states “You study the opening not just to prepare for all different moves that your opponent can play, but, more importantly, to gain intuition about evaluating the position.”

It is with that thought in mind that the author attempts to deconstruct the 61 games he presents here. The players range from such luminaries as Marshall, Capablanca, and Euwe to such modern day greats as Nakamura, Kamsky, and Jobava.

Let’s take a look at a section from one of those games. The game is Nakamura – Onischuk 2015 US Championship. Here is the position after Hikaru’s 12th move:

“The US Champions use of this variation in an important last-round game led to a small resurgence of its popularity. Here Nakamura chooses an unusual move order. 12.Qxd5 is the usual move order.


12…Ba6! 13.Re1 Rxb2 14.Qd4 Rxc2 15.Na3 Nb3 16.axb3 Rxc6 is a reliable path to equality for Black. White has compensation for the pawn, but not more. But even in the game White has very little, if anything.”

While on the one hand that’s an easily verifiable statement (these days we can all turn on an engine) it’s still quite nice to read. Far too often the authors of opening monographs have a tendency to go out of their way to try to claim that at worst a line played in a system they are recommending by one of the top players in the world is “unclear” or that there are “long term strategic considerations” or some other such nonsense in an effort to avoid admitting that the position is just level and nothing more.

If you are an e4 player who has been looking for a dynamic opening to play which avoids the reams of variations inherent within the Spanish and Italian then the Scotch Gambit may very well be for you.

One last thing I would like to mention is that with Russell Enterprises you always know what you are going to get when it comes to the quality of the actual printed book itself. Their bindings are soft and the books are designed to lie flat easily while sitting at the board. Highly recommended.

Best chess to you,