The Jerome Gambit Opening Guide for White and Black

Quick Summary

  • The Jerome Gambit arises from the Giuoco Piano after the moves (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5).
  • White sacrifices two pieces in hopes of mounting a quick attack on Black.
  • Black can easily evade White’s threats, with the best move after 6.Qh5+ being 6…Ke6.
  • Black does not have to find the best move to avoid trouble and can play 6…g6 or 6…Ng6 and will still avoid trouble.
  • Only after 6…Ke7 or 6…Kf6 will White’s sacrifices be worth it.

The Jerome Gambit- what is there to say about this crazy opening?

It is quite possible that you have never heard of it. That is because it is a completely refuted opening and has never been in fashion among top players. Does that mean you should not play it?

Well, like everything in chess, the answer is, that depends.

It is an opening best avoided against players that know what they’re doing and in classical time controls.

However, if the opening goes your way, then it can be a lot of fun. It is a tricky weapon in bullet and blitz, and if your opponent does not know what they are doing, they could be entering a world of pain.

The problem, as with other trick openings, is you rely on your opponent not knowing what they are doing. In fact, your opponent could even accidentally play a good move and you are busted.

Many lower-rated players will in fact be caught by surprise, perhaps some even higher-rated ones at faster time controls. You could also teach beginners a lesson on how to develop and defend properly out of the opening.

The Jerome Gambit is a derivation of the Italian Game, specifically, the Giuco Piano. It begins with the move order 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5

Now for some Jerome Gambit lore.

Its name comes from Alonzo Wheeler Jerome (1834–1902), a native of Paxton, Illinois. He had a game with this opening against William Shinkman that was published in the Dubuque Chess Journal in 1876.

It had its heyday in the late 19th century when chess theory was at a much more primitive stage. Even still, top players back then knew the opening was not the best. Engines of course have all but buried this obscure trick opening.

Julius du Mont said the opening, “is unsound, but has the saving grace of leading to a lively game and is therefore suitable for an occasional friendly game. The defender cannot afford to be careless.”

A quote that sums up the Jerome Gambit pretty well.

How to play the Jerome Gambit- When all goes according to plan

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.Qh5+

White has sacrificed a whole two pieces, therefore it is not time to get positional and play slow. White, if they want any chance of this attack being successful, must keep laying the pressure on and play 6.Qh5+.

There are two moves White would be happy with here. They are 6…Kf6 and 6…Ke7.

If 6…Kf6 the valuation swings to White giving -4.2 to +3.6. This is a serious blunder by Black.

White follows up with 7.Qf5+ forcing Black’s king away and allowing for the first piece recapture. 7…Ke7 8.Qxe5+. Now Black has one of two moves.

If 8…Kf8 9.Qxc5+, and the attack has been successful. Black can no longer castle, has a completely ruined kingside, plus they have nothing developed. White has won back both pieces sacrificed.

From here, Black might try something like 9…d6. The queen simply retreats to a safe square,10.Qe3. They may also play 9…Qe7. Here the choice is yours whether to trade queens and enjoy your two-pawn material advantage, or you can keep the queen on the board in the spirit of the opening with 10.Qe3.

If 8…Kf7, White can play the intermezzo move 9.Qd5+ and then proceed to take the bishop.

Going back a bit, if after 6.Qh5+ Black plays 6…Ke7, recapture the knight with 7.Qxe5+ Kf8 8.Qxc5+. If 7…Kf7, just insert the same intermezzo move of 8.Qd5+ and take the bishop.

Fun right? It is a scary enough attack that some players are bound to walk into your plans.

How to counter the Jerome Gambit

The good news about facing the Jerome Gambit as Black is that it does not require super accurate play. You just need to avoid the two aforementioned blunders and you should be all right. Remain calm, Black is much better in this opening.

Note that choosing to decline the Jerome Gambit by not recapturing with 4…Kxf7 is not good. Take the free piece. Your kingside pawn structure may be damaged, but you’ll have plenty of compensation.

So what to do after 6.Qh5+?

The best move-Ke6

White’s plans are foiled after this move. They’ve sacrificed two pieces and have nothing to show for it. There’s not a lot White can do to continue the attack. Beginners might be hesitant to bring their king further into the center, but being two pieces up, there just is nothing to worry about. White simply does not have enough in the attack.

While 6…Kf6 is the best move, it is not the only move that leaves Black better. That is the good thing about facing the Jerome Gambit. You can play suboptimal moves and still be ahead.

6…g6

It may seem like the best move at first, but Black gives a piece back. That’s okay though, so long as from here Black is careful.

After 7.Qxe5, both the bishop on c5 and the rook on h8 are attacked. At first glance it seems like trouble, but not if Black plays the correct move.

7…Qe7

If White takes the queen, they remain down a piece, and the attack is over. The bishop obviously cannot be taken as the queen defends it. If White tries to continue the attack with 8.Qxh8 Qxd1+.

If 9.Kd1 Qxg7 hits the rook.

If 9.Kf1 Qh4, threatening checkmate. 10.g3 Qg2+, and the situation does not look much better for White.

If Black plays 6…Ng6, White can regain the bishop, but not both pieces with 7.Qxc5. White can also play 7.Qd4+, the same intermezzo move we saw before, before taking on c5.

Model game

Let’s take a look at a model Jerome Gambit game. In fact, this is the game from which the Jerome Gambit gets its very name. It is from a correspondence game played in 1874 between Alonzo Wheeler Jerome and William A Shinkman.

Despite trying to get creative, it was Black who maintained the pressure on White. White remained down a piece the entire game.

Summary

Tricks abound in this opening. It is a fun gambit and does promise some interesting games, but if you’re playing as White, you should be prepared to lose many of them.

Sacrificing two pieces in the opening is rarely justified, so this one is one of the least sound gambits out there. Much more so than other dubious gambits such as The Tennison Gambit.

That’s not to say there aren’t any good gambits out there. Plenty of solid gambits exist, such as The Smith-Morra Gambit and The Budapest Gambit. You won’t sacrifice two pieces in them, but you will get some interesting games, and there are even some traps!

FAQs

Who invented the Jerome Gambit?

Alonso Wheeler Jerome invented the Jerome Gambit when he played it against William A. Shinkman in a correspondence game in 1874.

What is the idea of ​​the Jerome Gambit?

The idea of ​​the Jerome gambit is to open up Black’s kingside and sacrifice two pieces in hopes Black will make a mistake that will lead to checkmate.

How to counter the Jerome Gambit?

The best way to counter the gambit is to play 6…Ke6 after 6.Qh5+

Is the Jerome Gambit played at the top level?

The Jerome is seldom if ever played at the top level due to its dubious reputation and due to the fact that it has been thoroughly refuted.

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