Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Cochrane Gambit

The Cochrane Gambit against the Petroff Defense (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe4 d6 5.Nxf7!?) is hard to take seriously at first glance.  White surrenders a piece for two pawns and exposes Black's King in the center, but does he really have enough compensation for a whole piece?  You have to do some analysis and look at games to see how interesting White's long term chances are due to his center pawns. In his 200 Open Games, Bronstein claimed that the Cochrane Gambit was "no weaker, in the author's opinion" than the alternatives because "White, with his two mobile pawns, has a long-lasting initiative in the center."  A number of grandmasters have tried the line, even in high-level encounters (see Topalov - Kramnik Linares 1999 or Short - Shirov Dubai 2002).  So you have to think: if GMs are willing to give it a go, it is definitely viable at the amateur level.  

I had never given the Cochrane a close look until I analyzed Mark Kernighan's recent game against it (see game six of the Select USATE games I posted), which helped me to recognize what a fun opening this can be for the first player, leading to very exciting and high stakes games where pawns are used to dominate the opponent's pieces in a very Clamp-like way.

Below is a partial bibliography and webliography of sources devoted to the Cochrane Gambit from the white perspective.  I have generally left off books devoted to the Petroff Defense generally that should include a chapter on the gambit, though these would probably be worth consulting as well.  I should probably also mention that you need to be prepared for the Symmetrical Petroff, where Black plays 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 Nxe4!? (and you cannot continue 4.Nxf7? due to 4...Qe7! and Black wins).

Cochrane Books
Any book on the Petroff will cover the Cochrane Gambit, but there are not too many book sources with analysis from the White perspective.  Alterman and Baker offer useful coverage in their books.  

Boris Alterman, "The Cochrane Gambit" The Alterman Gambit Guide: White Gambits (Quality Chess 2010): 117-157.  I have reviewed this book and think it offers a great introduction to the Cochrane, especially for developing players.

Chris Baker, "Petroff Defense" A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire (Cadogan / Everyman Chess 1998): 27-43.  I really like this book, no matter what anyone says about it.  The coverage of the Cochrane is useful.

Gyozo Forintos and Ervin Haag, The Petroff Defense (Macmillan 1983): 107-115.
This just happens to be the only book on the Petroff to grace my shelves.  It offers a surprisingly balanced treatment of the line considering it is written for Black players.

W. John Lutes, Petroff Defense: Cochrane Gambit (Chess Enterprises 2002), 250 pages.
"Author W. John Lutes has become known worldwide for his exhaustive research in chess. In this volume he actually includes two books, a history of the entire Petroff Defense and a detailed analysis of the Cochrane Gambit. The historical survey spans 165 pages. The move than 1300 footnotes in this section underline the depth of the research involved. This includes the pioneer study by Jaenisch and Petroff translated from the 1842 French, and the Jaenisch 1871 German, which has never before appeared in English."

Anatoli Matsukevitch, The Cochrane Gambit (Match Chess 1994), 28 pages.
A simple pamphlet, mostly with games.

Viacheslav Osnos and Nikolay Kalinichenko, "The Cochrane Gambit 4.Nxf7" NIC Yearbook 19 (1991).

Eric Schiller and John Watson.  Survive & Beat Annoying Chess Openings: The Open Games (Cardoza 2003): 211-226.  This is a book you should have if you play the open games as Black or White.  It has lots of useful analysis, including this extensive treatment of the Cochrane, which the authors call "A near-crazy sacrifice" with "many advocates among amateur players."  Recommends meeting Topalov's 5.Nc3 with 5...Be6 6.d4 (6.f4!?) 6...d5! and the standard 5.d4 with either 5...Nbd7!? or 5...c5 6.dxc5 (6.Bc4+ d5! 7.exd5 b5!) 6...Nc6 7.Bc4+ Be6 8.Bxe6+ Kxe6.

Cochrane Web Resources
There is a lot of amateur interest in the Cochrane, and a lot of analysis on the web.

Cochrane Gambit, Petrov Defense (C42) by Uwe Bekemann
An interesting website devoted exclusively to the gambit, with game references and complete analysis.  

The Mighty Cochrane Gambit by IM Mark Ginsburg
Includes a brief bio of Cochrane and a game of the author's from the 80s.

Gambito Cochrane from Hechiceros del Tablero
Some analysis from the defunct Spanish language website, with PGN file.

Opening Lanes #74 by Gary Lane at ChessCafe

The Legacy of John Cochrane by Nikolay Minev at ChessCafe
Includes analysis of some recent games with Cochrane's gambit.

The Cochrane Gambit at Linares 99 at ChessBaseUSA
From the archives, a commentary on Topalov - Kramnik.

Cochrane Gambit by GambitFan
A nice game collection at

Cochrane Gambit by Wookash

Alterman on the Cochrane Gambit by Kenilworthian
A game collection at featuring the games that Boris Alterman used to discuss the Cochrane Variation in his book on White Gambits.  Chessgames had about half the games only. 

Cochrane Gambit at Everything about Petrov

Cochrane Gambit zipped files download from Gambitingly Way

The Cochrane Gambit by GM Magesh and GM Arun
Features the nice game Pruess - Haessel, Berkeley 2008.

John Cochrane at Wikipedia

Petroff's Defense, Cochrane's Gambit blog
I really do not understand the purpose of this blog, which is not updated and simply posts a lot of very basic analysis.

Cochrane Videos
There are a number of videos related to the Cochrane Gambit, but the better ones are not freely available online except in preview.

GM Boris Alterman, The Cochrane Gambit Part One, Part Two and Part Three at ICC (Download)  One of Alterman's video lecture series on gambit lines, which was the basis for his later book.  Requires ICC membership to login.

IM David Pruess, "Conquering Cochrane Concepts" 
Part OnePart Two, and Part Three at Requires subscription, but previews available (see links above and embeds below).

IM Bryan Smith "Another Cochrane Gambit" at Video (25 minutes -- April 30, 2009)

GM Jesse Kraai, "A Perfect Example of the Cochrane's Strength: David Pruess vs. Dale Haessel" at Video (11 minutes -- December 30, 2008)    

GM Jesse Kraai, "How to Beat the Petrov with the Cochrane Gambit" at Video (32 minutes -- December 19, 2006) 


Michael Goeller said...

Gary Lane offers some analysis of the Cochrane at ChessCafe today.

Anonymous said...

The blog hasn’t been updated because it is user-guided. The reader has to request through the comment system to have relevant analysis developed further. That way the blog develops into a hands-on tutorial for both the publisher and the reader. It’s supposed to be an up-dated version of a conventional chess book. It can be updated and/or reprinted in real time.
The analysis is human-guided computer analysis. That is why it looks basic. But if both the publisher and reader work together to shed more light on it, the inquiry can lead to interesting models of correct play.
By the way, the sidebar offers game-plans for positions that might be of interest to the reader.
Yours in Electronic Publishing,