The Jerome Gambit
by Bill Wall

The Jerome Gambit, 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7 (with the most likely continuation of 4...Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5) is an offshoot of the Giuoco Piano where White can sacrifice two pieces to expose Black's king. The Encyclopedia of Chess Openings (ECO) designation for the opening is C50. It was named after Alonzo Wheeler Jerome (1834-1902).

There are a lot of traps in this opening, and if Black does not know how to defend properly, he will most likely get mated or lose quickly. My first experiment with the Jerome was in 2001. I started playing this gambit regularly in early 2010 after seeing Rick Kennedy's (Perrypawnpusher) blog on the Jerome Gambit, which he calls the duck-billed platypus of chess openings. Kennedy wrote an article on the Jerome for Chess Life for Kids, calling the article "The Worst Chess Opening Ever."

Rick Kennedy has a free database of thousands of games with this opening and has written and researched the Jerome Gambit for the past several years. Email to him and you can get his database of Jerome Gambits up to 2016. He also includes a collection of Blackburne Shilling Gambits (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nd4 4.Bxf7+).

Wikipedia calls it an unsound opening and that it is never seen in high-level chess. White probably loses by force in master play, but it is not that simple if you have to work it through the first time you see it. I have over a 90% win rate with White in blitz and rapid chess with it.

The gambit works fine if you know it and can surprise a player who has never seen it and does not know how to defend against it. Perfect for blitz or Internet play at faster time controls.

Alonzo Wheeler Jerome was born on March 8, 1834 at Four Mile Point, New York. He started playing this opening after the Civil War and sent some of his games to the Dubuque Chess Journal, edited by O. Brownson.

In 1868, he moved to Paxton, Illinois and became manager of a hemp and flax company.

An article appeared about the opening in the April 1874 issue of Dubuque Chess Journal (vol 6, #50), calling it Jerome's Double Opening. The July 1874 issue (vol 7, #53) carried the first Jerome Gambit between Jerome and the chess problemist, William A. Shinkman (1847-1933). The correspondence game went:
Jerome — Shinkman, Correspondence, 1874
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.Qh5+ Ke6 7.Qf5+ Kd6 8.f4 Qf6 9.fxe5+ Qxe5 10.Qf3 Nf6 11.d3 Ke7 12.Nc3 g5 13.Rf1 c6 14.g3 d5 15.Bd2 Bg4 16.Qg2 Rhf8 17.h3 Nxe4 18.Bf4 gxf4 19.gxf4 Rxf4 20.Nxe4 Rxf1+ 21.Kxf1 Rf8+ 0-1
In 1876, Alonzo played a correspondence game with the Jerome Gambit against Lt. (later Colonel) Garland Whistler (1847-1914), who was secretary of the Lexington Kentucky Chess Club. Whistler's brother was the famous James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) who painted Whistler's Mother.

Jerome contributed to the American Chess Journal, sending his Jerome Gambit games. The editor, W.S. Hallock, referred his gambit as "Jerome's Absurdity."

Jerome became a printer and patented a method to form letters for a printing machine. He later moved to Springfield, Illinois and worked as a guide in the state capitol building.

In 1896, the opening appeared in the third edition of Chess Openings, Ancient and Modern, edited by Edward Freeborough and Rev. C. E. Ranken. They wrote, "The Jerome Gambit is an American invention, and a very risky attack. It is described in the American Supplement to Cook's Synopsis as unsound but not to be trifled with. The first player sacrifices two pieces for two pawns, with the chances arising from the adversary's king being displaced, and drawn into the centre of the board." In September, 1899, he wrote a 23-page souvenir booklet for those he escorted through the state capitol building. He title it, The Great Debate: A Platform Scene in the Seven Joint Discussions between Lincoln and Douglas, which covered the debates between Lincoln and Douglas.

Jerome died in 1902 at the age of 67.

In the late 19th century, Joseph Henry Blackburne (181-1924) played against this opening and wrote, "I used to call this the Kentucky opening. For awhile after its introduction, it was greatly favored by certain players, but they soon grew tired of it." In 1880, an amateur player tried to play the opening against Blackburne.
NN — Blackburne, England 1880
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.Bxf7+ Kxf7 5.Nxe5+ Nxe5 6.Qh5+ g6 7.Qxe5 d6 8.Qxh8 Qh4 9.O-O Nf6 10.c3? (10.Qd8) Ng4 11.h3 Bxf2+ 12.Kh1 Bf5 13.Qxa8 Qxh3+ 14.gxh3 Bxe4# 0-1
So why play the Jerome? Rick Kennedy writes
The Jerome Gambit can be fun at blitz, in informal games, or when giving odds to a weaker player. There is no sense in trying to "prove" that the opening is "good." It has many time-tested refutations. For those playing the Jerome, it becomes an issue of finding the most challenging lines of play, until either the opponent collapses — or wins.
The Jerome Gambit was covered by Jon Speelman's Agony Column #24, pubished on ChessBase on October 26, 2016.

For a couple of hundred Jerome Gambit examples, see my pgn collection of my own Jerome Gambit games. I regularly play the Jerome Gambit at,,, FICS, etc.

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