The Motor Car Gambit

While searching newspaper archives for something else the other day I came across a rather amusing game with rather amusing annotations, considering the white bishops to be motor cars.

It was published in the Reading Observer in 1916: they had in turn taken it from a ‘foreign periodical’ published ‘about ten years ago’.

Let’s take a look.

1. e4 e5
2. Bb5

Unusual and playable: Black could reply with either c6 or Nf6.

2.. a6

After this move transposition to the Ruy Lopez is possible.

3. Ba4 b5
4. Bb3 a5

Black aims to trap the motor car – sorry, bishop. White decided to ignore this and develop instead.

5. Nf3 a4
6. Bxf7+

‘The motor car drives into the window of a modern horse butcher.’ Stockfish considers the position unclear, but these positions are easier (and more fun) for the attacker to play.

6.. Kxf7
7. Nxe5+ Ke6

Black had a difficult choice. Ke8, Ke7 and Ke6 are all playable, but Kf6 loses.

8. Qg4+

This time White has the choice. 8. Nc3 was another way to offer the knight: Black could meet this with Nf6. 8. d4, defending the knight, was another option.

8.. Kxe5

Black would have been better advised to decline the second piece with 8.. Ke7 9. d4 Nf6. Now White could win the rook on a8 by playing Qf5+ followed by Qd5+ but instead decides to throw some more wood on the fire.

9. d4+ Kxd4

Brave or foolish? 9.. Kd6 would have enabled him to defend successfully. 9.. Kf6 would have lost the queen. But this move should have lost the king.

10. e5+

Missing a mate in 4: 10. Be3+ Ke5 (10.. Kc4 11. Qe2+ Kb4 12. Qd2+ Kc4 13. Qc3#) 11. Qf5+ Kd6 12. Bc5+ Kc6 13. Qd5#.

10.. Kxe5

This is unclear, as is 10.. Kd5. But 10.. Kc5 would have been the best option.

11. Bf4+

Here Black resigned: ‘A second motor-car drives amongst them and runs down the butcher’s master, so that he cannot proceed any further. Loss of the Queen or mate follows in a few moves.”

No it doesn’t! 11.. Ke4 allows a mate in 2 and 11.. Kd4 apparently allows a mate in 7. Yes, and 11.. Kf6 loses the queen. But Black could have played on with 11.. Kd5 when there’s no mate. White has nothing better than 12. Qf3+ winning the rook on a8, when the position is totally unclear. A great example of premature resignation, I think.

Here’s the game.

This is a really good game for you (or your students) to analyse if you want to improve your tactical and calculation skills.

Coincidenally, two days after I discovered this I played a game in our club online blitz against a new and inexperienced member who favours tactical play.

I was White and the game started 1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 a5 (playing to trap my bishop, the same idea as in the Motor Car game) 4. Nc3 c6 5. f4 b5 6. fxe5 Ng8 when I had to choose between sacrificing on b5 gaining three pawns for the piece or on f7, gaining two pawns for the piece but bringing his king out. I chose the seemingly more cautious but unclear Nxb5 and won quickly anyway, but Stockfish tells me I should have played Bxf7+ instead, with a clear advantage.

Richard James

Please follow and like us:
follow subscribe
Richard James

Author: Richard James

Richard James is a professional chess teacher and writer living in Twickenham, and working mostly with younger children and beginners. He was the co-founder of Richmond Junior Chess Club in 1975 and its director until 2005. He is the webmaster of chessKIDS academy ( or and, most recently, the author of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, both published by Right Way Books. Richard has been a member of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club since 1966. Richard is a published author and his books can be found at Amazon. Richard is currently promoting minichess (games and puzzles using subsets of chess) for younger children through his website, and writing coaching materials for children (and adults) who want to start playing serious competitive chess, through View all posts by Richard James

You May Also Like