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The Kingston Defence is characterized by the opening moves:

1.e4 e6
2.d4 f5

It can also be reached after the transposition of moves 1.d4 f5 2.e4 e6—a form of Staunton Gambit Declined.)

The first record of the defence being played is Schiffers-Chigorin, 1880. The first record of a win by Black is the 1892 victory of Elson over Emanuel Lasker. The line fell into disuse until 1989, when the publication of a monograph by Gavin Wilson suggested a repertoire of responses for Black to the principal third moves available to White, namely 3.e4, 3.e5, 3.Nc3, 3.Nd2 and 3.Bd3.

In 1998, Clyde Nakamura, working independently, devised the Franco-Hiva Gambit variation of the Kingston Defence—1.e4 e6 2.d4 f5 3.ef Nf6?! 4.fe Bd6?!—in which Black sacrifices two pawns in exchange for a lead in development. This is an intriguing bypass to the problem set by the Exchange Variation of the Kingston Defence—1.e4 e6 2.d4 f5 3.ef ef—which undoubtedly poses the most serious threat to the viability of Black's defence.

General considerations[]

The Kingston Defence shares a weakness with the French Defence—in the form of the constrained queen's bishop—and a strength with the Dutch Defence—namely the early thrust of the f-pawn, which often supports a knight on e4. White's decision at move three tends to define the nature of the game that follows. A typical sequence in the Advance Variation would be: 1.e4 e6 2.d4 f5 3.e5 Ne7 4.Nf3 c5 5.c3 (if 5.dxc5 Ng6) Nbc6.

Black has more space on the queenside, and will fianchetto his queen bishop to bear down on White's kingside and deter a pawn thrust to d5. Black's rook will contest the c-file. With the centre almost blocked, Black may decide to put his King on e7 or f7, creating the opportunity for a kingside pawn storm which might catch out a White who is unfamiliar with the defence.

If, on the other hand, White decides to exchange on f5, we arrive at the Exchange Variation. A critical line in the Exchange Variation is 1.e4 e6 2.d4 f5 3.exf5 exf5 4.Bd3 Nc6?!, after which 5. Nf3 preserves some positional advantage, whereas 5. Bxf5 leads to the very sharp 5... Qf6, causing a rapid clearance of central pawns.

In summary, the selection of the Kingston Defence today can still cause White a surprise at both top and less exalted levels. Rather than seek an immediate, perhaps sacrificial refutation, White's best general strategy is to accumulate small advantages (such as trying to exploit the holes on e5 and e6 with White's knights), while watching out for potential Black pawn rollers on either wing.

Further reading[]

Wilson, Gavin (1989). Crack the Frutch: How to Play the Kingston Defence. Kingston upon Thames: Phnumpic Press. ISBN 0-9514103-0-X.