Ian Simpson’s Chess Site
Being something of a
"gambiteer", in this site I will look at various gambits, involving
sacrificing one or two central pawns in return for open lines and development-
the “time for material” type gambits. I will focus particularly on the
gambits in the classic “Open Games” (1.e4 e5) but I will probably look at some
others too in the future. A large majority of the gambits that I cover
here are reasonably sound and will provide any player who enjoys playing open,
attacking chess with many years of pleasure, at least below international
This site is intended to provide an
introduction to many of the opening lines and cover some key variations, rather
than delving straight into heavy theory, as many of these lines are lacking a
good introductory coverage in chess literature.
I also have a chess blog in
which I post frequent ChessCafe.com-style articles on these sort of lines,
accompanied by Java replays of illustrative games.
White sacrifices the d-pawn
Here are a selection of “open gambits” stemming from 1.e4 e5 where White
sacrifices the d-pawn with a quick d2-d4.
These lines are both dangerous (at least below master level) and
Göring Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.d4
exd4 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.c3, or 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.c3)
4th move alternatives
4...dxc3 5.Bc4- Black doesn’t
take on b2
4...dxc3 5.Bc4 cxb2 6.Bxb2
Scotch Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.d4
exd4 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.Bc4, or 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4)
4th move alternatives, 4...Bc5
Giuoco Piano (4...Bc5 5.c3
Two Knights Defence A (4...Nf6
Two Knights Defence B (4...Nf6
Note: lines in which
White plays 5.c3, and Black responds with 5...dxc3, almost invariably transpose
to lines considered under the Göring Gambit section “4...dxc3 5.Bc4- Black
doesn’t take on b2”.
Danish Gambit (1.e4 e5
2.d4 exd4 3.c3)
Note: those interested in taking up the Danish should be familiar with Göring
Gambit lines, as a subsequent Nf3 and ...Nc6 will usually transpose to
them. Hence my coverage of the Danish is
much shorter, because I only focus on the lines that do not transpose.
Misc. lines following
1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Nf3, 3.Bc4, and the Urusov Gambit
Coverage of all lines
Again this section is
shorter because of the various transpositions to Göring, Danish and Scotch
Gambit lines. In particular those who
want to take up the Urusov Gambit need to know about the Two Knights Defence
lines that I’ve covered under the Scotch Gambit, for Black often plays 4...Nc6
transposing to them.
1.e4 e5 2.d4- lines where
Black does not take on d4
Coverage of all lines
Italian Gambit- 1.e4 e5
2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.d4
4th, 5th and 6th-move
4...Bxd4 5.Nxd4 Nxd4 6.0-0
4...exd4 is not covered
here because it transposes to a line of the Scotch Gambit. See “4...Bc5 sidelines” and “Giuoco Piano:
4...Bc5 5.c3 Nf6” for coverage of those lines.
sacrifices the e-pawn
Centre-pawn gambits involving the early sacrifice of the e-pawn are somewhat
less common. The Blackmar-Diemer Gambit
is probably not as sound as the d-pawn sacrifices covered above, but it is
dangerous and can also be used against the Scandinavian Defence (1.e4 d5
2.d4). The Staunton Gambit against the
Dutch Defence has fallen into disuse but is dangerous and reasonably sound.
Blackmar-Diemer Gambit- 1.d4
d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3
and 4th-move alternatives
Nf6 4.f3- 4th-move alternatives for Black plus 4...exf3 5.Qxf3
The Hübsch Gambit
Staunton Gambit- 1.d4 f5
Coverage of all lines
sacrifices the e-pawn
Black can also sacrifice the e-pawn for development with an early ...e7-e5,
although due to being a tempo down this generally entails more risk. Against 1.f4, the immediate 1...e5 (From’s
Gambit) is dangerous and reasonably sound, albeit insufficient for full
Against 1.d4, the Albin
Counter-Gambit (1...d5 2.c4 e5) is reasonably sound and can be complemented
with the line 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6. I’ve
had some experiments with the Englund Gambit (1.d4 e5), which may appeal to
fans of the unorthodox, but be warned, it isn’t particularly sound.
From’s Gambit: 1.f4 e5
3rd and 4th-move alternatives
Gambit Accepted- 4...g5 and 4...Nf6
Albin Counter-Gambit: 1.d4
d5 2.c4 e5
Chigorin-esque 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6
Counter-Gambit- 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5
Englund Gambit: 1.d4 e5
Coverage of all lines
The Budapest Gambit (1.d4
Nf6 2.c4 e5) is also quite respectable but I’ve opted not to cover it because
after 2.Nf3 Black has to play something completely different.
The Tarrasch Defence
(1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 followed by 3...c5) is also worth considering for those after
an active defence to 1.d4. Black often
accepts an isolated d-pawn in return for active piece play, like White often
does in the Göring Gambit Declined. I
haven’t covered it here, but refer readers who are interested to Abby
Marshall’s excellent introductory article at http://www.chesscafe.com/text/abby01.pdf.
Why play these openings? – Some
There are many good reasons for novices,
especially juniors, to take up such lines- they serve as a good introduction to
piece play, and tend to produce open and tactical positions. As Mark
Morss (the man behind the “Hard Chess” articles) often notes, open positions
are fundamental to chess, as closed positions tend to become open eventually
anyway. Furthermore, it is important for novices to get a grasp of
tactics and piece play before more complex positional motifs can be easily
understood (e.g. it's no use having a strong positional understanding of the
Closed Ruy Lopez if you keep blundering pieces in the middlegame). At the
same time, although these openings lack the positional sophistication of the
lines that most grandmasters regularly use, positional motifs do nonetheless
recur in these openings too.
They aren’t as effective at the highest
levels of play, though, due to excellent defensive technique, a tendency for
"safety-first" play (playing not to lose, rather than to win) and
deep computer-assisted opening preperation. If you aspire to reach
grandmaster level, it is advisable to take up some of these openings early in
your chess career to get a good grounding in tactics, but then increasingly
phase in slower and more positionally sophisticated openings such as the
mainline Ruy Lopez.
But for those of you who play chess
mainly for fun and don't aspire to reach grandmaster level, these openings may
well serve as "openings for life" and provide years of
pleasure. "Blasphemy", I hear some cry, "surely the main
point of playing chess is to improve as much as you can?" Well, I
refer the reader to a snippet from "Beating Grandmasters More
Regularly" by Vassilios Kotronias (as quoted in Urusov Gambit aficionado
Michael Goeller's review of the book):
"[C]hess is one of the most drawish of sports,
and trying to complicate matters, especially with Black, can easily lead to
disaster against opponents who are willing to set up a solid position and just
wait. I have literally chosen to lose games rather than acquiesce to a draw
against such players, because I could not bring myself to accept that my
superior knowledge and understanding were insufficient to yield enough winning
chances when facing them. Therefore, I would often consciously take excessive
risks and lose. Being uncompromising is, in general, a disadvantage in chess,
as having the "serve" ...of the white pieces is too hard to overcome.
Had I realized this fact at the beginning, I would have probably played chess
only as an amateur, and chosen a different sport to make a professional
The gambiteer mentality
I'm not quite one of those players who
must play gambits or give up chess- I don't lose interest if, say, I hope for
an Albin Counter-Gambit and am thwarted by the moves 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6
3.Bf4. To my mind, gambits are a good
way of generating unbalanced and complicated positions, but there are other
ways of achieving the same result. If your opponents refuse to let you
play a gambit, or decline your gambits when they are offered, you just have to
find another way to create imbalances. Trading pawn structure for piece
activity, castling on opposite wings and creating unbalanced pawn structures
are other reliable methods.
I'm not one of those gambiteers with an
aversion to defending against gambits either- to my mind, accepting gambits and
hoping to make use of the extra material is often an effective way of getting
unbalanced and complicated positions. You have to be comfortable in the
resulting positions, though, as psychologically it is often harder to defend
than to attack.
Many resources have been helpful to me in
constructing this chess openings site.
The list will, unfortunately, always be incomplete, but it should at
least include the most important sources.
As well as the sources listed below, some individuals have been
particularly helpful in correspondence with me: they include gambit enthusiasts
Mark Nieuweboer and Michael Goeller (owner of the Urusov Gambit site), , USCF
master Mark Morss (who wrote the “Hard Chess” series) and Stefan Bücker (author
of the German-language magazine Kaissiber)
John Emms, Play the Open Games as Black (Gambit, 2000). A guide to
1.e4 e5 variations where White chooses an alternative to the Ruy Lopez, in
which Black is given multiple repertoire choices against most white systems to
cater for different tastes. Much of the
analysis has aged well, and I can recommend this book to all players from club
level upwards who are interested in taking up 1.e4 e5 with Black. It is also worth having if you play some of
these lines with White, as Emms often covers quite a wide range of possible
responses from Black (for example he gives fairly detailed coverage of 4...dxc3,
4...d5 and 4...Nf6 5.e5 Nd5 against the Göring Gambit).
Karsten Muller and Martin Voigt,
Danish Dynamite (Russell Enterprises
2003). An impressively thorough coverage of most lines of the Danish, Göring,
Scotch and Urusov Gambits, although there are a few omissions (e.g. no coverage
of the 4.Bc4 lines of the Danish Gambit where Black doesn’t take the second
pawn on b2). The analysis is high
quality but somewhat “variation-heavy”, so this book is an excellent resource
for advanced club and county-level players who are interested in finding out
more about the theory of these lines, but not so good as a starter resource.
Jude Acers and George Laven, The Italian Gambit and a Guiding Repertoire
for White- E4! (Trafford Publishing 2006).
Recommends the line 1.e4 e5
2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.d4!?, and covers a whole host of related lines including
the Two Knights Defence and the Giuoco Piano.
A fun and light-hearted coverage which offers some interesting insights,
and points out that some often-neglected sidelines are much better than their
reputations (6.e5!? in the old main line of the Giuoco Piano for instance),
although some of the assessments of the variations are over-optimistic for
White. The “guiding repertoire” section
of the book, which covers Black’s other first moves, is not as convincing as
the 1.e4 e5 section.
Christoph Scheerer, 2011, Blackmar-Diemer Gambit (Everyman Chess,
2011). One of those rare books on the Blackmar-Diemer that tries to be
objective, which provides a very extensive coverage of the critical lines,
although some of the coverage is based on low-quality internet games which
means that some assessments are open to question. Worth buying if you have a modest knowledge
of how to play the Blackmar-Diemer (or choose a Black setup against it) and
wish to learn more about the theory of the opening.
Kaissiber magazine (maintained by Stefan Bücker). A German-language magazine which contains
high-quality and detailed analysis of numerous opening systems, especially
offbeat lines. Even if your understanding
of German is limited, the chess analysis is generally easy to follow. In issues 22-25, Stefan Bücker and Lev Gutman
provided a lot of analysis of the gambit 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.0-0 Nf6
5.d4!? and related lines, including the Max Lange Attack, and Gutman
(unsuccessfully) tried to revive the Canal Variation of the Two Knights Defence
in issues 34 and 35.
Stefan Bücker, 1988, Englund
Gambit- drei Gambits in einem. A thorough German-language coverage of most
lines of the Englund Gambit (1.d4 e5) which includes coverage of some related
lines including the Nimzowitsch Defence (1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 e5 3.dxe5, which can
also arise via 1.d4 e5 2.dxe5 Nc6 3.e4).
Much of the analysis is good, but unfortunately for Englund Gambit
aficionados, stronger resources have generally been found for White since the
book was written (though the line 2.dxe5 Nc6 3.Nf3 Nge7!?, dismissed in the
book, has since been revived by Lev Zilbermints).
The Kibitzer by Tim Harding:
Kibitzer Harding has written numerous high-quality articles on opening
lines that I have covered on this site, especially the Giuoco Piano and the Two
Knights Defence (both of which often arise via the Scotch Gambit).
Over the Horizons by Stefan Bücker: http://www.chesscafe.com/archives/pastarch.htm#Over
the Horizons This column, now discontinued, offers coverage of some of
these lines, including some interesting ideas that have helped to revive the
4.d4 exd4 5.0-0 lines of the Two Knights Defence from White’s perspective as
well as the line 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.0-0, intending 4...Nf6 5.d4!?.
Opening Lanes by Gary Lane: http://www.chesscafe.com/archives/archives.htm#Opening
Lanes Coverage of numerous and wide-ranging opening lines. In #113, Gary kindly answered
a question of mine about the rare Göring Gambit line 4...d5 5.Bd3.
The Gambit Cartel by Tim McGrew: http://www.chesscafe.com/archives/pastarch.htm#The
Gambit Cartel An old column from the early to mid “noughties”, which
covered various gambit systems, ranging from the very sound to the somewhat
dubious. The closely-related
Blackmar-Diemer, Danish and Morra Gambits got a lot of coverage. A popular favourite is his article The Power of Ideas, an
article relating to the Morra Gambit explores the mentality involved behind
playing gambits, and the conflicts with external voices telling the gambiteer
to move over to the sort of mainline openings adopted frequently by the top
The Openings Explained by Abby Marshall:
Openings Explained A column intended to offer an introduction to specific
opening lines, geared especially towards club players. The articles are variable in quality; some
are excellent (e.g. the one on the Tarrasch Defence to the Queen’s Gambit) but
others (such as the one on the King’s Gambit Accepted) are quite flawed in places.
Hard Chess by Mark Morss: http://www.correspondencechess.com/campbell/hard/hard.htm
Numerous high-quality articles on opening lines, especially the classic Open
Games with 1.e4 e5, mostly from Black’s perspective (many articles serve as
good starting points for those interested in taking up particular 1...e5 lines
with Black, the Two Knights Defence is especially well covered). The articles are quite old but much of the
analysis still holds up well.
The Urusov Gambit by Michael Goeller: http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~goeller/urusov/perreux/index.html
A thorough coverage of the Urusov Gambit, offering many new ideas (in particular
his suggested line against 4...d6, transposing to a line of the Philidor
Defence, represents a significant improvement over previously-existing
theory). Worth checking out for a
thorough analysis, especially if you venture the Urusov yourself and come up
against an unexpected response- chances are it will be well-covered here.
This is Michael Goeller’s chess blog which often features “open gambits”,
including analysis of illustrative games and links to related sources. Many of the classic gambits following 1.e4 e5
get a lot of coverage, as do the Morra Gambit (1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3!?) and
the Albin Counter-Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5!?), among others.
Chesspublishing.com forums: http://www.chesspub.com/cgi-bin/yabb2/YaBB.pl
Many members on these forums play a very active role in contributing new
opening ideas and I often make references to them in my openings coverage.
John Watson’s book reviews at
The Week In Chess (the website is now discontinued). Watson is one of the world’s most respected chess
authors and reviewers (he is the author of the Play the French series for example). Particularly relevant are his review of Danish Dynamite (#62) and his very
critical review of Chess Openings for
White: Explained (#77),
as he discusses many relevant lines in considerable detail.