Danish cracker

  • IM pfren
  • | Apr 3, 2012

The Danish Gambit is one of those daring 19th century openings that has inspired many amateur players. White gets a considerable lead in development at the cost of a couple of pawns.

In such cases Black must be careful, of course, but here I feel his task after accepting the offer is not difficult, since he has no structural weaknesses. His aim is to develop fast, and at the right moment return some material to get his own advantages. I will use three illustrative games (all won by white) to show that after Black's most natural move (5...Bb4+) White is nowhere close to achieving satisfactory compensation for his investment.

We start with the move 6.Kf1, which is considered in some sources the most promising for White: He simply gets his king out of the way to ensure his tactical tricks will work, and factly, he will be able to get back some material. But the mid-term problem with that move is the obstruction of the h1 rook, which Black can, with careful play, turn to his own advantage.

Meeting the check with 6.Nc3 is the most natural, and likely best move. However, this move does not hinder Black's development, who by natural means can get more than just a slight advantage.

Finally, we consider other white replies, but it's very difficult to find something particularly appetizing in them: White is clearly struggling.

Unless White manages to find some major improvement on those lines, his daring gambit should be rendered as completely unsound. Of course he may win the game, as happened here on all three games, but this cannot be done without generous cooperation by his opponent.

Perhaps White should consider using the Scotch Gambit move order to avoid the above continuation. However, things are not much more rosy- we will cover that possibility in the near future.


  • 6 months ago


    is there any counter gambit from black?

  • 20 months ago


    I have published a blog post in rebuttal to this article called "Danish Cracker Cracker". It can be found at the link below for anyone interested.


  • 2 years ago


    Danish Cracker. Haha. Cracker please............

    Pfren, it's a joke you would get if you lived in the states.

    Btw, you do good analysis. 

  • 3 years ago


    Amazingly this is called the nordic gambit in denmark!

  • 3 years ago


  • 3 years ago


    Why danish cracker?

  • 3 years ago


    I'm wondering why not:

    1.e4 e5 2. Cf3 Cc6  3. d4 e5xd4 4. Bc4 ??

  • 4 years ago


    Of all the analyses I have read on the Danish Gambit, the best one to date is IM pfren on chess.com.  I thank him for this comprehensive review. Absolutely wonderful !


    The Comments that follow are also useful contributions despite the heat generated. For example, sollevy10's capable appraisal of the Schlecter defense is a sobering analyses, that I believe supports the expert appraisals of the "unsoundness" of the Danish. 

    Nevertheless, it doesn't mean that the Danish should not be played. White's superior development plus a few traps here and there make it fun to play in blitz and informal games.  In the 3 day games on chess.com where analyses is readily available, the unsoundness will become apparent.  So, I expect mostly losses as White for the Danish tourneys that I am joining on chess.com. Let's see what happens !

  • 4 years ago


    Hi guys, I am a lawyer, chess player and therefore really enjoy your arguments....I salute all your passion...

    There is very little theory on this opening. Where can I can get some?

  • 4 years ago


    Now that I look at it backwards, this was indeed an amazing period... just like my entire chess career...

    I'm a guy who played relatively few tourneys, but a lot casually, learning, reading, analyzing... 

    in 1991 I was rated 1531. Two tourneys later it was 1641, and one further competition brought me up to 1726. 

    Then I didn't play for two years, and went to a 5-game tournament, reaching 1745. 

    Three years more of retirement, then another event and one more action chess thing, and 1779, and a couple more tourneys, and 1877. 

    The challenge has always been, finding enough time and motivation to actually go out and play these tournaments...

  • 4 years ago


    Dear IM Pfren, 


    I have delved considerably into your article... 


    I used to play either 3...e5 against the Danish (that is, before it becomes a full blown Danish), or the old recommended line that goes, as far as I can remember - 1. e4 e5 2. d4 ed 3. c3 dc 4. Bc4 cb 5. Bxb2 d5 6. Bxd5 Nf6 7. Bxf7+ Kxf7 8. Qxd8 Bb4+ 9. Qd2 Bxd2+ 10. Nxd2 c5

    I saw it in an old book as a teenager (when I was certainly no better than 1200), and it said - "equal - maybe a bit better for black because of the Q-side majority". I've played it a few times since, safely. 

    Then in 1991, when I won the BCO book in a tournament (in this period I was rated 1500ish, but already playing like an 1800, which it took a few more tourneys to 'officially' become), for the first time I saw a complex line, suggested by either Kasparov or GM Keene, where black retains his material advantage (I don't remember if it was one pawn or two - and with all of my moving-apartments and countries, the book's long gone and/or lost), and gets a =/+ to -/+ evaluation. 

    It looked complex and suspicious - and now look what you're doing in this article...

    You're an IM - a very strong and accomplished player. For you, to look at all of these complex variations, study and/or memorize them, or understand the main ideas thereof, the pillars of development and counterplay which will help black come out on top, is quite easy because of your acquired insight into the game. 

    But what will I say? The advanced amateur with limited time and/or patience to delve into multiple lengthy and 'thicketed' variations (to use Kotov's imagery)? 

    Not to mention people with even less chess expertise?

    You show here three games won by white... and the only conclusion a non-IM strength player can draw from your article is that trying to keep the pawn(s) with black involves razor-sharp play, not for a few moves but long term, where one always needs to find and/or remember the correct responses, and where one inaccuracy or a couple thereof may well spell defeat!

    Not everybody is up to the task - even if in a theoretical realm all of your claims as to a black advantage may be true. 

    If you want to build a thesis which is digestible to the 2100-and-lower player, I would suggest adding a segment to the article, providing the general keystones of play against the Danish - what to watch for, what to insist on, something that goes like a thread through all of the variations that you give. Maybe such an added segment will even make going through all of the variations, easier and/or more appetizing - as one will then already have the "Ariadne thread" to lead him out of the labyrinth of variations. 

    Your thoughts?

  • 4 years ago


    The best reply for black here is the clever 5... Nh6!:

    What do you think???
  • 4 years ago


    I used to play the Danish in speed games but frankly it is unsound even in blitz. There are too many ways that black can eat the material while protecting his king.

  • 4 years ago


    In a pure chess sense the two pawn sac in the Danish Gambit just has to e

    a win for Black. But for practical matters it can be used as a surprise-even against grandmasters. [I won such a game vs a grandmaster in a US Open]. I do not think grandmasters are always prepared for such an opening to be played against them?

    In a more practical sense I agree with tarrashtalker  to simply reply to 3. c3 with 3. ...Qe7 which most opponents will not be prepared for.

    [and besides it is a sound variation and one does not then have to learn the one pawn or two pawn sacrifices which are varied and complex.]

  • 4 years ago


    In a chess sense the two pawn sac in the Danish Gambit just has to be unsound with best play for both sides. However I did win from a GM once in a U S Open with this line.

    They may not expect such an opening to be played against them?  I always liked to meet 3. c3 with Qe7 per tarrashtalker as it is a sound line and

    [as he states] most of your opponents will not be prepared for.

  • 5 years ago


    Great analysis, dispite a few flaws.  A valuable opening to catch you opponent off guard and take him out of the book.

  • 5 years ago


    Kf1? so awkward but sharp nonetheless.

  • 5 years ago

    IM pfren

    12.Qb5+ Nc6 13.Bxc3 Bxc3 14.Ne4 Bd7 15.Nxc3 Qxf6 and white can't survive with that king shield. Factly, even 14...Qxd1+ 15.Kxd1 0-0-0+ is much better for Black (safe king, rook+bishop+two pawns for a Queen, and uh... that poor, naked white king)...

    7...d5 8.exf6 dxc4 9.fxg7 Rg8 10.Qe2+ Be6 11.Rc1 0-0 (or 11...Qxd2+) and Black wins.

    7...d5 8.exf6 dxc4 9.fxg7 Rg8 10.Qa4+ Nc6 11.0-0-0 c3 12.Bxc3 Bxc3 13.Ne4 Bd7 or 13...Qe7 are bad for white.

    There is not much to analyse when white has a naked king on c1, methinks.

  • 5 years ago


    what if white plays 12.Qb5+ instead of your suggested move 12.Ne5.

    12.Qb5+ Nc6 13.Bxc3 Bxc3 14.Ne4 Bd7 15.Nxc3

    7...d5 8.exf6 dxc4 9.fxg7 Rg8 10.Qe2+ Be6 11.Rc1 or

    7...d5 8.exf6 dxc4 9.fxg7 Rg8 10.Qa5+.

    you have an exhaustive analysis of various variations but i think there are more playable variations that should be carefully looked at before declaring an opening to be unsound.

  • 5 years ago

    IM pfren

    1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Bc4 cxb2 5. Bxb2 Bb4+ 6. Nd2 Nf6


    7...Ne4 8.Bxf7+ Kxf8 9.Ba3! Bxa3 10.Nxe4 Kxf7 11.Qb3, white is better

    7...d5 8.exf6 dxc4 9.fxg7 Rg8 10.Qe2+ Qe7 11.Qxe7 Kxe7 12.Ne2, white is better.


    I guess you mean 7.e5, because you alrady have a pawn on e4.

    Your 10.Qe2+ is already included in an analysis sample (starting with 9.Qe2+ which is the same thing) and is answered by Be6, when white is quite closer to being totally lost than having an advantage. For example: 9.fg7 Rg8 10.Qe2+ Be6 (threatening ...c3) 11.0-0-0 c3 12.Ne4 Nd7 13.Nxc3 Qg5+ 14.Kb1 Qxg7 when Black may have equalized: he has a pawn and a half more, a strong bishop pair, and a safer king... Tongue out

    Or 11.Rc1 Na6 (with the simple idea ...Nc5-d3+) 12.Nf3 Nc5 13.0-0 Qd3 when White hopes Black having a heart attack, but hardly something more than that.

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