Gambits you might want to try, Part 1

Nov 5, 2014, 11:28 AM |

1. e4

1.1 King's gambit

  • ECO: C30–C39
  • Parent: Open Game
  • Material offered: 1 pawn

White offers a pawn to divert the Black e-pawn so as to build a strong centre with d2–d4. Theory has shown that in order for Black to maintain the gambit pawn, he may well be forced to weaken his kingside.

The King's Gambit is one of the oldest documented openings, as it was examined by the 17th-century Italian chess player Giulio Polerio. It is also in an older book by Luis Ramírez de Lucena.

The King's Gambit is infrequently seen at master level today, as Black can obtain a reasonable position by returning the extra pawn to consolidate. There are two main branches, depending on whether or not Black plays 2...exf4: the King's Gambit Accepted (KGA) and the King's Gambit Declined (KGD).

Useful links:

King's Gambit on Wikipedia
King's Gambit on 365Chess
The Fascinating King's Gambit by Thomas Johansson
April Fool's Day joke on Chessbase


1.2 Falkbeer Countergambit

  • ECO: C31-C32
  • Parent: King's Gambit
  • Material offered: 1 pawn

In this aggressive countergambit, Black disdains the pawn offered as a sacrifice, instead opening the centre to exploit White's kingside weakness. After the standard capture, 3.exd5, Black may reply with 3...exf4, transposing into the King's Gambit Accepted, 3...e4, or the more modern 3...c6.

A well known blunder in this opening is White's reply 3.fxe5??, which after 3...Qh4+, either loses material after 4.g3 Qxe4+, forking the king and rook, or severely exposes the white king to the black pieces after 4.Ke2 Qxe4+ 5.Kf2 Bc5+.

The opening bears the name of Austrian master Ernst Falkbeer, who played it in an 1851 game against Adolf Anderssen.

Useful links:

Falkbeer Countergambit on Wikipedia
Falkbeer Countergambit on 365Chess
Jim West on Falkbeer Countergambit


1.3 Double Muzio Gambit

  • ECO: C37
  • Parent: King's Gambit Accepted
  • Material offered: Bishop and Knight

Unique amongst the major opening variations, the Double Muzio Gambit leaves White two pieces down after only eight moves! According to Lowenthal it was invented by Morphy, though he is recorded as having played it (in 1857) only when giving odds of the queen’s knight. Despite its pedigree and glamour, however, the Double Muzio has been sadly neglected by ‘theory’, and indeed nearly every published variation of it is hopelessly wrong.


Useful links:

Barely two lines about Double Muzio Gambit on Wikipedia
Chess 101 - Double Muzio Gambit - by Games For Life, Inc. (YouTube)
The Double Muzio by Peter Millican (PDF)
Double Muzio Gambit on 365Chess


1.3 Evans Gambit

  • ECO: C51–C52
  • Parent: Giuoco Piano
  • Material offered: 1 pawn

The Evans Gambit is an aggressive variant of the Giuoco Piano, which normally continues with the positional moves 4.c3 or 4.d3. The idea behind the move 4.b4 is to give up a pawn in order to secure a strong centre and bear down on Black's weak-point, f7. Ideas based on Ba3, preventing Black from castling, are also often in the air. According to Reuben Fine, the Evans Gambit poses a challenge for Black since the usual defenses (play ...d6 and/or give back the gambit pawn) are more difficult to pull off than with other gambits. (Interestingly, Fine was beaten by this gambit in a friendly game against Bobby Fischer, in just 17 moves.)

The famous Evergreen game opened with the Evans Gambit.


Useful links:

Evans Gambit on Wikipedia
Evans Gambit on 365Chess
Italian Game & Evans Gambit by Jan Pinski
The Great Evans Gambit Debate by Michael Rohde

1.5 Wilkes-Barre/Traxler Variation

  • ECO: C57
  • Parent: Two Knights Defense
  • Material offered: at least 1 pawn

Czech problemist Karel Traxler played 4...Bc5!? in Reinisch–Traxler, Prague 1896. Some decades later, several Pennsylvania chess amateurs, (mainly K. Williams) analyzed the variation and decided to name it after their hometown Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, so today 4...Bc5 is known as both the Traxler Variation and (in the U.S.A. and the United Kingdom only) the Wilkes-Barre Variation. This bold move ignores White's attack on f7 and leads to wild play where a number of long variations have been analyzed to a draw by perpetual check. The current main lines all are thought to lead to drawn or equal positions, e.g. after 6.Kxf2 Nxe4+ 7.Kg1, or even 7.Ke3. In the year 2000, this last move (which was already considered by Traxler himself) was credited as the 'refutation' of the Traxler variation, after an article in the New in Chess Yearbook series, featuring a cover diagram after White's seventh move. However, computer analysis subsequently showed that Black can probably force a draw after this move as well. White's best try for an advantage is probably 5.Bxf7+ Ke7 6.Bb3 (although 6.Bd5 was the move recommended by Lawrence Trent in his recent Fritztrainer DVD), as this poses Black the most problems. No grandmasters have regularly adopted the Wilkes-Barre as Black, but Alexander Beliavsky and Alexei Shirov have played it occasionally even in top competition. No clear refutation is known.


Useful links:

Traxler Counterattack on Wikipedia
Traxler Counterattack on 365Chess
Traxler Counterattack games collection by tak traxler
Traxler Counter Attack (Wilkes-Barre) Webliography
The Traxler Counterattack by Dan Heisman
Alterman Gambit Guide: Black Gambits 2 by Boris Alterman

1.6 Marshall Attack

  • ECO: C89
  • Parent: Ruy Lopez 
  • Material offered: 1 pawn

This gambit became famous when Frank James Marshall used it as a prepared variation against José Raúl Capablanca in 1918; nevertheless Capablanca found a way through the complications and won. It is often said that Marshall had kept this gambit a secret for use against Capablanca since his defeat in their 1909 match. The most common counterclaim is that Marshall had used a similar approach in 1917 against Walter Frer. However Edward Winter found: no clear evidence of the date for Frere vs Marshall; several games between 1910 and 1918 where Marshall passed up opportunities to use the Marshall Attack against Capablanca; and an 1893 game that used the same line as in Frere vs Marshall.

Improvements to Black's play were found (Marshall played 11...Nf6!? originally, but later discovered 11...c6!) and the Marshall Attack was adopted by top players including Boris Spassky, John Nunn and more recently Michael Adams. In the Classical World Chess Championship 2004, challenger Peter Leko used the Marshall to win an important game against World Champion Vladimir Kramnik. Currently, Armenian Grandmaster Levon Aronian is one of the main advocates for the Marshall Attack.

Useful links:

Marshall Attack on Wikipedia
Marshall Attack on 365Chess
Black Repertoire Against 1.e4 Volume 1: The Marshall Attack - Jan Gustafsson
Understanding the Marshall Attack by David Vigorito

1.7 Urusov (Ponziani) Gambit

  • ECO: C24
  • Parent: Bishop's Opening
  • Material offered: 1 pawn

Documented by Ponziani in the 18th century, the gambit was first analyzed in 1857 by Prince Sergei Urusov (sometimes rendered "Urusoff" or "Ouroussoff"), a friend of Tolstoy and one of the best Russian players of the mid-nineteenth century after Petrov. Few of Urusov's games survive, and none with his gambit, but for an example of his play see Urusov-Petrov, Warsaw 1859. Perhaps the earliest surviving example of the gambit was played by Urusov's secretary, Ignatz Van Kolisch, in Kolisch-Paulsen, London 1861.
The Urusov has been popular among attacking players for nearly 150 years. Adopted by Keidanski, Schlechter, Tartakower, Caro, and Mieses, the opening claimed victims among the best defenders of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including Steinitz and Lasker. By 1924 there was enough interest in the line that a thematic tournament was organized in New York featuring Marshall, Torre, and Santasiere (see the Dimock Theme Tournament web site for more details). More recently, correspondence players have explored the opening's many forcing lines, and Yakov Estrin (World Correspondence Champion from 1975 to 1980) published several monographs that carried the analysis into the middlegame.  Estrin's analysis revealed, however, a possible equalizing method for Black (with Panov's 4....d5) and suggested that some of the deepest lines might end in equality with best play. With that the opening fell into disfavor at the highest levels of master competition, and today it is mostly seen in club play, where it racks up quick scores against inexperienced or unprepared opponents.

Useful links:

Urusov Gambit mentioned on Wikipedia
Urusov Gambit on 365Chess

Urusov Gambit Bibliography

1.8 Danish Gambit

  • ECO: C21
  • Parent: Center Game
  • Material offered: 2 pawns

The Danish Gambit is one of the most aggressive openings as white will look to sacrifice two pawns for quick development and the attack. White starts with 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 allowing black to take pawns at will.

Many times you will see games with the Danish Opening last less than 20 moves as white will either breakthrough and checkmate the king early on or white will fail miserably and be left in shambles.

If accepted, white will have a strong bishop pair developed staring down at the black’s king side while black will have none of his pieces developed. Many lines have been studied that allow black to defend correctly and protect the material advantage and it is very common for black to give back some material in order to gain back some development.

It is important if accepted that white hold on to his bishop pair as the open board allows white to keep the pressure on black.


Useful links:

Danish Gambit on Wikipedia
Danish Gambit on 365Chess
Danish Dynamite by Karsten Muller, Martin Voigt
Danish Gambit by W. John Lutes

1.9 Wing Gambit (Sicilian)

  • ECO: B20
  • Parent: Sicilian Defence
  • Material offered: 1 pawn

The Wing Gambit against the Sicilian is not very popular nowadays, but it may well be worth a revival.  After all there are many openings where a Pawn is pitched, even early in the game, and with a little imagination, the battle is in full swing.  In the Wing Gambit, White tosses a Queenside wing Pawn and goes for good central control and development.  Think about Black in the Benko Gambit; again a wing Pawn and – well – the development is not a lot at the beginning, but the central control coupled with the Rook pressure down the ‘a’ and ‘b’ files gives good results – and that opening is “respected”.

Useful links:

Wing Gambit on Wikipedia
Wing Gambit on 365Chess
THE WINGER! Sicilian Wing Gambit by Craig Stauffer
IM Andy Martin on Wing Gambit