Latvian Gambit


I was looking up a few new openings the other day when I came across a strange-looking gambit: 

Here is an analysis of the various third moves taken from Wikipedia:
  • 3.Nxe5 - the main line. Now after the usual 3...Qf6 (3...Nc6?!, the so-called "Corkscrew Counter Gambit", is also known, to which 4.d4! is a good response), White chooses between 4.d4 d6 5.Nc4 fxe4 and the immediate 4.Nc4, which has the advantage of allowing White to open the center with d3, for example 4...fxe4 5.Nc3 Qg6?! 6.d3 exd3? 7.Bxd3 Qxg2? and now White is winning after 8.Qh5+ Kd8 (or 8...g6 9.Qe5+ and 10.Be4) 9.Be4.
  • 3.Bc4 This may lead to perhaps the most notorious and heavily analyzed line of the Latvian, which begins 3...fxe4 4.Nxe5 Qg5 (4...d5 5. Qh5+ g6 6.Nxg6 Nf6 7. Qh4 is slightly less insane) 5.d4 Qxg2 6.Qh5+ g6 7.Bf7+ Kd8 8.Bxg6! Qxh1+ 9.Ke2 Qxc1 (9...c6 is a major alternative) 10.Nf7+ Ke8 11.Nxh8+ hxg6 12.Qxg6+ Kd8 13.Nf7+ Ke7 14.Nc3!.
  • 3.Nc3 American Grandmaster Joel Benjamin has claimed that this sensible developing move refutes the Latvian.

  • 3.exf5
  • 3.d4

I have tried this gambit out in two games so far, and besides the on-going one at the moment, I was thouroughly crushed. Do you think there is any sense to these moves? It looks somewhat dubious to me.


If you're going to play the Latvian play it Live or OTB.   Realize you are investing material for Force and will have to invest more as the game progresses.  If you hunker down when behind this opening is not for you.  Study tactics or you will go badly wrong.  It can be fun but also demanding.  There are easier gambits to play with.  Try

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3  Nc6 3. Bb4 f5  still messy and tactical but a little sounder.


I don't understand it. I get crushed both sides.


the latvian is played fairly often by corrospondence players. It's to scary to play over the board. there are just to many tactics and imbalances to figure out.

I've played it a couple of times and you are losing until you win.


It is like any gambit - if you don't understand the ideas behind the gamit, or what you are aiming for, your sacraficed material is wasted. In this gambit, because you open up lines to your king, if you dont know how to play it, you get slaughtered.


Have any of you played it? What kind of lines are the most important?


Oh yeah, I've played it. But somehow I don't think you can call what I played lines, per se.


Hahaha! Sure, they were probably pretty crazy games; considering the type of gambit involved.


FM Andrew Karklins has played this for years with success.


I disagree with the notion that because white has played the "extra" Nf3 against a King's Gambit that he therefore is better. Since generally black does not play Nf6 against the King's Gambit, this reasoning is too simple.

The argument would make more sense if black tried f5 against the bishop's opening.

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 f5


The disadvantage of the extra move Nf3 is that exf5 is answered by e4.

The disadvantage of Bc4 is that exf5 is answered by d5. If black played 1.e4 e5 2.Bc5 f5, white should probably go for a reversed King's Gambit declined (which I'm sure is fine with white)

I think that the Latvian is better not to be compared with the King's Gambit - it is it's own opening. The common maneuver Nf3-Nxe5-Nc4 just doesn't occur in the KG. For this reason, it is best to not try to compare the opening with others - just look at this one, learn its intricacies, themes, and common positions.



Here is a game I won playing board 2 in a scholastic championship. It was the last round. The girl knew the opening but took about it the wrong way.


I added a 13,000 pgn database for this opening in the download area.