King's Gambit

1.e4 e5 2.f4

The King's Gambit is an age-old aggressive opening that Romantic chess players revered. Largely employed by top players for more than 300 years, this opening leads to open games that are exciting and, in most cases, decisive.

With the rise of engines and computer analysis, top players have virtually abandoned the King's Gambit in high-stakes games because of its risky nature. However, tactical players who enjoy sharp games can still employ this opening to play for a fabulous (and usually sacrificial) attack to win the game in style.

Starting Position

The King's Gambit happens after 1.e4 e5 2.f4 and it's the fourth most popular move after Black plays 1...e5. White's idea is to gambit a pawn to build a strong center after diverting Black's e5-pawn to f4. If Black accepts the pawn sacrifice, White has two main plans: attack the weak f7-square or play d2-d4 and develop their pieces to active squares.

King's Gambit
The starting position for the King's Gambit.


  • It's an exhilarating and fun opening
  • White goes for the initiative


  • Black has many different options to choose from
  • White's king can become exposed
  • It's a risky opening


After the game enters the King's Gambit with 2.f4, Black can accept or decline the pawn sacrifice. Below are the four main lines, two of them taking the pawn and the other two ignoring it.

King's Gambit Accepted: King's Knight's Gambit

The most popular way to play is to accept the gambit with 2...exf4. After that, White's main move is to play 3.Nf3, entering the King's Knight's Gambit line. White stops Black from playing Qh4 with check and starts developing the kingside. Usually, White will try to quickly castle and apply pressure on the f7-square using the light-squared bishop, knight, and the open f-file.

King's Gambit Accepted: Bishop's Gambit

Another line after Black accepts the pawn is to play 4.Bc4 and enter the Bishop's Gambit, a variation preferred by GM Bobby Fischer. This move allows Black to play Qh4+, forcing the white king to f1. White will accept that to later play Nf3, gaining a tempo on the black queen. From there, White usually tries to build a strong center and go on the offensive.

King's Gambit Declined: Falkbeer Countergambit

The Falkbeer Countergambit is the most popular way to decline the King's Gambit. The game enters this line after 1.e4 e5 2.f4 d5. Black strikes at the center immediately instead of taking White's wing pawn.

King's Gambit Declined: Classical Variation

The King's Gambit Declined: Classical Variation occurs after 1.e4 e5 2.f4 Bc5, with Black developing the dark-squared bishop to a dangerous diagonal. With this line, Black refuses to play the crazy games that would unfold after accepting the gambit. The bishop on c5 does a good job preventing the white king from castling kingside, keeping the it exposed.

How To Play Against The King's Gambit

One of the disadvantages of the King's Gambit is that Black has many ways of playing against it. Any player who knows theory can get good positions with Black by "defusing" the gambit whether they decide to accept or decline it.

King's Gambit Declined: Falkbeer Countergambit

If you want to respond to White's aggressive opening by escalating the aggression, you can opt for the Falkbeer Countergambit. As stated above, it arises after 1.e4 e5 2.f4 d5. Black's idea is to open up the center and explore the weakness White created around their king after the f2-f4 push.

King's Gambit Accepted: Fischer Defense

This variation became famous after Fischer published an article titled "A Bust to the King's Gambit." If you want to accept the gambit and White chooses to develop the g1-knight, this is a great way to get a good position. The variation goes 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 d6, and Black will usually play the g7-g5 push to keep the f4-pawn or build pressure on the kingside. With 381 games in our database, White wins 35%, draws 15%, and Black wins 50%.

King's Gambit Accepted: Cozio Variation

After accepting the gambit, White can develop the light-squared bishop before the knight. For this line, the Cozio Variation scores well. After 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 Qh4+ 4.Kf1 d6, White can no longer castle. From this position, White wins 28% of the games, draws 21%, and Black wins 52%.

History Of The King's Gambit

The oldest record of the King's Gambit comes from a 1560 game between Ruy Lopez de Segura and Giovani Leonardo Da Cutri. The opening never fell out of fashion among European players, and in the early 1600s, the prominent Gioachino Greco adopted the opening and developed a significant theory on it.

In the 1800s, the opening became extremely popular, with many of the best players of their time playing it. Players like Alexander McDonnell, Howard Staunton, Paul Morphy, Adolf Anderssen, and many others had the King's Gambit as an integral part of their arsenal.

King's Gambit
Adolf Anderssen played the King's Gambit regularly with great success. Photo: Public Domain.

The King's Gambit began losing its popularity around the beginning of the 1900s. At that time, players' knowledge of positional and defensive concepts was significantly higher than in the previous centuries, making it harder for White to gain a significant advantage from the opening.

By the middle of the 20th century, few of the elite players still relied on the King's Gambit in high-stakes games. In 1961, Fischer wrote the famous article "A Bust to the King's Gambit," giving even more traction to the "movement" against the opening.

King's Gambit
Fischer claimed that he had found the refutation for the King's Gambit. Photo: Wikimedia Commons, CC.

Nowadays, the King's Gambit is rare in high-level games. However, players like GMs Garry Kasparov, Ian Nepomniachtchi, and Magnus Carlsen have played this aggressive opening in shorter time controls.

Famous Games

The Romantic Era of chess has plenty of examples of games with the King's Gambit. You can also find examples of this opening in more recent games from strong players like GM David Bronstein and even world champions like GMs Boris Spassky and Fischer. Below you can see two famous games with the King's Gambit:

Anderssen vs. Lionel Kieseritzky - The Immortal Game

Spassky vs. Bronstein


You now know what the King's Gambit is, how to play it, its main lines, how to play against it, and more. Head over to our Master Games database to check out master games using this opening to learn more about it!


How to Crush Your Opponent With the King's Gambit - Part 1

Are your King’s Pawn Games lacking in excitement? GM Simon Williams has an explosive solution for you -- the King’s Gambit! This romantic opening is out of fashion in top-level play, but that doesn’t mean it can’t rack up the points elsewhere. GM Williams shows you the powerful secrets of this dynamic opening, and how to crush your unsuspecting opponents who will be expecting anything but this true gambit.
23 min
5 Challenges
Notable Game

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