The Albin Counter-Gambit


The Albin Counter-Gambit is an aggressive response to the Queen’s Gambit which runs 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5.  It is rather sounder than the Englund Gambit (1.d4 e5), because White’s c2-c4 has weakened the b4 and d4-squares, and following 3.dxe5 d4, Black’s d-pawn cramps White’s position and restricts White’s ability to develop smoothly.  The Albin was generally considered unsound during the twentieth century, but many top players currently consider it to be quite respectable thanks to successful use at the GM level by Alexander Morozevich and Hikaru Nakamura.

The most popular approach at grandmaster level in recent years has been an early ...Nge7, usually followed by ...Ng6 attacking e5, or ...Nf5 reinforcing d4.   Alternatively, Black can play ...Be6, ...Bf5 or ...Bg4 with the aim of quick development, usually combined with queenside castling and a direct attack on the white king, and ...Bf5 in particular often leads to interesting complications. 

In most cases Black can follow either of those approaches and get reasonable compensation for the pawn, but there are two exceptions.  In the line 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 d4 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.Nbd2, 5...Nge7 is ineffective because of 6.Nb3 Nf5 (6...Ng6 allows White to take on d4) 7.e4!, as recommended in a ChessBase article by Dorian Rogozenco, and I thus recommend 5...Bf5.  Conversely, in lines with a2-a3 on the 4th or 5th move, Black often needs to put a knight on f5 at some stage in order to get adequate compensation for the pawn, and thus I advise against 5...Bf5 and recommend 5...Nge7 in those lines.

It is inadvisable for White to play e2-e3 too early, for the line 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 d4 4.e3 is met by the tactic 4...Bb4+ 5.Bd2 dxe3, where 6.Bxb4 is met by 6...exf2+, and 4.Nf3 followed by 5.e3 has the same objection.


The Chigorin-like line 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6

The Albin Counter-Gambit can be avoided by holding back with c2-c4, which is why I have covered some ideas for Black beginning with 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6!?, which can transpose back to an Albin Counter-Gambit after 3.c4 e5 4.dxe5 d4, although White also has the option of flicking in an exchange of knights with 4.Nxe5 Nxe5 5.dxe5 d4.  This appears to be no better or worse than the “normal” Albin, though it is important for Black to play ...Ne7-c6 early on in most cases to help guard the queenside.

White has other options including 3.Bf4, 3.Nbd2 and 3.e3 intending 4.Bb5, against which Black generally continues with ...Bg4.  Many lines are reminiscent of the Chigorin Defence to the Queen’s Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6) and sometimes transpose if White plays c2-c4.  Black’s unconventional development of the knight to c6, blocking the c-pawn, probably allows White a choice of ways to get a positional edge, but Black is able to generate counterplay by putting the pieces on active squares.


1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5




Albin Counter-Gambit coverage


The Chigorin-esque 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6

The 2.Nf3 Nc6 variation is in the style of the Albin, going for active piece placement and counterplay rather than striving for full equality, and it can transpose after 3.c4 e5 4.dxe5 d4, though 4.Nxe5 is an important alternative.  I have also covered White’s most important third-move tries including 3.Nbd2, 3.Bf4 and 3.e3.

Albin Counter-Gambit- 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5

A close look at the various lines of the Albin proper.  I have covered various alternatives at moves 3, 4 and 5, but have focused especially on the lines 3.dxe5 d4 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.g3, 5.a3 and 5.Nbd2, which are the three most challenging responses.



Additional information

Michael Goeller has written quite extensively about the Albin Counter-Gambit at his Kenilworthian site, mainly on the ...Nge7 lines, and has included an extensive bibliography.  The following links are particularly worth checking out for readers who are interested in taking up Alexander Morozevich’s favourite approach with ...Nge7:


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