The Danish Gambit


The Danish Gambit is an offshoot of the Centre Game, 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4, and instead of recapturing with 3.Qxd4 (where the queen gets hit with 3...Nc6), or trying to transpose to a Scotch, Göring or Urusov Gambit with 3.Nf3 or 3.Bc4, White offers a pawn immediately with 3.c3. 

White’s main thematic goals are much the same as in the Göring Gambit- when the gambit is accepted, White has to generate active piece play and activity to justify a deficit of one or two pawns, whereas if Black declines the gambit, White often has to generate active piece play to compensate for an isolated pawn on d4.  However, the omission of Nf3 for White and ...Nc6 for Black creates some important differences in various lines.  In particular, White can put the king’s knight on e2 effectively in some lines, while in the meantime the lack of a black knight on c6 allows Black more scope to accept one or two pawns and then get in ...d5.

In my opinion the Danish Gambit move-order has more issues than the Göring Gambit move-order.  The 3...Ne7 line (usually attributed to Svenonius) in particular is more effective against the Danish than it is against the Göring, while after 3...dxc3, the sacrifice of a second pawn with 4.Bc4 permits Black a safe equalising option with 4...cxb2 5.Bxb2 d5, as well as various ways to try for more.  However, it does have certain advantages, e.g. it avoids the Petroff (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6) and the variation 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Nf3 Bb4+, and after 3...d5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.cxd4 Nc6, White has the independent possibility 6.Be3.  Alexander Alekhine often used 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 with success in casual games.


1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3





Danish Gambit coverage


All Black responses

Because many lines transpose to the Göring Gambit after Nf3 and ...Nc6, the coverage is relatively brief as I only deal extensively with the options that do not transpose.  Here is a run-down of the options that Black has:

Minor options: 3...d6, 3...Be7, 3...g6, 3...d3.  White should play a quick Nf3 and continue as per the analogous lines against the Göring Gambit, and White should get some advantage.

More important: 3...Qe7, 3...Ne7, 3...Nf6.  3...Qe7 and 3...Ne7 are both significantly stronger than against the Göring Gambit and 3...Ne7, in particular, almost certainly equalises.  3...Nf6 is not quite as convincing, however.

3...d5- Via the Danish Gambit move-order, White has no good alternative to 4.exd5, when Black can try 4...Nf6!? or head for the traditional main line with 4...Qxd5 5.cxd4 Nc6.  White then has the independent possibility 6.Be3, although I am not convinced that it is as reliable as the transposition to the Göring with 6.Nf3.

3...dxc3- Here White should play 4.Nxc3, which in most cases leads to transpositions to Göring Gambit lines, though there are some move-order tricks available for both sides.  I also cover 4.Bc4, but I feel that if White wants to sacrifice a second pawn like this then it is better to wait until Black has committed the queen’s knight to c6.


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