The Englund Gambit


The Englund Gambit (1.d4 e5) is one of those unsound but tricky gambits which appeals to fans of the unorthodox, as it scores surprisingly well in over-the-board play and often leads to unusual positions, but is likely to leave Black with a difficult game against “booked-up” opponents, particularly in correspondence play.

One attraction of this gambit is that White cannot get into a queen’s pawn type of game after 1.d4 e5, whereas the more reliable Albin Counter-Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5) and Budapest Gambit (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5) can be side-stepped with 2.Nf3.

The “Englund” Gambit has been mis-named, as Karlis Betins (the man behind the Latvian Gambit, 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5, a similarly unsound but tricky line) was the player who introduced the continuation 1.d4 e5 2.dxe5 Nc6 3.Nf3 Qe7, and Englund got the 1.d4 e5 complex named after him due to arranging a thematic tournament devoted to Betins’s main line 3...Qe7 4.Qd5.  The idea of 3...Qe7 is that if White plays the natural 4.Bf4, then Black causes disruption in the white queenside with 4...Qb4+.  The 3...Qe7 line contains a significant theoretical flaw, but White needs to find some accurate moves, and in over-the-board play White often ducks out with harmless replies such as 4.g3, as Stefan Bücker has noted.

Objectively the best try is probably Lev Zilbermints’s preference 3...Nge7, which should also be significantly better for White after 4.Bf4 or 4.Nc3 but tends to lead to complex play, particularly in the line 4.Bf4 Ng6 5.Bg3 Qe7 6.Nc3 Qb4, which again causes disruption in the white queenside but leaves Black’s queen exposed.

The other forms of the Englund Gambit, with 2...d6, 2...Nc6 3.Nf3 f6 and 2...Nc6 3.Nf3 Bc5, are playable in rapid and blitz games but are unlikely to hold up well at slow time controls.  The key for White in those lines is to be prepared to give back the pawn in order to secure a lead in development, for if White tries to hold onto the pawn then Black often gets upwards of half a pawn’s worth of compensation, and associated practical chances.

Note though that after 2.dxe5 Nc6, White’s third-move alternatives to 3.Nf3 are not convincing.  3.Qd5 is strongly met by 3...Nge7 and 4...Ng6, and 3.f4 is met by 3...d6, both of which give Black enough compensation for a pawn.  3.Bf4 is sensible, but Black can restrict White to just a small advantage with 3...g5 followed by 4...Bg7.



1.d4 e5




Englund Gambit coverage


Coverage of all lines

Here I cover the various forms of the Englund Gambit following 1.d4 e5 2.dxe5, including 2...d6, and following 2...Nc6 3.Nf3, 3...f6, 3...Bc5, 3...Qe7 and 3...Nge7.  I also look at other third-move options for White, which are less critical.


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