Ian Simpson’s Chess Site

Being something of a "gambiteer", in this site I will look at various gambits, involving sacrificing one or two central pawns in return for open lines and development- the “time for material” type gambits.  I will focus particularly on the gambits in the classic “Open Games” (1.e4 e5) but I will probably look at some others too in the future.  A large majority of the gambits that I cover here are reasonably sound and will provide any player who enjoys playing open, attacking chess with many years of pleasure, at least below international master level.

This site is intended to provide an introduction to many of the opening lines and cover some key variations, rather than delving straight into heavy theory, as many of these lines are lacking a good introductory coverage in chess literature.  I also have a chess blog in which I post frequent ChessCafe.com-style articles on these sort of lines, accompanied by Java replays of illustrative games.



Open gambits: White sacrifices the d-pawn

Here are a selection of “open gambits” stemming from 1.e4 e5 where White sacrifices the d-pawn with a quick d2-d4.  These lines are both dangerous (at least below master level) and reasonably sound.

Göring Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.c3, or 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.c3)

4th move alternatives


4...dxc3 5.Nxc3

4...dxc3 5.Bc4- Black doesn’t take on b2

4...dxc3 5.Bc4 cxb2 6.Bxb2

Scotch Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.Bc4, or 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4)

4th move alternatives, 4...Bc5 sidelines

Giuoco Piano (4...Bc5 5.c3 Nf6)

Two Knights Defence A (4...Nf6 5.Ng5, 5.e5)

Two Knights Defence B (4...Nf6 5.0-0)

Note: lines in which White plays 5.c3, and Black responds with 5...dxc3, almost invariably transpose to lines considered under the Göring Gambit section “4...dxc3 5.Bc4- Black doesn’t take on b2”.

Danish Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3)
All Black responses
Note: those interested in taking up the Danish should be familiar with Göring Gambit lines, as a subsequent Nf3 and ...Nc6 will usually transpose to them.  Hence my coverage of the Danish is much shorter, because I only focus on the lines that do not transpose.


Misc. lines following 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Nf3, 3.Bc4, and the Urusov Gambit

Coverage of all lines

Again this section is shorter because of the various transpositions to Göring, Danish and Scotch Gambit lines.  In particular those who want to take up the Urusov Gambit need to know about the Two Knights Defence lines that I’ve covered under the Scotch Gambit, for Black often plays 4...Nc6 transposing to them.


1.e4 e5 2.d4- lines where Black does not take on d4

Coverage of all lines


Italian Gambit- 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.d4

4th, 5th and 6th-move alternatives

4...Bxd4 5.Nxd4 Nxd4 6.0-0 Nf6

4...exd4 is not covered here because it transposes to a line of the Scotch Gambit.  See “4...Bc5 sidelines” and “Giuoco Piano: 4...Bc5 5.c3 Nf6” for coverage of those lines.

White sacrifices the e-pawn

Centre-pawn gambits involving the early sacrifice of the e-pawn are somewhat less common.  The Blackmar-Diemer Gambit is probably not as sound as the d-pawn sacrifices covered above, but it is dangerous and can also be used against the Scandinavian Defence (1.e4 d5 2.d4).  The Staunton Gambit against the Dutch Defence has fallen into disuse but is dangerous and reasonably sound.


Blackmar-Diemer Gambit- 1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3

3rd and 4th-move alternatives

3.Nc3 Nf6 4.f3- 4th-move alternatives for Black plus 4...exf3 5.Qxf3

Blackmar-Diemer Gambit Accepted

The Hübsch Gambit


Staunton Gambit- 1.d4 f5 2.e4

Coverage of all lines


Black sacrifices the e-pawn

Black can also sacrifice the e-pawn for development with an early ...e7-e5, although due to being a tempo down this generally entails more risk.  Against 1.f4, the immediate 1...e5 (From’s Gambit) is dangerous and reasonably sound, albeit insufficient for full equality. 

Against 1.d4, the Albin Counter-Gambit (1...d5 2.c4 e5) is reasonably sound and can be complemented with the line 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6.  I’ve had some experiments with the Englund Gambit (1.d4 e5), which may appeal to fans of the unorthodox, but be warned, it isn’t particularly sound.


From’s Gambit: 1.f4 e5

2nd, 3rd and 4th-move alternatives

From’s Gambit Accepted- 4...g5 and 4...Nf6


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

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

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


Englund Gambit: 1.d4 e5

Coverage of all lines

The Budapest Gambit (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5) is also quite respectable but I’ve opted not to cover it because after 2.Nf3 Black has to play something completely different.


The Tarrasch Defence (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 followed by 3...c5) is also worth considering for those after an active defence to 1.d4.  Black often accepts an isolated d-pawn in return for active piece play, like White often does in the Göring Gambit Declined.  I haven’t covered it here, but refer readers who are interested to Abby Marshall’s excellent introductory article at http://www.chesscafe.com/text/abby01.pdf.




Why play these openings? – Some philosophical questions


There are many good reasons for novices, especially juniors, to take up such lines- they serve as a good introduction to piece play, and tend to produce open and tactical positions.  As Mark Morss (the man behind the “Hard Chess” articles) often notes, open positions are fundamental to chess, as closed positions tend to become open eventually anyway.  Furthermore, it is important for novices to get a grasp of tactics and piece play before more complex positional motifs can be easily understood (e.g. it's no use having a strong positional understanding of the Closed Ruy Lopez if you keep blundering pieces in the middlegame).  At the same time, although these openings lack the positional sophistication of the lines that most grandmasters regularly use, positional motifs do nonetheless recur in these openings too.

They aren’t as effective at the highest levels of play, though, due to excellent defensive technique, a tendency for "safety-first" play (playing not to lose, rather than to win) and deep computer-assisted opening preperation.  If you aspire to reach grandmaster level, it is advisable to take up some of these openings early in your chess career to get a good grounding in tactics, but then increasingly phase in slower and more positionally sophisticated openings such as the mainline Ruy Lopez.

But for those of you who play chess mainly for fun and don't aspire to reach grandmaster level, these openings may well serve as "openings for life" and provide years of pleasure.  "Blasphemy", I hear some cry, "surely the main point of playing chess is to improve as much as you can?"  Well, I refer the reader to a snippet from "Beating Grandmasters More Regularly" by Vassilios Kotronias (as quoted in Urusov Gambit aficionado Michael Goeller's review of the book):

"[C]hess is one of the most drawish of sports, and trying to complicate matters, especially with Black, can easily lead to disaster against opponents who are willing to set up a solid position and just wait. I have literally chosen to lose games rather than acquiesce to a draw against such players, because I could not bring myself to accept that my superior knowledge and understanding were insufficient to yield enough winning chances when facing them. Therefore, I would often consciously take excessive risks and lose. Being uncompromising is, in general, a disadvantage in chess, as having the "serve" ...of the white pieces is too hard to overcome. Had I realized this fact at the beginning, I would have probably played chess only as an amateur, and chosen a different sport to make a professional career"



The gambiteer mentality


I'm not quite one of those players who must play gambits or give up chess- I don't lose interest if, say, I hope for an Albin Counter-Gambit and am thwarted by the moves 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bf4.  To my mind, gambits are a good way of generating unbalanced and complicated positions, but there are other ways of achieving the same result.  If your opponents refuse to let you play a gambit, or decline your gambits when they are offered, you just have to find another way to create imbalances.  Trading pawn structure for piece activity, castling on opposite wings and creating unbalanced pawn structures are other reliable methods.

I'm not one of those gambiteers with an aversion to defending against gambits either- to my mind, accepting gambits and hoping to make use of the extra material is often an effective way of getting unbalanced and complicated positions.  You have to be comfortable in the resulting positions, though, as psychologically it is often harder to defend than to attack.






Many resources have been helpful to me in constructing this chess openings site.  The list will, unfortunately, always be incomplete, but it should at least include the most important sources.  As well as the sources listed below, some individuals have been particularly helpful in correspondence with me: they include gambit enthusiasts Mark Nieuweboer and Michael Goeller (owner of the Urusov Gambit site), , USCF master Mark Morss (who wrote the “Hard Chess” series) and Stefan Bücker (author of the German-language magazine Kaissiber)



John Emms, Play the Open Games as Black (Gambit, 2000).  A guide to 1.e4 e5 variations where White chooses an alternative to the Ruy Lopez, in which Black is given multiple repertoire choices against most white systems to cater for different tastes.  Much of the analysis has aged well, and I can recommend this book to all players from club level upwards who are interested in taking up 1.e4 e5 with Black.  It is also worth having if you play some of these lines with White, as Emms often covers quite a wide range of possible responses from Black (for example he gives fairly detailed coverage of 4...dxc3, 4...d5 and 4...Nf6 5.e5 Nd5 against the Göring Gambit).

Karsten Muller and Martin Voigt, Danish Dynamite (Russell Enterprises 2003).  An impressively thorough coverage of most lines of the Danish, Göring, Scotch and Urusov Gambits, although there are a few omissions (e.g. no coverage of the 4.Bc4 lines of the Danish Gambit where Black doesn’t take the second pawn on b2).  The analysis is high quality but somewhat “variation-heavy”, so this book is an excellent resource for advanced club and county-level players who are interested in finding out more about the theory of these lines, but not so good as a starter resource.

Jude Acers and George Laven, The Italian Gambit and a Guiding Repertoire for White- E4! (Trafford Publishing 2006).  Recommends the line 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.d4!?, and covers a whole host of related lines including the Two Knights Defence and the Giuoco Piano.  A fun and light-hearted coverage which offers some interesting insights, and points out that some often-neglected sidelines are much better than their reputations (6.e5!? in the old main line of the Giuoco Piano for instance), although some of the assessments of the variations are over-optimistic for White.  The “guiding repertoire” section of the book, which covers Black’s other first moves, is not as convincing as the 1.e4 e5 section.

Christoph Scheerer, 2011, Blackmar-Diemer Gambit (Everyman Chess, 2011).  One of those rare books on the Blackmar-Diemer that tries to be objective, which provides a very extensive coverage of the critical lines, although some of the coverage is based on low-quality internet games which means that some assessments are open to question.  Worth buying if you have a modest knowledge of how to play the Blackmar-Diemer (or choose a Black setup against it) and wish to learn more about the theory of the opening.

Kaissiber magazine (maintained by Stefan Bücker).  A German-language magazine which contains high-quality and detailed analysis of numerous opening systems, especially offbeat lines.  Even if your understanding of German is limited, the chess analysis is generally easy to follow.  In issues 22-25, Stefan Bücker and Lev Gutman provided a lot of analysis of the gambit 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d4!? and related lines, including the Max Lange Attack, and Gutman (unsuccessfully) tried to revive the Canal Variation of the Two Knights Defence in issues 34 and 35.

Stefan Bücker, 1988, Englund Gambit- drei Gambits in einem.  A thorough German-language coverage of most lines of the Englund Gambit (1.d4 e5) which includes coverage of some related lines including the Nimzowitsch Defence (1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 e5 3.dxe5, which can also arise via 1.d4 e5 2.dxe5 Nc6 3.e4).  Much of the analysis is good, but unfortunately for Englund Gambit aficionados, stronger resources have generally been found for White since the book was written (though the line 2.dxe5 Nc6 3.Nf3 Nge7!?, dismissed in the book, has since been revived by Lev Zilbermints).


ChessCafe.com columns

The Kibitzer by Tim Harding:  http://www.chesscafe.com/archives/archives.htm#The Kibitzer Harding has written numerous high-quality articles on opening lines that I have covered on this site, especially the Giuoco Piano and the Two Knights Defence (both of which often arise via the Scotch Gambit).

Over the Horizons by Stefan Bücker: http://www.chesscafe.com/archives/pastarch.htm#Over the Horizons This column, now discontinued, offers coverage of some of these lines, including some interesting ideas that have helped to revive the 4.d4 exd4 5.0-0 lines of the Two Knights Defence from White’s perspective as well as the line 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.0-0, intending 4...Nf6 5.d4!?. 

Opening Lanes by Gary Lane: http://www.chesscafe.com/archives/archives.htm#Opening Lanes Coverage of numerous and wide-ranging opening lines.  In #113, Gary kindly answered a question of mine about the rare Göring Gambit line 4...d5 5.Bd3.

The Gambit Cartel by Tim McGrew: http://www.chesscafe.com/archives/pastarch.htm#The Gambit Cartel An old column from the early to mid “noughties”, which covered various gambit systems, ranging from the very sound to the somewhat dubious.  The closely-related Blackmar-Diemer, Danish and Morra Gambits got a lot of coverage.  A popular favourite is his article The Power of Ideas, an article relating to the Morra Gambit explores the mentality involved behind playing gambits, and the conflicts with external voices telling the gambiteer to move over to the sort of mainline openings adopted frequently by the top grandmasters.

The Openings Explained by Abby Marshall:  http://www.chesscafe.com/archives/archives.htm#The Openings Explained A column intended to offer an introduction to specific opening lines, geared especially towards club players.  The articles are variable in quality; some are excellent (e.g. the one on the Tarrasch Defence to the Queen’s Gambit) but others (such as the one on the King’s Gambit Accepted) are quite flawed in places.


Other online articles

Hard Chess by Mark Morss: http://www.correspondencechess.com/campbell/hard/hard.htm Numerous high-quality articles on opening lines, especially the classic Open Games with 1.e4 e5, mostly from Black’s perspective (many articles serve as good starting points for those interested in taking up particular 1...e5 lines with Black, the Two Knights Defence is especially well covered).  The articles are quite old but much of the analysis still holds up well.

The Urusov Gambit by Michael Goeller: http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~goeller/urusov/perreux/index.html A thorough coverage of the Urusov Gambit, offering many new ideas (in particular his suggested line against 4...d6, transposing to a line of the Philidor Defence, represents a significant improvement over previously-existing theory).  Worth checking out for a thorough analysis, especially if you venture the Urusov yourself and come up against an unexpected response- chances are it will be well-covered here.

Kenilworthian: http://kenilworthian.blogspot.co.uk/ This is Michael Goeller’s chess blog which often features “open gambits”, including analysis of illustrative games and links to related sources.  Many of the classic gambits following 1.e4 e5 get a lot of coverage, as do the Morra Gambit (1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3!?) and the Albin Counter-Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5!?), among others.

Chesspublishing.com forums: http://www.chesspub.com/cgi-bin/yabb2/YaBB.pl Many members on these forums play a very active role in contributing new opening ideas and I often make references to them in my openings coverage.

John Watson’s book reviews at The Week In Chess (the website is now discontinued).  Watson is one of the world’s most respected chess authors and reviewers (he is the author of the Play the French series for example).  Particularly relevant are his review of Danish Dynamite (#62) and his very critical review of Chess Openings for White: Explained (#77), as he discusses many relevant lines in considerable detail.