Chess Traps | Kings Gambit Accepted
The King's Gambit is a chess opening that begins with the moves:
1. e4 e5
White offers a pawn to divert the black e-pawn. If Black accepts the gambit, White has two main plans. The first is to play d4 and Bxf4, regaining the gambit pawn with central domination. The alternative plan is to play Nf3 and Bc4 followed by 0-0, when the semi-open f-file allows White to barrel down onto the weakest point in Black's position, the pawn on f7. Theory has shown that in order for Black to maintain the gambit pawn, they may well be forced to weaken their kingside, with moves such as ...g5 or odd piece placement (e.g. ...Nf6–h5). A downside to the King's Gambit is that White weakens their own king's position, exposing it to the latent threat of ...Qh4+ (or ...Be7–h4+). With a black pawn on f4, White cannot usually respond to the check with g3, but if the king is forced to move then it also loses the right to castle.
The King's Gambit is one of the oldest documented openings. It was examined by the 17th-century Italian chess player Giulio Cesare Polerio, and also appears in one of the earliest chess books, Luis Ramírez de Lucena's Repetición de Amores y Arte de Ajedrez (1497). The King's Gambit was one of the most popular openings until the late 19th century, when improvements in defensive technique led it to decline in popularity. It is infrequently seen at master level today, as Black has several methods to gain equality, but is still popular at amateur level.
The King's Gambit was one of the most popular openings for over 300 years, and has been played by many of the strongest players in many of the greatest brilliancies, including the Immortal Game. Nevertheless, players have held widely divergent views on it. François-André Danican Philidor (1726–1795), the greatest player and theorist of his day, wrote that the King's Gambit should end in a draw with best play by both sides, stating that "a gambit equally well attacked and defended is never a decisive [game], either on one side or the other." Writing over 150 years later, Siegbert Tarrasch, one of the world's strongest players in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, pronounced the opening "a decisive mistake" and wrote that "it is almost madness to play the King's Gambit." Similarly, future world champion Bobby Fischer wrote a famous article, "A Bust to the King's Gambit", in which he stated, "In my opinion the King's Gambit is busted. It loses by force" and offered his Fischer Defense (3...d6) as a refutation. FM Graham Burgess, in his book The Mammoth Book of Chess, noted the discrepancy between the King's Gambit and Wilhelm Steinitz's accumulation theory. Steinitz had argued that an attack is only justified when a player has an advantage, and an advantage is only obtainable after the opponent makes a mistake. Since 1...e5 does not look like a blunder, White should therefore not be launching an attack.
While the King's Gambit Accepted was a staple of Romantic era chess, the opening began to decline with the development of opening theory and improvements in defensive technique in the late 19th century. By the 1920s, 1.e4 openings declined in popularity with the rise of the hypermodern school, with many players switching to 1.d4 and 1.c4 openings and positional play.
After World War II, 1.e4 openings became more popular again, with David Bronstein being the first grandmaster in decades to use the King's Gambit in serious play. He inspired Boris Spassky to also take up the King's Gambit, although Spassky was not willing to risk using the opening in any of his World Championship matches. However, Spassky did beat many strong players with it, including Bobby Fischer, Zsuzsa Polgar, and a famous brilliancy against Bronstein himself.
In 2012, an April Fool prank by Chessbase in association with Vasik Rajlich—inventor of chess engine Rybka—claimed to have proven to a 99.99999999% certainty that the King's Gambit is at best a draw for White. Revealing the prank, Rajlich admitted that current computer technology is nowhere near solving such a task.
The King's Gambit is rare in modern grandmaster play. A handful of grandmasters have continued to use it, including Joseph Gallagher, Hikaru Nakamura, Nigel Short, and Alexei Fedorov.
King's Gambit Accepted: 2...exf4
Although Black usually accepts the gambit pawn, two methods of declining the gambit—the Classical Defense (2...Bc5) and the Falkbeer Countergambit (2...d5)—are also popular. After 2...exf4, the two main continuations for White are 3.Nf3 (King Knight's Gambit) and 3.Bc4 (Bishop's Gambit).
King's Knight's Gambit: 3.Nf3
King's Knight's Gambit: 3.Nf3
This is the most popular move. It develops the knight and prevents 3...Qh4+. Black's two main approaches are to attempt to hold on to the pawn with ...g5, or to return the pawn in order to facilitate development.
Classical Variation: 3...g5
The Classical Variation arises after 3.Nf3 g5. Black defends his extra pawn, and threatens to kick the f3-knight with ...g4. The main continuations traditionally have been 4.h4 (the Paris Attack), and 4.Bc4. More recently, 4.Nc3 (the Quaade Gambit or Quaade Attack) has been recommended by Scottish grandmaster John Shaw as a less explored alternative to 4.h4 (he considers 4.Bc4 inferior).
4.h4: Kieseritzky Gambit and Allgaier Gambit
The Kieseritzky Gambit, 4.h4 g4 5.Ne5, is considered by modern writers such as Shaw and Gallagher to be the main line after 3...g5. It was popularized by Lionel Kieseritzky in the 1840s and used successfully by Wilhelm Steinitz. Boris Spassky used it to beat Bobby Fischer in a famous game at Mar del Plata in 1960. The main line of the Kieseritzky Gambit is considered to be 5...Nf6 6.Bc4 d5 7.exd5 Bd6 8.d4 with an unclear position.
4.h4 g4 5.Ng5 is the Allgaier Gambit, intending 5...h6 6.Nxf7. This knight sacrifice is considered dubious by modern theory.
4.Bc4 g4: Muzio Gambit and others
The extremely sharp Muzio Gambit arises after 4.Bc4 g4 5.0-0 gxf3 6.Qxf3, where White has gambited a knight but has three pieces bearing down on f7. Such wild play is rare in modern chess, but Black must exercise care in consolidating his position. Perhaps the sharpest continuation is the Double Muzio after 6...Qf6 7.e5 Qxe5 8.Bxf7+!?, leaving White two pieces down in eight moves, but with a position that some masters consider to be equal.
Similar lines are the Ghulam Kassim Gambit, 4.Bc4 g4 5.d4, and the McDonnell Gambit, 4.Bc4 g4 5.Nc3. These are generally considered inferior to the Muzio, which has the advantage of reinforcing White's attack along the f-file. Also inferior is the Lolli Gambit 4.Bc4 g4 5.Bxf7+?!, which leaves White with insufficient compensation for the piece after 5...Kxf7 6.Ne5+ Ke8 7.Qxg4 Nf6 8.Qxf4 d6.
The Salvio Gambit, 4.Bc4 g4 5.Ne5 Qh4+ 6.Kf1, is considered better for Black due to the insecurity of White's king. Black may play safely with 6...Nh6, or counter-sacrifice with 6...f3 or 6...Nc6.
4.Bc4 Bg7: Hanstein Gambit and Philidor Gambit
A safer alternative to 4...g4 is 4...Bg7, which usually leads to the Hanstein Gambit after 5.d4 d6 6.0-0 h6 or the Philidor Gambit after 5.h4 h6 6.d4 d6 (other move orders are possible in both cases).
4.Nc3: Quaade Gambit
The Quaade Gambit (3.Nf3 g5 4.Nc3) is named after a Danish amateur who discussed it in correspondence with the Deutsche Schachzeitung in the 1880s. The move has received renewed attention following its recommendation by John Shaw in his 2013 book on the King's Gambit. A well-known trap here is 4...g4 5.Ne5 Qh4+ 6.g3 fxg3 7.Qxg4 g2+? (7...Qxg4 8.Nxg4 d5 is about equal) 8.Qxh4 gxh1=Q 9.Qh5! and White is close to winning. (Black's best defense is considered to be 9...Nh6 10.d4 d6 11.Bxh6 dxe5 12.Qxe5+ Be6 13.Qxh8 Nd7 14.Bxf8 0-0-0 and White will emerge a clear pawn ahead.) Instead, 4...Bg7 has been recommended. 4...d6 and 4...h6 transpose to Fischer's Defense and Becker's Defense, respectively. Also possible is 4...Nc6, recommended by Konstantin Sakaev.
After 4...Bg7 5.d4 g4, GM Simon Williams advocates 6.Bxf4 gxf3 in his DVD and Chess.com video series. White is down a knight, but has a strong attack.