Gambit Rules

Comments: 9

Some time ago, I made a video lesson, “Gambit Rules“, for you. (If you missed that, check it now here: LINK). It turned out to be a popular lesson and many of you liked it.


Now, I’m glad to provide you with the text version of that lesson. Even if you’ve already seen the video lesson, I’d still recommend you to read the text version. It will help you go through the material slowly and digest it well.


For those whose mother-tongue is not English, this provides an extra opportunity to understand the whole lesson clearly. Let’s go! 🙂


Gambit Rules

By GM Igor Smirnov

Remote Chess Academy


I recently received an email from a student of mine. In this message, he shared one of his games with me. Although it is an internet game, I found it to be quite instructive. It illustrates a few important practical rules that should be applied when playing gambits. That’s why I would like to discuss this game and analyze it with you today.


In this lesson, we will discuss not only how you should play gambits but also how you should counteract gambits. So without any further delay, let’s get started!


The game began with the following moves: 1.e4-c5 2.Nf3-Nc6 3.b4




Black to move


With his last move, White plays a gambit; he sacrifices material, in this case a pawn, in order to try and gain an advantageous position.


White’s goal is rapid development and the expedient launch of an attack. This is what makes gambits so popular, especially in blitz games. It is also why it is important for you to know how to handle them correctly.


In the position above, Black took with the knight (3…Nxb4). Note quickly here that if Black had taken with the pawn (3…cxb4), White would have deflected this pawn away from the centre. This would then allow White to push 4.d4 and obtain a pair of pawns in the centre and threaten d5.


Although Black avoided this by capturing with the knight, White can nevertheless still build himself a strong centre. To this aim, White played 4.c3, and after Black retreated his knight to c6 (4…Nc6), White pushed in the centre with 5.d4. Here Black took the pawn with 5…cxd4 and after 6.cxd4, White again has a pair of pawns in the centre.


Note: You can find a detailed video analysis of this opening variation here: LINK


At this point in the game, Black played 6…d6. Note here that while 6…d5 may look more ambitious for Black, there is a drawback. In this situation, White can capture with the pawn (7.exd5) and after Black recaptures with 7…Qxd5, White can attack Black’s queen with 8.Nf3 and gain a tempo for development.




White to move


In this position, White played 7.d5 and this is indeed the best move. White is attacking the opponent’s knight and forcing it to move somewhere. At the same time, White gets more space and opens the long diagonal (a1-h8) for his pieces. And so there are of lot of benefits here for White.


But now I have a quick question for you. Black has a problem that he needs to resolve. What square should he move his knight to? What do you think? Where should it go?

In the game, Black played 7…Ne5 and it makes sense. We’ve been taught to put our pieces in the centre, and from this point of view Ne5 is correct. But in this particular position, there is another important thing that we should take into consideration.


 bulbRULE 1: When you are behind in development, avoid exchanges of your developed pieces.


Let’s apply this rule to the current position.


While it may appear that Black is at least equal in development, let’s not forget that White played a gambit and sacrificed the pawn to enable quick and natural development. After 8.Nxe5-dxe5, White can quickly bring his pieces into the game. For example, Bb5, Qa4, Bb2, Nc3 and he’s done.




White to move


White can play all of these moves very quickly and without any problems. If we take a look at Black’s position, on the other hand, we can see that his situation is much more difficult:


– It’s not that simple to develop the dark-squared bishop on f8.

– The light-squared bishop on c8 has no good squares available.

– In general, you can see that Black’s development is complicated.


That’s why we may expect that White’s development will be much faster and that he will be ahead in development. From this point of view, Black’s decision to trade his knight by placing it on e5 was a mistake.


Once again, the rule is that when you are behind in development, you should avoid exchanging your active pieces.

If you make exchanges when you are behind in development, you may face a situation where the bad moves keep coming and you have no active warriors.


Of course, in such a situation it will be very difficult for you to counteract your opponent’s plans. That is why you should avoid such exchanges and aim to keep as many active pieces on the board as possible.


Okay, let’s move on. Referring back to the position in Diagram 3, what should White do now? What do you think?


Here White should play 9.Bb2 and this is exactly what he did. This is the best move for sure. This move follows an important rule that is one of the core ideas for playing all gambits.




developattackWhen playing a gambit, try to combine your development with attack. This is one of the main advantages that a gambit can give you.

Therefore, instead of just developing your forces, try to make these moves with a tempo by simultaneously developing and attacking.



When you do this, you’ll realize your own plan and prevent an opponent’s plan simultaneously. And, of course, you will be on top in such situations.


White followed this rule with the earlier 7.d5 and now again with 9.Bb2. By using this idea of combining development with attack, White is able to continue his development while Black cannot. Instead, Black must respond to the threat and protect his pawn somehow.


Actually, it’s nearly impossible to protect the e5-pawn in any normal way. If Black plays something like 9…Qd6 or 9…Qc7, White can play 10.Bb5+ and after 10…Bd7, 11.Bxd7+, Black must then either centralize his king (certainly dangerous or very bad) or capture with the queen (Qxd7), in which case White can capture the pawn.


This means that Black can’t really protect his e5-pawnand he needs to find something else.


At first sight, Nf6 looks good, as it counter attacks White’s pawn on e4. But it turns out to be no real threat, for White can just take the pawn with Bxe5. Note that …Nxe4 is impossible, as White can win a piece by playing Qa4+ with a double attack on Black’s king and the knight on e4.


That’s why Black decided to abandon the pawn and just play 9…e6. White then took the pawn with 10.Bxe5 and regained the material balance.


Diagram 4


Black to move


In some variations, White is threatening to follow this with d6 and lock Black’s bishop on its original square. It may seem attractive for Black to play 10…Bb4+; but after 11.Nc3, Black is suddenly in trouble.


This is because Black’s g7-pawn is hanging and White will take this pawn and capture the rook caught in the corner as well.


Furthermore, White is threatening Qa4+ with a double attack on Black’s king and bishop. So Bb4+ may look active for Black but, in reality, it creates problems for Black and not for White.


But now here is another question for you. How would you proceed here as Black (Diagram 4)?

In the game, Black decided to neutralize White’s d5-pawn and played 10…exd5. It may seem very logical (Black is trying to stop an eventual d6 push, as well as open the c8-h3 diagonal for his bishop, enabling its future development).


But, at the same time, this is a major mistake because Black violated a very important rule.


 bulbRULE 3: When you are behind in development, keep the position closed.


From this point of view, Black’s previous move 9…e6, and especially his next move of 10…exd5, were steps in the wrong direction. Now that you can see the difference, let’s look again at the position from two moves earlier.


Diagram 5


Black to move


As you can see, White is more active and could have some chances for developing an attack in the future. But right now it is quite difficult for White to start any real direct attack on Black’s position.


Here Black doesn’t have any real weaknesses and so there is no way for White to break through and start an invasion. But after 9…e6 10.Bxe5-exd5, Black has opened a lot of lines.


Now White can attack Black’s king along the e-file. White has an open d-file, open diagonals for his bishops and can bring his queen or bishop to the a4-e8 diagonal. In total, as you can see, White is able to start a direct attack on Black’s position.


That is why Black should not have opened the position. The rule states that when you are defending and are behind in development, try to keep the position closed.


I don’t wish to make you feel overloaded. 🙂 Therefore, we’ll see the remaining game in the next part. You can go to the next part here.


P.S. If you enjoyed this article, please write your comments below and “Like” it on Facebook/Twitter using the buttons on the left side. Thank you!
Comments: 9

Comments 9

  1. Happy new year 🙂

    When will ” Unlocking the Grandmaster’s mind course release ” ? First you dear guys said it would be in the end of November and then said it would be in start of December , then said within the end of December..Now December over and it is 2015 , Jan .

    And when coming to online training tool it was said to come in September , then postponed to August , then November , then December 🙁

    What is this ? We are curiously waiting to study the courses and want leap forward in this year 🙂 Please release as soon as possible or atleast say the or month in which you will surely release the course 🙂

    Once again , Happy new year

    1. Hi Madara,

      Thank you for your extreme interest in the new course! We love to see such excitement from our students.
      I’m sorry that the release date is being postponed, but we want to make sure that the course is working flawlessly and is of the best quality.
      I cannot say the exact date unfortunately, but please follow our blog for announcements – it will be published in the near future.

      Silvestras | Student Support Officer

  2. Hey, I got a question that is quite dire. Ever since I began playing chess (about a year ago) I’ve played with d4 because I really enjoyed it. Now I’ve studied some of Smirnov’s courses, including GMs secrets & GMs positional understanding. But there’s one thing I really can’t feel good about when playing for example queens gambit, or even slav defense. And that is moving my C pawn. It doesn’t help in development for any of my pieces, except my queen, which shouldn’t be a priority, and it breaks the principle of the least active piece, so I don’t feel any good when making that move. I understand that it follows the principle of the center, and gives center countrol, but it breaks the most important principles of the opening. How should I think? I still want to play it, but it feels wrong doing so.

  3. Hi Erik,
    This is a very good question, and I’ll share my thoughts on the matter, speaking from my modest authority (1800 FIDE player).
    First off, you are concerned about 2.c4 breaking some opening rules, but so you should be also about 1.d4 that , striclty speaking, delays short-castle and opens less lines to the pieces compared to 1.e4, right?
    Anyway, after 1.d4 d5, I consider 2.c4 mainly an attacking move, based on the principle of attack.
    As you know this principle generally overrules all the others.
    If white has a move that forces black to concede something (e.g. forcing 2..e6 shutting in the c8 bishop) that move probably is the best.
    But white must be sure that black cannot take the pawn with advantage (it’s a gambit!) and this is far from obvious, it requires concrete calculation.
    After it has been proven that 2.c4 is ok in QGD and QGA, then it remains generally so (e.g. after 1 d4 Nf6) , given that black can play ..d5 anytime.
    So here the principle of flexibility applies as in the case of ,say, ..a6 in many sicilian lines.

    Hope this helps!
    Best Regards

  4. Hello RCA Team, Do u have a recommended chess training program for a month? just like the, 21 Days to Supercharge Your Chess. Thank You

    1. Hi Diomel,

      We do not have an exact course or program that is designed for 1 month, since every individual is different in his/her way of approaching chess knowledge at different speed. One can learn a specific course in few weeks while others can take several months for the same course.

      Best Regards,
      Silvestras | Student Support Offcer

  5. Thank you for your answering, I always have problem doing attacking moves, it’s kinda, the principle of attack is the principle that allows you to break all the other principles. For me it’s counter-intuitive to make pawn moves that doesn’t seem to attack anything. And I’ve been thinking, c4 doesn’t by itself attack anything because that pawn is already protected by the queen, but it rather prepares and attack, which is most important. Say he plays nf6 and you take on d5 and then after he takes with anything you either play nc3 or e4 and can attack and develop at the same time, “tempo” as it’s called.

    Btw, I think a6 has little to do with the principle of flexiblity, as the idea is rather restricting white’s pieces and prevent them from getting on your side of the board, plus there’s some tactics which black prevents.

    (My FIDE is 1700, was 1100 at the beginning of the summer last year ;D )

    1. Hi Erik,

      Even though it might look counterintuitive, after 1.d4 second move 2.c4 is actually of the strongest moves by white. Sooner or later, if white wants to fight for advantage, he has to play c4 in most cases. Even though this move might break an opening principle in that you don’t develop a piece and don’t make way for a piece, this moves starts to fight for the center early in the game and is later supported by moves such as Nc3. I hope this helps.

      Silvestras | Student Support Officer

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