The most general definition of a gambit is given by the Cambridge Dictionary, which defines it as a clever action in a game or other situation that is intended to achieve an advantage and usually involves taking a risk.
The Merriam Webster Learners English Dictionary, on the other hand, defines a gambit as a chess opening in which a player risks one or more pawns or a minor piece to gain an advantage in position.
The definition is carried further by other chess enthusiasts, who breakdown the advantages into three – space, material, and time.
Today we discuss how the opening is carried out, the basic ideas and principles behind, as well as advantages and disadvantages of the Queen’s gambit.
The Queen’s gambit is one of the most recorded and well-known openings in chess. The theory of the gambit was captured as far back as 1490 in Göttingen manuscript – one of the first books to specially dedicated to chess theory.
The gambit gained popularity in the 1920’s and 1930’s after Wilhelm Steinitz and Siegbert Tarrasch developed chess theory and increased the appreciation of positional play.
The popularity was to be highlighted in 1927 in a World Championship Match between José Raúl Capablanca and Alexander Alekhine where the queen’s gambit opening was played 32 times out of the 34 played games. From then on the gambit has featured in most competitive games to date.
How the opening is played
To start a queen’s gambit, white moves the “d” pawn to d4, and the common response for black is “d5” pawn push. The second move for white is a c4 pawn push which threatens black’s d5 pawn. Several variations are then presented and are led by black’s response to c4. The following three groups of variations are common:
- The Queen’s Gambit Accepted (QGA)
Where black’s response to “c4” is a capture with the d pawn. Black plays 2…dxc4, temporarily giving up the centre to obtain free development. The 4th and 5th move lead into a galaxy of variations and possibilities for the opening.
- The Queen’s Gambit Declined (QGD)
In the QGD, Black usually plays to hold d5 but has to block his bishop in. Frequently Black will be cramped and will need to aim to exchange pieces and use the pawn breaks at c5 and e5 to free his game.
- And the Slav Defense
Slav is one of the primary defenses to the Queen’s Gambit, after white’s 2.c4…black’s response is a quick c6, which challenges the central d4 pawn
The objective of the queen’s gambit is to temporarily sacrifice a pawn to gain control of the center of the board. If black accepts the gambit 2…dxc4 white should reply 3. e3 which not only gives the d4 pawn an extra defender but also frees up the bishop to attack and regain the pawn.
Black will have a hard time holding onto the pawn after 3…b5 4. a4 c6 5. axb5 cxb5 6. Qf3. In the Queen’s Gambit accepted line, white can gain a center presence, good attacking chances and his pawn on d4 threatens to advance. Black will have to concede his pawn on c4 and focus on counter attacking white’s advances.
Therefore, the queen’s gambit is not considered to be a true gambit. There are many different variations for black if they choose to decline the gambit.
The Advantages to white
- It gives White the opportunity to exchange his wing pawn to gain more control of the center.
- This leads to positions where White can constantly put pressure on his opponent.
- The Queen’s Gambit can force black to either lose control of the center or having to play in a cramped position
Disadvantages to white
- Weakens the Queen’s side if not accepted
- The fight for center control may prolong development of other major pieces.
Every opening as both pros and cons, but the gambit has passed the test of time. Our quest is to study it and understand its ideas for ease of carving a win when using it.