# Bishop’s Gambit (King’s Gambit) – Theory, Variations, Lines

The Bishop’s Gambit, a fascinating variant within the theory of the King’s Gambit, unfolds with the move 1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Bc4.

Compared to the main line, the King’s Knight Gambit (3. Nf3), the Bishop’s Gambit sees less theoretical coverage and has fewer named lines.

Yet, it stands as the most critical alternative to 3. Nf3.

## Transpositions and Ideas of the Bishop’s Gambit

White’s plan in the Bishop’s Gambit is usually to develop pieces quickly and initiate an attack on the kingside using the half-open f-file and the bishop on c4.

Many of black’s defenses include the move …d5 to attack the bishop on c4. In some lines, white can transpose to the King’s Knight Gambit by executing an early Nf3.

Despite sharing most of the general plans with the King’s Knight Gambit, the Bishop’s Gambit has some minor differences.

For instance, since there is no knight on f3, white’s queen can move along the diagonal d1-h5.

Against weak black defenses, Qh5 often proves to be a powerful move, threatening scholar’s mate.

## Bishop’s Gambit: Modern Defense 3…d5

The 3…d5 move is one of the best defenses against both the King’s Knight and King’s Bishop Gambit.

Black essentially gives back the extra pawn to allow for rapid development.

After 4. exd5, black is considered in a good position.

The main line is then 4…Qh4+ 5. Kf1 Bd6. Alternatively, white can choose to play 4. Bxd5 to avoid having the bishop blocked by its own pawn on d5.

Following this, a transposition into the Knight Gambit is possible with lines that are often favorable for white.

## Bishop’s Gambit: Modern Main Line 3…Nf6 4. Nc3 c6

This line starts with the reply 3…Nf6.

This sequence forms the modern main line. It’s commonly used in the 21st century and is deemed the best option according to theory.

Black’s plan is to play …d5 and get active pieces onto the board.

There are two popular continuations that tend to lead to the same position after a few moves, namely 5. Bb3 d5 6. exd5 cxd5 7. d4 or 5. d4 d5 6. exd5 cxd5 7. Bb3.

## Graz Variation: 3…Qh4+

The 3…Qh4+ 4. Kf1 move was the main line in the 19th century and holds a unique position within the context of the Bishop’s Gambit.

Although this line results in the white king losing the ability to castle, it is generally safe on f1 and can not be further attacked by the black queen.

White can then commence an assault on black’s queen with moves like Nf3 and win several tempi, positioning itself advantageously.

This sequence of moves was even considered by Emanuel Lasker, one of the greatest players in chess history, as a potential refutation of the Bishop’s Gambit.

However, modern theory suggests that the position is playable for both sides, ensuring the debate around this line continues.

A key principle for white to keep in mind in this variation is that it should not attack black’s queen without just cause.

When the diagonal back to d8 is blocked by …g5 or …Nf6, attacking the queen becomes stronger since the queen can’t retreat to d8.

In such situations, the knight maneuver Nb1-c3-d5/b4-c7 can be quite strong, creating a fork threat against black’s king and a8-rook.

Another strategic idea for white in this context is to play Qf3, launching an attack on black’s queen with g3.

Here, white’s queen serves a defensive role as well, protecting the rook on h8 which is crucial for the g3-attack.

Following g3, a useful move for white can be Kg2 and then Rh1-f1, consolidating the king’s safety and potentially preparing to double rooks on the f-file.

Examining black’s possible responses, one line includes 4…Nf6.

A potential idea for black here is to play Nf6-g4 and …Qf2#, setting up a potential mate threat.

To counter this, white should now immediately attack the black queen with 5. Nf3!

If white instead opts for 5. Nc3? Ng4, followed by 6. Nh3 (which covers f2), black gets a nice position after 6…c6.

The move 4…d6 gives white a choice between 5. Nc3 and 5. d4.

These options often transpose into each other after a few moves, offering flexible development possibilities for white.

In the 19th century, 4…g5 was a popular move. However, it has rarely been played since the 20th century.

If black does opt for this line, white can simply play 5. Nc3 and develop. This approach also highlights the vulnerability of the black queen’s position, as she can’t retreat to d8 to defend c7.

## Sidelines to the Bishop’s Gambit

Here are some of the sidelines to the Bishop’s Gambit:

• 3…Be7: Now, 4. Nf3 leads to the Cunningham Gambit. Alternatively, white can also play 4. Qh5!? or 4. d4, which is considered better than transposing to the Cunningham.
• 3….f5: This leads to the Lopez-Gianutio-Countergambit, or Nordic Countergambit, first played in Adolf Anderssen – Louis Eichborn 1854. This sideline was analyzed in depth by Sörensen in 1873 in the journal Nordische Schachzeitung.
• 3…h6: This tries to establish a fortress with …g5 and …d6. In response, white should delay developing the knight and play h4 after …g5.
• 3…d6: Now, 4. Nf3 leads to the Fischer Defense, but good alternatives are 4. d4 and 4. Nc3.
• 3…Ne7: Often played by Ivan Sokolov and Wilhelm Steinitz and analyzed by Sokolov. The idea is to play …Ne7-g6 to defend the pawn at f4.
• 3…b5: Sometimes called Bryan-Gambit after Thomas Jefferson Bryan, this move tries to get the bishop c4 off the diagonal to f7. The idea is similar to b2-b4 in the Evans Gambit. The first game with this line is from 1841 and was played by Lionel Kieseritzky against Desloges. The famous Immortal Game started with this line.
• 3…g5: This is considered a weak defense. White’s best plan is to play h4, opening the h-file for the rook and attack with the queen. The move h4 can be prepared with 4. Nc3.
• 3…Nc6!?: This is known as the Maurian Defense, which is relatively untested. However, if white plays 4.Nf3, black can transpose into the Hanstein Gambit after 4…g5 5.d4 Bg7 6.c3 d6 7.0-0 h6 (Neil McDonald, 1998). John Shaw wrote that 3…Nc6 is a “refutation” of the Bishop’s Gambit, as he believes that black is better in all variations.

## Evaluation of the Bishop’s Gambit

The Bishop’s Gambit is generally evaluated at around -0.65 to -0.95 for white.

## Continuation Lines of the Bishop’s Gambit

The best reply from black is generally considered 3…Nc3 or 3…d5.

3…Nc3 is considered better.

### 3…Nc3

3… Nc6 4. d4 Qh4+ 5. Kf1 d6 6. Nf3 Bg4 7. Nxh4 Bxd1 8. Nc3 Bxc2 9. Bxf4 Nf6 10. Nf3 O-O-O 11. Bg5 Re8 12. Re1 Na5 13. Bxf7 Re7 14. Bxf6 Rxf7 15. Bh4 Bd3+ 16. Kg1 h6

3… Nc6 4. d4 Qh4+ 5. Kf1 d6 6. Nf3 Bg4 7. Nxh4 Bxd1 8. Nc3 Bxc2 9. Bxf4 Nf6 10. Rc1 Nb4 11. Ke2 Bxe4 12. Nxe4 Nxe4 13. a3 Nc6 14. Rhe1 O-O-O 15. Bxf7 d5 16. Be3 Be7 17. Nf3 Rhf8 18. Be6+ Kb8 19. Kd3 Bf6 20. Bxd5

3… Nc6 4. d4 Qh4+ 5. Kf1 d6 6. Nf3 Bg4 7. Nxh4 Bxd1 8. Nc3 Bxc2 9. Bxf4 Nf6 10. Nf3 Nb4 11. Bd2 d5 12. exd5 Bd3+ 13. Bxd3 Nxd3 14. Rb1 O-O-O 15. Ke2 Nb4 16. Ne5 Re8 17. Kd1 Be7 18. Re1 Nbxd5 19. Nxf7 Rhf8 20. Ng5

3… Nc6 4. d4 Qh4+ 5. Kf1 d6 6. Nf3 Bg4 7. Nxh4 Bxd1 8. Nc3 Bxc2 9. Bxf4 Nf6 10. Nf3 Nb4 11. Bd2 Be7 12. a3 Nc6 13. Re1 Na5 14. Ba2 O-O-O 15. Bxf7 Rhf8 16. Be6+ Kb8 17. Kf2 Bb3 18. Nd5 Bxd5 19. Bxd5 Nxd5 20. Bxa5

### 3…d5

4. Bxd5 Qh4+ 5. Kf1 Ne7 6. Nf3 Qh5 7. d4 Nxd5 8. exd5 Bd6 9. c4 O-O 10. c5 Be7 11. Bxf4 Qxd5 12. Nc3 Qd8 13. Kf2 Bg4 14. Nb5 Na6 15. Re1 Bf6 16. Bg3 Qd7 17. Qa4 Bxf3

4. Bxd5 Qh4+ 5. Kf1 Ne7 6. Nf3 Qh5 7. d4 g5 8. Nc3 Bg7 9. h4 h6 10. Kg1 Qg6 11. Qd3 a6 12. hxg5 hxg5 13. Rxh8+ Bxh8 14. Bd2 Nbc6 15. Bxc6+ bxc6 16. Re1 g4 17. Nh4 Qf6

4. Bxd5 Qh4+ 5. Kf1 Ne7 6. Nf3 Qh5 7. d4 g5 8. Nc3 Bg7 9. h4 h6 10. Kg1 Qg6 11. Qd3 Nbc6 12. Nb5 Kd8 13. h5 Qh7 14. Bxf7 a6 15. Na3 Rf8

4. Bxd5 Qh4+ 5. Kf1 Ne7 6. Nf3 Qh5 7. d4 g5 8. Nc3 Bg7 9. h4 h6 10. Kg1 Qg6 11. Bd2 a6 12. e5 Nbc6 13. hxg5 hxg5 14. Bxc6+ bxc6 15. Rxh8+ Bxh8 16. Qe2 g4 17. Nh4 Qxc2

## The Legacy of the Bishop’s Gambit

The Bishop’s Gambit is not just an intriguing variant of the King’s Gambit; it’s a manifestation of the richness and depth of chess.

It offers countless opportunities for strategic planning, tactical shots, and creative play.

While it might not be the most popular opening among top-tier players, it undeniably holds a firm place in the vast landscape of chess theory.

The unique character of the Bishop’s Gambit lies in its somewhat offbeat nature and the surprise element it often carries.

Whether you’re a seasoned chess player looking to diversify your repertoire or a novice desiring to explore new avenues in the game, the Bishop’s Gambit is a worthy candidate to consider.