Danish Gambit

Danish Gambit (Theory, Strategy, Variations)

The Danish Gambit is an aggressive chess opening that offers a unique perspective on the game.

It is a chess opening known for its daring pawn sacrifices in the initial moves, aimed at gaining a positional advantage through rapid piece development and initiating a quick attack on the opponent’s king.

Though the Danish Gambit has lost some popularity in the modern era, it still holds a place of honor in the annals of chess strategy and provides excellent study material for those looking to broaden their tactical horizons.

Here we look into the various aspects of the Danish Gambit to help you understand its nuances better.

Move Order of the Danish Gambit

The Danish Gambit starts with the moves:

  1. e4 e5
  2. d4 exd4
  3. c3
Danish Gambit
3. c3 Danish Gambit

These moves represent the key gambit idea.

White is ready to sacrifice one or two pawns in order to accelerate piece development and launch an aggressive attack.

The gambit can be accepted or declined by the black player, leading to varied and intricate lines of play.

Theory, Strategy and Purpose of the Danish Gambit

The Danish Gambit is a risky yet fascinating opening that focuses on early aggression and pressure on the opponent.

The key idea for white is to sacrifice material (specifically pawns) early in the game to gain rapid piece development and control over the center.

This leads to an aggressive setup that can cause difficulties for the unprepared opponent.

The primary objective is to mount a quick and decisive attack on the opponent’s king.

However, a player well-versed in the theory of the Danish Gambit can, with precise moves, deflect the initial onslaught and maintain an equal or even advantageous position.

Variations of the Danish Gambit

The Danish Gambit presents several interesting variations for both white and black.

These include the Danish Gambit Accepted, where Black takes the offered pawn, and lines where Black declines the gambit.

The Alekhine Variation and Lindehn’s Continuation offer diverse paths for the game’s progression after Black accepts the gambit. Notably, the Alekhine Variation often transposes into the Göring Gambit of the Scotch Game.

Schlechter’s Defense is another significant variation that provides a robust response to the gambit, allowing Black to return one pawn to facilitate development.

Let’s look at the Alekhine Variation and Lindehn’s Continuation in more detail:

Alekhine Variation: 4.Nxc3

Alekhine’s variation is considered a safer, more stable approach to the Danish Gambit, particularly for white.

After the initial gambit moves 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3, if black accepts the gambit with 3…dxc3, Alekhine recommended the move 4.Nxc3.

Alekhine Variation: 4.Nxc3
Alekhine Variation: 4.Nxc3

This move helps white to regain control of the center and prepare for further development.

There are several possibilities for black:

  • 4…d6 5.Bc4 Nc6 6.Nf3 (Göring Gambit, by transposition)
  • 4…Bc5 5.Bc4 Nc6 6.Nf3 (Göring Gambit, by transposition)
  • 4…Nc6 5.Bc4 and 6.Nf3 (Göring Gambit, by transposition)
  • 4…Bb4 5.Bc4 (5.Qd4 is an independent option) Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 d6 7.Qb3 Qe7 8.Ne2 Alekhine–Pomar, clock simul Madrid 1943

The unique aspect of the Alekhine Variation is that it often transposes into the Göring Gambit of the Scotch Game.

It also provides white with the option to meet an early …Bb4 by developing the king’s knight to e2 rather than f3.

This can prevent black from disrupting white’s queenside pawn structure.

Lindehn’s Continuation: 4.Bc4

In contrast to the Alekhine Variation, Lindehn’s continuation aims for a more aggressive play by white.

In this variation, after 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3, and again, if black accepts the gambit with 3…dxc3, white responds with 4.Bc4.

1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Bc4
1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Bc4

This move develops a piece and also prepares to castle.

Here are the major lines that can occur:

  • 4…d6 5.Nxc3 (also Göring Gambit, by transposition)
  • 4…cxb2 5.Bxb2 (Danish Gambit Accepted)
  • 5…Bb4+ 6.Kf1 or 6.Nc3
  • 5…d6 6.Qb3
  • 5…d5 (Schlechter Defense)

If black chooses to accept the second pawn, it allows white’s two bishops to create significant threats along the diagonals, especially towards the black kingside.

Danish Gambit Accepted - 1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Bc4 cxb2
Danish Gambit Accepted – 1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Bc4 cxb2

This can make it difficult for black to develop his pieces effectively.

Carl Schlechter recommended a solid defensive response for black, which was to return one of the pawns with 5…d5.

This allows black to gain some time and complete development.

Despite this, some theorists believe that the queenside majority gives black the advantage in the endgame.

Overall, the Danish Gambit has been somewhat less popular due to the defensive lines that have been found over time.

However, it can still lead to rich, complex positions and be a potent weapon in the hands of a well-prepared player.

Evaluation of the Danish Gambit

The Danish Gambit is generally evaluated at around -0.30 to -0.75 for white.

Theory & Continuation Lines of the Danish Gambit

Below we have some common theory and continuation lines from the Danish Gambit starting move order 1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3.c3 (among other variations) that you would see at the highest level of play.

The best response to the Danish Gambit – though it’s not the most popularly played – is 3… Qe7:

3… Qe7 4. cxd4 Qxe4+ 5. Be3 Nf6 6. Nc3 Bb4 7. Nf3 Ng4 8. Qd2 Nxe3 9. fxe3 Qe7 10. Bd3 d5 11. O-O Nd7 12. e4 dxe4 13. Rae1 Nf6 14. Bxe4 Nxe4 15. Rxe4 Be6 16. Qe3 Qd6 17. Ng5 O-O 18. Nxe6 fxe6 

3… Qe7 4. cxd4 Qxe4+ 5. Be3 Nf6 6. Nc3 Bb4 7. Nf3 Ng4 8. Qd2 Nxe3 9. fxe3 Qe7 10. Bd3 d5 11. O-O Nd7 12. e4 dxe4 13. Rae1 Nf6 14. Bxe4 Nxe4 15. Rxe4 Be6 16. Ng5 O-O 17. a3 Bxc3 18. bxc3 h6 19. Nxe6 fxe6 20. Rb1 b6 

3… Qe7 4. cxd4 Qxe4+ 5. Be3 Nf6 6. Nc3 Bb4 7. Nf3 Ng4 8. Qd2 Nxe3 9. fxe3 Qe7 10. Bd3 d5 11. O-O Nd7 12. e4 dxe4 13. Rae1 Nf6 14. Bxe4 Nxe4 15. Rxe4 Be6 16. Qe3 c6 17. Ng5 O-O 18. h3 Bd6 19. Nxe6 fxe6 

3… Qe7 4. cxd4 Qxe4+ 5. Be3 Bb4+ 6. Nd2 Nf6 7. a3 Bxd2+ 8. Qxd2 d6 9. Ne2 O-O 10. f3 Qe7 11. Nc3 Be6 12. Bb5 Nc6 13. O-O Na5 14. Qc2 Bc4 15. Rfe1 Bxb5 16. Bg5 Qd7 

3… Qe7 4. cxd4 Qxe4+ 5. Be3 Nf6 6. Qd2 Qg6 7. Nc3 Bb4 8. Nge2 Ne4 9. Qc1 d5 10. a3 Bxc3+ 11. Nxc3 Nxc3 12. Qxc3 Nc6 13. Bb5 Bd7 14. O-O O-O 15. Bxc6 Bxc6 16. Bf4 Rfe8 17. Rfe1 f6 18. Bxc7 

3… Qe7 4. cxd4 Qxe4+ 5. Be3 Nf6 6. Qd2 Qg6 7. Ne2 Ne4 8. Qc1 Bb4+ 9. Nbc3 d5 10. f3 Nxc3 11. bxc3 Be7 12. Nf4 Qd6 13. Bd3 Nd7 14. O-O O-O 15. Re1 g6 16. a4 a5 17. Bf2 Re8 18. h4 

CRUSH EVERYONE With The Danish Gambit

History of the Danish Gambit

The Danish Gambit’s history is intriguing.

Although it was likely known before, Danish player Martin Severin From is often credited with popularizing it during the Paris 1867 tournament.

The gambit gained popularity among attacking masters like Alekhine, Marshall, Blackburne, and Mieses.

Despite its initial popularity, it lost favor in the 1920s as more defensive lines for Black were discovered.

Today, it’s less common in top-level chess but still holds historical significance and provides a valuable learning tool.

Is the Danish Gambit Good for Beginners or Intermediates?

The Danish Gambit can be a valuable tool for both beginners and intermediate players.

For beginners, it can introduce the concept of sacrificing material for positional gains and control.

It helps new players understand the balance between material and piece activity, which is a key concept in chess.

For intermediate players, studying the Danish Gambit can lead to a better understanding of the intricacies of opening theory and can help in developing an aggressive style of play.

However, due to the risky nature of the gambit, it is recommended to thoroughly study the various lines and defenses to avoid falling into well-prepared traps.

How Often Is the Danish Gambit Played at the Grandmaster Level?

While the Danish Gambit has a rich history and has been utilized by various grandmasters in the past, it’s not commonly seen in modern top-level chess.

The gambit is considered somewhat risky at the highest levels of play, where opponents are likely to be well-prepared for such tactics.

Grandmasters tend to prefer openings that provide a solid foundation for the middlegame without risking material disadvantage early on.

That said, the Danish Gambit and its related variations still appear in grandmaster play, albeit infrequently, often as a surprise weapon to catch opponents off guard.

FAQs – Danish Gambit

1. What is the Danish Gambit in Chess?

The Danish Gambit is a chess opening that involves sacrificing one or two pawns in the early stages of the game.

The objective is to accelerate the development of the pieces and launch an aggressive attack.

The gambit begins with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3.

The Danish Gambit has historically been popular with attacking players, although its use has declined since the 1920s due to the development of effective defensive strategies.

2. Why is it called the Danish Gambit?

The Danish Gambit gets its name from Danish chess player Martin Severin From who played this opening in the Paris 1867 tournament.

However, the gambit had been known earlier, with roots tracing back to the London-Edinburgh correspondence game in 1824 and Hans Lindehn’s games from 1857 onward.

3. How is the Danish Gambit related to the Göring Gambit?

The Danish Gambit and Göring Gambit often transpose into each other.

Many games beginning with the Danish Gambit end up in Göring Gambit positions, especially when the moves Nf3 for White and …Nc6 for Black are played.

This is because Carl Theodor Göring, who the Göring Gambit is named after, also frequently played the double pawn gambit like in the Danish Gambit.

4. How can Black decline the Danish Gambit?

Black has several safe options to decline the Danish Gambit. After 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3, Black can respond with 3…d6, 3…Qe7, or 3…d5 (Sörensen Defense or Capablanca Defence).

These responses allow Black to avoid accepting the pawn sacrifice and still maintain a good game position.

5. How does White proceed if Black accepts the Danish Gambit?

If Black accepts the Danish Gambit with 3…dxc3, White has two main possibilities: 4.Nxc3 and 4.Bc4.

The choice depends on the specific strategy White wants to pursue. In the 4.Nxc3 variation (Alekhine Variation), the game often transposes into the Göring Gambit of the Scotch Game.

In the 4.Bc4 line (Lindehn’s continuation), White can offer a second pawn with 4.Bc4.

6. What is Schlechter’s Defense in the Danish Gambit?

Schlechter’s Defense is a recommended defensive line for Black in the Danish Gambit.

It involves returning one of the pawns with 5…d5. This strategy allows Black to gain time for development and typically results in an even game position.

The introduction of this defense resulted in a decrease in the popularity of the Danish Gambit as the positions resulting from it are not typically what White desires from a gambit opening.

7. How does the Danish Gambit compare with other popular openings?

The Danish Gambit, like other gambit strategies, involves a calculated risk in the form of a pawn sacrifice for rapid piece development and the chance to mount an early attack.

While it might not be as popular in contemporary top-level chess as other openings like the Sicilian Defense or the Queen’s Gambit, it can be an effective surprise weapon, especially in amateur play.

However, defenses have been well-studied, and if Black plays accurately, they can often neutralize White’s initiative and end up with a material advantage.

8. How can Black safely accept the pawn sacrifice in the Danish Gambit?

The safety of accepting the pawn sacrifice in the Danish Gambit depends on precise play from Black.

One popular way to accept the pawn is with 3…dxc3.

After this, Black must be cautious about rapid development and King safety, as White’s goal is to quickly develop pieces and launch an aggressive attack.

The most reliable defenses often involve giving back one of the pawns to facilitate development, as in the Schlechter Defense.

9. How does White proceed in the Danish Gambit if Black declines the gambit?

If Black declines the gambit, White has to adapt their approach but can still aim for rapid piece development and active play.

For example, if Black plays 3…d6, White can continue with 4.Bc4, aiming to castle king-side and to start an attack.

The specific strategy will vary depending on Black’s moves, but the overall objective remains to take advantage of leading development and try to create attacking opportunities.

10. Are there any famous games played using the Danish Gambit?

While not as commonly employed in modern top-level play, the Danish Gambit has seen usage in the games of many famous players throughout history.

Notably, Alexander Alekhine, a former world champion, has applied it in some games, albeit on less crucial occasions.

One significant game that showcases the Danish Gambit is the game between Hans Lindehn and Wilhelm Steinitz, the latter being a future world champion, in London, 1864.

In this game, Lindehn successfully utilized the Danish Gambit to defeat Steinitz.


The Danish Gambit, with its roots deep in chess history and its aggressive and bold approach to the opening phase, continues to fascinate and intrigue players.

While it may not be a common sight in today’s top-level games, its strategic lessons are timeless.

This opening helps players understand the significance of pawn structures, the delicate balance between material and position, and the importance of rapid development.

Studying the Danish Gambit can provide both beginners and intermediates with essential insights into the world of chess gambits, making it a worthy addition to any chess player’s repertoire.


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