Evans Gambit - 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4

Evans Gambit (Theory, Variations, Lines)

The Evans Gambit is a dynamic chess opening that’s beloved by players seeking tactical complexities and an aggressive approach from the very start of the game out of the Italian Game (from 1. e4, Open Game).

Introduced by Welsh sea captain William Davies Evans in the 19th century, this audacious opening has intrigued chess players across generations, drawing the attention of celebrated Grandmasters and casual players alike.

Its fascinating history, complex strategies, and frequent appearances in popular culture are a testament to the Evans Gambit’s enduring appeal.

Move Order of the Evans Gambit

The Evans Gambit is characterized by a distinctive move order that sets it apart in the realm of chess openings.

Stemming from the Italian Game, the moves unfold as follows:

  1. e4 e5
  2. Nf3 Nc6
  3. Bc4 Bc5
  4. b4
Evans Gambit - 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4
Evans Gambit – 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4

This bold gambit move, b4, offers a pawn to the opponent, aiming to divert the black bishop on c5 and gain a lead in development and central control.

Theory, Strategy and Purpose of the Evans Gambit

The Evans Gambit holds a unique strategic allure.

When white offers the pawn, they aim to disrupt black’s position, divert the black bishop, and open up the center quickly.

Upon acceptance of the gambit, white’s standard follow-up is c3 and d4.

This series of moves not only opens up the center but also prepares potential threats along the a3-f8 and a2-g8 diagonals with Ba3 or Qb3 respectively.

Conversely, if black declines the gambit, the b4-pawn asserts white’s space advantage on the queenside.

Variations of the Evans Gambit

The gambit’s varied response possibilities make it incredibly versatile.

If black accepts the pawn with 4…Bxb4, white plays 5.c3, which generally compels black to respond with 5…Ba5.

Other possibilities for black at this point include 5…Be7, 5…Bc5, or even the rare 5…Bd6, the Stone–Ware Defense.

Meanwhile, if black declines the gambit with 4…Bb6, white usually proceeds with 5.a4.

Other black responses can lead to the rare Countergambit Variation (4…d5), which, however, is considered dubious.

Let’s look at each of these variations in a bit more detail:

Bishop Retreats After Accepting the Gambit

After accepting the gambit with 4…Bxb4 5.c3, the Black bishop is forced to make a move or risk being captured.

Several common retreats are available, each with its unique pros and cons.


This is Black’s most popular retreat and the best response (as we show below).

It allows Black to stay clear of White’s center pawns, and pins the c3-pawn if White responds with 6.d4.

However, the move does have a disadvantage: it removes the a5-square from the black queen’s knight.

Typically, Black will subsequently retreat the bishop to b6 to enable …Na5, which is particularly potent when White chooses the Bc4, Qb3 approach.


This is the second most common retreat, but the statistics show that White scores better after this move than after 5…Ba5.

Players unfamiliar with the Evans Gambit often choose this retreat.

However, it can be argued that 5…Bc5 is inferior to 5…Ba5.

This is because 6.d4 re-attacks the bishop and limits Black’s options compared to the situation after 5…Ba5 6.d4.

5…Be7 (Lasker’s Defense)

Also known as Lasker’s Defense, this move is often considered one of the safer bishop retreats and has been played by top-level players like Viswanathan Anand.

Following 6.d4 Na5, White can strive to maintain the initiative with 7.Be2, a move favored by Garry Kasparov, or can immediately recapture the pawn with 7.Nxe5.

5…Bd6 (Stone–Ware Defence)

This retreat, known as the Stone–Ware Defence (named after Henry Nathan Stone and Preston Ware), reinforces the e5-pawn.

Several grandmasters, including Andrei Volokitin, Alexander Grischuk, and Loek van Wely, have played this move.

5…Bf8 (Mayet Defense)

Finally, there’s the rarely played Mayet Defense, named after Carl Mayet.

Although not a popular choice, it serves as one of the many strategic options available to players in the Evans Gambit.

Evaluation of the Evans Gambit

The Evans Gambit is generally evaluated at around -0.10 to -0.40 for white.

Theory & Continuation Lines of the Evans Gambit

Below we have some common theory and continuation lines from the Evans Gambit starting move order 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 that you would see at the highest level of play.

4… Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. d4 exd4 7. Qb3 Qe7 8. O-O Bb6 9. cxd4 Nxd4 10. Nxd4 Bxd4 11. Nc3 Nf6 12. Bg5 c6 13. Rad1 Bxc3 14. Qxc3 O-O 15. Rd3 d6 16. Rg3 Kh8 17. Qc1 Qe5 18. Bf4 Qc5 

4… Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. d4 d6 7. Qb3 Qd7 8. O-O Bb6 9. Nbd2 Na5 10. Qb1 Qe7 11. Ba3 Nxc4 12. Nxc4 f6 13. Bb4 c5 14. Ba5 Bxa5 15. Qb5+ Kf7 16. Qxa5 Nh6 

4… Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. d4 d6 7. Qb3 Qd7 8. O-O Bb6 9. Nbd2 Na5 10. Qb1 Qe7 11. Ba3 Qf6 12. Qb4 Ne7 13. dxe5 dxe5 14. Nxe5 Qxe5 15. Nf3 Qd6 16. Qb5+ c6 

4… Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. d4 d6 7. Qb3 Qd7 8. O-O Bb6 9. Nbd2 Na5 10. Qb1 Qe7 11. Ba3 Qf6 12. Bb5+ c6 13. Be2 Ne7 14. Qb4 Bc7 15. Rad1 b6 16. Rfe1 Bd7 17. Qb2 Ng6 18. g3 O-O 19. dxe5 Nxe5 20. Nxe5 

4… Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. d4 d6 7. Qb3 Qd7 8. O-O Bb6 9. Nbd2 Na5 10. Qc2 Qe7 11. Ba3 f6 12. Bb5+ c6 13. Be2 Nh6 14. Rfd1 Be6 15. Nf1 Nf7 16. Ne3 O-O 

4… Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. d4 d6 7. Qb3 Qd7 8. Nbd2 Bb6 9. O-O Na5 10. Qc2 Qe7 11. Ba3 f6 12. Bd5 Nh6 13. Rad1 Bd7 14. Nb3 Ba4 15. Qd3 c6 16. dxe5 cxd5 17. Bxd6 Qd7 18. Qxd5 Bxb3 19. axb3 O-O-O 20. b4 Nc6 21. Qc4 fxe5 22. Nxe5 

What is the best response to Evans Gambit?

Black’s best counter to the Evans Gambit is to take the b-pawn with the bishop being attacked.

White then regularly follows by re-attacking the bishop via 5.c3.

Magnus Carlsen plays RIDICULOUS EVANS GAMBIT to DESTROY GM in Blitz

History of the Evans Gambit

The Evans Gambit owes its name to Welsh sea captain William Davies Evans, who first used it in a recorded game in 1827.

It was subsequently explored in the Second Series of Progressive Lessons by William Lewis in 1832, and popularized by numerous games between Alexander McDonnell and Louis de la Bourdonnais in 1834.

Over the years, chess luminaries such as Adolf Anderssen, Paul Morphy, and Mikhail Chigorin further developed and popularized it.

However, the gambit fell out of favor in the 20th century until a brief revival in the late 1990s, driven by the world’s top player at the time, Garry Kasparov.

Is the Evans Gambit Good for Beginners or Intermediates?

The Evans Gambit can be a valuable tool for beginners and intermediates alike, as it forces players to understand key chess principles such as development, initiative, and the power of pawn structure.

The opening encourages an aggressive, tactical approach, allowing players to seize the initiative and challenge their opponents early in the game.

It is, however, critical for players to understand the inherent risks and be prepared for the possible complexities that can arise.

How Often Evans Gambit Is Played at the Grandmaster Level

While the Evans Gambit is not commonly seen in top-level tournaments, it has had its moments in the spotlight.

Notably, Garry Kasparov used it to defeat Viswanathan Anand in a notable 25-move win in 1995.

The gambit’s decreased popularity among grandmasters can be attributed to its aggressive and risky nature.

However, the Evans Gambit remains a viable choice for players looking to surprise their opponents and seize the initiative from the early stages of the game.


The Evans Gambit, with its rich history and daring strategy, continues to captivate chess enthusiasts worldwide.

While it may not be a frequent choice at the highest levels of competitive play, its unique blend of theory, strategy, and versatility make it an exciting option for players at all levels.

Whether you’re a beginner learning the ropes or an intermediate player looking to add a surprise weapon to your arsenal, the Evans Gambit offers a thrilling foray into the tactical complexities of chess.

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