Skip to main content

What Is a Gambit in Chess?

Learn about chess gambits from Chess NYC in this Howcast video.


Hi, this is David Sullivan for Chess NYC and I'd like to talk about the center and gambits. In chess, we generally try to bring our two pawns to the center of the board to free our pieces and also, if black pieces come out, we can use that center to move forward and attack black. But black will try to stop us from making our center. If we play, let's say, E4, black might play E5. And then if we play our other center point out right away, pawn to D4, black can take the pawn, white can take back with the queen, but then black will develop a piece, attacking the queen, making it waste time by moving again. And then black will develop another piece. And then, all of a sudden, black has more big guys out than white. Black has two pieces developed, white only has one piece developed. Pawns are not considered pieces, they're just pawns. So, white wants to bring the two center pawns out, but black is fighting against it with his first move. He's saying, "Well, you bring this pawn out, I will take you right away."

White can use, in this position, what's known as a gambit. Gambit comes from the Italian word, gambito, which means to trip up. So, white is trying to trip up black. White plays his pawn to F4. He offers black a pawn. Black can take the white pawn and white won't be able to capture back. What white is trying to do is deflect the pawn so that later, he'll be able to more easily bring his other center point up and black won't be able to take it.

Another example of a gambit, and this is an opening that shows up in my own games occasionally, is when I would play white, I would often play D4. Black plays knight F6, I go C4 and black plays C5. I advance my pawn to D5 and then black plays his pawn to B5. This is known as the benko gambit. Black intends to offer me a pawn and then offer me another pawn, so that later in the game, he'll have two open lines for his rooks that he can use to put pressure on me down here. For your entertainment, I will show you what I use to play against this. When they play B5 and then A6, I would actually play my knight to C3, developing a piece. Black would take a pawn. This pawn is unprotected, but I don't grab it. I play pawn to E4. I free my bishop, black attacks my knight, I bring my knight to B5. And now, it looks like my pawn on E4 is hanging, that is, it's unprotected. But if black takes my pawn on E4, I can then attack his knight and if his knight runs away, I have knight to D6, checkmate. Smothered mate. So over here, we have black offering a gambit, white declining the gambit, then white offers black a pawn and if he takes the pawn, he will get checkmated.

These two examples of gambits to give you a little idea of what we're talking about here, as with any subject in chess, we could talk about this for months, but just remember, gambits are basically, it's a small sacrifice in order to make some sort of game.

Popular Categories