Danish Gambit

One of the most exciting gambits in chess is the Danish Gambit in 1.e4. It’s very entertaining to play, where White gets some good attacking chances. However, Black has a good way to play against it.

In this article, you’ll see the main ideas of this gambit for both sides. You will also see the opening theory in this line, especially how Black should deal with this gambit.

Danish Gambit

Key Ideas for White in the Danish Gambit

Open Up Lines for their pieces 

The entire gambit philosophy for White is to open lines for their pieces. By sacrificing two pawns, White wants their Bb2 & their Bc4 to exert influence on the diagonals a1-h8 & a2-g8 respectively. The bishops do an amazing job of putting the entire Black kingside under pressure, if Black accepts the gambit.

Also, if Black castles are long, White will be able to create an attack along the b & c-file. This is the central theme behind White’s play.

In the old days, this was a very dangerous strategy. However, Black soon found out a good way to play in this gambit. We’ll discuss it later in the article.

Development & Attack

White’s key idea in the opening is to develop their pieces and launch an attack. Afterall, they are willing to sacrifice two pawns for that reason. Once their pieces are fully developed, they will try to open up the position with e5 break at some point. Not to mention their rooks will also join in after that.

Key Ideas for Black in the Danish Gambit  

Black has two different ways of handling the opening. In both of them, their strategy is slightly different. But the underlying theme remains the same.

Don’t fall behind in development

By capturing pawns of White, Black risks falling behind in development. Sure, they’ll have a material advantage. But if White is able to get a strong attack, it will lead to difficulties for Black. Hence, Black has to ensure that they don’t fall behind in development. If they’re fully developed, they can easily neutralize White’s initiative.

Counterattack & neutralize White’s opening initiative

In both the strategies for Black to play against the Danish Gambit, their main goal is counter attack. For that reason, they often play the central break with the move …d5.

This central break allows them to open up their pieces. Another point is that Black often uses tactics in the opening to neutralize White’s initiative. Theory shows that White’s initiative can be neutralized here. Hence among the modern chess openings, the Danish Gambit doesn’t enjoy a lot of popularity. Let’s see the theory now.


Basic Theory of the Danish Gambit

The Danish Gambit starts with

1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3

Black has two ways of playing this position. One is to accept White’s pawn sacrifice and the other is to decline it.

We will have a look at both lines.

Danish Gambit Accepted with 3…dxc3

In this line, Black accepts White’s sacrificed pawns after

3.c3 dxc3

One way to avoid playing the Danish Gambit as Black is by going 3…d5. It’s covered later.
 

4.Bc4 cxb2 5.Bxb2 d5!

Black must know this move inorder to get a comfortable position. The point of the sacrifice is to open lines for the rapid development of their pieces.

On the other hand, 5…d6 is a dubious alternative, even though it has been played in some games.

Black is behind in development which could prove costly after 6.Qb3 Nh6 7.Nf3 White continues with simple development. They’ll soon open up the position with e5.


6.Bxd5 Nf6

You might think that White is losing a queen after

7. Bxf7+

But that’s not the case. In fact, this is the mainline. After

7…Kxf7 8.Qxd8

Black has the spectacular 

8…Bb4+ 

White is now forced to give up their queen.

9. Qd2

Notice that 9.Nd2 is bad in the view of  9…Rxd8 where Black is just a piece up.

In the mainline after 9.Qd2,

9…Bxd2+ 10.Nxd2 Re8 11.f3

The endgame is equal with chances for both sides.

If you wish to avoid all this as Black, you can play the Danish Gambit Declined Variation.

Danish Gambit Declined with 3…d5

3…d5

Here, Black is prioritizing development, instead of material. The theory goes

4.exd5 Qxd5 5.cxd4

Notice that White already has a weak pawn on d4.

5…Nc6 6.Nf3 Bg4

Black’s bishops are ready to jump in, pinning White’s knights.

7.Be2 Bb4+ 8.Nc3 Bxf3 9.Bxf3 Qc4!

Notice that Black can’t play 9…Qxd4 as they would lose the queen after 10.Bxc6+! Bxc6 11.Qxd4.

After 9…Qc4, Black is doing more than fine. 

Conclusion

White is looking to open lines and attack. Black wants to neutralize White’s initiative as early as they can. This is the central strategy of both sides. 

After reading through the article, we hope you’re aware of how to play this line with both sides.

Below is a video that explains several variations, and extended lines of this chess opening.

Danish Gambit Famous Games

1893 – Charousek vs J Wollner

1876 – Blackburne vs Day

1962 – W Lutes vs R Hartenstein