The Evans Gambit is a chess opening that enjoyed a fearsome reputation at one point in history. Today, that’s not the case. Even if White’s pawn sacrifice may look dangerous, Black can equalize with accurate play. Nevertheless, it’s still considered to be a fairly dangerous gambit, if one doesn’t know the opening theory.
The name of the gambit comes from William Davies Evans, an inventor, seafarer & chess player.
In this article, we’ll be sharing what the gambit is, White’s dangerous ideas, and Black’s options. Later, you’ll also see the basic theory of this line.
What is Evans Gambit in Chess?
The opening occurs on the board from the Italian Opening after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4.
Is Evans Gambit Popular at the top level?
It’s not as popular as it used to be. In the old era, a lot of players used it. However, as defensive techniques improved, the popularity of this opening started to fade. Today, it’s only used at top level mostly as a surprise weapon.
However, don’t completely discount this opening as harmless. There have been instances where even top players have suffered here. This usually happens when White develops a strong initiative in the opening.
Now let’s understand the key ideas and details of this line
White’s Key ideas in Evans Gambit
Sacrifice pawns to gain the initiative
This is one of the main opening strategies of Evans Gambit. Here, White wants to finish their development and bring all their pieces into the game as quickly as they can. With a lead in development, it becomes easier to develop a strong attack.
Open Lines for their pieces
Another idea for White in this opening is to open files and diagonals for their pieces. They often do this by sacrificing their d & c-pawns with c3 and d4. If Black captures the pawns, they waste their time. In the process, it allows White’s pieces to occupy dangerous lines. Like for example – Ba3, Re1, Rd1 etc.
Attack the Black King
Why does White want to open lines and sacrifice pawns? Their ultimate aim is to play aggressive chess and put the Black monarch under pressure. There’ve been a lot of miniature games in the Evans because Black couldn’t survive the early attack.
For that reason, Black has to be careful and know what are doing.
Let’s now take a look at Black’s strategy.
Grab the extra pawn & don’t let it go.
This will at least give them extra material. It also follows the famous chess principle – ‘The best way to play against a gambit is to accept it.’ Therefore, one way to play against the gambit is to hold the pawn after 4.b4 Bxb4.
Don’t be too greedy and forget about development
This is another important thing to keep in mind. Often White will offer more pawns. If White does that, Black should be careful before accepting them. It is important to finish development before being greedy.
Get their king to safety by evacuating it from the centre.
Black should secure their king. Remember White wants to unleash their attacking power. Their target is the Black king. If Black fails to evacuate their king to safety, they might fall victim to a miniature. Therefore, evacuating the king is important along with piece development.
Now let’s look at the theory behind this line.
Basic Theory of Evans Gambit
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4, Black has two main options – to accept & decline the gambit.
Evan’s Gambit Accepted
The Evan’s Gambit Accepted begins after
Black grabs the b4-pawn.
The play continues after 4…Bxb4
5…Be7 is another common reaction. Black simply keeps their bishop on the a3-f8 diagonal so that White cannot play Ba3 themselves.
6.d4 exd4 7.O-O
Here, Black must choose development over material.
And instead of that, if Black becomes greedy with 7…dxc3, they run the risk of being under tremendous pressure with 8.Qb3 Qf6 9.e5 White builds a strong initiative with this, which is one of their central ideas.
And now comes the central thrust with…
8…d5! 9. exd5 Nxd5
The position is roughly equal with chances for both sides.
Evan’s Gambit Declined
After 4.b4, Black plays
This is known as Evan’s Gambit Declined, refusing to accept the sacrificed pawn. The theory continues with
5.a4 a6 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.Nd5
This is a quiet line, which resembles the Italian game in a lot of aspects. Both sides have decent chances.
The Evans Gambit was once an extremely fashionable line. But over time, it’s popularity began to fade away because Black could equalize with relative ease if they knew what they’re doing. We hope this gave you an insightful look into Evans Gambit.
Try it out in some of your games with both sides. This way, you’ll develop a better feel for the position.
Below is a video that explains several variations, and extended lines of this chess opening.
Evan’s Gambit Famous Games
1852 – C Bayer vs Falkbeer
2001 – Morozevich vs Adams
1852 – Anderssen vs Dufresne