Danish Gambit

The Danish Gambit, known as the Nordisches Gambit in German and the Noords Gambiet in Dutch (both meaning Nordic Gambit), is a chess opening that begins with the moves:[1]

Danish Gambit
a8 black rook
b8 black knight
c8 black bishop
d8 black queen
e8 black king
f8 black bishop
g8 black knight
h8 black rook
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
c7 black pawn
d7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
d4 black pawn
e4 white pawn
c3 white pawn
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
a1 white rook
b1 white knight
c1 white bishop
d1 white queen
e1 white king
f1 white bishop
g1 white knight
h1 white rook
Moves1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3
Named afterDanish player Martin Severin From
ParentCenter Game
Synonym(s)Nordic Gambit
Norwegian Gambit
1. e4 e5
2. d4 exd4
3. c3

White will sacrifice one or two pawns for the sake of rapid development and the attack. However, with care, Black can accept one or both pawns safely, or simply decline the gambit altogether with good chances.

Although it may have been known earlier, Danish player Martin Severin From essayed the gambit in the Paris 1867 tournament and he is usually given credit for the opening. The Danish Gambit was popular with masters of the attack including Alekhine, Marshall, Blackburne, and Mieses, but as more defensive lines for Black were discovered and improved, it lost favor in the 1920s. Today it is rarely played in top-level chess.


From the very beginning the nomenclature of the Danish Gambit was very confusing. The idea stems from a famous correspondence game London–Edinburgh, 1824: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Bc5 5.c3 Qe7 6.0-0 dxc3 7.Nxc3. The Swede Hans Lindehn played 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 on a regular basis from 1857 at the latest. He defeated the later World Champion Wilhelm Steinitz with his gambit in London, 1864. It is possible that Martin Severin From met Lindehn in Paris in this period and learned about the gambit there. According to Graham Burgess, in Denmark itself, the opening is called the Nordic Gambit.[2]

Many games transposed to the Göring Gambit, as Nf3 for White and ...Nc6 for Black are logical moves. As Carl Theodor Göring also used to play the double gambit, there was hardly any difference.

Remarkably enough, the idea to sacrifice just one pawn (Nxc3) is older in the Göring Gambit than in the Danish. Paul Morphy encountered it at the first USA-Congress of 1857 against Alexander Meek. In the Danish, especially Alexander Alekhine applied 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3, but on unimportant occasions.

Main linesEdit

The Danish Gambit is a variation of the Center Game that is important enough to be treated on its own. It is C21 in the Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings classification.

After 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3, Black can safely decline the gambit with 3...d6, 3...Qe7, or 3...d5 (Sörensen Defense or Capablanca Defence). If Black enters the Danish Gambit Accepted with 3...dxc3, the main possibilities are 4.Nxc3 and 4.Bc4.

Alekhine Variation: 4.Nxc3 Edit

  • 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

Alekhine recommended that White play 4.Nxc3. This line often transposes into the Göring Gambit of the Scotch Game. There are only few lines with Black omitting ...Nc6 and/or White omitting Nf3. This move order enables White to avoid the critical main line of the Göring Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.c3 dxc3 5.Nxc3 Bb4) by keeping open the option of meeting an early ...Bb4 by developing the king's knight to e2 rather than f3 and thus preventing Black from disrupting White's queenside pawn structure, as Alekhine did in his game against Pomar above.

Lindehn's continuation: 4.Bc4 Edit

Danish Gambit Accepted after 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Bc4 cxb2 5.Bxb2
  • 4...d6 5.Nxc3 (also Göring Gambit, by transposition)
  • 4...cxb2 5.Bxb2 (Danish Gambit Accepted, see diagram)
    • 5...Bb4+ 6.Kf1 or 6.Nc3
    • 5...d6 6.Qb3
    • 5...d5 (Schlechter Defense)

White can instead offer a second pawn with 4.Bc4. The second pawn can be safely declined by transposing into the Göring Gambit. Accepting the pawn allows White's two bishops to rake the Black kingside after 4...cxb2 5.Bxb2. White will often follow up with Qb3 if possible, applying pressure on Black's b7- and f7-squares. Combined with White's long diagonal pressure on g7, this can make it difficult for Black to develop his bishops. A similar position arises except for Black in the Ross Gambit,[3] a variation of the Scandinavian Defence.

Carl Schlechter recommended one of the most reliable defenses for Black: by returning one of the pawns with 5...d5, Black gains time to complete development. After 6.Bxd5 Nf6 (6...Bb4+ is also possible) 7.Bxf7+ Kxf7 8.Qxd8 Bb4+ 9.Qd2 Bxd2+ 10.Nxd2 Re8 (NyholmTartakower, Baden 1914),[4] Black regains the queen. Most theorists evaluate this position as equal, but some believe that the queenside majority gives Black the advantage in the endgame (Schlechter suggested 10...c5!?[5]).[6]

The popularity of the Danish plummeted after Schlechter's defense was introduced as the resulting positions are not what White generally desires from a gambit opening. There have been attempts, especially by German correspondence player Ingo Firnhaber, to revive the gambit idea with 7.Nc3, but according to Karsten Müller and Martin Voigt in Danish Dynamite, this line gives insufficient compensation after 7...Nxd5 8.Nxd5 Nbd7 (8...c6?? 9.Nf6+) 9.Nf3 c6, since the piece sacrifice 10.0-0 is dubious on account of 10...cxd5 11.exd5 Be7! If White instead plays 6.exd5, his light-square bishop is blocked and after 6...Nf6 7.Nc3 Bd6 Black can complete development relatively easily.

The big advantage of Göring's move order (Nf3 before c3) is avoiding Schlechter's Defence, since after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.c3 dxc3 5.Bc4 cxb2 6.Bxb2 Black cannot safely play 6...d5 with the queen's knight committed to c6. The big advantage of 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 is the option to meet 3...d5 with 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.cxd4 Nc6 6.Be3 instead of 6.Nf3 transposing to the Göring Gambit Declined (the main objection being the Capablanca Variation, 6.Nf3 Bg4 7.Be2 Bb4+ 8.Nc3 Bxf3 9.Bxf3 Qc4, when White must exchange queens or give up castling). It also has the advantage of avoiding Black's other options after 2.Nf3, mainly 2...Nf6 (the Petrov Defence).

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Edward G. Winter (1999). Kings, Commoners and Knaves: Further Chess Explorations. Russell Enterprises. p. 158. ISBN 978-1-888690-04-0.
  2. ^ Graham Burgess, The Mammoth Book of Chess, Carroll & Graf, 1997, p. 114. ISBN 0-7867-0725-9.
  3. ^ "Scandinavian Defense, Marshall / Ross Gambit: Black Attack!". Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  4. ^ "Gustaf Nyholm vs. Savielly Tartakower, Baden-bei-Wien (1914)". Chessgames.com.
  5. ^ Matanović, Aleksandar, ed. (1997). Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings. C (3rd ed.). Yugoslavia: Chess Informant. p. 175, n. 16. ISBN 86-7297-035-7.
  6. ^ Korn, Walter (1982). Modern Chess Openings (12th ed.). David McKay Company, Inc. p. 110. ISBN 0-679-13500-6. 10...c5! =/+ With mobilization of the queen-side pawns.