Evans Gambit

The Evans Gambit is a chess opening characterised by the moves:

Evans Gambit
a8 black rook
c8 black bishop
d8 black queen
e8 black king
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
c6 black knight
c5 black bishop
e5 black pawn
b4 white pawn
c4 white bishop
e4 white pawn
f3 white knight
a2 white pawn
c2 white pawn
d2 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
h1 white rook
Moves1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4
Named afterWilliam Davies Evans
ParentGiuoco Piano
1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bc4 Bc5
4. b4

The Evans Gambit is an aggressive line of the Giuoco Piano. White offers a pawn to divert the black bishop on c5. If Black accepts, White can follow up with c3 and d4, ripping open the centre, while also opening diagonals to play Ba3 or Qb3 at some point, preventing Black from castling kingside and threatening the f7-pawn respectively. If Black declines, the b4-pawn stakes out space on the queenside, and White can follow up with a4 later in the game, potentially gaining a tempo by threatening to trap Black's dark-square bishop. According to Reuben Fine, the Evans Gambit poses a challenge for Black since the usual defences (play ...d6 and/or give back the gambit pawn) are more difficult to pull off than with other gambits. (Fine was once beaten by this gambit in a friendly game against Bobby Fischer, in just 17 moves.[1])

The Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings has two codes for the Evans Gambit, C51 and C52.

  • C51: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4
  • C52: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Ba5


The gambit is named after the Welsh sea Captain William Davies Evans, the first player known to have employed it. The first game with the opening is considered to be Evans–McDonnell, London 1827, although in that game a slightly different move order was tried (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.0-0 d6 and only now 5.b4). In 1832, the first analysis of the gambit was published in the Second Series of Progressive Lessons (1832) by William Lewis.[2] The gambit became very popular shortly after that, being employed a number of times in the series of games between McDonnell and Louis de la Bourdonnais in 1834. Players such as Adolf Anderssen, Paul Morphy and Mikhail Chigorin subsequently took it up. The Evergreen game won by Adolf Anderssen against Jean Dufresne opened with the Evans Gambit. Eventually however, the second World Chess Champion Emanuel Lasker dealt a heavy blow to the opening with a modern defensive idea: returning the pawn under favourable circumstances. The opening was out of favour for much of the 20th century, although John Nunn and Jan Timman played some games with it in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and in the 1990s Garry Kasparov used it in a few of his games (notably a famous 25-move win against Viswanathan Anand in Riga, 1995), which prompted a brief revival of interest in it.[3]

General remarksEdit

Accepting the gambitEdit

The most obvious and most usual way for Black to meet the gambit is to accept it with 4...Bxb4, after which White plays 5.c3 and Black usually follows up with 5...Ba5 (5...Be7 and, less often 5...Bc5 and 5...Bd6, the Stone Ware Variation, are also played). White usually follows up with 6.d4. Emanuel Lasker's line is 4...Bxb4 5.c3 Ba5 6.d4 d6 7.0-0 Bb6 8.dxe5 dxe5 9.Qxd8+ Nxd8 10.Nxe5 Be6. This variation takes the sting out of White's attack by returning the gambit pawn and exchanging queens, and according to Fine, the resulting simplified position "is psychologically depressing for the gambit player" whose intent is usually an aggressive attack. Chigorin did a lot of analysis on the alternative 9.Qb3 Qf6 10.Bg5 Qg6 11.Bd5 Nge7 12.Bxe7 Kxe7 13.Bxc6 Qxc6 14.Nxe5 Qe6, which avoids the exchange of queens, but reached no clear verdict. Instead White often avoids this line with 7.Qb3 Qd7 8.dxe5, when Black can return the pawn with 8...Bb6 or hold onto it with 8...dxe5, though White obtains sufficient compensation in this line.

Alternatively Black can meet 6.d4 with 6...exd4, when White can try 7.Qb3, a move often favoured by Nigel Short. 7.0-0 is traditionally met by 7...Nge7 intending to meet 8.Ng5 or 8.cxd4 with 8...d5, returning the pawn in many lines, rather than the materialistic 7...dxc3 which is well met by 8.Qb3 with a very dangerous initiative for the sacrificed pawns. Alternatively 7...d6 8.cxd4 Bb6 is known as the Normal Position, in which Black is content to settle for a one-pawn advantage and White seeks compensation in the form of open lines and a strong centre.

Declining the gambitEdit

Alternatively, the gambit can be declined with 4...Bb6, when 5.a4 a6 is the normal continuation. But due to the loss of tempo involved, most commentators consider declining the Evans Gambit to be weaker than accepting it, then giving up the pawn at a later stage. Also, Black can play the rare Countergambit Variation (4...d5), but this is thought to be rather dubious.

In the book My System, however, Aron Nimzowitsch states that by declining the gambit Black has not lost a tempo, since the move b4 was, in the sense of development, unproductive,

as is every pawn move, if it does not bear a logical connection with the centre. For suppose after 4...Bb6 5.b5 (to make a virtue of necessity and attempt something of a demobilizing effect with the ill-moved b-pawn move), 5...Nd4 and now if 6.Nxe5, then 6...Qg5 with a strong attack.[4]

Bishop retreats after accepting the gambitEdit

After 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3, the bishop must move or be captured. The common retreats are listed here, with the good and bad sides of each:


According to Chessgames.com, this is Black's most popular retreat. It gets out of the way of White's centre pawns, and pins the c3-pawn if White plays 6.d4, but it has the disadvantage of removing the a5-square for the black queen's knight. Black usually subsequently retreats the bishop to b6 to facilitate ...Na5, which is particularly strong when White opts for the Bc4, Qb3 approach.


According to Chessgames.com, this is the second most popular retreat, with White scoring better than after 5...Ba5. This is often played by people unfamiliar with the Evans Gambit, and is arguably inferior to 5...Ba5, because 6.d4 attacks the bishop and narrows down Black's options as compared with 5...Ba5 6.d4.


Lasker's Defence has often been considered one of the "safer" retreats, and has been played by Viswanathan Anand. After 6.d4 Na5, White can attempt to maintain an initiative with 7.Be2 as played by Kasparov, or immediately recapture the pawn with 7.Nxe5.


This is called the Stone–Ware Defense after Henry Nathan Stone and Preston Ware. The move reinforces the e5-pawn and has been played by several grandmasters such as Andrei Volokitin, Alexander Grischuk and Loek van Wely.


This is called the Mayet Defence and is played very rarely.

In popular cultureEdit

The Evans Gambit is referenced in episode 15 of Season 3 of The West Wing "Hartsfield's Landing".

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Fischer–Fine 1963 1–0".
  2. ^ The British chess magazine, vol. 26 (1906) page 51.
  3. ^ "Garry Kasparov vs Viswanathan Anand". chessgames.com.
  4. ^ Aron Nimzowitsch, My System: Winning Chess Strategies, Snowball Publishing, 2012, p. 11.


External linksEdit