Among chess players circulate the idea that any gambit should be accepted. It's an old and popular idea; if you don't want trouble, accept the gambit. Should this be consider a valid principle?

  • 1
    It's always good to accept a gambit - except when it isn't. Jan 16, 2016 at 15:45

5 Answers 5


Gambit's are sacrifices which are played hoping to get development advantage and/or initiative in opening.

So if you accept the gambit, and if the opponent can't consolidate development advantage and/or initiative, you will end up better. But if you decline, opponent will get advantage generally (This is where that principle comes from). Gambits are generally advantageous for sacrificer when they are declined.

However, some gambits really loses advantage when declined. For example:

[FEN ""]
[Title "Smith-Morra Declined"]

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 (3...dxc3 4.Nxc3 {White has development advantage, and is happy }) d3 4. Bxd3 { c3 is not available for White Knight, if
White plays c4, then whats that Bishop on d3 doing?}  ( 4. Qxd3 { White Bishop
is blocked and c3 is not available for White Knight.})  

Black simply expels White's fast development plan by declining the gambit. Now, White has opening problems to solve, not Black.

I play myself Smith-Morra with Whites, and hate it when declined. It's much more harder to play in declined variation.

So that principle is not valid. You should really think about the outcomes of accepting and declining before deciding.

  • 2
    I too play the Smith-Morra and have to disagree. With 4.Bxd3 White has a bishop out, and open lines for both bishops, while both of Black's bishop's are two moves from coming out at all. With no material down, that more than compensates for the block on c3. Another "decline" line you may want to show is 3...Nf6 (4.e5).
    – Jeff Y
    Jan 15, 2016 at 11:42
  • In that variation nothing blocks White, c3 is free White can develop Queens Knight on natural square. I think 3...d3 is stronger.
    – ferit
    Jan 15, 2016 at 11:50
  • Ok, the Mora Gambit is hardest to play as black but still here you can obtain the draw.If you don't accept it you can get worse. Jan 15, 2016 at 12:01
  • You can get draw anyway. But declining the gambit with 3...d3 prevents White's fast development plans. I show this example, because generally declining gambits favors sacrificing side, here it's not. And why do you think after declining the gambit Black can get worse here? Black has no problems in development, but White has.
    – ferit
    Jan 15, 2016 at 12:46
  • 2
    Nf6 is the best way to decline the morra. d3 often transposes to the maroczy bind, and we all know what we think of the maroczy bind. Jan 22, 2016 at 21:18

This is really dependent on

  1. which gambit
  2. the style of play you prefer.

For 1, consider the King's Gambit. The theoretically preferred line for Black is 1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 d5! which immediately returns the pawn. On the other hand, in the main lines of the Benkö gambit, White holds a pawn advantage well into the late middlegame.

As for 2, I'm usually fine with having a material advantage, defending against an attack, simplifying and winning in the endgame. Other people like having the initiative and will usually try to return the gambited pawn in exchange for a (counter)attack.

  • 1
    For me it's dependent by one single thing. To obtain = or =/+ . Jan 15, 2016 at 12:09
  • I agree with Ghita, it shouldn't be a emotional decision, it should be a pragmatic decision. So it only matters if its =\= or =\+
    – ferit
    Jan 16, 2016 at 10:39
  • @Saibot Agreed it should be a pragmatic decision, but the next sentence seems to be a non sequitur. In a game between two human beings, the pragmatic decision depends on the respective skill sets of the two players; the "objective evaluation" (at the fine level of =/= or =/+) is practically irrelevant.
    – bof
    Jan 26, 2016 at 10:19

In addition to Glorfindel really good answer (+1) I would like to add that you can also use gambits to fill position with traps. The person who is not familiar with the gambit may get lost in the suddenly created 'minefield' position where a 'single step' from the right line of moves leads to a disaster.

It's also important to note that in many of the gambits you need to know how to decline it properly as well! Also there are some gambits that you SHOULD accept (to get a better position). For example Latvian, where after 1. e5 e5 2. Nf3 f5 the main line is 3. Ne5!? Even though you may know that it's the main line for white you really gotta be careful with your subsequent moves, because the position gets incredibly sharp, complicated.

  • 2
    Opening traps are chess drugs, makes you feel good as wins the game without effort, but dont help to improve yourself. Actually, it damages your progress. If you want to play better, aim to learn opening priciples and strategies instead of traps.
    – ferit
    Jan 16, 2016 at 10:43
  • Thanks for the tips. I know what you are talking about, I've been playing chess since the age of four and learned lots of its principles from trainers, friends (who were playing with me) or from reading tons of literature. Again, I agree, the openings should be learned from the perspective of chess logic and strategy (this also allows to 'abstract' learning from one opening to a broader set of openings with the same ideas). But, in the fast chess or in blitz traps are often useful, especially when you play someone lower than a national master. Jan 16, 2016 at 16:36
  • "... this also allows to 'abstract' learning from one opening to a broader set of openings with the same ideas ..." definitely! And it's true if you want to compete in blitz tournaments, you should know the traps in opening you play.
    – ferit
    Jan 16, 2016 at 16:46

I think the way you put it this is pretty much just wrong.

There are a lot of pawn sacrifices in the opening that should not be accepted, something that is obscured by the fact that sacrifices that shouldn't be accepted are often not even called gambits (Though they still are gambits of course.)! The logic is along the lines "I play this move and now my opponent could win a pawn, but I know that he knows that that's no good, so I didn't actually sacrifice anything.".

Mostly sacrifices that are regularly accepted in tournament play are called gambits in the official nomenclature, but even among those, the best way to counter them is often to not take the pawn, or to return it as quickly as possible.

Certainly taking the pawn isn't usually the way to "avoid trouble".

The saying as I know it rather goes: "The best way to refute a gambit is to take the pawn." And I would interpret as meaning that if there is a refutation it is likely to be in the variations where you take the pawn. It does not mean whenever you take the pawn, there is going to be a refutation.

  • And it's not always "a pawn". One of my favorites to study is the Cochrane, which is "a knight, for two pawns", and it has to be accepted (or you're down 2 pawns and an exchange). I have a couple posts on it on my blog.
    – Jeff Y
    Jan 22, 2016 at 19:17
  • If my source is correct, the exact Fischer quote is "The refutation of any gambit begins with accepting it.".
    – Jeff Y
    May 2, 2016 at 17:13

I am not sure who may be these chessplayers who think gambits should be accepted. Certainly not the many (including most world top players) who do not reply with 2. ..., dc4 after 1. d4, d5 2. c4.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.