Some gambits are playable whether the gambit is accepted or not, such as the Queen's Gambit, the King's Gambit, the Evans Gambit and the Budapest Gambit. Some are just dubious (the Elephant and a host of others). Some are playable if they're accepted, but the Declined forms are just worse for the gambiteer. Which gambits fall into this category?

2 Answers 2


One example is the so-called Calabrian Countergambit: 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 f5. After 3.exf5 Nf6, black seems to be fine. However, white should ignore the gambit and play a developing move: 3.d4 (Bologan-Bednarek), 3.d3, 3.Nf3 or 3.Nc3.

      [StartPly "4"]

      [FEN ""]
      1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 f5 3.exf5 (3.d4)(3.d3)(3.Nf3)(3.Nc3) Nf6

Another example is a line in the exchange variation of the Ruy Lopez: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.0-0 Bg4 6.h3 h5. Accepting the sacrifice with 7.hxg4 is clearly too dangerous as it opens the h-file for the black rook. White is probably slightly better if he declines the sacrifice with 7.d3 (Naiditsch-Mons).

      [StartPly "12"]

      [FEN ""]
      1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.O-O Bg4 6.h3 h5 7.hxg4 (7.d3) hxg4

  • Thanks, @Maxwell86. I looked at the Calabrese, Black can't castle kingside for much of the game. But the results show it's playable. Ruy Lopez 7...h5 gambit: If declined, the results for the gambiteer are unspectacular. After all, a bishop on g4 will be blocked on 3 diagonals. A knight might be more active. And Black needs a rook and bishop to hold the tension, while White just needs the knight. If White can unpin with Qd3, then h5 is just weak, and only a g5-g4 pawn storm would make it worthwhile. But most players take the piece and pay for it, so it's a good gambit to try!
    – jaxter
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 3:14

In the Blackburne Shilling Gambit 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nd4,

  [StartPly "6"]

  [FEN ""]
  1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nd4 4. Nxd4 (4. O-O) (4. Nxe5 Qg5!)

black gambits the e5-pawn, but white gets an advantage if they simply decline the gambit with 4. Nxd4 or 4. 0-0. Black is behind in development.

If white accepts the sacrifice (4. Nxe5), then black gets good play with 4... Qg5!.

  • Thanks for the suggestion, Dag! Even if White takes the pawn, they have to play exactly to avoid getting overrun in this line. I'll take a look at the opening's survivability in the 4.Nxd4 line...
    – jaxter
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 4:45

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