If White will just get a pawn back at no cost, why is the Queens Gambit a Gambit? Is it for historical reasons or something else?

4 Answers 4


I think that it's just because it looks like a mirror version of the King's Gambit, nothing more.

  • 4
    That's not really correct. It is indeed a gambit: that then Black cannot permanently hold to the pawn doesn't make it any less of a gambit.
    – gented
    Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 13:32
  • 1
    @GennaroTedesco: this isn't exact science, terms like "correct" are too strong. Is the Scotch Opening misnamed because black can win a pawn with 4...Qh4? Is the Two Knights Defence misnamed because white wins a pawn in the main line of 4.Ng5? Four years later I still think that 2.c4 has the name it has because of the King's Gambit. Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 13:57

The fact that a gambit involves a sacrifice in no way means that the sacrifice is permanent. Very few mainline gambit openings for White leave the gambit player with no means of retaking his material.

While Wikipedia does not necessarily make the distinction between a gambit and a sacrifice, I would contend that there is a difference:

  • A sacrifice is intended as a permanent loss in material in exchange for a superior position.

  • A gambit is a temporary loss to hasten development or secure a position.

Based on this understanding, there is no reason NOT to consider the Queen's Gambit as a true gambit, unless you wish to state arbitrarily that there must be more than X number of plies between the loss and the subsequent regaining.


A Gambit is a chess opening where a pawn is sacrificed in order to grab the initiative.

The Queen's Gambit is called a Gambit because White sacrifices the c-pawn in order to get a better control over the center.

[FEN ""]
1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4

After Black has accepted the pawn with dxc4, the consequence is pretty clear i.e., without a pawn on d5 Black has less control over the center squares e4 and d5. White can use this fact and soon play e2-e4, Nb1-c3 and Bf1-c4 to control these squares.

Practice has shown that accepting the gambit is not the best option for Black. Therefore, many opening systems have been developed where the gambit could be declined, mainly using 2. ..e6 or 2. ..c6.


A gambit by any other name is still a gambit. Using your pawn as a sacrifice in order to control the action/ space on the board is the choice of the player. I concur w/ the notion that it’s not necessarily a sacrifice if the means justify the ends. Basically, it’s just a term that has been assigned to a particular strategy... is all!!!

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