[fen ""]

 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nxf7 ?!

I'm pretty sure the Cochrane Gambit isn't correct. However, I find it difficult to defend against, as some "natural" moves don't seem to work. Can you give some advice how to deal with it? Further, I guess it might be a surprise weapon in a blitz game, so have some of you tried it out?

  • 4
    For those who don't know the following Topalov-Kramnik game in the Cochrane, just a bit of evidence that the gambit is more playable than it might look at first: chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1255554
    – ETD
    Mar 11, 2013 at 21:22
  • A bit of interesting history: Before the World Championship Match in 1972, Fischer asked some of his friends to find the games and books about Cochrane.
    – xaisoft
    Mar 13, 2013 at 17:27

3 Answers 3


The Cochrane Gambit sacrifies his Knight for a few things:

  1. He sacrifies the Knight for 2 pawns
  2. After Kxf7, Black loses castling rights and is dangerously in the center.
  3. Blacks King-side is basically destroyed with only the g and h pawns and it is not easy to find the best square for the Black King. Usually White will check with the Bishop with Bf4 and if Black blocks with Be3, then White should just exchange bishops and bring the black king further into the center making it harder to castle manually.
  4. White wants to build a strong pawn center by pushing his pawns especially on the king-side. For example, White wants to develop his strong pawn center by pushing d4, f4, e5 and further fortify his strength in the center with Nc3 and Bd3 or Bf4.

With the above said, I think Black's goal should be to neutralize White's strong pawn center. In the Kramnik-Topalov game, I think Kramnik made a good move with 5...c5 to challenge the d4 square. From here White has to chose between playing 6. f4 followed by 7. e5 trying to break Blacks position, but in this case White's Bishop on c1 is not playing. Topalov instead played 6. Bf4+ to not lose any tempo and 6...Be6 is basically forced and after the exchange of Bishops, Black's King is more brought deeper into the center.

Some popular replies for Black after 5. Nxf7 Kxf7 6. d4 could be:

  • c5
  • g6
  • c6
  • Qe8
  • Be7

Lets look at the c5 first:

[FEN ""]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nxf7 Kxf7 5. d4 c5

White's most popular reply is 6. dxc5, followed by 6...Qa5+ 7. Nc3 Qxc5 8. Be3 and White maintains his the initiative.

Now onto c6:

[FEN ""]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nxf7 Kxf7 5. d4 Be7 6. Nc3 c6

Usually with 5...Be7, Black wants to try to castle manually and White continues development with 6. Nc3. After 6...Re8, Black is in trouble after Bf4+, so instead 6...c6 with the plan of playing d5 later. After 7...d5, it might continue 8. exd5 cxd5 9. Nxd5 Nxd5 10. Qh5+ Kf8 11. Bxd5 Qe8. I would say White is better here because his Black's King is still weak and he has 3 pawns for the Knight

Regarding g6:

[FEN ""]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nxf7 Kxf7 5. d4 g6

g6 might be Black's most popular reply. After 6. Nc3 Kg7 7. Be2 d5 8. e5 Ne4 9. Nxe4 dxe4 10. O-O Nc6 11. Be3 h5 12. f3 exf3 13. Rxf3 Be6 14. c4. Even with this, White still has an advantage.

Last, Qe8:

[FEN ""]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nxf7 Kxf7 5. d4 Qe8

Here Black threatens e4. It usually continues: 6. Nc3 g6 7. Bd3 Kg7 8. O-O Nc6 9. Bd3 Nc6 10. Be3 Nb4. White may panic here because of the attack on the White-Squared Bishop, but instead of panicking, White should play 11. h3 Nxd3 12. Qxd3 Rg8. Black wants to play Kh8, so White should go for the attack with e5. Black is very disorganized and in a positional disadvantage.

In a nutshell, I believe breaking White's center as Kramnik did is the best possible way to either draw or defeat the Cochrane Gambit

  • 7
    Edward Dean, Do not touch my post, I did not take any of the above information from Boris Alterman. You are just out to get me alone. It doesn't take a genius to figure out c5 tries to break the pawn center, so if Alterman says that and I say it, I must have taken it from him. You are taking your moderator privileges too far. It is ridiculous that you just accuse me of not giving credit. I should give credit to myself as I will mention it again. The above material was not taken from Alterman. He is not the authoritative figure on the Cochrane Gambit.
    – xaisoft
    Mar 15, 2013 at 17:29
  • 1
    You are just guessing that I took it from Alterman because he said something about bringing the king into the center and I said the same thing, well it is quite obvious that is what is happening. I don't need Alterman to tell me this.
    – xaisoft
    Mar 15, 2013 at 17:30

There are really no two ways about it. When white moves Nxf7 black must respond by accepting the sac with Kxf7. From there, it is basically going to be a rough road where black tries to get into a strong defense without giving up the material gained from exposing the king to attack. A good approach here can be to try to get the rook over to f8, or to fiancetto on the king side.

Things to avoid include allowing White successive checks, allowing White to control f7 for too long, allowing White to develop a strong attack while ignoring it, any sort of development queen side before the king is safe, trading the knight on f6, and waiting to move your king to safety (through the approach mentioned above).


I play queen to e7 and after he takes my rook, I take his pawn, check the king, and try to dominate the center with it. I dont know if it's the right way to play, but that what I would do.

[FEN ""]
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nxf7 Qe7 5.Nxh8 Qxe4
  • 1
    I could not follow your line, on what move do you play Qe7?
    – Akavall
    Mar 12, 2013 at 14:52
  • 9
    If I understood your above line correctly, white can play 6.Qe2 forcing the exchange of queens and black is just down material.
    – Akavall
    Mar 12, 2013 at 19:46
  • 3
    This line loses material :( After Qe2 black is down material with nothing gained. Unfortunately with most sacs you have to just grit your teeth and step into the positional mess that you gain when taking the sacced material.
    – Travis J
    Mar 13, 2013 at 9:11
  • 2
    How did anyone vote this up? Mar 14, 2013 at 0:37
  • 2
    Answering the Cochrane Gambit with Qe7 is TERRIBLE. After Qxe4, white plays Qe2 and goodbye "dominating the center." In fact that line is so ridiculous white could even liberate his knight with little creativity.
    – user7955
    Aug 3, 2015 at 22:11

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