I tend to think the Elephant Gambit is dubious, but what is the best path to a White advantage?

[fen ""]
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5

Update: RemcoGerlich's comment of an upcoming book is quite relevant! Typical analysis is only 4 moves deep claiming White is better (as shown in some answers below).

I had never seen 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5 3.exd5 Bd6 given as "Elephant Gambit Proper" on wikipedia (link in Kortchnoi's answer); The wiki, by-the-way, quotes De Firmian analysis which is pre-computer analysis.

  • 2
    Quality Chess (they of the motto "tired of bad positions? try the main lines!") actually have a real, serious, non-joke book on the Elephant Gambit in the works: qualitychess.co.uk/blog/6879 . I presume the answer to this question isn't quite as easy as was always thought. – RemcoGerlich Jan 11 at 11:19

Good question. You are right, the Elephant gambit appears to be a dubious opening. Have you checked the wikipedia page on the Elephant Gambit? It offers good lines to fight for an advantage. But they are two other questions:

  1. Do you like to defend or retain the initiative?

Those playing this opening are not afraid to gambit a pawn for the initiative with 1.e4 e5 2. Nf3 d5 3.exd5 e4. In most of the lines following 4.Qe2 Nf6 5.d3 Be7 or 4.Qe2 Nf6 5.Nc3 Be7 white has a pawn up but black has the initiative. With a precise play and a bit of patience, white will gain an advantage.

  1. Do you like opening theory?

The issue is that you are going to face this rare opening once or twice in your tournament life and most of the time black will be better prepared (in this rare line). He/she will have more experience with this gambit. So, another way to deal with this gambit will be to go for an unrated variant such as

1.e4 e5 2. Nf3 d5 3.Nxe5 Bd6 4.d4 dxe4 5.Qe2!?

[fen "rnbqk1nr/ppp2ppp/3b4/4N3/3Pp3/8/PPP1QPPP/RNB1KB1R w KQkq - 0 1"]

followed by Nc3, Bg5 and 0-0-0...

Those continuations have many advantages: Easy to remember; easy to play, and maybe not the kind of positions black are looking for when playing the Elephant Gambit !

  • Qe2 isn't that great of a move in this position. Bc4 is rather better. It allows a simple 0-0 later, and attacks the weak f7 square. It also grabs some control of d5, all while developing a piece.The pawn on e4 won't last long regardless. Nxe5 isn't the best, either - exd5 is more common for a reason. – Brandon_J Jan 11 at 16:00
  • Please read my answer more carefully and be more concrete. 5.Qe2 is an interesting move to keep Queens. I considered 5.Bc4 but you have to be prepared to play the endgame 5...Bxe5 6.Qh5 Qe7 7.Qxe5 Qxe5 8.dxe5, which is still quite nice to play with white. – Kortchnoi Jan 13 at 20:43


[fen ""]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d5 3. exd5 e4 4. Qe2 Nf6 5. Nc3 Be7 6. Nxe4 O-O 7. Nxf6+ Bxf6 8. d4 Qxd5

is more of what the OP is looking for. In this case 4.Qe2 shuts down black's pressure placed on the f3 knight. He can't defend the pawn on e4 and remove the pin in time to do anything with the pawn.

  • 1
    "he does" NOT "violate almost all of the opening rules". It does not sound like a very good opening but it occupies the center. Many popular openings "violate" the rules you mention 1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Dxd5 3.Cc3 Da5; 1.e4 c5 2.c3 d5 3.exd5 Dxd5... – Kortchnoi Jan 9 at 21:03
  • 1
    My bad. I edited my answer. However, I don't know that the Scandinavian is "popular". I see what you mean, though. – Brandon_J Jan 9 at 21:07
  • Against e4, Scandinavian was top 5 or 6 opening in 2018 in online databases... – Kortchnoi Jan 9 at 21:13
  • Right. As far as viable tournament openings against e4, that's fairly low. It definitely isn't unpopular, but it's toward the bottom of viable options. Also, I think its small (but significant, for sure) popularity a bit of an outlier as far as openings that don't follow "the rules" of opening play. – Brandon_J Jan 9 at 21:14
  • I was under the impression that what you put on the board was the complete gambit. I took it from there with stockfish. I'll take another look at it. – Brandon_J Jan 9 at 21:56

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