For this question I'm interested only in gambits that:

  1. Are real gambits. That is, the side that's risking the material actually ends up down material + cannot count on winning the material back. This, e.g., excludes the Queen's Gambit because 1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. Qa4+ wins the material back without problems (plus most Queen's Gambit lines don't end with White down material). Also, if the gambit cannot be safely accepted, it's excluded.
  2. Don't rely on opponent making a mistake. So the Fried Liver Attack 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. Ng5 d5 5. exd5 Nxd5?! 6. Nxf7 doesn't count since 5...Nxd5 is a well-known bad move.

I notice that Stockfish doesn't seem to like gambits. Analyzing using the engine at www.chess.com/analysis, for example:

  • King's Gambit: 1. e4 e5 2. f4 yields a starting eval of -1.10 (at depth 19).
  • Evan's Gambit: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 yields a starting eval of -0.60 (d =19).
  • Danish Gambit: 1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. c3 yields a starting eval of -0.48.
  • Sicilian Wing Gambit: 1. e4 c5 2. b4 yields a starting eval of -0.44.
  • Smith Morra Gambit: 1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 yields a starting eval of -0.19
  • Blackmar-Diemer Gambit: 1. d4 d5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. e4 dxe4 4. f3 yields a starting eval of -0.49.

(I'd consider Black gambits as well but those are harder to evaluate since the starting position favors White, and therefore it's not surprising if White has an advantage after Black plays the gambit)

Are there any gambits in which the side that is down material for tempo is advantaged?

  • 1
    First and foremost don't believe these numbers - Engines are notoriously bad at evaluating very early game positions (where no obvious mistake has been made) – Ian Bush Jul 19 at 6:40
  • What about Marshall counter gambit? It nearly equalizes for black. – Akavall Jul 20 at 5:56

You can play the Queen's gambit if you go for 3.Nf3, actually offering your opponent a chance to stick to the pawn later on, so even if it's not a "real gambit" at move 2, you can turn it into one later on. The position often gives white a small advantage.

Another interesting possibility is the From's Gambit (1.f4 e5 fxe5 d6 exd6 Bxd6) which is often said to at least equalize (not bad being Black)

Anyway, I wouldn't trust the engine's evaluation in the opening (if we did, we'd be playing 1.Nc3 all day long!) If the Danish Gambit really leads to -0.48 while beign two pawns down, it probably means White is actually better unless there is some good obvious continuation for Black!. And this is assuming the engine's opinion is "not that wrong". For example, the Evans Gambit is not played because Black can equalize, not because it can get a -0.6 position.

By the way, what about the Scotch Gambit?

  • 1
    The Danish Gambit after 3.c3 White is not yet 2 pawns down as he can play 4.Nxc3 instead of offering the 2nd pawn. I bet Stockfish considers 4.Bc4 worse for White than 4.Nxc3. – bof Jul 19 at 9:50
  • 1
    "For example, I don't think." - I think you forgot to finish a thought there. – D M Jul 19 at 11:21
  • @DM Thank you! I was going to talk about the Evans Gambit there, but then editted the paragraph and accidentally left it there! – David Jul 19 at 11:46
  • From's Gambit is +0.53, Scotch Gambit -0.14. You can check it yourself using the website in the question (it's free and doesn't require registration). Also I imagine the Evans gambit isn't played because Black getting a -0.6 position is even worse than Black getting equality (which is 0.00), and equality isn't acceptable as White either. – Allure Jul 21 at 23:51

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