Besides the Queen's Gambit (which isn't really a gambit anyway), which gambits have been most successful as far as winning percentage and usage at high levels of play?

  • I'm not sure which one is best, but it is definitely not the king's gambit. Fischer clearly refutes the line with his move 3... d6: 1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 d6 – Travis J Jun 21 '12 at 18:29
  • @TravisJ: Carslen does not seem to share your view, though. See 365chess.com/game.php?gid=3733824 . – thb Jun 22 '12 at 15:26
  • @thb - Perhaps Yue should review Fischer's games with regards to the king's gambit. Clearly exf4 is winning a pawn and Yue blundered by not accepting in my opinion. A KGD is a good position for white. – Travis J Jun 22 '12 at 18:23

According to these statistics from 4 million games, the Marshall Gambit of the Semi-Slav defense is the most successful with 58.4% wins. I only counted gambit openings that had more than 1000 occurrences in the database.

The least successful gambit appears to be the Latvian Gambit with only 41.1% wins.

Note that since the database does not discriminate against older games, the statistics may not necessarily reflect the possible outcome of an opening if it were played today.

  • So, you are basically saying that the Queen's Gambit is the most successful (as the Marshall is really just Queen's Gambit Declined or equivalent due to transposition). – Travis J Jun 21 '12 at 19:50
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    @TravisJ, that's not what Sam's answer is saying. As Andrew points out in the question, the Queen's Gambit in and of itself is not truly a gambit; but the Marshall Gambit is one way to proceed in true gambit fashion if Black declines the QG with the Semi-Slav Defense. – ETD Jun 22 '12 at 14:39
  • @EdDean - At that point, you opened with a queen's gambit and then are hoping to transpose to this system. The opening still goes towards a queen's gambit. To note, Nakamura plays 1. d4 almost exclusively so I am not arguing against starting with that move, but if you follow with 2. c4, that is a queens gambit period. Everything else afterwards depends on the defense played and what you transpose to. – Travis J Jun 22 '12 at 18:25
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    @TravisJ, I agree that, in the case of the Marshall Gambit, the game opens as a QG. Then Black makes it a Semi-Slav Defense, and then White can play the Marshall Gambit. The original question is about how particular gambits fare statistically, and the 58.4% winning statistic that Sam gives is for the Marshall Gambit specifically, not for the QG more generally (which Andrew wasn't interested in asking about). That's why Sam's answer isn't "basically saying that the Queen's Gambit is the most successful" as you suggested in your first comment. – ETD Jun 22 '12 at 18:38
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    @TravisJ: I can understand why someone might read it the way you did, but actually, "besides the Queen's Gambit (which isn't really a gambit anyway)" means that the OP wanted to consider lines that include an actual pawn sacrifice (rather than just the pseudo-sacrifice which 2. c4 offers), but does not mean to rule out all further (true) gambit lines that might have begun with the moves 1. d4 d5 2. c4. The Marshall Gambit involves an honest-to-goodness pawn offer, and so fits into the category of opening lines that the OP wanted stats about. – ETD Jun 22 '12 at 19:08

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