So I'm an (unranked, but ~1500 on lichess) amateur who's been working on developing my opening strategy for some time, and I've basically been using the King's Gambit for a variety of reasons:

  1. It is easy to play and fairly straightforward
  2. Castling opens my kingside rook, which I tend to use a lot
  3. Most casual players are unfamiliar with the technicalities of the gambit

While I may not be using the King's Gambit for the most optimal reasons, I am fairly comfortable with it and usually play the following:

  1. e4 e5
  2. f4 exf4
  3. Nf3

After this I pretty much know all the major strategy, and can also play against some of the more common defenses (classical defence, Falkbeer Counter Gambit, etc).

What really gets me, however, is when players just ignore the gambit altogether and do something like

  1. Nf3 Nc6

Now what am I supposed to do? I know that these are not good moves and will be appropriately penalized, but I often find it frustrating because all of a sudden I am placed in an unsure position. This particular case has happened to me several times in the past, but players often also play other strange moves like

  1. Nf3 d6

What would I attempt when players simply ignore the Gambit (i.e. neither accept nor defend?)


3 Answers 3


Well, it is funny that 4.Nc3 is then the most popular move, with 4.d4 a distant second. In practice though, 4.d4 scores a very high 73.3% for white, compared to only a typical 56.7% for 4.Nc3. In addition, Stockfish much prefers 4.d4, and it is not even close (-.54 to +.92).

I will take that big center, and get my pawn back with an open f-file any day. The reality is that you do not have to do much there other than to develop your pieces as black has no space. I will give a suggested setup below. Black really should fight back earlier, try to hold the pawn, or maybe not take on f4 to begin with.

For the record, as soon as they play exf4, they have accepted the gambit, but they may not try to hold it with g5.

 [FEN ""]

 1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. d4 d6 5. Bxf4 Bg4 6. Nc3 Nf6 7. Be2 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. Qd2 {With a fantastic position.}

Here is a suggestion based on your supplemental question. Keep in mind that there are a virtually infinite number of ways that black can deviate from the path, but just develop your pieces, and you will get a decent game.

 [FEN ""]

 1. e4 e5 2. f4 Nc6 3. Nf3 d6 (3... f5 {The most popular move here.} 4. d3 {This is the main line, but does not really try to punish black.} (4. exf5 {Might be a better try, but there are many lines here.}) 4... d6 5. Nc3 Nf6 6. g3 g6 7. Bg2 Bg7 8. O-O) 4. Nc3 Nd4 {And this strange moving of a piece twice is the computer's first choice, and the most commonly played in practice.} 5. d3 {And just finish developing with Be3, Be2 and Qd2.} Bg4 6. Be2 Bxf3 7. Bxf3 Nf6 8. O-O Be7 9. Be3 $16 {With a very comfortable game.}
  • 2
    Feel free to ask additional questions about specific positions from here, and I will edit the answer. Mar 20, 2020 at 12:27
  • Thanks for your answer. I have one other small question: what if black does 2. f4 Nc6 instead? Mar 20, 2020 at 16:47

About the second line, 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3. Nf3 d6:

This line is known as the King's Gambit, Fischer defense. One thing it isn't is "ignoring your gambit" - Black is stopping you from playing Ne5 after the well-known Black maneuver ...g5-g4 in the King's gambit main lines.

The most common line now is 4. d4, when 4...g5 5. h4 g4 forces White to play 6. Ng1 (6. Ng5? f6 traps the knight). Neither side has developed a piece after six moves, but White has typical King's gambit compensation: central control, open lines, and quick development. To hold on to the pawn on f4 Black will usually play 6...Bh6 or 6...Qf6, both of which you can follow up with 7. Nc3 followed by developing the queen and advancing in the center.

Alternatively, you can play 4.Bc4, when again Black needs to play weakening moves like h6-g5 in order to hold on to the gambit pawn (if Black doesn't hold on to the gambit pawn, then you can play Bxf4 at your leisure and enjoy the central control). Looking at the lines with an engine, play is reminiscent of the main lines, especially if you challenge Black's position with h4.


Naman Kumar asks "Now what am I supposed to do?" if the gambit pawn is declined.

Naman, you play the King's Gambit for sharp, tactical games (although I think it was David Bronstein who played it as a positional opening?) so by declining the gambit you already have a small concession by Black.

Your play should be to rapidly develop and castle: so typically you would play moves like Nf3, Bc4, O-O depending of course on exactly what Black responds.

A plan to open the f file is good with a direct attack against the weak f7 square. If you can open the centre before Black can castle you will get an advantage.

Another plan could be to delay the development of the Kt on b1 and play c3 with the idea of creating with Qb3 a nasty battery against f7 with the B on c4.

As Black I always take the gambit pawn and aim for the Fischer defence: it works well in online blitz!

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