[fen ""]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 Ng4 4. Bf4 (4. Nf3 Bc5 5. e3) (4. e4 Nxe5 5. f4) (4. e3 Nxe5 5. Nh3)

White can choose from multiple setups, most common are 4. Bf4, 4. Nf3, 4. e4 or even 4. e3 with the deep idea of Nh3-f4-d5. Database results favor White heavily. Then again, legends with the caliber of Gelfand or Kramnik go down against it.

From what I gathered, people claim that Black has long-term strategical deficiencies, in many variations White can obtain the bishop pair and the positions are just "good for White". But what exactly are the problems Black faces when playing the Budapest?

EDIT: I have found an interesting line in the Adler-Maroczy Variation (4. Nf3), where I think Black does not have enough compensation. Surprisingly, it is not analysed in any Budapest book I own and played extremely rarely, even though this is the move White wants to play according to most analysis (why is it not checked then???) and it is almost entirely forced.

[fen ""]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 Ng4 4. Nf3 Bc5 5. e3 Nc6 6. Nc3 O-O (6...Ngxe5? 7. Nxe5 Nxe5 8. f4! Ng6 9. Bd3 {is regarded as very good for White and is warned against in almost all Budapest analysis}) 7. Bd3! (7. Be2 Ngxe5 {is normal and Black is fine}) Ngxe5 (7...Re8 8. Qc2 {Black has to somehow block the attack on h7, either by ...g6 or ...h6, both disabling the vital Black plan of Re8-e6-h6 with a kingside attack. White has ideas of returning the pawn on his terms with e6} (8. Bc2 {White achieves a good placement for his bishop without problems})) 8. Bxh7 Kxh7 9. Nxe5 Nxe5 10. Qh5+ Kg8 11. Qxe5 b6 {Black is a pawn down, in return has the bishop pair, but will probably have to forfeit it soon, as ...Bb7 will be blocked by Nd5. White can castle both sides after Bd2}
  • 1
    2... e5 seems terrible without something concrete to follow it up with. It hangs a pawn with tempo, as the knight is forced to move a second time after 3. dxe5, and moving the same piece multiple times in an opening is not ideal. For this reason, I don’t play the Budapest, so I don’t have much more insight than this. I’m honestly surprised game databases and engines don’t suggest this completely unplayable for black.
    – DongKy
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 4:56
  • 3
    @DongKy there is indeed something very concrete following after it!
    – David
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 7:01
  • @JohnColeman 9...Qg5 10. Nf3, the g2 pawn is untouchable due to Qxg2 Rg1 and the queen has no squares (Qh3 fails to knight fork). From there on the Black position just crumbles, not only are we a pawn down, but now White has a strong initiative as the White knights have all the squares in the center (Nd5-f4 is very strong) and Black has problems finishing development, engine evaluates it as +2
    – B.Swan
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 2:29
  • 4...Nc6 directly fighting for the pawn is probably a more flexible alternative (you may need some ....Bb4, so you keep all options avaiable. Also, the suggested as bad 6...Ngxe5 is definitely better than the mainline!
    – David
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 6:48

2 Answers 2


It's definiely not a "bad" option for Black. It can be played at high levels and still get decent results. However, it's not considered a "great" line for many reasons:

  • As you said, White has multiple set-ups to choose from most of them leaving them with a slight advantage.
  • The "surprise factor" that may give Black with an edge against an unprepared opponent doesn't exist (at least not so early in the opening) at the highest levels.
  • White only enters the Budapest if he wants. If he's worried that his opponent may go for it, he can just play 2.Nf3, most likely transposing later on to his favourite opening.

Database statistics should always be taken with a grain of salt, since there could be multiple factors biasing it (a particular player that uses it very often, or an opening being "the favourite" of weak players, or maybe an opening that is used as a surprise weapon against strong opposition). However I think the factors above prevent the Budapest from being a practical choice to build your repertoire around (specially reason #3: you'll still need something against 2.Nf3, say the King's Indian. You'll be able to use that against 2.c4 too, so you may just as well forget about the Budapest and focus on the King's Indian)

  • If you could provide a sample line where White ends up with an advantage I'd be thankful. The other points you mention do not really say anything about the opening itself and why some people argue Black has theoretical problems. Even as a surprise White should be happy to see it, as "everyone knows" it offers White an advantage, and so why should White take caution and avoid it at all? Additionally, it is very common for openings in 1. d4 Nf6 that you need sister systems depending on White's move order, and it is a "quality of life" issue, not a theoretical issue.
    – B.Swan
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 13:34
  • @B.Swan I am not an expert myself in the Budapest, so I just took what you said as true:"From what I gathered, people claim that Black has long-term strategical deficiencies, in many variations White can obtain the bishop pair and the positions are just "good for White"". Anyway there is a gap between knowing that you can get an advatange and knowing how to actually get it, but White still has the choice to go for it or avoid it completely in case he doesn't feel comfortable
    – David
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 13:52

The Budapest Gambit is playable, even at top levels. That's different than, say, the King's Gambit which is legitimately dubious for strong players.

However, black has basically two choices:

(1) Don't recapture the pawn, but have insufficient compensation.

(2) Recapture the pawn, but wind up in a very slightly more difficult -- though technical equal -- position. Example:

[FEN ""]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 Ng4 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. Bf4 Bb4+ 6. Nbd2 Qe7 7. e3 Ngxe5

Black's pawns are still on the seventh rank, its minor pieces are vulnerable to attack, and its opponent controls the direction of the game. White is practically an extra move or two ahead, though analysis is essentially even.

The Budapest is most playable by:

  • non-masters - opponent doesn't know the theory, easy to make early mistakes
  • engines - can handle the technically equal middle game in the face of all of White's options

Masters are in an odd middle ground between those two, where you usually don't see the Budapest Gambit.

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