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I recently found the the following line that completely neutralizes the Stafford gambit, and lets white keep the pawn with a healthier structure and a calm game ahead with plenty of winning chances.

[FEN ""]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 Nc6 4. Nxc6 dxc6 {The Stafford Gambit.} 5. e5!! {Now black has a couple of options} Nd5 {Is best, but rarely played.} (5... Ne4?! 6. d4 Qh4 7. Be3 {With the simple idea of Ne2, exchanging knights, and keeping the healthy pawn, the superior structure, and a calm game with winning chances.}) (5... Ng4?! 6. d4 Be6 7. h3 Nh6 8. Bxh6 gxh6 {With the simple idea of Nc3, Qd2, 0-0-0, and if black ever pushes c5 white replies with d5.})  6. d4 Bf5 7. c3 Qd7 8. Nd2 O-O-O 9. Nf3 {With the idea to finish development and play with O-O-O, or Be3 and O-O.}

I was surprised by the very little theory required to play these lines, as well as the tameness of black's position. Since the Stafford gambit has this reputation of a heavily theoretical opening plagued with traps, and this move order seems to make black's plan innocuous, am I missing something? Is my analysis flawed?

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    I think your assumption is wrong. Stafford gambit is close to unplayable, it gives a huge advantage for white in several different variations. I also wouldn't call it "heavily theoretical".
    – nyymi
    Sep 9 at 13:36
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    6. ..c5 seems a better try for black. Black need to challenge the center immediately. At least some compensation for the pawn here I think. But this is not a good line for black in any case. Have you encountered this line in play? Sep 9 at 13:42
  • You might like this refutation instead. 10. Bf3 is safe and clean. Sep 9 at 21:56
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    @MichaelWest not the "good" variation. Every time I play against the Stafford, black has gone for Ne4 tricks. Sep 16 at 14:29
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This youtube video on the Stafford gambit discusses possibilities after 5. e5 in some detail, and suggests your 5... Ne4 line, continuing with 7... f6. Your suggestion of 8. Nd2 certainly looks better than the next move considered there.

Obviously if the main strength of an opening is that it produces traps then when your opponent knows how to avoid the traps you should expect them to reach a strong position.

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