For example, the Danish opening:

[FEN ""]
1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Bc4 cxb2 5. Bxb2

where basically, White gives up two pawns for positional play. And if you don't know the theory, you can lose by falling into traps.

So, how can you deal with this kind of gambits/traps opening, when you don't know the theory?

  • An interesting idea which I first heard from John Bartholomew is to accept the first pawn but not the second. The idea is that you grab a bit of material, maybe enough to get an advantage by playing solidly, but don't allow your opponent all the fun and compensation by giving them exactly what they want.
    – YiFan
    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 9:37
  • @YiFan 3... d5 or 3... Qd7 is definitely an interesting line. Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 9:45

2 Answers 2


There are two approaches, accept the gambit or decline the gambit.

  1. Accept the gambit. Follow the usual best practices for calculating paying special attention to safety checks.

  2. Decline the gambit. Here 3. ..d5 instead of 3. ..dxc3 looks like a great move and probably what I would play.

Here is a thread on thought process / calculation that I recommend

What thought process should one use to find candidate moves?


You lose, basically. Assuming opponent is familiar with the theory and you aren't, then a single misstep will lose you the game. Don't enter sharp lines if you don't know the theory.

If you are already in the sharp line, then the safest play is to avoid the most critical continuations and seek to simplify the position as quickly as possible. For gambits the most critical continuations are generally to take the material and try to keep it, which means your best bets are probably to either decline the gambit or to return the material to reach a tenable endgame. For the gambit you've listed, that means do not play 3...dxc3; go instead for something like 3...d5 or 3...Nc6.

  • Do you mean that, after 1 e4 e5 2 d4 (the Centre Gambit), if Black is not familiar with the theory, they should decine (2 ... d6 or Nc6 perhaps) on the basis that accepting (2 d4 exd4) might lead to sharp play? (This supposes that Black wants to avoid sharp play.)
    – Rosie F
    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 7:49
  • @RosieF 1. e4 e5 2. d4 is not a gambit; White usually plays 3. Qxd4.
    – Allure
    Commented Dec 21, 2021 at 8:01

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