# How to play the Albin Counter Gambit

The Albin Counter Gambit starts `1. d4 d5 2. c4 e5 3. dxe5 d4`, and there is a well known and beautiful trap with a pawn to knight promotion if white plays e3.

Recently players such as Morozevich and Nakamura have been playing the Counter Gambit at the highest levels, and I found this page which discusses things.

Essentially, I am looking for more discussion of the key ideas in the gambit. How long should I try to hold onto the pawn on d4? Where do I end up castling? (I find occasionally I end up with some choice.) Which squares and minor pieces are usually the most important? I am looking for some abstract goals and ideas. What kind of plan should one have in mind when playing this opening as black?

Czechoslovakian Master Karel Prucha formulated some correct principles on how to play the Albin Counter Gambit and published them in Ceskoslovensky Sach 9/1962:

``````1. The Albin is playable only if it is treated as a pure gambit.
Black should not try to regain the pawn by attacking White's e5-pawn,
but must continue in gambit style with ...f7-f6.

2. After that, Black must castle short. Long castling leads to mutual attacks where
White's extra pawn becomes a factor.

3. Black should keep the d4-pawn at any cost.

4. Black's Queen should be posted on d7 with the idea of exchanging of the
light-squared Bishops by ...Bh3 and enabling additional support for the

5. It is best to place the dark-squared Bishop on c5, which means that if White plays
a2-a3, then a7-a5 is necessary to stop White's advance b2-b4.
``````
• That list of "principles" is great--I'd love to see other lists for other openings. Is there some repository already out there? – Eve Freeman Jun 20 '12 at 16:48

This answer is a counterpoint to Prucha's principles, as given in xaisoft's answer, in particular the first principle:

The Albin is playable only if it is treated as a pure gambit. Black should not try to regain the pawn by attacking White's e5-pawn, but must continue in gambit style with `...f7-f6`.

As mentioned in the question, the Albin saw a revival at the highest levels in the last few years, primarily in the hands of Alexander Morozevich. And the approach that he has taken is precisely that against which Prucha recommends; namely, Morozevich (and Nakamura too) have responded to the mainline fianchetto with `5. g3 Nge7`, with the intention of following up by `... Ng6` in order to gang up on the e5 pawn. According to Nigel Davies' Gambiteer II:

This has been an Albin backwater for years, but now it looks like it might be the best way of playing the gambit. Naturally White can try to hold on to his pawn, but this can often prove to be a dangerous course.

Prucha's third principle, about maintaining the d4-pawn, seems to be generally good advice (though I wouldn't take that "at any cost" too literally). A nice example game where Black's play revolves squarely around the d4 point is Sokolov - Morozevich (Corus 2005), in which Morozevich maintains the pawn on d4 up until the point when it became a strong passer with `27. ... d3`, and Sokolov resigned after move 34. In general, though, the Albin seems to be an opening where calculation and concrete details in particular positions carry the day more than a handful of guiding principles will.