I have observed that the King's Gambit is usually not played at international level. Is there any specific reason for this?

  • Every opening is "usually not played at international level": there's no opening played at 50% or more of games. Perhaps clarify what you mean? – msh210 Nov 15 '12 at 3:50
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    @msh210, Binoj's title makes clear that he means the King's Gambit is "usually not played" in the not uncommon sense that it is "not played often" or "seldom played," rather than in terms of your (unusually? :-) strict interpretation of what it would mean to be a "usually played" opening. So the King's Gambit is being contrasted with openings which are played frequently enough at that level (though certainly < 50% of the time taken individually) to reasonably be considered "often played," e.g. the Queen's Gambit. – ETD Nov 15 '12 at 7:21

One of the more common lines for the King's Gambit is accepting, followed by 3. Nf3. That is, 1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3. After this, black can follow with 3... d6, the so called Fischer defense. Fischer was extremely confident that this was a bad position for white. He wrote an entire article about this line, and famously said, "In my opinion the King's Gambit is busted. It loses by force." On top of this he added, "Of course White can always play differently, in which case he merely loses differently."

I am not sure about other lines, but likely top grandmasters have analyzed them, and come to similar conclusions that white's position is not a good one.

Remark: Interestingly Fischer himself played the gambit a few times with great success, but he opened 3. Bc4.

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    You can read Fischer's bust of the King's Gambit here: academicchess.org/images/pdf/chessgames/fischerbust.pdf – Justin C May 2 '12 at 17:13
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    I don't know why people always come up with this 40+ years old analysis/verdict. It's the magic of the name "Bobby Fischer", of course, but generally I wouldn't trust any analysis from the pre-rybka era. Due to computers, opening knowledge nowadays is on a completely different level compared to Fischer's time. That doesn't mean Fischer is wrong, only that his opinion alone is not sufficient to discard an opening line. – BlindKungFuMaster Apr 5 '15 at 6:50

David Bronstein, in his book "The Modern Chess Self-Tutor," gives an interesting explanation for not playing it. Don't forget, he's used it many times in GM practice, including memorable games against Tal and Petrosian (the latter was an exhibition game in which they explore more fully an idea from an Alekhine-Keres game).

His reasoning for 2. Nf3 being preferable to 2. f4 is that like 2. d4, 2. f4 fully declares White's intentions too early in the game. White is better off playing something like 2. Nf3, when Black still has no idea what sort of game White is aiming for. He doesn't think it's necessarily worse, just that playing it makes Black's choices easier. 2. Nf3 keeps White's options open.

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    There is nothing inherently bad about declaring ones intentions in a game like chess. The declaration of intention is an interpretation by the other player. It is about whether or not the opponent can do something about it. This early in the game, there are so many paths available, that one can safely discard such ideas as "hoping for the opponent not finding out what one wants to do". Remember also the principle of always considering the best opponent moves when thinking of a plan. Objectively knowing about "intentions" plays no role in chess. – Zelphir Kaltstahl Dec 6 '17 at 18:15

The King's Gambit is considered inferior because white is sacrificing king safety along with a pawn on move 2. Furthermore, although white would get an attack going along the f file in Morphy's day, now the correct defensive ideas are known for black and white has a harder time of it.

That said, the King's Gambit is a great weapon at the club level. In fact, Quality Chess will be releasing a book on the King's Gambit very soon.

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One item that is not a reason that the King's Gambit isn't played more at the international level is this specious article from Chessbase News: "Busting the King's Gambit, this time for sure." In the article, Vasik Rajlich, the author of Rybka, claims that all moves but 3.Be2 lead to a forced win for Black, while that move draws. However, though this was posted on April 2, 2012, rather than on April 1, the article was in fact one of Chessbase's annual April Fools' posts.

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    Welcome to the site, andy. That article you've linked to was in fact an April Fools' joke, sneakily posted at Chessbase on April 2. You actually aren't the first to post this as an answer to this very question, so I'm going to take the liberty of tweaking your answer to make it a useful warning of the hoax nature of this KG "bust." – ETD Nov 14 '12 at 4:33

Top players don't play sharp gambits such as this one much because they involve lots of forced lines. These lines are easy to calculate for an engine. The result is that you no longer play against your opponent - you're pitting your engine / memorization skills vs. theirs, and not your chess ability vs. theirs.

Source: Romantic chess in modern times

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Typically, White wants to play the King's gambit to play some crazy lines, full of sacrifices and double-edged play like the Kieseritzky Gambit:

    [FEN "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]

    1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 g5 4. h4 g4 5. Ne5 Nf6

With a messy position on move 5 already ! And there are so many lines like that if Black is ready to accept the challenge. But that is a big IF. First, there is this defense advocated by Fischer everyone is mentioning that seems to be OK for black:

    [FEN "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]

    1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 d6

This move d6 simply removes the e5-square for the Knight, and this alone makes White's attack harder to carry on.

But I think that, really, what can discourage White to play the King's gambit, especially at higher level, is that Black can simply opt for an early d7-d5 setup, that usually gives a full (and quite boring) equality:

    [FEN "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]

    1. e4 e5 2. f4 d5 3. exd5 exf4

And honestly, after these 3 move, it is hard to see how White can attack... Check my introduction on the King's gambit if you want to get an idea on how to play this nevertheless interesting opening.

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A number of players have come to the conclusion that 1. f3 is one of the worst opening moves for White: What is the worst opening move, and why?

In a King's Gambit, White plays e4, and if Black replies ...e5, White then plays f4. This incurs many of the disadvantages of an early f3; e.g. it opens up a line for Black to eventually play ...Qh4+!.

The advantage of f4 over f3 is that is "double-edged;" i.e. it gives White some compensating advantages, especially against mediocre players. Hence it was popular with attacking masters such as Rudolf Spielmann as late as the middle of the past century. Since then, defending methods for Black have been discovered and standardized. Given today's "state-of-the-art" play, when White incurs a disadvantage of both a pawn and the open diagonal, he does not get enough compensation.

However, all that might change tomorrow, if someone discovers a new line or variation.

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    You are absolutely right, I wish I could select more than one as the right answer.... – Binoj Antony May 11 '12 at 7:53
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    I totally disagree with this analysis. The King's Gambit is a fine opening system for a certain type of player. It is very dynamic, and often leads to aggressive, tactical play. It is, like any gambit, a risk, but it has never been proven unsound. I would never compare the mighty King's Gambit to 1.f3. Not even it the same ballpark. Usually it is White who is able to launch an early attack against Black's kingside, by virtue of the open f-file and strong center. Black can try and early Qh4 sortie, but it often has to retreat or risk being trapped, letting White develop w gain of time. – GrayFox374 Jul 13 '12 at 18:33

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