The Danish Gambit, also known as the Nordisches Gambit in German and the Noords Gambiet in Dutch (both meaning Nordic Gambit), is a chess opening that had been popular in the 19th century across Scandinavian countries. The credit is usually given to Martin Severin From, a Danish chess master who essayed the gambit in the Paris 1867 tournament.
It is rarely played today, so I was quite surprised when a strong player had opened a game with this move sequence against me. I barely remembered some basic defense ideas, but besides that, the opponent had caught me totally unprepared, so I failed to build a solid fortification of my weakened king, and eventually lost the game. Well, lesson learned – even the half-forgotten openings from the past can be turned into a powerful weapon, and I gladly added Danish Gambit to my chess arsenal.
Since the game I mentioned was intriguing in many aspects, I will add a full analysis as well.
A key to mastering a chess opening is to understand its fundamental idea. Without knowing the objective of the opening moves, we aren’t ready for any unusual response that could come from the opponent, which usually leads to losing any previously gained advantage.
Very well. What is the idea of the Danish Gambit? 1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. c3
White sacrificed a pawn and now is willing to sacrifice another one. The answer is simple – the initiative and the development headstart. If Black keeps capturing further pawns, White slowly opens crucial files and diagonals to prepare an attack position. Let’s see what happens in this case: 1. e4 e5 2. d4 exd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. ♗b4 cxb2 5. ♗xb2
Now it’s up to Black to counter the threats marked by arrows in the diagram. But first, let me remind the objectives of both players in this position:
- White sacrificed two pawns, so they must keep the initiative and play aggressively. The primary goal is to exploit the opponent’s undeveloped position, and attack weak points of the Black’s defense.
- Black needs to develop the pieces as soon as possible, while protecting the vulnerable places (f7, g7, central squares), and understands that it might be necessary to return one or both pawns to gain the tempo.
What if Black doesn’t know what to do, and just wants to keep the material advantage? (which can easily happen in blitz games) Let me demonstrate the well-known traps*:
* The trap names are not official, I made them up. A force of habit.
Trap 1 – The Forsaken Queen
One of the most fundamental traps, based on the idea that a queen is protected only by its king at the initial position. The trick is to open the d-file and sacrifice a bishop to lure the king away.
Trap 2 – Turn The Tables
This is actually a trap for White who followed the same pattern (from the previous example) but didn’t notice the crucial difference caused by developing the knights first.
Trap 3 – The Poisoned Pawn
Attack the queen that went astray to win it or put even more pressure on the black king’s defense.
Trap 4 – The Royal Clash
A double-edged tactic that can turn into a trap for both parties.
Trap 5 – The Magnificent Rooks
All white pieces contribute to the final victory, and rooks demonstrate their destructive power on the e-file.
It seems that the article is already long enough. 😎 I will post the full analysis of my game in the next one.