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Submitted by on Mar 7, 2022

A gambit is a chess opening in which a player sacrifices material in order to gain a positional advantage later on. “The early election was a dangerous gambit by Theresa May,” for example, is a common use of the term “gambit” to describe comparable strategies employed by politicians or businesspeople in a conflict with rivals in their respective sectors.

In 1561, Spanish priest Ruy López de Segura used the term “gambit” to refer to chess openings, derived from the Italian expression dare il gambetto (to put a leg forward in order to trip someone). As a result of López’s research, the Italian term gambit acquired the Spanish form gambito, which led to the French gambit, which affected the English spelling of the word. In 1855, the phrase “opening move intended to gain advantage” was first documented in English.

White is the most common player in gambits. The King’s Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.f4) and the Evans Gambit are two well-known gambits (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4). A gambit used by Black can be called a gambit, such as the Latvian Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5) or the Englund Gambit (1.d4 e5), but it is also known as a “countergambit,” such as the Albin Countergambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5) and the Greco Countergambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5) (the original name for the Latvian Gambit). The primary line of the Two Knights Defence (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Na5), in which Black sacrifices a piece for aggressive play, is known as the “Knorre Variation,” however it may be described as a “gambit.” The Queen’s Gambit (1.d4 d5 2.c4), on the other hand, is not a legitimate gambit because Black cannot keep the pawn without incurring a deficit. Nomenclature is inconsistent, as it is with many chess openings.

Gambits are “offered” to an opponent, and that offer is either “accepted” or “declined.”

In contemporary chess, the standard reaction to a somewhat sound gambit is to take the material and return it at a later date. Accepting players are more inclined to strive to hold on to their excess material in less sound gambits. A common rule of thumb in chess primers recommends that a player should obtain three movements (see tempo) of development for a sacrificed piece, although it’s unclear how beneficial this general maxim is because the “free moves” portion of the compensation is virtually never the full of what the gambiteer receives. A gambit can frequently be refused with no negative consequences.

If a gambit is successful in obtaining appropriate concessions from the opponent, it is termed to be “sound.” A gambit is frequently deemed to be sound if it meets three main criteria:

Time gain: The player that accepts the gambit will have to spend time obtaining the sacrificed material, as well as maybe extra time reorganizing his pieces once the material has been stolen.

Differential activity generation: a player taking a gambit will frequently decentralize his pieces or pawns, allowing the gambiteer to position his own pieces and pawns on squares that would otherwise be unreachable. Furthermore, bishops and rooks may become more active as a result of the loss of pawns, which frequently results in open files and diagonals. Mikhail Tal, a former world champion, is said to have informed Mikhail Botvinnik that he sacrificed a piece because it was in the way.

Accepting a gambit may eventually result in a weakened pawn structure, holes, or other positional flaws.

The Scotch Gambit is an example of a solid gambit: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4. With 4…Bb4+, Black can speculatively make White to surrender a piece, but White receives excellent compensation for one pawn after 5.c3 dxc3. 6.bxc3, or 6…cxb2 7.Bxb2 for two pawns after 6.0-0, because to the development advantage and attacking opportunities against the black king. As a reason, Black is frequently advised against attempting to keep the additional pawn. The so-called Halloween Gambit is a more questionable gambit: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 Nxe5 5.d4 4.Nxe5?! The cost (a knight for just one pawn) is far too high for the minor benefit of having a strong center.

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