Chess Opening Theory/1. e4/1...e5/2. f4

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King's Gambit
a b c d e f g h
8{{{square}}} black rook{{{square}}} black knight{{{square}}} black bishop{{{square}}} black queen{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black bishop{{{square}}} black knight{{{square}}} black rook8
7{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn7
6{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king6
5{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king5
4{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king4
3{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king3
2{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn2
1{{{square}}} white rook{{{square}}} white knight{{{square}}} white bishop{{{square}}} white queen{{{square}}} white king{{{square}}} white bishop{{{square}}} white knight{{{square}}} white rook1
a b c d e f g h

King's Gambit[edit]

White's pawn on f4 is attacked, which is the whole point of the King's Gambit. A gambit - which is not the same thing as an opening - involves a sacrifice of material (chess pieces, usually pawns) for positional gain. In this case, White wants to tempt Black's pawn away from the centre onto f4, which would allow White the freedom to play d4 and e5. The move d4 will then uncover an attack by the c1-bishop on Black's f4-pawn, and Black will have to make further non-developing moves to save it.

Unfortunately for White, after Black accepts the gambit with

King's Gambit
a b c d e f g h
8{{{square}}} black rook{{{square}}} black knight{{{square}}} black bishop{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black bishop{{{square}}} black knight{{{square}}} black rook8
7{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black pawn7
6{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king6
5{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king5
4{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black queen4
3{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king3
2{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} black king{{{square}}} white pawn{{{square}}} white pawn2
1{{{square}}} white rook{{{square}}} white knight{{{square}}} white bishop{{{square}}} white queen{{{square}}} white king{{{square}}} white bishop{{{square}}} white knight{{{square}}} white rook1
a b c d e f g h
Ouch.

White can't just triumphantly play 3.d4. This is because the move 2.f4 also weakened the diagonal e1-h4, which has White's king on it, and then 2...exf4 weakened it further by controlling the g3 square. So Black can respond with 3...Qh4+! and since blocking with g2-g3 is hopeless thanks to the Black pawn that's now on f4, White's king is forced out to the second rank in the opening, which is not usually where you want it (diagram left).

That pesky queen check on h4 is the main reason the King's Gambit doesn't just win the game for White after two moves. On the contrary, the reply 2...exf4 has virtually banished the once extremely popular King's Gambit from high-level chess, to the disappointment of many a swashbuckling attacker.

It's also possible for Black to decline the gambit.

  • 2...Bc5 is the usual way of doing so, taking advantage of the fact that Black's e-pawn isn't really threatened (3.fxe5? gets hit by 3...Qh4+! again). Black makes sure that White won't be able to play d4 or to castle kingside without going to some considerable effort to shift the bishop from its new diagonal.
  • 2...d5 gives the position a different flavour. Normally Black only manages to get in one of the moves ...e5 and ...d5 this early in the opening, but since 2.f4 did nothing to prevent ...d5, why not play it now? Since it attacks the undefended e-pawn, Black will still get to take one of White's pawns if she wants to.
  • Black could also reasonably play 2...Nc6, a variation that is rarely explored.

Theory table[edit]

For explanation of theory tables see theory table and for notation see algebraic notation

1.e4 e5 2.f4

2 3 4 5 6 7
King's Gambit Accepted f4
exf4
Nf3
g5
h4
g4
Ne5
Nf6
d4
d6
Nd3
Nxe4
King's Gambit Declined ...
Bc5
Nf3
d6
Nc3
Nf6
Bc4
Nc6
d3
Bg4
Na4
O-O
+/=
Falkbeer Countergambit ...
d5
exd5
c6
Nc3
exf4
Nf3
Bd6
d4
Ne7
Bc4
O-O
+/=
King's Gambit Declined ...
d6
Nf3
 
+/=
...
Nc6
Nf3
f5
exf5
e4
Ne5
Nf6
d3
Qe7
dxe4
Nxe4
Panteldakis Countergambit ...
f5
exf5
 
+/=
Norwalde Variation ...
Qf6?!
+/=
Keene Defence ...
Qh4+?!
g3
Qe7
+/=

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References[edit]

  • Nunn's Chess Openings. 1999. John Nunn (Editor), Graham Burgess, John Emms, Joe Gallagher. ISBN 1-8574-4221-0.
  • Batsford Chess Openings 2 (1989, 1994). Garry Kasparov, Raymond Keene. ISBN 0-8050-3409-9.