Chess Tactics in the King's Gambit

King's Gambit Starting Position

Starting Position of the King's Gambit.
Starting Position of the King's Gambit. | Source

Introduction

The King's Gambit is one of the oldest chess openings. It remains popular at the club level, although it is not played often at the very highest levels of chess.

It is a very tactical opening. White sacrifices a pawn for rapid development, and open lines. Black can hold on to the pawn (unlike it's cousin the Queen's Gambit), but will often do so at the expense of development, and his kingside pawn structure.

There are even book lines where white will sacrifice an entire piece for his rapid development (Muzio Gambit)! Both sides are a lot of fun to play.

In case you are not familiar with the King's Gambit, it comes after the moves: 1. e4 e5 2. f4 (or via the Bird's opening declining From's Gambit 1. f4 e5 2. e4)

Let's look at some common tactics in the King's Gambit from my Tactics Time chess database that contains thousands of amateur class player games.

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White plays 3. fxe5??

Black to play after 3. fxe5??
Black to play after 3. fxe5?? | Source

Playing fxe5 for white

One common mistake that players on the white side of the King's Gambit make is when Black declines the gambit, and then play fxe5 grabbing a pawn himself. This is a bad move, and a waste of time, and gives black some tactical possibilities.

White has to realize that by playing f4 early in the game, they have left their king somewhat vulnerable to attack, especially from the black queen on the square h4.

It is very important to play the move Nf3 as soon as possible - normally on the 3rd move of the game. This is because putting the knight on f3 protects the h4 square. There are some variations where white plays 3. Bc4 (This is known as "The Bishop's Gambit"), and Bobby Fischer himself played this variation, but white has to be willing to put up with Qh4+ in this line.

Black will also often play Qh4+ on the second move of the game. 1. e4 e5 2. f4 Qh4+. In this case white can play 3. g3 blocking the check, and forces the Black Queen to move a second time. This may cause a slight weakness in the white kingside, but has also caused Black to waste some time.

Here is a game where white played fxe5 at the wrong time - opening his king up for attack, and was promptly punished. This was a G/90 played at the Tuesday night Denver Chess Club.

In the diagram black played 3. ..Qh4+ and promptly punished white. White is totally lost already. Note that 4. g3 loses to 4. Qxe4+ forking the king and the rook on h1.

Remember: If black declines the gambit, don't grab the black e pawn with your f pawn right away. It is too dangerous

[Event "September 2010 Denver Chess Club Tuesdays"]
[Date "2010.09.14"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Corbett, Tom"]
[Black "Fisch, Dimitriy"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "C31"]
[PlyCount "14"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "4"]

1. e4 e5 2. f4 d5 3. fxe5 Qh4+ 4. Ke2 Qxe4+ 5. Kf2 Bc5+ 6. Kg3 Qxe5+ 7. Kf3
Qh5+ 0-1


Black wastes time

White to Play
White to Play | Source

Black misplays his dark square bishop

Another common mistake in the King's Gambit is that Black puts their dark square bishop on a square that gives white a free tempo. This can be either:

  • Bb4 - often a mindless check, which allows c3, forcing the bishop to move again
  • Bc5 - which often allows white to play d4 with tempo, and the bishop has to move
  • Bd6 - which is often used to protect the pawn on f4, but allows e5 either with tempo, or opening the e file.

e7 is actually normally a good square for the dark square bishop. A lot of black players don't like to play this move because it seems "passive", but the other squares are not good.

In fact playing Be7 has it's own name and ECO code - C35: 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 Be7 (Cunningham Defense)

In the position on the right black has just played 4. ..Bc5?, but this allows white to play 5. d4! which attacks the dark square bishop, open lines for his pieces, and attacks the pawn on f4. It is amazing how often this move comes up.

In this game black wasted a lot of time with his dark square bishop. He played:

  • 3. ..Bd6
  • 4. ..Bc5
  • 5. ..Bd6
  • 6. ..Be7

moving this poor piece 4 times in a row, giving white lots of time to:

  • develop his pieces
  • gain space
  • open lines

Not surprisingly, after making so many wasteful moves, black was checkmated quickly.

[Event "December 2009 Sprint 64 I"]
[Site "http://www.redhotpawn.com"]
[Date "2010.01.29"]
[Round "2"]
[White "Timmybx"]
[Black "Grabman"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C34"]
[WhiteElo "1708"]
[BlackElo "1189"]
[PlyCount "43"]

1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 Bd6 4. Bc4 Bc5 5. d4 Bd6 6. e5 Be7 7. Bxf4 f6 8. O-O fxe5 9. Nxe5 d5 10. Qh5+ g6 11. Nxg6 Nf6 12. Qe5 hxg6 13. Bd3 Ng4 14. Qxh8+ Kd7 15. Qxd8+ Kxd8 16. Bxg6 Nc6 17. c3 Nf6 18. Bg5 Ne4 19. Bxe7+ Kxe7 20. Rf7+ Kd6 21. Na3 Be6 22. Nb5# 1-0


Legal's Mate in the King's Gambit

Legal's Mate in the King's Gambit
Legal's Mate in the King's Gambit | Source

Legal's Mate

As I mentioned in my Hub about Legal's Mate - this mating Pattern can arise in the King's Gambit.

7. Nxe5 plants the seeds for the trap.

Note that black does not automatically get checkmated. They only get in trouble if they fail to see the threat to their king.

In this position black can actually get out of this position unharmed with 7...dxe5 8. Qxg4 Qd4+ 9. Kh1 Qxc4 keeping the material even.

Queen checks for black along the g1-a7 dark square diagonal (like in the variation above) are another common tactical pattern in the King's Gambit, due to the f pawn, leaving the castled king less protected. This is true in similar openings where the f pawn is moved, such as the Bird, Stonewall, etc.

Here is the actual game:

[Event "Challenge"]
[Site "http://www.redhotpawn.com"]
[Date "2009.01.10"]
[Round "?"]
[White "konhen"]
[Black "gulenz"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C34"]
[WhiteElo "1463"]
[BlackElo "1185"]
[PlyCount "17"]


1. e4 e5 2. f4 Nc6 3. Nf3 d6 4. Bc4 exf4 5. O-O Bg4 6. Nc3 Ne5 7. Nxe5 Bxd1 8.
Bxf7+ Ke7 9. Nd5# 1-0

Bxf7 in the King's Gambit

White to Play
White to Play | Source

Bxf7+ Tactics

In the King's Gambit there are often tactics involving a Bishop check on f7. There are several reasons for this:

  • The light square bishop for white is often deployed to c4, where it has direct aim at f7
  • The f file is often open for white
  • The f7 square is naturally weak in any opening, since only the black king protects it
  • White is striving for rapid development, and often can punish the black king if it gets stuck in the middle of the board.

In this position, the game got rather crazy, rather quickly. Here white can play 10. Bxf7+ winning a pawn. If Black recaptures with 10. ..Kxf7? then white has a discovered check with 11. Bd2+ which wins the Black queen. This position shows several of the above ideas.

Here is the complete game:

[Event "2011 Pueblo Open"]
[Site "Pueblo CO"]
[Date "2011.06.04"]
[Round "4"]
[White "Brennan, Tim"]
[Black "Martinez, Isaac"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C34"]
[WhiteElo "1769"]
[BlackElo "1812"]
[PlyCount "55"]

1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. Bc4 Nf6 5. e5 Qe7 6. d4 Ne4 7. O-O Ng5 8. Bxf4 Nxf3+ 9. Rxf3 Qb4 10. Bxf7+ Kd8 11. Rb3 Qxd4+ 12. Qxd4 Nxd4 13. Nc3 Nxb3 14. axb3 Bc5+ 15. Kh1 h6 16. Bg6 d6 17. Rd1 Rf8 18. Bg3 Bg4 19. Re1 dxe5 20. h3 Bf5 21. Rxe5 Bxg6 22. Rxc5 Ke8 23. Rxc7 Bxc2 24. Nb5 Bxb3 25. Nd6+ Kd8 26. Nxb7+ Ke8 27. Nd6+ Kd8 28. Nb7+ 1/2-1/2

Another Bxf7+ example

Another Bxf7 example
Another Bxf7 example | Source

Sac, Sac, Mate

Here is another game where white played Bxf7+. In this case it was a true piece sacrfice, but allowed white to take advantage of his huge lead in development.

Black has wasted time with moves such as Na5 and weakened his kingside with moves such as g5 and h6, whereas white has

  • Sacrificed/Gambited the f pawn for open lines and diagonals
  • Castled, getting his king to safety
  • Developed his Bishop and Knight
  • Grabbed control of the center of the board with pawns and pieces

Here white plays 7. Bxf7+ then follows it up with the crushing 8. Ne5+, which cleared the way for 9. Qh5+. Very devastating.

White is down a piece, but his pieces are much more active than black's, and black was quickly checkmated. Quick kills like this are common in the King's Gambit if Black is not careful.

[Event "rated blitz match"]
[Site "Free Internet Chess Server"]
[Date "2010.03.29"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Amolv"]
[Black "Praboum"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C37"]
[WhiteElo "1396"]
[BlackElo "1259"]
[PlyCount "27"]
[EventType "game (blitz)"]

1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 g5 4. Bc4 Nc6 5. O-O h6 6. d4 Na5 7. Bxf7+ Kxf7 8.
Ne5+ Ke8 9. Qh5+ Ke7 10. Qf7+ Kd6 11. Nc3 c6 12. Rxf4 gxf4 13. Bxf4 Qf6 14.
Nc4# 1-0

Awesome Tactics

White to Play - Mate in 3
White to Play - Mate in 3 | Source

Miniature, Smothered Mate, Pawn Promotion, Piece Sacrifices, Queen Sac, etc, etc, etc

This King's Gambit game has just about every beautiful tactical motif that you can think of.

  • Miniature - only 13 moves
  • Discovered check on move 7 for black
  • White sacrifices his rook on move 8
  • Black sacrifices his queen on move 8
  • Pawn Promotion - black queens a pawn on move 8 to get back his queen
  • Quiet move 9. Qh5
  • Double Discovered Check! with 11. Nd6+
  • Queen sacrifice with 12. Qe8+
  • Smothered mate, down a rook and a queen for a pawn, with 13. Nf7#

I could do an entire Hub just on the tactics in this one game. If you don't find this game interesting, I highly suggest taking up a new hobby :-)

Solution to the diagram: 11. Nd6+ Kd8 12. Qe8+ Rxe8 13. Nf7#

Here is the complete game:

[Event "Challenge"]
[Site "http://www.redhotpawn.com"]
[Date "2005.03.16"]
[White "Jfkjmh"]
[Black "Propawnkiller"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C37"]
[WhiteElo "2167"]
[BlackElo "1855"]
[PlyCount "25"]

1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Nf3 g5 4. Nc3 g4 5. Ne5 Qh4+ 6. g3 fxg3 7. Qxg4 g2+ 8.
Qxh4 gxh1=Q 9. Qh5 Be7 10. Nxf7 Nf6 11. Nd6+ Kd8 12. Qe8+ Rxe8 13. Nf7# 1-0

Summary

This article shows just a few of the various tactical ideas that come up frequently in the King's Gambit with examples taken from the Tactics Time database of player games.

The Kings Gambit is a romantic, fun, tactical opening to play, and I would recommend giving it a try, even if it is just as an occasional surprise weapon.

If you would like to see more tactics like this, please visit my website at http://tacticstime.com and sign up for my free chess tactics newsletter. I send out a new chess tactics puzzle about every other day to subscribers with tactics taken from the real games of real amateur chess players like you and me. You will not see any of the above games published anywhere else or in any other databases.

I am sure you will enjoy it, and there is no risk, cost or obligation to sign up - just fun chess tactics to help you improve your game!

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