Evans Gambit: Complete Opening Guide

Evans Gambit: Complete Opening Guide

Gambits are an essential part of the opening stage of the game.

The Evans Gambit is an exciting gambit that teaches you many things about dynamism and non-materialism.

In chess, the activity of pieces is supreme and by playing openings like the Evans Gambit we learn a lot about the game.

Ready to learn about this powerful gambit?

Let’s jump right in and explore the intricacies of this opening.

Why play the Evans Gambit?

1) White obtains rapid development leading to good attacking chances against the King. There are many traps that Black can fall into. This allows White to get some swift and beautiful wins. The most famous game in the Evans Gambit is the ‘Evergreen Game’ by Adolf Anderssen.

Adolf Anderssen vs Jean Dufresne, Berlin 1852

2) Even if Black avoids an early disaster, Black experiences issues in mobility and coordination of the pieces. White can use this to outmaneuver the opponent and transpose the game to a better endgame.

3) Psychologically it’s not easy for Black to defend against a gambit with limited time on the clock.

4) You have the upper hand in terms of knowledge as the Evans Gambit is your playground. If you play the Evans Gambit long enough you are bound to know more than your opponent.

Starting Moves

The Evans Gambit starts with the moves

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4

Evans Gambit Complete Opening Guide

White offers a pawn to disrupt Black’s development. After the acceptance of the pawn by 4..Bxb4 White hits the Bishop a second time with 5.c3

This is an important tempo move and it later supports the d4 advance. It also allows the Queen to be rapidly developed on the d1-a4 diagonal.

The move b4 also allows the dark-squared bishop to be developed at a3. From a3 it can hinder Black’s castling and attack a piece on e7. It can also move to b2 from where it keeps an eye on the Kingside.

Evans Gambit Accepted

4…Bxb4 5.c3 and now Black has 4 main choices.

A) 5..Bd6

This move looks unnatural at first as it hinders the mobility of the d-pawn. This subsequently affects the mobility of the light-squared bishop. Black’s idea is to create a strong point on e5 to withstand White’s attacks.

5…Bd6 6.d4 exd4 7.0-0

5..Bd6

This is a common sequence of moves in the Evans Gambit. Before taking the pawn White decides to castle the King.

7..dxc3 (Better was to play 7..d3 to deny the c3 square for the Knight or 7..Na5 to probe the Bishop)

This greedy move is a mistake. Now Black’s development is lacking and White can use this to generate a strong initiative. This is the essence of the Evans Gambit.

8.Nxc3 Nge7 9.Ng5

In this position, White is down two pawns yet White has a decisive advantage.

Now let’s look at the next option.

B) 5..Bc5

With this move, Black brings the Bishop back to its original square and declares that he doesn’t believe in White’s idea. This move essentially invites White to play d4.

5…Bc5 6.d4 exd4 7.cxd4 Bb4+ 8.Nbd2 (Bd2 doesn’t give White an advantage as it induces piece exchanges)

8..Nf6 9.d5 Ne7

Evans Gambit Complete Opening Guide

White central pawns are mobile and the Bishop on b4 is a tactical weakness. Black still has to finish castling and develop his light-squared Bishop. The White Queen will come to b3 and the Dark squared Bishop will go to b2. White is slightly better and has a pleasant position.

Model Game: Paul Morphy – Alonzo Morphy, New Orleans 1849

Now let’s take a look at a trap in the Evans Gambit

5…Bc5 6.d4 exd4 7.0-0 dxc3?

5…Bc5 6.d4 exd4 7.0-0 dxc3?

This move is a common mistake at the club level. White is two pawns down but is clearly better here due to the weak Black King.

Material doesn’t matter in such positions as King safety triumphs over material advantage.

8.Bxf7+ Kxf7 9.Qd5+

Evans Gambit Complete Opening Guide

C) 5..Be7

Black puts the Bishop far away from any pawn advances and awaits developments.

5…Be7 6.d4 exd4 ( we can play similarly for 6..d6 as well)

7.Qb3

This is the typical positioning for the Queen in this position.

7..Na5 One of Black’s ideas behind Be7 was to keep this square vacant

8.Bxf7+ Kf8 9.Qa4

8.Bxf7+ Kf8 9.Qa4

This position is approximately equal but there is a lot of play left in this position. Both sides have their trump cards and the better player will win the game.

Now let’s look at the critical try for Black

D) 5..Ba5

Here Black maintains the pin on the c-pawn. But the downside is that Black loses access to the a5 square for the Knight. This square is important because in the Evans Gambit white usually creates a battery with Qb3-Bc4. Black’s go-to resource to stop this is to threaten to play Na5.

5…Ba5 6.d4 exd4 and now White has two options:

i) Castle Kingside

7.0-0 dxc3 8.Qb3 Qf6 9.Bg5 Qg6 10.Nxc3

Evans Gambit Complete Opening Guide

A typical position in the Evans Gambit. White is down material but the compensation lies in the dynamic potential of the pieces. White’s position is easier to play.

Model Game: Robert James Fischer vs Reuben Fine, New York 1963

ii) Put pressure on the diagonal with Qb3

7.Qb3 dxc3

Black allows White to damage the Kingside. But Black bets on his material advantage in the long run.

8.Bxf7+ Kf8 9.0-0 Qf6 10.Bc4

8.Bxf7+ Kf8 9.0-0 Qf6 10.Bc4

Black can also decline the pawn on c3 and fortify the Kingside first.

7.Qb3 Qf6 8.0-0 Nge7 9.cxd4

Evans Gambit Complete Opening Guide

Model Game: Alexander McDonnell vs Louis Bourdonnais, London 1834

Evans Gambit Declined

Black can also decline the offer and play on. This is not optimal as White gets a tempo to attack a piece and has expanded on the Queenside for free. Black argues that the pawn thrust is long-term weakening.

The first option is to counterattack in the center.

A) 4..d5

4..d5

4…d5 5.exd5 Nxb4

White gains a central pawn in exchange for a flank pawn. Therefore this exchange is favorable for White.

6.0-0 (if 6.Nc3 then Black will play Nf6 and eventually capture the pawn. So first we opt to castle)

6..Nxd5 7.Bxd5 Qxd5 8.Nc3 Qd6 9.Re1

Evans Gambit Complete Opening Guide

In this position, Black is pawn up for the moment and has the Bishop pair but White has the initiative and the Black King isn’t safe yet. White has moves like d4 and Ne4. White is better.

Now let’s look at what happens when Black takes on b4 with the Knight.

B) 4..Nxb4

4…Nxb4 5.c3 Nc6 6.d4 exd4 7.cxd4 Bb6

4..Nxb4

Taking with the Knight is not a mistake but it limits Black’s options. This position can transpose to one of the standard lines of the Evans Gambit.

C) 4..Bb6

You will encounter this move in the Evans Gambit Declined at the lower levels. However White can now gain the initiative.

4…Bb6 5.a4

This active flank thrust forces Black to take countermeasures. Black has three options here.

i) To stop a4-a5 with the move a5

5.a4 a5 6.b5 Nd4 7.Nxd4 Bxd4 8.c3 Bb6 9.d4

Evans Gambit Complete Opening Guide

White has a space advantage on the Queenside and better center control. This gives White a slight edge but in practice, the position is easier to play for White. The plan is to castle quickly and play for the attack.

ii) Create an escape square for the Bishop with a6

5.a4 a6 6.0-0 d6 (6..Nxb4 is bad due to Nxe5)

7.c3 Nf6 8.d3

7.c3 Nf6 8.d3

White has a comfortable position. In this pawn structure, White will use his space advantage to probe Black’s position, i.e. maneuver the pieces around to induce weaknesses or plan for an attack.

iii) 5..Nxb4

This move is a mistake as White can get a clear edge now.

6.a5 Bc5 7.c3 Nc6 8.0-0 Nf6 9.d4 Be7

Evans Gambit Complete Opening Guide

White is better here due to the initiative and the lack of mobility of Black’s pieces.

Conclusion

The Evans Gambit is a great opening for club players. It offers dynamic play and the opportunity to score brilliant miniatures. It is also a sound opening that has been played by many great players like Morphy, Kasparov, Fischer and Carlsen.

Did you like Evans Gambit? You can take a pick at the 7 Best Chess Games Played with this opening.

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Updated 07.01.2024

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