Nakhmanson Gambit: Opening Guide for White and Black


Table of Contents

So you stumbled across the Nakhmanson Gambit and are considering playing it in your next blitz game. That’s very brave of you.

  • The Nakhmanson Gambit works exceptionally well if black gets greedy. Unfortunately, if black restrains himself, white is faced with attacking a solid position while a pawn down.
  • This gambit has elements of all the good gambits – open files, rapid development, and many tactics.
  • If you are an attacking player, then you will be eager to try the Nakhmanson Gambit the moment you see the black knight on an open file in front of the king. Combine this with a bishop on c4, and you are undoubtedly eager to try tactical blows like Bxf7 followed by Qd5.
  • These two factors alone might make the Nakhmanson gambit appealing without the other obvious attacking move – Re1.
  • However, the black position is solid, and black has developed wisely. Moves like …d5 and …Nd6 are good ways for black to continue and ask white to prove compensation for the sacrificed pawn.

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Nakhmanson Gambit

The Ideas in the Nakhmanson Gambit

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.Nc3

The starting position of the Nakhmanson Gambit is reached after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.Nc3

The attacking options for white are easy to see in this position. Capturing the knight with …dxc3 simply makes them more noticeable. Although there are only four games in the database, white has a 75% winning percentage after 6…dxc3.

After …dxc3 Re1, Bxf7, and Qd5 are vital attacking moves for white.

White can often develop the bishop from c1 to g5 with a tempo because, in many instances, the bishop on e7 is pinned. Don’t forget about your bishop on c1 because developing it allows the rook on a1 to enter the game.

On the other side of the board, black has options as well, and capturing in chess is not compulsory. At the moment, black is a pawn ahead and can avoid much of the danger by declining the gambit with …d5, …Nd6, and the simplest option …Nxc3.

Nakhmanson Gambit Accepted with …dxc3

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.Nc3 dxc3

This move requires you do your own homework because things can go wrong fast for black. Unless you know, two computer-like moves defending this position is extremely challenging.

Without assistance from a strong engine, black will get overrun very quickly and can consider losing after move twenty an excellent result.

Here is what can happen without the aid of a chess engine.

7.Bxf7+ Kxf7 8.Qd5+ Ke8 9.Re1 Be7 10.Rxe4 d6

Black is a piece up but has lost castling rights, and the bishop on e7 is pinned. White will bring another attacker into play with Bg5 and can then double-rooks on the e-file.

If you want to play 6…dxc3, the two crucial engine moves to know are 8…Kf6 and 9…Ne7. Exposing the king more by moving forward in an open position and moving a knight backward are not easy moves to find.

Black Declines the Gambit With 6…Nxc3

This is the simplest way to decline the gambit. The Nakhmanson Gambit is so seldom played it is best to have a simple way to meet the opening.

Apart from being simple, declining the gambit with 6…Nxc3 also gives black every reason to play for a win.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.Nc3 Nxc3

Capturing with …Nxc3 gets the knight off the open file and avoids any tactics involving a pin. Black will soon play …d5 opening the diagonal for this light-squared bishop, which can get developed to f5 or g4.

The move …d5 comes with a gain of tempo by attacking the bishop on c4.

Black is a pawn up, so any simplification to an endgame will work in black’s favor.

7.bxc3 d5 8.Re1+ Be7 9.Bb5 0-0 10.Nxd4 Nxd4 11.cxd4 Bf5

The black position is solid, and white is struggling to prove any compensation for the pawn.

In the next game, black had no trouble implementing his plan of simplifying through exchanges. This led to a comfortable victory with minimal attacking opportunities for white.

In Conclusion

The strength of modern chess engines makes it almost impossible to sacrifice a piece in the opening and not concede an advantage to your opponent. This is true in the Nakhmanson Gambit, where black can keep a comfortable edge after accepting the gambit.

The simple and effective 6…Nxc3 is an excellent way to meet the Nakhmanson Gambit for players who prefer a more positional game. The simplification strategy is difficult for white to avoid, and black has the advantage of being a pawn up entering the endgame.

Nakhmanson Gambit: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Nakhmanson Gambit?

The Nakhmanson Gambit is a gambit in the Italian Opening where white sacrifices a minor piece and a pawn to generate an attack against the black king. After sacrificing a knight on c3, white can play another sacrifice with Bxf7+. This sacrifice is usually only temporary because after …Kxf7, there follows Qd5+, and a black knight is won. However, white remains a piece down.

What is the theory behind Nakhmanson Gambit?

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.Nc3 are the opening moves of the Nakhmanson Gambit. Now white intends to use the fact that the black knight om e4 is in the same open files as the king.

When to play the Nakhmanson Gambit?

Blitz or bullet games might present the best opportunities for white to win games with the Nakhmanson Gambit. Playing the Nakhmanson gambit becomes a much greater risk outside of these extremely rapid games.

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Nakhmanson Gambit

This video is from the Chess Principles Reloaded – Development course

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