Best Gambits for Black to Play: Complete Guide

Best Gambits for Black to Play: Complete GuideFinding the right opening can be a lot of hard work and it usually requires deep investigation before you can finally settle for the most suitable one. If you are an attacking player who likes to play the unbalanced position, it might be especially difficult to choose an opening for black. The help of a coach can be of immense help in such situations, but if you are alone on your quest, we are here to help. Gambits are usually favored by attacking players, but many have been refuted and are now considered unsafe. However, there are still a few interesting options out there. Here are some of our suggestions if you’re looking for a good gambit to play with the black pieces:

1.Benko (aka Volga Gambit) – Best Gambits for Black

This is one of the ideas that you can use against 1.d4 players. It is one of the gambits that has been around for a while; it has been tested and constantly improved by different players. Some of the players to have used are Pal Benko, David Bronstein, Mikhail Tal, Florin Gheorghiu, Garry Kasparov, Alexander Khalifman, Veselin Topalov, Alexei Shirov or Michael Adams. Another specialist of this opening who has brought many interesting and new ideas is Vadim Zvjaginsev. Although this opening never became a main weapon at the highest level, these players and many others used it quite often, producing very exciting and double-edged games.

This defense gives black the opportunity of setting up a strategic battle mixed with tactical elements that turn out to be successful very often. The amount of theory to be learned in the Benko is not as big and it can be played by masters and club players relying only on a small amount of theory and an acceptable understanding of the main middlegame ideas and endings that black is playing for.
We reach the main line of the Benko Gambit after the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6:

Benko Gambit

However, there are many other white’s 5th moves that black needs to be aware of and we recommend studying them well before giving this opening a try in your games.

Black’s main idea is that he will get good counterplay on the queenside in return for the pawn sacrificed early in the opening. The bishop on g7 is one of the main pieces for the attack on the queenside, along with the two rooks that are usually placed on the a and b files. Another idea to remember is that endgames usually favor black, as the afore-mentioned pressure is felt even stronger by white in this phase of the game.

2.Blumenfeld Gambit – Best Gambits for Black

The Blumenfeld Gambit is another interesting option if you are a fan of the Benoni Defense and its pawn structures.

It is reached after the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nf3 b5:

Blumenfeld Gambit

In this case, black’s aim is to establish a powerful pawn center. Here, the black bishops are usually developed to b7 and d6, pointing at white’s kingside. Along with the open f-file (after the trades on e6), these characteristics of the position can give good attacking chances against the white king.

Although named after its inventor, Russian player Benjamin Blumenfeld, the gambit became popular after Alexander Alekhine used it in his game against Siegbert Tarrasch (this is also the very first game played in this line!) and won the game in style.

Since then, it has been used by players like Ljubomir Ljubojevic, Francisco Vallejo Pon, Dieter Nisipeanu, Boris Savchenko, and many others. It is a fighting defense, very suitable for club and tournament players, which can throw your opponent off their preparation. It is a great surprise weapon to have since your opponent could easily fall into a worse position if they don’t know the right way to meet it.

3.Marshall Gambit (aka Marshall Attack) – Best Gambits for Black

The Marshall Gambit, also known as the Marshall Attack. Although it is difficult to find “sound” gambits to play with the black pieces, the Marshall is probably one of the most dangerous weapons you can employ against 1.e4.

This gambit is one of the ways black can meet the Ruy Lopez and it arises after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.c3 d5:

Marshall Gambit

The point is that after white wins the e5 pawn with 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5 c6 12.d4 black gets good counterplay in the form of piece activity after 12…Bd6 13.Re1 Qh4. The attack can be very dangerous and whites need to know exactly what to do in order not to be on the wrong side of a brilliancy.

There are many beautiful games that will surely inspire you to play this line. If the options mentioned earlier are not usual guests at top-level chess, the Marshall is highly employed by many strong players and has often been seen in top tournaments.

Besides the former US Champion Frank Marshall, this idea has been employed by attacking players like Shamkovic, Nezhmetdinov, and Tal. Other contemporary players who have successfully used it in their games are John Nunn, Gabriel Sargissian, Levon Aronian, Michael Adams, Ding Liren, Peter Svidler, and Magnus Carlsen.

By sacrificing the central pawn on e5 black wants to remove one of the main defenders of white’s kingside, the knight on f3, in order to then attack the king by means of Qh4 and Bd6.

Depending on white’s reaction, black can then push his kingside pawns and create a pawn storm after g5 – f5 – f4 and even f3. On the other hand, white’s development is quite difficult and the queenside tends to be a problem that he will try to solve after winning the pawn. Black’s constant and immediate threats need to be parried, making his development issue even more difficult to solve.

The wild positions arising after black’s pawn sacrifice have been analyzed in-depth and, if you decide to play it, you’ll need to learn a fair amount of theory.

However, the positions are still very rich in ideas and fun to play. So far it sounds like the perfect weapon for the aggressive player, but there is also a downside of this line – white doesn’t have to go into it and accept the gambit. Instead of playing 8.c3, white can go into an Anti-Marshall system, by opting for a different move, with 8.a4, 8.h3, and 8.d4 being the next most popular. However, the positions remain very interesting, with fighting chances for both sides!

The gambits we’ve presented here are some of the most reliable ones where black can fight for the initiative. However, there are many other interesting gambits out there that could be employed from time to time as a surprise weapon.

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