The Budapest Gambit: Fearless Chess Players Wanted

budapest gambit blog post ichess

Playing gambits in chess can help you learn that material is not as crucial as many chess players believe. The Budapest Gambit is a sound gambit you can use against 1.d4 and 2.c4.

When choosing gambits, it is essential to have confidence in your compensation. The material might not be as important as most believe, but it is still important.

The gambits you can play throughout your chess career comprise a small number of all the gambits in chess. The Budapest Gambit will serve you well until you reach the 2300 Elo mark.

Even if you progress past 2300, the Budapest Gambit will have served you well for a good chunk of your chess career. You will have learned much about active piece play from the Budapest Gambit at this stage.

Development is a vital part of your opening strategy in any gambit opening. In this exclusive video taken from her premium Master Method course, Ekaterina Atalik demonstrates how to use a lead in development.

Why Would You Play the Budapest Gambit?

The opening moves of the Budapest Gambit are 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5.

The starting position of the Budapest Gambit is reached after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5

Out of the 3175 Budapest games in the database at lichess.org, the Budapest Gambit Accepted got played 3090 times. White played e3 to decline the gambit 34 times and played d5 a total of 32 times.

This means you will likely face the Budapest Gambit Accepted in 97.3% of your games!

Consequently, there is not much opening theory for you to learn. After 3.dxe5, there are only two serious options – 3…Ne4 and 3…Ng4.

In the lichess.org database, out of those 3090 games with the Budapest Gambit, Black played 3…Ng4 in 2681 games and 3…Ne4 in only 409. The percentages are not as dramatic this time, but they are conclusive – 86 versus 14 percent.

When there is such a clear-cut favorite, we need not concern ourselves with anything but the most played move.

In a fighting gambit opening, you are giving up material and want to be sure you know how to obtain adequate compensation. Even with the importance of being booked up, there is a relatively light amount of theory to learn compared to other Indian Defenses like the Nimzo-Indian or King’s Indian Defense.

The Budapest Gambit is suitable for players who believe in being well-prepared and are willing to study what theory there is in the opening.

As mentioned earlier, another reason to play the Budapest Gambit is that it is a sound gambit. By playing the Budapest Gambit, you will catch many opponents by surprise at the club and intermediate levels.

You are in good company when you play the Budapest Gambit, as Kramnik, Mamedyarov, Ivanchuk, and Rapport have all played the Budapest Gambit.

All that matters on the chessboard is good moves blog image

The Checkmate Trap in the Budapest Gambit

After 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4, the knight threatens to capture the pawn on e5 and puts pressure on the weak f2 square.

The starting position of the Budapest Gambit is reached after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 and is a sound gambit you can play up to the master level.

One popular line for White is 4.Bf4 intending to make it challenging for Black to regain the pawn. White cannot keep the pawn cannot be saved because Black can attack it three times with two knights and a queen on e7.

In the Budapest Gambit, regaining the pawn is not an issue. What is important is the price you pay for getting your pawn back. When you have a knight on e5, and your queen on e7, always look for …Nd3.

Black will often play …Bb4+, when the natural move to block the check is Nbd2. However, this stops the White queen’s control of d3 and occupies the only escape square for the White king.

Here is how this checkmate might play out on the board if your opponent is not careful:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.Bf4 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bb4+ 6.Nbd2 Qe7 7.a3 Ngxe5 8.axb4?? Nd3#

After 3.dxe5 Black's most popular response is 3...Ng4 attacking f2 and threatening to win back the pawn on e5.

Here are the moves for you to play through.

Even if White is aware of the checkmate threat, Black has achieved equality.

The Alekhine Attack 4.e4

One of the most dangerous options for White is the Alekhine Attack. Although Alekhine refined the attack, Rudolf Spielmann introduced it to the chess world in a game against Richard Reti in 1919.

The defeat was all it took for Richard Reti to come up with the best move for Black against the Alekhine Attack – 4…h5! Moves like this are almost impossible to find on the board, which is why the Budapest Gambit player must be well-prepared.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c3 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.e4 h5!

Against the Alekhine Attack (4.e4), the best move for black is Reti's 4...h5!
1.d4 Nf6 2.c3 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.e4 h5!

Only one of the founding figures of the Hypermodern Chess School would prefer moving a rook pawn over capturing a central pawn. In chess, knowing when to break the rules is as important as knowing when to stick to them.

Black’s idea is to keep the knight in an attacking position instead of giving White central control after 4…Nxe5 5.f4. To dislodge the knight, White will have to make some concessions. For example, h3, when f4 would leave the g3 square weak in White’s position.

A common strategy for White is to play Nh3-f4-d5. The other White knight is already aiming at d5 after the natural Nc3.

Black does not want to allow a White knight to establish itself on d5!

Hold back on advancing your c-pawn as long as possible.

The vital move to remember in this variation is to meet 5.Be2 with 5…Nc6! If White is kind enough to open the h-file, you will get the chance to sacrifice a second pawn for a potent attack.

A possible line is 6.Bxg4 hxg4 7.Qxg4 d5 8.Qd1 d4 (or 8…dxe4 is also playable for Black)

Black has sacrificed two pawns in return for excellent attacking chances.

This is a complicated position where you can make excellent use of a chess engine. Try defending the position with White against the engine in order to learn strategies you can employ in your games.

White Continues With the Natural 6.Nf3

Instead of capturing on g4 twice, White can continue by developing the knight.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.e4 h5 5.Be2 Nc6 6.Nf3

Budapest gambit Alekhine Attack with 6.Nf3

6…Bc5 7.0-0 Ncxe5 8.Nxe5 Nxe5 9.a3 a5 10.Qb3 Qh4

A complex middlegame position in the Budapest Gambit.

Black has actively placed pieces and a lead in development in this complex middlegame position. In this position, the exchange of queens does not diminish Black’s winning chances.

Opening the h-file with …d6 and …Bg4 gives black excellent attacking chances. Castling long and doubling rooks in the open h-file places tremendous pressure on the White kingside.

Victor Rosa Ramirez made excellent use of the advanced h-pawn and open h-file to win his game.

Andalon Gomez, Carlos Jesus – Rosa Ramirez, Victor Diego, 2011.11.13, 0-1, Madrid San Viator op 17th Round 9, Madrid ESP

White Develops With 4.Nf3

This developing move is a natural response by White. The other main move is 4.Bf4, which can easily transpose to positions with 4.Nf3 and 5.Bf4.

When playing the Budapest Gambit, you can use a similar approach against 4.Bf4 and 4.Nf3 5.Bf4. However, an alternative to Bf4 for White is the modest 5.e3 to blunt the bishop’s attack from c5.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.e3

White avoids Bf4 and blunts the attack of a bishop on c5. 4.nf3 is a natural developing move.

The plan for Black is a simple one that is also easy to implement. Regain the pawn and continue developing your pieces. For example,

5…Ngxe5 6.Nxe5 Nxe5 7.Be2 Bc5 8.Nc3 0-0 9.0-0 Re8 10.Kh1 d6

Black has achieved a comfortable position with centralized pieces and easy development.

Black has achieved equality and can continue developing with …Bf5 and …Qe7. A more aggressive approach is …Qh4 threatening …Bg4 when Bxg4 …Nxg4 wins the f2 pawn.

Vladimir Epishin used this approach and won his game against a player rated 160 Elo higher than himself.

Vaisser, Anatoli (2510) – Epishin, Vladimir (2350), 1986, 0-1, URS-ch sf, Sevastopol

Budapest Gambit With 4.Bf4

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.Bf4

One of the most exciting variations of the Budapest Gambit is 4.Bf4

It makes sense to hold onto the extra material when you have a pawn majority in the center. The opening now becomes a lot like the Benko Gambit, with Black having compensation on the queenside for the sacrificed pawn and elements of the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit.

The 4.Bf4 variation of the Budapest Gambit leads to exciting chess.

You have nothing to fear if your opponent seeks to keep the material. White’s pawn structure gets weakened, and you have fun playing against this weakness.

The most dangerous variation for black comes from the positional approach with 6.Nbd2. This variation of the Budapest Gambit is one with a “must-know” opening theory.

What helps is that you are best served not to follow the standard approach and will likely catch opponents by surprise.

4.Bf4 – White Holds Onto the Pawn

When learning a gambit, it is always wise to start by seeing if there is enough compensation when your opponent accepts it. In the Budapest Gambit, that compensation is clear-cut.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.Bf4 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bb4+ 6.Nc3 7.Qd5

The only way to defend the pawn on e5 is with 7.Qd5

There is no way for White to defend the e5 pawn other than with 7.Qd5. Black must now enter a true gambit with …f6 and play against White’s isolated doubled pawns.

7…f6 8.exf6 Bxc3+ 9.bxc3 Nxf6 10.Qd3 d6 11.g3 0-0 12.Bg2 Re8

After 12...Re8 White must choose between keeping the king in the center or returning the pawn with 13.0-0.

White must choose between getting the king to safety or keeping the king in the center. No matter what decision White makes, the weak queenside pawns will remain.

In this game, we again see a lower-rated opponent using the Budapest Gambit to defeat a higher-rated opponent.

Luch, Michal (2424) – Sroczynski, Maciej (2294), 2016.12.04, 0-1, BL2-Nord 1617 Round 3.6, Germany

4.Bf4 – White Returns the Pawn

Positional players are likelier to choose the bishop pair and better pawn structure over keeping the extra material. They achieve this by meeting 5…Bb4+ with 6.Nbd2.

If White wants to keep the pawn, the knight must go to c3, or White can no longer defend the e5 pawn with 7.Qd5.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ng4 4.Bf4 Nc6 5.Nf3 Bb4+ 6.Nbd2

White decides to return the pawn in exchange for the bishop pair and an improved pawn structure.

6…0-0 7.e3 Ngxe5 8.Nxe5 Nxe5 9.Be2 0-0 10.0-0 Ng6 11.Bg3 Bd6

Black prevents White from obtaining the bishop pair at the cost of falling behind in development. However, Black has no weaknesses and White is not in any position to attack.

Remember, 11.Bxc7 loses the bishop after 11…d6, but only with the Black bishop on b4! The b4 bishop stops the bishop from escaping to a4.

If you have exchanged the bishop, protect your c7 pawn with a move like …d6.

Although behind in development, the Black position is solid, and it will take time for White to get into position to create threats. White’s most common move is 12.Bxd6 when Black avoids conceding the bishop pair or creating any weaknesses.

Black must play carefully in this position, but it is not difficult to reach an equal middlegame.

Gasanov, Eldar (2427) – Hera, Imre (2380), 2005.11.24, 0-1, Tenkes Kupa nyílt Round 8, Harkány

In Conclusion

The Budapest Gambit is an excellent choice for players who like to follow the road less traveled. This chess opening is a perfect way to introduce fun and excitement into your opening repertoire.

Studying this opening with a chess engine will teach you much about attacking chess. Make notes of the engine’s different attacking strategies and add them to your attacking repertoire.

As we have seen, this opening is a good choice when facing a higher-rated opponent. There is enough attacking potential in the Budapest Gambit to make the unfamiliar ground your opponents enter dangerous ground.

Learn more about openings, middlegames, and essential endgames from IM Ekaterina Atalik. You will get 15 hours of all-around chess training to help you take your game up a notch.

IM Atalik will show you how to play with different pawn structures and how to get the most from your pieces in the middlegame. Completing this course will also give you an edge against many opponents in the endgame as well.

Grab your copy of “The Atalik method” today! Get instant access while saving 50% and start improving now!

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