Scotch Gambit

The Scotch Gambit begins with 1.e4 (King’s Pawn Opening), and Black replies with 1…e5. After that, 2.Nf3 and 2…Nc6 occur. Once White pushes the d-pawn (3.d4) two squares forward, the game enters Scotch Game territory. Black captures the offered pawn (3…exd4), and White replies with the offensive 4.Bc4-move (The beginning of the Scotch Gambit) and gambits the d-pawn.

Scotch Gambit

The opening’s name comes from a game played in the 19th century. At a high level, it is regarded as a highly hazardous line, and there are some modern refutations of this opening using modern theory. Chess enthusiasts frequently use it to have tactical fights against their rivals.

Winning Percentage on Both Sides

Master Games Statistics

Results Rate
Victory for White 26%
Draw 41%
Victory for Black 33%

Statistics from 11 Million Amateur Games

Results Rate
Victory for White 55%
Draw 4%
Victory for Black 41%

Main Ideas

The major goal of this opening is to develop quickly and constantly create problems to challenge the opponent. White aims to kick enemy pieces off their ideal locations and utilize its c4-Bishop on the ‘a2-g8‘ diagonal. Black wants to keep as solid as possible and transition to the endgame with the extra pawn they have. If White can be successful and use the development compensation they have in the first ten moves, they can be on the verge of winning. If not, Black will solidify and prevail with a precise technique at the endgame.

Scotch Gambit Theory

Scotch Gambit lines often lead to chaotic and tactical positions.

Also called the Dubois Reti Defense, 4…Nf6 variation often leads to open positions. Black can equalize easily and should not be in trouble if they are familiar with the theory.

Also called the Haxo Gambit, the 4…Bc5 line aims to preserve the d4-pawn for Black. White typically aims to sacrifice another pawn to generate problems on the long ‘b2-g8’ diagonal.

The 4…Bb4+ variation, also called the London Defense, often allows White to expand at the center of the board. Black can have a difficult time placing their pieces before castling.

4…Nf6 Variation

The variation starts after Black plays 4…Nf6. This move aims to put pressure on the e4-pawn and force White to push that pawn (5. O-O can be met by 5…Nxe4 and 6.Re1 is met by 6…d5).

Scotch Gambit - Nf6

Once 5.e5 is played, Black has the thematic d5-pawn (Scotch Gambit main line) push to generate a counterattack and open up the scope of both Bishops. This move attacks the c4-Bishop, creates a safe square on e4, and allows Black to develop all their minor pieces. Anyone familiar with the Scotch Gambit would expect this move; therefore, we will be focusing on this popular idea. After 5…d5, White needs to preserve the c4-Bishop. Allowing 6.exf6 and 6…dxc4 trades would be catastrophic because Black would have powerful pawns on c- and d- files, and White would have difficulty developing their pieces.

Hence, White typically goes for 6.Bb5 to pin the c6-Knight and double up Black’s pawn structure. Since the c6-Knight is pinned, White’s next move will be Nxd4. Black would need to guard their assaulted f6-Knight and locate it to e4 (6…Ne4), and White would capture the d4-pawn (7.Nxd4) and even out the material.

The game has already lost its aggressiveness in the mentioned variation, and Black is equalized and ready to go for the next step. White generally puts constant pressure and pokes Black’s pieces as much as possible.

4…Bc5 variation

It starts with Black playing 4…Bc5 (Scotch Gambit Accepted) and guarding the d4-pawn with the c5-Bishop. Scotch Gambit - Bc5

Here, White often aims to open up the d1-Queen’s scope and increase the potential attack on the f7-square with the c3-pawn push (5. c3). By offering another pawn, White seeks to plant a fierce tactic, and if Black takes that pawn, they fall for it. If Black takes the c3-pawn (5…dxc3), 6.Bxf7 would be a great move to charm the King to f7-square. After 6…Kxf7, 6…Qd5+ would pick up the c5-Bishop eventually.

Therefore, 5…Nf6 (securing the d5-square and developing the Knight to prepare short-side castling) is considered a safe route for Black in that position. Then, 6.e5 and 6…d5 would be typical moves we mentioned in the 4…Nf6 variation. White can again play 7.Bb5, however, since Black’s dark square Bishop is out, White needs to capture the d4-pawn with the c-pawn (8.cxd4).

After that, 8…Bb4 is a more tempting move for amateurs, and it can be met with 9.Bd2. White typically aims to pressure the c-file in these positions if they can double Black’s c-pawns. To do that, they can locate the d1-Queen to c2 and one of the Rooks to c1. Black might go for a c5-pawn break and try eliminating one of the doubled pawns. They can also play the f6-pawn break and try to strike from the semi-open f-file.

4…Bb4+ line

It begins after Black plays 4…Bb4+. This variation can cause problems for Black because White has many winning opportunities if Black does not play precisely.

Scotch Gambit - Bb4

White typically responds with 5.c3 with the same idea as the Bc5 line we analyzed. Then, Black can capture (If they don’t take the c-pawn, White can castle short and play e5, Black would have a challenging time finding squares for their pieces before castling) the c-pawn (5…dxc3), and White can recapture it with the b-pawn (6.bxc3).

From that position, if Black plays 6…Bc5, it falls into 7.Bxf7 and 8.Qd5+ would capture the c5-Bishop and break the castling right of the Black King.

Hence, 6…Ba5 is the top move to go for. Then, White can castle (7. O-O) and aim to prevent Black from castling. If Black plays 7…Nf6, 8.Ba3 would cover the f8-square, stopping Black from castling. Black can try to avoid the Bishop’s scope by playing 8…d6, but that would allow White to advance the e-pawn to 9.e5 and 9…dxe5 would allow White to generate unpreventable threats with 10.Qb3, lying a battery on the ‘a2-g8’ diagonal to hit f7-pawn. The next reinforcement can be Ng5 to hit that pawn with another piece.

If White plays 7…Nge7 instead, 8.Ng5 immediately puts an extreme amount of pressure on the f7-pawn. If Black castles to protect f7 (8…0-0), 9.Qh5 would attack h7 and f7 simultaneously, and 9…h6 would lose to 10.Nxf7.

The preferred approach by Black would be to play d6 to close the ‘a2-g8’ diagonal and put the Queen on f6 to guard the f7-pawn. Then, they can play Nge7 and castle.

The nature of these games is very dynamic and offers many chances for White to outplay their opponent.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
White can create many opportunities to put their enemy’s King in jeopardy. Black can equalize quickly if they know the theory.
Amateur players often get pleasant positions out of the opening. This line is not objectively good due to easy counter possibilities at the elite level.
The tactical variations can improve a player’s attacking abilities. Endgames often favor Black due to extra material in many variations.
As White, you can play some lines with ease due to White’s simple improvement and rein in the center. Some move orders might be hard to play due to a lack of plan after a certain number of moves.

Common Traps

Scotch Gambit Trap

This trap starts with 4…Bb4+. By beginning the battle with this line of the Scotch Gambit, White goes for the typical c3-pawn push (5.c3). After Black takes the c-pawn with the d-pawn (5…dxc3), White recaptures it using the b-pawn (6.bxc3). If Black plays the Bishop to e7 (6…Be7), it will lose the game to 7.Qd5. The battery on the f7 is unstoppable. Qxf7 and Be6 are the mating ideas if the opponent plays a move like d6. If Black plays Nh6 (to protect f7-square), White can take the Knight using c1-Bishop (Bxh6) and remain their threat.


The Scotch Gambit is a chess opening where White sacrifices a pawn to generate an assault on the rival. It often leads to tactical positions, but it can also lead to strategic battles. Although it is not regarded as a sensible opening at the high level, low-level players often show good results. Players can utilize this opening to increase their pattern recognition and calculation skills.

Written by
Emre Sancakli, Сhess Coach
has a rating of 2400+ on and, making him one of the top 5000 players in the world. He teaches many chess enthusiasts and even creates educational courses. As a writer, he keeps bringing his 'A game' to the content you will face on this website.
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