The Budapest Gambit is a gambit chess opening that starts with the Queen’s Pawn Opening (1.d4). Black responds with 1…Nf6, and after White plays c4-pawn push (2.c4), Black sacrifices a pawn to get into a calculative battle (2…e5).
Although it was played before, it became popular in the 1900s after a Hungarian chess master beat one of the world’s best players with this opening. This opening is considered an old one nowadays and is not usually played by the top players in the world.
Winning Percentage on Both Sides
Master Games Statistics
|Victory for White
|Victory for Black
Statistics from 8 Million Amateur Games
|Victory for White
|Victory for Black
The main idea of e5-pawn sacrifice is to generate strategic complications and outplay White by creating weak pawn structure elements in the long run. White often seeks to solidify their extra pawn and exchange pieces to go for an endgame where they are an extra pawn up. Black aims to create a solid pawn structure and have a strategic battle against White’s ruined pawns in many lines. Budapest Gambit moves often require positional understanding from both sides.
Budapest Gambit Theory
There are several well-known Budapest Gambit lines.
The Main Line involves Black attacking the e5-pawn immediately. This often leads to sequences of certain moves where White tries to guard the extra pawn and Black seeks to recapture it.
Both 6.Nbd2 and 6.Nc3 are variations in the main line. Nbd2 variation often gives small room errors for Black but loses the e5-pawn if Black plays accurately. The Nc3 line often leads White to hold on to the e5-pawn but weaken their pawn structure.
Fajarowicz Variation is an objectively bad opening for Black where if White is precise, White can gain a significant lead.
3.Bb4+ line is another objectively bad move for Black, and White has many ways to claim their advantage.
Main Line: 3. dxe5 Ng4
The main line starts with White accepting the pawn (3.dxe5) and Black assaulting the e5-pawn with the Knight (3…Ng4) to recapture it.
White often wants to preserve that pawn and plays 4.Nf3. Then, Black increases the pressure by improving the b8-Knight to c6 (4…Nc6). After that, White typically goes for 5.Bf4 to guard that pawn again. Black can go for 5…Bb4+ with the idea of putting the Queen to the offense later on.
After 5…Bb4+, White needs to block that check. 6.Nc3 and 6.Nbd2 are the two most common approaches by White.
The 6.Nbd2 line often gains a Bishop pair but loses the e5-pawn.
The 6.Nc3 line often ends up with a doubled pawn for White, but the extra pawn can be held in the short term. During this article, we will further analyze these two lines.
If White doesn’t want to deal with all the theory in the main line, they can give up the pawn by improving their b1-Knight to c3 (4.Nc3). Then, they can play e3, Nf3, and Bd2 and develop the light-squared Bishop and castle on the short side. This would be considered less ambitious, and Black could easily equalize.
6. Nbd2 line
It starts once White blocks the 5…Bb4+ with 6.Nbd2.
This often leads Black to play 6…Qe7 and add another attacker to e5-pawn. The pawn will be lost since the White Queen cannot protect the e5-pawn. However, White can try to gain a Bishop pair after a sequence of moves. Since the b4-Bishop has no good squares to go after a3, it will have to take the d2-Knight. Of course, 7.a3 immediately would not threaten anything because 7…Nge5 will be threatening checkmate (8…Nd3#) if 8.axb4 occurs.
Hence, before playing a3 and claiming the Bishop pair, White must prevent the Nd3 idea and open up the f1-Bishop’s scope to develop and castle. To do that, 7.e3 can be played, and after 7…Ngxe5, 8.Be2 would prepare the White King to castle. Black can take on f3 (8…Nxf3), and after 9.Bxf3 occurs, a move like 9…d6 (Opening up the c8-Bishop) could be met with 10.a3. 10…Ba5, 11.b4, and 11…Bb6. This would not be ideal for Black because they would have a bad dark-squared Bishop, and White would be extended in the Queenside.
Hence, they often take on d2 (10…Bxd2) and give up the Bishop pair.
In these positions, Black plays with a solid pawn structure and a lack of space. They usually aim to trade one of the Knights for White’s Bishops.
White generally aims to open up the position to utilize its Bishops and expand as much as possible without overextending.
6. Nc3 line
In this variation, White plays 6.Nc3 to block the 5…Bb4+. This way, White can protect the e5-pawn with the help of the d1-Queen.
Black often responds with 6…Bxc3 to double White’s pawns on the c-file. White takes the Bishop (7.bxc3), and Black assaults the e5-pawn with the mentioned 7…Qe7 move. Then, White protects the pawn with 8.Qd5.
From this position, Black must activate their pieces and pressure the doubled pawns. To do that, they need to eliminate the e5-pawn because d6 cannot be played due to exd6. Hence, Black goes for the 8…f6 pawn break to reorganize their pieces to go d6 to free up the c8-Bishop.
After 9.exf6 and 9…Nxf6, White Queen has to go to a safe square. Here, 10.Qd3 is typically chosen because, after 10…d6, c8-Bishop ideally wants to locate itself on f5-square. The d3-Queen would stop this attempt and limit Black’s options. Then, White can fianchetto their f1-Bishop to g2 by going 11.g3, and 12.Bg2. Black can castle (11…O-O), move the c8-Bishop to g4 (12…Bg4) and bring the f8-Rook to the action (13…Rae8).
In these positions, White aims to get rid of the doubled pawns, utilize its g2-Bishop, and play a favorable endgame with an extra pawn. On the other hand, Black can launch a Kingside attack or play around the weak doubled pawns.
Fajarowicz Variation: 3…Ne4
This line starts with Black playing 3…Ne4 instead of traditional 3…Ng4. This allows White to maintain the e5-pawn and hunt the e4-Knight without allowing too much compensation.
The important move by White here is to play 4.a3 to stop Bb4+.
If White doesn’t play a3, 4…Bb4+, and after 5.Bd2 would be met with 5…Nxd2 and 6.Nxd2. This would create a scene similar to the 6.Nbd2 line, where Black could play Nc6 and Qe7 to capture the e5-pawn, and White cannot stop it.
Therefore, 4.a3 allows White to keep their edge in the game. After a3, the most common move among amateur players is 4…d6. This allows White to attack the e4-Knight by going 5.Qc2. White is significantly better in this position.
From here, one sample line could be 5…Nc5 (guarding the Knight), 6.b4 (Kicking the Knight and creating a fianchetto square for the c1-Bishop on b2), 6…Ne6, 7.exd6, 7…Bxd6, 8.Bb2 and 8…O-O. The next step for White is usually developing the Kingside by going Nf3, e3, Be2, and getting castled in the short side.
In a position like this, White would have an extra pawn, and Black would not have enough compensation for that pawn. With accurate play, White can be on the verge of victory.
Early 3…Bb4+ Variation
This variation starts with Black playing Bb4+ in the third move. This move is considered a blunder, and White can preserve the extra pawn without letting Black get any compensation.
White can answer with 4.Bd2, and after Black captures the Bishop (4…Bxd2), White can recapture the piece with the Queen (5.Qxd2). The queen should take the Bishop because the Queen’s activity will play a significant role in keeping White’s advantage alive. Black can strike the e5-pawn with the typical 5…Ng4 and it can be met by 6.Nf3. Then, Black can oppress the e5-pawn with the other Knight by going 6…Nc6.
Here, White doesn’t have to panic and can play 7.Nc3 because 7…Ngxe5, 8.Nxe5, 8…Nxe5 and 9.Qe3 would win the Knight after 9…Qe7 (protecting the Knight) and 10.Nd5 (Hitting the e7-Queen and c7-pawn to threaten a fork, also preparing the f4-pawn push to win the e5-Knight).
If Black doesn’t take the e5-pawn on the seventh move and castles instead (7…O-O), White can play 8.Qf4 to preserve the e5-pawn and attack the g4-Knight. 8…d6 can occur to protect the g4-Knight; however, it would be a marginally worse position for Black after 9.exd6.
Pros and Cons
|White can be instantly better in several variations.
|Black can create weaknesses and bring a strategic battle.
|White is often better in endgames due to the extra material.
|The opening requires theoretical knowledge to be able to claim an edge.
|White can get a Bishop pair in certain variations.
|Black can create a Kingside attack on many occasions.
|Most of the lines are straightforward.
|Several variations require strategic understanding.
Budapest Gambit is a gambit opening that starts with 1.d4. Black sacrifices their e-pawn to create positional vulnerabilities in White’s position. If White is not wary of the theory, they can be outplayed strategically. It is considered an old opening and is not utilized at the top level nowadays. White can have a big edge out of the opening in many variations. It is advised for beginners to study its theory and try to comprehend its logic before deploying it in their games.