Englund Gambit

Englund Gambit is a counter-gambit against Queen’s Pawn Opening and starts with the moves 1.d4 e5. The opening is rarely played at the master level because, in contrast to its relatives like Albin Countergambit or Budapest Gambit, it is considered unsound if white plays accurately.

Englund Gambit

The first recorded experiments with the Englund Gambit date back to the mid-19th century, when there was a lot of interest in all kinds of gambits. The opening is named after the Swedish player Fritz Englund, who organized a thematic tournament in which all games had a starting position featuring the Englund Gambit opening.

Winning percentages on both sides

Results Rate
Win for white 61%
Draw 23%
Win for black 16%

Main Ideas

By playing 1…e5, black challenges white’s central d4 pawn immediately and opens up lines for the development of his queen and dark-squared bishop. This pawn sacrifice swiftly changes the character of the opening from a semi-closed, positional type of game to an open-game position with lots of tactical opportunities. During the opening and early middlegame, white has to stay tactically alert in order not to fall into any of black’s opening traps.
In case white accepts the gambit, black’s main idea is to regain white’s pawn on e5 on favorable terms. Oftentimes, improper ways of defending the e5 pawn will create some tactical chances and traps for black on the queenside, usually with tactics revolving around b2 and the e1-b4 diagonal. If black can regain the pawn without any issue, this then means black has managed to eliminate white’s d4 pawn, which is a critical asset in the Queen’s Pawn Opening as it serves as the base for white’s structure in the center.

Englund Gambit Theory

There is no way to avoid the Englund Gambit as a Queen’s Pawn Opening player, so white can either accept the Gambit with 1.d4 e5 2.dxe5 or decline it with various moves like 2.d5 or 2.e4. However, if white is prepared, there is simply no reason to decline the gambit, as those lines do not give any advantage to white.

Englund Gambit Accepted: 1.d4 e5 2.dxe5

Englund Gambit Accepted

The old saying, “ the best way to refute a gambit is to accept it”, has some wisdom that white should try to apply when playing against the Englund Gambit and accept it with 2.dxe5. Black will almost continue with 2…Nc6, trying to regain the pawn. White should defend the pawn, and there are two ways to do that. One is 3.Bf4 and against this, black can continue gambiting with 3…f6 with the idea being that after 4.exf6 Qxf6, black’s queen attacks the bishop and the pawn on b2. A possible line that shows how black wants to develop would be 5.Qc1 d5 6.e3 Bf5 7.Nf3 Bd6 8.Bxd6 Qxd6 9.Be2 O-O-O 10.O-O. White is pawn up, but black has a space advantage and a much more comfortable position to play with.

So the most standard way for white to defend the pawn on e5 is 3.Nf3, after which black will keep attacking on e5 with 3.Qe7 and we reach a branching point for white. White can defend the pawn again with either 4.Bf4 or 4.Qd5 or simply return the pawn and continue development with 4.Nc3.

3…Qe7 4.Bf4

Englund Gambit Accepted - Qe7

Although defending the pawn with 4.Bf4 is not inaccurate per se, practically speaking, it opens doors for black to demonstrate various opening traps. Therefore, white has to be very careful in this line. For example, white can go astray very quickly after the sneaky 4…Qb4+, attacking the bishop and pawn on b2 simultaneously. Now if white blocks the check with 5.Bd2, black will capture 5…Qxb2 and attack the rook. 6.Bc3?? might seem like a clever way to defend the rook, but it is a big blunder due to 6…Bb4!, pinning white’s bishop, and now there is no way to avoid material loss. Trying to hold on to the material may even result in getting checkmated in only 8 moves: 7.Qd2 Bxc3 8.Qxc3 Qc1#.

A similar trap occurs in the line when white blocks the check with 5.Qd2?? and after 5…Qxb2, tries to defend the rook with 6.Qc3??. Black pins and wins the queen with 6…Bb4.

So the proper way to deal with 4…Qb4+ is to play 5.Bd2 but after 5…Qxb2, simply develop 6.Nc3 instead of 6.Bc3?? Black may try to trick white with 6…Nb4, attacking c2 and the natural 7.Rc1 would lose a pawn for nothing: 7…Nxa2 8.Nxa2 Qxa2. Therefore, instead of 7.Rc1, white should defend c2 with 7.Nd4 and keep the threat of Rb1.

If black attacks the knight with 6…Bb4, white can continue with 7.Rb1 Qa3 (7…Qxc3 is an interesting queen sacrifice to consider: 8.Bxc3 Bxc3+ 9.Nd2 Bxe5 and it is not that easy for white to find a target) 8.Nd5, threatening Nxc7+ fork, 8…Ba5 9.Rb5!, a strong move preventing recapture with the queen if Bxa5, 9…Bxd2 10.Qxd2. White should not get greedy here and fall for thematic trap after 10…Kd8 11.Qg5+? f6 12.Qxg7 Qc1#

3…Qe7 4.Qd5

The cleanest way to defend the pawn on e5 is 4.Qd5. White’s centralized queen cannot be dislodged easily, and this line also avoids lots of traps black has in the line 4.Bf4. Black’s best bet is to gambit again and play 4…f6. After 5.exf6 Nxf6, white can retreat the queen to d3 or b3. 6.Qb3 keeps some pressure on black’s b7 pawn. The game may continue with 6…d5 7.Bg5 Bd7 8.Nbd2 (8.Qxb7?? would be a fatal mistake due to 8…Rb8 9.Qa6 Qb4+ 10.Nbd2 Qxb2 and black is crushing) 8…0-0-0 9.c3 h6 10.Bxf6 Qxf6 11.e3 g5, resulting in a rich middlegame position with chances for both sides.

3…Qe7 4.Nc3

Englund Gambit Accepted - Nc3


White may try to build a pawn center by first returning the pawn and continuing to develop 4.Nc3 Nxe5.

5.Bf4, 5.Nd5 and 5.e4 are all viable options for white.

For example, white may intend to castle queenside in a comfortable position to play in the line with 5.Bf4 Nxf3+ 6.gxf3 d6 7.e4 Be6 8.Qd4, exploiting the absence of a knight on c6, 8…Nf6 9.O-O-O

Englund Gambit Declined: 1.d4 e5 2.d5

Englund Gambit Declined

Declining the Gambit with 2.d5 lets black comfortably develop his pieces, so they would be very happy in this position. Both 2…Nf6 or 2…Bc5 are viable options for black. For example: 2…Nf6 3.c4 Bb4+ 4.Bd2 Qe7 and arguably black is even slightly better due to lead in development. Possible ways for black to complete development are to put the light-squared bishop on f5 after …d6 and bring the b8-Knight to c5 either via a6 or d7. 3.Nc3 makes little sense, because after 3…Bb4 white gains nothing out of the opening.

Englund Gambit Declined: 1.d4 e5 2.e4

Englund Gambit Declined - e4

White can switch gears and become the side that plays the Gambit themselves by playing 2.e4 with the idea to transition into the Danish Gambit after 2…exd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Bc4 or 4.Nc3.

In case of 2…exd4, white also has the option to play a standard Center Game by recapturing the pawn 3.Qxd4 Nc6 4.Qe3 and get an exciting game with opposite-side castles after 4…Nf6 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.Bd2 0-0 7.0-0-0.

Englund Gambit Traps

Trap №1

1.d4 e5 2.dxe5 Bc5 3.Nf3 d6, black gambits another pawn to open up lines, 4.exd6 Ne7, this move might seem like a blunder, but it is actually a decoy to open up the d-file, 5.dxe7?? Bxf2!, the deflection tactic black has been setting up in the past few moves. 6.Kxf2 Qxd1 7.e3, white is threatening Bb5+ discovery attack to regain the queen, so black has to watch out for this trick and play 7…Qxc2+

Trap №2

1.d4 e5 2.Nf3 e4 3.Nfd2 e3, sacrificing a pawn to open up king’s short diagonal 4.fxe3 Bd6 5.Nc3??, this natural looking developing move is a fatal blunder due to 5..Qh4+ 6.g3 Qxg3+ (or 6…Bxg3+) 7.hxg3 Bxg3#

Pros and Cons

Lead in development Objectively unsound
Various opening traps involving deflection and pins motifs Possible material deficit in the long-term


The Englund Gambit is not an opening to have as the main weapon of one’s opening repertoire, but it can be fun and exciting to try it out, especially in fast time control games where white does not have much time to figure out how to deal with the various tactical tricks and traps by black. As a high-risk, high-reward opening, the Englund Gambit may provide quick wins, such as mates in only seven or eight moves. It is also played quite rarely, which can make it a surprise weapon to catch opponents off guard with the relatively unusual tactical patterns it provides.

Written by
Deniz Tasdelen, National Master
National Master with over 20 years of experience. He has participated in many prestigious tournaments, including the European and World Youth Chess Championships.
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