martedì 15 giugno 2010

The Psychology of Gambit Chess Openings

The Psychology of
Gambit Chess

by Clyde Nakamura

(Click here for a PGN file with the five games contained in this article.)

A gambit chess opening involves the sacrifice of one or more pawns, pieces or even a combination of pawns and pieces in the opening part of the game to obtain compensation in terms of better central control, better development of pieces or some other kind of advantage. Playing a gambit chess opening in a chess game requires a different mindset from playing a regular chess opening where no pawns or pieces are sacrificed early in the opening.


In a gambit chess opening you will more likely be one or two pawns down after playing the gambit. You could even be a piece down such as in the Halloween Attack (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nxe5). But a lot of players have this fear of being down by one pawn, two pawns or even a piece down in an opening. This fear stems from the endgame where you have this sinking feeling that you will eventually lose the game. As a gambit player you must have faith that your gambit chess opening will win despite being down. You must have faith in your opening preparation.

Fear of your opponent can have a paralyzing effect on you. If you fear your opponent then you are playing at a disadvantage. This could lead to an error over the board at some point in the game. Over the years I have found that emotions get in the way of the thinking process. I have played my best when my emotions are in check.

When I play my gambit openings I usually try for the big attack. I am willing to sacrifice my pawns or pieces for the attack on my opponents king. If you are down two pawns there really is no turning back. A gambit player may hold the endgame a pawn down but if you are down two pawns you will probably not hold the endgame to a draw. You really need to be thinking about winning the game in the opening or the middle game.

At a certain point in the game when you are losing, you need to not worry about losing. I was playing in a Table Tennis tournament and I was down in the third game by the score of 20 to 17 in a 2-games-out-of-3 match and was one point away from losing the match. We each had won one game and were now playing the third and deciding game of the match. I had realized I was now at the point of no return. My opponent needed only one point to win the match and I just said to myself that now I had nothing to lose and played the rest of the game without any fear of losing. I tied the score at 20 to 20 and went on to win that final game by 22 to 20 to win that match. This same mindset can also be applied to playing a chess game.


If you play a gambit chess opening you should have your lines well prepared before playing a tournament game. One of my Keoni-Hiva Gambit (1.e3 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.f4 exf4 4. Nf3) lines has been analyzed to a forced draw in the middlegame.

Each gambit opening has a set of tactics and also a set of strategy associated with that opening. You should be very familiar with the tactics and strategy that are associated with that particular gambit chess opening.

There are some very standard combinations that you should know. The only way to know this is to study a book on combinations or to study the chess games of Masters and Grandmasters.

I strongly recommend that you develop and maintain a computer chess database of games and analysis on your gambit chess opening. This is so that you can find and make improvements in your particular gambit chess opening. You can obtain a free IBM computer chess database software program called Chessbase Lite from the web site. With this program you can maintain your chess database of games & analysis in either pgn or chessbase cbh format. The Chessbase Lite program (and Frit8 Deluxe, Chessbase8 and Chessbase9) has a feature that allows the user to create an opening book from games in a chess database.

The chess web site known as “The Week In Chess” comes out with a weekly update of chess games and chess news from around the world. The web site: has a 2 million game chess database which is regularly updated. You could set up your gambit opening position and extract the games that you need. However, you will need to convert the text download into pgn format. The following link is to a web site which has links to other chess web sites with free chess databases of games. This is Lars Balzar’s web site. You could also purchase a CD or book which covers the particular gambit chess opening that you play.

If you do not have a computer then you could keep your gambit chess opening lines on index cards.


Your opponent may not be prepared to play against a gambit chess opening. There are three possible outcomes when your opponent is surprised by a gambit chess opening. In an unfamiliar gambit opening position your opponent could spend a lot of time analyzing each move and be down on time whether it is a tournament game or a blitz game.

At the Hawaii International/US Masters tournament in 1998, I had surprised my opponent Arianne Caoli, an up and coming junior player, with the White side of the Deimer-Duhm Gambit (1.d4 e6 2.c4 d5 3.e4). She was about 14 years old at that time but is now an International Master. She thought for 30 minutes on her third move. I used that extra time to do a deep think on a critical moment in the game.

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