|A gambit is a chess opening in which something is sacrificed in order to achieve a better position. Usually, the piece sacrificed is a pawn, but there are also gambits sacrificing a bishop or knight, such as the Muzio Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.0-0) and Cochrane Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nxf7).|
There are three general methods in which a gambit can help a player´s position. For a gambit to be sound it will typically have some degree of at least two of the following:
- Time: the player accepting the gambit must take time to procure the sacrificed material and possibly must use more time to redirect the capturing piece after the material is taken. Often the gain in time is accomplished by a pawn capturing two pawns and then being captured itself by a developing piece.
- Activity/Structure: Often a player accepting a gambit will decentralize his pieces or pawns and his poorly placed men will allow the gambiteer to place his own pieces and pawns on squares that may otherwise have been inaccessible. In addition, rooks (and less commonly bishops) can become more active simply because the loss of pawns often gives rise to open files and diagonals.
- Destruction: Finally, accepting a gambit may lead to tragic weaknesses in his own position. This can be as simple as a compromised pawn structure, but there is also the more dynamic possibility of the player accepting the material and then having to destroy his own position in trying to hold onto it.
In modern chess, the typical response to a moderately sound gambit is to accept the material and give the material back at an advantageous time. For gambits that are less sound, the accepting player is more likely to try to hold onto his extra material. A rule of thumb often found in various primers on chess suggests that a player should get 3 moves of development for a sacrificed pawn, but it is unclear how useful this general maxim is since the "free moves" part of the compensation is almost never the entirety of what the gambiteer gains.
A good example is the Middle or Danish Gambit: 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Bc4 cxb2 5.Bxb2. White has sacrificed two pawns, but his bishops are placed very well, looking to the opponents kingside.
A very dubious gambit is the so called Halloween Gambit: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3 Nf6 4.Nxe5?! Nxe5 5.d4.
Of course, a player is not obliged to accept a gambit; often, a gambit can be declined without a problem. A gambit can also be accepted with the intention of returning the material later for a positional advantage, as advocated by Emanuel Lasker.
The word gambit was originally applied to chess openings in 1561 by Spanish priest Rúy López de Segura, who was an admirer of Giovanni Gambetto, first chess player to use this kind of subterfuge, in the 12th century. Lopez studied and improved this maneuver during his lifetime, and so the Italian word gained the Spanish form “gambito” that led to French gambit, which has influenced the English spelling of the word. The broader sense of "opening move meant to gain advantage" was first recorded in English in 1855.