The Budapest Gambit starts after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5. It’s rarely played at the top level, in serious chess events. Why is this so? Also what is the psychology of players who play this gambit with Black? What is White’s best way to respond against it? This is what we will cover in this article.
Why Is The Budapest Gambit Not Popular at The Top Level of Chess?
There are main 2 reasons:
- The gambit doesn’t follow the correct opening principles, and therefore White has a clear way to gain a slight advantage against it.
- There are much better lines with the Black pieces against 1.d4.
The fact that The Budapest Gambit is not popular at the top level of chess does not mean that it does not get played anymore. In fact it has been used as a surprise weapon for many players to take the opponent out of the comfort of opening preparation.
Why is The Budapest Gambit dangerous for White if not prepared? The Budapest leads to very sharp lines and White actually has to play very accurately. Since White’s good moves in most lines are so limited it is rather simple for Black to have plans ready against each of these moves.
It has been said that The Budapest Gambit is the kind of surprise weapon that should be used once as a surprise weapon against a certain opponent and then thrown away.
This might be the correct approach at the very high levels where players put in a lot of time preparing for matches against each individual opponents but for mere mortals like most of us – we can catch many opponents off guard with The Budapest.
Because The Budapest is so dangerous for an unprepared White player it is important to know how to respond.
The Psychology of Players Who Employ This Opening
The players who use this gambit with the Black pieces often employ it in faster time controls where it’s difficult to calculate long variations. These players love to attack and want to put you under pressure right from the opening. They will often play the theory fast just to intimidate you.
This makes sense because White has to respond correctly to each of Black’s early moves. There are a lot of traps and pitfalls to be aware of and with limited time it can be very hard for White to find the correct moves fast enough. If White makes a mistake early in the game it will often be enough to give Black a winning advantage.
On the other hand, playing the Budapest gambit in classical time control is harder. Since there’s more time to think, the chances of defending get better. However, if White is well prepared, Black will get a worse position, be it any format.
Even in classical games it can be hard for White to calculate correctly. Most players reading this article will not be GMs og IMs and below expert level you can run into quite a few different tactical ideas that often arise in the Budapest when White does not play accurate moves.
Now we know what the Black player is looking for, let’s see the best practical response to Budapest.
The Best Response to Budapest Gambit With The White Pieces
We came across a strong refutation to this opening in the book “Squeezing the Gambits” by Kiril Georgiev. It’s solid, practical and easy to remember.
We will be following a model game in this line played by Glenn Flear – Taddei Benoit, back in 2009. This will help you understand the ideas better.
Here’s how it goes –
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5!
A great chess player once said, the best way to refute a gambit is to accept it. Now Black has two options.
The dubious – 3…Ne4
This is a poor choice as pointed out in the book. After this move, we need to understand that Black’s idea is to play …Bb4+. So our next move is the prophylactic..
4.a3! (Stopping …Bb4+)
Next, White is going to develop their pieces with Nf3, Qc2 e3 and so on. So Black goes for the aggressive move with…
4…Qh4 (threatening …Qxf2#). White responds with
5.g3! Qh5 6.Bg2 Qxe5 7.Qc2 Nf6 8.Nf3 Qh5 9.Nc3.
White has a huge lead in development, good centre control and hence the position is advantageous for them.
The main move 3…Ng4
After this move, Black puts pressure on f2 and e5 pawns. We follow the basic opening principles and continue our development.
4.Nf3! (protecting e5) Bc5 (attacking f2) 5.e3 (defending f2) Nc6 6.Nc3 0-0
And here’s an important strategy for White – Don’t worry about keeping the pawn. Just develop the pieces as fast as possible. Thanks to the c4-pawn, White has extra space and more control in the centre.
The play in the game continued –
7.Be2 Ngxe5 8.Nxe5 Nxe5 9.O-O Re8
Now the problem is where to develop the c1-bishop. The e3-pawn blocks one diagonal but can we develop it through some other means? Yes it is possible to develop it on the long a1-h8 diagonal. So we fianchetto our c1-bishop with b3-Bb2. Also Black’s dark squared bishop is misplaced. You will soon find out why.
This is a typical idea for Black in this opening. They want to lift their a8-rook and bring it over to or g6. This way, they can exert pressure on our position. So our next moves become important.
11. Bb2 Ra6 12. Qd5!
A timely attack on the Black’s Bc5. Black must now choose where to retreat this piece?
Should they go 12…Bf8? This is perhaps the best, but White has a comfortable position after 13.Ne4 Rae6 14.Ng3. White will play Rd1, and think about going f4, e4 and Bf3.
Another move 12…d6, doesn’t make sense. Black’s rook on a6 can no longer get to the kingside. As a result, White keeps a small edge in the position.
Now the Black Bishop is misplaced on a7. Compare it with White’s Bb2 on the wonderful a1-h8 diagonal. White now plays:
Shutting down Black’s a7-bishop and creating the c4-square for their own bishop. Already, White’s position is very good and they went on to win the game.
The response for White shared in this article is quite easy to remember and logical. Objectively, the engine might show something stronger. But learning it would take time.
You also saw the psychology behind playing this opening. With this, we hope that you are fully equipped now to face the Budapest Gambit without any fear.