Budapest Gambit: A Dangerous Weapon against 1. d4

The Budapest Gambit is one of my favorite openings to throw my opponents offtrack.

If your opponent doesn’t know how to respond to it, you can quickly develop a serious advantage.

What’s the Budapest Gambit?

The Budapest Gambit is a chess opening that occurs after the move order 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e5.

budapest gambit chess opening main position

At first sight, the move 2. … e5 seems completely insane. However, after 3. dxe5 black can play very natural opening moves and put the white pawn on e5 under pressure.

The first known game of this opening was played in 1896 in Budapest, where it got it its name from, in a match between the players Adler and Maroczy. After that, it was popular among top players in the 1920s, but nowadays it’s rarely played among masters.

What are the main lines of the Budapest Gambit?

After 3. dxe5, the natural move is 3. … Nb4, evading the attack of the pawn and threatening to win the pawn back.

Black plans to continue to add pressure on e5 by eventually playing moves like Nc6 or Qe7.

Bildschirmfoto 2020 09 21 um 21.46.34

Here, many white players already choose to play an inaccuracy. 4. Bf4 is the best move. 4. Nc3 is inaccurate because 4. … Bc5 puts pressure on the f2 pawn and forced white to play 5. e3, which limits the white dark-squared bishop.

budapest mistake

Instead, let’s look at 4. Bf4.


Black follows up with 4. … Nc6. An intuitive move that develops the knight and attacks the e5 pawn. After 5. Nf3, black follows up with 5. … Bb4+.

Budapest gambit chess main line

Black develops the bishop with a check and prepares the move Qe7. White has two ways to respond: Nbd2 and Nc3.

6. Nbd2 can lead to a famous opening trap that I want to show you today.

After 6. … Qe7 7. a3 Ngxe5 we reach the following position:

budapest opening trap

Can’t white just take the bishop with 8. axb4?

I hope that you answered this question with no because black can respond with 8. … Nd3#!

budapest gambit checkmate

A beautiful checkmate, but I have to say that none of my opponents ever fell for this trap.

Let’s finish our look at the mainline and look at 6. Nc3, the most often played move. After 6. … Qe7 7. Qd5, black has the chance to create an isolated doubled pawn with 7. … Bxc3 bxc3.

budapest final

This gives black some compensation for the pawn, but I don’t want to give you false hopes: White is objectively better in this position.

Is the Budapest Gambit a good chess opening?

The Budapest Gambit is an excellent chess opening — if your opponent doesn’t know it or can’t find the best answer. If white doesn’t play the optimal variation, you’ll enjoy a good position with lots of tactical potential and unusual maneuvers.

However, if white knows the optimal lines against the Budapest, you’ll be fighting for a draw as black.

That’s why I think that the Budapest is a good opening choice for amateur players or as a blitz weapon. If you’re looking to achieve good results against opponents that have 2000 ELO points or more, I don’t recommend playing the Budapest Gambit.

This chess opening doesn’t scale as you progress through chess. For example, if you learn the Nimzo-Indian Defense, you can start learning it at the 1200 ELO level and still play it if you’re at 2400. Learning the Nimzo will give you a lifelong repertoire. If you decide to fully rely on the Budapest, you’ll hit a roadblock at some point where you just won’t see success with the opening anymore.

Therefore, if you like the ideas of the Budapest Gambit, learn it as a “back-up plan”, but don’t fully rely on it for your opening repertoire.

If you enjoyed the Budapest Gambit, you’ll also enjoy my articles about the Scotch Gambit and the Accelerated Dragon.