Openings Tactics

Nakhmanson Gambit: Refutation and Traps | 5 Minute Guide

Ok, so this is a fun one.

If you’re reading this article, you here because:

  1. You want to trap your opponents with the Nakhmanson Gambit.
  2. You are a victim of the Nakhmanson and want to know how to refute it.

I’ll cover both cases in the following! – I promise that you’ll enjoy reading about this gambit.

What’s the Nakhmanson Gambit?

The Nakhmanson Gambit occurs after the move order 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Bc4 Nf6 5. 0-0 Nxe4 6. Nc3.

nakhmanson gambit base position

Wait what? A big reason to play the Nakhmanson Gambit is to see the look of confusion from your opponent after playing the bizarre move Nc3.

But don’t just dismiss this gambit — even GM Magnus Carlsen lost a game against the Nakhmanson — although it was just a bullet game.

This gambit was “hidden knowledge” for a long time and has been popularized by the Youtube channel of Jonathan Schrantz in 2019.

What are the key ideas of the Nakhmanson Gambit?

The Nakhmanson Gambit can be achieved from common king pawn openings like the Scotch Gambit.

White gambits a knight to open lines for attack.

White will try to exploit the open lines and the weak square f7, often by sacrificing the bishop.

nakhmanson gambit bishop sacrifice

White will often use the open e-file by bringing the the rook to e1 and the half-open d-file by bringing the queen to d5.

Black will try to consolidate by playing defensively.

Objectively, black is better in all variations.

However, taking the knight with dxc3 opens up a lot of tricky possibilities for white. I don’t recommend capturing it.

Instead, I recommend the move Nd6 to refute the Nakhmanson Gambit.

Nakhmanson Gambit Refutation

This simple move gives black a winning advantage without the need to learn much theory. I will talk more about it later in the article.

What are the traps of the Nakhmanson Gambit?

There are two main variations of the Nakhmanson Gambit accepted: 6. … dxc3 and 6. … Nxc3.

Black takes the knight with the pawn

Nakhmanson Gambit Chess

The most greedy variation is also the most dangerous variation for black.

White responds by sacrificing another piece: 7. Bxf7+ Kxf7 8. Qd5+.

Nakhmanson Gambit Queen

Objectivally, Kf6 is the best move here, but leading the king to the open is unnatural. The most common response is 8. …. Ke8.

Nakhmanson Gambit King

White could immediately get a piece back with Qxe4+, but building up more pressure with 9. Re1 is the better choice.

The most common move now is 9. … Be7, which already equalizes the position because of 10. Rxe4 d6 11. Bg5.

Nakhmanson Gambit Bishop

Most players choose 11. … Rf8 here, and after 12. Rae1, white gets the advantage unless black plays 12. … cxb2.

White responds by sacrificing the queen, which leads to a draw through perpetual check: 13. Qxc6 bxc6 14. Rxe7 Qxe7 15. Rxe7+.

Nakhmanson Gambit Rook

The black king can’t escape the checks: 15. … Kd8 16. Rxg7+ Ke8 17. Re7+

Black takes the knight with the pawn

Nakhmanson Gambit Knight Capture

This variation is easier to defend for black, but still holds a lot of potential for traps.

It continues with 7. bxc3 d5 8. Bb5.

Variation Nakhmanson

Let’s take a look at the line that Magnus Carlsen fell into in his game against Brandon Jacobson.

He played the mistake 8. … dxc3?. This allows white to play 9. Re1+ Be7 10. Ne4.

Black has to play Qd6 here, but 10. … Bd7?? is the more natural move. Unfortunately, this move loses a piece.

Nakhmanson Gambit Trap

White simply exchanges the pieces with 11. Bxc6 bxc6 12. Nxd7 Qxd7 and after 13. Ba3, there is no way to defend the bishop on e7.

If you’re looking to dive deeper, take a look at this Lichess study.

How do I refute the Nakhmanson Gambit?

There are many ways to refute the Nakhmanson Gambit.

But as the black player, we want to refute this niche opening without learning tons of theory.

If you wish to take the knight with either dxc3 or Nxc3, you can do so, but you’ll have to memorize a lot of lines and refute the many tricks that white can come up with.

I don’t think that you want to do that.

Instead, 6. … Nd6 gives black an easy game and an extra pawn at the minimum.

Nakhmanson Gambit Refutation

It’s immediately clear that Nd6 is a strong defensive move because it guards the square f7. Remember, black is still two pawns up here.

The best that white can try to play here is 7. Re1+, but the simple move 7. … Be7 will cause despair for your opponent.

Nakhmanson Gambit Defense

8. Nd5 is another try to get an attack going, but after the natural moves 8. … Nxc4 9. Nxe7 Nxe7 10. Qxd4, black just gives the material back with 10. … 0-0 and is up a pawn and up in development.

Nakhmanson Gambit Theory

11. Qxc4 d5 will give you a pleasant and winning position as black.

So if you happen to face the Nakhmanson as black, just play Nd6 and get a winning position easily.

Is the Nakhmanson Gambit a good opening?

Objectivally no.

Black is better and even if you manage to trap your opponent some variations just lead to a draw through perpetual check — that’s not what you want with the white pieces.

I think that the Nakhmanson Gambit could be an interesting weapon to steal a draw or even a victory against a much higher-ranked player.

It goes without saying that it’s a great opening for fast time controls.

Last but not least, the Nakhmanson Gambit is great if you just want to have some fun 🙂

What’s the win rate of the Nakhmanson Gambit?

According to the Lichess player database, the Nakhmanson Gambit win rate is at an impressive 49% for white and at 44% for black out of 8,590 games.

Fortunately, if you have read my article, you’ll have no problem in contributing to the black win rate 🙂

Which players use the Nakhmanson Gambit?

Chess personalities like Eric Rosen or Jonathan Schrantz like to use the Nakhmanson Gambit in casual games.

I doubt that they play it in serious games though!

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