The Urusov Gambit is a rare King’s Pawn Opening beginning with 1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d4

 

Urusov Gambit

 

While rarely seen in professional chess, the Urusov Gambit can be a fun way to get a great attacking position with white. It’s easy for black to go wrong if they’re unprepared for this opening!

 

 

Let’s take a look at how the game can progress. Black has to choose which pawn, if any, they would like to take.

3…Nxe4?! is not a great move by black, because of 4. dxe5

Bad Urusov Gambit

White already has some dangerous threats involving Qf3 or Qd5, with a double-attack on the knight and the f7 square!

It’s easy for black to go wrong here. For example, 4…Nc6?! 5. Bxf7+! Kxf7 6. Qd5 and white regains the piece with interest. Black generally doesn’t want any part of this line.

 

3…Nc6 has been tried, but white can either transpose to a line from the Italian with 4. Nf3 or simply play 4. d5 to grab a space advantage.

 

Black’s most popular move by far is to play 3…exd4

Urusov Gambit Main

Now, 4. Qxd4?! Nc6 and 4. e5?! d5 aren’t pleasant for white, as shown in the video above. White’s best move is the surprising 4. Nf3!, just finishing up kingside development and offering to sacrifice the e4 pawn.

Now black has to make a choice.

Urusov Gambit Declined: 4…Nc6

Urusov Gambit Declined

If black does not wish to accept the Urusov Gambit, then …Nc6 is their most logical move. This transposes directly into the main line of the Scotch Gambit. Keep this in mind if you want to play the Urusov Gambit as white – you’ll need to learn how to play this opening as well!

Urusov Gambit Accepted: 4…Nxe4 5. Qxd4 Nf6 6. Bg5 Be7 7. Nc3

Urusov Gambit Accepted

For a small investment of one pawn, white has quite a large lead in development. Computers are optimistic about black’s chances here, but in practice, white has scored well from this position.

White wants to continue by castling queenside and bringing the h-rook to the e-file, when every one of white’s pieces will be very active.

7…c6 is black’s main move, intending to play …d5 next, grabbing the center and blunting white’s bishop. (7…Nc6 8. Qh4 is a valid alternative, covered in the above video).

Now after 8. 0-0-0 d5, white doesn’t have to save the bishop right away. White can play 9. Rhe1

Rook active

This move pins the bishop to the king, so 9…dxe4 is not possible due to 10. Qxd8#! All the white pieces have reached their optimal squares of development.

After 9…Be6, 10. Qh4 can be played, swinging the queen over to the kingisde and allowing the rook to pin the pin to the queen. 10…Nbd7 is black’s most natural follow-up, developing their last minor piece and breaking the pin at last. Surely white has to retreat the light bishop now?

Perhaps not yet! White can charge forward with 11. Nd4, sacrificing a bishop!

Nd4 Urusov Gambit

White threatens to meet 11…0-0 with 12. Rxe6! fxe6 13. Nxe6, winning back material, so what is black to do?

Perhaps castling anyways is most prudent, but surely accepting white’s sacrifice is a critical try. Let’s look at what happens after 11…dxc4

White can play 12. Nxe6 fxe6 13. Bxf6 Bxf6 (13…gxf6 might be more resilient, but after 14. Qh5+ the black king can’t castle and white has a strong attack) 14. Rxe6+ Kf8 (14…Kf7? 15. Qxc4 is no good. The king will have to move again) 15. Qf4!

Urusov Gambit Sacrifice Line

White’s down a full piece, but has all the play. The black pieces are completely uncoordinated (what can black play here?), and white has the immediate threat of Red6, winning the pinned knight. White stands much better.

Conclusion

The Urusov Gambit is a fun, offbeat line that can give many opponents trouble. It might be prudent for black to decline this gambit if they’re unprepared for it, as there’s certainly nothing wrong with going back into the Scotch. If black accepts the Urusov Gambit, white can easily generate a big attack.

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Blake

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