|Moves||1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4|
|Named after||William Davies Evans|
The Evans Gambit is a chess opening characterised by the moves:
The Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings has two codes for the Evans Gambit, C51 and C52.
The gambit is named after the Welsh sea Captain William Davies Evans, the first player known to have employed it. The first game with the opening is considered to be Evans-McDonnell, London 1827, although in that game a slightly different move order was tried (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.0-0 d6 and only now 5.b4). In 1832, the first analysis of the gambit was published in the Second Series of Progressive Lessons (1832) by William Lewis. The gambit became very popular shortly after that, being employed a number of times in the series of games between McDonnell and Louis de la Bourdonnais in 1834. Players such as Adolf Anderssen, Paul Morphy and Mikhail Chigorin subsequently took it up. After Emanuel Lasker's simplifying defense to the opening in a tournament in 1895, it was out of favour for much of the 20th century, although John Nunn and Jan Timman played some games with it in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and in the 1990s Garry Kasparov used it in a few of his games (notably a famous 25-move win against Viswanathan Anand in Riga, 1995), which prompted a brief revival of interest in it.
The Evans Gambit is an aggressive variant of the Giuoco Piano, which normally continues with the positional moves 4.c3 or 4.d3. The idea behind the move 4.b4 is to give up a pawn in order to secure a strong centre and bear down on Black's weak-point, f7. Ideas based on Ba3, preventing Black from castling, are also often in the air. According to Reuben Fine, the Evans Gambit poses a challenge for Black since the usual defenses (play ...d6 and/or give back the gambit pawn) are more difficult to pull off than with other gambits. (Interestingly, Fine was beaten by this gambit in a friendly game against Bobby Fischer, in just 17 moves: Fischer-Fine 1963 1-0.)
The famous Evergreen game opened with the Evans Gambit.
The most obvious and most usual way for Black to meet the gambit is to accept it with 4...Bxb4, after which White plays 5.c3 and Black usually follows up with 5...Ba5 (5...Be7 and, less often 5...Bc5 and 5...Bd6, the Stone Ware Variation, are also played). White usually follows up with 6.d4. Emanuel Lasker's line is 4...Bxb4 5.c3 Ba5 6.d4 d6 7.0-0 Bb6 8.dxe5 dxe5 9.Qxd8+ Nxd8 10.Nxe5 Be6. This variation takes the sting out of White's attack by returning the gambit pawn and exchanging queens, and according to Fine, the resulting simplified position "is psychologically depressing for the gambit player" whose intent is usually an aggressive attack. Chigorin did a lot of analysis on the alternative 9.Qb3 Qf6 10.Bg5 Qg6 11.Bd5 Nge7 12.Bxe7 Kxe7 13.Bxc6 Qxc6 14.Nxe5 Qe6, which avoids the exchange of queens, but reached no clear verdict. Instead White often avoids this line with 7.Qb3 Qd7 8.dxe5, when Black can return the pawn with 8...Bb6 or hold onto it with 8...dxe5, though White obtains sufficient compensation in this line.
Alternatively Black can meet 6.d4 with 6...exd4, when White can try 7.Qb3, a move often favoured by Nigel Short. 7.0-0 is traditionally met by 7...Nge7 intending to meet 8.Ng5 or 8.cxd4 with 8...d5, returning the pawn in many lines, rather than the materalistic 7...dxc3 which is well met by 8.Qb3 with a very dangerous initiative for the sacrificed pawns. Alternatively 7...d6 8.cxd4 Bb6 is known as the Normal Position, in which Black is content to settle for a one-pawn advantage and White seeks compensation in the form of open lines and a strong centre.
Alternatively the gambit can be declined with 4...Bb6, when 5.a4 a6 is the normal continuation. But due to the loss of tempo involved, most commentators consider declining the Evans Gambit to be weaker than accepting it, then giving up the pawn at a later stage. Also, Black can play the rare Countergambit Variation (4...d5), but this is thought to be rather dubious.
However, in the book My System, Aron Nimzowitsch states that by declining the gambit Black has not lost a tempo, since the move b4 was, in the sense of development, unproductive, "as is every pawn move, if it does not bear a logical connection with the centre. For suppose after 4...Bb6 5.b5 (to make a virtue of necessity and attempt something of a demobilizing effect with the ill-moved b-pawn move), 5...Nd4 and now if 6.Nxe5, then 6...Qg5 with a strong attack."
After 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3, the Bishop must move or be captured. The common retreats are listed here, with the good and bad sides of each:
According to Chessgames.com, this is Black's most popular retreat. It gets out of the way of White's centre pawns, and pins the c3 pawn if White plays 6.d4, but it has the disadvantage of removing the a5-square for the black queen's knight. Black usually subsequently retreats the bishop to b6 to facilitate ...Na5, which is particularly strong when White opts for the Bc4, Qb3 approach.
According to Chessgames.com, this is the second most popular retreat, with White scoring better than after 5...Ba5. This is often played by people unfamiliar with the Evans Gambit, but is arguably not as good as 5...Ba5, because 6.d4 attacks the bishop and narrows down Black's options as compared with 5...Ba5 6.d4.
This has often been considered one of the "safer" retreats, and has been played by Viswanathan Anand. After 6.d4 Na5, White can attempt to maintain an initiative with 7.Be2 as played by Kasparov, or immediately recapture the pawn with 7.Nxe5.
This is called the Stone-Ware Defense after Henry Nathan Stone and Preston Ware. The move reinforces the e5-pawn and has been played by several grandmasters such as Andrei Volokitin, Alexander Grischuk and Loek van Wely.
This is called the Mayet Defense and is played very rarely.