Evan’s Gambit Theory (Accepted and Declined) | A Definitive Guide

When accepted, Evan’s Gambit is one of the most aggressive gambits I’ve seen in chess.

In this guide I’m going to walk through all of the main variations to the Evan’s Gambit so you can win more of your games.

Mastering the concepts and understanding the rationale behind this opening will double your wins as White when your opponent answers with e5.

I have personally tried every variation you’ll see in this guide.

Let’s get started.

What is the Evan’s Gambit?

The Evan’s Gambit is a variation of the Italian Game in which white brings their bishop to c4 on move 3.  White can now castle quickly as all of the kings’ side minor pieces are developed.

The Evan’s Gambit is named after William Davies Evans, who is said to be the first played to use this aggressive white opening back in 1827.

evans gambit original position
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4

Black begins the game by mimicking all of white’s moves, and with good reason.  Both players are attacking the center and following all of the major chess opening principles.

The gambit begins with the move b4.

What is a Gambit?

A gambit occurs when you give up a piece, generally a pawn, for a better position.  Gambits are effective because a great position is everything in chess. However, if you fail to take advantage of your superior position, you won’t be able to fall back on your pieces since you’ll be behind.

With gambits, you usually create an all or nothing scenario because if you don’t succeed, you will be behind the rest of the game.  The goal of a gambit is to win the game outright, or gain a major advantage that turns into gaining material over your opponent.

The move that begins the gambit is 4. b4 which attacks black’s bishop, causing it to react, and thus move twice.  The bishop can move away and decline the gambit, but we’ll be looking at variations where the bishop takes the pawn.

The reason white gives up this pawn is because it distracts black’s piece and pulls it away from the center.  Even better, white can build up an attack on the center with more tempo on the bishop after 5. c3, as we’ll see.

The general way to accept the gambit is for the bishop to recapture the b pawn.  However, the knight can also take the pawn. This will be lumped into the major variation on move 7. Bc5 that we will explore later as it revolves around the same idea.

What are the Main Ideas of the Evan’s Gambit Opening?

  • Keep the black king from castling
  • Don’t worry about how many pawns you have lost
  • Keep attacking
  • Every move should create pressure for your opponent
  • Maintain your positional edge

If you don’t recall any of these exact moves detailed in this guide, don’t worry!  Memorization is never my intention in any of my guides or videos

Instead, focus on the main ideas of the opening and you’ll start to remember variations as you play this chess opening more.  I hope that the many visualizations in this guide will help you to remember positions to aim for, not necessarily the moves that led to that position.

I also recommend using every skittles speed chess game you play that opens with 3…Bc5 as an opportunity to play Evan’s Gambit so you can learn what new variations come about.  Bear in mind, there will be moves your opponent’s play outside of this guide, as chess is completely unpredictable.

Mistakes and Why Evan’s Gambit is so Precise

You may think that the above scenarios are not common and your opponent will not memorize as many lines and ideas to play perfectly.

To that I say, you’re absolutely correct.

Any level below grand master has chess mistakes, inaccuracies and blunders all over the place.

A common move when you don’t know what to do at lower levels is to play h3, h6, a3, or a6.  Let’s take a look at why there simply isn’t time to play that for black in this opening.

An opponent I played on LiChess who played H6

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. d4 exd4 7. O-O

View Notation

Here we have a very common occurrence where black played everything correctly so far.  5…Ba6 and 6…d6 are logical moves and follow our annotations. However, black makes an honest mistake next.

7…h6?

mistake h6 move

Of course, even players who study the Evan’s Gambit will want to prevent what is to come with move like Bg5 and Ng5, but this is simply not able to be done in this opening.  In fact, none of the variations in this article recommend h6 for black.

The problem is that white has given up a pawn for development and taking away black’s ability to castle.  7…h6 does not help black castle or combat the overpowered center white has built up. White should follow with:
9. Qb3 Qe7
mistake h6 Qe7 move

Better is Qd7, but not by much.

Again, a logical move for black as the f7 pawn must be protected.  However, the queen coming off the d8 square means that the ideas behind attacking the a5 bishop come alive again.  All that has to be done is kicking the knight. This comes easily as we have a strong center with:
10. d5!
mistake h6 d5 move

Nd8 11. Qa4+

mistake h6 d5 qa4 move

And the bishop is lost after the king is in check and must be stopped.

Variations your opponent can play when the gambit is accepted:

In general, the first 6 moves are the same for white and black in this opening.  There are almost no variations if you are playing the Evan’s Gambit.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Bxb4 5. c3

evans gambit move 5

Since the bishop is under attack after 5. c3, black needs to move his bishop so the variations we will be exploring are:

5…Ba5 (Click to view article)

evan_s gambit 5...ba5

5…Bc5 (Click to view articlen

evans gambit Bc4 variation

5…Be7 (Click to view article)

evans gambit be7 variation

Other variations that don’t make sense in general are:

  • 5…Ba3 – the bishop is just lost
  • 5…Bd6 – the bishop is blocking the d pawn, which is key in many openings to attack the center and develop the light squared bishop.
  • 5…Bf8 – the bishop’s starting square.  You almost never want to develop a piece just to put it back in its starting position.
  • 5…Any other move – The bishop is lost after 6. cxb4.

Click to view more indepth analysis and games for any of these variations. Ba5 is the most common followed by Be7. Often, Bc5 variations can turn into the same lines as Ba5.