Danish Gambit Deferred

The deferred version of the Danish Gambit is not a well-known theory line. The Danish Gambit is a White gambit line in the King Pawn Openings, and the Goring Gambit is a similar gambit line (with extra moves “Nf3 Nc6” played before “d4”). Usually White plays c3 early in both of these gambits, to set up an accepted gambit pawn. But instead of playing c3 immediately, White may defer the move, although the opening will usually transpose to some other opening, such as the Goring Gambit, Scotch, or Bishop Opening. This line is a combination “Danish Gambit Deferred” or a “Goring Gambit Deferred”, as both these lines involve gambiting the c3 pawn.

This interesting idea is to play the moves of the Goring Gambit (Nf3 and d4), but in reverse order, with 2..d4 first. Then instead of Qxd4 (the Center Game, a dubious opening for White), White can play 3.Nf3 instead, leaving the d4 pawn attacked but not yet captured.

Diagram: Danish Gambit / Goring Gambit, Deferred c3 Line

White might then capture the pawn with Nxd4, or play c3 with a gambit line similar to the Goring Gambit or Danish Gambit lines.

Why this move order? White might like to avoid the Petrov Defence, by forcing Black to play exd4 early, thereby transposing to one of the non-Petrov defences in the King Pawn Game (see anti-Petrov lines). The Bishop’s opening might be a simpler way to avoid the Petrov. Although Black can still play Nf6 and reach a Petrov line, White has forced Black into “exd4” lines and has avoided the main Nxe4 lines against “3.d4” in the Petrov, and so White can vary into the Urusov Gambit.

Black has various replies from this position:

Let us examine each of these Black replies.

Diagram: Danish Gambit Deferred with 3..Nc6

Line 3..Nc6: After 3.Nf3, Black can play 3..Nc6 which will transpose into a Scotch Game (if white plays 4.Nxd4), or may reach the main lines of the Goring Gambit by transposition if White plays 4.c3.

If White plays 4.Bc4 instead, then its called the “Scotch Gambit”, when 4…Bc5 may reach the Max Lange Attack, and 4..Nf6 reaches the Two Knight’s Defence, and with “4.d4 exd4” and then “5.Nxe4 O-O” is an old line and 5.Ng5!? is the Perreux Variation. Possibly Black has a better line after 4.Bc4 and more analysis is needed (Black could try to hold the d4 pawn with Bc5 and Qf6, for example).

Diagram: Danish Gambit Deferred with 3..Nf6

Line 3..Nf6: If Black plays 3..Nf6 (instead of 3..Nc6), then it’s actually a Petrov line (1.e4 e5, 2.Nf3 Nf6, 3.d4 exd4), but White may instead play “4.Bc4” transposing into the Urusov Gambit, a line in the Bishop’s Opening (usual move order: “1.e4 e5, 2.Bc4 Nf6, 3.d4 exd4, 4.Nf3!?), which may further transpose into a Two Knight’s Defence (after Black plays Nc6). By forcing an early exd4 by Black, White has avoided the main lines of the “3.d4 Nxe4” Petrov lines.

Diagram: Danish Gambit, Deferred c3 Line (with 3..Nf6 and 4.e5), Petrov Line by transposition

Alternatively, White might try “4.e5” which reaches a Petrov variation by transposition (the Petrov move order is “3.d4 exd4, 4.e5”). This is not the main line of the “3.d4” Petrov (that move order is “3.d4 Nxe4”), so this move order may have crossed Black up. That line of the Petrov is nevertheless still a theory line, so it’s not a big opening trap, but is quite playable for both sides.

White might even think to venture “4.c3!?” (although the e4 pawn is attacked).

Diagram: Danish Gambit, Deferred c3 Line (with 3..Nf6 and 4.c3)

Line 3..d5: Black might also consider “3..d5” which is a common response to numerous similar lines (e.g. in the “c3 Sicilian” or “Danish Gambit Declined”). Black takes advantage of the fact that White must pause to capture the "d’ pawn.

Diagram: Danish Gambit, Deferred c3 Line with 3..d5

After exd5 Qxd5, c3, the position looks like a “c3 Sicilian” line by transposition, with White having played Nf3.

Diagram: Deferred c3 Line with 3..d5, 4.exd5 Qxd5, 5.c3 line

Diagram: Deferred c3 Line with 3..d5, 4.Qxd4

But here, instead of “4.exd5”, White might consider “4.Qxd4!?” instead. It certainly looks interesting with lines like “4..Nc6 5.Bb5“ or “4..dxe4 Qxe4+” or “4…dxe4, 5.Qxd8+ Kxd8, 6.Ng5” or “4..Nc6 5.Bb5 dxe4, 6.Bxc6+ bxc6, 7.Qxd8+ Kxd8, 8.Ne5”. But there’s no clear win for White. More analysis is required.

Diagram: Danish Gambit, Deferred c3 Line with 3..c5

Line 3..c5: Note that if Black attempts to hold the d4 pawn more directly with “3..c5”, then “4.c3” looks like quite a stronger version of the Goring Gambit, where Black has weakened d6 and d5 squares, and the move c5 just looks like a waste of time.

Diagram: Danish Gambit, Deferred c3 Line with 3..Bc5

Line 3..Bc5: After Nf3, Black can play Bc5 which may reach a Scotch Game if Black plays Nc6, or may reach some independent lines if Black avoids Nc6, such as by playing Nf6.

Diagram: Danish Gambit, Deferred c3 Line with Bc5

The Bc5 line starts to look like a Max Lange Attack if White plays c3 (instead of Nxd4). Black could capture the c3 pawn, or can aim for a Max Lange Attack by playing Nc6 and Nf6.

Diagram: Danish Gambit, Deferred c3 Line becomes a Scotch Gambit / Max Lange Attack

Maybe White has a better option in this line, or indeed maybe Black does too, so it needs more analysis. Note that after 4..d4xc3, then White has 5.Bxf7+ and 6.Qd5+, winning back the pawn, although the line ends up equal.

Diagram: Danish Gambit Deferred with 3..Bb4+

Line 3..Bb4+: After 3.Nf3, Black may play 3..Bb4+ when “4.c3 dxc3 5.Nxc3” is like a Goring Gambit with “5..Bb4” (and Nf3 by White), or other options include “5.bxc3!?” or “4.Bd2!?”. These are not well-known lines and more analysis is required.

So to summarize, an apparently simple reversal of move orders leads to a position that may transpose into any of these openings:

Ironically, not on the list is “Danish Gambit” despite this page being titled “Danish Gambit Deferred”. Really a better name would be “Goring Gambit Transposition”.

References: MCO 15, page 142, note (a).