Elephant Gambit Chess Opening

Elephant Gambit is a King’s Pawn Opening that starts with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5. Black’s second move looks logical from the perspective of opening principles.

Black moves his center pawn challenges opponent’s center pawn and opens up a way for his bishop. But this opening doesn’t really work too well for black. Perhaps that is why, before today you may not even have heard of this opening.

White simply takes on d5 pawn with 3.exd5. Now black can play 3…Qxd5. This leads to a situation similar to Scandinavian defense but with the inclusion of black’s e5 and white’s Nf3. That is only in favour of white.

After 4.Nc3 Qa5 5.d4, white has a significant advantage in development. This position is far worse than Scandinavian defense because here black’s e5 pawn has become an immediate target and an anchor for white to develop his pieces rapidly.

For example, the game can go 5…Bb4 6.Bd2 exd4 7.Nxd4 Qe5+ 8.Qe2 Qxe2 9.Bxe2 Nf6 10.0-0-0 0-0 11.a3 Bc5 12.Bg5 and as you can see, white is ready to attack while black’s queenside forces are still asleep.

Black plays 3…e4

As the name gambit suggests, black doesn’t really intend to take on d5 immediately, but rather play 3…e4. But after 4.Qe2, black has to find resources to defend the pawn that he just advanced.

Here, 4…Qxd5 5.Nc3 loses the e4 pawn. Black can play 4…Nf6 5.d3. And now again it is hard to defend the pawn on e4. After 5…Qxd5 6.Nbd2 (6..Nc3 allows 6…Bb4) Bf5 and here, find a tactic that wins a piece for white…

7.dxe4 Nxe4 8.Nh4 and white attacks bishop on f5 which defends the pinned e4 knight. If black plays 8…g6 then 9.Nxf5 gxf5 10.f3 wins the piece.

It is true that black can play 7…Bxe4 to avoid losing pieces immediately. But then white plays 8.Ng5 Qxg5 9.Nxe4 Qe5 10.Nxf6 gxf6 11.Bf4 Qxe2 12.Bxe2 and white have a clear advantage. White’s pieces are better developed and black’s kingside pawn structure is ruined. Even though the material is equal, white has almost a winning advantage.

If black plays 5…Bf5, then simply 6.dxe4 Bxe4 7.Nc3 Qe7 8.Nxe4 Qxe4 9.Qxe4 Nxe4 and white is simply a healthy pawn up.

If black plays 5…Qe7, then black is never regaining the gambit pawn. White simply plays 6.dxe4 Qxe4 7.Qxe4 Nxe4 with an extra pawn for no compensation.

And lastly, if black plays 4…Qe7 instead of 4…Nf6, then also white happily keeps his extra pawn with 5.Nd4 Nf6 6.Nc3

And Just for the record, white can play 2.Nxe5 Bd6 3.d4 dxe4 4.Nc4 Nf6 5.Be2 but he doesn’t get as much of the advantage as he would get by taking 2.exd5. Therefore it is better to accept the gambit and enjoy an extra healthy pawn simply.


The elephant gambit is most certainly not a good choice for serious tournament games. In most lines, white keeps an extra pawn without giving any compensation at all. On the other hand by playing 3…Qxd5, black gets a really worse variation of the Scandinavian defense. Therefore, as black you can only try this opening in fun blitz games to tease your opponents. But it should not ever be considered a serious choice of opening.

Harikrishnan A

I am an International Fide Rated player with 10+ years of experience. Played many International Chess Tournaments and Commonwealth games.

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