A couple years ago I heard IM Danny Rensch mention in a live blitz video on Chess.com that an early d5 is often a good plan for Black in the King’s Gambit. For some reason it has taken all this time for me to look at the move.
In Danny’s game he was referring to meeting e5 with d5 (which happens in the Scotch Gambit and the Giuco Piano as well, so it’s a good pattern to know). But, as with many defenses in King Pawn openings, d5 can be a key move for Black if he can achieve it under favorable circumstances. So I’ve often thought about analyzing an early d5 for Black in the King’s Gambit Accepted variations but hadn’t really done so (note that I’m not talking about the Falkbeer Countergambit, which I like for Black, but that is where Black plays d5 without accepting White’s pawn sacrifice on f4).
What Got Me Thinking About This
Today I was faced with a King’s Gambit, and as I often do, I accepted the gambit and went for a Fischer-Defense-type setup with pawns on d6, h6, and g5. This is a slow approach for Black that ensures a small advantage in all lines but that can allow for extremely sharp counterplay for White with early h-pawn pushes. Although I was able to win this game, it was scary in the beginning, and I hate giving White so much initiative (which is why I often consider not taking the pawn to begin with and going back to the Falkbeer Countergambit or the Adelaide).
In the postmortem analysis, an interesting position came up where I could play d5 (18…d5!), and that triggered my old memory of Danny’s comment. S0 I went back to the starting position and checked out some computer suggestions for the beginning of the game.
How to Play against the Bishop’s Gambit
It turns out that, against the Bishop’s Gambit (when White plays Bc4 before Nf3 in the King’s Gambit Accepted), an early d5 is a strong continuation for Black, ensuring, at the very least, a slightly better position for Black. White’s responses to this move are limited, and it will be very difficult for him to get the kind of attack he’s looking for. And what I really like about the early d5 for Black is that you avoid all of those crazy h-pawn lines (because you will quickly get in Qh4+ under favorable circumstances).
In another video I’ll have to look at d5 in the Nf3 lines, but for today, let’s see how effective d5 can be against the Bishop’s Gambit. After this analysis, I think I’m ready to start playing this in my games from now on (at least, when Bc4 comes before Nf3!).
Edit: My final comment about being up a pawn of course is incorrect, as in the early d5 lines Black gives back a pawn to speed up development and create some favorable lines.