Duras Gambit

Chessboard showing the Duras Gambit with the moves 1. e4 f5 played
Play against Stockfish

To say that the Duras Gambit is an unorthodox opening is quite an understatement. Giving up a pawn, on move one, without any compensation, certainly takes courage.

Not only do you give up a pawn, you give up the f pawn which can leave your king vulnerable to attack. So why would anybody play the Duras Gambit? Well the only positive aspect of the opening is that white in 99.9% of cases never had to face 1… f5 before and will be out of opening theory on move two.

According to Stockfish black is behind -1.7 in the starting position of the gambit. So it is no surprise the opening sees very little play in professional matches. The position has been reached only two times. Shockingly one of those games was won by black.

Learn the Duras Gambit

Do you feel brave enough to play this gambit? Let’s look at the starting position of the opening:

The starting position of the Duras Gambit from the perspective of black
The position after the brave move f5

By sacrificing our f pawn we give up an important pawn for our immediate king safety. What do we get in exchange? Very little to be honest. One could argue that we weaken whites center by removing one of the center pawns from their central position, but that’s about it.

In most cases the game continues with 2. exf5 Nf6. After white captures the free pawn we have to defend the weaknesses left by moving the f pawn. Without the knight on f6 we would be open to a check by the queen on h4.

Queen check on h5, interposed by the g pawn
The position after not playing Nf6 and trying to interpose the check with the g pawn.

In the above position we can resign. We cannot recapture the pawn with our pawn because that would drop our rook. This is the reason we have to play Nf6. The only other way to answer the queen check is by moving our king to d7. Which is better than the position above, but still not a very pleasant move to make.

So if there is any theory, if you can call it that, you should know before deciding to play this opening; it is to play Nf6 after white captures the pawn.

Black playing e6 in the Duras Gambit, trying to free the white bishop
A typical position after e6

This is a typical position in the Duras Gambit. We just played e6 to free our bishop. After this move we have to get castled as soon as possible! White will also castle soon and have a rook on the open e file. If, at this point, our king is still stuck uncastled in the middle we will face more tactics that would immediately lose us the game. The bishops on the e file will have no pawn defending them, and they will be pinned to our king. So I repeat, get castled as soon as possible!

That’s about it what you can learn about the “opening theory” in the Duras Gambit.

In conclusion, this opening is not for the faint of heart. You will play with fire, without any real compensation for your troubles. Have fun playing it, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Play against Stockfish

Play the Duras Gambit
Play against the Duras Gambit

Do you want to try out the Duras Gambit? Train this opening against Stockfish.

Play against Stockfish either as white or black and explore the opening.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Duras Gambit sound?

No! The Duras Gambit is anything but sound. In this opening black gives up their f pawn without any compensation to speak of. Not only that, black has to play accurate not to fall into tactics losing the game immediately.