Queen’s Gambit Vs King’s Gambit: Which Is Strongest?

There are so many openings in chess to choose from and only so many hours in the day to study them and work out which you want to use in your game. One of the big debates from a new player’s perspective is whether to put your efforts into learning the King’s Gambit or Queen’s Gambit, first?

Which is stronger, the Queen’s Gambit or the King’s Gambit? The Queen’s Gambit is one of the strongest possible openings for white and it probably has no equal. There could be an argument for other gambits that are stronger (such as the Blackmar-Diemer gambit) but you’re less likely to lose games with the Queen’s Gambit.

This is not the whole story and there’s a strong case for the King’s Gambit in many instances. Let’s take a look at both openings and see why.

Queen's Gambit vs. King's Gambit - ChessPulse.com
Queen’s Gambit vs. King’s Gambit – ChessPulse.com

What Is The Queen’s Gambit?

The queen’s gambit is a chess opening of just three moves. It begins:

  1. d4           d5
  2. c4

That’s it. It is one of the oldest openings in chess and it can be traced back as far as the 15th century where it is mentioned in a text known as the “Gottingen Manuscript” (it’s in Latin not German though as it was written at a university which would have been sponsored by the Catholic church at the time and Latin was the preferred language of academia).

It started to become popular in the 1920s and 1930s for the modern game and it remains a popular choice of opening today.

How Popular Is This Opening?

Very, It’s hard to quantify exactly how often it is used but given that NTL World rates the Queen’s Gambit as the best possible opening for white because it results in 40 wins and 36 draws out of 100 games – that is it generates 58 points/100 games for a white player, it’s likely to be the most popular opening for many players with the white pieces.

This is 0.5 points ahead of the Blackmar Diemer Gambit and 1.5 points ahead of the Ruy Lopez. It’s a considerable advantage though the Blackamr Diemer Gambit might be preferred by players who like more decisive games – you ought to win 49 games out of 100 with that, but only draw 16! To give you 57 points from 100.

Which Side Does This Opening Benefit?

As we’ve already seen, there’s no doubt about this – the Queen’s Gambit is white’s best opening and thanks to the huge number of potential variations of this opening, it will take a while for you to become a master of the opening but it’s going to be worth mastering if you want to hit the top ranks of chess players.

What Is The Purpose Of The Opening?

The Queen’s Gambit is a fairly terrible gambit. This is because the offer of the c-pawn is almost always declined as it’s very easy for white to gain a bit positional advantage or to recapture a black pawn and make the material even again.

But that means it’s a fairly terrible gambit for black, for white it allows for easy development of the center and provides an early positional advantage that can often be impossible to overcome. We have examined whether or not black should accept or decline this gambit here.

What Are The Downsides Of The Queen’s Gambit?

There are very few weaknesses to this opening. Though both sides may need to do some uncomfortable position trade offs as the game develops, the advantage to white is so overwhelming that it is clear that a good player ought to be making use of the Queen’s Gambit on a regular basis.


What Is The King’s Gambit?

The King’s Gambit is almost identical to the Queen’s Gambit, but it takes place on the King’s side of the board. It starts:

  1. e4           e5
  2. f4

As with the Queen’s Gambit this opening appears to be nearly as old as the modern game. It’s mentioned in the work “Recepticion de Amores y Arte de Ajedrez” which was published in 1497. And for a very long time it was one of the most popular openings in chess, much more so than the Queen’s Gambit.

Had you played in the late 19th century; the odds would have been excellent that your opponent would have dragged this move set out sooner rather than later.

How Popular Is This Opening?

Today, however, things have changed. The King’s Gambit appears on neither white’s or black’s lists of strongest or weakest openings at NTL World. In fact, it’s almost never seen at all at the master’s level of chess and there’s good reason for this as we shall see next.

Which Side Does This Opening Benefit?

Black. While the Queen’s Gambit is a masterpiece for white, the King’s Gambit is not. It’s fairly easy for black to reach equality with this opening and thus masters of the game tend to avoid it.

However, we should note that a lower ranked player might rejoice at this news. This is because when an opening is considered “meh” by the players at the top of the game, much of the rest of the game then decides to reject it too.

The King’s Gambit when deployed against a player with the black pieces who has not studied it well, can be used to devastating effect. It’s also easier to learn than the Queen’s Gambit with fewer variations.

In fact, we might go so far as to say that for a beginner, this is going to be a much better opening than the Queen’s Gambit, you’re going to find that your opponents are unprepared for it and that you can quite easily carve out space and positional advantage on the board against them. It won’t win every time but then, no opening does, but it might win far more often than the overall statistics suggest that it will.

You can always put it to one side when you are a bit farther up the ratings and have had more chance to study and master the Queen’s Gambit.

What Is The Purpose Of The Opening?

The idea is that if black accepts the gambit that it accepts a weakened position and it may even struggle to retain the pawn that it gained during acceptance. Of course, weakening the king’s side position in the early part of the game can offer white a distinct strategic advantage which against weak players can be accelerated into an early midgame and endgame advantage too.

What Are The Downsides Of The King’s Gambit?

There are weaknesses to the gambit that allow the opponent back into the game where they would not be able to get back against the Queen’s Gambit. However, for newer players this is probably not a big issue and while it’s not in favor as an opening at the highest-level players such as Nigel Short and Hikaru Nakamura are still fans.


Overall, Should I Play The King’s Gambit Or The Queen’s Gambit?

If you’re just starting out in chess – the King’s Gambit seems the best way to begin. But if your rating is heading to the 1500-ish level then you might want to start putting more eggs in the Queen’s Gambit’s basket.


Conclusion

If you play chess at the highest levels, then there is no doubt – the Queen’s Gambit is the strongest opening. But then, if you play chess at the highest levels, you already knew that and wouldn’t be reading this article. For those of us less gifted (or less hard working) players, then there can be a very good case made for bringing out the King’s Gambit in your games.

Firstly, it’s important to know that everyone knows the Queen’s Gambit is white’s best opening. Thus, everyone studies it. If you’re going up against a player who’s a bit stronger than you, the odds are good they know it better than you do. Secondly, because the King’s Gambit can be well defended against by black, it doesn’t mean that they will and if your opponent hasn’t studied the lines of this gambit – it can be frighteningly effective.

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