Have you thought of a surprise weapon for your blitz games? Something lively, aggressive, and easy to learn that poses a lot of difficulties for 1.e4 players? So here I have a proposal: Why not try the Portuguese Gambit?
Why play this Gambit?
This variation is aggressive, which usually annoys the white player a lot. Despite not being objectively 100% correct, even in the most boring line of facing the black player will have good practical chances, which is extremely useful. Even between masters games the main line is not played, so we will always have practical chances.
The main idea of the Gambit is to sacrifice the d5-pawn in exchange for rapid development. There are some cool themes for you to remember, in case you get into unfamiliar positions or forget about our recommendations.
Portuguese Gambit Idea #1: Pressure on the d4-pawn
This idea is quite typical when white does not enter the main line, accepting the pawn. In Scandinavian, Black has this objective: Increase the pressure on the d4 pawn, developing with …Nc6,..O-O-O and …e5, as the example below shows:
8…e5! Increasing pressure on White’s centers.
Portuguese Gambit Idea #2: Where to take the Queen?
As we know, in Scandinavian Black can end up wasting a lot of time with the Queen (which is one of the Scandinavian clear flaws). But where would it be best to take the Queen when attacked? Along those lines, there are two very typical squares for the Queen to go: f5 and h5.
For example, here Black has the idea of playing with 5…Qh5, increasing the pressure on the f3 knight and in the center.
Here the Queen on f5 helps to control the h7-b1 diagonal, and ideas like 9…Nb4 comes up.
Portuguese Gambit Idea #3: We’re not here to take pawns
When we sacrifice material, the idea is to have a positional advantage in return, and this is no different: Many times we will sacrifice our king’s position to increase our lead in development:
The key move here for Black is not to waste time recovering some of the material, but to further increase the fire in White’s position with 6…Nc6! . White can argue with 7.exf7+ Kxf7 and say “Aha! Your King is exposed and can no longer castle!” and we’ll retort with “Yeah, but do you have pieces to explore that? I’ll play with …Bb4+ and …Re8, put the King on g8, and use my pieces.” We have a good argument!
Now that you know the typical ideas of this Gambit, it’s time for a base repertoire for you to take your first steps! Let’s delve into 4 lines: 4.Bb5+,4.Nf3,4.Be2 and 4.f3.
Easiest to deal with 4.Bb5+
Against this check, we’re going to run with our development, playing 4…c6 5.dxc6 Nxc6, and we have great compensation for the pawn.
Most played: 4.Be2
A natural development move, but one that allows us to maintain material balance. Let’s continue with 4… Bxe2 5.Qxe2 Qxd5 6.Nf3 e6, and we will develop with …Nc6 -…Be7, with a very solid position.
Another normal development move, and a little more ambitious as it keeps more pieces on the board, but also allows us to develop more smoothly 4…Qxd5 5.Be2 Nc6 Preparing the O-O-O move and trying to fit the break …e5, which is very typical as we have seen before.
Portuguese Gambit: The critical 4.f3
That’s the critic: White counters Black’s development with a counterattack, and asks what we’re going to do. Let’s play with 4…Bf5 and the main move here is 5.Bb5+ . And here we have an important point:
Historically speaking, the leading move is 5…Nbd7 and it has a whole established theory. Here I would like to propose the strange move 5…Bd7!?. It is a move that is not played much and has similar ideas to the spirit of the Gambit, which is to sacrifice material in exchange for development. So, for example, after move 6.Bxd7+ Qxd7, Black has two pieces developed against none of White’s and will sacrifice the pawn with …e6, and run with the development. It seems like a cool alternative to start playing this Gambit.
Among the main players who tried to play this Gambit are IM Rui Damaso (who is Portuguese!), GM David Smerdon and GM Sergei Krivoshey.
The Portuguese gambit is very dangerous.. In blitz then, the surprise factor is much greater! But openings are not everything: how about expanding your knowledge of mate patterns? I hope you enjoyed it and see you in the next article! See you soon!