One of the oldest and most well-known openings in the chess world, the Queen’s Gambit earliest mention was in the Gottingen manuscript of 1490. The opening was later given full analysis by masters in the 17th century, such as Gioachino Greco. In the 18th century, the opening was recommended by Phillip Stamma and has sometimes been referred to as the Aleppo Gambit in his honour. During the earlier period of modern chess, the queen pawn openings were not fashionable and so the Queen’s Gambit was not seen commonly during tournaments until the 1873 tournament in Vienna.
Siegbert Tarrasch and Wilhelm Steinitz developed chess theory and increased the appreciation of positional play, causing the growing popularity of the Queen’s Gambit, peaking during the 1920s and 1930s. It was played in all but two out of the 34 games played during the 1927 World Championship matches between Jose Raul Capablanca and Alexander Alekhine.
International chess activity diminished during World War II, but when chess playing resumed afterwards, the Queen’s Gambit saw diminished usage, with many black side players moving away from symmetrical openings, preferring to use Indian Defences to combat queen pawn openings. Despite having less popularity, the Queen’s Gambit is still frequently seen amongst high level play and remains an important opening strategy for many grandmasters.
The Queen’s Gambit consists of two opening moves, moving the D and C pawns forward two spaces. The white player threatens to exchange their c pawn for a centre pawn in order to dominate the centre of the board with e2-e4. Although this is not a true gambit, as the black side player cannot hold their pawn, the naming convention has stuck.
The Queen’s Gambit is divided into two separate categories based on the response the black player takes with his pieces: the Queen’s Gambit Accepted and the Queen’s Gambit Declined. When the gambit is accepted, the black side player gives up the centre line in order to obtain freer development. When the gambit is declined, the black side player typically aims to hold d5, frequently this will mean that the black side player will be cramped, but the player will aim to exchange pieces in order to free his game.
There have been a number of variations on the gambit that have been developed over the years by a number of masters and grandmasters. A large number of the variations are based on defences against the gambit, with one of the most well-known being the Slav Defence. The Slav Defence was developed and analysed as early as 1590, but was not given full attention until the 1920s, when many Slavic masters started to develop the defence fully, including Alapin, Alekhine, Bogoljubov, and Vidmar.