Chess Opening Theory/1. e4/1...e5/2. Nf3

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King's Knight Opening
a b c d e f g h
8 a8 b8 c8 d8 e8 f8 g8 h8 8
7 a7 b7 c7 d7 e7 f7 g7 h7 7
6 a6 b6 c6 d6 e6 f6 g6 h6 6
5 a5 b5 c5 d5 e5 f5 g5 h5 5
4 a4 b4 c4 d4 e4 f4 g4 h4 4
3 a3 b3 c3 d3 e3 f3 g3 h3 3
2 a2 b2 c2 d2 e2 f2 g2 h2 2
1 a1 b1 c1 d1 e1 f1 g1 h1 1
a b c d e f g h
Position in Forsyth-Edwards Notation(FEN)

rnbqkbnr/pppp1ppp/8/4p3/4P3/5N2/PPPP1PPP/RNBQKB1R

Moves: 1. e4 e5 2.Nf3
ECO code: C40-C99
Parent: Open Game

King's Knight Opening[edit]

2. Nf3[edit]

Black's valuable center pawn is threatened with capture, but White's pawn remains safe. The question for Black at this point is whether to challenge White's e4 pawn or support his own pawn.

  • 2...Nc6 is the natural move, combining defence of the pawn with control of the d4 square and refusing to commit another pawn. The extent of this move's popularity is such that the typical player of 2. Nf3 as White is already thinking beyond it to their third move, safe in the knowledge that any variation by Black will play into their hands.

In fact Black has a few other options, though all have their downsides.

  • 2...d6, Philidor's Defence, is the other safe option to defend the pawn. It restricts the f8 bishop to the e7 square, and grants White an advantage in territory, but it builds a fortress that cannot be easily battered down.
  • 2...f6?, Damiano's Defence, is a wasted move. After 3. Nxe5, the knight cannot be captured as 3...fxe5 4. Qh5+ g6 5. Qxe5+ is most embarrassing. Black's best play is 3...Qe7, but white still has the better game.

If Black decides to go after White's pawn, he has:

  • 2...Nf6, Petrov's Defence. Black refuses to be cramped, but his symmetrical tendencies are unlikely to lead to a very active position either, unless White feels compelled to try and win the game by breaking the symmetry.
  • 2...f5?!, the Latvian Gambit. The Latvian Gambit is perhaps the most vocally disagreed-about opening in chess. Depending on who you read, Black has either lured White into a minefield of tricks and traps leading almost inevitably to a violent death, or given away a pawn for nothing.
  • 2...Qe7, the Câmara Defence. The idea here is a possible transposition to the King's Indian Defense by following up with moves like g6, Bg7 and d6 or c6.
  • 2...d5?!, the Elephant Gambit. It is generally considered unsound, because if White plays accurately Black does not get sufficient compensation for the sacrificed pawn. However, if White doesn't play accurately, Black's position can soon become overwhelming. It is considered sounder yet less dangerous than the Latvian Gambit.

Statistics[edit]

Estimated next move popularity
Nc6 83.5%, Nf6 11%, d6 4%, f5 0.5%, other less than 0.5%

Theory table[edit]

For explanation of theory tables see theory table and for notation see algebraic notation

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3

2 3 4 5
Ruy Lopez ...
Nc6
Bb5
a6
Ba4
Nf6
O-O
Be7
=
Petrov's Defence ...
Nf6
Nxe5
d6
Nf3
Nxe4
d4
d5
=
Philidor Defence ...
d6
d4
exd4
Nxd4
Nf6
Nc3
Be7
+=
Latvian Gambit ...
f5
Nxe5
Qf6
d4
d6
Nc4
fxe4
+=
Elephant Gambit ...
d5
exd5
Bd6
d4
e4
Ne5
Nf6
+=
Câmara Defence ...
Qe7
Bc4
d6
O-O
g6
d4
Bg7
+=
Greco Defence ...
Qf6
Bc4
Qg6
Nc3



+/-
Damiano Defence ...
f6
Nxe5
Qe7
Nf3
Qxe4
Be2

+/-

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References[edit]

  • Nunn's Chess Openings. 1999. John Nunn (Editor), Graham Burgess, John Emms, Joe Gallagher. ISBN 1-8574-4221-0.
  • Batsford Chess Openings 2 (1989, 1994). Garry Kasparov, Raymond Keene. ISBN 0-8050-3409-9.