Chess Opening Theory/1. e4/1...Nc6

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Nimzowitsch Defence
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)
Moves: 1. e4 Nc6
ECO code: B00
Parent: King's Pawn Opening

Nimzowitsch Defence

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This somewhat uncommon move prepares the d5 push, being a kind of delayed Scandinavian Defence. After 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 Qxd5, White cannot apparently play 4.Nc3 because of the reply 4...Qxd4, however by 5.Qe2 White enters into the Marshall Gambit variation. This has been ignored by the 1.e4 Nc6 books. It may look foolish to give away a centre pawn in this way, but an editor wrote, "We admire this move. Development is everything in the opening portion of the game...Such play shows up the weakness of Black's strategy better than we can express it in words."

Frank Marshall expressed his opinion in that after 4.Nc3 Qxd4 5.Qe2, "and we have some interesting attacks but is the position worth the pawn? For my style, I like White!"

A line was also quoted stating "We think this gambit is an excellent reaction to 2...d5." However, the Marshall gambit has been checked with modern chess engines and is found to give a large advantage to the second player (though it may have some practical value).

After 1. e4 Nc6 2. d4 d5, 3. e5 is considered the main option for white. Black usually now plays 3...Bf5, and a sequence such as 4. c3 e6 will likely occur. A very interesting comparison can be made to two other chess openings, the French Defence (1. e4 e6) and Caro-Kann (1. e4 c6). In the French Defence, Black gets to play c7-c5 in one go to start direct counterplay against the white centre, but at the cost of the dark squared bishop being locked in. In the Caro-Kann, Black usually plays Bf5 before e6, but they also want to play the move c5 to strike at white's centre, which means that c6 was a "waste" of a tempo. In this position from the Nimzowitsch, Black has the bishop out, but the knight on c6, which blocks the c-pawn. Black's plans involve playing Nge7 to develop the piece and support the f5-square (white usually develops their light-squared bishop to d3), playing f7-f6 and even moving the c6-knight back to b8 and playing c7-c5 to strike at white's formidable centre. White, of course, has a good position, and the current state is that these positions are complex and unique, with a slight advantage for white. Still, Black has the ability to play for a win, which is why 2. Nf3 (offering a transposition to normal opening theory with 2...e5) has become the modern main line.

White can either play the main line 2. d4 or try to avoid complex theory with 2. Nf3 or 2. Nc3. Upon Nf3, black can play Nf6 and there will be something like Alekhine's defence.

The opening is named after Aron Nimzowitsch.

Theory table

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

1. e4 Nc6

2 3
Main line d4
Nc3 =

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  • Nunn's Chess Openings. 1999. John Nunn (Editor), Graham Burgess, John Emms, Joe Gallagher. ISBN 1-8574-4221-0.
  • BCO2
  • The Nimzovich Defence To 1.e4, Hugh Myers, Caissa, 1995
  • The Kipping chess Club Year Book, 1943-4
  • Unorthodox Openings Joel Benjamin, Eric Schiller: Batsford 1987
  • British Chess Magazine June 1899
  • Myers Opening Bulletin #3