Openings for Tactical Players: the Two Knights Defense.

Openings for Tactical Players: the Two Knights Defense.

GM Gserper
Oct 2, 2009, 12:00 AM |
24 | Tactics

Last week when we discussed the Urusov Gambit, we learned that the safest option for Black was to transpose the game to a very old and reliable line of the Two Knights Defense.  What an attacking player should do in this case? Well, the position after 1.e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d4 exd4 has been extensively analysed for centuries and the most dangerous White's tries have been successfully neutralized.  It is enough to say that the main line was analyzed up to a pawn endgame!  Yet, there is always a way to stir a game into uncharted (or at least unknown for your opponent) territory. The first interesting moment arises after the customary 5.0-0 Nxe4 moves. White has what appears to be a totally crazy move: 6.Nc3!!?

 

In many cases if your opponent isn't prepared for this unexpected move, White gets a tremendous attack as the next beautiful game shows.
In the next game a strong IM got checkmated in just 12 moves!!
Of course we all know that if something looks too good to be true, usually it is! If White gets such a tremendous attack right out of the opening, why not everyone and his brother plays this tremendous line?  Well, because this line is just bad for White. The refutation is quite simple. If Black doesn't get greedy and instead of grabbing the material just finishes his development by 6...Nxc3 7.bxc3 d5 he simply keeps his extra pawn. That's why I gave 6.Nc3 two exclaims (for the beauty and surprise value) and a question mark for the real value of the move. So, the variation is unplayable, right?  Not necessarily. If you notice, the previous game was played in a blitz tournament and that's why a strong IM fell victim of this tricky line. I hope you got the idea. When your opponent has no time to calmly evaluate the position (which frequently happens in blitz), this variation can be a dangerous weapon, otherwise it cannot be recommended. (read more about good and bad traps in my article "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly").
But the question still stays. You are playing a regular tournament game and you don't want to bluff.  How should you play in this case?  Here is another surprising line that is not played frequently (at least for the last 50 years or so) and isn't refuted. It started with a classical brilliance that was featured in all  opening manuals and which was won by Black!
But White's play can be improved, as the next game shows.
As you can see, even in such an old opening as the two Knights Defense, you can always find a less explored path.
Next time we'll look at the same opening from the Black's point of view!
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