The Cursed Knight In The Petrov
Is Petrov's Defense dull and uninspired? Not when you can quickly win a knight.

The Cursed Knight In The Petrov

GM Gserper
Oct 15, 2018, 12:00 PM |
39 | Opening Theory

Petrov's Defense is not a common opening in club tournaments. It almost doesn't exist in scholastic tournaments, either.

The reason is the opening is not very exciting, and in most lines leads to slow, positional play. Therefore, as Wikipedia puts it: "The Petrov has a reputation of being dull and uninspired."

If White manages to win, it usually happens after a long positional grind, like the next game:

Short, decisive games are uncommon in Petrov's Defense. Nevertheless, I have noticed a very interesting feature of such short games. If White wins in 15 moves or fewer, then it is practically always the result of Black losing his knight on e4! You can find many different tactics and traps in these short games, but the result is always the same: Black's centralized knight disappears!

disappearing chess knight

Let's see how it happens. 

1. The Copycat Trap

This popular trap, which we discussed almost 10 years ago, is very common in beginner games.

In the following game, Black tried to recover the lost knight by pinning White's knight on e5, but this strategy failed miserably:

Even the future world champion was not immune to a very similar trap:

This pin is the easiest way to win (or lose, if you are playing Black!) the dreaded knight, so if you get the Petrov in one of your games, watch out for it!

2. Not Paying Attention

In this article, we already discussed how one of the best opening theoreticians of his time managed to lose his game in just six moves! 

3. The Universal Opening Trap

This is one of the most dangerous opening traps that can happen in variety of openings. It should be familiar to our readers, since we analyzed it in our old article. Of course, it claims victims in Petrov's Defense as well!

4. Qd5 + Ne4

I don't know what to call this trap, so let me explain how it works. The poor knight on e4 is usually supported by the d5 pawn. So, when you attack this pawn by playing c2-c4 and eventually capture c4xd5, Black will recapture with the queen. As a result we have the queen on d5 protecting the knight on e4. The queen is not such a good defender of the knight since it can be attacked (usually by Nc3). As the result, Black loses his knight on e4!

Here is a basic example:

This idea was well known 100 years ago:

Nevertheless, even today, super-grandmasters fall into this trap!

The lesson is simple: When you play Petrov's Defense, watch out for that cursed knight on e4!

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