Three Knights Game

Oct 11, 2013, 7:09 AM |

The Three Knights Game is a chess opening which most commonly begins with the moves:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Nc3

In the Three Knights Game, Black chooses to break symmetry in order to avoid the main lines of what is often considered the drawish Four Knights Game after the usual 3...Nf6.

After tries such as 3...d6 or 3...Be7, White can play 4.d4, leaving Black with a cramped position resembling Philidor's Defense. If Black plays 3...Bc5 instead, White can eliminate Black's outpost at e5: 4.Nxe5 Nxe5 5.d4 Bd6 6.dxe5 Bxe5. Since tournament praxis shows the line seems to favor White, Black usually plays 3...Bb4 or 3...g6. Continuations then are typically 3...Bb4 4.Nd5 and 3...g6 4.d4 exd4 5.Nd5.


Another alternative for Black is 3...f5!? – the Winawer Defense (or Gothic Defense). Then 4.Bb5 transposes into the Schliemann variation of the Ruy Lopez with 4.Nc3.

The Three Knights is almost never seen at master level nowadays, as Black players have sought more active tries, even within the Four Knights.

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