Two Knights Defense - Steinez Variation- White plays Nh3
Dec 27, 2012, 3:22 PM 1
This is the starting position of the Two Knights Defense that is reached after 1. e4 e5; 2. Nf3 Nc6; 3. Bc4 Nf6;
From this position the main line is 4. Ng5. White starts an immediate attack against f7, common weak square in open games. Of course since Black has done no mistakes so far there's nothing to worry about, nonetheless I advise that Black studies a couple of GM games in this defense because if Black does not know how to play the position he can easily end up with a lost game as soon as move 8. Black must do something to defend and the best recipe is a counter attack in the center. Black will push 4. .. d5 blocking the diagonal to f7. In the main line Black will go as far as sacrificing a pawn to neutralize White's early attack getting as compensation an advantage in space and development. White must develop carefully or risking to be wiped out.
You can appreciate that in the final position of the game above Black pieces are dominating the board. In fact white resigned a few moves later.
So, after Black pushes d5 White recaptures on d5 with the pawn attacking the Knight on c6. Black at this point has many options, including 5. .. Nd4; and 5. .. b5; and the main line 5. .. Na5. I don't feel very comfortable playing this variation because the Knight is misplaced and Black will have to waste a tempo to get it in play.
Black sacrifices a pawn. From this position play usually continues 6. Bb5+ c6; 7. dc6 bc6; 8. Be2
For the pawn Black has a lead in development and a space advantage. Black must act promptly and energetically because it's clear that the game must be concluded in the middlegame, Black wouldn't survive an eventual endgame. Black will usually chase the Knight on g5, create a bind on d4 by playing c5 and relocating the Knight on c6 or b7 (depending if he has played c5). White must be careful and delay playing d4 because that push could give Black a too big advantage (since it's Black who has more space and time advantage). Black usually will make everything possible to deprive White of the right to castle or conceding it under favorable circumstances. After 8. .. h6; White usually retreat the Knight to f3, as in Kritz - Rozentalis given above. Another example is
In the game I played White chose 9. Nh3, the Steiniz variation, typical play is demonstrated in the following game
In my game i decided to play another idea instead of the main line 9. .. Bd6 that is 9. .. g5. This move has the intent of exploiting the position of the Knight on h3, preparing a kingside attack with the push g4 and discouraging White from castling.
Notice that in the position before 9. .. g5 is considered bad for Black exchanging the Bishop for the Knight on h3. It's true that White's king-side is damaged but practice has demonstrated that Black will hardly be able to exploit the fact. After 9. .. g5 Black usually fianchettos the bishop on g7, castles, and then launches the kingside attack.
And finally my game.
As you can see from my game White lost a game playing natural moves. I think the critical point was that White didn't play d4. That is a push that White must really play, in any open game but especially in this game it was an evident necessity.
The position is really hard to play as Black, if White plays correctly the game is about who has more compensation for the many problems both players have to suffer. I think learning to play the Two Knights Defense is highly instructive. I don't think I'll play again the 9. .. g5 variation, it's too risky.