King's Pawn Opening: King's Knight, Damiano Defense

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f6

The Damiano Defense is one of the oldest openings in chess. It is not observed at top-level chess and shouldn't be played by club-level players because it is known to be a bad opening for Black. 

Starting Position

The Damiano Defense starts with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f6. Black weakens the h4-e8 diagonal leading to their king and blocks the g8-knight's most natural developing square.

The starting position of the Damiano Defense in chess
The starting position of the Damiano Defense. Black weakens their king and gets in the way of their own knight.

White has an immediate and forcing refutation of this opening that gives them at least a big lead in development. 


  • There are no advantages to playing this opening.


  • White can immediately gain a significant advantage by force.
  • White has many dangerous and objectively sound traps against this opening that can win the game immediately.

Main Variations Of The Damiano Defense

Because top players don't opt for the Damiano Defense, little theory is developed around this opening. However, there are a few ways in which White can gain a significant advantage against this opening.


The best and most forcing line against the Damiano Defense is 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f6 3.Nxe5. White immediately punishes Black's opening mistake and wins at least a positional advantage. White can quickly win the game if Black is unfamiliar with some of the traps in this variation.


Another good approach for White to deal with the Damiano Defense is 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f6 3.Bc4. White develops the bishop and attacks Black's kingside, making it difficult for Black to castle. White has a much easier time getting their pieces out and attacking Black's king.


Equally good and almost as popular as 3.Bc4 is 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f6 3.d4. White keeps developing normally and improving their grip on the center. Black will have a tough time getting their pieces out and keeping their king safe. 

History Of The Damiano Defense

The Damiano Defense is one of the oldest openings in chess. The first written record of it comes from Pedro Damiano's 1512 book, Questo libro e da imparare giocare a scachi et de li partiti. Despite the opening bearing Damiano's name, he never played the opening himself. Instead, he analyzed the opening and deemed it bad for Black. 

Because the opening gives White such a big advantage, the Damiano Defense is not seen in top-level chess. 

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