There seems to be a pretty nifty attack for White after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f6:

[FEN ""]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f6 3.Nxe5 fxe5 4.Qh5+ g6 5.Qxe5+ Qe7 6.Qxh8

I've played as White with this opening several times, always to my advantage (usually Black panics and plays 4 ... Ke7, soon after which he finds ample reason to resign). But once someone played as shown above, and went on with

6. ...     Nf6,

to try and put my queen on the spot. Presumably he intended to follow up with moves such as ...b6, ...Bb7 or similar, ...Nc3 or similar, ...O-O-O, and then ...Bg7 forcing Qxd8. Since it was a blitz game, best play was not made, and he made a mistake allowing my queen to escape, but it got me thinking. Is there some way Black can recover from 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 f6?

My question especially regards 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 f6 3. Nxe5 fxe5 4. Qh5+ g6 5. Qxe5+ Qe7 6. Qxh8 (as shown above) - is there a way to trap White's Q? Or is 3... fxe5 simply a bad move? Should 2... f6 be avoided altogether?

  • I put the damiano in Houdini and white has a plus 3 advantage – user2535 Feb 22 '14 at 21:53


1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f6 3.Nxe5 fxe5 4.Qh5+ g6 5.Qxe5+ Qe7 6.Qxh8 Nf6

with ideas of trapping the queen, 7. d3 followed by Bg5 or Bh6 and there won't be any issues getting the queen out, e.g.:

7.d3 d5 8.Bg5 Nbd7 9.Nc3 b6 10.0-0-0 Bb7 11.e5

Black can try to minimize the damage after 2...f6? with something like 3.Nxe5 Qe7

You aren't losing the exchange any more, but you've still destroyed your position with ...f6.

2... f6 should be avoided.

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White has a forced win of a bunch of material after either 4... g6 or 4... Ke7, but if you're into silly "psychological" justifications for moves, you could argue that 4... Ke7 makes White think a little harder to find the win, while Black can prep it.

4. ... Ke7 
5. Qxe5+ Kf7 
6. Bc4+ d5
7. Bxd5+ Kg6
8. h4 h6

This is the only line that leaves White with an overwhelming advantage; for instance, one game between relatively weak players continued:

8. Qg3+? Qg5
9. Qxc7 Ne7
10. Qd6+? [h4!] Kh5

(Feng-Sloan 2010)

After which Black looks hopeless...

chess diagram

...but is actually just bad.

However, you may already know that if White plays correctly up to 8 ... h6, they have a killer 9th move that picks up material. Here's a diagram as an exercise for the reader:

chess diagram


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  • +1 Excellent answer - this strikes a chord with me, as I've analyzed (pencil and paper) 4. ... Ke7 pretty deeply, especially 6. ... Kg6? instead of d5, where White must win after 7. Qf5+ Kh6 (forced) 8. d4+ g5 (or 8... Qg5 9 Qxg5#) 9. h4! and White threatens 10. hxg5+ (double check!) Kg7 (forced) 11. Qf7# and Black must lose much material in order to avoid it. For instance, if 9. ... Qe7 or Qf6, then White wins the queen with 10. Bxg5+, or if the N moves, 10 Qxg5#. Naturally 9. ... Be7 would not impede White's original threat. Etc, etc, etc... I love this stuff. – Daniel May 24 '12 at 1:28

This opening is also known as the Damiano Defense and it is just bad.

In the line you gave, where black plays 6... Nf6, white's best plan is to play d3 and Bg5. Black can't move the bishop because it is pinned (so the queen can't be trapped until black castles).

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No, the Damiano Defense does not lose by force so it's not a bad opening.

If you analyze it with a computer you won't be able to find a variation that wins for white against best play.

After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f6 3.Nxe5, playing 3...fxe5 will lose for black but playing 3...Qe7 will hold the game. For example check out the game Fischer vs McGregor, 1964 (here's a version with commentary on YouTube), which ended in a draw.

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  • 4
    That the Damiano doesn't lose by force does not save it from being a bad opening. It immediately leads black to a significantly worse position than alternatives like 2. ... Nc6 or 2. ... Nf6. It is bad. – ETD May 23 '12 at 23:33
  • @EdDean How do you define this worse position you are talking about? Most chess people, when talking about a worse position refer to a position in which one side has a small advantage that has good chances of converting into a win. That advantage could be in space, material or activity. In the Damiano Defense, white has neither of those. When you're saying that it's bad, please provide more than an opinion an other popular alternatives. – Valentin Brasso May 24 '12 at 7:25
  • Fair enough. If black is to keep material even, then white will in fact gain a lead in development and more active pieces (for instance, by gaining time against black's queen -- see e.g. the position after 12. Nc3 in Fischer-McGregor), and the move f6 has weakened black's kingside and taken away development options from the g8 knight unnecessarily. "Most chess people" recognize these sorts of minuses as enough reason to avoid the Damiano, especially since there are more sensible alternatives (and since you mentioned computers, engines give white a healthy plus too). – ETD May 24 '12 at 11:48
  • And while proof by authority certainly shouldn't be trusted too much, the fact that no top player ever, ever, ever plays the Damiano (or would even consider doing so) in a game that matters really is a good indicator of its worth. – ETD May 24 '12 at 11:50
  • 1
    Down-modded for the ridiculous statement that if something doesn't lose by force it's not bad – user76 Jan 25 '13 at 21:20

The damiano cannot protect the pawn and weakens kingside. Just say, damiano himself is pretty annoyed by it getting named after him.

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