After 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 h6 4. d4:

[FEN "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 h6 4. d4

What is the best answer to avoid pile up of opponent pieces in the center as black? Especially after Nc3 and 0-0, this position sometimes gets awkward as it's difficult for the black queen to find a suitable square that both defends the king and attacks the opponent.

  • 9
    3... h6? Seriously, who are you playing against?
    – Glorfindel
    Commented May 14, 2016 at 22:27
  • 1
    "What is the best answer to avoid pile up of opponent pieces in the centre? Namely, Nc3 & 0-0. " This is very difficult to understand what you mean. Are you after ideas for White or for Black? Also, no need to rush ...h6 in these lines. Bg5 from White is not the end of the world for black. Develop the light pieces and castle first, let the queen stay on d8 until it's easier to determine where it should go.
    – Scounged
    Commented May 15, 2016 at 0:10
  • 2
    Grandmaster Blatny experimented with 3... h6 in the 90's. Commented May 15, 2016 at 0:25
  • @Glorfindel h6 is a mistake? I think not, whole idea is to stop the night to jump on g5 square, then it can attack f7, takin a pawn & forkin rook & queen. I hope I'm clear now.
    – Sollosa
    Commented May 15, 2016 at 8:16
  • I've tried to make your question clearer by editing it. Please feel free to re-edit if I've misunderstood what you're asking.
    – DTR
    Commented May 17, 2016 at 18:23

2 Answers 2


3...h6 is not a mistake, but it's certainly not the best move in the position.

In the opening, one of your goals is to develop your pieces, and ...h6 doesn't do this. The only point of ...h6 seems to be to avoid the line 3...Nf6 4.Ng5, but this line is not dangerous to black at all. Play can continue 4...d5 5.exd5 Na5, and black will have good compensation for his pawn in this well known line.

The reason you may experience difficulties as black after 3...h6 is because you don't achieve any activity with h6, and you let white take control over the center with 4.d4. This is a Scotch Game / Scotch Gambit where white has the useful move Bc4, while black has the much less useful h6.

Thus, you should not play 3...h6 as black, but instead either 3...Nf6 or 3...Bc5 as black, which take control of the center and activate your pieces. These openings, the 2 knights (Nf6) and Giucco (Bc5) are very solid openings for black.

Finally, even though a GM used to experiment with this line, it doesn't mean you should play it. Hikaru has played an early 3.Qh5 before in open games (1.e4 e5), but that doesn't make the move good. If black responds properly, white will have no chance to secure an opening advantage. While Hikaru can outplay many GMs even in worse positions, for non-master players, there's no reason to play a sub-optimal opening that has no surprise value (unlike 1.b4 or 1.g4, which can catch opponents off-guard). Thus, one of 3...Bc5 or 3...Nf6 is what you should do.

*If you are set on playing 3...h6, then you will have to accept a slightly worse position as black. He has wasted time with h6, and gives white an opening edge. An awkward queen might be one of these problems.

  • I meant to avoid Nf6 against black actually, things may get bad with night eyeing on g5, then f7, no?
    – Sollosa
    Commented May 15, 2016 at 8:22
  • 1
    As Alex explained in his good answer, the Ng5xf7 maneuver is nothing to fear. As White, I can already see plans of a kingside attack based upon the easily attackable h6 pawn. If you want to avoid Ng5, play Be7 first, then you can castle before the f7 pawn is attacked.
    – Mike Jones
    Commented May 15, 2016 at 10:22
  • Click "...d5 the main line" here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… . You'll find some very nice variations to deal with people who like to play Ng5 early.
    – Harambe17
    Commented May 15, 2016 at 22:13
  • 2
    @Sollosa 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 is OK for Black, but maybe not to your taste. Still no reason to play 3...h6. Instead play 3...Bc5 and 4...Nf6, and if White plays 5.Ng5 you just castle and everything is fine. Alternatively you can play 3...Be7 or 3...d6.
    – bof
    Commented May 17, 2016 at 22:44
  • As a player of 4.Ng5 myself, I'll just tell you that as Black you'd better know exactly what to do after 4....d5 5.exd5 Na5 6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc6 bxc6 8.Qf3, because the "natural" responses 8...Bb7 and 8...Bd7 are not the best (for Black).
    – Jeff Y
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 16:04

I've done a lot of analysis on this line. At one time I almost sat down and wrote out a complete refutation for the entire line with the intent of publishing it online. I got stuck on the line 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 h6 4. d4 exd4 5. c3 dxc3 6. Nxc3 Bb4 7. O-O Bxc3 8. bxc3 Nge7 though. In my opinion this is black's only chance at equality. I think white is still better but the advantage is small and it's impossible to prove an advantage through analysis. Still I've won a ton of games with 9. Nh4. White has other options at move 9 and the advantage of the two bishops combined with a lead in development so proving equality with black is probably equally impossible.

  • 5.Nxd4 and White has a solid durable advantage
    – David
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 9:46

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