After the moves

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1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 9.Nd5 Be7 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.c3 O-O 12.Nc2

12...Bg5 is considered the main move, to preserve the Bishop pair and to activate Black's dark-squared Bishop.

But White could easily take the same Bishop with the Knight at moves 11 and 12. Why is Black allowed to preserve and activate the Bishop? What are the refutations, at least as long as plans and ideas are concerned, of 11.Nxf6 and 12.Nxf6? I don't see ...d5 as an immediate threat from Black after Knight takes f6, so White could take the Bishop and perhaps follow-up with c3-Nc2-Ne3.

2 Answers 2


Black would be thrilled if White exchanged his perfectly-placed knight on d5 for Black's bad bishop on f6. 12...Bg5 brings it to a diagonal where it's actually doing something and also makes it possible to eventually play ...f5, undermining the pawn supporting White's knight.

White doesn't play Nxf6 earlier because he'd be exchanging a well-placed piece for a badly-placed one. Note that if Black plays alternative moves on move 12 like 12...Bb7 or 12...Rb8, White still doesn't play 13.Nxf6.

  • Then, after Nxf6 either at move 11 or 12, how is Black supposed to recapture? With the Queen, or with the g-Pawn, aiming for a later f6-f5? How is Black supposed to counter-attack, giving that the d6 Pawn is backward on the open d-file? Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 14:26
  • ...Qxf6 is most natural, developing the queen, continuing to defend d6, freeing d8 for a rook, and avoiding doubling pawns. Black is well placed to fight for the d5 square with moves like ...Bb7, ...Ne7, and ...Rd8.
    – dfan
    Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 14:51
  • But isn't giving a Bishop for Knight in the opening (or relinquishing the Bishop pair) considered a small concession, if there aren't advantages of different nature for the trade: e.g. pawn structure, King safety, etc. The position is not closed. Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 17:41
  • 2
    The advantages of a different nature are that White's knight is perfectly placed and Black's bishop is bad. In this position, the White knight is a better piece than the Black bishop. If trading a bishop for a knight is so bad, why did White play 10.Bxf6?
    – dfan
    Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 18:22
  • When compared to the Kalashnikov where Black does not play ... Nf6, he often can play ... Bg5 himself, trading off his "bad" bishop for White's, thus alleviating him of a tallish pawn for a dynamic White piece. It makes no chess sense to trade the Nd5 for the Bf6. Classic bad trade and Jeremy Silman would cringe. the Nc2 is heading for e3 to support the Nd5 for starters. This doubling of the knights on d5 is strong for white. No reason to give it away freely without some sort of real compensation. dfan is 100% correct.
    – Priyome
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 18:56

In the Sveshnikov variation, Black concedes positional advantages (weak pawn in d6, and outpost in d5) for dynamical play based on: active pieces, pawn break (...f5) and dark-square play. Indeed, White gives up their black square bishop early in the game meaning that they may lack of pieces controlling black squares.

It seems not appealing to exchange the strong d5 knight against the bad bishop in f6, therefore White usually develops a classical strategy in this case: put all your pawns on the colour of the missing bishop, i.e. White will try to put pawns on black square to control some black squares and then compensate their missing bishop.

In the position you point out Black has played two other alternative moves in practice: 12...Rb8 and 12...Bb7 and against both the strongest for White is 13.h4! (scoring very well in practice).

Why White does not play 12.h4 ? Well, White need to take care of two goals: firm control of the d5 square (otherwise they have no advantage) and fight for the dark square. In case of 12.h4, Black has time to fight for the d5 square : 12.h4 Be6! 13.Nc2 Bxd5 14.Qxd5 Ne7 15.Qd3 d5! (and the d5 square and the d6 pawn are no longer a weakness).

Something similar may happen in case of 12.Nxf6, then for instance this could follow: 12.Nxf6 Qxf6 13.Nc2 Bb7 14.Ne3 Ne7 and 15...Rd8, 16...d5 cannot be prevented.

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