Yesterday Anish Giri played the scotch opening at the Tata Steel Tournament with the strange looking move(to me) 5.Nf3.

[fen "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Qf6 5.Nf3

What is the idea/plan behind this move after retreating the knight immediately. From my point of view i would assume the knight is better placed on d4 than on f3.

Can white even hope to have an opening advantage after this move?

  • 2
    I'm not a GM so I'll put my guess rather than answer ... On d4 the knight is just inciting cheapos against b2 and f2, especially after something like 6 Be3 Bc5. After Nf3 white is safe as houses and can start thinking about gaining time by chasing Black's Queen about with ideas like Bg5 and Nc3-d5
    – Ian Bush
    Jan 18, 2017 at 10:06
  • 2
    4... Qf6 is also not the most common move. Jan 18, 2017 at 10:39
  • Only Giri can tell, but I'd guess the main ideas were: 1) play something unusual that the opponent is not as familiar with; and 2) keep pieces on the board in order to complicate positions (avoid draw playing with white against a "weaker" player) Jan 18, 2017 at 12:04
  • 1
    @DagOskarMadsen After 4... Qf6, 5 Nf3 is even rarer. Most games go either 5 Nxc6 Bc5 or 5 Be3 Bc5 which transpose back into two main lines after 4... Bc5. Hence I think 5 Nf3 isn't a serious move to gain advantage, but if you are not familiar with 4... Qf6, 5 Nf3 removes tactical weakness on d4 and white is of course not behind.
    – jf328
    Jan 18, 2017 at 13:49
  • 1
    @DagOskarMadsen Stockfish recomments 8.Nxc7+.
    – bof
    Jan 23, 2017 at 4:41

3 Answers 3


After 4....Qf6, both 5.Be3 and 5.Nxc6 are likely to transpose to 4....Bc5: 5.Be3 Bc5 and 5.Nxc6 Bc5. Instead, 5.Nf3 seems to be an interesting alternative, with chances to obtain an advantage. It worked quite well for Giri, as he was pressing the entire game.

After 5.Nf3, black should probably be able to equalize. Andreikin played the precise 5....Bb4+ and the game continued 6.c3 Bc5 7.Be2 d6 8.0-0. Black followed up with the logical 8....Nge7, but ended up in a worse position after 9.b4 Bb6 10.Bg5. Note that 9....Nxb4 or 9....Bxb4 doesn't work because of 10.Bg5. Instead, 8....a6 and 8....Qe7 (to play Nf6) are probably better alternatives, after which black should be able to keep the balance.

Actually, one can also wonder why black would give white the opportunity of 5.Nf3 by playing 4....Qf6 instead of 4....Bc5. Two possible reasons are:

  • After 4....Qf6 5.Nxc6, black wants to play 5....dxc6, instead of 5....Bc5. This way, he can still chose between Bb4, Bc5 or Bd6.
  • Black doesn't like the position after 4....Bc5 5.Nb3 Bb6 6.Nc3 Nf6

      [StartPly "7"]

      [FEN ""]
      1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Qf6 (4...Bc5 5.Nb3 (5.Be3 Qf6)(5.Nxc6 Qf6) Bb6 6.Nc3 Nf6) 5.Nf3 (5.Be3 Bc5)(5.Nxc6 dxc6 (5...Bc5)) Bb4+ 6.c3 Bc5 7.Be2 d6 8.O-O Nge7 (8...a6)(8...Qe7) 9.b4 Bb6 (9...Nxb4 10.Bg5)(9...Bxb4 10.Bg5) 10.Bg5

  • What's wrong with 6. c3 after 5. Be3 Bc5? Jan 20, 2017 at 14:55
  • Absolutely nothing, it is the main line. But I didn't discuss 5.Be3 Bc5 any futher as it immediately transposes to 4....Bc5.
    – Maxwell86
    Jan 20, 2017 at 18:22
  • What's wrong with 5.Nb3 or 5.Nb5?
    – bof
    Jan 21, 2017 at 5:17
  • Absolutely nothing, they're interesting alternatives as well. But the question was about 5.Nf3, so I didn't consider 5.Nb3 or 5.Nb5.
    – Maxwell86
    Jan 21, 2017 at 7:58

They're playing on the extremely high level and opening preparation is amongst the things they invest the most of their time so they're always searching for the new ways to spice the game up and thus increase their chances for the victory.I don't think there's a deep idea behind Nf3.

  • Thx for your answer. That was my also my first guess, but maybe i'm just missing something.
    – Don
    Jan 19, 2017 at 9:14

Well, the knight on d4 is attacked, so you have to do something about it. So:

  • Exchange on c6: certainly possible, if black recaptures with a pawn he gets a double pawn, but on the other hand gains a tempo for developing the light square bishop.

  • Defending via Be3: also possible, but you might develop that bishop later on to a better place like g5 without losing a tempo.

  • Defending via c3: possible, but that's blocking the natural place for the Nb1

  • Nb3: Naa, don't like it. It looks a little too passive to me, although it's probably perfectly playable.

  • Nf3: Why not? The knight is out of trouble, after Nc3 you can bring your bishop to g5 kicking the queen with tempo, also defending the king after castling king side and it's placed absolutely harmoniously on f3.

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