I played as white against Owen's defence from black, which is seen as being quite dubious. After 21 moves, we agreed to a draw.

My question is, how could white have extracted an opening edge here?

[FEN ""]

1. d4 e6 2. e4 {2. c4 is also played in the Horwitz defence, but I wanted to aim for the French, as I used to play it as black} b6 3. Nf3 Bb7 4. Bd3 Nf6 5. Qe2 Bb4+ 6. c3 Be7 7. O-O h6 {This was the first move that surprised me, so I chose 8. Nbd2 and 9. Re2 simply because they were thematic, as I couldn't see a way to punish 7...h6} 8. Nbd2 d6 9. Re1 Nbd7 10. e5 {I'm not too sure about this move, but my plan was to make a few trades to play Nd2-f3 to liberate the dark square bishop. I also thought the open d-file could be useful} dxe5 11. Nxe5 Nxe5 12. dxe5 Nd5 13. Be4 c6 14. Nf3 a5 15. Rd1 Qc7 16. c4 Nb4 17. a3 Na6 18. Be3 c5 19. Bxb7 Qxb7 20. Rd3 O-O 21. Rad1  1/2-1/2
  • 1
    I'd say you DID get an opening advantage! Thanks to black's inaccurate play (5...Bb4+, 7...h6) you got easy development, control of the center, and no counterplay to worry about. What more do you want out of the opening?! It was more in the middlegame where your advantage started to slip.
    – Nate
    Commented Apr 5, 2017 at 22:07

5 Answers 5


Black's opening play doesn't look good. This is more passive and dubious than a normal Owen's.

The suggestion of 10. Nf1 followed by 11. Ng3 is a good one and should give white a nice advantage.

But I believe black should be punished harder for their passive play. Perhaps 8. e5 Nd5 9. a3!?.

[FEN ""]
[StartPly "17"]

1. d4 e6 2. e4 b6 3. Nf3 Bb7 4. Bd3 Nf6 5. Qe2 Bb4+ 6. c3 Be7 7. O-O h6 8. e5 Nd5 9. a3!?

Black has to worry about the knight on d5 getting trapped. After 9... c5 10. c4 Nc7 11. dxc5 bxc5 12. Nc3, white obtains a better position than they usually get in Owen's.

[FEN ""]
[StartPly "23"]

1. d4 e6 2. e4 b6 3. Nf3 Bb7 4. Bd3 Nf6 5. Qe2 Bb4+ 6. c3 Be7 7. O-O h6 8. e5 Nd5 9. a3!? c5 10. c4 Nc7 11. dxc5 bxc5 12. Nc3

Black's kingside looks really weak.


I really don't like 10. e5 which makes black's bishop on b7 strong, gives black an outpost for his knight on d5 and makes you lose control of the center. There is no need to force anything in the center. Instead of 10. e5 I'd consider regrouping your pieces, e.g. the knight from d2 could go via f1 to g3. Or you could try to create some weaknesses on the queenside by playing a4-a5. Or you could prepare a kingside attack playing h3 (which is useful even without kingside attack).


I do not believe that you should have agreed to a Draw after move 21)Rad1 since this is too early . If you compare the position of the Pieces White's pieces are ready for a K-side onslaught . The pawn is on e5 . I remember the great Alexander Alekhine stated that " When the pawn is on e5 White should attempt a K-side attack " . The Black Queen is somewhat misplaced and cannot come immediately to K-side for any rescue . Black has little to do on Q-side . From White Bf4,Nd2->Ne4 and then sac on f6 and then swinging Rook on g3 and Queen on h5 will definitely tie Black down . The Paws g4 h4 are also a part of White's arsenal .

One more thing : 10)e5 is just too early here . You could have delayed e5 for a moment and maneuvered Nf1 -> Ng3 .


Getting a substantial advantage in the opening against this type of system is very difficult in general, since Black's position is designed to cope with various direct attacking attempts from White. So the best course of action I'd reckon is to try and get a space advantage, and optimize your own piece placement. This is easier to accomplish, since Black isn't really trying to challenge White at all in the opening.

Consequently, I agree with user1583209 about the move 10.e5. This move is trying to clarify the situation in the centre by force, which is not in line with the approach of building up your position. You don't have to prove your advantage as White in the position after move 9; it's Black who has to prove equality!


If it seems like I've pointed out a lot here, well...this sort of thing is a problem for me too, knowing I have a space and development advantage I should be able to cash in but I don't. So I ran this through Fritz to see improvements. And you may like to do so, too. Sometimes it's frustrating to see a move that looks good but you don't quite have the guts/justification to play it.

Fritz gives 8. e5 Nd5 9. a3. It's always tough to know when to push the pawn, and while 8. Nbd2 looks natural, the Black knight is a target for the pawns, especially with the pawn on b6. It can't go to b5. So Black has to play ...Bg5 or ...g5 to protect it, each of which is ugly. ...c5 is a possibility, but dxc5 and Rd1 give you the open file.

With 8. Nbd2, an e5/a3 thrust leaves you open to Nf4. The thing is that while developing moves are good, the knight might be better placed on c3, and a3/c4 might gain space and give you that square. Also, if you are worried c3-c4 is wasting a move, remember that's not really the case. ...Bb4+ c3 Be7 provoked it.

  1. Nxe5 also seems to relieve the pressure on Black. As a general principle you shouldn't exchange pieces when you have a space advantage unless you get something in return. But you still have an edge. Another poster noted the Bb7 could gain scope, but with a knight or bishop on e4, you are more likely to block it.

  2. ... c6 is also weak. It blocks the bishop, and c4! is vigorous. ...Nc7 is awkward, but ...Nf4 14. Qf3! loses a pawn. ...Nb4 15. a3 Na6 16. Qg4 and Black must play ...g5 or ...g6 with kingside pawn problems. White will again get the d-file. You played c4/a3 in the game, but letting Black get ...a5 in meant you found it tougher to play b4 and restrict Black's pieces on both sides of the board.

Finally, this is something I had to throw into an engine, but Rd3, while it doubles the rooks, also lets Black exchange them off. Fritz's idea of Nd2 followed by Qg4 and Ne4 looks strong. The point is that Black is too busy defeinding a kingside attack to swap rooks right away.

  1. Bf4 also seems more accurate than Be3. It allows for an attack with Bc2 and Qd3 or e4. Black's having played ...h6 makes for a potentially weak kingside.

It looks like you considered the moves that a computer engine marked off as the best, and in some cases you played them a bit too late, and in some, a bit too soon. When you have more space it's tough to know when to squeeze and when to use tactics. Often you don't need to "just" develop with a space advantage. It may be better to restrict your opponent from meaningful development, for instance, with the early 8. e5. It's good to check for overextending, but Black's development isn't good enough to poke at any of your weaknesses.

The main problem for White is to figure how to take advantage of space and make Black's pieces stumble over each other. The Bb7 is rather good, but once Black plays ...c6 or ...c5 there are is that weakness on d6, and e4 is always available for a bishop or knight.

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