My usual way of opening as white is as follows, usually regardless of what my opponent plays (although there are exceptions and I do play some other openings):

  1. d4. 2. Nc3 3. Bf4

However, I have been reviewing my games, and almost every game I play I find that the engine considers my 3. Bf4 move to be either an inaccuracy or just a 'good' move. I am quite confused as to why this would not be one of the best moves - much less an inaccuracy. Consider openings I've used in 2 of the games I played: (I am white in both)

1st game: 1. d4 f6 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Bf4 e6

2nd game: 1. d4 d5 2. Nc3 c6 3. Bf4 Nf6

Now, in the first game I can understand that maybe it would have been better to play pawn d5 as the computer recommends, attacking his knight. However, wouldn't this be relatively easily countered by Nb4? Of course, I could go e4, but wouldn't this just make it harder for me to defend all these pawns in the future? I prefer playing safely and if it means giving up some control over the center to ensure a middle game I am in more control of, I will take it. Could anyone explain to me why this is considered an inaccuracy by engines and perhaps offer a continuation?

In the second game, I am also somewhat confused as to why the computer considers this an 'ok' move and put me from a +0.55 score to a +0.33. I'm pretty sure this is a relatively big drop in the opening... I play the move in order to create threats on the bishop's diagonal, which I have found to help quite a lot in the past. I also play the move in order to get as much control over e5 as I can, which I usually find is a key square when playing my opening (I believe it is the Chigorin opening until my bishop move). Could anyone explain to me why the computer doesn't consider this a good tactic and what other, better move I could play that would lead to an endgame that is more in my favor?

I'm interested in improving my opening - thanks to whoever reads this.

4 Answers 4


First of all: Don't take engines so seriously! 0.22 is not a big drop, especially if your move suits you.

On the other hand, in order to get better, you should play more aggressive and complex lines (also that is what chess engines do), because it will expose you to some important ideas. Your opening system satisfies neither of these criteria.

Just stop avoiding main lines. Yes, they are full of theory, but you can learn from them a lot.

You are a 1. d4 player, so I would definitely recommend you not to play Nc3 before c4. I know that 2. Nc3 is a playable system, but it won't do much for your improvement.

Now to the games:

In the first game you need to understand that black is playing badly (obviously the first move is horrible - doing nothing for development and weakening his own king).

Therefore if you want to punish him, you need to play more forcefully, either the engine move 3. d5 or simply fighting for the center with 3. e4.

You don't have to worry about these pawns too much, because you're actually ahead in development and it will take black a lot of time to start attacking them. In the meantime black's king might be already mated...

Secondly, these pawns are in the center and only help you to grab more and more space. They should be moved in the opening and occupy the central squares.

In the second game, black played quite normally. So when you play these unambitious moves, you risk giving up all your opening edge as white (and you might even end up being worse).

But again that drop in engine assessment isn't that important.


In your first game, not only is 1..f6 a terrible move, but so is 2..Nc6, to which you SHOULD have replied 3.d5, and if then, as you suggest ..Nb4, the knight is doing nothing and will just have to retreat even if you dont force it to. The fact that you apparently saw nothing very wrong with your opponents moves suggests that your general level of chess awareness is not yet very highly developed. In that case, worrying about playing the perfect opening is not your highest priority. ANY move that develops the pieces, especially if done with a view to their future cooperation, that works toward controlling the center, and does not lose time, is likely to be a good move. From this point of view Nc3 is just fine. But since your moves are not very forcing, your opponents will have many choices in response, and you should not just continue with your favorite sequence, without taking their choices into account.

An old adage is "Knights before Bishops" Although this is NOT something to be followed rigidly, the nugget of truth that it contains is that USUALLY the Knights will go to c3, d2, e2 or f3, and it will USUALLY be apparent early on that one or more of these are suitable. On the other hand, your QB can go to b2,a3, d2, e3, f4, g5 or h6, and you will PROBABLY not know which choice is best until you have had a chance to see what your opponent is doing. For example, suppose the game begins1. d4 d6, 2. Nc3 Nd7 (all perfectly reasonable) then 3.Bf4 is not very good because of 3.. e5 and your Bishop will have to move again. In that case, since Black has not prevented it, many players would choose 3.e4 (and might well have played it on move 2)

The question whether Bf4 is good or not CANNOT be answered without considering what other moves have already been played, particularly by Black. Most of the time it will be at least a decent move, but sometimes you should avoid it because Black has prepared a good answer (as in my example) and sometimes you should avoid it because you have something better (as in your first example). Try to focus on understanding WHEN Bf4 is good or bad.

Good luck

  • You're right, I've only been playing the game for about 2 months and my chess.com rating is only around 900-950. I will try a more forcing approach as you and others have suggested. Hopefully it will teach me something. I'm not really too worried about my rating right now so I'm fine with losing in order to win in the future. Thanks.
    – Natumakie
    Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 18:27

The system you are playing is called Barry attack.

This comes with:

d4, Knight to f3, Knight to c3, Bishop to f4 and e3.

This attack is the most famous attack in Queen's Pawn Opening. You can follow games of GM Mark Hebden and also see the chessgames site with some famous kingside and many other types of attacks. Some famous games for opening preparation are:

1. Blatny-Fette 1991.

2. Hebden-Birnboim 1992.

3. Hebden-Nunn 1997.

4. Hebden-Williams 1995.

5. Pira-Hebden 1987.


Actually the questionably bad move is 2. Nc3, as it blocks the c-pawn. It's fine, after c4, but not before, as in most queen pawn openings, the c-pawn is either pushed to c3 to support the d4 pawn, or to c4 to challenge the center. Additionally, from the comments, when you don't play c4, the knight usually goes to d2, to support the Nf3, and an e4 break.

In your first example, 1. ... f6 is just horrible for black, and you should probably have played 2. e4

In the second one, 3. e4 would transpose to the main line of the Caro-Kann.

Now, if you play 2. Nf3 instead of Nc3, you have the London system, sometimes called the Businessman's Opening, due to its straightforward and simple method of development. Since you appear to be a beginner, it's not a bad system to learn, but your focus should be on general opening principles, more than specific openings.

  • This is what I'd say, with the additional note that moving Nd2 gives the knight more options if White does not play c4. Black can play c6/e6 and the White knight has very little future. But Nd2 reinforces the f3-knight against a Bg4 pin and may let White place something on e5. That's obviously more useful in game 2. But d4 and c4 often go together, to establish a strong center, because Black often tries to make it harder to play e4.
    – aschultz
    Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 14:52
  • That's so weird because I always thought c3 was the best square for the knight. I never even considered playing 2. c3 for fear that my knight wouldn't be able to find a good square later on in the game. I'll try this strategy out! Thanks a
    – Natumakie
    Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 18:25
  • 1
    @EricSpies Nc3 is fine, after c4. But if you're not playing a Queen's Gambit, Nd2 is typically played, to support the Nf3 and to aid in playing e4.
    – Herb
    Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 18:36

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