[fen ""]

1.e4 e6
2.Nf3 d5 
3.exd5 exd5 
4.d4 Bd6
5.Be2 Ne7
6.c3? O-O
7.O-O Ng6
8.Nbd2 Nf4
9.Re1 Nxe2+

Black's plan in the beginning was to take advantage of the (to-be) weak light squares around the white king by trading either his knight or light bishop for white's. It went easy, but now black can't find a solid way to break into the position.

Black sees that Qb3 is a potential threat that forks b7 and d5. The attack on d5 is not to be feared after 11. Qb3 b6 12. Qxd5?? Bxh2+, but this is how the game could have continued:

10... Bf5 (activating the light bishop and preventing white's control of the b1-h7 diagonal by Qc2)

11. Qb3 b6
12. Kh1 c6

Does black have anything better?

  • 1
    10.Qxe2 is better and allows him to free his development up quickly with Nf1/Bd2, etc., connecting his rooks. White should be fine.
    – Priyome
    May 28, 2017 at 15:07

6 Answers 6


This position is still very far from having a definitive character that would dictate the nature of best play. That is still perhaps twenty moves away. If you are already thinking that you have an advantage and just need to find a way in, you will not be playing objectively. Your position is fine, you will be able to develop easily, you have two Bishops, but you have no point of attack, and you don't know yet what White plans to do.

There is an old saying that if you can't think of a good move, wait until your opponent makes a bad one. I think that may apply here, because White has not yet played badly enough to lose, but it does not mean that you can just play anything. Do not simply play the position as it is. What can you create? There is usually something, which is how Magnus creates wins out of sterile positions.

I rather like ..b6 to be followed by ..Ba6, ..c5 and ..Nc6. That puts a lot of new ideas on the board, and gives White more chance to go wrong.

  • Id like to stress here that almost everyone takes the current pawn structure as given, and thinks only of rearranging the pieces around it. Pawn structures can be changed.
    – Philip Roe
    Jun 7, 2017 at 15:40

What pops to mind are the Natural looking c6/Qc7; Nc6/Ne7/Ng6 and Bg4 is another development plan. Black needs to coordinate his pieces and place them on good squares to complete his development - as a Cat A player, that is how I look at it. The position is a little flat. Part of me is not crazy about 10...Bf5 11.Qb3 b6 12.c4!? c6 13.Nf1 Bg4 14. Bg5 and white is nicely reorganized and has freed his game up quite a bit.

  • 1
    10... Nc6!? makes a lot of sense. Black's worst piece at the moment is the knight on b8, and it needs to be developed. That's more urgent than moving the bishop. May 27, 2017 at 21:02

What I see is not a light square weakness, but a bad dark square bishop. You first need is to catch up in development. My plan would be to play c6 to prevent the d pawn from moving, Bg4 to exchange off my bad bishop, (I don't play well with bishops, so this is very subjective.) and h6 to restrict his bishop. Due to only open file, the rooks and probably the queens will be exchanged.

Since white has more center control, you shouldn't be thinking about an attack. Your best bet seems to be in the endgame, however, due to the lack of pawn weaknesses, it is hard to proceed.

  • But what about the threat of Qb3? Or would that just give black more central control? May 27, 2017 at 14:06
  • 1
    After c6, the queen is fine on c7, both defending b7 and putting pressure on e5. I would never play b6 as that provides white with a target--a4=>a5. Qb3 misplaces the queen, there is nothing to attack on the queen side. Qc2 seems wrong as black can play Bg4=>Bh5=?Bg6, controlling the diagonal anyways. ( I checked with Fritz and the top lines are 1)Re8, 2)c6 with my suggested play, and 3)b6=>Ba6) May 28, 2017 at 5:37
  • Black's advantage in this position is the bishop pair. In particular, the light-squared bishop is strong because it has no opposite, so black should definitely not be looking to exchange this piece!
    – Nate
    May 31, 2017 at 12:53

This is the french exchange variation, and as far as I see it, the game is still in its opening phase. And we know what that means: development, development, development! Neither player has finished deploying their pieces to their most effective squares, and they should focus on doing this to begin with.

Therefore I think that your suggested 10...Bf5 is a perfectly reasonable move, since it places black's LSB on a very active diagonal, and even manages to restrict white's movements somewhat. Then black should aim to improve the b8-knight by putting it on, say, f6, and connect the rooks. Fighting for the control over the e-file is a very common theme in the French advance, so doubling the rooks over there is a reasonable course of action.

Now, what will white play in the meantime? Just like black, white should focus on developing his pieces. At the moment, the c1-bishop is blocked by the d2-knight, which is totally unacceptable, so white must at some point reposition the d2-knight. White's idea with Qb3 may seem appealing, but since it really doesn't threaten anything particularly dangerous (as you demonstrated) it's more a question whether white really wants the queen there to begin with.

Regardless, the d2-knight has to go somewhere, and most likely it will go to g3 via f1, or to b3. Then white will clear the first rank to double the rooks on the e-file (in this context Qb3 has a point, since it helps white clear the first rank with tempo).

Worth mentioning, due to the placement of the e2-rook, is that after 10...Bf5 whenever white moves the d2-knight, black will be able to play Be4, threatening to take on f3 and damaging white's pawn structure. This could potentially gain a tempo for black in some lines.

In general, after both players have finished developing, I think that black should be at least slightly favoured due to the bishop pair and white's somewhat clumsy development.

One final note: under no circumstances will Kh1 be a good move for white in the next few moves. It simply wastes a tempo when white is already struggling to develop the remaining pieces. Even after 10...Bf5 11.Qb3 b6, white does not go for the simple threat of taking on d5 with Kh1?!, since black still has to develop the knight on b8. Black would love to play Nd7 to develop the piece, but that is not possible to do immediately, since then white really can take on d5. Thus, if black prepares Nd7 by playing c6 anyway, the tempo wasted on playing Kh1 could be more effectively used for other things.

  • I was iffy about playing ...Be4 because of Nh4, f3. Should black exchange his bishops in this closed position, or get rid of white's DSB and plan for ...Rc8 followed by an eventual ...c5 or ...dxc4? May 27, 2017 at 14:37
  • 1
    @JossieCalderon I don't think that white will wait with moving the knight from d2 until black has played Nf6, so I doubt white will be able to play Nh4 without black just taking it with the queen. And the whole point of Be4 would be to force white into playing his pieces to bad squares, which would force him to move them again, thereby gaining a tempo. And no, I seriously doubt black should trade off the bishops. The bishop pair in this symmetrical structure is the one thing that convinces me that black is better. And I also believe fighting for the e-file will be black's best middlegame plan.
    – Scounged
    May 27, 2017 at 14:52

The plan I would adopt as Black is Nd7, followed by Nf6, followed eventually by N e4, supported by a B or P on f5. Black should try for an exchange of knights to get the Bishop pair against Bishop and Knight; right now White has an offsetting "Knight pair."

Another advantage of the N on d7 is that it can also be moved to b6 to counteract White's queen side maneuvers. Black has a better structural position but is slightly behind in development, meaning that he needs to worry about limiting White's piece play before trying to utilize his positional advantages.

  • Problem with Nd7-f6 is Bg5; If black chases, white retreats to g3 via h4 and the bishop pair is no more. The Nb6 looks out of place to me. White gets in Ne5/Nd3 if needed. Of course, none of these lines are critical and both sides have many options along the way.
    – Priyome
    May 30, 2017 at 0:57
  • 1
    @Priyome: I consider that a "challenge" but not a problem. (Black can move his b to e7.) But as you pointed out, white has many resources also, so it's not clear who's ahead. I like Black's position but will play circumspectly. And the N on d7 doesn't need to go to f6, can go to b6 instead if need arises. I consider Nf6 a "wish list" move, not a fixed objective.
    – Tom Au
    May 30, 2017 at 1:03
  • So, if white gives you no cause to play Nb6 (it does very little there), then you will need to prepare Nf6 with perhaps h6 to avoid the pin, unless you want to commit to a subsequent h6/g5 weakening. Something like 10. ... Nd7 11. Nf1 Nf6 12. Bg5 h6 13. Bh4 g5 14. Bg3 Be7 15. Qc2 (covers f5) Bg4 16. Rae1 and black is not looking great. Putting the knight on d7 obstructs the B on c8 unnecessarily in my view. This is why I think Nc6 is a better development and piece coordination plan. Interesting stuff! Thanks!
    – Priyome
    May 30, 2017 at 16:45
  • 1
    @Priyome: Nc6 is the better "next move" (although I would be concerned about blocking my c pawn). Nd7 allows better follow up moves, not only f6, but even to f8 to g6 to f4, which is just as good a post as e4. Black has a qualitative superiority in position, so he wants to preserve the most options for himself. (White has a quantitative superiority in development.)
    – Tom Au
    May 30, 2017 at 16:55
  • Seems we have the same chess teacher yet see it differently. Such is chess! But, I would question Nf6 as a good follow-up for Nd7. It gives white too many options with his bad Bc1. With Nc6, it keeps the c8-h3 diagonal unblocked and leaves options open for the LSB. With Nd7, black is 4 moves from supporting Re8 (N*, Q*, B*, Re8), where White is 4 moves (Nf1, Qc2/b3, B*) from doubling his rooks on the e-file; White will likely have the initiative on the e-file. A battle of ideas. Interesting discussion, thanks.
    – Priyome
    May 30, 2017 at 17:31

The position is just in the Initial phase and there can be many ways or plans where Black can make good progress but the Key Strategic things which Black should keep in his mind is that

  1. Black should play the move f6 so that the White's Knights should not occupy the juicy e5 square .
  2. Black has the two Bishops so he should make the Game open . Now c5 , Bf5 and Qc7 Nd7 moves should be natural to support this .
  3. As the Bishops primary position would be Bd6 and Bf5 Black should aim for playing in centre and towards K-side and allow White to play on the Q-side .

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