I've recently played some games as Black that opened like this:

[White "Opponent"]
[Black "Me"]
[Result "*"]
[ECO "B01"]
[FEN ""]
[CurrentPosition "rnb1kbnr/ppp1pppp/8/3q4/2P5/8/PP1P1PPP/RNBQKBNR b KQkq c3 0 3"]

1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.c4  *

c4 seems to be a very uncommon move as opposed to Nc3. But it doesn't seem bad at first glance - it allows the knight to go behind the pawn when Nc3 is later played, and grabs some central/queenside space. It also forces the queen to move (although 3.Nc3 would also have done that.)

How do I refute this variation? Or is it perfectly playable?

My opponent and I both have USCF ratings in the 1500s, if that matters.

4 Answers 4


This is what I try to accomplish as white, but I play Nf3 first. Although your can't take advantage this early, there are good moves depending on your temperament.

Qe4+ forces Qe2, else a pawn hangs, and the trade of queens.

Qa5 pins the d-pawn which gives you the opportunity to get in c5 (e5 is more drawish) and get a central majority.

With a normal game continuation, that is Qa5 => Nf6..., the d-pawn is slightly weaker as white can't play c3 to support it.

Just the opinion of a 2000 player.


As suggested by @FredKnight, I would play 3...Qe4+

[FEN ""]
[StartPly "5"]

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. c4 Qe4+ 4. Qe2 (4. Be2 Qxg2 5. Bf3 Qg6) Qxe2+ 5. Bxe2 c5

In the final position:

  • White's b- and d-pawns are restrained
  • Although White has developed the bishop, it is not a good piece yet

I think the evaluation is dynamic equality here.

  • 2
    Your 4.Be2 line appears to lose a rook after 6.Bxg2 Bxd1 7.Bxb7. White could also play 6.Qa4+ Bd7 7.Qb3, and the threats to the queen and b7 appear to also win a rook. So, 5...Bg4 is out.
    – D M
    Jul 31, 2017 at 15:14
  • @DM: Yeah, I think I was getting too fancy with the Bg4 cross pin. Maybe best is just retreating with 5...Qg6
    – user1108
    Jul 31, 2017 at 15:20
  • After the edit I think that looks OK.
    – D M
    Jul 31, 2017 at 16:13

c4 is definitely worth taking a look at, and the best continuation as suggested by all is Qe4+ from black .

If white decides not to exchange queens and plays Ne2, then the c4 pawn is chucked off which may/may not serve as a gambit depending upon the player .

Be2 is already mentioned above and it also withdraws a pawn.

The best move is Qe2 from white and black should exchange the Queens in this line. If Black is playing Q*d5 in the 2nd move then he must be prepared for an endgame. If you are a good endgame player then you should consider playing it else I would recommend the best playing line is Nf6 as black does not lose tempos against the queen.

I mean this one 1)e4,d5 2)e*d5,Nf6 . This line is the best attacking for black.

  • And of course 3.c4 is a good move in the 2...Nf6 Scandinavian.
    – bof
    Aug 1, 2017 at 11:25

Black is immediately equal with Qe4+ since he can follow up with e5 regardless of what white plays.

So, black has the better center and a slight lead in development. White has structural pawn weaknesses with the weak squares on the d-file and the backward pawn on a semi-open file.

If black is fine with an equal but drawish position then Qe4+ is a simple equalizing move.

If black wants a more active position, there's nothing wrong with Qa5 followed by e5. It's roughly equal too. In both cases black has equality because he can get in e5 before white can play d4.

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