In the Norwegian Defense of the Ruy Lopez

[FEN ""]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 b5 5. Bb3 Na5 6. O-O (6. d4 exd4 7. Nxd4 c5? 8. Bd5!)

Neil MacDonald suggests 6. O-O as a response. Why isn't 6. d4 suggested in the book?

Edit: 6... exd4 7. Nxd4 c5? does not work because of 8. Bd5! when White enjoys a comfortable lead in development. I ask what are the repercussions behind playing 6. d4 possibly followed by 7. O-O. Is this variation sharper?

The author suggested 6. O-O as a solid choice compared to the sharper 6. d4, but I don't see what's so sharp about it. White is simply challenging Black in the center. I guess it gives less information away about the central pawn structure. Is that the answer?

  • 1
    According to the ECO C 5th edition, 0-0 gives minimal advantage to the White in all lines, while d4 offers equality. Briefly playing through the lines, I came to the same conclusion. Regarding the author's comment: It became prevalent today to play risk free lines with slight pull instead of sharp lines which can be improved with the engine. It is way easier to try and put pressure on your opponent from a quiet and slightly better position, instead of relying that your computer analyses sharp lines better than his. Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 19:44
  • @alwayslearningnewstuff why don't you add this as an answer? Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 19:48
  • 1
    I see little reason to exchange the pawn before black is forced to protect it.
    – hoacin
    Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 20:10
  • @hoacin Black's foothold on the center will be decreased. The GM Neil MacDonald suggests getting rid of this pawn. Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 20:24

3 Answers 3


6.O-O seems more flexible than the immediate 6.d4. After 6.O-O, Black's e-pawn needs attention and he typically plays 6...d6. Most likely the moves will transpose, but it appears Black has more options after the immediate d4. According to chesstempo.com database 6.d4 is the second most popular move after 6.O-O, but 6.O-O is by far the number 1 choice.


If you choose 6.d4 you must consider it either as a gambit or as a prelude to a queen sortie, since after 6...exd4 7.Nxd4?! Bb7 [not 7...c5? 8.Bd5!] 8.Nc3? c5! followed by c4 traps the Bb3.

7.Qxd4 is possible, but after 7...Bb7 you have to take 8...c5 into account again. (the immediate 7...c5? doesn't work because of 8.Qd5.) White queen will probably lose some tempi, and in the long run the open center may favour Black's bishop pair. For instance, 8.0-0 c5 9.Qe5+ Qe7 10.Qxe7 Nxe7 (10...Bxe7 12.Bd5!?) looks like Black is grabbing a pawn.

[fen "r1bqkbnr/2pp1ppp/p7/np2p3/4P3/1B3N2/PPPP1PPP/RNBQK2R w KQkq - 0 1"]

1. d4 exd4 2. Nxd4?! (2. Qxd4 Bb7 (2...c5? 3. Qd5) 3.O-O c5 4.Qe5+ Qe7 5.Qxe7 Nxe7 (5...Bxe7 6.Bd5!?)) Bb7 (2...c5? 3. Bd5!) 3. Nc3? c5! 4. null c4

In case of 8.O-O, 8.c3 or other moves, you would have to demonstrate what the idea behind the gambit is.


Depends how good you all are.

At the highest GM level o-o has the highest winning statistics by far. At lower levels it fairs much worse where d3 or nxe5 results are better.

Can you play the rest of the game like a GM then go for 0-0 but if not then perhaps you should still play d3 as d4 does not do well in actual play by all players.

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