After 1. e4 Nf6 2. Nc3 d5 3. e5 Ne4 4. Nce2 Nc5, black intends to undermine White's center with ...Ncd7 and ...c5. The e5-e6 pawn sac is not available at the moment.

What is a good way to keep the opening sharp, or steer (or develop) the position into those reached by 4. ...f6 (the main line here runs 5. d3 Ng5 6. Bxg5 fxg5 7. h4)?

  • I'm curious about your objection to 2...e5. Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 12:27
  • @friscodelrosario That's a Vienna game and you could play 3.f4! for a sharp game. Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 22:54

1 Answer 1


The 4...Nc5 line clearly differs from the mainline you've given, since the knight on c5 will not be traded on g5 with black's pawn structure getting somewhat compromised. However it seems like the immediate knight retreat has some drawbacks since white can just play d4 immediately and kick the knight around a bit; note that after 4...Nc5 5.d4! Nd7 white can suddenly play the pawn sacrifice 6.e6! with a nice position.

Looking in my opening database I see that the most common move for black after 4...Nc5 5.d4! is 5...Ne6. In this position it seems like white has a pleasant choice of several good alternatives. For instance, 6.Be3 develops a piece and makes it a bit more difficult for black to play ...c5, while 6.f4!? seeks to gain even more space and to further kick the black knight around.

Basically, after 4...Nc5?! 5.d4! it seems like white gets a phenomenal position with a space advantage typical of the french defense, but without any drawbacks since black's knight loses so much time on its journey around the board.

  • What if the knight goes to a6? Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 4:27
  • 4
    If the knight goes to a6, you are several tempi up if you just accept French-like positions: Just compare 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Nce2 c5 and 1.e4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.e5 Ne4 4.Nce2 Nc5 5.d4 Na6 6.Nf4 e6 7.Nf3 c5. If you want to keep it sharp, 7.c4 or 8.c4 looks logical to me. Black's dark squared bishop won't probably dare to get out of the pawn chain: 6...Bf5 7.g4!? Be4 8.f3 Bg6 9.e6!, with the kind of mess you seem to be looking for - moreover, with a huge White initiative.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 8:18

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