Why is it necessary for black to defend the e5 pawn after 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3? What do you think of 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 a6 3. Nxe5 d6? Now white should move his knight to c4, d3 or f3 and black can develop more pieces.

  • 1
    I think we should answer why 2...a6 and 3...d6, as suggested by Populara Salaj, is bad for Black, rather than talking about the Latvian, Petroff or else... – A. N. Other Oct 3 at 19:05
up vote 9 down vote accepted

It's not necessary; the solid Petrov's Defence continues with the counterattack 2... Nf6. There's also a less stable option in 2... f5, the Latvian Gambit but it rarely sees play at the top level.

Otherwise, the real problem for Black is not the knight on e5. It's the fact that you're giving away a center pawn without any compensation whatsoever. If you want to develop pieces, you're even better off playing 2... Bc5 than 2... a6.

  • I'm not sure 2...Bc5 is better, because the bishop will have to move again after White's eventual d4. But maybe 2...h6 is better than a6 because it provides a square for the queen: 3.Nxe5 Qe7 4.Nf3 Qxe4+ 5.Be2 Qh7!! – bof Sep 22 at 1:30
  • Yeah, maybe 2... Be7 is better then. – Glorfindel Sep 22 at 7:01
  • Why not 3.d4 then and if 3...d6 4.Nf3 Qxe4 5.Be2 and Black is behind in development with Queen exposed? – A. N. Other Oct 3 at 20:38
  • @bof What exactly is the queen doing on h7 though? – Annatar Oct 5 at 9:06

The purpose of protecting e5--or counter-attacking by Nf6--is to prevent the lose of material.

After 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 a6 3. Nxe5 d6, white is up a pawn and has equal development. Black doesn't have enough compensation for the sacrificed pawn. 3... Qe7 regains the pawn, as white can't protect both e5 and e4, but the resulting position will leave black's queen exposed to attack from white's minor pieces and gives white a greater advantage.

To keep the game equal, black must protect the pawn with Nc6 or d6 or counter-attack with Nf6. Protecting e5 with f6 loses to a famous chess trap(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damiano_Defence).

The idea of offering a pawn for a lead in development is called a "gambit."

Gambits are mostly played by White, who has the advantage of the first move, and who gets the advantage of a second or even third move for the sacrificed pawn. This can make it worth doing for White.

It is not worth doing for Black, because he would have only "switched colors," gotten White's normal first move advantage, but with a pawn down.

  • In the line given (2...a6 3 Nxe5 d6), I can't even see that Black has taken White's usual role, as White is still (slightly) ahead in development and space, on top of the pawn. – Annatar Oct 5 at 9:09
  • @Annatar:I gave the "best case" for Black. Of course, you're right, that the example was not even a best case scenario for Black. – Tom Au Oct 5 at 14:14

Your proposed line 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 a6? 3.Nxe5 d6 simply loses a pawn for nothing. Black gets no compensation in the form of development, because time has been lost by the pointless move 2...a6.

The two main replies to 2.Nf3, 2...Nc6 and 2...Nf6, both have the advantage of developing a piece and not losing a pawn.

Only defend the pawn because you coincidentally develop your pieces as well.

Playing 2...d6 to defend the pawn because you're SCARED it will get taken is a bad attitude.

Even 2...f5 is a super, hyper-aggressive move that I'd play instead of the timid and mediocre 2...d6.

But you see the attitude? If you decide to play 2...d6 with a solid strategy, and you REALLY know what you're doing, then it's playable. See Philidor, Hanham.

Playing 2...Nc6 develops a piece at the same time.

Even 2...Qe7 can be played, but it's a bad strategy. Good night, King's bishop. No pun intended.

P.s. please forgive the caps. I'm on my phone and don't know how to italicize.

  • 1
    Are you calling 2...d5 "timid" or was 2...d5 a typo and you meand 2...d6? – bof Oct 5 at 5:37

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