In the Two Knights Defense, after

[FEN "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Na5 6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc6 bxc6

8. Bd3 has become fashionable recently, and is considered a serious way for White to play for a win.

Yet, is seems an artificial move, going against basic opening principles, in particular blocking the d-Pawn. What are the main points of this line, especially in comparison to the "old" 8. Be2 move, and are there any typical traps or pitfalls to be aware of?

  • 1
    Bd3 is actually favoured by a number of high level engines, so I think it would be very interesting to know about the theory behind that move. – konsolas Aug 31 '19 at 12:51
  • Hi, this post seems to have received a number of decent answers, if you have found one to be particularly satisfactory please consider accepting it, as it's important to give closure to well addressed posts. Thanks for considering it. – user929304 Sep 3 '19 at 8:50
  • Sure, it’s just that all these answers are equally good in my view. I’ll try to select one anyway. :) – A. N. Other Sep 3 '19 at 10:46

I think the main reason behind Bd3 is to provide a "safe" retreat for the knight and keeps to e-file open. Both Nf3 and Nh3 have liabilities. A retreat to e4 also allow a further lose of time from f5, but this may be offset by black's LSB having less mobility. The other option is Bf1, which while playable, also goes against basic opening principles.

Although this may apply here, paraphrasing Alekhine, to punish unconventional moves (Na5) you may have to play unconventional moves.

  • 2
    Indeed, well put. 8.Bd3 is a very concrete move to prevent a poor knight retreat after 8...h6. Since black's position has already opened up in this line, white's priorities lie in not having bad pieces and in particular neutralizing black's best piece, the knight on f6. In case black side-steps the trade with 9...Nd5 white usually ends up finishing development with Ng3...Bf5...e3...Nc3. – Ellie Aug 31 '19 at 17:07
  • What is White doing after 8...h6 9.Ne4 Nxe4 10.Bxe4 f5? – A. N. Other Aug 31 '19 at 17:48
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    @A.N.Other It seems like black's king becomes very unsafe after 10...f5, since Qh5+ is on tap, followed by picking up the pawn on f5 for free. – Scounged Aug 31 '19 at 18:57
  • Qf3 seems to have a similar effect with supporting a retreat to e5, though it looks a bit more dubious. – konsolas Aug 31 '19 at 21:33

I think this move illustrates the problem with "opening principles". Sometimes they simply contradict one another!

For example, 8.Be2 may appear more natural because it does not block the "d" pawn. However, it also places the bishop in a passive square as, as indicated by Mike Jones, does not allow for Ne4 later on.

Finally, Qf3-related ideas may still be playable after 8.Bd3


The point is that after 8...h6, White can now play 9.Ne4. Comparatively, after 8.Be2 h6, White must go for 9.Nf3 e4, when the knight is hit again.

You're right that 8.Bd3 blocks the d2-pawn from advancing, but this isn't such a huge price to pay. The c1-bishop can get into the game via b3 followed by Bb2.

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