[FEN ""]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3

When white plays 4. c3 and prepares to push d4 to get a massive center, how is it possible to prevent them from doing so, or at least put a lot of pressure on the center with it? I don't have trouble dealing with this in longer time controls because I can find ways attack the center, but how do I deal with this in blitz? When with the black's side I feel like playing against the Evan's gambit without being up a pawn.

5 Answers 5


c3 by white is called the Moller Attack. The reason you do not see it at high levels is that the sting has been taken out of it over the years. Basically, it comes down to breaking up the center with Nxe4, or hitting back in the center with d5, before white can finish developing and fortify the center.

There are a few lines you need to know.

 [FEN ""]

 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. cxd4 (6. e5 d5 7. exf6 dxc4 8. fxg7 Rg8 9. O-O Qf6 10. Re1+ Be6 11. Bg5 Qxg7 12. g3 h6 13. Bh4 Qg4 {and black is quite safe, and much better}) Bb4+ 7. Nc3 (7. Bd2 Bxd2+ 8. Nbxd2 d5 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Qb3 Nce7 11. O-O O-O 12. Rfe1 c6) 7... d5 (7... Nxe4 8. O-O Bxc3 9. d5 Bf6 10. Re1 Ne7 11. Rxe4 d6 12. Bg5 Bxg5 13. Nxg5 h6 14. Qe2 hxg5 15. Re1 Be6 16. dxe6 f6 17. Re3 c6 18. Rh3 Rxh3 19. gxh3 g6 20. Qf3 Qa5 21. Rd1 Qe5) 8. exd5 Nxd5 9. O-O Be6

And you play a standard isolated queen-pawn position.

The main line I gave with 7...d5 is probably not as good at taking on e4, but that line is much more dangerous and has a number of side roads that white can try.

  • 2
    If after looking at this, you have any questions about a specific variation, let me know, and I can add to the answer. Jan 1, 2020 at 11:08
  • Thank you for the explanation! I was analyzing a variation in which white sacrifices a pawn on move 7, but I guess it isn't actually a sacrifice since the pawn can't be taken. 1. e4, e5 2. Nf3, Nc6 3. Bc4, Bc5 4. c3, Nf6 5. d4, exd4 6. e5, Ne4 7. O-O!, d5 8. exd6, Nxd6 9. Re1+(The engine at depth 20 gives the evaluation as +1.32). (7. ...dxc3 can't be played due to 8. Qd5! winning a piece for white). There might be some factors wrong in my analysis which I hope you can point out.
    – SubhanKhan
    Jan 1, 2020 at 13:57
  • 2
    @SubhanKhan I added a line covering e5 above. You missed the standard d5 counterblow: 6. e5 d5 7. exf6 dxc4 8. fxg7 Rg8 9. O-O Qf6 10. Re1+ Be6 11. Bg5 Qxg7 12. g3 h6 13. Bh4 Qg4 and black is actually much better. Jan 1, 2020 at 15:44

Even though Black is fine in this line (if you know the relevant theory), you can avoid it by playing the 3...Nf6 move order. Then:

  • 4.d3 Bc5 transposes to a quiet Italian where White won't be pushing an early d4.
  • 4.Nc3 Bc5 transposes to the Four Knights.

There are some active moves White can play against 3...Nf6 to avoid transposing into standard systems with ...Bc5, but they aren't that impressive:

  • 4.d4 exd4 5.e5 d5 6.Bb5 Ne4 7.Nxd4 Bd7 is balanced.
  • 4.Ng5 is the Fried Liver Attack. After 4...d5 5.exd5 Na5! 6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc6 bxc6, Black gets an initiative for the pawn.
  • Thank you! It would be interesting to try it out in games of shorter time controls where there isn't a lot of time to calculate.
    – SubhanKhan
    Jan 2, 2020 at 2:03

There's a huge difference between this and the Evans gambit and that is 3...Nf6 followed by 0-0 at some point. In the Evans gambit, you usually aren't going to have an easy way to Nf6 without giving something else up which means you're going to struggle to castle which means you are vulnerable to a strong attack.

Here, you just throw Nf6 out on move 3 and you're fine. If white plays 5.d4 then 5...Bb5+ is equal because white doesn't really have anything after that.

  1. Nc3, Nxe4. Black is fine. There's couple of traps in there though. If white plays Qb3 just play either Bxc3 or 0-0

  2. Bd2, Bxd2+ and depending on white's response black should be able to equalize with various combinations of Nxe4, d5 and 0-0.

  3. Nbd2, Nxe4 is equal.


You can't. This is what you get for playing so passively at move 2 (2...Nc6 is a master-class move. Masters can play more patiently in waiting for counterattacks, but inexpert players should learn to hit back whenever they can. In this case, 2...d5, 2...Nf6, 2...f5.) and at move 3 (3...Bc5, instead of 3...Nf6 4 Ng5 Bc5, of which no other stackexchange user is likely to approve, but that's what you get for seeking free chess advice from millions of people: you get what you pay for).

Chessplayers are never so happy as when they get to play however they please, and 2...Nc6 and 3...Bc5 let them do that.

Once you've committed yourself to this passive play, I think the best you can do is 4. c3 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. cxd4 Bb4+ 7. Bd2 Bxd2+ 8. Nxd2 d5 and play against the isolated d-pawn.

And I think you're lucky your opponents aren't play 4. b4! Bxb4 5. c3, saving time.


In short you counterattack and fight hard not roll up into a fetal position. See the gory details above by Phishmaster. N-KB3 = Nf6 by black is the strongest although d6 actually has a slightly better game-theory type result favoring it.

  • stop being a coward. if you downvote an answer you should say why. I answered teh question quite well with the d6 move.
    – yobamamama
    Jan 2, 2020 at 1:01
  • 2
    @yobamamama I downvoted it. You mentioned 4...Nf6 and 4...d6, with nothing else concrete to help the OP figure out what to do after 5.d4 (other than saying to look at PhishMaster's answer). Yes, of course Black should be counterattacking, but the problem is how to do this. Jan 2, 2020 at 2:02
  • 2
    @yobamamama 4...Nf6 and 4...d6 are the top moves recommended by the engine, but it is important to recognize and appreciate the ideas behind it and that is why I upvoted Phishmaster and Inertial Ignorance who both provided detailed analysis answering my question. if you want to be upvoted for your answers give more detailed lines and ideas. You talked about counter-attacking but didn't explain in-depth how to do it.
    – SubhanKhan
    Jan 2, 2020 at 2:17
  • 3
    @yobamamama I didn't ask for what move gave the most theoretical optimum result. I was looking for HOW to counter-attack in the center or prevent white from having a huge center. You just said d6 is an optimal move, but you never gave an inkling of how it is a useful move in terms of lines and ideas.
    – SubhanKhan
    Jan 2, 2020 at 2:51
  • 2
    @yobamamama What does "theoretical optimum result" or "slightly better gametheory type result" even mean? Are you claiming it's the best move Black can play objectively? Because in correspondence, 4...Nf6 is played roughly 50 times as often as 4...d6. Jan 2, 2020 at 5:45

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