[FEN "r3kb1r/ppqn1ppp/2p1pn2/4Nb2/2BP4/2N5/PPPBQPPP/2KR3R b kq - 0 10"]

This position is taken from super GM game, so I am fully aware that Black might be busted here and that this question might remain unanswered. Please try to post only relevant comments and answers, i.e. ones that demonstrate a path to equality for Black.

  • 9
    What game is this from? Whose move is it? Why is your diagram upside down? And why are you ordering me not to comment unless I can answer the question? Comments are for the purpose of clarifying and improving the question, not answering it.
    – bof
    Mar 19, 2020 at 22:09
  • 3
    @bof Black to move (which is why it's upside down, I think.)
    – D M
    Mar 19, 2020 at 22:59
  • @bof Black to move, hence the upside down diagram, use game Popov vs Grischuk World Rapid 2019 as a reference, I am not ordering, just politely asking to not spam (asking for clarification/improvement is not a spam). Mar 20, 2020 at 7:32

1 Answer 1


First, black is hardly busted here, and Stockfish 11 confirms this with both 10...Be7 and 10...b5 being 0.00 at a depth of 30. 10...Bb4 is also reasonable. That said, as I force in the moves it believes are best, it eventually sometimes thinks white has a slight pull, which is not surprising given the clear space advantage. At the same time, in practice, per the Mega 2020 database, the white wins 72.3% of the time from this position, so unless you play like a computer, you still may lose, and there are a virtually infinite set of possibilities for white to play while black is walking a fine line all the way. This is a line I would try to avoid in practice, and keep out of my repertoire as a matter of course.

I do not play the Scandinavian, but I have played the Caro-Kann for a long time, and this is very similar to one of the main lines, and what I can say about both is that white has more space, and that is not going away for a while, and thus this is always a little uncomfortable for black...a typical plus-equals position. In both, black must finish development, especially securing the king here since it is vulnerable to tactics, and then eventually break back with c5. Other times, it ends up an opposite-side attack.

Most players here have played 10...Nxe5, which is horrible from both a Stockfish perspective at +1.3, and a winning percentage perspective at 82.2% for white. It is not a good move in a practical game as it solidifies white's space advantage with tempo, and puts the Bf5 at risk immediately to 10...Nxe5 11. dxe5 Nd5 12. g4 Bg6 13. f4 with a solid advantage.

You cannot get a 100% answer to your question as it is too early in the opening to say as it is with virtually every reasonable opening where white has a small space advantage. It will always feel like white has a small advantage until it eventually levels out...or doesn't. That is chess.

This is very close to equal, and super GMs would hold it, so the way I would play it is the solid 10...Be7. After that, there are basically two plans for white. To move the Bc4 to b3, playing prophylactically, or to play Rhe1, and eventually expand on the kingside.

There are an incredible amount of possibilities here, but this will give you a place to start.

P.S. In a position like this, and this one is not unique, there are so many reasonable lines that it is unclear which is best for the stronger side, and thus, there are literally millions of possibilities from the moment you play 10...Be7 in just the next few moves. In cases like this, now that you have a place to start, you will need to spend a lot of time on your own with a computer not just to get a few more specific lines, but also to get a feel for the plans and move orders that may occur. Since you cannot possibly memorize every possibility, you are almost certainly going to end up on your own sooner than later, and what you need to develop is a sense of HOW to play the position correctly.

 [FEN ""]

  1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qa5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Nf3 c6 6. Bc4 Bf5 7. Bd2 Nbd7 8. Qe2 Qc7 9. O-O-O e6 10. Ne5 Be7 11. Bb3 {Prophylactically avoiding b5.} (11. Rhe1 O-O 12. Bf4 Bd6 13. Kb1 Nd5 {And this is equal but for the one move I cannot imagine anyone playing.} 14. Bxd5 exd5 15. Nxd7 Bxd7 16. Bxd6 Qxd6 17. Qe7 Qc7 $14 {But it is the smallest of edges as rooks will soon be traded.}) 11... h5 $1 {Securing the Bf5 from g4.} 12. Bf4 Bd6 13. Rhe1 a5 {Equal per the computer, and with good counterplay.} 

Here are some lines based on your supplemental questions in the comments.

 [FEN ""]

 1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qa5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Nf3 c6 6. Bc4 Bf5 7. Bd2 Nbd7 8. Qe2 Qc7 9. O-O-O e6 10. Ne5 Be7 11. f3 (11. f4 $6 {This is just too slow, and leads to black being better.} b5 12. Bd3 (12. Bb3 h5 13. Rde1 {And if the computer thinks that this is best, something has definitely gone wrong for white.} Nb6 $17) (12. g4 Nxe5 13. fxe5 Nxg4 14. Bd3 (14. Bb3 a5 $17) 14...Bxd3 15. cxd3 h5 $15) 12... Bxd3 13. Nxd3 b4 $15) (11. h4 {Again, too slow.} b5 12. Bd3 Bxd3 13. Nxd3 a5=) (11. h3 b5 12. Bb3 (12. g4 Bxc2 13. Bxe6 Bxd1 14. Bxf7+ Kf8 15. Rxd1 Nxe5 16. dxe5 Kxf7 17. exf6 Bxf6= {Up an exchange, but white has activity. It is dynamically equal.} 18. Qf3 (18. g5 Be5 19. Qf3+ Kg8 20. Qe4 {Transposes.}) 18... Kg8 19. g5 Be5 20. Qe4 Rd8 21. Kc2 Qe7 22. f4 Bd6) 12... a5 13. g4 Bg6 14. g5 (14. Nxg6 hxg6 15. a4 b4 16. Ne4 Nxe4 17. Qxe4 Nf6 $14 {White has maybe the tiniest of edges here. The Bb3 is not really well-placed.}) 14... Nd5 15. Bxd5 $1 (15. Nxd5 exd5 16. Nxg6 hxg6 17. Rde1 Nb6 18. a3 a4 19. Ba2 Kd8 20. h4 Bd6=) 15... exd5 16. Bf4 Qb7 17. Rhe1 (17. Nd3 Bxd3 18. Rxd3 Nf8 19. Be5 Ng6 20. Bxg7 Nf4 21. Qd2 Nxd3+ 22. Qxd3 Rg8 23. Qxh7 Bxg5+ 24. f4 $3 {To lure the B to a square that Qf5+ is a threat later.} (24. Kb1 $2 O-O-O 25. Qf5+ Qd7 26. Qxg5 f6 27. Qxf6 Rxg7 $17) 24... Bxf4+ 25. Kb1 O-O-O 26. Bf6 Bd6 27. Bxd8 Rxd8 28. Rf1 Rf8 $14 {But almost equal.}) 17... O-O $1 18. Nxg6 fxg6 19. Qxe7 Rxf4 $14 {But black has good counterplay against the weak pawns.}) 11... h5 12. Bf4 (12. Bd3 {The computer likes this move, but I cannot imagine that it gives white a lot.} Bxd3 13. Nxd3 b5=) 12... b5 13. Bb3 (13. Ng6 Bd6 14. Bxd6 Qxd6 15. Nxh8 bxc4 {And Ke7 next.}) 13... Bd6 14. Kb1 a5 {With complicated play for both sides that the computer says it equal.}
  • 3
    @AlwaysLearningNewStuff I did not add a lot of lines to keep it simple, but I just spent 90 minutes analyzing with a computer to get this, so whether you think this is enough, or not, I was going to post it. At least, please do not downvote it. Mar 19, 2020 at 22:40
  • 1
    +1 from me :) Thanks for the invested work. I am preparing for a tournament where I will face 2500+ ELO competition, I can not afford to fool around in the opening. I like the line, but in all the continuations plan with h4 simply busts Black. That is why I have asked here for help. I will carefully go through the lines and leave a reply. Thank you again for the invested effort. Regards. Mar 20, 2020 at 7:27
  • OK, I have gone through your lines, they are equal. Black will easily equalize indeed. My problem is that online engine, which is not so strong, claims that h3 + g4 pawn storm refutes this line. Is it possible for you to investigate that plan? In your main line, White could try f3 with g4 next, I guess... Again, thank you for all the invested effort. I am analyzing myself, when I have time, so it might take a while before I get back, but do not worry, I will not forget this question :) Regards. Mar 20, 2020 at 7:56
  • @AlwaysLearningNewStuff Could you please be specific and reference the line and move number that you want to try h3+g4 or f3+g4. I am also going to add another general paragraph about positions like this to the answer for general guidance. Mar 20, 2020 at 10:28
  • At move 11, White goes Bb3/Rhe1 but I like what I get from those lines. I was wondering if 11.h3/f3/h4/f4 thrusts work, because engine suggested that this plan demolishes Black. It was opening explorer at Lichess, you can turn on computer analysis while browsing through the opening. I do not fear the other lines, I have good understanding, only those concrete pawn storm fear me, because I have no good machine that I can use for analysis. If there is no clear refutation, and unclear/equal position can be reached, than I would be fine with it. Mar 20, 2020 at 13:07

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