5

In the Traxler Counterattack of the Two Knights Defense, after

[fen ""]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 Bc5 5.Bxf7+ Ke7 6. Bb3 (6. Bc4)

why isn't 6.Bc4 considered as a "serious" move for White by theory? Only 6.Bb3 and 6.Bd5 are seen in this fairly rare line.

10

Comparing 6.Bb3 and 6.Bc4, the drawbacks of the latter are obvious since the bishop is not protected and can become a target to attacks:

  • either by a black piece: Ne5, Na5, Qc5, Qd4...

  • or, more probably, by the d-pawn: the typical ...d5 will gain a tempo for development

On the other hand, I can see no advantage of having the bishop on c4 rather than b3. You will hardly ever want to retreat to e2, nor to play a queenside fianchetto.

Given how important each tempo can be in such an complicated line, it is understandable than no strong player has ever ventured 6.Bc4. Probably there isn't a direct refutation, but you might regret having your bishop exposed later on.

2
  • I like your answer, but how many times do we put pieces in "not protected" places, in the opening? On these grounds, we should avoid 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4... Just exaggerating of course. Aug 18 '20 at 16:38
  • 10
    @A.N.Other: Well if Bf1-b3 was legal, it would be far more popular than Bc4. Aug 18 '20 at 19:24
5

Traxler is too rarely played to anybody care. Bd5 and Bb3 are old main lines. Bc4 is actually Lc0 main line on pretty solid depth. One obvious advantage is easier handling of future pin while I don't think the bishop is so exposed there. From b3 it could actually be easier for black to hunt it with Na5. So it's great move in position you will probably not have on a board anytime soon. The old reasoning behind not playing Bc4 makes sense too, of course, but try to explain it to Leela... If it was in more frequent position, it would be played at least as much as the 2.Nf3 3.d3 Caro Kann, very fresh AI invention too.

1
  • LC0 sometimes plays moves that seem completely outrageous, and yet ends up being able to handle any complications that result while exploiting edges that humans hadn't foreseen. One of my favorites was a game where black kicked a bishop with a pawn and existing lines retreated to one of two squares, but LC0 simply pushed another pawn while ignoring the bishop. If black captures the bishop, LC0 gets to push the pawn again, establishing it as a thorn pawn, but black doesn't really have anything good to do with the tempo other than capturing the bishop.
    – supercat
    Aug 19 '20 at 22:46

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