I keep fumbling through my openings and would love to improve and learn from others. How would you play this position as black?

r1bqkbnr/p1pp2pp/1p3p2/n3P3/2B1P3/1P3N2/P1P2PPP/RNBQK2R b KQkq - 0 1
  • 5
    If you want to improve your openings, I'd look upstream from the position you posted. You should not have gotten into such a bad position after only 5 moves. For one thing, ...f6 is hardly ever a good move for Black.
    – bof
    Jan 9, 2021 at 6:39
  • 1
    The previous moves would be good. I suspect white missed a good opportunity on the previous move to play Nxe5 which looks very strong to me, much stronger than dxe5.
    – Ian Bush
    Jan 9, 2021 at 16:53
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    I completely agree with @bof. Next to ...f6, the move Nc6-a5 also sticks out for violating basic opening principles, as you moved your only developed piece twice (and put the knight on the rim, too). This is kind of an XY problem - instead of asking how to control damage in the position given, you should ask how to not arrive at it in the first place (and thus have a look at the previous moves).
    – Annatar
    Jan 11, 2021 at 7:48

3 Answers 3


Well, Black has some weaknesses, is a little behind in development, and is down a pawn. The position isn't great, but things aren't hopeless.

The first thing I'd do is play Nxc4. I assume the knight was placed on a5 to do just that. White gets some doubled isolated pawns and loses a potential attacker in the bishop. It seems like a no-brainer.

Next, I'd develop the bishops with Bb7 and probably Bc5.

We probably need to deal with the pawn on e5 before very long. It's hard to develop the g8 knight with that pawn there. While playing fxe5 is possible, I don't like inviting the White knight to e5. It may be better to play d6 instead to attack the pawn from the other side, depending on how the game goes.

Black also needs to decide where to castle - the middle is too open to leave the king there for long. Both sides have their pros and cons. The movement of the f-pawn has weakened the kingside and White will likely put their remaining bishop on b2 to attack the kingside, but the queenside has a half-open b-file and it wouldn't take much for the c4 pawn to go to c5 to try and crack Black's queenside. Overall, I'd probably pick the kingside. An opened f-file might even be good for the rook after castling.

Obviously, any plan may need to be adjusted based on how White plays.


I would play it by never getting into such a rotten position so soon.

I see at least 4 bad moves by black else white took an extra move if black did not waste a move moving a pawn twice to e5 or d5

From the diagram I play nxb and double his pawns next I play B-n2 (Bb7), or B-R3 (Ba6)

after that it depends what white does

my king is weak and I am down a pawn. In a terrible position too. I can try to gain time threatening to get the pawn back but I also have to do that while getting the king to safety.

An early Q-e7 lets me 0-0-0 sooner which might be the least worst way to get the king into safety fast while avoiding problems on the long diagonal when he plays Bb2.

But that really depends what white does as I might get to pin his horsie on c3 and still castle Kside, if I can get my horsie out after taking his pawn on f6 if he captures, or I might gain a tempo if he takes first by attacking the rook while his B is still on C1

There is no obvious plan for black except NxB on c4 and then see what white does and defend accordingly.

White is likely to 0-0 and then B-b2 putting pressure on f6.


Without learning specific openings, general opening principles dictate that you should develop your minor pieces (B's and N's) quickly and toward the center, as well as preparing to castle within the first say 12 moves or so, this being a defensive measure as well as connecting your R's. As Black you should equalize before beginnng offensive manuevers. This means counteracting any White attempt to take over the center. The center is important since it gives your pieces a greater radius of action. You should try to keep your pawn front intact where you will castle. In your game, you have moved your knight away from the center to the rim, where its scope is limited. Also, you have moved the "f" pawn, which will be a weakness if you castle king-side. White's bishop is already in a strong position aiming at the weakness. I would eliminate that and then try to get your kingside pieces quickly developed so could castle there. Also White's king pawn is a menace and should be eliminated. Unfortunately you're already in a posiiton where your opening weaknesses must be repaired, more difficult to do as Black since you don't have the initiative. And White already has a big lead in development and is ready to castle. In the future, you must try to not let those weaknesses occur by following the general opening principles mentioned.

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