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In the following position, Bc4 by white is evaluated as a bad move that can be punished by ...Nxe4.

Although I can see why it tactically works, I fail to see how the resulting position favors black. Do you have any insights about why it's better for black, and what are the plans that follow ...Nxe4?

[fen "rnbq1rk1/ppp1ppbp/3p1np1/8/2BPP3/2N2N1P/PPP2PP1/R1BQK2R b KQ - 1 0"]

1...Nxe4 2.Nxe4 (2.Bxf7+ Rxf7 3.Nxe4) d5 3.Bd3 dxe4 4.Bxe4
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    In opening theory, white's goal is an advantage, black's goal is (eventual) equality. If this position is already equal then Bc4 was letting black get equality too easily. – RemcoGerlich May 11 at 8:35
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Pirc in considered an inferior opening for black mainly because white gets more space and centre control. After Nxe4 Nxe4 d5 Bd3 dxe4 Bxe4, one pair of knights is exchanged, which negates the space advantage a bit (fewer pieces on the board, so space is less important). Moreover, the resulting pawn structure is what can be obtain from the Scandinavian, but white has no development advantage (as he usually gets in the Scandinavian). White centre can later be challenged by c5 or e5. So basically, by allowing this, white loses everything which is responsible for the typical + for him in the Pirc. I would not unequivocally say that black is better in this line (white should be able to equalize), but allowing this is certainly not in white's interests.

And of course, Bxf7+ Zwischenzug is just bad, as black gets two bishops and utter control over light squares eventually.

Update: Because my last statement turned out to be controversial, I checked the lichess database (2200+) of this exact position after Nxe4.

Nxe4: played 13 times, 38% 1-0, 31% =, 31% 0-1 (+5=4-4).

Bxf7+: played 6 times, 17% 1-0, 33% =, 50% 0-1 (+1=2-3).

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  • "Pirc in considered an inferior opening for black" - I'm sorry, but if it's good enough for Grischuk and Kramnik amongst others it's good enough for me – Ian Bush May 10 at 14:33
  • @IanBush Please note I'm not saying that it is outright losing though. Even inferior openings are ok to play occasionally, I'm telling this as a Scandi player myself :) – sleepy May 10 at 14:52
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    Bxf7+ is not bad at all and should probably be considered the mainline in this position. – David May 11 at 6:42
  • @David hmmm why are you willing to give up two bishops so easily? – sleepy May 11 at 12:30
  • @sleepy I don't want, but keeping the bishop pair will make White lose several tempi (Bd3, Bxe4 and later some other move after Black puts a knight on f6. It would also be nice to attack the left-behind "e" pawn on the open file. – David May 11 at 12:40
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White is enjoying a space advantage in the center, but not anymore after ...Nxe4. It would be the "equivalent" of playing a ...d5 push, which unfortunately doesn't work in this position.

White can reply to 1...Nxe4 with either 2.Nxe4 d5 3.Bd3 dxe4 Bxe4, which would leave Black with an at least equal position, or with 2.Bxf7+ Rxf7 3.Nxe4 which would allow Black to start putting pressure on the center (let's think of moves like ...Nc6 and ...e5 for instance)

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