So while studying Philidor lines I quickly stumbled across the 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Bg4 4.dxe5 line that usually splits off into the following notable outcomes:

  • 4...Bxf3 5.Qxf3 dxe5 Reliving the Opera game
  • 4...dxe5 5.Qxd8+ Kxd8 6.Nxe5 Blundering a clean pawn due to the Queen Zwischenzug
  • 4...Nd7 5.exd6 Bxd6 The (famous?) Albin-Blackburne Gambit

If we look at what the engine says however, Nc6 seems to be the best move by quite a lot (dropping to 0.97 vs Nd7 1.11 from depth 50 Stockfish 15.1 NNUE), however has like zero media coverage. The only source even mentioning that move being superior is this paper, where the Author Stefan Bücker goes full "Don't you know who I am?" dismissing the idea from Leon Pliester and summarizing with "While IM Pliester wasn’t sure whether [even] 4. ... Nc6 were playable or not, I’d certainly prefer 4. ... Nd7."

Now even without engine it visually seems like the cleaner move, leaving less pieces in the way of the rook that comes to d8 after O-O-O, so naturally I decided to look at the top line against Nc6 both by engine and by human analysis.

This game from 1991 is quoted in the previous PDF apparently has the prime reason why Nc6 is worse: "First of all, 4. ... Nc6 5. Bb5 dxe5 6. Qd5!. Here my analysis in Englund-Gambit (page 31) stopped, because I wasn’t satisfied with Black’s chances."

Stockfish laughs at this minuscule trouble line evaluating 5.exd6 A LOT better (almost double the advantage 1.01 for exd6 vs 0.61 for Bb5) than the whole Bb5 pinning idea (Stockfish agrees that the pinning continuation as a whole is correct though - 5. Bb5 dxe5 6. Qd5 Qxd5 7. exd5 Bxf3 8. gxf3 a6 9. dxc6 axb5 10. cxb7 Rb8 11. a4)

This raises the question for me, what am I missing? Albin-Blackburne gambit, alone by having a designated name gets everything from trap videos, books, tutorials and courses to 69% playrate according to masters database on Lichess (vs 19% Nc6 and 12% Bxf3 Opera Game 2.0) while Nc6 gets no recognition whatsover, only a thumbs-up from Stockfish and a corresponding 2% win increase with 60% win rate after 5.exd6 Bxd6 6.Be2 Qe7 vs 58% win rate with the same line but Nd7.*

*Win rate COULD be inflated by the transpositions from Nimzowitsch Defense: Kennedy Variation, de Smet Gambit but Bg4 is a big mistake there in the first place so if anything the winrate could be even higher

  • 1
    Welcome! Can you clarify what your question is? Jun 5, 2023 at 0:04
  • Engines didn't exist when it was named?
    – cmgchess
    Jun 5, 2023 at 4:17
  • It's not one specific question, it's the whole topic - why are masters sticking to a provably worse line? Why are there new videos coming out regularly covering the old line but not the new one? Why is there not a single source of information about the better line? Is it more related to the legacy and history of the opening, or is there some analysis/trap that's beyond Stockfish understanding? Jun 5, 2023 at 22:09


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