In a London system course, when explaining the following line, the author mentions that with 4.Ne5 "White is creating a big positional threat of Nxg4."

[FEN ""]
1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bf4 Bg4 4.Ne5

I don't understand what's the threat. Even if White plays aggressively, let's say with

[FEN ""]
1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bf4 Bg4 4.Ne5 e6 5.Nxg4 Nxg4 6.e4 Nf6 7.e5 Nfd7

Sure, White has more space, but I don't see it being dramatic. In fact, in the only masters game in which Black left the bishop in g4, White didn't take it https://lichess.org/8fgM6xR1.

What's the positional thread?

1 Answer 1


Bishop pair

When White plays Nxg4 he gets the bishop pair. While it doesn't translate into an immediate breakthrough, this is a valuable positionnal plus that will be felt later on, when the game opens up. Having it as early as move 5, without making concession, is a small but clear achievement for White.

You might argue that this gain costed White 2 tempi (Ne5-Nxg4), but actually Black will lose time with their stranded knight on g4 too (most probably Nxg4-f6).

Concretely, after 4...e6 5.Nxg4 Nxg4, White can either :

  • try to exploit the floating Ng4 as you mentionned: 6.e4 Nf6! 7.e5 Nfd7 8.Bd3, intending c3, Nd2-f3, h4...

  • try to exploit the slight weaening of the light squares: 6.c4 intending Nc3, either e3 or e4, possibly Db3 hitting b7 and d5. This is riskier but may succeed in opening the center faster.

  • continue slowly as if nothing happened : e3, Bd3, Nd2, 0-0... expecting the stength of the light-squared bishop to reveal itself later in the game, possibly after c2-c3 and e3-e4.

In any case, Black's position doesn't collapse immediately but any grandmaster would gladly take White. That's the kind of position we used to evaluate as +/=, althought nowadays it's probably just +0.15...

  • 2
    Amusingly, after 5...e6?!, the computer plays the standard whack-the-bishop I'm fond of too (Caro-Kann): 6.f3 Bh5 7.g4 Bg6 8.h4 h5/6 9.Nxg6 with +1.2 advantage. 6.Nxg4 Nxg4 is only +0.4 :-) Jul 21, 2023 at 20:14
  • @HaukeReddmann : you're right, 4...e6? is losing outright for another, tactical reason. I should have concentrated instead on another way for Black to ignore the positional threat of 5.Nxg4, possibly 4...c5, 4...c6 or 4...Nbd7. But I was lured away because 4...e6? is considered in the question itself...
    – Evargalo
    Jul 23, 2023 at 10:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.