I'm analyzing this game between me and Stockfish Level 1 on lichess.org: https://lichess.org/0SvUBEu0/black#4

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With Nh6 I was trying to counter a possible Bxf7+. Without Nh6, the King would have to move making castling impossible.

On the other hand, what is Nf6 supposed to do? Nf6 is the engine recommended move here.

  • 1
    You do realise that Bxf7+ loses the Bishop anyway?
    – TonyK
    Commented Sep 4, 2023 at 20:47

4 Answers 4


In the opening it is recommended that you develop you pieces towards the center, especially the knights which are much more active there than on the edge. So 2...Nf6! is better than 2...Nh6?

Notice that the knight on h6 cannot go anywhere but back to g8: g4 is controlled by the Qd1 and f5 by the Pe4. True, you protect f7, but that pawn is already protected by the king (3.Bxf7?? is bad in any case because of 3...Kxf7).

Moreover the Nh6 will soon be attacked by the Bc1 (after d2-d3 or d2-d4) and an exchange on h6 would spoil your pawn structure after you take back with ...gxh6. It becomes quite risky to castle short because the isolated doubled pawns on the h-file are not a good shelter for your king.

On the other hand, from f6 the knight attacks the Pe4, controls d5 (to prevent White from using that square, or to push d7-d5 later), will be a good defender of your king after you castle. It also stops White from reinforcing the attack against f7 (no Qh5, and Qf3 is blocked from eyeing f7) if that's what worried you.

All in all, 2...Nf6 is a much better move than 2...Nh6.

  • "Moreover the Nh6 will soon be attacked by the Bc1 (after d2-d3 or d2-d4) and an exchange on h6 would spoil your pawn structure after you take back with ...gxh6.".I think this kind of advice is not really helpful for beginners.You need to seek tradeoffs when your opponent doubles ur pawns because the doubled pawns are also isolated pawns most of the time , so they are a even bigger weakness in a endgame.
    – Cerise
    Commented Sep 3, 2023 at 18:34
  • @Cerise : I am not sure what you mean. The damage kingside structure is an issue for Black both in the middlegame (weak king) and in the endgame (weak pawns), so Black should try to avoid it altogether.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Sep 4, 2023 at 7:20
  • Black isnt forced to castle.You dont castle by default.Sometimes it is better not to castle.Back can also castle queenside.
    – Cerise
    Commented Sep 4, 2023 at 7:43

B:f7 is not a threat at this moment since white pieces have no way to join the attack immediately and the black King can safely retreat.

Thus the best strategy is to developed pieces actively. The move Nf6 is ideal for various reasons including the fact that it controls the squares g4 and h5 which are the natural squares the white Queen could use to attack the King.

Also, the Knight on f6 supports a future d5 push by black which can be a natural plan. Remember: one of the basic goals of an opening is to exert a control of the central squares.


Control of the center.If you control the central squares(d4,d5,e4,e5) then you have more pressure than your opponent and can infiltrate his/her camp.Control of the center is important because any pieces or pawns in e4,e5,d4,d5 can restrict your opponent's moves very much.


In a nutshell, castling is good but it's peanuts compared to being up a piece. White isn't going to play Bxf7+ no matter what you do, so do something more useful with your move instead.

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