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[fen "rn1qk2r/4bppp/p1p1pn2/1p4B1/3P4/2NQPN2/PP3PPP/R3K2R w KQkq - 0 12"]

I played Ne5 which I thought was reasonable as it targets c6. But Stockfish 14+ goes from +1.1 to +0.2. What is the problem? Is it that if there is a trade on f6, the d4 pawn is pinned so can't actually defend the knight?

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    Have you looked at alternative moves to find what Stockfish prefers? I note that the d4 pin means Black can play the traditional freeing moves c5 and e5 without immediate loss. How does Rd1, removing the pin, compare? Sep 30, 2023 at 3:02
  • Stockfish likes Bxf6, Rc1, or absurd Ke2. The advantages aren't clear to me.
    – qwr
    Sep 30, 2023 at 4:42
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    A quick look in my own version of Stockfish is less dramatic, ~0.8 down to ~0.3, and the moves it likes for black after Ne5 are Nfd7 and h6 (maybe with O-O first) both of which force an exchange of minor pieces - which is good for black as he/she is slightly cramped and it gives a bit more room, and also White's minor pieces are currently all at least as good as black's, and in most cases better.
    – Ian Bush
    Sep 30, 2023 at 6:57

2 Answers 2

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1.Ne5 here is misguided because it leads to the exchange of minor pieces, relieving Black of their relative lack of space and helping them to engineer the freeing ...c6-c5.

After 1...Nfd7! Black bumps both the knights and the bishops, forcefully leading to the exchange of White's most active pieces.

If White naively exchanges, 2.Bxe7 Qxe7 3.Nxd7 Nxd7, they only speed up Black development and after 4.0-0 0-0 followed by 5...c5, the White dominance of the center vanishes.

2.Bf4 Nxe5 3.Bxe5 Nd7 4.Bg3 is only marginally better : 4...0-0 followed by ...c5

Instead, with 1.0-0 intending e4 or the centralization of White's rooks, White keeps a small space advantage - although that should be very manageable for Black.

More ambitious is the thematic 1.Bxf6!? Bxf6 2.Ne4 intending Rc1 to expose the weakness of c6 and c5, e.g. 2...0-0 3.0-0 Be7 4.Rfc1 [4.Rac1 is of course reasonnable, depending which of a4 or Rd1 will be most useful] Qb6 5.Qc2 and Black still has to show how they plan to untangle their queenside. [5.Ne5 forces a concession but 5...f6 6.Nf3 Nd7 7.Qb3?! c5 is not convincing ; 5.Qd2!? intending 5...a5 6.Ne5 or 5...Nd7 6.b4 is not natural but interesting]

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Stockfish 15 continuation to problem

To my understanding is clear Stockfish gives three continuations. all of them starting with ...Nfd7 seems clear there is not anything else in the tree to be analyzed.

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  • Interesting. Lichess Stockfish 14 at depth 28 gives O-O +0.2, Nfd7 and h5 +0.5.
    – qwr
    Oct 1, 2023 at 23:03

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