6

An opponent I have heretofore easily beaten has started playing Alekhine's defense against me. I am no longer easily beating my opponent, and indeed would be repeatedly losing to him, if only he had more skill and blundered less.

[Title "Alekhine's defense"]
[StartPly "2"]
[FEN "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]

1. e4 Nf6

Like any chess player who enjoys sharp competition, I am most pleased that my opponent is somehow fighting better than he used! Apparently however, I do not understand Alekhine's defense. Alekhine's defense is perplexing me.

One reads that the usual continuation is 2. e5; but, admittedly, the idea of overextending the king's pawn as soon as White's second move does not appeal to me. On the other hand, alternatives like 2. Nc3 or 2. d3 seem too passive, whereas 2. Nf3 Nxe4 does not look promising. Maybe the weird-looking 2. f3 is the answer? But then Black just replies 2... e5, transposing to a kingside open game while sidestepping the Ruy Lopez, the Italian game, Evans' gambit, the king's gambit, etc.; so, no, 2. f3 looks even worse than the other options as far as I can see.

Wikipedia's entry on the topic is pretty good, but does not persuade me. What does persuade me is that Alekhine's defense is repeatedly giving an otherwise weak Black opponent good chances to beat me. Of course, I could cravenly avoid the whole problem by opening 1. d4; but still, eventually, one would like to confront the problem rather than avoid it, if one could.

What am I misunderstanding, please? Is the distasteful 2. e5 really White's only good, active response to Alekhine's defense?

  • 1
    Play e5 but do not overextend anymore. That way you will keep permanent but slight ( +0.20 ) advantage, according to the latest theory. Playing the Alekhine as Black myself in the old days, I must admit this is the best approach for White. You play d4 + Nf3 and just maintain the e5 point either with a knight or a pawn on e5 ( when Black plays ...d6 + ...dxe5 at some point ). – AlwaysLearningNewStuff Sep 8 '14 at 18:19
  • @bof: Thank you for the suggestion, and you are right: after 2. Nc3, I wish that Black would play 2... d5. But what if black plays 2... e5, transposing to the Vienna game? The Vienna game is okay, but is inferior to the Ruy Lopez, which proves Alekhine's to be an excellent defense. I wish to disprove Alekhine by avoiding Vienna. Thus my question. On the other hand, maybe you are correct: I should just learn to like the Vienna game. – thb Sep 9 '14 at 4:11
  • @bof: If you combined your comments to make an answer, I would upvote. – thb Sep 9 '14 at 18:10
  • 3
    @thb: 2.Nc3 is a fine move, but you're right, it's not the absolute best. Which isn't a surprise, you already know that 2.e5 is the best move... – RemcoGerlich Sep 9 '14 at 21:04
  • 4
    2.f3 is absolutely terrible and shouldn't even occur to you as a candidate move :) If you are so afraid of overextending that you actually consider moves like 2.f3 on a regular basis, you need to learn to get more comfortable playing with a big center. – dfan Sep 10 '14 at 1:53
3

Yet another 2nd move option for White is 2.Bc4 if you don't mind swapping a bishop for a knight, because if Black plays 2...Nxe4 you have to go 3.Bxf7+ Kxf7 4.Qh5+ etc. In the unlikely event that Black plays 2...e5 you won't play 3.Nc3 (since you don't like the Vienna Game) but instead 3.d4 or 3.Nf3 or 3.d3. (Yes, 2.Bc4 is a silly move, but it makes more sense than 2.f3.)

On 2.Nc3 the Alekhine's Defense players I know will play 2...d5. Then 3.d4!? leads to the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit (3...dxe4 4.f3) or the Hübsch Gambit (3...Nxe4 4.Nxe4) or just possibly the French Defense (3...e6). In the event of 2.Nc3 e5 you you can still avoid the dreaded Vienna Game by playing 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.d4 exd4 5.Nd5! (the Belgrade Gambit).

  • After 2. Bc4, you lose a pawn. 2. ... Nxe4 3. Bxf7+ Kxf7 4. Qh5+ g6 5. Qe5 Nf6. – Mike Jones May 4 '16 at 6:50
  • I wrote wrongly the first time. After 2. Bc4, White loses a pawn because 4. Qh5+ is answered by K36/f6. – Mike Jones May 5 '16 at 2:55
  • @MikeJones 4.Qh5+ Kf6 5.Qf3+ or 4.Qh5+ Ke6 5.Qg4+. You really want to bring your king out into the middle of the board in the opening to protect that knight? – bof May 5 '16 at 5:04
  • To win a piece--yes. It may be more prudent to play 4. ... kg8. The advantages of more center pawns and the two Bishops already gives Black a better game. – Mike Jones May 5 '16 at 9:49
  • 2
    @MikeJones I don't doubt that 4...g6 or 4...Kg8 gives Black the better game. But I seriously doubt that Black can hold on to the piece by moving his king up to the 4th rank. 4...Kf6 5.Qf3+ Ke5 6.d4+ Kxd4 7.Ne2+ Kd5 8.Nbc3+ or 4...Ke6 5.Qg4+ Ke5 6.Nf3+ Kd5 7.Qf5+ or 4...Ke6 5.Qg4+ Kd5 6.Qf3 Ke5 7.d4+ – bof May 10 '16 at 19:35
8

A very correct answer to the Alekhine Defense is 2.d3. Strange looking, but after the Nf3,g3,Bg2,Nbd2,O-O, you get a full KIA setup, a favourite of Bobby Fischer, among others.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King's_Indian_Attack

Not only is this setup easy to learn, but a great answer to almost everything you don't fully know. The transpositions from other openings aren't rare, so it is a good thing to learn. Also, you don't have to learn lines by heart, but rather middlegame plans.

Also one last thing. Since your opponent already has a knight on f6, this makes him go on a mainline in the KIA, so you will find even more examples of games.

Hope this helps.

  • 3
    +1 It does help, quite a bit, actually. As OP, I am asked to accept exactly one answer. There is irony in this, since you and the other answerers know more about the subject than I do, which leaves me unfit to judge between one good answer and another. I would like to accept your answer, too, if accepting more than one answer were allowed; so besides upvoting, let me say that your answer has been most helpful, and is appreciated. – thb Sep 11 '14 at 10:46
  • Two problems with the KIA are 1) it works much better when black has committed to e6 and 2) d3 allows black to equalize easily with d5, I don't recall Fischer playing it much against anything other than the French and to me it was extremely difficult to learn. Maybe its ok if you play the KID as black but I don't. – Savage47 Oct 28 at 4:36
5

2.e5 is easily the best move in the position. Sorry. (In my database it is the only move that scores better than 50%.) Yes, you have to worry about overextending, but overall the pros outweigh the cons. In chess there is no way to always get the sort of opening position that you're most comfortable with; you have to deal with the fact that sometimes your opponent will get you into his territory. That's life.

If you must play something else, I recommend 2.Nc3. 2...e5 is a transposition to the Vienna, and 2...d5 3.exd5 Nxd5 4.Bc4 is okay and certainly isn't overextended. But you are better off calling Black's bluff and learning to play actual Alekhine positions. For you, I recommend the Modern variation (2...Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3), which keeps a space advantage but avoids (or at least delays) lots of committal pawn moves.

  • 1
    +1 As OP, I am asked to accept exactly one answer. There is irony in this, since you and the other answerers know more about the subject than I do, which leaves me unfit to judge between one good answer and another. I would like to accept your answer, too, if accepting more than one answer were allowed; so besides upvoting, let me say that your answer has been most helpful, and is appreciated. – thb Sep 11 '14 at 10:43
2

2.Nc3 is a move and I'm surprised it hasn't been mentioned yet.

If Black plays 2...e5 the game transposes into a Vienna game, if Black plays 2...d5 play can go

[Title "Alekhine's defense"]
[StartPly "2"]
[FEN "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]

1. e4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3. exd5 Nxd5 4. Bc4 Nxc3 5. Qf3

or

[Title "Alekhine's defense"]
[StartPly "2"]
[FEN "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w KQkq - 0 1"]

1. e4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3. exd5 Nxd5 4. Bc4 Nb6 5. Bb3.

Either way White doesn't overextend as in after 2.e5.

  • 1
    2 Nc3 d5 3 d4 can really throw an Alekhine's player off stride. It's a transposition into the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, and Alekhine players are rarely good gambiteers. (I've had a couple head for a French with 3 ... e6 just to avoid it, even.) Not saying this is the "cure" for Alekhine's, but it can be a useful tool to keep at hand against a lot of semi-open games, if you're an e4 player. – Arlen Oct 29 at 21:46
1

First off, the exchange is fine. There's quite a bit online claiming there's a refutation of the entire defense in that line. Regardless a well-timed d5 push can create a lot of problems for black.

Secondly, I used to play the Alekhine's and the line I hated to see was the 4 pawns. White can really force black to show he knows what he's doing in that line.

Lastly, there's nothing wrong with 2. Nc3. Aim for a Vienna gambit if 2,,,e5 which is solid but tricky for black but otherwise white can still play for an advantage.

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