# Trapped by this strange opening line, how to proceed?

I play this kid that does strange things in the game. I thought in this following game that he was using the Pirc defense as Black, when it opened 1.d4 d6 2.e4 Nf6 3.Nc3. Then he goes off with 3...d5. It seems that I get trapped by this kind of (to me) irrational thing. Any advice on how best to proceed?

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1. d4 d6 2. e4 Nf6 3. Nc3 d5
• You are basically getting a free e4 in the Veresov Attack. You should not have any problems. Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 18:51
• What's the problem with just playing chess, applying opening principles, et cetera? Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 19:25

I have never seen this idea before, but it is not as stupid as it looks.

There are basically three options for white:

• Play the Veresov, i.e. 4.f3. In that case black will argue that he has the black side of a Caro-Kann-Fantasy variation and that he will at one point play c5 in one move, regaining the tempo lost with d6-d5.

• Play exd5. In that case black will say that he has a Scandinavian defense and that compared to the line 1.e4 d5 2.ed Nf6 3.Nf3 Nxd5 there is no 4.c4 kicking the knight from d5 and establishing a nice space advantage.

• Play e5. In that case black will probably play 4...Ne4 and you can try to be tricky with 5.Nce2, trying to catch the knight with f3. Taking the knight directly with 5.Nxe4 is also possible, but there is probably no way to quickly assault the weak pawn on e4.

I think 4.e5 is the most principled option, but it is no refutation. You'll get a very complicated fight were the most you can hope for is that your opponent has to be more careful than you.

• Maybe 4.Bd3 is also an option. Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 10:06
• True, I thought about it, but then it slipped my mind. Black would have to take on e4, I guess. Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 10:15
• Yes, I suspect 4.Bd3 dxe4 5.Nxe4 Nxe4 6.Bxe4 is a bit annoying for black (or maybe not after 6...c5?), and otherwise white just has a normal position with an extra tempo. Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 10:30

4.e5 looks like the move here, because d6-d5 makes this move possible and because the Nf6 has no good squares. A few possible lines after 4. e5:

(1) 4...Ne4 5.Nxe4 (other moves like 5.Bd3 or 5.Nce2 should also give White an edge, but 5.Nxe4 looks most principled because Black will struggle to save the pawn on e4) 5...dxe4 6.c3 Bf5 7.Ne2 e6 8.Ng3 Bg6 9.h4 h6 10.h5 Bh7 11.Bc4, and even if Black can somehow hold the pawn on e4 (unlikely), he has a miserable position with a huge space disadvantage and a bad Bishop on h7. This position is somewhere between very bad to losing for Black.

(2) 4...Nd7 5.Nxd5 and White wins a pawn "with compensation" (i.e., White also has a positional advantage due to his strong center). Black can play on, but he is already completely lost in a theoretical sense.

(3) 4...Ng8 is obviously miserable, as White has gotten two strong pawn moves (e2-e4-e5) for free, and Black will struggle to develop his Kingside sensibly because both his Be7 and Ng8 want the e7 square. This position is bad for Black, although it's perhaps not possible to say Black is losing: as someone mentioned above, Black cannot afford to waste so much time in the opening and stands much worse here.

I actually had a game with a GM a few years ago, which went 1.d4 d6 2.e4 Nf6 3.f3 d5 (I was White). This line is somewhat dubious for Black, but it's playable since after 4.e5 Nfd7, White has essentially wasted a tempo on f3. The pawn is no good there, and a tempo must be spent advancing it further to f4. Nevertheless White still has the better game.

But against 3.Nc3, 3...d5 is just a clear mistake. On 4.e5, 4...Nfd7 can't even be played since it would hang the d5-pawn. In the case of 4...Ne4, 5.Nxe4 dxe4 6.Be3 leaves Black with a seriously weak e4-pawn. Finally, 4...Ng8 wastes too many tempi to give Black a satisfactory game, and he could be getting wiped off the board soon.

He just lost a tempo, taking two moves to get his pawn to d5 when he could have done it in one move. Losing time is particularly bad in the opening when you could be using it to develop pieces. You can use your "free" move to give your "e" pawn additional support or advance it to e5 gaining additional space as well as a tempo on his N, which will be forced to move again. Even taking the pawn isn't out of the question, since you're still left with a center pawn and lots of open lines for development. Don't panic and just make sound moves.

My first thought was "Black has elected to play against the Blackmar-Diemer a move down?" I'm firing off the top of my head here, with little time for deep analysis.

It's an interesting position, but I can't help but think it's already lost for Black, somehow. White can throw away a move in the opening, Black shouldn't be able to. With Black throwing away a move like that my instincts are to go for rapid development and open lines, when the lack of a move will be the most painful.

My first thought would be Be3, electing to actually play the gambit if Black finally accepts the pawn. But that may not be to your taste (if you don't know the typical positions and tactics, it can be dangerous). I'm not fond of Bd3 here, for some reason. If I just wanted to get out of this into normal, basically equal waters I might try capturing the d-pawn and playing out the exchanges.

Bg5 on the surface looks interesting. You'll need to beware of the possible check-and-fork (Qa5) but your threat to win the pawn outright should net you a very weak Black pawn on e4 that White can play against at leisure, probably eventually winning it (Nge2-g3 comes quickly to mind as one way to play for it -- your opponent has thrown away a move, so you shouldn't feel too badly about taking two to place your Knight on a useful square). One advantage of Bg5 on this is it clears the way quickly to castle long, when you'll either be able to also bring Queen and Rook to bear on the weak e-pawn (if your opponent chooses that path) or have your king in safety as you rip open the center and go hunting for the enemy king.

(Some wild lines are dancing through my head about this; you might end up in positions similar to the wilder side of the semi-slav but with having played Nc3 instead of c4.)

• 4.Bg5 Nxe4 5.Nxe4 dxe4 and "white can play at leisure against the weak pawn", but unfortunately the weak pawn is an extra pawn for black. And now there is Qd5 in the air with tempo against the Bg5, protecting e4. There is Nc6 attacking d4 and preparing e5 … there is Bf5 and I don't see how white will ever comfortably regain the pawn. 4.Be3 is maybe better, but even there I wouldn't like 4…Nxe4 5.Nxe4 dxe4 6.f3 Bf5. I just don't see how you would put pressure on e4 without the Nc3. Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 7:49
• The position is analogous to Huebsch-Tartakower 1922, but with an extra move in hand for White. I'll have to sit down tonight and do some more serious analysis but just from that, and without a chessboard to look at, it would seem Bc4 is indicated, incidentally preventing Qd5. (Though, TBH, I'm not entirely convinced yet that it needs to be prevented.) White can finish development in as little as 4 moves, Black will require 7 or more, and 3 moves are normally adequate for a pawn. Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 13:52
• Sorry. Life got complicated: 1) 4. Bg5 Nxe4 5. Nxe4 dxe4 With Qd5 "in the air" doesn't really win a tempo against the Bg5, as it can counter against the Black c-pawn. The game is fairly level at this point, despite material. But not everyone likes gambits, so: Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 22:24
• Sorry. Hit a wrong key 1) Qd5 "in the air" doesn't gain tempo (Bf4) but if don't like playing a gambit 2) 4 e5 Ne4 5. Ne4 de4 6. c3 intending Nge2/g3, etc. (6...c5 7.d5) 3) 4. ed5 Nd5 5. Nf3 with 2-3 move lead in development. See Bc4 aiming at f7 as a possible c4 analog if you don't like Bd3. 4) or even 4. f3 and stay in the BDG proper. Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 23:00

In the example you cited, it was not a "strange" opening but an inferior opening. The "kid" (beginner, actually), started with a "Pirc" defense (fortify the dark squares), and changed his mind by "transposing" into a "French" defense (fortify the light squares). Except that he wasted a move by moving the d pawn twice, instead of using one of those moves to play e6.

You should understand what he's done, that is, he's gotten an inferior French defense. You might play 4. e4xd5, Nxd5; 5.Nxd5 Qxd5 6. c4 Q moves, and Nf3 to get a superior opening.

His other opening moves may follow the same (bad) principles, and if they do, you should learn to take advantage of them.

• Welll, it's not "a French" if he never plays e6. But yeah, you can't/shouldn't count on "standard openings" to the exclusion of knowing why those are "standard", and thus what to do when opponent goes "non-standard". My education came when a White opponent "switched" to "being Black" via 1.e3 e5 2.e4. Commented Dec 20, 2015 at 18:15

There's nothing special about this line. If you understand basic opening principles, e5 should be automatic followed by maybe Ne2 and c3 etc. These moves should be ingrained in your brain. If you're actually thinking, then you don't understand how to play the opening,

• The point was a person should learn how to play chess and not spend their time trying to learn opening lines they'll never see again. Im sorry that went over your head. Commented Jun 17, 2022 at 10:51