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What's New - September 2003

Hi, this month I decided to look at the Four Knights Game.

GM Nigel Davies

Download PGN of September '03 1 e4 e5 games

Four Knights Game

Black's standard response to the Four Knights with 4.Bb5 is Rubinstein's 4...Nd4.

If White wants to play for a win then 5.Ba4 seems like the way to go (see Volkmann - Dervishi). Black gets compensation though it's still debatable as to whether it is enough. The move 5.Nxd4 (Campora - Onischuk) pretty much announces that White is playing for a draw. Of course Black does not have to accede straight away and British GM Mark Hebden gets himself a strong cup of coffee when someone plays this line against him!

Given the potential drawishness of the Rubinstein (4...Nd4 5.Nxd4) Black has searched high and low for winning chances. One way of doing this is with 4...Bc5

(Reinaldo Castineira - Zarnicki), the attempts to refute this with 5.Nxe5 or 6.Nxe5 falling somewhat short. Black's most recent attempt to generate winning chances in the 4 Knights is to defend his d-pawn with the 'patzer-like' 4...Bd6 (Keitlinghaus - Van den Doel). His reasoning is that he avoids early simplification and can reposition his bishop later without any ill effects. From a practical point of view it represents a valuable addition to Black's armoury.

In recent years 4.g3 has started to take over from 4.Bb5 as being White's most popular option in the Four Knights.

In many ways it resembles the 3.g3 Vienna (1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.g3) except that we have knights on f3 and c6 already. This may well favour White, as against the Vienna Black often plays 3...d5 4.exd5 Nxd5 and then follows up with ...c7-c6 rather than ...Nb8-c6 in order to neutralize the bishop on g2 (for 4...d5 see Ehlvest - Kaidanov).

One of the most natural replies to 4.g3 is 4...Bc5, trying to show that these new fangled fianchettoed bishops are not all they're cut out to be:

In the game Rashkovsky - Kuzmin Black's 6...a6 is an important move, safeguarding this bishop from exchange. With 4...Bb4 Black brings about a kind of reversed Spanish Opening. This may not be a bad idea in itself, but after 5...Bxc3 White gets the bishop pair and is very much on the positive side of the position. Rozentalis's 6.dxc3 (Rozentalis - Komljenovic) is noteworthy, eschewing the possibility of building a pawn centre.

Copying White's moves with 4...g6 is not an unreasonable option for Black (Polivanov - Hatchatrian). His main problem is that after 5.d4 the symmetry is broken anyway and Black finds himself with slightly less space as in the Pirc Defence with 4.g3:

4...d6 (Hector - Georgadze) is superficially similar to 4...g6 except that Black is being a bit more clever. The point is that the immediate 5.d4 can be answered by 5...Bg4, so White must prevent this with 5.h3. This may or may not be a useful move.

Last but not least, Sedina - Carlsen features a truly astonishing idea by Black; he meets 4.g3 with 4...Nxe4!?.

Accepting the offer gives Black compensation, though I wouldn't like to hazard a guess as to whether this is adequate. In any case Ms. Sedina decides that discretion is the better part of valor and declines the offer. Amazingly we get a transposition into the 4...d5 line in which Black would reach the position after White's 8th via 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.Bg2 Nxc3 7.bxc3.

That's all for this month. I'll off to the Monarch Assurance tournament in the Isle of Mann, keeping my eyes peeled for some more interesting open games which will follow in next month's update.

Do you want to improve your chess? Then either email me (as just below), or visit for more information about my coaching services

Please post your Kingpawn Opening queries on the 1 e4 e5 Forum, or subscribers can write to me at if you have any questions or queries.

Nigel Davies