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Hi, in this month's update we complete the survey of the King's English Four Knights with 4 g3 Nd4!?. Last month we focused on the lines where Black plays 6...Bb4 after 5 Bg2 Nxf3+ 6 Bxf3, which is Black's most popular continuation. This time around the primary focus is on 6...Bc5, which Ribli recommended for Black in a survey in ChessBase Magazine not too long ago. However, as we shall see, things aren't as rosy for Black as they have been portrayed to be.

Download PGN of September '07 Flank Openings games

King's English Four Knights: 4...Nd4!? - Part II

In last month's column we looked at the lines after 5 Bg2 Nxf3+ 6 Bxf3 Bb4. As promised then, we will this month have a look at Black's remaining 6th move alternatives:

  1. 6...Be7
  2. 6...d6
  3. 6...c6
  4. 6...Bc5

Of these moves, as we shall see below, the first three usually transpose into the same line, covered under line 'A', line 'B' and 'C' will cover those minor exceptions that don't fit under the set-up discussed under 'A'. However, only line 'D' represents a problem for White.

A: 6...Be7

This move is considered solid, but rather passive. The normal continuation is 7 d4 d6 8 Bg2 0-0 9 0-0 c6, and here 10 b3 is considered the main line. White does have some alternatives on move 10, but even as early as move 7, White can deviate with 7 g4!?, where the first player offers to take the game in a completely non-standard direction, which may throw Black a curveball as he expects a solid position with not an awful lot going on. These lines are all being discussed in our main game Schlosser - Naumann, which also demonstrate that despite having an opening edge, Black is still solid and often will be able to defend the position with just a bit of discomfort. In this case though, it seems White missed a couple of opportunities to make life really difficult for Black.

B: 6...d6

This will transpose to line A after 7 d4 Be7 8 Bg2 0-0 9 0-0 c6, but in Uhlmann - Rossetto White took the game in another direction initially, by playing 7 0-0 Be7 8 Bg2 0-0 9 d3 c6 10 e4, which is fully playable for Black, but nevertheless the old Argentinean soon made his own life very problematic by going for 10...Bg4?!, rather than the interesting 10...Ne8!?, which appears to give Black a balanced game.

C: 6...c6

Again White should play 7 d4, which is normally being answered with 7...d6, then White will usually opt for 8 Bg2 Be7 9 0-0 0-0 with transposition to line 'A' above, but in our main game Fahnenschmidt - Treppner we will examine some of the lesser lines, which are harmless for Black. Even if White's play looks rather innocuous, he still manages to create a lot of problems for Black. While the variation in itself doesn't deserve particular attention, the game is definitely worth studying carefully. The crucial point in the game seems to be move 17, where both sides have opportunities to change the course of the game. Outside our normal topic of conversation, the endgame that ensues in the game is, despite the opposite colored bishops very interesting, and I think White may have agreed to a draw in a position where he still had very real chances of winning the game.

D: 6...Bc5

This line is Black's most popular choice aside from 6...Bb4. Black has scored very decently in this line, which has made several stronger players such as Sutovsky, for example, to jump on the bandwagon. White has tried several different set-ups, the main lines are:

D1: 7 d3
D2: 7 0-0
D3: 7 Others

There are a number of transpositions available from one line to the next, for instance 7 e3, which can be found under D3, but then 7...0-0 8 0-0 will take it to D2, and is thus covered under D2.

D1: 7 d3

This will often transpose to D2 with 7...0-0 8 0-0. In the game Bacrot - Sutovsky we will only examine those lines where Black instead opts for 7...h6 and White tries something other than 8 0-0. In our main game Bacrot tries 8 h4:

which, however, is much less potent in this rendition compared to the one discussed in the August update with 6...Bb4 7 Qb3 Bc5 8 d3 followed by h2-h4. In his first attempt in this line, where Black played 8...d6, Bacrot obtained the better chances and should have won, but after Sutovsky's improvement in a subsequent game with 8...c6!?, White has, as far as I can see, no path to an edge. As an alternative, White can also consider 8 a3 as played in Lautier-Sutovsky, but Black also appears okay in this line.

D2: 7 0-0 0-0

This is the most popular continuation; White can now choose 8 e3, intending to play d2-d4, which is covered in the game Bareev - Volkov. From what I can see Black has one opportunity to secure equal chances, but misses this and simultaneously makes a substantial error, providing White with a material advantage. In the alternative continuations, Black has scored reasonably well in praxis, but White appears to have the upper hand theoretically.

The possibilities for either side after the move 8 d3 is discussed in the second Bacrot - Sutovsky game. While these lines are normally considered adequate for Black, I have found that White has very good chances of securing a small advantage. A number of new ideas are uncovered in the notes to this game.

Finally, we have the rarer 8 Na4, which brought White success in Gulko - Charbonneau, and generally seems to offer White a more pleasant game, and should Black go just a tiny bit wrong, then White's advantage will quickly develop into something more substantial as we can see in the Gulko game.

D3: 7 Others

These minor lines include 7 a3, 7 Rb1 and 7 e3 followed by 8 d4. They will be covered in our main game McNab - Stark. Of these 7 a3 is quite interesting, if nothing else then for the possibility of transposing into somethin akin to the 7 e3 line, but with Black being prevented from playing ...Bb4. Least attractive is 7 Rb1, which despite being tried by Mamedyarov fails to impress. In the main game, White obtains the better chances without too many difficulties, and therefore it, 7 e3, may well be a good option to use if you want to sidestep the main lines.


While being relatively solid, 6...Bc5 doesn't offer Black the same chances for active counterplay as does 6...Bb4, and White by all appearances has several ways to obtain the better chances, as discussed above. Overall, 6...Bb4 remains Black's primary choice, but as discussed in the August update, White has several promising continuations. Therefore, overall, White should not be overly concerned if Black chooses 4...Nd4, provided he is properly prepared.

See you next month, Carsten


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