Chess Openings – Four Knights

Chess Openings – Four Knights

Welcome back to Today’s
video is all about the four knights opening which begins with the moves,
pawn to e4, pawn to e5, knight f3, knight c6. Then knight to c3 and knight
f6. With this solid four knights opening, White’s idea is to slow down
from some of his main ideas and instead just focus on sensible development,
and later choose a strategically interesting plan. Let’s take
a look. The four knights opening is a king pawn opening.
After the traditional moves, pawn to e4, pawn to e5, and knight
to f3, White draws Black into playing the defensive move, knight to c6,
defending the pawn on e5. Now White’s most popular options include the moves,
bishop to b5 which would be the Ruy Lopez or bishop to c4, which would
be the Italian game. With both of these moves, White aims to castle kings
side fairly quickly. At the same time, he eventually wants to play for the
moves, c3 and pawn to d4. White is building this strategy on the fact that
it’s now much harder for Black to use the same strategy since he’s already
been baited into this move, knight c6, a defensive move, which has blocked
in the C pawn on c7. However, with the four knights opening, White
takes a fairly different tack here in favor of a developing move, knight
to c3. He actually gets rid of this benefit of being able to move the C pawn
and just looks for different ideas instead. Today, we’ll see that White still has real
possibilities of fighting for the initiative in the center. It’s just that
he plans to do it a little bit more gradually. The position known as the
four knights opening begins after Black’s standard reply, knight to f6. Now,
the main attraction for White to the four knights opening is not so much the
objective strength of the move, knight c3, as it is that White has an opportunity
to minimize the theoretical, the amount of lines which White
might need to learn in order to play the four knights. At the same time,
he’s hoping to catch Black a little bit less prepared than Black might
otherwise have been against the more popular treatments of the king’s pawn
opening. However, if Black knows what he’s doing in these positions, he should
have very little problems reaching a comfortable game. The most common move here now is bishop to
b5. This logical move sets White up to castle early and addresses the problem
of deploying the light squared bishop. If we studied the alternative squares
for this bishop’s deployment, we do find that b5 is the most sensible square.
From e2, the bishop wouldn’t attack anything and it would also
block the natural file for the rook after White castles. From d3, the bishop
would kind of look up [inaudible 02:58] and block the D pawn. There’s
also a slight trick involved that now, if White plays bishop to
c4, he gives Black an option to play the excellent move, knight takes e4,
capturing a center pawn using a fork trick. When Black gets an equal or even slightly
better game after the move, knight takes e4 d5. Or, after the possibility
of bishop takes f7, king takes f7, knight takes the pawn to d5. Theory
has shown that both of these options do not leave White with a very good
position. If White is serious about deploying the bishop, the only natural
square turns out to be b5. This has the added benefit of putting some
pressure on the e5 pawn, though White is not yet ready to act on this as a
serious threat. Black has two major replies to this set p. The first is
just to follow suit with this move, bishop to b4, achieving the exact same
aims that White was achieving just a move earlier. Black is making it possible
to castle early. He’s also deploying the bishop to the most sensible
square. Right away, you’re probably wondering, why doesn’t White just
win a pawn with the moves, bishop takes c6, D takes c6, and knight takes
e5? In summary, in turns out that the pawn on
e4 is just a little bit too shaky here so that Black equalizes with a strong
move, queen to e7. In all variations, he’s going to be able to recover
the pawn on e4 under pleasant conditions. For example, the move, d4, simply
allows knight takes e4 because we’ve created a new pin on our old
knight. On the other hand, the move f4 can be met with bishop takes d3, followed
by knight takes e4, which also promises Black clear equality. Probably
the relatively strongest move in this position for White would be to play
knight d3. But once again, Black has no problems equalizing after the
moves, bishops takes c3, followed by queen takes e4 check. Essentially, what we’ve found here is that
even though Black’s e5 pawn is somewhat shaky, so is White’s e4 pawn. This
is not surprising given the fact that the players are playing in symmetrical
fashion. Instead, White simply tends to castle in this position first.
Black once again follows suit with castling. Finally, White shores
up his own e4 pawn with the move, d2 to d3. At this moment, the e5 pawn really
does come under threat. But once again, Black simply follows suit with
the move, pawn to d6, defending the e5 pawn. At this moment, White now plays
bishop g5. For the first time, we reach a position in which Black cannot
successfully mimic White’s moves because this threat knight to d5 is becoming
very strong. If White were able to play knight to d5 in
this moment, he would first of all be threatening the bishop on b4. For example,
bishop takes c6, followed by knight takes b4. He would also be threatening
to damage the structure on the king’s side. Since this threat is so strong,
Black finally does have to find a different option. That excellent reply
turns out to be the move, bishop takes c3, eliminating the offensive
knight. Now White simply recaptures the bishop on c3. The maneuver
by Black here is also very instructive. Black still wants to get rid
of this pin on the knight on f6. So he plays the move queen, to e7. At first
glance, we may not see how this move fits into everything. But in fact, Black
is freeing up the d8 square for a very interesting maneuver. He wants
to bring his knight to d8. Then he wants to bring that knight to e6. Let’s show that on the board for a moment.
What we’re trying to do is simply disturb that bishop on g5 by bringing
the knight to d8 and then to e6. So the move to queen e7 simply prepares
this maneuver. Now, it’s true that if White really wants to eliminate this
possibility, he can actually play bishop takes c6 in this position. But
this would not really constitute a serious effort on White’s part to gain an
advantage. Again, it becomes a symmetrical position. Now we have very opposite
colored bishops, and there’s really no big winning chances here.
Instead of bishop takes c6, White is hoping that his bishop pair and slightly
more active placement of the pieces will continue to count for something
in the struggle that lies ahead. Instead play actually continues with
the move rook to e1, knight d8, pawn to d4, knight e6, and White retreats
the bishop all the way to c1. Black has a fine position here as he has no
weaknesses. White’s pawn structure is somewhat damaged. Nevertheless,
White can also be happy since he has the bishop pair and some extra space,
some control in the center. This is a highly interesting and also unclear
and balanced position. In general, the positions we’ve just discussed
are quite decent for Black. However, he also has a second option here
which is a little bit sharper, and that move is knight to d4. At first glance,
this move looks a little eccentric. But in fact, it actually makes
quite a bit of sense. Black is taking advantage of the fact that White’s
placement of the knight on c3 has a little tiny drawback. Because of the knight’s
placement on c3, the knight on d4 turns out to have a special kind of
immunity. For example, if White were to try to take
on d4 at this moment, after E takes d4, he now has a serious concern about
what to do about his E pawn. In fact, in this position, White achieves
very little after the move, pawn to e5, which is the response here. Now after
D takes d3, pawn takes knight, queen takes pawn and pawn takes pawn. It’s
clear that White has not achieved anything out of the opening. After
the move, knight d4, Black is simply threatening the bishop on b5, threatening
to capture the bishop pair. Usually from here, White retreats to
the a4 square. White hopes to show that Black’s jump into the d4 square
was premature, and that Black has to think now about how to defend his e5 pawn.
Also, Black is strangely lacking the usual move, d6, here, since he
is available to update at the moment. Also keep in mind that knight takes
f3 check would not necessarily be a good idea for Black since in this case,
it would be helping White’s development along. Instead in this line, Black’s idea is to look
for piece activity with this very strong move, bishop to c5. At first,
it just doesn’t look like Black’s doing a whole lot in this position. Why has
he stuck this knight on d4? Why is he bringing the bishop out to c5, and why
is he allowing the e5 pawn to hang? But we’re going to figure all this out
in just a moment. What I want to show first is just how powerful this knight
on d4 and this bishop on c5 can contribute to attacking chances for Black
if White is not careful. One move for White here would be to temporarily
ignore the pawn on e5. Let’s say, castling king’s side, followed by castling
king’s side. But now I want to show what would happen if
White would simply capture on e5 with knight takes e5. In fact, it turns
out that after the move, d6, after White’s best reply knight to f3, Black
gets clear compensation with the move, bishop to g4, getting ready to ruin
the pawn structure on the king’s side. This is ultimately a function
of the fact that Black has already placed the knight on this very nice
square on d4. However, I want to show another line which is even more dramatic
in its implications. That is, that the seemingly more natural move,
knight to d3 actually loses by force in this position, and quite spectacularly
after the moves, bishop g4, queen e1, and now the brilliant move, knight
to f3 check followed by G takes f3 and bishop takes f3. At this moment,
there’s actually no adequate reply to the simple threat knight g4, followed
by queen to h4. For example, White could try h3. But Black goes straight
ahead and plays knight to g4 anyway when the queen’s entrance on h4 will
be decisive, no matter what. Another game continued knight takes c5 in
this position. And Black simply continued knight g4. White sees that h2 is
about to be the death of him. So he hurried to play pawn to d3. But it was
still a little too late after queen h4, bishop f4. Instead of giving mate
on h2, Black simply played queen h3, threatening mate on g2. Backing
way up, after bishop c5, White can’t afford to dilly dally. Since Black’s
extra piece play takes on tremendous energy very quickly. Therefore
White ought to play knight takes e5. Now after castling king’s side, White
should be careful and avoid an unfavorable transposition with the bad move
castling king’s side. But instead should play aggressively, knight to
d3 attacking the bishop, bishop b6, e5 pushing back to knight, knight to e8. This leads to one of the important positions
for the four knights opening. White is ahead an extra pawn, but the awkward
placement of the knight on d3 and the somewhat vulnerable situation of its
king’s side, gives Black roughly equal winning chances in this highly
interesting position. That’s all for today. I hope you’ve enjoyed looked
at some of the fascinating chess available in the four knights opening.
All and all, these positions offer roughly equal winning chances for both
sides. It’s up to you whether you’d like to take these positions on with
White or with Black. That’s all for today. I look forward to seeing you again.

100 thoughts on “Chess Openings – Four Knights

  1. Something like that! But actually the more common saying is "whoever makes the next to last mistake wins" – or something like that ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Dereque, ur simple and clear explanations + that nice smile makes ur videos awesome…
    may i ask what ur rating is.(juz curious)…
    keep posting…

  3. Hi Dereque,

    Thanks for posting these great videos. It's instructive, helpful and you're very charismatic.

    At 7:44 why would White retreat his bishop to c1? Why not play Bh4 to๏ปฟ maintain the pin? What is White's plan when he actually undevelop his piece? Could it be because he wants to relocate it at to a3 and if so, does he play a4 before? Or maybe does he want to move it to b2?


  4. Thank you for the encouraging words! The question about Bh4 is interesting in particular. In those cases where White tried 11.Bh4 Black has mostly played 11…Nf4! with the idea of …Ng6, continuing the knight's redeployment with tempo. After Bc1, the dark-squared bishop's role is not actually clear. Sometimes it appears on b2, other times at a later stage it can return to g5. Part of the contest my revolve around whether or not White eventually finds an important role for this piece.

  5. This is hilarious! Thank you for sharing, I've had many laughs because of this ๐Ÿ™‚ And thank you for the kind words too.

  6. Mr.Dereque Kelley,thank you for the time that you take to carefully illustrate all the games you do ,I truly appreciate this it has help a whole lot to improve my game. I want to become a A-class chess player,and one day soon be a master at the game. Keep on smiling!

  7. Though in in cases where it is "drawish", it is still a great battleground in which to "practice chess". I think the position after 7.Bxc6 is good because it is theoretically even while white has a slight edge with a bishop pinning the knight on f6 and Rb1 soon to follow. It is a slight edge, but it is a good training point even if taken as "even". One could train to "at least draw with a stronger opponent. Can I "draw with pressure" with White? "Force a draw" under pressure with Black?

  8. What a charming opening! It reminds me of my early chess days, beating all comers at the cafe on raw talent, having to yet read any books or play with any "rated" players. We had rough house chess, and it was fun. Most of my opponents would play 1. …e5, whereas I would usually play 1. …c5. We didn't know "proper chess", but we knew how to cunningly go after each other's throats. Ah, those fun and vicious battles over coffee and pasta, sweet youth and innocence! The world was a phantom!

  9. They finally closed down our cafe, our "Sunset Grill" (New Orleans Cafe, actually). That cafe was REAL, the people there were, half the time, quite REAL. These days all I see are cut out carbons of stereotypical lemmings. I miss the old days of simple, innocent goodness, playing Chess all day and night, arguing philosophy, playing with "real scrappers" with personality and character. I suppose those days are gone. But we still have the Four Knights opening! Sorry Dereque, got sentimental.

  10. Great video! Can you do a video on the Scotch four knights? This position arises after e4 e5, Nf3 Nc6, Nc3 Nf6, d4.

  11. Great video!! Dereque, I'm a new fan of your videos. I appreciate how a national master isn't snobbish about it, and is willing to help out us "lesser" mortals. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. Man, wish these videos and Chess software where available when I was playing tournaments as a teenager more than 30 yrs ago. You would have to buy a book (if you could get one in your town bookstore – no Amazon) ,sit with a board and work through pages of variations, resetting the board and taking hours to study openings. As a result, I didn't study openings and would spend a lot of time thinking them out while other people would just play automatically. I'd always be under time pressure. :-/

  13. rrmegerrrd… the constant switching of youtube on and off of HD makes it so hard to enjoy videos. whatever happened to buffering it all and being able to ff & rew to my heart's content?

  14. Thank you. I normally open with knights, but I use a responsive approach. Because I don't really know any openings. So I thought to get better I should learn. Also what chess program would you recommend (if you use one) for people who want to learn, but already know a bit past the basics.

  15. These videos are straight brilliant. I dont think there are any other channels on youtube that cover chess openings as precise yet intricate as you do here.ย 

  16. These videos are really helpful. I do have a question though. What should you do at 6:10 if black plays Be6 instead of eliminating the knight?

  17. I somehow don't find these videos as confusing as other chess strategy videos. Thanks for being so clear and enthusiastic about the game.

  18. Thanks for the great videos. Appreciate the fact that you throw in quick references to the Lopez and Italian game as it helps to illustrate differences.

  19. Why can't Black respond with Bishop to G4 after the White move Bishop to G5? Wouldn't play continue with (White) Knight to D5, and (Black) Knight to D4, and this would lead to similar problems for White?

  20. Good Video. I like the 4 Knights. I think it should be mentioned that White can also use the move order 2.Nc3 and 3. Nf3. This has the advantage to avoid black moves like 2. d5 or 2. f5 which are objectivly not so good, but anoying on club level. Further white has the moves 4. d4 going into the Scotch or even the Belgrade Gambit or 4. g3 which is the subtle Glek variation. These additional possibilities make the 4 Knights even more attractive. Many black players play 2. Nc6 and 3.Bc5 and then the Nxe4 tricks works for white.

  21. Your videos are the best chess instruction videos I've ever seen. I'm an Instructional Designer working in online learning, and I'm thoroughly impressed. Keep it up please.

  22. Hello Dereque.
    Your videos are amazing and they have taught me so much!
    But i wonder why White doesnt play f3 instead of queen e1.
    I hope you Will talke a look at it. Thank you so much for These videos.

  23. I am an unrated player but these videos were really helpful for me to expand . can u give it email id so that I can give any doubts


  25. I really do enjoy your videos as they are very informative and not biased towards one side. Showing how both sides can play certain openings and respond to them as well and what their goals are make your videos that much more enjoyable. Now just wondering if you could do a video of the Four Knights Halloween Gambit variation?

  26. 6:40 why bother disturbing the Bishop with the Knight when you could just do H6 which not only disturbs the Bishop in less moves, but also creates a flight square for the king?

  27. Here's a challenge, try to find anyone who explains chess better than this guy. Don't, you can't. Great videos, 12/10

  28. I once played it as white.
    1: e4 / e5
    2:Kf3 / Kc6
    3:Bc4 / Kh6
    4: d4 / Bb4+
    5: Kc3 / Bd6
    6: 0-0 / 0-0
    7: Bxh6 / gxh6
    8: Qd2 / Qf6
    9: Kd5 / Qe6
    10: b3 / f5
    11: Kxc7 / Bxc7
    12: Bxe6+ / dxe6
    13: Qxh6 / fxe4
    14: Kg5 / Rf7
    15: Qh5 / Rg7
    16: Qe8#
    I won the game.
    Did you liked the game?

  29. I've been a correspondence player for nearly 40 years, and in the last 10 or so years I turned to the Four Knights opening when playing White in an attempt from getting away from the highly-analysed variations of the major king pawn openings.

  30. [Opening "Four Knights Game: Scotch Variation"]
    1. e4 / Sc6
    2. Kf3 / Kf6
    3. Kc3 / e5
    4. d4 / d6
    5. Bc4 / Le6
    6. d5 / Ka5
    7. Bb5+ / c6
    8. Qxe6 / cxb5
    9. exf7+ / King.xf7
    10. Kxb5 / Qb6
    11. Kc3 / Kg4
    12. O-O / Rd8
    13. Kd5 / Qc5
    14. Bg5 / Kf6
    15. Re1 / Be7
    16. Bxf6 / Bxf6
    17. Re3 / g5
    18. Rc3 / Kc4
    19. b3 / Kb2
    20. Qc1 / Qa3
    21. Kxf6 / King.xf6
    22. Qxg5+ / King.e6
    23. Qh6+ / King.d7
    24. Qg7+ / King.e8
    25. Kng5 / Rf8
    26. Rc7 / d5
    27. exd5 / Qd6
    28. Re1 / Qf6
    29. Rxe5+ / Qxe5
    30. Qxe5#

  31. Thank you so much, Dereque! It's always a pleasure following your elaborative and lively teaching delivered with eloquent, bright and precise expertise! Whenever I search for various chess videos and find your name below the thumbnail, I know I don't have to look any further!

  32. Can you please tell me till
    what rating will this opening be useful. Can I even play this in national tournaments?

  33. Very helpful. The four knights is so common in games with lower rated players like myself, and this will help a lot. I just hope my opponents have not seen this video. Thank you

  34. Most of the time i see white playing 3. Nc3 is as an answer to the russian defense. After 2. … Nc6 it feels like giving away momentum, no? Anyway, great video!!

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