Two Knights Defence

The Two Knights defence is a Black defence against e4 that is actually a gambit. The main line looks like a beginner’s mistake, but actually turns around to be Black sacrificing a pawn for an open position. The Two Knights Defence starts with Black playing “3…Nf6” instead of “3..Bc5” which would lead to the Giuoco Piano or Evan’s Gambit.

Diagram: Two Knights Defence

This looks like a mistake to most beginners. White can simply play “4.Ng5: and then the pawn at f7 is under risk of a deadly knight fork. It’s hard to see what Black can do, and indeed many beginners will fail to find the blocking move: “4..d5”.

Diagram: Two Knights Defence with d5

White should capture the pawn on d5 with exd5. Black can them recapture the pawn with Nxd5, but this is less popular, and may lead to the “Lolli Attack” (a good attack) or the more adventurous “Fried Liver Attack” which is a piece gambit opening where White sacrifices a Knight for an attack:

Diagram: Fried Liver Attack

The main line of the Two Knight’s Defence is actually for Black to avoid recapturing the d5 pawn (i.e. avoiding Nxd5) but playing Na5 instead (attacking the Bishop on c4 instead). White has a check that looks nasty, but it all works out.

Diagram: Two Knight’s Defence Main Line

In this position, Black has gambited a pawn, but now has an open position and better development. White has a more defensive position but has an extra pawn. In other words, it’s a typical gambit style of game ready to be played by both sides.

White Avoids the Gambit: Because the main line gambit of the Two Knight’s Defence is a strong gambit position for Black, White often avoids playing Ng5. The other main line involves White playing d4.

Diagram: Two Knight’s Defence with d4

This line for White with “d4” is actually an ancient line. There is a lot of theory. It is very playable for Black, but there are a few traps whereby White can win against a weaker player. The old main line is where White lets Black take the pawn on e4, then wins a pawn back using complex tactics.

Diagram: Two Knight’s Defence Ancient Main Line

The alternative main line is to advance “e5” to avoid Black taking the e4 pawn.

Diagram: Two Knight’s Defence Newer Main Line

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