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The Two Knights Variation

In this online chess lesson we analyze The Two Knights variation which was first played by Polerio (c. 1550 – c. 1610) in the late 16th century, this line of the Italian Game was extensively developed in the 19th century. Black’s third move is a more aggressive defense than the Giuoco Piano. Black invites White to attack his f7-pawn with 4.Ng5. If White accepts the offer, the game quickly takes on a tactical character: Black is practically forced to give up a pawn for the initiative. The complications are such that David Bronstein suggested that the term “defense” does not fit, and that the name “Chigorin Counterattack” would be more appropriate

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PGN ANALYSIS

The Italian Game, 2 Knights Variation

You must activate JavaScript to enhance chess game visualization.
jQuery(document).ready(function($) { var selector = '#' + "rpbchessboard-63e0e39bc17c8-1" + ' .rpbchessboard-chessgameAnchor'; RPBChessboard.renderPGN($(selector), {"pgn":"[ECO \"C57\"] [Annotator \"Mac\"] [PlyCount \"20\"] [SourceDate \"2014.01.17\"] [TimeControl \"600\"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 {[#]} (3... Bc5 {This leads to the traditional main line of the Italian game.} 4. d3 Nf6 5. Ng5 O-O) 4. Ng5 {This leads to the well known Two Knights variation. It’s one of the most popular variations at all levels of chess. It can lead to a variety of positions with chances for both sides to attack depending on which variation is chosen from here.} d5 ( 4... Bc5 {[%csl Rf2][%cal Rc5f2] This is the Traxler countergambit. It tempts white to take on f7 which they should do but not with the knight![#]} 5. Bxf7+ $1 (5. Nxf7 $6 Bxf2+ {This leads to wild complications which white shouldn’t knowingly go into.} 6. Kxf2 (6. Kf1 Qe7 7. Nxh8 d5) 6... Nxe4+) 5... Ke7 { [%cal Rh7h6,Ye7f7]} 6. Bd5 $1 {[%cal Gd5e4,Gd5c6]} Rf8 {[%cal Yf8f7]} 7. O-O d6 8. c3 {[%cal Yg5f3,Yd2d4]}) (4... Qe7 $4 {[%cal Yg5f7,Yc4f7] Defending the f7 is not an option.} 5. Bxf7+ Kd8 (5... Qxf7 6. Nxf7 Kxf7) 6. Bb3 $18 {[%cal Rg5f7,Rf7d8,Rf7h8]}) 5. exd5 Na5 $1 {This is the Chigorin variation. It’s generally accepted as the best defense for black. Black will get active play for the sacrificed pawn. [#]} (5... Nd4 $5 {This should most likely transpose to the b7-b5 variation as well.} 6. c3 b5 7. Bf1 $1 Nxd5 8. cxd4 Qxg5 9. Bxb5+ Kd8 10. O-O Bb7 {[%cal Gb7g2]} 11. Qf3 {[%cal Yf3b7]} Rb8 {[%cal Gb8b7]} 12. dxe5 Ne3 {[#][%cal Rb7g2,Rg5g2,Re3g2]} 13. Qh3 $1 {[%csl Rd7][%cal Rh3d7]} Qxg2+ (13... c6 14. dxe3 (14. fxe3)) 14. Qxg2 Nxg2 15. d4 {White is better}) (5... b5 $5 { I don’t consider this to be objectively the strongest move but it is a dangerous surprise weapon and white must be very accurate with their response here…} 6. Bxb5 $2 (6. Bf1 $1 Qxd5 (6... Nd4 7. c3) 7. Nc3 Qc5 8. Bxb5) 6... Qxd5 {[%cal Rd5b5,Rd5g2]} 7. Bxc6+ (7. Bf1) 7... Qxc6 8. O-O Bb7 {Black has a very dangerous initiative here.}) (5... Nxd5 {This leads to the infamous Fried Liver Attack. Usually players with the black pieces only stumble into this variation because they are unfamiliar with the position. As you will see, the attacks that black will face after this move are not pleasant to deal with.} 6. Nxf7 (6. d4) 6... Kxf7 7. Qf3+ Ke6 (7... Ke8 $2 8. Bxd5 {[%cal Rd5c6,Rf3f7]}) ( 7... Kg8 $4 8. Bxd5+ {[#][%csl Rg8][%cal Rd5g8]} Qxd5 9. Qxd5+ Be6 10. Qxe6# { [%csl Rg8]}) 8. Nc3 {[%cal Rc3d5,Rc4d5,Rf3d5]} Nce7 (8... Ncb4 9. O-O c6 10. d4 ) 9. d4 $1 exd4 $2 10. Qe4+ Kd6 (10... Kf7 11. Nxd5) 11. Nxd5) 6. Bb5+ c6 7. dxc6 bxc6 8. Bd3 $1 {[%cal Yd3e4] This is the modern mainline. Nakamura introduced this into high level chess in the final round of 2009 US Championship against Josh Friedel. He won a nice game and the variation started to catch on after the game. One advantage of this move is that it takes control of the e4 square which enables white to retreat the knight back to e4 if they’d like.} (8. Qf3 $5 Be7 9. Bxc6+ Nxc6 10. Qxc6+ Bd7 {Black gets good compensation in a position like this.}) (8. Ba4 $2 {[%csl Ra4]} h6 9. Nf3 e4 10. Ne5 {[%csl Ra4,Re5]} Qd4 {[%cal Gd4a4]} 11. Nxc6 (11. Bxc6+ Nxc6 12. Nxc6 Qc5 13. Nxa7 Rxa7) 11... Qxa4) (8. Be2 $5 {This is the classical move. I think black gets good play after the traditional approach here. A sample variation is…} h6 9. Nf3 (9. Nh3 $6) 9... e4 10. Ne5 Bc5 {[%cal Rd8d4,Rd4e5, Rd4f2]}) 8... Nd5 $1 (8... h6 $6 {[%cal Rh6g5,Gg5e4]} 9. Ne4 {[%csl Ge4] Now white has this retreat square which provides a nice antidote to black’s h6 ideas which are common in the classical mainline.[#]} Nxe4 10. Bxe4 f5 $4 11. Qh5+ ) 9. Nf3 Bd6 10. O-O {Theory continues to develop at a fast rate here but two choices that black can try here are Nf4 and 0-0. They both lead to interesting play.} Nf4 (10... O-O {This is also a good approach.}) *","nboSquareSize":50,"idoSquareSize":50,"nboCoordinateVisible":true,"idoCoordinateVisible":true,"nboColorset":"greenvintage","idoColorset":"greenvintage","nboPieceset":"new-set-mac","idoPieceset":"new-set-mac","nboAnimated":true,"nboMoveArrowVisible":false,"nboMoveArrowColor":"b","pieceSymbols":"native","navigationBoard":"frame","withFlipButton":true,"withDownloadButton":true}); });

The Two Knights variation of the Italian game is one of the most famous variations in all of chess. It’s been played for hundreds of years and it is still seen at all levels of chess. No matter the level of the players it leads to early and interesting attacks with chances for both players. In this analysis and video you will have the chance to pick and choose exactly which variations you’d like to go for and which ones to avoid. For players that play the Italian game with either color having an understanding of the Two Knights variation is an invaluable tool.

Polerio vs Domenico 1610

1610  the tercios from Spain and its allies roam trough Europe at full march. Meanwhile in Rome 2 great chess players, Gulio Cesare Polerio and Domenico play The two knights variation of the Italian game. They play the fried Liver attack one of the more aggressive lines of the two knights variation reminiscing of the optimism, romance and passion typical of the time.

PGN ANALYSIS
Cinematic Video

You must activate JavaScript to enhance chess game visualization.
jQuery(document).ready(function($) { var selector = '#' + "rpbchessboard-63e0e39bc17c8-2" + ' .rpbchessboard-chessgameAnchor'; RPBChessboard.renderPGN($(selector), {"pgn":"[Event \"Rome\"] [Site \"Rome ITA\"] [Date \"1610.??.??\"] [Round \"?\"] [White \"Giulio Cesare Polerio\"] [Black \"Domenico\"] [Result \"1-0\"] [ECO \"C57\"] [Annotator \"Mac\"] [PlyCount \"41\"] [EventDate \"1610.??.??\"] [SourceDate \"2014.01.17\"] {We are going all the way back to 1610! By far the oldest game in our archive! Despite the old age, this game still stands the test of time. Beyond just being a well played game, this is the first ever game in the Fried Liver Attack. This opening has terrorized players of all levels but it’s been especially deadly at the lower ranks. This is a worthwhile attack to add to your arsenal. Players with the black pieces should make sure they know what they are doing in these lines.} 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 {[%csl Rf7]} ( 3... Bc5 {This is the standard Italian game. It can lead to a variety of play depending on who is playing the white pieces.}) 4. Ng5 {[#][%cal Rc4f7,Rg5f7]} d5 (4... Bc5 {[%csl Rf2][%cal Rc5f2] This is known as the Traxler countergambit. It’s very interesting but I think white gets the upper hand after the following sequence…} 5. Bxf7+ $1 (5. Nxf7 $6 {[%cal Yf7d8,Yf7h8]} Bxf2+ $1 { This has apparently been analyzed out to a draw with proper play from both sides but it contains a lot of danger that players with the white players should avoid altogether.} 6. Kf1 Qe7 7. Nxh8 {[%csl Yc8][%cal Yc8g4]} d5 $1 8. exd5 Nd4 {[%cal Yc8g4] This attack is considered extremely dangerous although white has gotten good results in my database with the move d6 here.}) 5... Ke7 {[%cal Yg5f7,Rh7h6,Rh6g5]} 6. Bd5 $1 Rf8 7. O-O d6 8. c3 $1 {[%cal Yd5c6,Yd2d4] White will shut down black’s play with Bxc6 and then d2-d4.}) 5. exd5 {[%csl Gc4]} Nxd5 6. Nxf7 {The notorious Fried Liver Attack! This sacrifice draws the black king out to where it will face a menacing attack.} Kxf7 7. Qf3+ {[#][%cal Rf3d5,Rf3f7]} Ke6 (7... Kg8 $4 {There are not enough question marks for this move…} 8. Bxd5+ Qxd5 9. Qxd5+ Be6 10. Qxe6#) (7... Ke8 $2 8. Bxd5 $16 { [%cal Rf3f7,Rd5c6]}) 8. Nc3 Nce7 $6 (8... Ncb4 $1 {This is the better, more modern alternative although even here it’s still a difficult defense for black. }) 9. d4 $1 {White’s goal is to rip open the center and to develop as rapidly as possible.} c6 (9... exd4 $4 10. Bf4 $1 (10. Qe4+ {[%cal Re4e6,Re4d5] Strong but there is better!} Kd7 11. Nxd5) 10... dxc3 11. O-O-O $1 {[%cal Rd1d5,Rh1e1] What a position! Showing the true value of open lines against a king you want to checkmate. There is absolutely no shelter or hope for the black king here.}) 10. Bg5 $6 {[#][%cal Yg5d8,Yc4e6]} (10. dxe5 $1 $18 {It was best to take here first to open up the d-file and take some squares from the black king.}) 10... h6 11. Bxe7 $1 (11. Bh4 $5 g5 12. Bg3) 11... Bxe7 12. O-O-O Rf8 13. Qe4 { [%cal Ye4e6]} Rxf2 $4 {Too greedy. Time was precious here.} (13... Bg5+ $1 14. Kb1 Rf4 $13 {Despite the opening debacles, black is definitely in the game here. White’s missed chance earlier will cost Polerio the advantage here.}) 14. dxe5 Bg5+ 15. Kb1 Rd2 {[%cal Yg5d2]} 16. h4 $1 {[#][%cal Rh4g5,Yg5d2]} Rxd1+ 17. Rxd1 Bxh4 18. Nxd5 cxd5 19. Rxd5 {[%cal Rc4e6,Rd5d8]} Qg5 (19... Qh8 {I think this is a funny move to illustrate how hopeless black is. Black’s queen is in the most remote area of the board but can’t escape danger and neither can black’s king.} 20. Rd8+ {Winning the queen although white can actually go for more after the following sequence.} Ke7 21. Qd5 $3 {[%cal Rd5d6]} Qxd8 22. Qf7# ) 20. Rd6+ {[#][%cal Rd6e6,Rc4e6]} Ke7 21. Rg6 {[%cal Rg6g7,Rg6g5,Re4h4] Black resigned here due to the multitude of threats, including Rxg5, Rxg7, Qxh4+.} 1-0","nboSquareSize":50,"idoSquareSize":50,"nboCoordinateVisible":true,"idoCoordinateVisible":true,"nboColorset":"greenvintage","idoColorset":"greenvintage","nboPieceset":"new-set-mac","idoPieceset":"new-set-mac","nboAnimated":true,"nboMoveArrowVisible":false,"nboMoveArrowColor":"b","pieceSymbols":"native","navigationBoard":"frame","withFlipButton":true,"withDownloadButton":true}); });

The Fried Liver Attack in the Two Knights variation of the Ityalian has induced many headaches. It turns out you can trace its history all the way back to Rome, Italy in the year 1610 to this same game between Polerio and Domenico. We are going back 410 years and look at it’s deadly debut. The game is between two of the time periods best players, Polerio and Domenico. The game stands up remarkably well to the test of time. There were improvements for both players but it was still well played and shows many of the key ideas that players with both colors will want to know.

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The two knights variation in action

Polerio vs Domenico 1610

Italian Two Knights Variation The Fried Liver Attack Online Chess Course

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