Chess Opening Theory/1. e4/1...e5/2. Nf3/2...Nc6/3. Nc3/3...Nf6/4. Bc4

< Chess Opening Theory‎ | 1. e4‎ | 1...e5‎ | 2. Nf3‎ | 2...Nc6‎ | 3. Nc3‎ | 3...Nf6
Four Knights Game: Italian Variation
a b c d e f g h
8 a8 b8 c8 d8 e8 f8 g8 h8 8
7 a7 b7 c7 d7 e7 f7 g7 h7 7
6 a6 b6 c6 d6 e6 f6 g6 h6 6
5 a5 b5 c5 d5 e5 f5 g5 h5 5
4 a4 b4 c4 d4 e4 f4 g4 h4 4
3 a3 b3 c3 d3 e3 f3 g3 h3 3
2 a2 b2 c2 d2 e2 f2 g2 h2 2
1 a1 b1 c1 d1 e1 f1 g1 h1 1
a b c d e f g h
Position in Forsyth-Edwards Notation (FEN)
Moves: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bc4

Four Knights Game: Italian VariationEdit

White's 4.Bc4 in here looks like a natural developing move, targeting f7 and getting ready to castle. There is however a tactical trick Black has (4...Nxe4!) which has made masters shun away from 4.Bc4. For some history, we might mention that Tarrasch played this against Lasker in the 1916 World Championship, and was crushed.

If Black wants to accept a normal game, there is nothing particularly wrong with a natural developing move like 4...Bc5, but 4...Nxe4! is the best move in the position, and White is then fighting for equality.

In fact, below the master level, this position crops up very often. One online chess database (365chess) says that 4.Bc4 is played in one out of every five games featuring the Four Knights, and since most amateur games never make it onto that database, the real figure is probably higher. Larry D. Evans (see references below) says that his students wind up in this line about once a tournament.

Since 4.Bc4 is played so often, learning the theory on 4...Nxe4 will let you get many good positions with Black after only a few moves. With best play, White should probably equalize (according to Pinski's book on the Four Knights), but has to work a bit for it.

Theory tableEdit

For explanation of theory tables, see theory table and for notation, see algebraic notation..
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4.Bc4

4 5 6


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  • Evans, Larry D. The Fork Trick. Published in two parts (April 2000 and May 2000) issues of Chess Life. Online facsimiles of the articles are available at