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This article uses algebraic notation to describe chess moves.
Petrov's Defence
Chess zhor 26.png
Chess zver 26.png a8 rd b8 nd c8 bd d8 qd e8 kd f8 bd g8 h8 rd Chess zver 26.png
a7 pd b7 pd c7 pd d7 pd e7 f7 pd g7 pd h7 pd
a6 b6 c6 d6 e6 f6 nd g6 h6
a5 b5 c5 d5 e5 pd f5 g5 h5
a4 b4 c4 d4 e4 pl f4 g4 h4
a3 b3 c3 d3 e3 f3 nl g3 h3
a2 pl b2 pl c2 pl d2 pl e2 f2 pl g2 pl h2 pl
a1 rl b1 nl c1 bl d1 ql e1 kl f1 bl g1 h1 rl
Chess zhor 26.png
Moves 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6
ECO C42-C43
Named after Alexander Petrov
Parent Open Game opening explorer

Petrov's Defence, also called Petroff's Defence or the Russian Game, is a chess opening characterized by the following moves:

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nf6

Though this symmetrical response has a long history, it was first popularized by Alexander Petrov—a Russian chess player of the mid-19th century. In recognition of the early investigations by the Russian masters Petrov and Carl Jaenisch, this opening is called the Russian Game in some countries.

The Petrov has a reputation of being dull and uninspired. However, it offers attacking opportunities for both sides, and a few lines are quite sharp. Often a trade occurs, and Black after gaining a tempo gains a well placed knight. Pillsbury's game in 1895[1] against Emanuel Lasker testifies to this. The Black counterattack in the center also avoids the Ruy Lopez, Giuoco Piano (and other lines of the Italian Game) and the Scotch Game. Grandmasters Karpov, Yusupov, Marshall, Kramnik, and Pillsbury have frequently played the Petrov as Black.


White's third move

White has four main choices for his third move:

White usually prefers 3. Nxe5, 3. Nc3 or 3. d4.


3. Nc3

If White defends his attacked king pawn with 3. Nc3, Black can obtain equal chances by transposing into the Four Knights Game with 3...Nc6 or by entering the Petrov's Three Knights Game with 3... Bb4.

3. Bc4

Another possibility is 3. Bc4 Nxe4 4. Nc3, the Boden-Kieseritzky Gambit. It is not considered wholly sound, since Black has several viable options. He can accept the gambit with 4... Nxc3 5. dxc3 f6, although he must play carefully after 6. 0-0 (for example 6... Bc5?? 7. Nxe5! is disastrous; 6... d6 and 6... Nc6 are good). Another, more aggressive try is 6. Nh4, where White goes for a quick assault on Black's king, but Black can maintain a small advantage if he plays cautiously via 6... g6 7. f4 Qe7 8. f5 Qg7 9. Qg4 Kd8. Another possibility is returning the gambit pawn with 4... Nxc3 5. dxc3 c6 6. Nxe5 d5, which equalizes. A third possibility is transposing to the Italian Four Knights Game with 4... Nc6, and if 5. Nxe4, d5. If 5. Bxf7+?, Kxf7 6. Nxe4 d5 gives Black the bishop pair and control of the center. If 5. 0-0, Black plays 5... Nxc3 6. dxc3 and now Black can play 6... Qe7!, after which Fischer wrote in My 60 Memorable Games that "White has no compensation for the Pawn",[2] or 6... f6 transposing to the main line of the Boden-Kieseritzky.

3. Nxe5

After 3. Nxe5, Black should not continue to copy White's moves and try to restore the material balance immediately with 3... Nxe4? because after 4. Qe2 White will either win material (4... Nf6?? 5. Nc6+ wins Black's queen, and after 4... d5 5. d3 Qe7 6. dxe4 Qxe5 7. exd5 Black loses a pawn), or obtain a superior position (4... Qe7 5. Qxe4 d6 6. d4 f6 7. Nc3 dxe5 8. Nd5 Qd6 9. Bf4 Nd7 10. 0-0-0 and White has a big advantage). Black usually plays 3... d6. White now must retreat the knight, or sacrifice it.

  • 4. Nf3 - Main line
  • 4. Nc4 - Paulsen's Variation
  • 4. Nd3 - Karklins Attack
  • 4. Nxf7 - Cochrane Gambit

More often, White follows the main line 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d4 d5 6.Bd3, where he will try to drive Black's advanced knight from e4 with moves like c4 and Re1. White can instead force simplification with Lasker's 5. Qe2 Qe7 6. d3. This is generally only good enough for a draw, which Black should be satisfied with. Another possibility, explored by Keres, is 5. c4, known as the Kauffmann Attack. A completely different approach is to meet 4... Nxe4 with 5. Nc3 Nxc3 6. dxc3, with rapid development and queenside castling. For instance, White can plan a quick Be3, Qd2, and O-O-O, and play for a Kingside attack, trusting that his doubled c pawns will help protect his King and that his initiative and attacking potential will offset the long term disadvantage of having doubled pawns.

3. d4

Wilhelm Steinitz favored 3. d4. Black can capture either white pawn. After 3... exd4 4. e5 (4. Bc4 transposes into the Bishop's Opening) Ne4 5. Qxd4 d5 6. exd6 Nxd6 7. Nc3 Nc6 8. Qf4 the game is approximately equal. After the other capture, 3... Nxe4, 4. Bd3 d5 (amazingly, 4... Nc6!? 5. Bxe4 d5, intending 6. Bd3 e4, is also possible) 5.Nxe5, either 5... Nd7 or 5... Bd6 gives roughly equal chances.

ECO codes

The ECO codes for Petrov's Defence are C43 (for 3. d4 exd4 4. e5 Ne4 5. Qxd4) and C42 for all other lines.

See also


  1. ^ Lasker vs Pillsbury, 1895, 0-1
  2. ^ Bobby Fischer, My 60 Memorable Games, Faber and Faber, 1972, pp. 280-81. ISBN 0-571-09987-4.


Further reading

  • Raetsky, Alexander; Chetverik, Maxim (2005), Petroff Defence, Everyman Chess, ISBN 1-85744-378-0  
  • Kotronias, Vassilios; Tzermiadianos, Andreas (2005). Beating The Petroff. Batsford. ISBN 9780713489194.  

External links


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