1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.e5
White pushes the e-pawn and attacks Black’s f6-knight. Despite its superficial similarities with the Max Lange Attack, this line often leads to quieter and more positional play, especially when Black responds with 5…d5 (Line A) although 5…Ne4!? (Line B) and 5…Ng4!? (Line C) are fully playable for Black. This line is favoured at grandmaster level due to its greater positional sophistication, but I think most players at club level will be better served by the 5.0-0 lines.
The main alternative to 5.e5 and 5.0-0 is 5.Ng5 (which is extensively covered at Michael Goeller’s site: http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~goeller/urusov/perreux/index.html. Black’s best response is 5…d5 6.exd5 Qe7+ (not 6…Nxd5?! 7.0-0 which is very dangerous for Black), when White has no good alternative to 7.Kf1, winning a pawn but giving up castling rights. The main line continues 7…Ne5 8.Qxd4 Nxc4 9.Qxc4 h6!
As Goeller notes, White has the interesting, but probably dubious, piece sacrifice 10.Nc3?! hxg5 11.Bxg5 here, but more often retreats with 10.Nf3 when Black has good chances with 10…Qc5!, despite offering a queen trade a pawn down. It will be hard for White to hold onto the extra pawn in the long run, while Black retains active piece play. Personally I cannot recommend 5.Ng5, but readers can feel free to disagree and give it a go.
Instead after 5.e5 Black has three main responses.
Black lashes out in the centre.
White gets the bishop out of the way. Here 6.exf6 dxc4 doesn’t work due to White not having castled yet)
The attempt to continue in gambit style with 7.0-0 is worth a look, though it is not convincing. Black can play 7…Bg4, e.g. 8.h3 Bxf3 9.Qxf3 Be7, while 8.Qxd4 Bc5 (this is even stronger than the obvious 8…gxf3; Black gains time and space) 9.Qd3 0-0 is probably a little better for Black.
After 7…Bd7, play usually continues 8.Bxc6 bxc6 9.0-0 Bc5. White has some hope of generating play on the kingside here, e.g. 10.f3 Ng5 11.f4 Ne4 12.Be3.
In this position White can be satisfied and has the long-term aim of advancing the e and f-pawns.
The risky 8.Nxc6!? Bxf2+ leads to complications where Black has the majority of the practical chances. Black’s idea is 9.Kf1 Qh4, when Black is a piece down but has very dangerous attacking chances, while White has to think about how to make the most of the possible discovered checks with the c6-knight.
There are various complicated variations here. One possible line is 10.Nxa7+ c6 11.Nxc8 (11.Nxc6 0-0! is extremely dangerous for White) 11…Rxc8 12.Be2, when Black’s attack is worth at least a draw (via 12…Bd4 13.Qe1 Bf2 14.Qd1 Bd4 etc).
8.0-0 (favoured by Ian Rogers) can be met by 8…Bd7 9.Bxc6 bxc6 transposing to the note to 7…Bd7, but Black also has the option 8…0-0!? 9.Bxc6 bxc6 10.Be3 (10.Nxc6 Qd7 will allow Black to generate dangerous compensation for the pawn) when 10…Qe8 gives Black good play.
Returning to 8.Be3,
The gambit 8…0-0!? is also possible for Black here, although it is less sound than against 8.Be3. White will continue 9.Nxc6 bxc6 10.Bxc5 Nxc5 11.Bxc6
and I doubt that Black has enough for the pawn (e.g. 11…Rb8 12.Qxd5 Qe7 13.0-0 Rxb2 14.Nc3) although the position is quite messy.
Black cuts off the threats to c6 and White takes the opportunity to shatter Black’s queenside pawn structure.
10.0-0 is also playable, when Black should respond with 10…Qe7 according to Tim Harding. White can push the e and f-pawns in this line, but Black can throw a spanner in the works with …f6, aiming to take over the initiative on the kingside. Mark Morss analysed this line quite extensively at http://correspondencechess.com/campbell/hard/h991018b.htm
10…Nxd2 11.Qxd2 may allow White a small positional edge due to the superior pawn structure.
Not 11.N4f3 Qe7 (Harding, citing analysis by Jan Pinski).
11…Qxe4 12.0-0 Bb6
White will hope to take advantage of the superior pawn structure, but Black has more active piece play than in the lines following 10…Nxd2 11.Qxd2, and as a result chances are about equal.
John Emms (in Play the Open Games as Black) and Nigel Davies (in Play 1.e4 e5!) both covered 5…Ne4 extensively. There are various possibilities in this variation, so I will just give a few sample lines. The main problem for White is that unless he/she is willing to embark on a risky gambit with 6.Bd5 Nc5 7.c3, Black gets a choice between quietly developing with …Be7 and …0-0 which generally equalises, or provoking complications by trying to hold onto the d4-pawn.
If White wishes to play a gambit then 6.Bd5 is the way to go (not 6.c3?! d5!, when the attack on the c4-bishop forces White to lose time as well as losing a pawn). Black can try 6…Bb4+!? here, although White gets dangerous compensation for two pawns after 7.c3 dxc3 8.0-0 cxb2 9.Bxb2, and 7.Kf1!? is also possible, leading to a messy position, e.g. 7…f5 8.Nxd4 Nxd4 9.c3.
After 6…Nc5, 7.c3!? is possible, e.g. 7…dxc3 (7…d3 8.Be3 is quite good for White) 8.Nxc3 when the idea is to play Be3, Qe2 and 0-0-0 and attack on the kingside, e.g. 8…Be7 9.Be3 0-0 10.Qe2 Nb4 11.0-0-0
Black’s practical results in this line have, however, been favourable. White’s more solid option is 7.0-0, intending 7…Be7 8.Re1 followed by 9.Nxd4 which gives rise to approximate equality, but Black can encourage White to play a gambit here too with 7…Ne6!?.
White’s other major option at move 6 is 6.Qe2 Nc5, when White should avoid 7.c3 (recommended in Chess Openings for White Explained). White’s compensation is reasonable after 7…dxc3 8.Nxc3, e.g. 8…Be7 9.Be3 0-0 10.0-0-0, but Black instead plays 7…d3! (as recommended by John Watson) hitting the white queen on e2.
Instead 7.0-0 is preferable, when one sample line runs 7…Be7 8.Rd1 (8.c3 is again met by 8…d3) and White can hope for compensation for a pawn after 8…Ne6 9.c3 dxc3 10.Nxc3, or an edge after 8…0-0 9.Nxd4 Nxd4 10.Rxd4. However, 7…Ne6 is more testing (as recommended by John Emms in Play the Open Games as Black). 8.Rd1 (or 8.c3 meets with the same response) 8…d5 9.Bb5 Bc5
produces a rather messy position.
Also playable is 6…Be7, e.g. 7.Re1 is met by 7…d5! 8.exd6 Nxd6 9.Bd5 0-0, and 7.Bd5 Nc5 transposes to the line 6.Bd5 Nc5 7.0-0 Be7.
Instead 7.Bb5 transposes to the line 5…d5 6.Bb5 Ne4 7.0-0 (considered under line A), where Black should reply 7…Bg4 with a good game.
Also possible is 8.Re1+, e.g. 8…Be7 9.Bd5 0-0 with approximate equality. 10.Bxc6 bxc6 11.Nxd4 allows Black active piece play and the two bishops as compensation for the shattered queenside pawn structure.
Also playable is 8…Be7 leading to similar positions to the previous note: 9.Bxc6+ bxc6 10.Nxd4, when Black must defend the c6-pawn with 10…Qd7 or 10…Bb7, but after a subsequent …c5 the b7-bishop will be quite powerful.
9.Re1+ Be7 10.Bxc6+ bxc6 11.g4!
White harasses the f5-knight and Black’s best option here is, surprisingly, 11…Nh6! (Harding) because after an exchange of queens White’s g4-pawn will be weak, e.g. 12.Bxh6 gxh6 13.Qxd4 Qxd4 14.Nxd4 Bxg4, or 13.Nxd4 c5. After 11…Nh6 chances are approximately equal, whereas 11…Nd6 12.Nxd4 gives White an edge.
This option is also quite playable for Black, giving White the option of playing in gambit style with 6.0-0, or heading for a complicated and approximately equal endgame with 6.Qe2. Although I have given 6.0-0 as my main line, having looked at some of Black’s lesser-known possibilities against it, I am more inclined to recommend 6.Qe2.
6.Qe2 is met by 6…Qe7 (rather than 6…Bb4+ 7.c3! dxc3 8.0-0, when White has very dangerous compensation for the sacrificed pawn(s) after either 8…cxb2 9.Bxb2 or 8…0-0 9.Nxc3 intending 10.e6). After 6…Qe7 the gambits don’t work: 7.0-0?! Ngxe5 and the knight is actually quite secure due to the queen on e2 obscuring any Re1 ideas. Hence White’s best reply is 7.Bf4. 7…f6 8.exf6 Nxf6 is a likely continuation. (Black can also consider 7…d6 which leads to similar play: for example, 8.exd6 cxd6 9.Nbd2 Bf5 10.Nb2 Qxe2+ 11.Kxe2, but Black then has to keep watch over those isolated d-pawns).
One sample line continues 9.Nbd2 (after 9.Bxc7?! d6 the bishop is in trouble) 9…d5 10.Bb5 Qxe2+ 11.Kxe2 Bg4 12.Bxc7 with complications. Or, instead of 9…d5, Black can play in a more reserved manner with 9…d6, e.g. 10.Nb3 Qxe2+ 11.Bxe2 Bd7 12.Nbxd4, when both sides have rival pawn majorities. Despite the early queen exchange this line offers interesting play for both sides.
Less reliable is 6…Bc5, transposing to a rare line of the Max Lange Attack (after 5.0-0 Bc5 6.e5 Ng4). White has good attacking chances after 7.Bf4 guarding e5 and preparing to attack the g4-knight with h2-h3. For example, 7…0-0 8.h3 Nh6 9.Bxh6 gxh6 10.c3, or 7…d6 8.exd6 Bxd6 9.Re1+ Be7 (9…Kf8 10.Bxd6+ Qxd6 11.c3, 9…Ne7 10.Bxd6) 10.c3. Black still has some hope of equalising here with accurate defence but in a practical sense this line is far more difficult for Black than 6…d6.
6…Be7 may not be too bad though: 7.Re1 d6 8.exd6 Qxd6 is about equal.
Tempting is 7.Re1?!, but after 7…Ngxe5 followed by 8…Be7 White can only regain one pawn due to the attack down the e-file, and is left with insufficient compensation for the other pawn.
Or 7…Qxd6!? (Efimenko-Short, Mukachevo 2009), though I don’t think it is as good. Here 8.Re1+ is parried by 8…Be6, so in the aforementioned game White continued 8.Na3 a6 (to stop Nb5) 9.h3 Nh6 10.Re1+ Be7 11.Bg5 Nf5.
Efimenko would have retained decent attacking chances with 12.Bd3 (noted by Klaus Bischoff in his notes to the game; he offered the sample simplifying line 12...0-0 13.Bxf5 Bxf5 14.Bxe7 Nxe7 15.Qxd4 Nc6 16.Qxd6 cxd6 17.Rad1 where White has some advantage due to the weak isolated black d-pawn).
Another tempting, but bad, possibility for White is 8.Bg5, which is met by 8…Bxh2+! (9.Nxh2 Qxg5).
the most common move, but 8…Be7!? isn’t bad either,
e.g. 9.Bg5 0-0 10.Bxe7 Nxe7, when White’s advantage after 11.Qxd4 (11.Nxd4 c5) 11...Qxd4 12.Nxd4
is pretty microscopic.
White can try something like 9.h3 Nf6 10.Nbd2 but again in the long run it will be hard to avoid the en-masse exchange on d4.
Instead after 8...Kf8, in this rather unclear position, Black intends to move the g4-knight to e5.
Also possible is 9.Nbd2, e.g. 9…Nge5 (9…Qf6 10.Ne4) 10.Bb3 Bg4 11.h3 Bh5 12.g4 Bg6 13.Nxe5 Bxe5 14.Ne4 which looks pretty unclear.
9…Nge5 10.Nxe5 (10.Bb3?! Bg4 is good for Black due to White’s lack of support for the f3-knight) 10…Nxe5 is a good alternative for Black.
After 9…Qf6, White has a few options.
For example, 10.Bg5!? Bxh2+ 11.Nxh2 Qxg5 12.Nf3 with some compensation for two pawns, or 10.h3 Nge5 11.Bd5.
In summary, 5.e5 gives rise to various interesting possibilities, but it seems to me that Black is able to largely dictate the type of middlegame that results from it.