How To Play Against The Vienna Game

Hello everyone. Today I will be discussing how to play against one of the trickiest openings that I’ve ever encountered and played myself. This opening is known as the Vienna Game. the Vienna starts off with the moves 1. e4 e5 2. Nc3. In my opinion, the Vienna game is one of the most dangerous openings to play against if you’re unprepared.  Although 2. Nc3 looks fairly harmless, it can be a vicious opening. Let’s look at a sample line to see what I’m talking about.

1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. f4

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Boom! With f4 on the board, things are starting to get exciting. Already at this point, Black really has one move that doesn’t leave him immediately worse.

3. exf4 4. e5!

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exf4 seems natural. A pawn is a pawn, right? This is not the case. Take a closer look at this position. Black already has almost no moves with his knight. The poor knight on f6 has to retreat back to where it started, g8. White might still be down a pawn, but he will get it back easily.

3. Ng8 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. d4

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As we can see, it is a relatively simple task for white to get back his f4 pawn. In addition, white has far superior development, and black’s king is unsafe and will have to deal with a ton of pressure for the remainder of the game.

As we just saw, things can easily turn ugly for black. What is the best move then? While in my practice of playing this opening I mainly see 3. d6 (This move, although better than 3.exf4 still leaves white better as often, white places his bishop on c4, castles kingside, and attacks the black with pawn storms like h3 g4 when possible), the best move is the thematic pawn break, 3. d5!

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Let’s take a look. How does this move work? Mainly due to the king weakness created with f4. By playing f4, White has opened up the sensitive diagonals around his king. By playing d5, black seeks to rapidly open up the position in order to take advantage of this weak king. For example, after 4. exd5 black simply can take back with the knight. After a series of exchanges, black has superior piece development and white has a weak king. Black can simply continue developing his pieces and try to attack the white king.

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If white plays 4. Fxe5 Black now responds with Nxe4.

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As we see in this position, in contrast with the 3. exf4 variation, black’s knight is actively placed, his pieces have a future, and whites king is again weak. Black will often follow up in this position with be7, 0-0, and c5 to control the center. Although the position is still double-edged, black is totally fine and has his own chances as does white.

Another variation is another line a black player should familiarize himself with is 2. Nc6 in response to 2. Nc3. Often, when playing lower rated players, I have found a tendency that when they don’t know what to do, they copy the moves I make. For example, nc6 in response to nc3. Nc6 is a respectable and perfectly playable move. However, things can become tricky after 3. Bc4. Although after 3. Nf6 white has nothing substantial and black is fine, the same cannot be said if black continues to mimic white by going 3. Bc5. After 4. Qg4 it is very awkward for black to defend the g pawn. After the best move, 4. g6, white simply should play 5. Qd1(to avoid any discoveries with the d pawn) and black has serious dark square weaknesses.

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now you might be asking yourself, what happens after 4. Qf6 instead of 4. g6.

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This looks very scary for White. Not only is black defending the g7 square, he is also attacking f2 and threatening d5. However, the threat on f2 is not a problem. White can simply ignore this with nd5! You might be thinking, “Wait WHAT?” after qf2 kd1 it looks scary for white right?

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However, black has no good follow up. Every square around the white King is covered. And black has his own problems. Already, in this position, both c7 and g7 are hanging now.

As we can see, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the many lines of the Vienna game. It’s important to note, the point of this article was not to provide a repertoire against it, rather just to show you the dangers this opening can hold as well as give you some ideas on what positions you should look at. It’s up to you to decide where you continue from here.  I hope by reading this article, you have learned something about the importance of knowing your openings, not just in the Vienna game, but in all openings. Until next time!

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