Petrov's Defense Guide

Petrov's Defense Guide

The Petrov's Defense (also known as Petroff Defense and Russian Game) is a chess opening for black that starts with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6. Instead of defending their own pawn, black decides to attack white’s pawn. This leads to a balanced game in which both sides have attacking opportunities, although the Petroff is widely considered a ‘drawish’ opening.

Petrov's Defense moves

Why the Petrov's Defense?

The Petrov's is an extremely solid opening.

Popular even among the elite, the Petrov's Defense is very easy to play and with limited strategies to remember.

It is a perfect choice in case you play with black and want to draw your game.

However, some of the lines in the Petrov's are sharp, so you have the chance to play either in a positional or more dynamic fashion.

Fabiano Caruana is one of the elite players that relies on the Petrov's.

Main Moves in the Petrov's Defense

Let’s review the most played moves in the Petrov's Defense.

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6

Petrov's Defense moves

2…Nf6 is the defining moment of the Petrov's Defense.

3.Nxe5 d6

Petrov's Defense moves

White decides to take the pawn and black immediately threatens white’s knight.

4.Nf3 Nxe4

Petrov's Defense moves

Now it’s black’s turn to take a pawn.

5.d4 d5

Petrov's Defense moves

Both sides decide to consolidate their central pawns.

6.Bd3 Nc6

Petrov's Defense moves

Piece development continues.

7.O-O Be7

Petrov's Defense moves

Black is now also ready to short-castle.

8.c4 Nb4

Petrov's Defense moves

White expands on the center, black threatens to exchange one of white most active pieces.

9.Be2 O-O

Petrov's Defense moves

White don’t want to lose their light-coloured bishop.

10.Nc3 Bf5

Petrov's Defense moves

Development continues for both sides.

11.a3 Nxc3

Petrov's Defense moves

Black is forced to make a choice and decides to simplify the game by exchanging knights.

12.bxc3 Nc6

Petrov's Defense moves

Main Variations in the Petrov's Defense

Classical Variation

In the Classical Variation, white immediately takes the central pawn with 3.Nxe4.

Petrov's Defense moves

After this, black always plays 3…d6.

Here, the main move is 4.Nf3, although white can also play 4.Nc4 and 4.Nd3.

A super aggressive alternative for white would be to play 4.Nxf7, which leads to an extremely messy game.

Petrov's Defense moves

Steinitz Variation

The second most played move by white in the Petrov's Defense is 3.d4.

Petrov's Defense moves

This is a sharper line in which white expands on the center instead of going for the e pawn.

Play usually continues like this: 3…exd4 4.e5 Ne4 5.Qxd4 d5

Petrov's Defense moves

Three Knights Game

In this variation, white avoids playing a typical Petrov's Defense and, instead, almost forces a Four Knights game with 3.Nc3.

Petrov's Defense moves

This is a more conservative but flexible way of approaching the Petrov's by white.

Black can still try 3…Bb4 to avoid the Four Knights Game.

Petrov's Defense moves

Quiet Variation

In this variation, white simply defends their e pawn with d3.

Petrov's Defense moves

After this usually follows a slow game.


Other sidelines in the Petrov's Defense are:

Kaufmann Attack - 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.c4

Petrov's Defense moves

Italian Variation - 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bc4

Petrov's Defense moves

Damiano Variation - 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 Nxe4

Petrov's Defense moves

See more sub-variants, possible continuations, and Petrov's Defense master games here.

Model Games

Related Courses

Win with Petroff Defense for Black with IM Marcin Sieciechowicz

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Games on Database: 42164
Last Played: Jul 2024
Overall score:
38.7% 38.5% 22.9%

Played frequently by:

Viswanathan Anand 91 games
Alexei Shirov 76 games
Peter Leko 67 games
Artur Jussupow 170 games
Zlatko Ilincic 151 games
Eduardas Rozentalis 139 games

Possible continuations:

3. Nxe5  23100
36.8 % 44 % 19.3 %
3. Nc3  10022
39.2 % 30 % 30.8 %
3. d4  6163
42.3 % 38.4 % 19.3 %
3. d3  1427
42.8 % 27 % 30.1 %
3. Bc4  1320
45.3 % 21.4 % 33.3 %
3. Qe2  46
52.2 % 23.9 % 23.9 %
3. Bb5  30
43.3 % 16.7 % 40 %
3. Bd3  24
33.3 % 25 % 41.7 %
3. c3  13
53.8 % 15.4 % 30.8 %
3. a3  6
50 % 50 %
3. Be2  5
60 % 20 % 20 %
3. g3  3
33.3 % 66.7 %
3. c4  2
50 % 50 %