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Center Game (C22)
1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6

Number of games in database: 570
Years covered: 1836 to 2017
Overall record:
   White wins 40.2%
   Black wins 41.4%
   Draws 18.4%

Popularity graph, by decade

Explore this opening  |  Search for sacrifices in this opening.
With the White Pieces With the Black Pieces
Wilfried Paulsen  16 games
Jack Rudd  12 games
Jacques Mieses  11 games
Isidor Gunsberg  6 games
George Henry Mackenzie  4 games
Arnold Schottlaender  4 games
NOTABLE GAMES [what is this?]
White Wins Black Wins
J Krejcik vs K Krobot, 1908
Bronstein vs NN, 1950
Winawer vs Steinitz, 1896
NN vs Leonhardt, 1903
Vitacek vs Duras, 1900
J Mieses vs Alekhine, 1913
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 page 1 of 23; games 1-25 of 570  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. M Jouy vs La Bourdonnais 0-1281836ParisC22 Center Game
2. Horwitz vs Staunton 0-1431851London m7C22 Center Game
3. M Lange vs Paulsen  0-1421864Leipzig m1C22 Center Game
4. Paulsen vs Blackburne / Allies  0-1341881BerlinC22 Center Game
5. W Paulsen vs F Riemann ½-½381881BerlinC22 Center Game
6. W Paulsen vs Winawer  0-1451881BerlinC22 Center Game
7. W Paulsen vs H Von Schuetz  1-0421881BerlinC22 Center Game
8. E Schallopp vs J Noa 1-0301881BerlinC22 Center Game
9. E Schallopp vs Winawer  1-0351881BerlinC22 Center Game
10. W Paulsen vs J Noa  0-1511881BerlinC22 Center Game
11. Winawer vs F Riemann 1-0311881BerlinC22 Center Game
12. W Paulsen vs J N Berger 1-0371881BerlinC22 Center Game
13. W Paulsen vs J Minckwitz  1-0461881BerlinC22 Center Game
14. E Schallopp vs H Von Schuetz  1-0341881BerlinC22 Center Game
15. J Minckwitz vs F Riemann  ½-½511881BerlinC22 Center Game
16. E Schallopp vs J Minckwitz 0-1611881BerlinC22 Center Game
17. Blackburne vs Meitner 1-0211882ViennaC22 Center Game
18. Chigorin vs Mackenzie 1-0311882ViennaC22 Center Game
19. Winawer vs Englisch  1-0461882ViennaC22 Center Game
20. B Fleissig vs Wittek 0-1381882ViennaC22 Center Game
21. Winawer vs Mackenzie  ½-½321882ViennaC22 Center Game
22. B Fleissig vs Bird 0-1401882ViennaC22 Center Game
23. F Zannoni vs C Salvioli  1-0321883ITA-chC22 Center Game
24. Blackburne vs D Forsyth 1-0481883GlasgowC22 Center Game
25. Pagan vs Blackburne 0-1311883GlasgowC22 Center Game
 page 1 of 23; games 1-25 of 570  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 2 OF 2 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Mar-25-04  PaulKeres: Very interesting <Infohunter>, I might have to check out your profile to see what other interesting kibitzers you've written!

I think this is a perfectly good opening for white, although I have also heard it heavily criticized. So people, where should white put his queen, and why?

Mar-25-04  Stavrogin: Where to put the queen is a delicate question that never should have to be put. 3. QXd4, should be replaced with
3. c3.
It is my opinion that this opening is only to be chosen when one is inclined to play the gambit version with 3. c3. IF one is so inclined - and an attacking player who knows how to exploit a strong center and a good development - then it is a, if nothing else, fun choice of opening!
Mar-25-04  Lunacharski: I play the scandinavian but I always respond with Nf6.Taking with the queen leads to a lack of development. Check out the Iclandic gambit
Sep-23-04  MoonlitKnight: <Yet a look at the entire list under this ECO heading reveals that well over half of the entiries are from less than ten years ago!>

I think that's simply because there are very many games in this database from the last ten years. If you look at the popularity graph you can't really say that it's commonly played.

Sep-23-04  Giancarlo: This opening seems like a terrible play by white. Just asking to move behind in development. Half Danish seems much better. 3.c3. I don't like the idea of white making his own variation of the Scandanavian. 234 games is easy to see why this opening is so unpopular. Also:

White wins 39.3%
Black wins 41.9%
Draws 18.8%

I don't understand why white must rush to get the pawn back like that. Seems like a mistake.

3.nf3 seems better if white doesn't want to play a gambit.

Sep-24-04  Dee Jay: This is a really interesting line and after 3. Qxd4 Nc6 i personally like the move Qe3. The idea being is that it may be transfered to g3 or h3 for a kingside attack. True, Nf3 on move 2 or 3 is better but this line is interesting...
Oct-19-05  SEMENELIN: Hi guyz i would like again to share a game. Any comments pls. feel free to post =) thnx.

[Black "patrick tierney"]
[BlackElo "1712"]
[Result "1-0"]
[Event "InstantChess"]
[BlackIFlag "U2"]
[WhiteIFlag "Philippines"]

1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Qxd4
Nc6 4.Qd1 d6 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.f3
Be7 7.Be3 O-O 8.Qd2 a5 9.g4
Ne5 10.h3 c6 11.Be2 b5 12.f4
Nc4 13.Qc1 d5 14.Bxc4 dxc4
15.Qd2 Qc7 16.Qg2 Rd8 17.Nge2
c5 18.O-O b4 19.Nd1 c3
20.bxc3 bxc3 21.Ndxc3 Ba6
22.Rfd1 Rxd1+ 23.Rxd1 Bxe2
24.Qxe2 Qc6 25.Qc4 Rb8 26.Kf2
Nd7 27.Nd5 Bh4+ 28.Kf3 Kf8
29.Bd2 Bg5 30.Bxa5 Qd6 31.Bc7
Qc6 32.Bxb8 Nxb8 33.fxg5 Nd7
34.Ke3 Qd6 35.Qe2 Qg3+ 36.Qf3
Qe5 37.Qf4 Qb2 38.Qd6+ Ke8
39.Qe7# 1-0

Oct-19-05  Averageguy: At a quick glance 29.g5 seems to trap the bishop, I think the white king will come to g4 next move and win it. Also, Can't white play 30.fxg5 ?
Dec-30-05  TheKid: The Center Game is easily refuted by the "Bob System", as our circle has named it. White's play is nonexistent after 4.Qe3 g6! Black will fianchetto the Bishop and White's primary move, Qg3, has been busted. Even Blackburne used it!
Feb-16-06  niemzo: <The Kid> 5.h4 could very well be the refutation to your bob system.
Feb-24-06  McCool: Surprisingly black wins a higher percent of games than white.
Feb-24-06  Dudley: It really shouldn't be too surprising. White has lost a tempo by moving his queen twice to recapture the pawn and then get out of the attack by Black's QN. In terms of tempo, White is now playing Black and vice versa. That's why it's not a popular opening for White- much better is 3. Nf3 or 3.c3.
Feb-26-06  Lampshadow: But White have more mobility, have better grip on the center and the queen isnīt that badly placed on e3. So after the moves 1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 I think that white still have the initiative but with correct play from Black he should be able to equalise.

This isnīt the best opening in the world but a decent one and gives White some attacking changes altough it is not played by the top players in the world. Nevertheless I found 12 games played by +2500 players with this opening on, but not a single one where the Danish gambit (3.c3) is played, not even a single one from +2400 and had to go down to +2300 to find some games with the Danish gambit. I suppose that shows which one is more respected amongst strong players.

Feb-26-06  Dudley: True enough GM's are not going to give up a pawn for unclear compensation. At my level the Danish plays better, although I like 3.Nf3 to transpose into the Scotch without facing Philidor's Defense.
Premium Chessgames Member
  An Englishman: Good Evening: Sometimes, if I was in the mood for serious goofing off in blitz, I would play the Center Game and 4.Qa4, a Scandinavian Reversed. It's not bad.
Feb-26-06  Lampshadow: Dudley wrote: <although I like 3.Nf3 to transpose into the Scotch without facing Philidor's Defense.> But after 3...d6 it is Philidorīs Defense. However I like the idea of using 2.d4 to transpose into Scotch, it eliminates the changes of meeting annoying openings like the Latvian or the Elephant gambits and it may confuse your opponent as well.
Feb-26-06  Dudley: Well yes, but it may not be the version of Philidor's that the opponent wanted to play. There's something about that position that makes a lot of opponents play 3...Nc6, or if you really get lucky 3...c5 with 4. c3 and a good gambit.
Feb-27-06  Dudley: 1.e4 e5 2.d4 d6 3.dxe5 dxe5 4. QxQ KxQ is playable for Black if he knows what to do, but most don't. I guess thats what I mean about avoiding Philidors. It also kind of avoids Petroff's Defense, but there if a way of transposing into it if Black is aware.
Mar-05-06  morphyvsfischer: <dudley> 1 e4 e5 2 d4 cxd4 3 Nf3 d5!? looks powerful for Black. 4 exd5 Nf6! is a good Scandanavian for Black, his position being much freer as there is no pawn on d4 to cramp his position and the e pawn can't be a weakness, unlike that in mainline 2...Nf6 Scandanavian systems.
Mar-06-06  Dudley: Hmm wouldn't suprise me but it's never happened. Anyway, I am not too concerned about theoretical accuracy in this line, more of a blitz opening. Black's ...d5 is usually the refutation to openings such as the Danish or the Goring gambit, etc.
Mar-06-09  FiveofSwords: eh? how would black transpose to a petroff after 2 d4? if 2...Nf6 then 3 de Nxe4 4 Bc4 or 4 Qd5 is no petroff and furthermore it looks crappy. 2..d5 de also looks no fun. whats the secret? 2...ed 3Nf3 Nf6 transposes to the ed response to d4 in the petroff, but that line is no fun at all for black imo. Besides, white could immediately play Bc4 and you still will get your scotch gambit, or you will get the urusoff attack which is terrible for black imho.
Jun-07-09  Edwin M: <dudley> Black's early d5 is from what i understand the most testing to the Goring, yes. But to call it the refutation, that's probably a bit overstated. In CB's MegaBase 2009, White still comes out on top with 54% to Black's 46.
Feb-29-12  pwned11: I don't think white has fallen behind in development, here.

After 4.Qe3 Nf6, both sides have two units of development on the board, and it's white's move -- meaning that white still has the first move advantage!

The only argument against this is to claim that since white has a piece and a pawn while black has 2 pieces, that black should be regarded as superior. But this is rather silly, because (to bring up a mere counterexample -- no would ever play this opening) after 1. e3 Nf6 2. Nf3 Nc6, no one would say that black has a lead in development. And if you argue that that's because white has more open lines in my hypothetical opening... well, in the center game after 4. Qe3 Nf6, white has more open lines there, too!

And yes, white moves his queen twice. But the first move of the queen was with tempo on a capture. Black wasted a tempo to capture white's pawn, after white's excellent and non-time-wasting (and line-opening) 2. d4 (and it was correct for black to play 2... exd4 -- but you have to realize that this was still a wasted tempo). White then recaptures with tempo (3. Qxd4 is development with tempo), and black's only response is the correct 3. ... Nc6 (also with tempo). But the Nc6 tempo gain only merely makes up for the Qxd4 tempo gain. And this fact is, once again, reaffirmed in the fact that both sides have two units of development and it's white's move after 4 Qe3 Nf6.

So, clearly, white isn't wasting time here. Not at all. The only real argument against this opening (as far as early moves go) is if you suggest that white doesn't need to be so anxious to recapture the pawn and can do it later (like an earlier poster noted), or if you argue that white is better off by gaining in development through the Danish Gambit (3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 ...).

But those arguments are not infallible. As such, the Center Game is fine at this point in the game. Any virtues and vices it may have must come farther down the road.

Personally, since most King's Pawn Games end up with white losing the d5 pawn at some point in the opening (unless you're playing Ruy or King's Gambit), I feel like this is a nice straight forward option for people just starting out in chess (like myself - I have theoretical knowledge, but I'm only beginning in my actual play).

If anyone can counter me on theory here, or give me advice based on practical experience (which I am lacking -- at least at tourney level), I'd very much appreciate this. But it seems like the Center Game here is legitimate -- at least from the perspective of "Did white lose tempo?" White most certainly did not. White only lost in tempo what it had gained with 3. Qxd4, and that's why both sides end up equally developed after 3. ... Nc6 4. Qe3 Nf6.

Feb-29-12  pwned11: Yeah, so after fiddling around with the opening some more, the problem with this line is not that white cedes tempo (as I mentioned above -- white gains a tempo with Qxd4 and Nc6 just evens things up). The real problem is that black's e5 pawn is no longer off of the board (with compensation), while white's e4 pawn still needs to be defended. And if white goes 4. Qe3, it doesn't help. The Queen can be harassed enough to the point where it can't be counted on long term to defend the e4 pawn. As such, white has to scramble to defend the pawn against repeated attacks by black without a d pawn for support -- and black has no vulnerabilities to still worry about defending! With this being the case (and the still high potential for queen harassment), black gets the initiative quite easily. And people then assume that this is due to the fact that white lost tempo with the queen moves. Really, white didn't lose any tempo that it hadn't already gained earlier -- it's just that the queen moves don't do anything to defend the e4 pawn. And since there's no longer a black e5 pawn to attack back, no white d pawn to help defend white's e4, no quick kingside castling prospects to help defend e4, and a still harassable queen --- all of this together is what hurts this opening. But those problems are technically not time-related. At least not at this stage in the opening. But they are still problems.
Feb-29-12  pwned11: So, when you work it all out correctly, everything can be managed pretty well:

I was thinking there were more problems due to the 8. ... Na5 9. Bd3 variation on the main line. But 9. Bd2 solves those problems (watch the vid). And most other bits of tension can be resolved by using e4 as a gambit pawn in last resort -- or they aren't a problem to begin with. So, really, the Center Game is totally viable if managed right (the vulnerabilities I thought I saw are actually non-existent), and its initial first few moves do not involve the loss of tempo that most players think those moves do.

The line is very sharp, though. And I'm no expert, so I might be staying away from it for a bit. But it's cool!

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