Black Knights' Tango

The Black Knights' Tango (also known as the Mexican Defense, Two Knights' Tango or Kevitz–Trajkovic Defense) is a chess opening beginning with the moves:

Black Knights' Tango
a8 black rook
c8 black bishop
d8 black queen
e8 black king
f8 black bishop
h8 black rook
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
c7 black pawn
d7 black pawn
e7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
c6 black knight
f6 black knight
c4 white pawn
d4 white pawn
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
e2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
a1 white rook
b1 white knight
c1 white bishop
d1 white queen
e1 white king
f1 white bishop
g1 white knight
h1 white rook
Moves1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 Nc6
OriginFriedrich Sämisch vs. Carlos Torre Repetto, Baden-Baden 1925
Named afterBlack's first moves Nf6 and Nc6
ParentIndian Defence
Synonym(s)Mexican Defense
Two Knights' Tango
Kevitz–Trajkovic Defense
1. d4 Nf6
2. c4 Nc6

This position can also be reached by transposition, for example 1.c4 Nf6, 1.d4 Nc6, or 1.c4 Nc6.


The opening originated in the 1920s, when it was played by both the Mexican grandmaster Carlos Torre (hence the name "Mexican Defense")[1] and the American master Alexander Kevitz (the "Kevitz" in "Kevitz–Trajkovic Defense"). Torre used it to defeat then-U.S. Chess Champion Frank James Marshall in only seven moves.[2] It was later played by the Yugoslav master Mihailo Trajkovic[3][4] and the Soviet grandmaster Anatoly Lutikov.[5][6][7][8]

After decades of obscurity, the opening was revitalized by the International Master Georgi Orlov, who published a booklet and a book about it in 1992 and 1998, respectively. Orlov rechristened the opening the "Black Knights' Tango".[9]

Since 1992, the opening has been employed by a number of strong grandmasters, including Victor Bologan, Joel Benjamin, Larry Christiansen, and Alex Yermolinsky.[10] Yermolinsky has even ventured it against Garry Kasparov.[11]

Basic ideasEdit

Although fairly uncommon, the "Tango" has a sounder positional basis than most other offbeat openings: Black develops quickly, has a flexible pawn structure, and is prepared to strike back in the center with 3...e5, or with ...e6 and ...d5. The opening has some distinct variations but it is highly transpositional, and may transpose to the King's Indian Defense, Nimzo-Indian Defense, Bogo-Indian Defense, Chigorin Defense, Ragozin System, Catalan Opening, and English Opening.

Possible continuationsEdit


The most common move, preventing 3...e5.[12] Black usually responds with 3...e6, although 3...d6, intending a kind of Old Indian Defense, is also possible.[12][13] After 3...e6, White can play 4.Nc3 Bb4 (transposing to the Nimzo-Indian Defense);[14][15] 4.a3, when Black can either play 4...d5 (reaching a kind of Queen's Gambit Declined or Ragozin System),[16] or 4...d6 preparing 5...e5 or even 5...g6 ("championed by Bologan", according to Palliser), reaching a sort of King's Indian Defense;[17][18] or 4.g3, when Black can transpose to the Catalan Opening with 4...d5, recommended by Palliser[19][20] or 4...Bb4+, preferred by Orlov, which transposes to a Nimzo-Indian after 5.Nc3, or to a Bogo-Indian Defense after 5.Bd2 or 5.Nbd2.[19][21]


This is White's second-most popular move.[22] After the thematic 3...e5, one possibility for White is 4.Nf3, transposing to an English Opening.[23] Palliser recommends 4...e4!? in response, while Orlov prefers 4...exd4 5.Nxd4 Bb4.[23][24] Instead, the main line is 4.d5 Ne7.[25] Now the game may continue in "Tango" fashion, for example with 5.Nf3 Ng6, or transpose to the King's Indian Defense with, for example, 5.Nf3 d6 6.e4 (6.Bg5!?) g6 7.Be2 Bg7 8.0-0 0-0, reaching the main line of the King's Indian by transposition.[26]

Another interesting but relatively unexplored idea is 3...e6, allowing White to play 4.e4 (other moves such as 4.d5, 4.Bg5, 4.a3, 4.f3, and 4.Nf3 are also possible), whereupon Black follows up with 4...d5. From that position, the main possibilities are 5.e5 (the main line), 5.exd5, 5.cxd5, and 5.Bg5. These possibilities can also be reached via transposition from the Mikenas–Carls Variation of the English Opening (1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.e4), although if Black wishes to play this way, the optimal move order is 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nc6.


Position after 11.Nf3
Position after 13.Nbxd2

This ambitious move is playable but rarely seen.[27] Black normally responds with 3...Ne5. Then after 4.e4 (inviting 4...Nxe4?? 5.Qd4 winning a knight), Black struck back in the center with 4...Ng6 5.f4 e5 in the seminal game Sämisch–Torre, Moscow 1925.[1] Orlov considers both Torre's fourth and fifth moves inferior, however.[28] He and Palliser both recommend 4...e6 instead,[28][29] after which play can become extremely sharp. For example, Elburg–Simmelink, correspondence 1999 continued 5.f4 Ng6 6.Bd3 exd5 7.e5?! Ne4 8.cxd5 Qh4+ 9.g3 Bb4+! 10.Bd2? (Better is 10.Nc3! Nxc3! 11.bxc3 Bxc3+ 12.Bd2 Bxd2+ 13.Qxd2 Qe7 14.Nf3 d6 15.Bb5+! Kf8 16.Qc3 with some practical chances for the sacrificed pawn.)[30] 10...Nxg3 11.Nf3 (first diagram) Nxf4! 12.Bf1! (12.Nxh4?? Nxd3#!; 12.Bxb4? Nxd3+ 13.Qxd3 Qxb4+ is hopeless for White.[31]) 12...Bxd2+ 13.Nbxd2 (second diagram; 13.Qxd2? Nxf1+ 14.Nxh4 Nxd2 is winning for Black.) Qh3! 14.Rg1 (White cannot take either of Black's two hanging pieces: 14.Bxh3 Nd3#; 14.hxg3 Qxg3#. Nor is 14.Ng5 Qg2! any better.) 14...Nxf1 left Black with two extra pawns.[32]


  1. ^ a b "Fridrich Sämisch vs Carlos Torre-Repeto, Baden-Baden 1925". Retrieved 2009-03-06.
  2. ^ Frank James Marshall vs Carlos Torre-Repetto, Baden-Baden, 1925
  3. ^ Palliser, p. 10.
  4. ^ Walter Korn, Modern Chess Openings (9th ed. 1957), Pitman, p. 234 (citing a 1952 game by Trajkovic).
  5. ^ Walter Korn, Modern Chess Openings (12th ed. 1982), David McKay, p. 310. ISBN 0-679-13500-6.
  6. ^ Czerniak–Lutikov, IBM B 1968. Retrieved on 2009-03-06.
  7. ^ Trapl–Lutikov, Warsaw Armies Championship 1969. Retrieved on 2009-03-06.
  8. ^ Uhlmann–Lutikov, Sarajevo 1969. Retrieved on 2009-03-06.
  9. ^ He explained, "this no-name opening has languished, rarely getting even an honorable mention. I hope to change that by first highlighting the defense with a catchy name. Thus The Black Knights Tango!" Orlov 1992, p. 2. His 1998 book added the apostrophe after "Knights".
  10. ^ Palliser, pp. 7, 10.
  11. ^ "Garry Kasparov vs Alex Yermolinsky, Yerevan Olympiad 1996". Retrieved 2009-03-06.
  12. ^ a b Palliser, p. 82.
  13. ^ Orlov 1998, pp. 53–54.
  14. ^ Palliser, p. 92.
  15. ^ Orlov 1998, p. 80.
  16. ^ Orlov 1998, p. 118.
  17. ^ Palliser, p. 176.
  18. ^ Orlov 1998, pp. 115–18.
  19. ^ a b Palliser, p. 159.
  20. ^ Orlov 1998, pp. 59–60.
  21. ^ Orlov 1998, pp. 60–61, 80.
  22. ^ Orlov 1998, p. 26.
  23. ^ a b Palliser, p. 76.
  24. ^ Orlov 1998, p. 27.
  25. ^ Orlov 1998, p. 28.
  26. ^ Orlov 1998, pp. 34–35.
  27. ^ Palliser, p. 55.
  28. ^ a b Orlov 1998, p. 8.
  29. ^ Palliser, p. 66.
  30. ^ Palliser, p. 69.
  31. ^ Orlov 1998, p. 11.
  32. ^ Palliser, p. 70.


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