The Dark Knight System against 1.d4 leads to different types of positions and plans than against 1.e4 ( as long as White does not play 1.d4 Nc6 2.e4). There are two main differences:

  1. The dark knight can be attacked immediately with d4-d5 (similar to the black knight in the Alekhine Defence 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5).
  2. Black can often choose the transformation into the so-called Chigorin Defence, which is classically created after 1.d4 d5 2. c4 Nc6. The Chigorin Defence is no longer regarded as a “mediocre” opening choice, at the latest since the successes achieved by GM Morosewitsch with it, and is therefore a good option for Black.

We will deal with point 1 below. The Chigorin Defence is not dealt with separately here, it is a topic in itself. For the amateur player I recommend a simpler structure (d6 instead of d5 with the idea of e5); once you have familiarised yourself with it in practical play and have the necessary training time, an expansion of the repertoire ( Chigorin Defence) is of course ideal.

White has three main continuations after 1.d4 Nc6: 2.c4, 2.Nf3 and 2.d5.

1.d4 Nc6 2.c4

2… d5 now immediately leads to the Chigorin Defence, but much more in the intention of the TDKS is 2… e5. After 3.d5 Bb4+ 4.Bd2 Bxd2+ 5.Qxd2 N7 White can choose between the calm 6.Sc3 or the pawn sacrifice 6.d6!

1.d4 Nc6 2.Nf3

With 2… d5, Black can, if he wants, transfer to the Chigorin Defence. Another, simpler plan is d6 together with e5, in order to exchange queens on the opening d-line, if necessary giving up the right to castling, and to achieve a balanced position.

Game example

1.d4 Nc6 2.d5

“White takes the bull by horns” (Wisnewski) – that’s one way to describe it. For Schuyler, on the other hand, the pawn advance is so unpleasant that he does not even recommend … Nc6 against 1.d4 (which devalues the subtitle of his book considerably), but instead pleads for 1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 (i.e. the Chigorin Defence). Yes, the Chigorin Defence is a factor in the Dark Knight system, but only as a transition option, not as a starting point.

Black must be as little afraid of 2.d5 as in the Alekhine Defence (1.e4 Nf6) of 2.e5. The dark knight moves over e5 to g6 (like the Alekhine knight moves over d5 to b6), d5 is leveraged with e6. This way the d-line can (does not have to) be opened and exchange of queens can be achieved (if you play for quick balance). And then there is a special ( perpetual check) variation with a beautiful piece sacrifice.