Wary of two-movers
By Joel Benjamin   
January 8, 2007
Dear Joel,

I was playing a friendly game with a regular opponent. He played the French. Well, I don't like the locked pawn center of the main variations, so I usually exchange. Our game went:
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 exd5 4. Nf3 Nf6.

And now my opponent made an unexpected request. "I want to make another move," he said. "I want to play Ne4 now." Well. Two moves in a row? Who ever heard of such a thing? Of course I said no.

The next time I had white, my opponent played a main-line Petroff:
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. d4 d5

And now my opponent piped up again: "Can I play Nf6 before you do anything else?" This was annoying. Why did he keep wanting to break the rules? "Of course not," I snapped. "But that's inconsistent," he said. "Last game I wanted to play Ne4. Well, here we are in just the same position as if I had, yes? Well, since you didn't want me to play it then, you must think it's better for you for the knight to be on f6. So you should let me move it there now."

I was confused. It was hard to argue with this logic, but something just seemed wrong. What should I have done?

David Goldfarb

That's a good story, though I think you are pulling my leg. It is curious how the Exchange French is considered an innocuous opening for White, while the main-line Petroff, with the knight posted more "aggressively" on e4, is thought to give White more chances for an advantage.

Just in case you are serious, I would recommend that you always decline requests from your opponents to make two moves in a row, no matter how persuasive their argument might seem. I only had one opponent - GM Jaan Ehlvest - try to make two moves in a row against me. Though he was kind enough not to take anything, I firmly insisted that he take back the second one.

Joel Benjamin