Greco Defense (McConnell Defense) - 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Qf6

Greco Defense (McConnell Defense) – Theory, Variations, Lines

The Greco Defense (or McConnell Defense) is a rare opening out of 1.e4 (Open Game).

Named after Italian chess master, Gioachino Greco, the opening allows for a myriad of strategic possibilities and theoretical implications.

Despite its perceived weaknesses, it’s an opening that continues to find favor among certain circles of chess players.

Move Order of the Greco Defense (McConnell Defense)

The Greco Defense, cataloged in the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings as code C40, begins with the moves 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Qf6

Greco Defense (McConnell Defense) - 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Qf6
Greco Defense (McConnell Defense) – 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Qf6

This series of moves, which comprises the opening, is characterized by Black’s decision to defend his e-pawn with 2…Qf6.

This choice brings the queen into play early, which while it can provide aggressive options, is considered one of the weaker moves available to Black due to the potential for the queen to become a target for attack.

Theory, Strategy and Purpose of the Greco Defense

At a cursory glance, the Greco Defense might seem to lack sophistication due to the early queen development, and the consequential deprivation of the g8 square for the black knight.

However, there isn’t an explicit refutation of this opening, implying its theoretical validity.

The central idea behind this opening for Black is to offer the queen as bait for early attacks, while focusing on more subtle development of other pieces.

White’s advantage against this defense consists mainly of smoother development and the potential to target Black’s prematurely developed queen.

Variations of the Greco Defense

The main line of the Greco Defense often involves White attempting to exploit Black’s premature queen deployment with a series of targeted attacks.

For example, White might develop the bishop to c4 to threaten a direct attack on Black’s vulnerable f7 square, a common tactic in many openings.

Alternatively, White could also decide to opt for a more aggressive approach by launching an early pawn storm to dislodge the queen or disrupt Black’s pawn structure.

Evaluation of the Greco Defense

The Greco Defense is generally evaluated at around +1.20 to +1.70 for white.

Theory & Continuation Lines of the Greco Defense

Below we have some common theory and continuation lines from the Greco Defense starting move order 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Qf6 that you would see at the highest level of play.

3. Nc3 Nc6 4. d4 Bb4 5. Bd2 Nxd4 6. Nxd4 exd4 7. Nb5 Bxd2+ 8. Qxd2 Qb6 9. O-O-O Ne7 10. Qf4 d6 11. e5 Nf5 12. exd6 Nxd6 13. Nxd6+ Qxd6 14. Qxd6 cxd6 15. Rxd4 Ke7 

3. Nc3 Nc6 4. d4 Bb4 5. Bd2 Nxd4 6. Nxd4 exd4 7. Nb5 Bxd2+ 8. Qxd2 Qe5 9. O-O-O Ne7 10. f4 Qc5 11. Be2 d3 12. Qxd3 a6 13. Nd4 O-O 14. Nb3 Qf2 15. Bf3 d6 

3. Nc3 Nc6 4. d4 Bb4 5. Bd2 Nxd4 6. Nxd4 exd4 7. Nb5 Bxd2+ 8. Qxd2 Qe5 9. O-O-O Ne7 10. f4 Qc5 11. Be2 d6 12. Qxd4 Qxd4 13. Rxd4 Kd8 14. e5 d5 15. c4 c6 16. Nc3 Be6 17. Bf3 Rc8 18. Rhd1 Ke8 19. g4 g6 20. cxd5 Nxd5 21. Bxd5 

3. Nc3 Nc6 4. d4 Bb4 5. Bd2 Nxd4 6. Nxd4 exd4 7. Nb5 Bxd2+ 8. Qxd2 Qe5 9. O-O-O Ne7 10. f4 Qc5 11. Be2 a6 12. Nxd4 d6 13. e5 dxe5 14. Nb3 Qd6 15. Qc3 Qf6 16. fxe5 Qg5+ 17. Kb1 O-O 18. h4 Qxg2 19. Bf3 

3. Nc3 is the best reply to the Greco Defense.

Greco Defense (McConnell Defense) - 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Qf6

History of the Greco Defense

The Greco Defense is named after Gioachino Greco, an Italian chess master who lived around the turn of the 17th century.

Despite its namesake, the defense has seen sporadic use over the centuries and is more often associated with beginner play.

Chess For Beginners: Dismantling McConnell’s Defense

Is the Greco Defense Good for Beginners or Intermediates?

The Greco Defense is a popular opening among beginners due to its straightforward nature and the allure of early queen development.

However, it is generally not recommended for intermediate players who face opponents capable of exploiting the potential vulnerabilities it presents.

The early exposure of the queen and the potential for disrupting the development of other pieces can make this opening risky against experienced opponents.

How Often the Greco Defense Is Played at the Grandmaster Level

At the grandmaster level, the Greco Defense is infrequently employed.

The complexities and sophistication of grandmaster level play often require openings that provide a more secure and flexible foundation for the middle game.

While there may be the occasional use of this opening as a surprise tactic, it is generally not a common feature in the repertoire of top-level players.

FAQs – Greco Defense (McConnell Defense)

What are the initial moves in the Greco Defense (McConnell Defense)?

The Greco Defense, also known as the McConnell Defense, begins with the following moves:

  1. e4 e5
  2. Nf3 Qf6

This sequence of moves is what defines the Greco Defense.

Why is 2…Qf6 considered a weaker choice for Black?

The move 2…Qf6 is seen as a weaker choice for several reasons.

Primarily, it involves developing the queen early in the game, which can make it a target for attacks.

A general principle of chess opening strategy is to avoid premature queen development.

In this case, the black queen can easily be harassed by white’s minor pieces, causing black to lose time.

Furthermore, 2…Qf6 also deprives the knight on g8 of its most natural developing square, f6.

The knight is typically developed to f6 in many standard chess openings as it allows control over the center and prepares for kingside castling.

When the queen is on f6, the knight is restricted, which further limits black’s piece development.

Is there a clear refutation to the Greco Defense?

As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, there’s no “killer move” or clear-cut refutation to the Greco Defense.

However, white generally has an advantage due to smoother development and potential to attack the prematurely developed black queen.

Experienced players can exploit these factors to gain the upper hand.

Why is the Greco Defense a popular opening among novice players?

The Greco Defense is often used by novice players due to its simplicity.

The opening mainly focuses on defending the e5 pawn and doesn’t require an intricate understanding of opening principles.

However, as a player’s understanding of chess deepens, they typically transition to openings that offer better piece development and control of the center.

How is the Greco Defense classified in the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings (ECO)?

The Greco Defense (McConnell Defense) is categorized as code C40 in the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings (ECO).

The ECO provides a comprehensive system for classifying chess openings based on the sequence of initial moves.

Has the Greco Defense been used by high-level players?

While the Greco Defense is more common among novice players, it has occasionally been used by players at higher levels, even by those who, as International Master Gary Lane notes, “should know better.

However, it’s far less common in high-level play due to its perceived weaknesses and the availability of stronger alternatives for black’s second move.


The Greco Defense, or McConnell Defense, presents an interesting case study in chess openings.

Its early queen development can serve as a double-edged sword, offering potential offensive capabilities at the risk of becoming an early target.

It’s a testament to the breadth and depth of chess strategy, where even seemingly weaker openings can create complex and engaging situations on the board.

Despite its relative unpopularity among advanced players, it continues to serve as an engaging choice for novices and a fascinating topic for enthusiasts of the game.

As is often the case in chess, understanding the underlying strategies of such openings can provide significant insights into the game’s intricacies and beauties.


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