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I'm wondering about the move order 2. d4 cxd4 3. Nf3 in Sicilian. If black does not try to protect the pawn and plays some normal move like 3... d6, 3... e6 or 3... Nc6, then 4. Nxd4 transposes into one of the usual lines. On the other hand, 3... e5 does not seem to be the option, as e. g. white can play 4. c3, and if black captures on c3, it's a Smith-Morra gambit which black has already messed up by playing d5 in one move.

So, are there any options for black that are better than transposing to the main lines? If not, I'm wondering why this move order is much less popular than 2. Nf3.

5

It seems you only give Black extra options compared to the usual 2.Nf3 and 3.d4

  • Black can reach whichever Open Sicilian he was aiming for. He has made no concession since ...cxd4 was part of the plan anyway.

  • As pointed by BlindKungFuMaster, 3...Nf6 will lead either to an Alapin, either to an harmless subline of the Nimzo-Sicilian (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e5 Nd5, and now 4.Nc3 is considered much better than 4.d4). The very little plus side for you is if you want to play an Alapin yet avoid lines without ...cxd4, e.g. if your opponent likes to play 1.e4 c5 2.c3 e6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.d4 d5: this interesting option is not available anymore for Black.

  • 3...e5!? is actually perfectly playable. After 4.c3 Black doesn't have to take the pion but can continue with 4...Nc6. This is actually one of Svechnikov's recommandations for Black vs the Morra in his recently published repertoire angainst the anti-sicilians.

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3....Nf6 avoids the main lines for black because there is no Nc3. Instead you'll probably get something like a c3-sicilian, with 4.e5 Nd5, which is arguably an achievement for black. That's of course also very playable for white, maybe 5.Qd4 or 4.c4 poses some problems, but generally it is not a great idea to give options to your opponent if you don't have to.

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Just play the main lines. The main lines are the main lines because that's the best chess. Otherwise, you'll get subpar positions. I used to be scared of the Sicilian until I picked up e4 vs the Sicilian by Negi. The first volume is necessary, but I ended up getting all three.

Play 3...d6 and you'll either transition into a Smith-Morra or the main lines of a normal Sicilian. Even 3...a6 is possible because you can capture en passant after 4.c4?! dxc3 e.p.

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