After 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5, what are the differences between 3. Nc3 and 3. Nd2?
It seems 3. Nc3 is more popular, though after 3. ... dxe4, I failed to see the difference.
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3.Nd2is more exact as it maintains flexibility over the
How that might be relevant becomes clearer when considering specific cases, for instance, as pointed out by fuxia,
3.Nd2 avoids the possibility of
More precisely, in view of the concrete
Nc3 blocks the
c-pawn and allows black to comfortably aim for the solid kingside fianchetto setup with
3...g6, providing the
g7 bishop decent scope on the long
a1-h8 diagonal along which multiple
white targets stand. Although the immediate
e5 response in an attempt to close the diagonal is possible, black is well able to keep playing on the dark squares and undermine white's
d4,e5 setup with early
f6, c5 and white has to
invest extra tempo to reinforce with
c3. Moreover, white often ends up with a temporarily (until
f4 can be played) weak isolated pawn on
which black should target.
With the fiachetto'ed bishop on
g7, black wants to keep the play on the dark squares and further enable their bishop. In view of this, the delayed advance of the
c2-pawn means white is slower in shifting the central tension over to light squares, which in turn means black gets comfortable equalising chances, as their fight for the center goes unchallenged.
For a demonstration of the
3.Nc3 g6 line, first game that springs to mind is Smyslov vs Seirawan, where black benefited from a better fight for the center, exploiting the pressure on the long diagonal and white's delayed
c-pawn advance to trade the
c7 for the
d4 pawn and establish a pawn majority in the center (see the diagrams below, progression from left to right). And black proceeded to draw the game comfortably while having the better endgame (dominating white's pawns on the queenside after
c4-b5 conceding an outpost to the
d4is not firmly defended and cannot be reinforced with
c2-c3, thus remains prone to exchanges with the
c7-c5pawn followed by the
Ne2, c4has been too slow (green), thus, black finds a timely resolution of white's central pawns (red), after which black achieves a clear pawn majority (right diagram) in the center (blue).
Nc3, maintains flexibility over the
c-pawn, in particular, it prevents
3...g6as white can readily strike in the center (with
c4) and immediately challenge black on the light squares (diagram below), specially in reply to black setups typified by the pervious diagrams.
f6black opts for
f3knight and undermining
d4's defense, then white has the important fortifying option of
c2-c3readily available. Therefore, after
g7bishop stands poorly on the long diagonal which renders the whole
3...g6option much less attractive for black.
3.Nc3 allows White to play the Two Knights Attack with
2.Nf3. It does block the c-pawn, though, so Black can play
3...g6, the Gurgenidze System, because White cannot protect the d-pawn with the c-pawn.
There is also the rarely played Gurgenidze Counter Attack
3...b5. A very dubious line that can be stopped easily with
3.Nd2 tries to avoid these lines, but it makes the Two Knights Attack impossible, a line that is very popular nowadays. It also blocks the view of White's dark-squared bishop, so Black can develop their kingside knight to
h6 if they want.
It doesn't really matter – the only difference is against g6, which is considered not very good by theory and is rare. Nd2 is slightly better against g6, and technically Nd2 might be slightly more precise, but at the end of the day 99% of the time it doesn't matter (and even Nc3 g6 isn't bad at all).