As title above, what is the point of playing 3.Nc3 (before d2-d4) after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6? Compared to the “normal” 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4?

[fen ""]

[Variant "Standard"]
[ECO "B50"]
[Opening "Sicilian Defense"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Nc3 { Less common move } (3. d4 { Usual move })

6 Answers 6


It basically just stalls for a move before 100% committing to the open Sicilian. For example, suppose you were playing White and hated facing this Sicilian (1.e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3.d4 cd 4.Nxd4 Nc6). You could use the move order you described and after 3.Nc3, only play 4.d4 if your opponent doesn't play 3...Nc6. If they do play 3...Nc6, then go for some Closed Sicilian.

Also in online bullet some people have done the 3.Nc3 move order against me because it takes half a second to realize what's happening and then play 3...Nf6 instead of 3...cd.


If White is not willing to play a Maroczy formation (with c4), then Nc3 will eventually be played in almost any variation. Black has no clear way of preventing d2-d4 on the next move (3...e5 kind of sucks)

On the other hand, White may want to wait for Black's move before deciding whether to push d2-d4 or maybe go for a different variation against certain Black's responses (for example a closed Sicilian after 3...e6 4.g3


Najdorf players will have to go either 3. ...Nf6 or 3. ...a6. After the latter, White may make a move after which he deems ...a6 sligtly premature, such as 4. g3 (without saying that this will lead to an advantage for white over the Open Sicilian). I played 4. a4 once and got a good position after ... Nf6 5. e5 dxe5 6. Nxe5 Nbd7 7. Nc4 Nb6 8. a5 with a bind on the Q-side. After the former, there is 4. e5!? as well which is more dangerous than it looks and can easily throw an unprepared opponent off guard. The line is a specialty of 2700 player Mamedov.

  • Annoying the Najdorf players with the possibility of 4.e5 is indeed the main point. In your game, 7...Nb6? was really bad, but 4.a4?! is not to my taste after 4...Nc6
    – Evargalo
    Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 16:16

Does it make sense though if white hates the sicilian 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cd 4. Nxd4 Nc6? Usually this move order leads to some Rauzer system after 5. Nc3 Nf6. The move order with 4... Nc6 gives White just the extra option to play some kind of Maroczy bind, and after 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. d4 cd4 5. Nc6 White ends up in the Rauzer anyway. I guess some people play 3. Nc3 against 2... d6 only, because they are playing it against 2... Nc6. After 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Nc3, Black has no much additional options (except maybe 3... a6). After 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 White manages to avoid the Sveshnikov, since there is no useful waiting move for black which still leads to Sveshnikov.

  • I know I was just using the first example I could think of. Welcome to the site btw. Commented May 29, 2019 at 17:48

It avoids the Kalashnikov and the Sveshnikov

  • Not really, you can still reach the Sveshnikov via the four knights variation ...
    – Glorfindel
    Commented Jun 1, 2019 at 9:36
  • If black plays 3...Nf6, white can play 4.Bb5 and enter in a quite committing Rossolimo line for black. Obviously, the opne sicilian is expected to be better. Carlsen lately is playing 3...e5, which I personally like.
    – La buba
    Commented Jun 1, 2019 at 11:34
  • I meant the line 3... e6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Nf6 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Bf4 e5 8. Bg5 (by no means forced, of course).
    – Glorfindel
    Commented Jun 1, 2019 at 11:37
  • 6.Ndb5 is not forced in your line: Nxc6 is perfectly viable, which is not the case in the standard order of move. If you want to play Ndb5, at least you have avoided the Kalashnikov.
    – La buba
    Commented Jun 2, 2019 at 2:27
  • Black is not going to play the Kalashnikov nor the Sveshnikov with 2...d6, so how can 3.Nc3 avoid them? After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4, 4...e5 is inferior because of 5.Bb5+. On the contrary, 3.Nc3 might be an invitation to play them. Commented Jun 3, 2019 at 20:22

I sometimes play 3.Nc3 as it gives an option of against 3...a6, 4.e5 which leads to the kind of tedious positions I enjoy :) instead of some Najdorf. There are a lot of these kind of funny options for white players. For example 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nge2 used to give me some headaches as a sveshnikov player because 3...Nf6 is not what I was looking for against the closed sicilian, but there is still the possibility of white going 4.d4.

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