I was analyzing variations after 1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 d5 the other day. All of the following lines seem to score well for Black and lead to pretty comfortable positions:

[FEN ""]
1. e4 Nc6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 (3. exd5 Qxd5 4. Nf3 (4. Be3 e5 )4... Bg4 5. Be2 O-O-O 6. Nc3 Qa5 )3... Bf5 4. c3 f6 5. f4 (5. Nf3 fxe5 6. dxe5 e6 7. Bb5 Bc5 8. O-O Ne7 )5... Nh6 6. Nf3 e6 7. Bd3 Be7 8. O-O O-O (8... Qd7) 9. h3 Qe8 *

You could argue that, in the mainline above, Black's knight is misplaced because it isn't really targeting anything and it's blocking his c-pawn, which is a nuisance because c5 is Black's main pawn break in the French pawn structure. But on the flipside, he's managed to develop his light-squared bishop outside the pawn chain, and he still has the f6 break at his disposal. So if you compare this to the French, as far as I can see it's just a matter of "bad knight" vs "bad bishop"; I don't see why one opening should necessarily be considered better than the other.

So, what are the reasons that 1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 d5 is considered a second-rate defense and not used at the top level?

  • What happens if White plays 3.Nc3? And how do you play the Nimzowitsch defense if White plays 2.Nf3 instead of 2.d4?
    – bof
    Aug 9, 2021 at 5:56
  • 1
    If White plays 2. Nf3, you can stay in "not inferior" territory by answering ...e5 at least.
    – Annatar
    Aug 9, 2021 at 6:18
  • 5
    I note on Lichess that 2 Nf3 is twice as common as 2 d4, and that may be the reason - Black has to know both the d4 and all the e4 e5 theory in the Nimzo defence (or go into an inferior Pirc), whereas if they just play 1 ... e5 they "only" (!) have to know 1. e4 e5 lines. In other words 1 e4 Nc3 is insufficiently forcing, it gives white a second grab at going into they lines they want.
    – Ian Bush
    Aug 9, 2021 at 6:38
  • 1
    And what if 2.Nc3? Then 2...e5 transposes to the Vienna Game, but Black's normal response to the Vienna might be the more popular 2...Nf6. Now Black must be prepared to face the Steinitz Gambit!
    – bof
    Aug 9, 2021 at 21:50

1 Answer 1


The f-file is open for white and the rook can be strong if the knight moves away from f3. The f4-f5 and c4 pawn break will eventually occur too.

Meanwhile, in the French defense for example, and I will refer to the Advance variation, black has potential threats against the e4 square after Qb6 and can create some problems for those unfamiliar with it.

The Caro-Kann I do not recommend as much because there is exchange variation and the Panov, but otherwise the Advance Variation is one of the hardest (arguably) openings to play.

Pirc is not as good for those who want space because with e4 d4 c4 the pawns take the centre and Nc3 ideas can occur with f3, Nh3 Nf2 and a kingside pawn storm after white castles queenside and commits himself with Be3 and Qd2 to trade bishops on h6.

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