I'm studying the Danish gambit lines and trying to understand a particular move: enter image description here The engine (depth 30 Stockfish 14.1), and theory (by that I mean GrandMasters talking about it) suggest Nc3 without giving much explanation. I feel like it's sort of blocking our own bishop and prefer Nd2 (which has the benefit to protect both bishop on c4 and e pawn). However, the engine says -1.31 for this and -0.50 for Nc3. Are there any rational explanations as to why this is not better?

1 Answer 1


The most obvious point of placing the knight on c3 instead of d2 is that it helps white maintain better control over the center of the board, although there is a more subtle (and important!) point to it. Consider what happens in the following variation, which is the computer's top line: 6.Nc3 Nf6 7.Qb3! (a double threat, as both the bishop on b4 and the pawn on f7 is hanging) 7...Bxc3+ (practically forced) 8.Qxc3. White will castle queenside later to make it easier to attack black's kingside.

So, by placing the knight on c3, white manages to setup a menacing (Queen+Bishop) battery along the a1-h8 diagonal a few moves down the line. This gives white some initiative, which compensates for the material disadvantage.

If we instead go for 6.Nd2, it is not possible to play Qb3 and set up this battery since black will then just capture on d2 with check, which would be an absolute disaster for white. Therefore, the computer's top line in this case becomes: 6.Nd2 Nf6 7.Ngf3 0-0 8.0-0, which is a lot less menacing for black to deal with. And since white is already two whole pawns down, this relatively meek setup just doesn't cut it.

The contrast in quality between these two seemingly "good" moves really highlights the validity of the basic opening principles. Although 6.Nd2 adheres to the principle of development, 6.Nc3 adheres both to the principle of development as well as the principle of central control. Therefore, a proponent of these principles (which I am, btw) would say that 6.Nc3 is the correct move in this case, even without the tactical justification behind it.

  • I had thought about this control over the center of the board but had come up with the theory that it did not matter as the knight was pinned anyway and i couldn't place a black bishop unpinning it on d2. Looking at the top engine moves you talk about I can see why at the end you end up in a more "attacky" position which corresponds to what you should do when playing a gambit. But, I feel like if black bishop takes the knight whether it's on c3 or d2 it would almost be better for me if it was d2 because it would allow me to develop my queen "for free" and align it later with the rook? Commented Jan 31, 2022 at 23:09
  • What do you think of those two elements? I'm still relatively new to chess (around 1500), and I'm not trying to debate whether or not engine / theory gets it wrong, but just trying to understand the intricacies instead of just memorizing moves without fully understanding them. Commented Jan 31, 2022 at 23:12
  • I should add that absolutely, your points make a lot of sense especially considering the black bishop doesn't HAVE to take the knight which I overlooked. I'm just looking for more details with my last comments and not trying to say your answer wasn't good! Commented Jan 31, 2022 at 23:13
  • The answer to why white would rather like to take on c3 rather than on d2 is the simple fact that even if you manage to setup a battery down the d-file it doesn't really amount to much in the end. It doesn't prevent black from playing simple development moves like Nc6 and d6, and if black manages to develop successfully without major interruptions it's going to be very tough for white to get compensation for the pawns. On the other hand, the battery down the a1-h8 diagonal is very dangerous for black, since it makes even the most crude plans like g4-g5 into legitimate threats.
    – Scounged
    Commented Feb 1, 2022 at 9:45
  • I've dowvoted it because it's a totally wrong answer even if it was out of the best intentions. Sorry. The correct one is below, which might not give a lot of detail and explanations or quotations but I believe sometimes simple succinct answer suffices without too much rambling about. I don't understand why wrong answers are heavily upvoted here. That's plain wrong. It is wrong it is wrong. If it is right it is right. It should be very simple. Not everything is subjective in chess. Certain things have unequivocal answers.
    – user32756
    Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 11:22

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