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3...Be7 a.k.a the Alatortsev Variation is a possible response as black for QGD players

When I checked with the database 3...Nf6 is the most played move instead of 3...Be7.

  • When black plays Nf6 they have to worry about both 4.Bf4 and 4.Bg5 but playing 3...Be7 limits white's option on where to put the bishop.
  • If white plays 4.Nf3 provoking 4...Nf6 after 3...Be7 then they cannot go with any Nge2 plans later.
[FEN ""]

 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Be7
  • From the above points is 3...Be7 better than 3...Nf6?
  • Why is Nf6 the more common move when it requires black to prepare for both Bf4 and Bg5?
  • Are there any drawbacks for black on playing 3...Be7 that are not present with 3...Nf6?

EDIT threads that discuss this

2 Answers 2

5

3...Be7 is not stronger than 3...Nf6, nor vice versa. Both moves have their up and downsides. As you correctly stated in your question 3...Be7 works well against the popular variation 3...Nf6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 with White planning to later play e3, Bd3, Nge2. However playing 3...Be7 has it's own downsides, most obviously the fact that the bishop is already committed to e7 and will need to lose tempi to move to b4 or d6 later in the game.

For this reason one of the most popular ways to play against 3...Be7 is 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bf4 where White will again continue with e3 and Bd3. Here White can choose later to play with Nf3 or Nge2, in the case of Nf3 White will be able to jump into the e5 square with a strongly supported knight. The Black bishop has missed out on the opportunity to challenge the strong f4 bishop from d6 in one move, so Black may lose a tempo later.

This isn't even touching on all the subtleties involved in systems where White maintains the tension and doesn't play 4.cxd5. I will give one example to illustrate a line where 3...Be7 isn't ideal: 3...Nf6 4.Bf4 Black can comfortably reply with 4...c5! 5.dxc5 Bxc5 and the bishop got to develop in one move. However in the case that 3...Be7 is played instead things are quite different: 4.Bf4 c5? 5.cxd5! exd5 6.e4! and Black would clearly prefer to have their knight already developed to f6 in this position.

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Why is Nf6 the more common move when it requires black to prepare for both Bf4 and Bg5?

First of all, black has to prepare for Bf4 and Bg5 in the case that white plays the intermediate move Nf3. So, that is not a serious consideration.

Are there any drawbacks for black on playing 3...Be7 that is not with 3...Nf6?

Yes. 3...Be7 tells white that black is not going to play Bb4 whereas black is almost certain to play Nf6. Playing Nf6 first delays giving white this information.

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  • "in the case that white plays the intermediate move Nf3" in that case black doesnt have to prepare for the Nge2 line?
    – cmgchess
    Jun 6, 2023 at 5:07

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