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1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3

I found no slav defence (or other) tutorial discussing this move. It seems 3. Nf3 is always played, but I found no reason why not play it this way, meaning how to punish it.

Also, what if 3. e3? I see this blocks the dark-square bishop, but would like to know the way to punish it. Should black then go for the standard a6 line, counting on white not having Bf4?

  • You can answer your question by downloading Arena GUI and stockfish engine. Run Arena, install stockfish, setup the position you like and let stockfish analyze it. Explore some positions by making/unmaking the moves on the board and see the stockfish evaluation.
    – ferdy
    Jul 25, 2023 at 4:02
  • 3
    @ferdy not helpful. Analyzing with engines is not the same as humans. I need to understand the ideas, not the infinite different lines.
    – Gulzar
    Jul 25, 2023 at 7:29
  • Just give it a try. If you make a bad move, the engine will show you how to punish it. If you are not convinced with the engine line, continue making moves (according to you as best) on the board, until your will see that your line loses material or you might get mated by engine line.
    – ferdy
    Jul 26, 2023 at 2:45
  • @ferdy I am not going to memorize lines without understanding the ideas. It isn't useful because if any deviation occurs, I am lost.
    – Gulzar
    Jul 26, 2023 at 9:02

2 Answers 2


3.Nc3 is very decent move. It has been less often used than 3.Nf3 when White is aiming for the main lines of the Slav defense because it gives Black two more options:

  • The Winawer gambit, 3.Nc3 e5!? 4.de5 d4 5.Ne4 Qa5 etc.

Its reputation has evolved along the years. Although it's probably fine for White theoretically, why give yourself something more to study ? 3.Nf3 avoids this altogether.

  • The early capture 3.Nc3 dc4!?

This is a more modern approach. Whether White plays solidly (4.Nf3, 5.e3) or tries to punish Black (4.e4), Black will hold to the extra pawn at least temporarily with 4...b5 and the Nc3 will sometimes need to be re-routed because of a potential ...b4 at any time.

Meanwhile, the only upside of 3.Nc3 compared to 3.Nf3 appears if White tries systems without Nf3, mostly the delayed exchanged variation : 3...Nf6 4.cd5 cd5 5.Bf4 Nc6 6.e3, intending Bd3, Nge2 and probably f3. It has had some small bursts of popularity (GM Anatoli Vaisser played like this at a time) but it has never become a big danger to the Slav defense. Another example is the agressive 4.e4 against the triangle defense (3...e6).

  • 1
    A possible upside is the availability of the variation 3 Nc3 e6 4 e4, which may continue to a peculiar tactical line that I see is called the Marshall gambit (usually reached with Black's c6 and e6 in the other order?): dxe4 5 Nxe4 Bb4+ 6 Bd2 Qxd4 7 Bxb4 Qxe4+ 8 Ne2 Na6 and White's options for the next move include 9 Bf8. Aug 3, 2023 at 1:48

On Chessable in the Chebanenko Slav Short and Sweet, Alex Colovic recommends 3....Nf6, and, after 4 e3, he suggests 4....a6, which often transposes into the more main line variations.

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