I had the following game which transposed to an Old Indian defense position:

1. d4 d6 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3

But then Black did not follow with the main line: 3 ... e5 (see wikipedia article) but rather with: 3... Nc6.

[FEN ""]
1. d4 d6 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Nc6 (3... e5)

I couldn't find this variation discussed anywhere which leads me to think it is likely an inferior line for Black. If so, how should White continue to gain advantage? 4. e4 perhaps ?

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    This position sometimes occurs via 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 Nc6 3. Nc3 d6. – Dag Oskar Madsen Jan 28 '14 at 11:54
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    And that line (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 Nc6) is known as "Black Knights' Tango" (new) or "Mexican Defense" (old). – RemcoGerlich Jan 28 '14 at 13:17

Old Indian defense variation: 1. d4 d6 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Nc6 : how should White respond?

White should continue to fight for the center, as always and Black should continue developing so he can pressure Whites pawn center from afar.

I couldn't find this variation discussed anywhere which leads me to think it is likely an inferior line for Black.

I am not surprised-Black is tempting White to overextend by chasing the knight but this is not Alekhine's defense and I think White can get slight advantage from this position.

If so, how should White continue to gain advantage? 4. e4 perhaps ?

No, not e4. White should use this moment to seize the initiative and hinder Black's development. You see, Black's only compensation for giving White the center power is his superior development. He will use it to pressure White's center or undermine it with flank attack. I suggest immediate d5 as an answer. See the detailed variations below.

[FEN ""]

1. d4 d6 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Nc6?! 4.d5! Nb8 ( 4...Nb4? 5.Qa4++- ) ( 4...Na5? 5.Qa4+! c6 6.b4! Nxc4 7.dxc6! b5 ( 7...bxc6? 8.Qxc6++- ) ( 7...Nb6 8.cxb7+!+- Nxa4 9.bxa8=Q Nxc3 10.Qc6+!+- ) 8.Qxb5!?+- ) ( 4...Ne5? 5.f4! Ned7 ( 5...Ng6? 6.e4 e5 7.f5! Ne7 8.Bg5!? ) 6.e4 ) 5.e4

and White is tempo up in all the above variations comparing to the usual King's Indian defense opening moves.

Since every tempo counts in the King's Indian defense this is a big plus-White will be faster in reaching his typical queen side attack while Black will be one tempo behind in generating King side attack. At the very least, this should force Black into long, passive defense since he will not be able to generate typical counter-play.

As for the moves with !? in the sidelines mentioned in the above diagram, you should consult the engine to find even stronger continuation-I just gave you my thought-it might not be the best move but I like the fact it maintains initiative/pressure.

Hopefully this answer helped you. If you have further questions leave a comment and I will reply.

Best regards.

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  • Actually I played what in retrospect was an amazingly sheepish 4. e3. I lost the game. – Marcus Junius Brutus Jan 28 '14 at 14:11
  • @MarcusJuniusBrutus: e3 can pass too, but will not offer you any advantage-only equal chances. In fact it justifies Blacks Nc6 move and gives him counter-play. But look at this from a brighter side-next time you will b able to demolish your opponent with this sequence of moves ;) – AlwaysLearningNewStuff Jan 28 '14 at 14:21

The best reply for white and most usual in that position is Nf3, just finishing development and trying to castle kingside.

A normal continuation could be :

 [FEN ""]
  1. d4 d6 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Nc6 4. Nf3 e5 5. e3 Bg4 6. Be2 Be7 7. O-O O-O *

Black should play e5 sooner or later or he will not gain control of the center and space for his pieces

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I think that the following options are available for white

[FEN ""]
1. d4 d6 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Nc6 4.Bg5 e5 5.d5 Ne7 6.Bxf6 gxf6 7.e3 Bg7 8.Nge2 f5 9.Ng3 f4 10.Nh5 O-O 11.Nxg7 Kxg7 12.exf4 exf4 13.Qd4+ Kg8 14.O-O-O (4.Nf3 Bg4 5.d5 Ne5 6.Nxe5 dxe5 7.Qb3) (4.d5 Nb8 5.e4 Nbd7 6.Be3 g6 7.Be2 Bg7 8.Qd2)

The longest variation is just an example of how quickly white can create an attack. In general, the fact that the white pawn is still on e2 allows white to do e2-e3 and take control over the d4 square (which is impossible after e2-e4). The option 4.d5 is the most direct way to challenge 3...Nc6. The drawback is that you get less control over the d4 and e5-squares. I like the idea of 4.Bg5 because it threatens Bxf6 and ruins black's pawn structure on the kingside. It forces black to make a difficult decision without making a committing move (d4-d5, since pawns cannot move backwards). All being said, it is a question of taste, as long as white knows what sort of position one should aim for.

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