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Very Hot Topic (More than 25 Replies) Why don't Najdorf players play 2.Nc3 Nc6? (Read 1633 times)
Jack Hughes
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Re: Why don't Najdorf players play 2.Nc3 Nc6?
Reply #22 - 01/15/20 at 11:06:31
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In response to the idea that Najdorf players are simply choosing an inferior line in order to save their work load I would point out that it is not just club players doing this but also the very elite: looking at TWIC games from 2019 and 2020 where both players were rated above 2700 black has played 2... d6 in 16 of the 20 games to reach that position, and of the three games with 2... Nc6 one was with Grischuk (a Sveshnikov player) as black and the other two were blitz games. These statistics are of course greatly skewed by the fact that white players are unlikely to go for 2. Nc3 unless their opponent is a Najdorf player, but it is noteworthy that the Najdorf specialists (in particular MVL, Nepomniachtchi and Giri) all prefer 2... d6. Even in the 2019 ICCF archives, where strong players are likely to be more flexible in their openings than MVL or Nepo and where the practicalities of studying lines are a complete non-issue: if one includes only games where both players were above 2400 then 24 players have chosen 2... d6 with a score of 52.1% (-36 elo) compared to 52 who have chosen 2... Nc6 with a score of 50% (-36 elo).
Taking the analysis away from the abstract and into the concrete I'm also really not sure what basis there is for thinking that 2... Nc6 is the objectively superior move. True, it allows white a slightly improved version of the Closed and the Grand Prix but neither of those is improved enough to let white fight for an advantage. From a practical perspective I would even prefer to play 2... d6 against a known Grand Prix player, since this move is much more likely to provoke them into self-destructing with a line like 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 d6 3. f4 g6 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. Bc4 Nc6 6. 0-0 e6 7. d3?! (Grischuk's 7. d4 is in my view the only playable option for white) Nge7 8. Qe1 0-0 9. f5  gxf5 when black is already seriously better - if you instead play 2... Nc6 and delay ...d6 then white is statistically more likely to play a much sounder approach with Bb5 instead of Bc4. All this is to say nothing of the line with 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Bb5, which is a spiritual cousin of the Grand Prix that is at least as promising for white as anything after 2... d6 3. f4, even if not promising enough to really fight for an advantage. Theoretically speaking the biggest downside of 2... d6 has to be 3. d4, but the idea that this is obviously more promising for white than 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Nf3 e5 or 3. Nge2 e5/Nd4 is somewhat mystifying to me. The idea certainly is not supported by any of my engines or by the opening choices of the world's elite in either OTB or correspondence chess.
  
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Syzygy
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Re: Why don't Najdorf players play 2.Nc3 Nc6?
Reply #21 - 01/14/20 at 19:50:18
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I'm not a big fan of either 3...e5 or 3...Nd4 against 3. Nge2: they seem to afford White greater chances of an advantage than 3. Nf3 e5. Transposing to the Sveshnikov with 3...Nf6 is one idea, though I would personally prefer offering a transposition to the Accelerated Dragon with 3...g6. This approach works just as well against 3. Nf3, is lower maintenance than the Sveshnikov, fits well with fianchetto plans against Closed Sicilian set-ups, and is considered at least as sound as all of Black's other tries (since White can no longer go for the Maroczy Bind).

After 2. Nc3 d6 I'm actually more annoyed about 3. f4 than 3. g3 or 3. d4. I don't want to commit to d6 so early when playing against the Grand Prix. It's true that 2. Nc3 Nc6 allows weird tries like 3. Bb5 and annoying move order tricks, but if I were a Najdorf player, I would rather do this homework than rigidly stick to 2...d6.
  
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Re: Why don't Najdorf players play 2.Nc3 Nc6?
Reply #20 - 01/14/20 at 12:12:40
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LordChaos21 wrote on 01/11/20 at 14:54:14:
I am new to this website so still don't know how to use a quote so sorry if this is a bit convoluted.

@RoleyPoley I didn't know Bb5 was such a big deal after Nc3 Nc6. But a quick glance seems to suggest Black is fine after Nd4?


Sorry, my fault, I had misread the post and thought you were talking about the position after 2. nf3 not Nc3.
  

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Re: Why don't Najdorf players play 2.Nc3 Nc6?
Reply #19 - 01/14/20 at 10:46:30
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After 3.Nge2, aside from 3...e5 avoiding transpositions to other Open Sicilians, I believe Kotronias recommended 3...Nd4!? in his GM Rep book. I have no idea how this is holding up, but it may be another interesting choice to look into.
  
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LordChaos21
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Re: Why don't Najdorf players play 2.Nc3 Nc6?
Reply #18 - 01/14/20 at 07:09:39
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I don't see why it should be laziness; i agree if you intend to, after say 1.e4-c5 2.Nc3-Nc6 3. Nf3 (or Nge2), to transpose to the Sveshnikov, then it is indeed a lot more work. But if you are willing to play the position after 3...e5, it's just one line, which is also easy to learn in my opinion.

As for the Closed Sicilian move order, the problem is when White is good with his move-orders. He can play 2.Nc3 against a Najdorf player. Say we play 2...d6, he goes for 3.d4 and I think White is supposed to have an edge here. A Najdorf player usually to my knowledge prefers 2...a6 (MVL for example has played this), but then White goes for 3.g3, and we are into a bad version of the Closed Sicilian (again, in my opinion).
So the only solution to this conundrum for a Najdorf player seems to be 2...Nc6.
  
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Re: Why don't Najdorf players play 2.Nc3 Nc6?
Reply #17 - 01/14/20 at 02:29:24
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LordChaos21 wrote on 01/10/20 at 16:35:50:
I was just wondering, why don't Najdorf players meet 2.Nc3 with Nc6? As far as I know, 2...Nc6 is supposed to be the best way to meet the Grand Prix Attack (3.f4), and it is also the most flexible against White playing with g3 for the Closed Sicilian. If White plays 3.Nf3 trying to steer the game into an unfavourable Open Sicilian, Black can play e5! which seems to be doing quite well. The biggest problem seemed to be 3.Nge2!?, but even this you can meet if you wish with e5, or play g6 which also seems to do well.

If you instead play 2...d6 you have to deal with much tougher versions of the GPA and the Closed, and also the trendy and strong (imo) 3.d4 cd 4.Qd4 Nc6 5.Qd2. So why not just play 2...Nc6?


Laziness mostly, players don't like carrying around extra luggage in their head unless they absolutely have to. White also needs to be wary that in trying to move-order Najdorf players that he doesn't wind up tricking himself, especially if he is not a well rounded Open Sicilian guy. For example, I once tried to be clever against a Najy guy and went for 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 so far so good right, opening battle won. There followed 3.Nge2 Nf6! and suddenly I was stuck, it occured to me that I didn't really want to go into the Sveshnikov either, so no worries 4.g3 but then came 4...d5 5.exd5 Nd4!? 6.Bg2 Bg4 and somehow we have transposed into what looks like some line from the Scotch Three Knights  or Cozio defence to the Ruy, long story short Black equalised comfortably and put an end to my 3.Nge2 flirtation.

Conclusion, if you want to fight for an edge and go 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nge2 you need to be prepared to enter the Sveshnikov after 3...Nf6, which these days is considered even more reliable than the Najdorf. Curious to know what Tiviakov thinks about all this. 
  

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Re: Why don't Najdorf players play 2.Nc3 Nc6?
Reply #16 - 01/13/20 at 16:32:04
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I'm going to ignore most of your responses, not because I necessarily agree or disagree, but because my question to LordChaos21 has already been answered to my satisfaction. I will let this one response below be representative of my thinking on the other points you made.

MNb wrote on 01/13/20 at 07:44:44:
an ordinary chessplayer wrote on 01/13/20 at 05:06:46:
RE 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 e6.

I agree 6.Be3 is best, and then 6...d6 is best. What white has given up is minimal.

I wouldn't call giving up 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 d6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 Nc6 6.f4 minmal. My database contains 2000+ games that support my view. That includes six games of a famous 1968 Candidates match.


Hmmm. White hasn't exactly given up on that. 7.f4 is a move here, and should transpose back to those lines. What white has given up is lines with f2-f4 and not Bc1-e3. So, 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 d6 6.f4 e6 7.Nf3 Nge7 8.O-O O-O and here 9.Be3 is most popular and what I have played when I have reached this position (I don't always play 6.f4). Now non-Be3 moves are 9.Rb1, 9.Bd2, 9.g4 and maybe some others I can't recall. It's precisely those that white has given up, which is why I wrote "minimal".
  
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Re: Why don't Najdorf players play 2.Nc3 Nc6?
Reply #15 - 01/13/20 at 07:44:44
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an ordinary chessplayer wrote on 01/13/20 at 05:06:46:
RE 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 Rb8.

Geller gave 6.a4!? a6 7.f4 += in the first edition of ECO.

Practical results suggest otherwise.

an ordinary chessplayer wrote on 01/13/20 at 05:06:46:
I don't think 6.Be3 is an accurate move. Better are Spassky's 6.Nh3 and Lane's 6.f4.

Might be so, but Black in both cases can answer 6...b5,. which of course is a very common plan. In either case Black will only transpose to 2...d6 lines when it suits him/her. So my conclusion remains correct: 2...Nc6 3.g3 does not necessarily transpose to 2...d6 3.g3 but gives Black an important extra option that does very well in practice.

an ordinary chessplayer wrote on 01/13/20 at 05:06:46:
If white is keen to play Be3, it's probably better to play Ljubojevic's 4.d3 move order.

4...Rb8 5.Be3 b5 still looks interesting; again, Black doesn't need to play ...d6.
Were I White I would take your argument two steps further and begin with 2.d3. That avoids all the early b7-b5-b4 stuff. Of course Black can force White to play the KID (beginning with d5 3.Nd2), but that's more interesting than the Closed Sicilian after 2.Nc3 e6 3.g3 d5 anyway.

an ordinary chessplayer wrote on 01/13/20 at 05:06:46:
Anyway, in the game Burchardt - Levitina, Manila ol 1992, the continuation was 6.Be3 b5 7.Qd2 (Ravikumar analyzed 7.Bxc5 to advantage for black) 7...b4 8.Nd1 d6, transposing to a position black could have easily reached via 5...d6 and 6...Rb8. Did you have an improvement over Levitina's 8...d6?

I don't need to have any; I only claimed that as far as the Closed Sicilian is concerned 2...Nc6 is more accurate. I onlly need to point out that Black has more options. Black might consider 8...Qa5 iso 8...d6 or 7...Nd4 iso 7...b4. These suggestions are not necessarily better than the transposition. Again, Black will only transpose to 2...d6 3.g3 lines when it suits hm/her and that's always nice, especially because Black can figure this out in his/her study.

an ordinary chessplayer wrote on 01/13/20 at 05:06:46:
RE 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 e6.

I agree 6.Be3 is best, and then 6...d6 is best. What white has given up is minimal.

I wouldn't call giving up 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 d6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 Nc6 6.f4 minmal. My database contains 2000+ games that support my view. That includes six games of a famous 1968 Candidates match.
  

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Re: Why don't Najdorf players play 2.Nc3 Nc6?
Reply #14 - 01/13/20 at 05:06:46
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I wanted to look in my files to refresh my memory before replying.

MNb wrote on 01/11/20 at 09:54:29:
Fourty yeras ago Dutch IM Pauls Boersma gave 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 Rb8 6.Be3 b5. Indeed Black (!) scores almost 60%.
There is also 5.d3 e6 idea 6.f4 Nge7 7.Nf3 d5 (Black does even better), forcing White to play 6.Be3 of 7.Be3. After 2...d6 etc. White might postpone this. so 2...Nc6 definitely is more accurate, given the Closed Sicilian.


RE 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 Rb8.

I don't think 6.Be3 is an accurate move. Better are Spassky's 6.Nh3 and Lane's 6.f4. Also Geller gave 6.a4!? a6 7.f4 += in the first edition of ECO. If white is keen to play Be3, it's probably better to play Ljubojevic's 4.d3 move order. Anyway, in the game Burchardt - Levitina, Manila ol 1992, the continuation was 6.Be3 b5 7.Qd2 (Ravikumar analyzed 7.Bxc5 to advantage for black) 7...b4 8.Nd1 d6, transposing to a position black could have easily reached via 5...d6 and 6...Rb8. Did you have an improvement over Levitina's 8...d6?

RE 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 e6.

I agree 6.Be3 is best, and then 6...d6 is best. What white has given up is minimal. In my view black has given up even more, namely after 5...d6 (instead of 5...e6) 6.Be3, I believe 6...e5, 6...Rb8, and 6...Nf6 are all better moves than 6...e6.

LordChaos21 wrote on 01/11/20 at 14:54:14:
@ordinarychessplayer i think Black can if he wants delay d6 and instead play with a quick Rb8 and b5 which I like for Black. I don't know if it's better or not but it certainly scores pretty well. Generally I just think it is a bit more accurate. I consider Nc3 d6 d4 a much bigger problem.

For ...Rb8 see my reply to MNb. 2.Nc3 d6 3.d4 is certainly an option, but I was more interested in the g3-Closed as you specifically referred to in your original post.
  
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Re: Why don't Najdorf players play 2.Nc3 Nc6?
Reply #13 - 01/11/20 at 20:55:33
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By the way, in a recent match between two of Tiviakov's countrymen, GM Friso Nijboer sought to surprise FM Eelke de Boer (a young Najdorf player) with "something strange":  2. Nc3 d6 3. Nge2 Nf6 4. h3. 

(post-mortem with the players at about 3 hr 57 min)
https://www.twitch.tv/videos/527881424
  
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Re: Why don't Najdorf players play 2.Nc3 Nc6?
Reply #12 - 01/11/20 at 20:25:14
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According to Tiviakov, in a very timely fashion, 2.Nc3 is a "Nightmare for the Najdorf".
https://shop.chessbase.com/en/products/tiviakov_nightmare_for_the_najdorf
  
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Re: Why don't Najdorf players play 2.Nc3 Nc6?
Reply #11 - 01/11/20 at 17:46:47
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Incidentally 2...Nc6 3. Nge2 e5 came up here back in '17.
https://www.chesspub.com/cgi-bin/chess/YaBB.pl?num=1487015444/8#8
  
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Re: Why don't Najdorf players play 2.Nc3 Nc6?
Reply #10 - 01/11/20 at 17:34:51
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3 Nge2 e5 4 Ng3 also one of the top engine lines for White, without too many games ...
  
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Re: Why don't Najdorf players play 2.Nc3 Nc6?
Reply #9 - 01/11/20 at 17:20:32
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3 Nge2 e5 ... some 2500+ players have played it, you could definitely try it -- it seems like some more research would be needed to say if it is as reliable as 3 Nf3 e5 ... if that is important to you.

The risk is that you might wind up some tempos down ... for instance, the game below 6 of White's first 12 moves are knight moves going Ng1 to f3-d2-f1-e3-d5 and Nb1 to c3

In the Nge2 system maybe he's spending 4 instead of 6 ... Nb1 to c3-d5 and Ng1 to e2-c3

On the other hand, he brings a knight to d5 sooner if something like 1 e4 c5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 Nge2 e5 4 Nd5 happens, so maybe that gives Black some options -- perhaps Black can skip Nf6-d7-b6 and just trade on d5 right away (winning some moves back), or maybe White even "loses" the extra tempi to play Nd5-e3 to keep the tension and avoid trades. 

[Event "Wch Rapid"]
[White "Zubov, Alexander"]
[Black "Le, Quang Liem"]
[Site "Moscow"]
[Round "6"]
[Annotator ""]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[Date "2019.12.27"]
[WhiteElo "2601"]
[BlackElo "2713"]
[PlyCount "71"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 e5 4. Bc4 Be7 5. d3 d6 6. Nd2 Nf6 7. Nf1 Bg4 8. f3 Be6 9. Ne3 0-0 10. a3 Nd7 11. 0-0 Bg5 12. Ned5 Nb6 13. Bxg5 Qxg5 14. Nxb6 axb6 15. Qc1 Qd8 16. f4 Bxc4 17. dxc4 f5 18. fxe5 fxe4 19. Qe3 Re8 20. Qxe4 Rxe5 21. Qg4 Nd4 22. Rf2 h5 23. Qg6 Qe8 24. Qxd6 Nxc2 25. Rc1 Ne3 26. Qxb6 Qd7 27. Nd5 Nxc4 28. Qb3 Rxd5 29. Qxc4 b5 30. Qf4 Re8 31. h3 c4 32. Rcf1 Kh7 33. a4 Rd4 34. Qf3 Re5 35. axb5 Rxb5 36. Kh1 1/2-1/2
  
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Re: Why don't Najdorf players play 2.Nc3 Nc6?
Reply #8 - 01/11/20 at 17:00:13
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Yes, if a Najdorf player is happy with 3.Nf3 e5 as Black, then they can happily play 1.e5 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 without issue.
  
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