The Van Geet Opening is a chess opening beginning with 1. Nc3
White develops a knight towards the center of the board, which seems to be in accordance with the opening principles of chess.
You might think that such a principled move would be more common, but the truth is that the Van Geet Opening is a rare guest in master-level chess games! How can this be, when its “cousin”, 1. Nf3, is considered a top-tier opening choice?
For starters, the move 1. Nf3 deprives black of one of his central pawn advances:
The Van Geet Opening has no such benefit, since after 1. Nc3, black is still able to play d5. The queen controls this square!
Secondly, the Van Geet Opening blocks in the c-pawn, whereas 1. Nf3 blocks in the f-pawn.
Now, there are of course many valid opening choices where either or both of these pawns are blocked in by knights. However, it’s more common to block in the f-pawn than the c-pawn in the opening!
This is because moving the f-pawn in the opening is inherently dangerous. Some of the fastest checkmates in chess occur along the “short diagonal” to the king!
It’s no surprise that white is often content to block in this pawn from move one.
On the other hand, there are many opening systems, such as the Queen’s Gambit and the English Opening, where the c-pawn gets involved in the fight for the center. When white commits to blocking this pawn as early as move one, that gives black some valuable information!
The third and final reason why the Van Geet Opening isn’t as popular as 1. Nf3 is that it’s not as conducive to quick castling. There are more pieces that need to vacate the back rank for white to castle queenside, compared to kingside castling.
Despite its rarity, there’s nothing at all wrong with the first move 1. Nc3. After all, it’s a good developing move well-aligned with the opening principles of chess!
If you choose to play this move, you are likely to transpose to another well-known opening system. For example, 1. Nc3 d5 2. d4 would lead to a slightly unusual Queen’s Pawn Opening, which could become a Blackmar-Diemer Gambit after 2…Nf6 3. e4
Or, after 1. Nc3 e5 2. e4, we could end up in a Four Knights Game after 2…Nf6 3. Nc3 Nc6
The Van Geet Opening is a fine, albeit offbeat, way to begin a chess game which will likely transpose to another well-known opening system.
However, keep in mind that black cannot easily stop you from playing Nc3 on a later move, so you will always be able to play this move later if it’s part of your desired opening set-up. They can, however, prevent you from playing e4, d4, or c4 in some cases.
Because of this, it might be wise to take space in the center first, if you wish to do so at all! You can always play Nc3 later.
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