Hi Chris, I liked 7. Nc3 more and more. Black will have to play 7...Bxf3 in order to retrieve his pawn back (8...dxe5, which leaves two problems, this pawn structure is ruined and the 'c5' can't be defended). White then Exchanges Queens when Black wins his pawn back. There's no Queen's and light-squared Bishop, so White can play his King to 'e2', develop the Bishop to 'e3' and play the Knight to 'c5' and bring the Rooks to the Central Files. The move 'g3' then becomes playable and White has an excellent game. As the Rook and Pawn Endgame nears, Black's Queenside Pawn weaknesses will tell in White's favor. White's King can also use the 'f1-a6' Diagonal in the Endgame and Black can do little to stop it.If in the Middlegame, Black opts for the pin on White's 'c3' Knight with his remaining dark squared Bishop, then White can play 'Na4' eyeing the 'c5' square. If it is pinned to the King, you might be able to accept this in exchange for the Open b-file and the Bishop vs. Knight in the Endgame, where lines are very open. I doubt Black could castle in time and after one exchange of Rooks, you should be left with complete control of the b-file, providing your King is already sitting on 'e2.' White should be able to accomplish these things while Black's position is simply wretched. This was why I liked 7. Nc3; the move may be the faster development.
Yes, White would own the b-file after Black pins the 'c3' Knight. White makes the move 'Ke2' and after the Exchange on 'c3', White has all the trumps and most of the play.
I agree that 7.Nc3 is very good. The reason I liked castle is because the position doesn't become "foggy" for me. I was interested to try and work against those weakened pawns.It's interesting that 9.Qc3! has actually been played 9 times in the Mega Database. I was suprised that this position has been reached, as its completely losing for black.
I'm surprised at that myself. So many people jumped on it early, when those weaknesses weren't going anywhere. Black had no way to fix them. And your Queen moves are too many, while development is lacking. Yes, I would hate to be Black in this position as it offers very little. I guess many people thought you can reach the Steinitz Deferred by reversing the move order between ...d6 and ...a6, but that is simply far from the truth in this case.