The Catalan Opening can prove a headache for many 1…d5 players.
In this article, you’ll learn how to deal with it once and for all.
The Open Catalan is your secret approach to beating this dangerous chess opening.
If you play 1…d5 in chess, the Catalan is an opening you are guaranteed to face at some point.
The strongest players in chess since the 1950s have played the Catalan, including:
- Mikhail Botvinnik
- Vassily Smyslov
- Tigran Petrosian
- Anatoly Karpov
- Garry Kasparov
- Vladimir Kramnik
Many chess players today are keen to build their opening repertoire based on the choices of former world champions.
In chess, the Catalan Opening is not one you want to figure out at the board.
Fortunately, there are two very effective ways to play the Open Catalan, and that’s with 5…Bd7 and 5…a6.
Here is IM Robert Ris to show you how effective 5…Bd7 can be in the hands of a well-prepared player.
This move has been favored by World Champions Anatoly Karpov, Vishy Anand, and Magnus Carlsen when playing black against the Catalan Opening.
5…a6 is another good move for Black to play against the Catalan.
Make these your two secret weapons and keep your opponent guessing a little bit more.
Open Catalan With 5…a6
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3 dxc4 5. Bg2 a6
In this position, White’s most popular moves are 6.0-0 and 6.Ne5.
You might face the 6.Nc3 sideline if you play a lower-rated opponent who is intent on a draw.
The move 6.Nc3 is best met with 6…b5 when there usually follows 7.Ne5 Ra7 8.Bc6+
Now Black can play for a draw through threefold repetition with 8…Bd7 or play an exchange sacrifice with 8…Nfd7 9.Be3 Bd6 10.d5 Bxe5 11.Bxa7 0-0.
Black will play …exd5 and …c5 with enough compensation for the exchange.
If you decide to play the exchange sacrifice, an excellent way to prepare is to play White in this position against a chess engine and see how it plays the position.
Make careful notes of the strategy it adopts against your moves and the resulting positions, but bear in mind positions that the chess engine is willing to play might not be comfortable for you.
Sulava, Nenad – Zelcic, Robert, 0-1, Saint Vincent op, 1999
White Plays the Modern 6.0-0 and 7.e3
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2 a6 6.0-0 Nc6 7.e3
The idea behind 7.e3 is to develop the queen to e2 where it threatens to win the pawn on c4 or force Black to defend it with …b5.
Black must always be careful about playing …b5 because it weakens the knight on c6 and the h1-a8 diagonal.
After …b5, the move Ne5 can put a lot of pressure on the Black position. The c6 knight is pinned to the rook.
Unsurprisingly, Black does better to use the time gained to develop his pieces rather than defend the pawn.
8.Qe2 Bd6 9.Qxc4 0-0 10.Rd1 Rb8 11.Nbd2 Qe7
Black has a good position with the rook no longer exposed to attack on the h1-a8 diagonal and the queen no longer lined up with the White rook on d1.
In the following game, David van der Hoeven drew against another 2600 rated chess grandmaster.
Zak, Boris Mikhailovich – Hoeven, David A. van der, 1/2-1/2, MT-Barrios/A (ESP), 2010
The next game shows how Black can hold his own and even triumph if White decides to sacrifice a pawn to take control of the center.
Black’s …Rb8 gets the rook away from any possible attacks by the bishop on g2 and supports …b5.
This is another game between two grandmasters rated above 2600.
Hamarat, Tunc – Langeveld, Ron A. H, 0-1, WC26/final, 2010
White Plays 6.Ne5
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2 a6 6.Ne5
White plays 6.Ne5 to open the long diagonal for the bishop and make it harder for Black to develop his queenside pieces.
However, Black can block the diagonal with …Nd5 and counter-attack with 6…Bb4+.
6…Bb4+ 7.Nc3 Nd5 8.Bd2 b5 9.0-0 Bxc3 10.bxc3 0-0
Vassily Ivanchuk showed how much fun Black can have in this position and played a memorable game.
Nogueiras Santiago, Jesus – Ivanchuk, Vassily, 0-1, Capablanca Memorial Elite, 2006
Final Thoughts on the Catalan Opening in Chess
The Catalan Opening deserves your respect, but you can have confidence in your preparation and the resources available to Black.
The Open Catalan is an excellent way to meet the Catalan Opening for Black.
4…dxc4 is an effective way to counter the Catalan Opening whether you choose to play 5…Bd7 or 5…a6.
Both these fifth moves for Black have been successful against the very best chess players in the world.
There is no reason to think they won’t continue to bring Black many more victories against the Catalan Opening.
Familiarize yourself with both sides’ strategies and important pieces before you turn your attention to learning the theory.
When you find yourself struggling to choose between two moves, it will be your understanding of the position that will see you through to victory!
Click here to get VECO – Vol #4 The Open Catalan with 50% off and learn another way to play the Open Catalan that was used by former World Champions and the current World Champion. IM Robert Ris covers all the main variations you can expect to face in your games. Now Only $19!