The Closed Catalan is an exceptional opening and one of the best opening systems for Black because it is very solid but offers limitless ways of achieving key positions with a high chance for a win. And yet, it isn’t a difficult opening to learn – in fact, it can be picked up and used in your games in a very short time.
If you’re a club player, you should find the Catalan especially effective because typically they won’t understand the danger you pose until it is too late. In general, club players think all closed positions are quiet, boring and positional. But they’re wrong, and that assumption will help you win many games.
The closed Catalan System is a tricky opening for White to face in that it implements a passive approach at a first glance but then switches gears and becomes very dynamic with explosive play. This chess opening begins with 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 (though there are other move orders that can transpose into it). To get a general feel of it, think of it as a sort of combination of two other openings: the Queen’s Gambit and the Reti Opening.
The Catalan became popular since both Garry Kasparov and Viktor Korchnoi played it five times in eleven games during their Candidates Semifinal match in London in 1983. Since then, it has been revived and improved, played by Vladimir Kramnik and Magnus Carlsen, among others, who have revived and refined it in recent years.
In this preview, IM Andrey Ostrovskiy shows you some of the main ideas in the Catalan. Andrey is a master of this chess opening for black, having played and perfected it for many years. He has applied the system with great success against all sorts of players from club level to International Masters and even Grandmasters.
The Closed Catalan with White’s Bishop on d2
IM Andrey Ostrovskiy begins this preview video by discussing the position on the left. Unlike the mainline variation of the closed Catalan, Black has managed to force White to place a bishop on d2 (you can get more info on other lines in the full course!) How does this make a difference compared to the main Catalan system? Let’s take a look. White plays Rd1 and Black follows up with …Ba6 and now we see why the bishop on d2 is a little awkward for White.
In other lines, the d2 square is empty, so White could place a knight there, simultaneously defending the c4 pawn and also preparing to play e4. But this is not possible here!
White could move a bishop, but this loses time (compared to the main Catalan lines) and allows Black to simply develop. White plays b3. Black plays …Nbd7 where White has a couple of options. In this example, let’s look at a4, an interesting attempt from White to justify the position with the bishop on d2.
…Ne4. Black jumps into the center, and would like (in many cases) to exchange this knight for White’s dark-squared bishop, getting control over the dark squares. This move also forces White to decide where to move the bishop.
Bf4 (another option is Be1) allows Black to go a little wild with …g5! An interesting move! This forces White’s bishop to e3, Be3, where Black follows with the natural looking move …f5 and look how good Black’s position is. The knight on e4 looks strong here, Black has good control over central squares and has gained space on the kingside. Black can think of playing …g4 at some point, kicking the knight away to gain yet more space, followed by …h5 and …h4.
Make sure you watch the video for more moves in this line, and more variations in this interesting opening option for Black!
Master the Closed Catalan
Hopefully this preview has whet your appetite for the Closed Catalan. If you’re looking for an opening for Black that allows you to go for a win with minimum risk, then the Closed Catalan is the opening for you! In the full course, IM Ostrovskiy teaches you everything you need to play this solid, easy-to-learn opening. Click here to get instant access with 35% off.