A simple system against the Pirc: 4.g3

In Lev Alburt and Alex Chernin’s book, “Pirc Alert!,” there is good coverage of a wonderfully simple system for white against the Pirc: 4.g3. They begin the chapter on this system by saying “If a non-professional player were to ask GM Alex for a fairly simple and reliable system to play against the Pirc, GM Chernin would probably advocate 4.g3.” After using this as my main answer to the Pirc for the last six months, I see why.

Black can take the game in a few different directions, opting for a philidor type pawn structure, a dragon structure, or a ruy lopez structure. However, white’s ideas are pretty much always the same. After 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.g3 we have this position:

From here, white wants to play h3 (this move is essential to keep a knight from coming to g4 and harassing the bishop), Nge2, Be3, Qd2, Bg2, 0-0, Re1, and Rd1 Part of the beauty of this system is, like the colle or KIA, white almost ignores his opponent for the first few moves, reaching this setup.

From here, white plays for pawn breaks, such as f4, e5, and g4 even.

One of the great things about this system is the normal pawn breaks black wants to play either can’t be played or need to be better prepared. Where black plays c5, white should capture if Black has to take back with his d-pawn, as the open d-file will fall immediately into white’s hands. Then, white will follow with the pawn pushes e5 and f4, clamping down on an advantage forever. For this reason, black needs to prepare the pawn break c5 so that he can recapture with a piece. In addition, the straightforward plans that usually work for black with the e7-e5 break do not work here, because the g4 square is not available and black will fall behind after this break. Meanwhile, d6-d5 will fail immediately to the reaction e5! And so, black’s best chances are to place a knight on d7 to prepare the pawn break c5. However, I have won many games simply by the above stated methods.

This setup is particularly good for blitz, where time matters, as you can pump out you first ten moves or so in as many seconds. Naturally, white does not get any immediate crushing attacks or anything close to the fireworks of the austrian attack, however, white does have an easy position to play, from which he may pressure black with pawn advances on the kingside.

Below, I have included a couple sample games in this variation.