Ideas for Black against the Catalan: 4…Bb4+

The Catalan has become a go to weapon at the elite chess level for many top players, from Wang Yue to Carlsen. It has also been the key to Topalov’s defeat in his last two world championship matches, as both Kramnik and Anand employed it against him with impressive results. The appeal of the Catalan is obvious, white takes little risk and yet generally gets a positional pull that lasts deep into middle game because of his fianchettoed king’s bishop. This opening is also likely to be become very popular at the class level since the publication of “wojo’s weapons,” and the two volume series “1.d4 Grandmaster repertoire.” In this post, I would like to offer black a “simple” system against the Catalan, involving good piece placement, active queenside play, and the pawn break c6-c5.

These first few pgn files are not taken from games, but rather give the flavor of the piece placement that I favor against the catalan.

With these ideas in mind, the flow of the following three games becomes more clear. In all three, black is able to blunt white’s advantage almost effortlessly using these thematic plans. However, the first stands out as an exceptional game, in which black was able to go absolutely hog wild with a knight sac on f2. This game has such aggression in it, it’s wonderful to see Topalov back to his old self and playing so aggressively. Perhaps he will be the challenger again, now that Carlsen will likely be watching from afar.