The QGD Chigorin: A Solid Choice Against The Catalan

Elsewhere on this blog I have pontificated on various setups for black against the Catalan, an opening which seems to be ubiquitous in the 1800-2100 range. Since Kramnik and Anand have both used it with great effect in World Championship matches, and with many top players from Carlsen to Wang Yue including it as crucial components of their repertoire, it’s no wonder that it’s fashionable. Often white plays for a pull on the queen-side and a nagging edge that is difficult to shake. And so when facing a Catalonian, why not try for piece activity in a fighting defense? Piece activity is a hallmark of Moro’s favorite weapon: The Chigorin, and while the Chigorin certainly doesn’t pose a theoretical test to the Catalan, the arising positions may prove to be a test for your “positionally-minded” opponent.

After 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.g3 Bf5 the following position is reached:

Here, one of the ideas behind 3…Bf5 is to pressure the tender c2 square, such that if white plays 4.Bg2 then Nb4 will force Na3 and already an awkward game that white will likely not feel very comfortable in. While this idea may seem a bit juvenile, Morozevich himself recommends it (see the following game) and it no doubt would be an interesting idea to try in a blitz game.

I have to admit, I really like this plan because it pushes white around a little. However, there is a more simple plan which leads to solidity and the kind of position which will cut down on white’s queen-side pull. After the standard 3.g3, black goes for a simple system type setup with e6…Nf6…Be7 etc, reaching the following position.

Here, black is solid and should achieve equality, though Morozevich cautions that black may have to enter a slightly worse ending in order to do so. While this system approach offers both simplicity and solidity, it lacks the kinds of fireworks and piece activity that I would prefer to generate. That is to say, while it’s simple and solid, it doesn’t make white think very hard either. This is ultimately why I prefer the approach with an early Nb4. In any case, below, please find some example games in this system approach.