The Catalan chess opening will help you become an all-around better chess player. This an opening system where white develops a bishop on g2, prior to or after developing the knight on f3.
Black can choose from a variety of defenses but usually adopts a setup with pawns on d5 and e6, and develops his knight to f6.
Knowing how to play these positions is important because you are almost certain to encounter them at some time in your chess career.
There are lots of opportunities to use devastating chess tactics in the Catalan Opening.
Where Did The Catalan Chess Opening Originate?
The Catalan Opening is a chess opening named after the beautiful Catalonia region in Spain. Back in 1929, Savielly Tartakower was asked to pay homage to the region’s chess history at a tournament in Barcelona.
Surprisingly it took another fifty-four years to gain prominence. The use of the opening by Garry Kasparov and Viktor Korchnoi in 1983 sparked new interest in it.
When Vladimir Kramnik played it during his 2006 World Chess Championship match, high-level grandmasters took notice. Four years later Viswanathan Anand used it in his World Championship match against Topalov.
Why is the Catalan Opening So Popular?
The development of strong chess engines has led chess players to expect smaller advantages from the opening phase. On the surface, the opening appears to be the choice of players who like to accumulate and hold onto small advantages.
However, as you can clearly see in the video above, there is still the opportunity to win the game early on. Being aware of the chess tactics in the Catalan Opening is vitally important.
The positional motifs of the chess opening are easy to understand, which makes it a good choice for players seeking to avoid lots of opening theory. You can reach a solid middlegame position playing fundamentally sound chess.
In the Catalan chess opening, white relies on the power of his fianchettoed bishop and centralized pieces to help him gain an advantage in the opening.
Offering the c-pawn as a gambit to gain greater control of the center is a sound chess tactic in the opening and leads to a dynamic central tension.
White has an extra center pawn but black is a pawn up.
Black can of course choose to keep his pawn in the center since capturing in chess is not obligatory.
The Catalan Opening Caters for Many Styles
One of the good aspects of the Catalan is it caters to both players who like a solid, closed position or those who favor a more open position. Only you, not a chess engine, can decide if playing dxc4 is a good choice for you.
If your chess hero is Tigran Petrosian then it’s most likely the Closed Catalan is the best way for you to play the opening with black. Fortunately, even in a closed position, there are chess tactics in the opening.
You must always remain aware of the opportunity for chess tactics in the opening. Knowing the tactics available to your opponent will help you avoid them.
Players with the white pieces would do well to keep in mind black has some devastating tactics too.
Here is a good example of Gary Kasparov defeating Elmar Magerramov (2435) in only 14 moves with the black pieces.
Elmar Magerramov versus Gary Kasparov, Baku Training, 1979, 0-1
Once again it’s important to keep in mind chess is a game between two players. We’d all like it if we could just push our plan forward but we must invest time in restraining our opponent’s plan.
Becoming Aware Of Early Tactics In The Catalan Chess Opening
Right from the start of the game you need to ask yourself why you are playing a move. Cultivate this habit even if the reasons seem extremely obvious.
The more often you do it the sooner it becomes habitual. Yes, even with the first move it’s important to ask why?
“1.d4 gains space in the center and allows me to develop my queenside bishop. Oh, he’s playing Nf6 to develop a piece and control d5 and e4. I’m going to play g3 to develop my bishop quicker and put pressure on the long diagonal sooner.”
Every move in chess is a give-and-take. Question the downside of every piece placement.
For example, you might notice the bishop on b7 is undefended. This observation will get you asking if there is any way you could attack it?
Here is an example of how white did just that.
In the course, you can learn how developing your bishop on g2 before playing Nf3 puts extra pressure on the long diagonal. Is this a strategy you wish to adopt?
Unless you understand why you are playing Bg2 ahead of Nf3 you could easily miss a tactical opportunity.
When you are aware you are developing this way to exert extra pressure on the diagonal you will be on the lookout for the move …Bb7.
Understanding The Catalan Tactics
Tactics arise because our opponent has neglected to play according to the tried-and-tested principles of chess. You can’t win material unless your opponent leaves a piece undefended.
Weakening squares around your pieces with pawn advances is likely to cost you dearly even if it isn’t in front of your king.
Bb4+ is frequently played but whenever you advance a piece so far ahead of your other pieces you need to take a good look at it.
A good idea is to flip the board around during your opening preparation.
Even if a move is theoretically sound you might decide you don’t feel comfortable with your bishop this exposed.
This could save you time by eliminating variations you might have studied only to decide you prefer placing the bishop on e7 or d6.
One of the things you must consider is which of your pieces can support the bishop on b4. A knight on c6 is a good defender but playing b6 weakens the a6 and c6 squares leaving the knight undefended.
Pawn advances leave weak squares behind them. Remembering this will keep you safe from tactics involving Qa4 check.
Thanks to this course you have been reminded of the importance of casting early. When you know of the danger posed by Qa4+ you will look for ways to avoid them.
Karpov, Anatoly (2740) versus Beliavsky, Alexander G (2650), 1-0
If you know your Bb7 is undefended and “loose pieces drop off” you are less likely to want to play dxc4 early in the game. Or if you feel dxc4 is important you might delay playing Bb7.
In chess, like life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Also as in life, one slip-up can prove fatal.
Tactics Exist For Black Too
In the Catalan chess opening with black, we might get fixated on having to equalize first before attacking. This can lead players to overlook tactical opportunities.
One of the keys to successful tactics is the correct move order. Not only is it important to get your calculations correct but always consider changing the move order.
At first glance, it might seem …Qa5 check is the way to play because checks are very forcing moves. However, in this instance capturing on a3 first is the correct order of moves.
After 7…Qa5+ 8. Qd2 removes one of the black pieces attacking the bishop on a3. Black doesn’t have time to play …Bxa3 because white threatens to win the black queen.
7…Bxa3 8.Nxa3 Qa5+ wins the knight on a3.
This is just one of many tactical opportunities you will learn about in this great course.
The Catalan Opening is an opening you can enjoy playing with either color. This course will leave you feeling confident about making the most of the tactical possibilities with both the white and black pieces.
You will be well-prepared and have a thorough understanding of the chess tactics in the Catalan Opening after studying this course.