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I have played a lot of Catalans as White, but I will probably drop this opening completely, as white does not seem to have even the slightest of advantages in the modern open variation ( #23 ).
After 10.Bd2 the current trend (10...Bd6!) gives Black full equality, and probably a tad more than that if white follows Avrukh's recommendation 11.Ng5?!
The modern open variation in post 23 doesn't scare me one bit. 7.Ne5 has made a major revival in recent years. Even in major databases like newinchess.com's database, White's scoring way above average in the Catalan. A typical average score for White is about 54 to 55 percent. Check out these numbers:
Catalan - 59.8% across 21657 games7.Ne5 Nc6 8.Bxc6!! bxc6 - 60.1% across 183 games7.Ne5 Nc6 8.Nxc6?! bxc6 (The old line) - 52.3% across 302 games
For those of you that don't want to play 7.Ne5 and would rather play 7.Qc2, very few lines dip below 56%, and none of the ones with 8.a4, which in the past before I played 7.Ne5, I personally thought was stronger than 8.Qxc4.
The Catalan is stronger than ever, and not an easy route to full equality for Black by any stretch of the imagination!
5 ways to avoid the Catalan:
1) 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e52) 1.d4 c5 2.g3 cxd43)1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6
Come on, not that rubbish again.
7.Ne5 c5 is flat equal, unless you believe the nonsense in Ippolito's book (which does seem to be your case).
I surely have better ways to seek an opening advantage than playing this dull equal crap, for sure.
7.Ne5 c5 - Dull? Possibly. I've had many games there were a bit on the dull side, but they were all with basically two possible results. White wins or draw!
And many "dull" positions are just crushing! I had a game (over the board) about a month ago that was from the 7.Ne5 c5 line. I took on c5, and he decided to trade queens. By far the "dullest" response from Black, but also by far an inferior one too! White rolls in the center, threatening to trap Black's Bishop, enticing a g6 push. Then, instead of trading Knight for Bishop, with a pawn on f5 and Black's bishop on e6, I push f6 to hold on to my own knight on e7. Throw in a h4 push, and Black's pawn unable then to ever advance past h5, and you have the Black King permanently locked to the squares h8, h7, and h6.
So with R+N vs R+LSB, Black's King permanently locked on h8, h7, and h6, you have, well, yes, a dull position, but one where White can take he ever so sweet time as even the exchange sac never works for Black as he'll promote the pawn or win the Bishop, bring that King all the way up the board, and just continue to crush black with more and more pressure until his position breaks.
So I won't argue the dull part, but I surely will argue the equal part! I'll take a long, blown out win that takes an extra 40 moves to execute over some whacko position filled with fireworks where the explosion can wind up getting shoved up either of the King's butts! I'll go for the slow squeeze if it assures me that Black is the one getting squeezed, and the 7...c5 line of the Catalan ends up doing just that!
White plays for two results after 7.Ne5 c5: drawing, or splitting the point. Everything else is highly unlikely against a non-patzer.
What is this 7. Ne5 thing?
The correct move is 7. Qc2, after which black's best play is 7. ... a6 8. Qxc4 b5 9. Qc2 Bb7 10. Bd2.
Black looks smart to develop the bishop with tempo but its position is in reality very vulnerable. Since by 10. Bd2 white threatens Ba5 black should consider playing 10. ... a5 here instead of the main line.
If you want to take to c4, then 7.Qa4 is equally good to 7.Qc2. Factly, 7.Qa4 is less adventurous, since 7.Qc2 b5!? is rather risky, but also quite tricky- it requires good preparation.
7.Ne5 is just another approach, favoured by the late GM Wojtkiewicz. The choice is just a matter of taste, Black is very comfortable against both.
@ Pellik: The only instance the position you're suggesting occured is in a recent game in Germany, between an aged GM and a much younger IM.
Stern's move order (14...Be8 first) certainly is more exact, since 15.Rfd1 can be met by 15...Nd4. I'd expect Houdini to spot such not-so-subtle differences.
White usually plays 14.e3 or 14.e4 instead of 14.Qc2, and has very little to boast about with both. I agree that 11.Nbd2 is a better choice than the totally toothless 11.Qc2, but still I can see no advantage for white. At least here it's just an equal technical position- not a dead & dull one.
watcha - 7.Ne5 and 7.Qc2 are equally correct, and actually, in the 7.Qc2 line, White has better winning chances in the 8.a4 line than 8.Qxc4. Back in the day when everyone responded to 7.Ne5 Nc6 with 8.Nxc6?! bxc6 9.Bxc6, it was thought that 7.Ne5 was absolutely useless, and everyone played 7.Qc2, and while 8.Qxc4 was viewed as the "simpler" line for White, it's also the simpler line for Black as well, and I've even had some nice wins from the Black side of this line. 8.a4 creates more issues for Black.
In my humble opinion, of White's three main options (7.Ne5, 7.Qc2 and 8.Qxc4, and 7.Qc2 and 8.a4), I find the line with 8.Qxc4 to be the weakest of the three, and leads to mere equality.
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