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In that situation the c and d pawns have moved making Bb4 possibly a problem.
Here if White simply doesn't move the c-pawn or the knight on b1 then it's not threatening at all.
I don't know that I've had anybody try ...c5 against my 4. a3. Guess it could turn into a kind of Sicilian then if I played Nf3. Perhaps it is the best way for Black, because typically I've put a very strong squeeze on my opponents after 4. a3 -- a lot of the time I can play f4 before Nf3, and again, this is something that ...c5 by Black might prevent. So I will have a look at that, but 4. a3 does seem to be quite a strong move, both in my experience, and per the database statistics.
Yes I didn't explain myself well. a3 is a decent move and nothing wrong with that.
I just meant that I prefer the setup with c3 instead, because I think it's good for white to keep the pawn centre duo. This centre is strong because any strike by black (d5 and maybe later on e5) will lead to closing off the bishop on b7.
Compare this with how easy it is for black to strike back against white's centre in e.g. the Pirc. This clearly shows how the Owen is inferior to other modern openings.
Your line is certainly playable (and still good for white), but you give black additional chances:
In response to post #5:
1.d4 b6? 2.e4 Bb7 3.Bd3 e6 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.Nge2. Now standard Owen strategy fails. Playing ...Bb4 and ...d5 just leads to a bad French for Black. Therefore, after 5...c5, White plays the gambit, 6.d5, with a far more significant advantage than the traditional "nagging edge" that you get for being White.
Please explain the gambit. Clearly the d pawn is weak but I don't really see why this position is so good for white:
#26 - You have got to be kidding me. 10.O-O! and what does Black have? For example, 10...Be7 11.Qh5 Nc6 12.Re1 Nd4 13.Bd2 and White is significantly better. What is Black going to do? 13...Kf8? (You sure as hell can't castle as that's mate in 1!)
Incidently I use it myself in club games OTB. Of course 1. ..b6 is a bit offbeat, but there are (grand)masters that sometimes use it as a surprise weapon. Like Mickey Adams for instance.You can learn from the book 'Play 1. .. b6' by the French grandmaster Christian Bauer (2005, Everyman Chess). You can also play 1. .. b6 without hesitation against 1. d4, 1. c4 and 1. Nf3
I'll show you the variation that is most striking. So have a look at this drawn game from the US Open 1974 in NYC where 'father' GM William Lombardy was tricked in the Owen's defence by an amateur.
To call Ken Regan an amateur is a BLATANT MIS-REPRESENTATION. He was an up and coming junior at the time (born in 1959 so he would have been 15) who went on to become an IM:
Here is the game i referenced in an earlier posting. Having played this for the first time, i was a bit surprised as well with it but the ending was pretty nice.
There was a video posted on the forums a little while ago where someone recommended the queenside fianchetto for OTB bullet chess when the clock is on that side of the board!
Thanks. Although born in the same year, I had not heard about Kenneth Regan before. I enjoyed the weblinks and reading some more about him.
It's easy to look at a rating see 2100 and think "amateur" but the player's age must be taken into consideration. Also I'm am just 4 years younger, and Ken Regan was a bit of a "youth sensation" here in the USA not too long after Bobby Fischer became champion, so I was immediately familar with the name.
I use the Owen's in blitz sometimes when I want to play a french structure against someone I know plays the exchange. It's not as good as a proper french defense (too slow), but it does get a nice structure.
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