Chess Openings: Catalan Opening

chessvictory
Nov 29, 2007, 12:00 AM |
4 | Opening Theory

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Category – Semi Closed Game 

Opening Move Sequence – 1 d4 Nf6, 2 c4 e6, 3 g3 d5, 4 Bg2

ECO CodesE01 to E09 

Catalan Opening was first used in a master tournament held in Barcelona, Catalonia (a region in Spain) by Savielly Tartakower in 1929. It was in fact created by him especially for that match at the request of organizers with the purpose of paying respect to the Catalonia region. However there have been several other games before that where positions transformed Catalan Opening. In 2004, a special tournament to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the opening was held, where participating masters played games starting with Catalan Opening.  

Catalan Opening can be thought of as a White’s version of a combination of Queen's Gambit Opening and Réti Opening. While not very popular, Catalan Opening has been used by most of the top players in crucial championship matches. Most notably, it has been used in the match between Garry Kasparov and Viktor Korchnoi during the Candidates Semifinal match in 1983 which selected the World Championship challenger to Anatoly Karpov. Five out of the eleven games in that match were Catalan Opening games. In 2006, Vladimir Kramnik played three games of the World Chess Championship using Catalan Opening. 

Catalan Opening is classed among Semi Closed Games and with Indian systems (which are a subset of Semi Closed Games) which start with moves 1.d4 Nf6, 2.c4. Variations in Catalan Opening are classified under ECO codes E01 to E09. 

Moves and Variations

1 d4 Nf6

2 c4 e6

3 g3 d5

4 Bg2 

While this is the main sequence of moves, positions in Catalan Opening can be reached from many other move sequences and openings.  

Distinguishing features in the opening are the White’s pawn advances to d4 and c4, and the fianchetto of f1 Bishop to g2.  

In response, Black has two main alternatives. Black’s move dxc4 leads to Open Catalan Variation. If Black does not take the pawn on c4, the game is called Closed Catalan Variation. In Open Catalan Variation, Black can continue with b5 to keep the pawn or give it back and gain a tempo. In Closed Catalan Variation, Black has a position with limited mobility but with good defensive capability. Black can gain space, however, through subsequent moves in some sub variations. 

Main Classical line in Catalan Open will continue 1.d4 Nf6, 2.c4 e6, 3.g3 d5, 4.Bg2 dxc4, 5.Nf3 Be7. White is exchanging the loss of a pawn for rapidity in development. In addition, because Black’s d5 is missing, White Bishop at g2 can effectively cramp the Black Queen-side.

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