The closed Morphy Defence-Chigorin Variation

| 1 | Opening Theory

The chigorin variation follows after the main line of the closed morphy, i.e. 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 (d6 or 0-0) 8.c3 0-0 9.h3

[Usually the black side will play for d6 as after 7...0-0 a4, black will have to commit to Bb7, it is all about preferences. For example, the Flohr-Zaitsev does play Bb7 at move 9, but after that white will not lose a tempo playing the prophylactic move h3. I believe that 7...d6 is the better move which defends the e-pawn, and therefore, allows the black knight to jump at Na5 after 8.a4, with a number of threats. I won't dwell on that, if you have a board set up the position and check it out.]

It starts with 9...Na5. It is easily pointed out, that its primary objective is to unblock the c-pawn whose use is to challenge the d4 square. It also does so with tempo as it attacks, the bishop at b3. However, the bishop was not doing much there anyway, the d5 square is more or less a neutral zone, as black's d-pawn cannot move (he would lose the e-pawn), in addition the square is already defended by his pawn at e5. Also we know that white's next move (unless something dramatic occurs) is d4, so the e-pawn will not be defended by a pawn for some time. So 10.Bc2 defends the pawn and aligns itself to the most dangerous diagonal leading to the weak, h7 square. Its vision is currently blocked by his own pawn but that does not mean it will remain blocked for the rest of the game. So in fact, white does not lose a tempo in the sense that at some point he would have to move his bishop to c2.

What are the drawbacks of this move? The most important one is the fact that the knight is quite decentralized.We know that knights are most effective in the center of the game, especially in the opening. So that is an issue black will have to deal with. In fact, games have been won by white, where the material was equal, without any tactical moves simply because the knight remained badly positioned for the whole game.

Check the diagram to see the possible variations, annotated by me.

After that sequence of moves, both sides will develop close to their lines and after the exchange of the center the fight begins. White enjoys more space on the kingside and may be keen on trying to expose black's kingside position. He will try to develop his b-knight to g3 through d2, f1. Black enjoys space on the queenside and should try to produce counterplay by advancing his pawns. His c8-bishop most probably be deployed on b7 after some exchanges in the center pawns to prevent a possible d5 move which would block its vision significantly. Another major issue black will have to deal with is his 'bad' knight at a5. The following is a game between Spassky-Kholmov, where the major disadvantage black has is perfectly illustrated.



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