I was requested to examine the Catalan in my column, so this week will be the first part of a 2 part series on the Catalan. This opening, based on the fianchetto of the king’s bishop, is gaining popularity at an amazing speed, see the chart below: (Mega Database 2011)
So in the closed Catalan, black places his pieces behind his pawns, which are normally placed on e6 and c6. The arising positions are filled with slow positional maneuvering, so many positional players like the closed Catalan.
Now for the examples section:
What can I say, the above game was a typical encounter in the Catalan when Vladmir Kramnik has the white pieces. As Mig Greengard said, “You have 2 choices against Kramnik’s Catalan: the long squeeze or the risky breakout. Either way, you die.” Topalov suffered the long squeeze, even before his blunder, he was in a worse position without making any obvious mistakes.
This game showed white under-estimating black’s powerful center, and when white thought the …d4 break was under control, it came anyway with decisive effect.
Black complicated the game with a couple sacrifices, and Anand eventually lost his way in the complications, so the game ended in a draw. Funnily, that game took on a character of an open Catalan.
Conclusion: The closed system is a respected system against the Catalan. Black gets solid play, and the game generally takes on a positional nature (that last game notwithstanding) with slow positional maneuvering. White will generally seek play on either one of the wings, and black will use his central pawn majority (his e and d pawns) to advance in the center.
Next column will feature the even more popular open system.