Theoretical Thursday: The Semi-Slav Part 3 - Botvinnik 16. Na4

Theoretical Thursday: The Semi-Slav Part 3 - Botvinnik 16. Na4

Mar 23, 2018, 9:02 PM |

Theoretical Thursday: The Semi-Slav Part 3

Botvinnik 16. Na4

Unfortunately couldn't get this completed yesterday but I still wrote most of the analysis yesterday so I'll keep the name (at least for the alliteration). Today we are going to finish our coverage of the Botvinnik by focusing on the main move 16. Na4. The main alternative (16. Rb1) and various earlier alternatives were discussed in some detail last week and I encourage you to take a look at those variation if you are interested in playing the Botvinnik. 


The main move in the Botvinnik has always been 16. Na4 and although 16. Rb1 has crept up a bit in popularity 16. Na4 remains the most common move in practice appearing around twice as frequently in my database. Although it may look useless on that side of the board the knight is useful at tying down the black queen to the defense of the c pawn and can later become very active if black fails to neutralize the white position. Let's take a look at the position below. 

So we have four moves to consider in our example games. The first is 17. dxe6 followed by the main moves 19. Be3, 19. Qd4 and 19. Qg4. Let's take a look at 17. dxe6 first in the game below. 

As we can see 17. dxe6 is not the best for white. I would not go as far to call it dubious but black's position is much easier to play and black scores very well in these positions. The database has black winning all three games after the excellent centralizing move 21...Rd4. Next let's take a look at 19. Be3. 

So it seems 19. Be3 is satisfactory for black as well. The endings require some skill to handle from both sides but should be fine and a most likely a draw objectively speaking. I would personally rather have the piece than the three pawns that are not advanced. Next is the tricky move 19. Qd4.

The Qd4 variation is fascinating but black should once again have no troubles here and may end up being better if white is not careful. Lastly, we can take a look at Qg4 (the mainline of the Na4 complex). 

As we can see black is doing fine in the mainline 19. Qg4 which has a heavy draw ratio due to the line which leads to simplification before move 30. As long as black remains active with the rook and is not afraid of giving up a pawn for king and rook activity equality should be easy to attain. 



Black seems to be doing fine in the moment in the mainlines of the Botvinnik. 16. Na4 is no exception and black seems to be achieving equality before move 30 in all variations. Additionally, white can easily land in hot water if he or she gets too aggressive with 17. dxe6 19. Be3 or 19. Qd4. The mainline with 19. Qg4 seems much simpler where white is not risking much at all while black should be fine. Once again sorry for the delay on this and I hope to see you next week. 



Schandorff's GM Repertoire - The Semi-Slav

Sadler's Semi-Slav 

Kornev's Practical Repertoire - The Slav

St. Louis Chess Club YouTube Video Series