13

I have looked over some of the main lines of the Catalan in MCO-15 and feel pretty lost as to what's going on in them. What are some of the key positions and goals for either side? Or is the opening just too tactical to have any real unifying themes?

The Catalan Opening (E01-E09)

rnbqkb1r/ppp2ppp/4pn2/3p4/2PP4/6P1/PP2PPBP/RNBQK1NR w KQkq - 0 4
10

I have played the Catalan for something like 25 years, and to me the big secret explaining the opening's popularity is the following: You can expect a massive score against weaker players.

The key strategic factors in a successful Catalan are:

1) You achieve control/dominance over all four central squares, something rarely seen in other openings. (By the way this explains why the Catalan set-up isn't so effective with a black bishop on f5; white has too little control over e4.)

2) Long-term pressure against black's queenside, in part exerted by the bishop on the diagonal. In the end something is going to break.

These factors make it possible to turn up unprepared for a game Sunday morning during a weekend tournament and have a winning position before the first cup of coffee. In other words, great opening!

For books that focus on philosophy and not too much on concrete moves I can recommend the series How Wojo won.

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8

The Catalan usually results in black exchanging his d5 pawn on c4, which leads to some pretty clear strategic goals on both side.

  • White plays for control of the e4 square to support the e-pawn, and pressuring the d5 pawn with pieces.
  • Black's freeing lever is c5, and thematic play centers around this push. If black can succeed, he often tries to expand his queen-side pawns to form an a6-b5 pawn chain, and develops his c8 bishop to b7, opposing whites.
  • If white can prevent the c5 push, it becomes backwards or semibackwards on the c file, and white builds up pressure with his major pieces there.
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5

Please get yourself a copy of Avrukh's 1.d4 book and also see the games of Anand-Topalov 2010 Wch match, which are really instructive for seeing the themes of the Catalan. If you want to follow a strong exponent of the Catalan, check out Kramnik's games.

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