Good question! The positional priorities in this position do not really lie in whose bishop has more prospect, but rather in the emerging pawn structure, potential pawn breaks, and either sides' ability to create targets and holes in opponent's camp.
c4 here is an extremely committal move which should only be played if it can be backed by very strong concrete ideas, which do not exist in this position. Why the fact that it's committal makes it into a poor choice? It's simply because it resolves white's strategy into something immediate and concrete, namely: to undermine black's pawn chain and create a weak pawn out of
c4, and to this end, the almost immediate
e4 pawn break is perfectly playable for white without any drawbacks and black has nearly no means of preventing it. So in hindsight, moves such as
c4 and similar ones in analogous positions, are only good if you are sure you can stop your opponents relevant pawn breaks, otherwise you're creating overly advanced pawns that will eventually turn into weaknesses that you cannot easily parry.
Remember, a pawn is considered to be weak if (all 3 must be met simultaneously):
- it cannot move
- it is isolated (not defensible by pawns)
- it can be attacked.
To summarise: with the unavoidable
e4 by white and
a4 in reply to
c4 pawn is bound to become a weakness as it meets all 3 said conditions.
Gained tempi and temporarily blocked out bishops are secondary in such positions, unless you have an actual threat following your pawn push (such as, an imminent knight jump to
More concretely, let's take a look at a few possible continuations as illustrated in the following diagrams:
e4 by white | mid: early
b5 attempt | right:
e4 blockade attempt
Left: Immediately undermining
c4 defense after
Qe2, Nbd2, if black takes,
c4 is dropping soon and both knights will be well established centrally. And if black tries to sit still,
e4-e5 is a threat, leaving black's kingside heavily undefended and white's pawn push is quite straightforward, black will lack space and the ability to create a counter-attack.
Mid: Black prepares for the immediate
Qc7) in order to reinforce
c4 which leads to:
Qe2, Qc7, Nbd2, e6, e4, b5, f5! and soon followed by
a4. Notice how white's perfectly undermining the entire pawn backbone (
e6, d5, b5) of
Right: Black simply tries to stop
e4 by blockading it with a knight, but since it cannot really be followed up by
f5 (as shown in the diagram), it will easily be challenged with
Nbd2 after which black either has to take on
d2 which revives
e4 again, or lets white take on
e4 leaving ton of light square weaknesses behind along with a permanent knight post on
e5. Note that in this structure, black has no prospect for ever landing a knight on
d3, leaving the light square control that the overly advanced pawns have secured virtually unusable. Finally, notice that in neither of these cases, black's left with any form of initiative or targets in white's structure to allow for any counter-attack.
Lastly, by not playing
c4, you can still entertain a timely resolution of the central pawns in order to either simplify or create weak points in white's centre. And to connect with our discussions, by holding still with the pawn on
c5 you are actually stopping white's
e4 push as after say:
e6, Nbd2, Be7, e4 you can simply take both on
d4 not allowing white any central control (unlike the case of
c4 where white always had clear spatial advantage), and your structure is devoid of weaknesses, if anything white will be the only side with potential dark square weaknesses. And if white recaptures on
d4 with the pawn, then it's a comfortable IQP structure with an easy play for black.