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What are some aggressive lines that I can employ against the Pirc, I have been using the 150 attack but I don't like black's Queenside play with c6,b5 and want an alternative setup that allows me to play aggressively.

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    As a Pirc player there's little you can do to stop the q side play if you want aggressive, Black has to find counter play and if you are going all neanderthal on the k side the q side is where that shall be. The Austrian attack is probably your best bet (it's what I play against the Pirc), but that's one line you will need to be booked up on. If you don't want that then the Bg5 lines, or simply the Classical is what I would suggest.
    – Ian Bush
    Mar 10 at 11:16
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    Or if you want to go slightly off-piste there's always the Grand Prix attack
    – Ian Bush
    Mar 10 at 11:23
  • As mentioned by Ian Bush, the Austrian Attack. This variation is the reason why the Pirc has lost most of its popularity in higher-amateur-play. At high level, Black knows how to survive and play for something, but at amateur level is requires to much precision to not get into serious trouble quickly. I stopped playing the Pirc because of it, transitioning then to the Modern Defense (delaying ...Nf6 for a few moves).
    – ArthurT
    Mar 13 at 17:06
  • But black is fine against the Austrian Attack - you just have to know what you are doing. Same for all Pirc variations.
    – Ian Bush
    Mar 13 at 17:08
  • Yes if you know exactly how to navigate it, most variations are okay. The aggressive White setups arising out of the Austrian Attack are just very hard to manage without much by-heart memorizing of lines, in my opinion.
    – ArthurT
    Mar 13 at 17:10

1 Answer 1

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As both a Pirc and a 1. e4 player here's a few thoughts, basically my comments expanded.

Firstly you have to understand the Pirc is a counter attacking system, "defence" is in many ways a misnomer. Black deliberately accepts a slightly cramped position in the hope that he/she can gain counter-play by seeing where White places his or her pieces and reacting appropriately - gaining this counter-play is at the very heart of Black's strategy. So as White you have two main choices

  1. Be aggressive and crush black before the counter-play starts (As a Pirc or Modern player you have to accept that very occasionally this will happen). Typical systems here are the Austrian Attack, the Argentine Attack, the 150 Attack, the Bg5 (aka Byrne) system and the Bc4 (aka Kohlmov) system, and a number of unsubtle variations involving a very early g4 or h4
  2. Concentrate on minimising the counter-play and only once Black is strangled start your own more direct plans. Typical here are the Classical Variation and the Fianchetto Variation, though some ways of playing the 150 attack can tend towards this.

These are of course extremes, and there is a whole spectrum in between. But the point is if Black plays accurately he/she will get counter-play and all you can control is the degree of it - and if you spend more of your time with your plans rather than stopping Black's, then Black will get more time to progress this counter-play. And if your play is on the king side, as is typical then Black's counter-play will be where you don't have your pieces, i.e. on the queen side or in the centre.

So if you don't like the counter-play, play the Fianchetto system or the Classical System - Karpov played them for a reason

If you want to be aggressive you have to accept Black will get counter play. You can split the aggressive systems roughly in two, those where White plays in the centre, such as in the Austrian, the Bg5 variation and the Bc4 variation, and where black plays on the king side, such as the Argentine attack or the 150 attack. In the central systems you are trying to push e5 and e6 if possible and crush black. f4 in the Austrian is the obvious supporting move, Bg5 aims at making e5 more difficult for Black so making it easier for White due to the latent attack against the Black Queen, and Bc4 aims at supporting the pawn into e6 quickly after it has reached e5. Each has their own features

The Austrian Attack

[White "Austrian Attack"]
[Black "Pirc hero"]
[StartPly "9"]
[FEN ""]

1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. f4 Bg7 5. Nf3

is a very good system for White. Despite repeated comments here the Pirc is sound (good enough Nepo for Mamedyarov, good enough for me) and if Black knows what they are doing you won't blast him/her off the board, but IMO this is about the best bet. There are two main problems, one practical, one theoretical. The practical one is there is a lot of theory here, and Black is likely to be booked up. Further there are two big main variations ( 5. ... O-O and 5. ... c5) which are very different in nature, and especially the c5 can get to insane positions where you have to know what you are doing .The theoretical one is your poor black squared bishop - that f pawn has condemned it to being a spectator for a while, and if Black knows what they are doing it will stay that way. But IMO if there is any variation that really tests the Pirc it's the Austrian attack.

The Bg5 (Byrne) Variation

    [White "4 Bg5"]
    [Black "Pirc hero"]
    [StartPly "7"]
    [FEN ""]

1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Bg5

is also good. As I stated earlier White hopes to use the bishop to strengthen the e5 break, and as White also often plays f4 there is some similarity to the Austrian Attack - in fact one can almost think of this variation (after White plays f4) as an attempt by White to play the Austrian Attack without getting a bad dark squared bishop. In fact for a while this was the line I feared most as a Black player, but the problem is black doesn't have to play 4. ... Bg7, instead 4. ... c6 starts to set up the standard Queen side counter play which you want to avoid. And in this variation the Bg5 variation tends to move from a "central attack" variation to a "king side attack" variation with an strong (if you are white) / exposed (if you are black) bishop on g5 - it can get hit not only by h6, but f6 and also Ne4; for this reason the d5 break by Black is more common in this variation than most. But it is a good variation.

The Bc4 Variations

    [White "4 Bc4"]
    [Black "Pirc hero"]
    [StartPly "7"]
    [FEN ""]

1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Bc4 Bg7 5. Qe2

I wouldn't recommend. 5. Qe2 is typical and thematic here as white is trying to get e4-e5-e6 in as quickly as possible. The problem is it just doesn't quite work, and often leave White with an exposed (or no) white squared bishop, on c4 it just encourages b5, Na5, Nd7-b6, d5. Further white weakens the already weak d pawn - in fact black can attack it straight away with 5. ... Nc6 and while complicated that line is probably better for black. And that's supported by the stats in the Lichess Master's database:

enter image description here

where White really isn't doing that well.

I'll try to find time and energy come back and look at the more king side variations - but as you effectively say you don't want to face the q side play I for the moment am going to rule those out for now.

In summary if you want aggressive I would say play the Austrian Attack if you want to put some effort into it, 4. Bg5 if not.

(And there's always the Grand Prix Attack...)

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