Chess openings – Catalan Opening

Chess openings – Catalan Opening


Welcome to chessopenings.com. Today we’re
going to look at a popular opening variation, known as the Catalan opening.
In the Catalan, White sidesteps a number of aggressive ideas by
Black and sets up a quiet game where he can play for an edge with little
risk. To get to the Catalan opening, White normally begins with the moves,
pawn to d4, knight f6, pawn to c4, e6, g3, and after the move d5 we have,
in fact, reached the Catalan position after knight f3. Let’s take a look. The Catalan is basically a queen’s gambit
declined where White chooses to place his bishop on the long diagonal via
the g2 location. It’s the attractive placement of this bishop that characterizes
the Catalan and constantly frustrates Black. It gives White
serious pressure along the queen side. The idea is that, once Black’s
D pawn eventually moves, usually by capturing on c4, the light squared bishop
will be unleashed and will exert tremendous pressure on the queen side.
There are many known setups against the Catalan for Black. Many of them
are quite decent, but in fact we are actually going to begin our examination
with the move, pawn takes pawn on c4. By capturing quickly, Black hurries
to exploit the fact that the light squared bishop will not be able
to recapture the pawn from its destined square on g2. Instead, White will
have to either capture the pawn with the queen after, say, queen a4 takes
d4, or he’ll have to capture with a knight after, perhaps, knight b2D and
take c4. Both of these maneuvers take a little extra time on White’s
part. Black hopes to use this time to organize his equalizing pawn
break of pawn to c5 or to try to hold onto this extra pawn that he’s gained
on the queen side. A very interesting point in this position
is that the move, queen to a4 check, is actually not very good for White
in this position. This is because instead of playing the standard reply
bishop d7 in this case, Black has a better move which is knight B to d7
which helps to support the thematic pawn to c5 break. For example, after
the move, queen takes c4, Black normally now plays a6 preparing the
move, b5, and preparing to bring the bishop to b7. Now White plays bishop g2,
b5, queen c2, bishop b7. Now White is typically castled in this position.
But after c5, this position is actually not very good for White at all.
Black has achieved, more or less, everything that he is looking for. He
has achieved the equalizing break c5, and he’s gotten lovely placement
for his pieces on the queen side. Also, if you pay attention to the queen,
the queen has moved to a4 and to c4 and to c2 occupying 3 of White’s
tempi. And the queen will also probably be exposed along the C file and have
to move a fourth time. This is clearly not what White wants in the Catalan
opening. Backing up a bit, I also want to mention that
queen c6 was possible at this moment that Black played pawn to b5. However,
Black would simply play rook b8 planning to eject the queen. There are
some interesting ideas here for White, but he’s got to act pretty fast since
that queen is getting ready to get usurped. So White plays the move, bishop
to f4, threatening queen takes c7. Here, too, Black has a good game
if he knows what to do. The right recipe here is to play knight to d5.
If Black plays well, he will eventually be able to push the queen out of
her location and play c5 despite White’s efforts to block things up
on the aggressive queen post. If queen a4 check is not a great option for
White, what he normally does here is he simply continues with the standard
development bishop to g2. At this point Black does have several options,
but by and large he is settled on just three general options here. The most direct of these options is to play
the immediate move, pawn to c5. With this move Black is going straight ahead
and trying to equalize the game as quickly as possible by trying to trade
this flank pawn for a central pawn. If he can achieve this exchange
under reasonable conditions, he should have no problems with equality.
However, there is a downside to Black’s strategy which is that he’s spending
too much time moving pawns in the opening. So far he’s only managed to move
one piece and it’s on this fact that White will base his subsequent play.
In fact, the suggested move here is simply to castle king side. To demonstrate some of the venom contained
in the Catalan position, let’s imagine that the rules of chess suddenly changed
and White was given an opportunity to move again. In this case, he
would gladly take the pawn on c5 now that he does have defense for his queen
and doesn’t have to lose castling rights. After queen takes d1, rook
takes d1, and bishop takes on c5, White would then continue with knight
e5. Remember that at the moment White is still down a pawn, but he is very
close to recovering this pawn. In this position I think you can also see
the basis for White’s advantage, and it really does come down to this light
squared bishop, this Catalan bishop, which is exerting pressure down the
long diagonal. It’s because of this fact that Black has real problems completing
his development. He cannot really move the light squared bishop.
But at the same time it’s very difficult to find the appropriate square
for the knight on b8 since its natural square on c6 is also missing.
At the same time, White should have no problem recovering the pawn. He should
either be able to capture with this knight or he also has the option
of taking on c4 via knight B to d2. In this position, Black’s most sensible reaction
is to play knight c6. This allows him to continue his development
and force some clarification of the central situation. White has a couple
of popular options, but we’re going to focus on the most aggressive of these
which is the move knight to e5, utilizing the Catalan bishop and putting
real pressure down the long diagonal. Right away this sets a couple of
traps for Black to fall into. If Black takes the pawn on d4 with his knight
he immediately loses material after the sequence pawn to e3, knight c6,
bishop takes c6 check, pawn takes bishop, and now queen takes queen followed
by knight takes f7 winning the rook on d8. This is very clearly not what
Black would like to see in this position. On the other hand, if Black takes the knight
on e5, he continues to experience some problems. Since after pawn
takes knight and knight d5, White definitely has a space advantage due
to the e5 pawn and he has no real problems recovering the pawn using knight
e3. Sooner or later he’ll play e4 and this is a good position for White.
Also, it doesn’t help Black to exchange queens on d1 since after rook
takes queen and knight to d7, the simple move f4 followed by knight to a3 or
knight d2 picking up the pawn on c4 will be good enough. Black can try rook
b8 hoping to play b5, but White simply plays the move, pawn to a4. And now
after a6 there are various reactions which allow White to regain his
pawn on c4 with an advantage. It turns out that Black only has one good
move in this position and that move is bishop to d7. Once again, White continues
at his own leisure with the move knight to a3 getting ready to recover
this pawn on c4. In fact, this position still allows Black to go up
a pawn after the natural moves, pawn takes pawn on d4, knight A takes a4,
and bishop c5. Theory says that White is a little better here despite the
fact that White is down a pawn. As we predicted from the beginning of this
discussion, White’s bishop on g2 is putting real uncomfortable pressure on
the queen side. This is probably best exploited by continuing with the move,
queen b3, starting to weaken this b7 point and starting to really get at
these light squares. Notice how paralyzed this pawn is. If it were to
advance, the c6 knight would be lost. Trading knights doesn’t help either
since the a8 rook is also under attack. Once again, notice the rule of this
g2 bishop, the Catalan bishop. The mechanical reply rook B would actually
lead to an embarrassing situation after the move, bishop f4, when
Black will certainly lose material since this rook will not be able
to maintain its post on b8. Queen c8 is a possibility, but this is not
fared too well either. White has a few options. Just to show one, one idea
is bishop f4, castling king side. Then, for example, rook A to c1, and
the queen’s placement is vulnerable. This kind of position offers White
more than enough compensation for his pawn. After the move,
queen b3, what should Black do? The actual recommendation here is for Black
to play castling king side just allowing that b7 pawn to fall. We won’t
discuss this position in too much detail after queen takes b7 since this
leads to quite a tactical variation that you’d want to study carefully.
I hope we’re seeing here just how strongly White’s play on the queen
side can unfold. We definitely haven’t come anywhere near exhausting
the potential after the move, pawn to c5. However, I now want to switch
to looking at the move, pawn to a6, which has an entirely different
concept. The point here is to defend the pawn on c4 and try to hold onto
that pawn for dear life, usually by playing the move, pawn to b5. Once again
White’s best reaction, as we become accustomed to in the Catalan, is simply
to continue his development with the move castling king side. You might
want to ask, “Why doesn’t White play the move, pawn to a4?” In fact, this
looks like a good idea, but this allows Black to use the very strong reply
knight to c6. The idea with this move, knight to c6, is to put pressure on
the d4 point so that White has no problem attacking that pawn on c4. If White
were to play something like knight d2 or queen to c2, in both cases the
move knight takes d4 would cause him serious problems. On the other hand,
if he simply plays castling king side, now Black will simply play rook
b8, preparing pawn to b5, and the move a5 is no use because of bishop b4
giving Black a good gain. So backing up to the position after pawn to
a6, White should simply play the move castling king side. White accurately
sees that if Black plays b5 too quickly, his position is vulnerable to
a very quick knight to e5. So after castles, Black’s idea is not to play
b5 just yet, but once again he is still relying on this move, knight to c6.
This move may look very strange, but we just saw that it’s part of
a deep plan to prepare pawn to b5, and it does make it difficult for White
to recover this pawn on c4. As we saw earlier, the knight on c6 prevents
White from easily attacking the C pawn with the moves knight b d2 or queen to
c2. At the same time, Black is once again ready to play this move, rook b8
and b5. This is one of the main ideas in this position. An example of
this would occur after the standard reply knight c3. In fact, e3 is a
better move here, but I do want to show what happens after knight to c3 when
Black would definitely play rook b8. Even though White is able to play,
for example, pawn to e4 and b5, theory does say that White has real compensation
for the pawn since its development is going very smoothly and he
has a definite advantage in central space. It’s these kinds of positions
which are very interesting to study as either side and give both sides excellent
chances if they’re willing to do a little homework. That’s all for today. By exploring the few
variations in the Catalan, we’ve gotten some real insight into some of
the key strategic ideas. We’ve seen that the Catalan bishop is a real monster
in these positions and puts real pressure on Black. Black can gain counter
chances if he’s willing to play for an immediate c5 or try to hold onto
the extra pawn. That’s all for today. We’ll see you soon.

100 thoughts on “Chess openings – Catalan Opening

  1. @2:29 if white does Qc6 attacking the rook instead of moving down, then would black do Rb8?
    Is it better for white or black there?
    Great video.

  2. (1/2) Thank you for the comments and the kind words! It's hard for me to say for sure about the points you raised but I'm really suspect about …Bd7 🙂 Be careful when you say it is "an option as white is supposed to play bg2". It could definitely be true that there are multiple ways for Black to proceed without getting into much trouble because of White's inaccuracy.

  3. (2/2) Still, it may also be true that one move leads to better coordination for the pieces in the long run. After …Nbd7, the knight occupies a square it was going to occupy anyway, and the bishop is able to make it to a diagonal with more scope. This is the basis for calling …Nbd7 superior to …Bd7.

  4. this is great to avoid the nimzo indian. this is almost equal as playing the kings indian attack barca system (according to chesscube lol). btw my move would be knight b to d2 after black captures the gambit pawn.. although its better for whites attack when black plays an early Nc6

  5. Thanks for all the great vids, this one in particular at the moment. I am about to start a Catalan themed tourney in the 1600-1800 grouping and this is an opening that I'm not that familiar with. I just needed to get those points drilled into my mind and the problems for which to watch and avoid. Thanks again!

  6. Awesome video! Excellent explanation of the move options and the ideas behind them. For beginners like me it is extremely important to understand the concepts, ideas and motifs and you did a great job in a short time. I wonder though how things would turn out to be if white played Bg2 before Nf3.

  7. Glad you enjoyed the video! There is nothing special for the bishop to do right away even if it is temporarily unhindered. In the Catalan, White can usually use either move order (Bg2 or Nf3 first) but it usually always leads to the same positions since both moves are always played together.

  8. Thanks Dereque! Appreciate the feedback! May I request a video for Tarrasch Defense if possible. From a beginners perspective, I really like it as I can universally play it against almost all of whites openings except E4.

  9. You mean Queen's Gambit Declined Tarrasch I'm assuming? Very interesting opening indeed. I actually have big plans for this one!

  10. That's correct Sir! QGD Tarrasch defense. I do believe it is possible for the Catalan to transpose into QGD Tarrasch defense if black can play C5 early and challenge white for Center Control.

  11. Fantatsic Dereque, I just love your way of explanation of any position. I have seen most of your opening videos, All are good, so do u have any videos on middle game? If yes then where can I look for those? Please let me know, I will be grateful, thanks again and God bless u Tc

  12. This is a truly fascinating question. Perhaps -you- decide? 🙂 It appears that I determine based on where my interest is leading me. But this is influenced (I imagine) a lot by suggestions from others, recent events in my chess life, what I ate for breakfast, and what Obama had for lunch 😉

  13. great video! very instructive, and precise. thank you very much! 🙂

  14. Mr. Kelley, are you going to be posting any famous games? Or are you based strictly on openings?

  15. Hi there is some doubt on video on catalan. After d4-Nf6, c4-e6, g2-d5, Nf3-dxc, Bg2-c5 here you have shown the next move as 0-0 and in further explaining video the kings castled move was kept as it is and again white played d4xc5????? How could white moved twice? I think there is one more move from black. Please explain.

  16. Ah, Around 4:45 I suggest, "let's imagine the rules of chess changed and White has an opportunity to move a second time…" this Is the moment at which the dxc5 move is introduced even though we just showed O-O. The idea is to demonstrate White's plan in this way.

  17. Thank you so much for all the excellent explanations of openings Dereque! You are the first person I consult when learning a new opening. Your teaching is very very good.

  18. Nice video. Nice to see the opneings one after another and also your way of exploring the important aspects from an opening is really good ..Please keep this work up^^

  19. I was searching for a Caro-Kann Defence video yesterday, and suddenly I got into your channel.
    At the end of the video, I was fascinated and went to watch all of the other videos.
    Congratulations, it is really helping me become a better player in the openings 🙂
    And, of course, there is no way I could leavy without asking for something… A Bird Opening would be nice :v

    (forgive me for my bad English, it is not my first language)

  20. Would you consider the catalan more tactical, positional, or in-between? I'm an in-between tactical and positional player myself. Great video btw; very easy to understand and its clear.

  21. I think your videos are great!. I have been a very casual players for years…trying to teach my son some now and I think your videos are great for those of us amatuers who have a hard time picturing algebraic notation positions in our head.

  22. I am 1900-2000 rated player , I didn't come here to learn catalan because I play it since 2012 but to tell you my game on the tournament I played against 1500 rated guy !! So
    What's Your Opinion ?
    1.d4 d5
    2.c4 Nf6
    3.g3 e6
    4.Bg2 c5
    5.Nf3 Nc6
    6.O-O Bd6
    7.dxc5 Bxc5
    8.Nbd2 O-O
    9.cxd5 Nxd5
    10.b3 a5
    11.Bb2 b5
    12.Qc2 Qd6
    13.Ng5 g6
    14.Nge4 Nd4
    15.Bxd4 Bxd4
    16.Nxd6 Bxa1
    17.Rxa1 Bd7
    18.N6e4 Rac8
    19.Qb2 Nb4
    20.Nf6+Kh8
    21.Nxd7+Kg8
    22.Nxf8 Kxf8
    23.Qh8+

  23. I just search for queen's gambit alternative and friend of mine told me about catalan!Thank you for the video 🙂

  24. Dereque, I have an almost 'obsession ' for bringing out BOTH bishops at b2 & g2 EARLY. It has a tendency to 'simplify' early. At the same time, I don't like playing 'white'. I guess it's the underdog idea…but traditional thinking DOES have its own weakness. It's just that why does not 'Black' develop his bishops soon? They have considerable power against knights.

  25. Love your videos! Very instructive and to the point.

    Is it more common to get this opening from 1D4, or would I get it more often if I went for the English, looking to transpose into this?

  26. Highly instructive. Thanks. I find a way to avoid Nimzo since I have problem with it mainly because of double pawns. 4.Qc2 avoid double pawns but slow down development. 3.Nf3 leading to QID is not my taste. So I looking at Catalan and it look OK to me. The light square bishop is extremely powerful.

  27. This is a fine example of how simple explanations are the best and most helpful. Thank you. I'm definitely going to improve my repertoire by watching more of your vids.

  28. 9:38 You got to a really great part and then dismissed it because it was too tactical of a variation. I want to see that! Great videos!

  29. Nice video. I think b5 is a blunder since it's never played according to openings database. The most common move is Nd7. I would like to see a video covering this.

  30. This is a fucking amazing opening, so subtle in its threats that black has to play brilliantly to combat white's ideas..DOWN

  31. My dear dereque what about "the businessman opening"..I mean the colle system -zukerturt and traditional variation-..Can you make a video about it and explain the plan behind it with my love

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