Play the Owen Defense against 1.c4
Introduction by the Author
Ever since I understood that nobody forced me to play only king's fianchetto systems against 1.d4 and 1.c4, the feeling developed inside me that my reflex answer to 1.c4 should be 1...b6. True, when reaching the board, this idea somehow vanished, and I have played only a few games with it.
The Owen Defence is one of the most interesting and original among hyper-modern openings. It combines ideas from several different openings, such as the Queen's Indian, the Bogo-Indian, the Nimzo-Indian and the Dutch. Black completely refrains from occupying the centre with his pawns and controls it with his pieces from afar, frequently involving the f-pawn in the process.
This database aims to offer a complete Owen repertoire against 1.c4 that avoids transpositions to the Queen's Indian or other main openings.
The database consists of 24 theoretical chapters and 16 interactive test positions.
Chapter 1 - 1.c4 b6 2.d4 Bb7 - Rare Lines
In this chapter, I deal with some rare options that White can choose on move 3. I deal with seven moves - 3.f3, 3.d5, 3.Nd2, 3.Qc2, 3.Bf4, 3.Nc3, and 3.Bg5. These moves are not challenging. Black has more than one way to get a decent position.
Chapters 2-6 - 1.c4 b6 2.d4 Bb7 3.Nc3 e6 4.a3
The starting position of the next five chapters arises after 1.c4 b6 2.d4 Bb7 3.Nc3 e6 4.a3
This is one of the most typical reactions to the Owen setup. The idea is similar to the Queen's Indian Petrosian System (which involves the insertion of Nf3 and ...Nf6 in our current line). White prevents one of Black's typical ideas, ...Bb4, thus preparing to restrict the bishop on b7 with d4-d5 and/or e2-e4.
At this point, I suggest 4...f5 with the idea to keep the game outside the main theoretical paths and stay within hyper-modern territory.
At this point, White's most principled approach is 5.d5. In Chapters 2 and 3, however, I focus on White's attempts to refrain from this pawn advance. The main alternative is 5.Nf3.
In Chapter 2, I also deal with some minor alternatives such as 5.Nh3 and 5.e3.
This leads to a Dutch/Queen's Indian hybrid, where Black has good control over e4, without the need to play ...Ne4 too soon. White will try to prove that ... f7-f5 has delayed Black's development a bit and also weakened the square e6.
The main crossroads arises after 5...Nf6
White has many moves in this position. In Chapter 2, I examine 6.Bf4 as well as some rare moves. My conclusion is that with a precise play, Black achieves a decent counterplay.
Chapter 3, features the more critical 6.g3
This is likely to transpose to a fianchetto Queen's Indian, where a2-a3 is not very constructive. A key idea in this position is 6...Ne4. By occupying the important e4-square, Black is also vacating the f6-square for his bishops. Therefore, before going for active actions in the centre, Black usually plays ...Be7-f6. In many positions, Black puts his bishop on e4, after an exchange on c3. My analysis proves that Black's position is extremely sound.
In Chapter 4, I start dealing with 5.d5
This is the most principled way of justifying a2-a3. Since he does not have ...Bb4, Black will face problems undermining d5. The best idea is to use the c5-square for his queen's knight's trajectory.
In this position, after 5...Nf6, White has a choice. Chapter 4 deals with 6.Nf3 which is not very critical since Black can start fighting for the e4-square by means of the manoeuvre ...Na6-c5.
In Chapters 5 and 6, I focus on 6.g3
This is the approved and most consistent way to strengthen control of the centre after d4-d5.
Once again, Black should settle for 6...Na6.
In this setup, the bishop usually goes to d6 and often later to e5, in order to undermine White's defence of d5. But once again I believe that developing and activating the knight are higher priorities for Black at this point.
The first important crossroads arises after 7.Bg2 Nc5
In this position, I examine three continuations - 8.Qc2, 8.Nf3, and 8.Nh3. Moves 8.Qc2 and 8.Nf3 are dealt with in Chapter 5. Black is doing OK in the arising positions. Chapter 6 features the most critical 8.Nh3 which offers White the best chances to maintain control of the centre, as it leaves the bishop's diagonal open. But the knight's perspectives are less clear on h3, and it might need two more moves (to f4 and d3) in order to really get into play. Having less space, Black should play precisely in order to avoid long-term problems. In my analysis, I managed to prove decent counterplay in all the variations.
Chapters 7-13 - 1.c4 b6 2.d4 Bb7 3.Nc3 e6 4.e4
This is a very active approach. White picks up the gauntlet and gets all the space he can. Now, Black should follow with 4...Bb4 which is an important element of Black's play. It is important to use all the minor pieces when fighting against White's centre. In many lines, he can build up his counterplay against the queenside weaknesses resulting from the exchange on c3.
In Chapter 7, I examine all the rare options White has on move 5.
Chapter 8 covers the dangerous 5.Qc2
White defends e4 without weakening g2 or the e1-h4 diagonal. But developing the queen so early induces some lack of balance in his position. At this point, my suggestion is 5...Bxc3 6.bxc3 Qh4 when it turns out that this simple attack is not easy to meet, as the pawn on f2 is pinned. In Chapter 8, I provide an in-depth analysis of this position. You will find some fresh new ideas which prove the soundness of Black's approach.
In Chapters 9 and 10, I analyze 5.Bd3.
This natural developing move has the drawback of weakening g2, thus allowing Black to continue undermining the white centre effortlessly. Of course, Black's most principled reaction is 5...f5.
In Chapter 9, I examine the various alternatives to 6.Qe2. My conclusion is that Black does not face problems in these lines.
The main continuation 6.Qe2 is the subject of Chapter 10.
In this line, examine the move Qe2 in two versions - with and without the prior Qh5+. The critical position arises after 6...Nf6 7.f3 Nc6 8.Be3
With the pawn being still on g7, Black can play 8...f4 9.Bf2 e5, thus obtaining a firm control of the dark squares. Had the black pawn been on g6 (the move 6.Qh5+ would have provoked ...g7-g6), the approach connected to ...f5-f4 followed by ...e6-e5 wouldn't work very well. Instead, I suggest entering the structure which arises after ...fxe4 followed by ...e6-e5.
Chapters 11, 12, and 13 are dedicated to 5.f3.