Meet 1.Nf3 with 1...d5 - Complete Repertoire Against 2.b3, 2.c4, and 2.g3
In his second database for Modern Chess, the Ukrainian FM with 2 IM norms and an experienced coach Yuriy Krykun analyses the pesky sidelines and interesting mainlines that arise after 1.Nf3 d5. He focuses on three continuations: 2.g3, 2.c4 and 2.b3.
As Yuriy himself explains, “While for some players those move orders don't present much of a difficulty: say, most Slav players would meet 2.c4 with 2...c6, while QGD players will play 2...e6, it is a very important subject to cover. The reason is that for one, those move orders are often tried to get you out of book or move-order you in some line you might not want to play. Secondly, the suggestions presented here are universal and would suit you no matter what your main opening after 2.d4 is – whether it is the Slav, Queen's Gambit Declined, Queen's Gambit Accepted, or anything else. And, finally, it is always nice to have some variety as opposed to being forced to play what White wants: the Anti-Meran, the Anti-Queen's Gambit, etc”.
The current database contains 11 theoretical chapters and 15 test positions that would check both your tactical and positional knowledge, as well as how carefully you have remembered some important opening ideas and move orders.
Chapter 1 – 2.g3 Nd7 3.c4
The continuation 2...Nd7 is only 8th(!) the most popular move after 2.g3! Instead of analyzing the mainlines seen in dozens of thousands(!) of games, such as 2...Nf6 that was played in over 30000 games, Yuriy immediately suggests a rare line that would cut down the existing theory to just 500 games!
Here is how the author explains his choice:
“This is a move that has been always played every now and then to only start to enjoy immense popularity since late 2019 when Alekseenko used it to beat Karjakin in a very important game at Isle of Man, the game that yielded him a spot in the Candidates. To be honest, it is also necessary to say it was played before by many eminent GMs, such as Xiong and Vallejo Pons, but I believe most strong players paid close attention to it only after that aforementioned encounter between the two Russian players. What is the idea? We simply want to continue with ...e7-e5!, reaching some Pirc position with colours reversed. While it is clear that the setup with Nbd2 is by no means the most ambitious one against the classical Pirc, the situation is different when we are playing Black while also being a tempo down, as our ambitions are limited to getting a very solid position - though, of course, we wouldn't mind winning chances if the opportunity arises!”
So, the first chapter deals with the move 3.Bg2.
After 3...dxc4, the author analyzes in great detail such continuations as 4.Qc2, 4.Na3, 4.Bg2, and of course, the main line 4.Qa4. Yuriy warns you that there is a high chance of transposition to one line of Neo-Catalan, which he covers carefully, coming up with a bunch of important theoretical novelties.
Chapter 2 – 2.g3 Nd7 3.Bg2
While this isn't the most ambitious move available to White, it is an important one, as we are playing the reversed Pirc where we are a tempo down. While Black clearly is absolutely fine, it is important to be careful. The good news is that in many lines, Black gets ambitious and starts playing for a win.
After 3.Bg2 e5, such moves as 4.O-O, 4.d4, 4.c4 and 4.d3 are discussed.
One interesting rare idea that the author gives is 4.d3 Ngf6 5.O-O Bc5!?, explaining it in the following way:
«One of the reasons why this is not a very common square for the bishop in the actual Pirc is because White has a typical combination 6. Nxe5 Nxe5 7.d4. When we are White, fighting the Pirc, we don't want such a simplification to take place. So, the bishop never goes to c5 (or c4, if we are White). However, as I had stated, we are not as ambitious with Black. If White wants to simplify to only equalize after the opening, he is welcome to do so! Now, again, there is a plethora of ways White can continue. I, personally, suggest that we look at this in the following way:
1) White can either play for e2-e4;
2) Or for c2-c4;
3) Or not decide for either of those two, instead of making such moves as c2-c3, Re1, Qc2 etc, playing the waiting game;
4) Or he can bail out with this 6.Nxe5. This is not a forcing position by any means, so I recommend that you don't try to memorize every single line. Instead, focus on the typical plans!”
Chapter 3 – 2.g3 Nd7 3.d4
This is definitely the main continuation and the one the author was particularly inspired by.
At this point, the rare, but very trendy move 3...Nb6! is analyzed.
To quote the author,
“This is the key fresh idea that was discovered just recently and that made me interested in creating this repertoire with 2...Nd7 at its core. Black firmly takes the c4-square under control and prepares the convenient development with ...Bf5 and ...e7-e6. This way, he would have no bad pieces, his bishop won't be locked in. At the same time, White won't be able to play c2-c4 easily.”
The main chunk of this chapter is devoted to the position after 4.Bg2 Bf5 5.O-O e6, where such possibilities as 6.Nh4, 6.Ne5, 6.Nbd2 and 6.b3 are analyzed carefully. The author tries to be as thorough as possible, while also emphasizing on the importance of focusing on the typical plans.
It is very important that in most positions, Black is the one making a choice between the sharper and the calmer play. Moving on to chapter 4, it is time to discuss the position after 1.Nf3 d5 2.b3.
The author again shies away from the very main line, instead preferring the third most popular 2….Bg4.
The author explains his choice:
«After a long hesitation, I've decided to recommend this move. The hesitations weren't related to the quality of the move - it's perfectly good and sound. The thing is that Black has multiple interesting setups against 2.b3, but finally, I thought this was the most straightforward path. What's the idea and philosophy behind 2...Bg4? In fact, we are playing some kind of a Trompowsky reversed. But, the pawn on b3 harms exactly White in many lines. For example, in many Trompowsky lines Black goes. ..c7-c5 and ...Qb6 or ...Qa5. So, logically, with colours reversed, we'd need to watch out for stuff like Qb3 or Qa4. But, the pawn on b3 makes this idea impossible to execute! Or, here's another benefit. In Trompowsky, after 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 d5, this structure is considered rather solid for Black, but if he has a move ...b7-b6 in, even for free, it's often making his structure loose. There are several other benefits - I can't name them all here as that'd take a few pages, but I hope this already makes perfect sense. Now, we will divide the material after 2.b3 Bg4 into three parts - where White ignores the ...Bxf3 idea with 3.Bb2, where he plays 3.e3 or where he aggressively jumps out and attacks us with 3.Ne5. »
So, the 4th chapter deals with the move 3.Bb2. This is also a position that arises after 1.b3 d5 2.Bb2 Bg4 3.Nf3, so as an added benefit, you will be half-prepared against 1.b3, too!
In Chapter 5, the position after 1.Nf3 d5 2.b3 Bg4 3.e3 is scrutinized.
As the author explains, Black is enjoying a very improved version of the Anti-QGD or the Anti-Slav, or even of the reversed Trompowsky, as his bishop was easily able to get developed, while White was not able to pose any direct problems. The arising positions are strategically complicated and give Black excellent chances to play for a win.
The 6th chapter covers White's final attempt vs 2.b3 Bg4, namely 3.Ne5
The author provides an interesting comparison with the reversed Trompowsky attack, explaining a few important things:
“This is the third most popular move and the most straightforward one. I definitely think Black should be doing great here, just compare this position to Trompowsky with colours reversed to get an idea. After 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 Ne4 we get an interesting theoretical position, where Black is definitely completely fine, but White has no reason to worry, at least, and can even fight for the advantage. Now, instead, White has a free move b2-b3 in, which is actually not that fantastic because the queen cannot come out to b3.”
His main suggestion is the positional 3...Bf5, but he also mentions a very interesting alternative 3...h5!?, which is a very aggressive move.
The positions discussed in chapters from 7 to 11 are the most theoretically challenging ones. They are the ones that many Black players shy away from – those are the positions we get after 1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 d4!
The author believes that not only is 2...d4!
Is a very ambitious and good move, but also, he claims to suggest options that allow Black to get comfortable positions without needing to study tons of theory.
In Chapter 7, he discusses the line 2.c4 d4 3.g3, which is often used by people who attempt to avoid much of theoretical learning.
The aggressive and well-known 3...Nc6 is the choice, followed by 4.Bg2 e5. At this point, White has two main moves: 5.d3 and 5.O-O. While they might look similar, they lead to very different positions, which are covered in detail in the chapter.
The 8th chapter embarks on the discussion of 3.e3, which isn't a very challenging move, but it leads to rather interesting positions.
For example, after 3...Nc6 White can either take on d4, trying to quickly prepare d2-d4 later, which is what the 8th chapter covers, or play 4.b4, which is the subject of the following, 9th chapter.
As usual, Yuriy offers practical and sound solutions that would save you from studying dozens of theoretical lines and would instead offer comfortable play without much of specific knowledge. Plans and typical ideas are what matters.
The most critical challenge of the database, by all means, lies in the 10th and 11th chapters, as they cover the position after 2.c4 d4 3.b4!
This is a very dangerous move that is given by most authors on the White side.
Once again, Yuriy does not disappoint with his choice. His suggestion is 3...Bg4 - 4th most popular move, which is not nearly as sharp as the main guys 3...f6 and 3...c5, or not nearly as sharp as the rare idea 3...g5. It is a positional move, instead, where we again get good positions thanks to the understanding of the typical plans.
In Chapter 10, Yuriy covers all the sidelines White can throw at you after 3...Bg4, such as 4.Qa4+, 4.Bb2 and 4.Ne5
Our idea is to take on f3 and spoil White's pawn structure, followed by classic positional play.
Finally, the 11th chapter discusses in great detail the position after 3...Bg4 4.Qb3! which is the most dangerous attempt at White's disposal.
At this point, the author again suggests a very rare idea, which immediately takes us away from the notoriously well-known theoretical roads all the way to a brand-new fresh interesting position.
According to the author, not only does not Black experience any issues but also, he can very easily seize the initiative provided White is not careful enough. And in such a new position, he is guaranteed to make mistakes!
At the end of the database, you will see 15 interactive test positions. By solving them, you would challenge your tactical sharpness as well as your understanding of positional subtleties and ideas given in this database.