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The Other End of the Quill

Hitai Talks About Chess: Chigorin vs Chigorin?!

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When I play with the black pieces in chess, I tend to favour two particular defences. The first, and by far and away the most common, is my reply to 1.e4, which is d6, otherwise known as the Pirc Defence. The second is my reply to 1.d4, which is the Chigorin Defence (1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6). The Chigorin is something of a niche defence, hearkening back to the Romantic period, and it doesn't see much use in the modern game. As such, it retains the capacity to really throw a white player off and get him out of theory quite fast. The Chigorin is a particularly explosive opening that can go down some very sharp lines, so even if you know the main line, things can still go fairly haywire quite quickly.

However, a savvy white player can still throw me off my own game, if he decides to play something other than 2.c4. There are two main lines I typically see when, on the rare occasion, white opts not to push his c pawn. The first, and more common of the pair, is the Anti-Torre Attack, which will follow 2.Nf3 Bg4. The second, and the one I'll be looking at today, is when white opts for a Chigorin attack. This is marked by the move 2.Nc3, which is also read as a transposition into the Van Geet's by some engines.

Facing either response by white, I'm generally rather bemused and it is usually the case that both of us end up out of theory very quickly. The Chigorin Defence is the opening that I prep against 1.d4, so on the rare occasion I don't see 2.c4, I am usually having to wing it. I should probably study both of these side lines, but they occur so rarely that it has never seemed like such a pressing concern.

Anyway, I had a very fun game today out of the 2.Nc3 line, which ended up in a closed position and a very tense game. I actually really prefer to play closed positions, and perhaps I should look at tailoring my openings (and/or my style) to that end one day, and I had a real blast with this one. The full game was thus:

1. d4 d5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Bf4 Bg4 4. a3 e6 5. Nf3 Bxf3 6. gxf3 Bd6 7. Bg3 Nf6 8. e3 O-O 9. Qe2 Qe7 10. Bg2 h6 11. f4 a6 12. O-O b5 13. Qd3 Na5 14. b4 Nc4 15. Ne2 Nb2 16. Qd2 Nc4 17. Qc3 Rfc8 18. Bh4 c6 19. Ng3 Qd8 20. Nh5 Be7 21. Nxf6+ Bxf6 22. Bg3 Qe7 23. e4 Bh4 24. e5 Bxg3 25. fxg3 Qd8 26. Bf3 g6 27. Be2 Nb6 28. Kg2 Kg7 29. Rh1 Na4 30. Qd2 h5 31. c3 Qe7 32. Qc2 Rh8 33. g4 hxg4 34. Bxg4 Nb6 35. h3 Nc4 36. Qe2 Rh4 37. Kg3 Rh6 38. h4 Rah8 39. h5 g5 40. Rag1 Kf8 41. Kf2 Ke8 42. Qf3 Kd8 43. Ke2 Rg8 44. Rh3 Kc7 45. Rgh1 Nxa3 46. f5 Nc4 47. f6 Qd8 48. Ra1 Qa8 49. Kd3 Kb6 50. Qd1 Nb2+ 51. Kc2 Nxd1 52. Kxd1 Rgh8 53. Kc2 Kc7 54. Rg1 Kb6 55. Rhg3 Qf8 56. Be2 g4 57. Bxg4 Rg8 58. Bxe6 Rxg3 59. Rxg3 fxe6 60. Rg5 Qf7 61. Kd2 a5 62. bxa5+ Kxa5 63. Ke3 Rxh5 64. Rxh5 Qxh5 65. Kf4 Qf7 66. Kg5 b4 67. cxb4+ Kxb4 68. Kf4 Kc4 69. Ke3 c5 70. dxc5 Kxc5 71. Kd3 Qg6+ 72. Ke3 Qe4+ 73. Kf2 Qxe5 74. f7 Qf5+

I won't go through the whole game, but here are the highlights!

What madness is this?! (2.Nc3)

Looking fairly comfortable for both sides after the first ten moves. Some doubled pawns for white, but he has the bishop pair. No real aggression here, I'm happy to sit back and soak up an attack. (10. Bg2 h6)

My knight takes up a beautiful post on c4 - he will be pretty untouchable for most of the game. (16. Qd2 Nc4)

Thirty three(!) moves before the first pawns are off the board. Even then, things will stay... (33. g4 hxg4)

...pretty closed! (47. f6 Qd8)

White sadly blunders his queen though, which was a shame. (50. Qd1 Nb2+ 51. Kc2 Nxd1)

And it's pretty easy to clean up from there~ (63. Ke3 Rxh5)

I hope that was enjoyable, for any other chess aficionados here! I guess it is rather strange to talk about this side line before the main lines I play as black, but I just wanted to share this very interesting game I had today. There were a lot of blunders on both sides as the time was running out, and white had some chances to break through when he still had his queen. I think I had some good chances for counterplay as well in the later stages of the mid game, but we were both pretty happy working in a closed position, which is what we ended up sticking with. Anyway, until next time!

Updated September 02, 2018 at 07:14 PM by Hitai de Bodemloze

Tags: chess


  1. pannonian's Avatar
    As black, I tend to like openings that unbalance the pawn opposition, thus allowing me greater scope for shaping how the game plays. Often, the effect is to develop within my first three ranks whilst preparing for any premature pawn breaks by white. When I'm playing well, which admittedly isn't to any high standard, I'm usually perceptive enough of when premature crosses the line into timely, and prepare my own counters. Sometimes, I get too engrossed in my deliberately cagey game, and get pinned back, with ugly results. However, overall, that approach doesn't require such a memory of opening lines or a razor sharp sense of danger that e4 e5 requires (or worse still, d4 d5).

    Oh, and a friend once taught me about one of the great qualities of the Pirc. You can play it against both e4 and d4. You can even play it as white. Thus you cut down on the amount of opening theory you need to learn.
  2. Hitai de Bodemloze's Avatar
    Hey Pann

    You may like the Chigorin if you favour doubling your opponent's pawns; in the main line you will trade bishops for knights to at least hurt white's structure on one side. You lose the bishop pair, but you can still enter into a semi-closed position where your knights can really shine in the mid-game. For example, I had this position a little earlier tonight. I often find that I have greater control, and better chances to shape the game, as black; something I bemoaned in my last blog post on playing the English as white. Even with the Pirc, which is fairly passive, it still forces white into a narrow range of options, each of which is fairly well parried.

    I've never played the Pirc against d4, although you are quite right, after 2.e4 Nf6 it would indeed be the same position - I had never realised! I actually favour the Chigorin much more though; I probably face e4 70% of the time, so I never get much chance to really go to town with my favourite opening. Like many Pirc players, I used to favour a King's Indian style defence (which is actually the Alekhine's against e4), but I didn't like seeing 2.e5 and having my knight pushed around so much, so picking up the Pirc seemed the most natural solution. I do actually still play Indian defences against openings other than e4 and d4, although given that (admittedly rarely seen) variety, I should probably learn some proper lines, instead of winging it with Nf6 every time. Other than that, I've tried the Caro-Kann and the Slav a few times, but I always felt I sacrificed a lot of agency as black and they weren't to my tastes. The Caro-Kann exchange variation was great, but I didn't particularly like the advance lines for black - white got to make that decision every time, so I didn't much care for it.

    If you ever fancy a game, do let me know!
    Updated September 04, 2018 at 07:07 PM by Hitai de Bodemloze
  3. NorseThing's Avatar
    Thanks for the memory jog into a bit of the Ruy Lopez. I know, that dates me.

    I do like white's chances before the blunder even with the bishop versus the knight. Being restricted to a color field means you pretty much need two or none. It may just be my personal preferences.

    Too bad time was too short. More time and this may have been interesting for an end game.