Monday, March 17, 2014

White Fianchetto vs. the Pirc Defense

The Fianchetto Variation against the Pirc Defense (1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.g3 Bg7 5.Bg2 O-O 6.Nge2) is a very easy system to learn and one that will teach many lessons of positional play.   It has been recommended for amateurs by one of the chief advocates of the Pirc as Black, GM Alex Chernin, who describes White's straightforward development plan as follows: "Play 4.g3, then Bg2, Nge2, h3, O-O, Be3, Qd2, Rd1, Re1, and then, if the coast is clear, play an immediate f2-f4, or prepare it first with g3-g4 and Ne2-g3.  White can meet either ...c7-c6 or ...a7-a6 with a2-a4.  In the 4.g3 line, all of White's actions seem natural and intuitive" (Pirc Alert! 1st edition 341).  The line may not be as obviously aggressive as other approaches to the Pirc, but it definitely poses some difficult problems for Black, who has to know what he is doing to develop counter-play.  And, because of its placid appearance, the Fianchetto Variation is not frequently studied by Pirc players, who direct most of their attention against more popular attacking systems such as the Austrian Attack with 4.f4 and the 150 Attack with 4.Be3.   

White's plan in the Fianchetto line is no less aggressive than other systems, it just starts by preventing Black's counter-play.  As shown in the classic games Karpov - Timman, Montreal 1979 and Benko - Fischer, Curacao 1962, White's plan is first restraint (with h3 and a4) and then attack (with g4, Ng3, and f4-f5).  Players on the Black side who feel the pressure building will often self-destruct even before White's plan comes to fruition.

There are a number of books that discuss this system, but I have found the most useful to be Viktor Moskalenko's The Perfect Pirc-Modern, James Vigus's The Pirc in Black and White, and Andy Soltis's Beating the Pirc / Modern with the Fianchetto Variation, all described in greater detail below -- along with other books, videos and online sources.  You can find game collections at 365chess and Chessgames, which are always a good place to start when learning a new opening.

I will likely post some analysis in coming weeks.  For now, I am posting this bibliography.  As always, I invite additions and corrections from readers.



The Pirc Defense, Part 6 - Facing 4.g3 by Mackenzie Molner, (March 2013)
Though focused on Black, this video offers a useful introduction to the line before recommending ...c6 and ...exd4 (as in Bologan - Chernin, Bastia 2000).  Membership is required to view the entire video.

The Perfect Pirc-Modern: Strategic Ideas and Powerful Weapons by Viktor Moskalenko, New in Chess (2013)
Moskalenko deeply analyzes games he has played on both sides of the opening, though he points out that he has a much better record as Black than as White (and has therefore given up on the line from the White side).  Of course, he faced significantly weaker opposition as Black!  Games include Penalosa Pinillas - Moskalenko, Benasque 2007; Moskalenko - Rodriguez, Barcelona 2003; Waitzkin - Moskalenko, Iraklion 1997; and Moskalenko - Movsziszian, La Pobla de Lillet 2004 -- but the notes are much more interesting than the games.   

Chess Developments: The Pirc by James Vigus, Everyman (2012): 230-240.  Features the games Svidler - Mamedyarov, Ohrid 2009 and Yudin - Smirnov, Moscow 2008.

Les blancs face à la Pirc, Le Cheval d'Odin (April 2011)
Useful overview, in French.

First Rest Day and Rounds 5-8 by Mark Bluvshtein, Mark Bluvshtein's Blog (February 2011).  Comments on his Round 8 game with 15-year-old Benjamin Bok at Tata Steel, Wijk aan Zee 2011 (Group C).

A Simple System Against the Pirc: 4.g3, Brooklyn 64 (2010)
An interesting blog post that makes a good case for the fianchetto line as part of an amateur white opening repertoire.

"Prophylaxis and Restriction" by Valeri Lilov, (September 14, 2010).  Discusses Karpov - Timman, Montreal 1979in a 20-minute video presentation.  By subscription only.

"Spicing up the Fianchetto Variation."   Dangerous Weapons: The Pirc and Modern by Richard Palliser, Colin McNab and James Vigus,  Everyman Chess (2009): 145-160.  Covers the line 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.g3 Bg7 5.Bg2 0-0 6.Nge2 e5 7.h3 a6 from Black's perspective.  Games examined include Cherniaev - Van der Wiel, Wijk aan Zee 1998 and Anna Akhsharumova - Garry Kasparov, Harvard (simul) 1989.

Pirc Alert!: A Complete Defense against 1.e4 (2nd edition) by Lev Alburt and Alexander Chernin, Chess Information and Research Center (2009).  I have not seen the revised and improved second edition of this book, so see my notes on the first (2001) edition below.

"Side Events in London" by Malcolm Pein, TWIC (2009).  Notes on Svidler - Mamedyarov, Ohrid 2009.  See here and here for additional notes on this game.

Starting Out: The Modern by Nigel Davies, Everyman Chess (2008).
1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3,Nc3 (3.g3?! d5!) 3...d6 4.g3 Nc6!? immediately putting pressure on d4.  White's best may then be 5.Be3, as in Geller - Hickl (see discussion below), but many players as White instead try to reach the regular g3 lines by 4.Nge2 -- typically without success.  Like Speelman, Davies points out that "the Modern Defense move order allows Black to throw a spanner in White's works....  The counterattack with ...Nc6 (either with or without a preliminary 4...a6) makes it well nigh impossible for White to continue his plan....  White's position is not objectively bad, but it requires a certain amount of psychological adaptability." Games include Spasov - Speelman, Biel 1993; Klinger - Davies, Budapest 1988; and Godena - Davies, Budapest 1993 -- all of which demonstrate that they are not the way White should play.  Instead, White should examine 5.Be3 -- or prepare a different line against the Modern move order.

The Pirc in Black and White by James Vigus, Everyman Chess (2007): 164-185.  Vigus has written widely on the Pirc and here offers a very balanced discussion and useful theory.  Sample games include Karpov - Timman, Montreal 1979Salov - Polgar, Madrid 1997; Khairullin - Mihajlovskij, St. Petersburg 2006; Burmakin - Mamedov, Balaguer 2005; Sai - Gagunashvili, Dubai 2006; and Milov - Solak, Biel 2001.  

Tiger's Modern by Tiger Hillarp Persson, Quality Chessbooks (2005): 163-171.  Surprisingly, Tiger's solution to the g3 line does not involve ...a6 but instead ...Nd7 and ...c5.   Main games are Sermek - Tkachiev, Pula 1998; van der Weide - Gulko, Wijk aan Zee (B) 2001; Aseev - Khalifman, Vilnius 1997; and Marinkovic - Vujadinovic, Niksic 1997.

La Defensa Pirc (n.d.)
Analyzes Aseev - Zakharavich, St. Petersburg 1995.

Starting Out: The Pirc / Modern by Joe Gallagher, Everyman (2003): 114-127.
Examines several games focused around the line 6.Nge2 e5 7.h3 (7.O-O Nc6 8.dxe5) 7...Nc6 (7...c6 8.a4) 8.Be3.

"The Philidor Pirc" by Karel Van der Weide, New in Chess Yearbook #61 (2001) 

Pirc Alert!: A Complete Defense against 1.e4 (First edition), by Lev Alburt and Alex CherninChess Information and Research Center (2001): 339-357.  I only have the first edition of this book.  Games mentioned in the notes include Motwani - Ivanchuk 1990, Gulko - Hort 1987, Ivanchuk - Nikolic 1990, Aseev - Zakharevich, Mohr - Chernin 1997 -- but the analysis offered improves upon existing theory at every turn.

Modern Defence by Jon Speelman and Neil McDonald, Everyman (2000): 64-66.
Features the game Geller- Hickl, Dortmund 1989, which shows White's careful handling of the Modern move-order 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.g3 Nc6!   GM Viktor Moskalenko (see above) offers some useful discussion of this line, noting that after 5.Be3 (5.Nge2 Bg4! 6.Qd3!? is also interesting) 5...e5 (5...Nf6 6.h3 e5 7.Nge2 d5! may be better) 6.dxe5 a mistake is 6...dxe5? (6...Nxe5 7.h3 Nf6 8.Bg2 O-O 9.Nge2 Re8 10.O-O leads to familiar territory) 7.Qxd8+ Nxd8 8.Nd5! Ne6 9.Bh3! with initiative for White.

"Pirc Fianchetto Variation 4.g3" by Mihail Marin, New in Chess Yearbook #47 (1998) 

The Ultimate Pirc by John Nunn and Colin McNab, Batsford (1998): 238-255.  In a substantial chapter titled "White Plays g3," Nunn expands his earlier coverage of the Fianchetto Variation from "The Complete Pirc" (below) but follows the same basic lines, again recommending 6.Nge2 e5 7.h3 Nc6 as the main line, but adding some interesting alternatives at move 7 to the coverage.  Main games (most reflecting favorably on Black) include Cherniaev - Van der Wiel, Wijk aan Zee 1998; Gulko - Dzindzichashvili, USA Ch 1990; De la Villa - Azmaiparashvili, Leon 1994; Sadler - Ftacnik, Ischia 1996; Kavalek - Ftacnik, Ceska Trebova 1997; Bologan - Kakageldiev, Erevan Ol 1996; Waitzkin - Fedorowicz, New York 1995; Magem - Krasenkov, Las Palmas 1993; Aseev - Nogueiras, Linares 1996; Gufeld - Pribyl, Tbilisi 1980; Prandstetter - Gliantes, Ceske Budejovice 1992; Gelfand - Adams, Madrid 1996; Sadler - Nevednichy, Erevan Ol 1996; Svidler - Gipslis, Gausdal 1992; Rodin - Glianets, Ekaterinburg 1997; Vogt - Zaichik, Berlin 1989; Milov - Greenfeld, Israel 1992; Khenkin - McNab, Kozalin 1997; Stefansson - Zagema, Leeuwarden 1995; Wockenfuss - Plaskett, Lugano 1986; Rittner - Mohrlok, corr. 1990; Lazic - Mozetic, Tivat 1995; Sanz - Moreno Ruiz, Spanish Ch 1994; Svidler - Hennigan, Oakham jr 1992; Markowski - Gallagher, Geneva 1996; King - Gallagher, Wnterthur 1996; Dzhandzhgava - Gurevich, Lvov 1987; Tal - Torre, Brussels 1987; Klinger - Cuijpers, Vienna 1984; Gufeld - Peng Xiaomin, Beijing 1996 -- and more to follow.  One of the last books that tried to present truly comprehensive coverage of the Pirc and therefore still worth having.

Beating the Pirc / Modern with the Fianchetto Variation by Andrew Soltis, Chess Digest (1993).   Though over 20 years old, this Chess Digest pamphlet can still be found for sale and is worth having for its useful discussion of themes and selection of classic games.  Games featured include Vulicevic - Rosenberg, New York 1992; Benko - Fischer, Curacao 1962Karpov - Timman, Montreal 1979; Short - Donner, Amsterdam 1982; Hort - Nunn, Wijk aan Zee 1983; Galliamova - Arribas, Adelaide 1988; Mohr - Kosten, Altensteig 1989; Timoshchenko - Dorfman, Moscow 1989; Popovic - Popchev, Moscow 1989; Byrne - Christiansen, US Championship Berkeley 1984; Chandler - Ftacnik, Vrsac 1981; Sydor - Dorfman, Warsaw 1983; Klinger - Norwood, Baguio 1987; Kurajica - Gruenfeld, Biel 1981; Popovic - Rakic, Novi Sad 1981; Sveshnikov - Grigorian, USSR 1981; Speelman - Nunn, England 1979; Kirillov - Lyutzko, Riga 1986; Adams - Wolff, London 1989; Romanishin - Rodriguez, Barcelona 1992; Nunn - Pfleger, Plovdiv 1983; Chernin - Bilek, Copenhagen 1984; Tseshkovsky - Benjamin, Wijk aan Zee 1989; Rachels - Gurevich, US Championship Long Beach 1989; Gufeld - Torre, Baku 1980; Miles - Kavalek, 1982; Karpov - Lerner, USSR 1983Hort - Gallagher, Bled 1991; Byrne - Dzindzikashvili, New York 1989; Lau - van der Sterren, Plovdiv 1983; Barlov - Parma, Vrbas 1982; Geller - Chernin, Belgrade 1988; Martinovic -Gligoric, Budva 1986; Ivanchuk - Ehlvest, Linares 1991.

Winning with the Pirc Defense by Ken Smith (1993)
Has a short chapter on the g3 variation.  Games cited include 
Minic - Hulak, Yugoslavia 1974; Mestel - Christiansen, Hastings 1979/80; Speelman - Nunn, Hastings 1979/80; Vogt - Zaitchik, Berlin 1989; Wessman - Shirov, Moscow 1991; Motwani - Ivanchuk, Novi Sad Ol 1990; Garcia - Chernin, Pamplona 1992; Klinger - Zsyk, Viena 1991 and others.

The Complete Pirc by John Nunn, Batsford (1989): 153-163.
Offers very detailed coverage of this line in a chapter titled "White plays g3."  Recommends 6.Nge2 e5 7.h3 Nc6 but covers other lines as well.  Main games cited include 
Byrne - Christiansen, US Championship Berkeley 1984; Wockenfuss - Plaskett, Lugano 1986; Sek - Ksieski, Poland 1981; Pigott - Nunn, London 1980; Lerner - Tal, Jurmala 1983; Barlov - Parma, Yugoslavia 1982; Chandler - Ftacnik, Vrsac 1981; Sveshnikov - Speelman, Hastings 1977-78; Miles - Kavalek, Bundesliga 1981; Karpov - Lerner, USSR 1983; Bisguier - Taulbut, Lone Pine 1978; Sveshnikov - Tsheshkovsky, Sochi 1976; Wockenfuss - Pfleger, Bundesliga 1986; Mandl - Seyb, Bundesliga 1985; Wilder - Benjamin, USA Ch 1986; Speelman - Nunn, British Ch 1979; Sveshnikov - Grigorian, USSR 1981; Nunn - Hunt, Peterborough 1984; and Barlov - Hickl, Zagreb 1987.  Later editions of the book may have improved the analysis or added later games examples, but Nunn's "Ultimate Pirc" (above) offers much more contemporary and expansive coverage of this line.

Karpov - Timman, Montreal 1979 commented by Karpov (in Spanish, no date)
The java board to view the game online can be found at the main page, to the left.

Montreal 1979: Tournament of the Stars by Mikhail Tal et. al., Pergamon Press (1980): 50-53.  Karpov provides excellent notes on the Round 2 game Karpov - Timman, Montreal 1979.  Karpov says he had prepared some deep lines in "fashionable variations" of the Pirc, but "on that particular day, I for some reason had no wish to repeat lengthy variations that had been prepared at home."  The g3 line is a great way to play with little preparation for White even among top players.

How to Beat Bobby Fischer by Edmar Mednis, Bantam (1974): 115-118.  The game Benko - Fischer, Curacao 1962 is a great illustration of White's squeeze-play strategy.

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