01 July 2012

Why I Play the Slav

During my initial process of openings selection, I settled on the Slav rather early as my defense to 1. d4. Unlike with the 1. e4 suite of openings, I didn't try out as many different defenses, only playing the King's Indian Defense and the Queen's Gambit Accepted in informal games prior to deciding on the Slav.  At the time, I simply didn't understand the KID and was not a tactically-oriented player, so passing on the KID was a good choice.  The QGA I felt more comfortable with, but I did not handle very well the more open positions that resulted from it.  The Slav is characterized by semi-open positions, as with the Caro-Kann, so it fit my needs at the time.

What follows is my first tournament game ever - a win with the Slav.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Class D"] [Black "ChessAdmin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D10"] [Annotator "ChessAdmin/Fritz/Houdini"] [PlyCount "73"] [EventDate "1985.??.??"] {D10: Slav Defence: cxd5 (without early Nf3) and 3 Nc3} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 {this is remarkably common at the Class level, rather than Nf3, perhaps because it is the standard move in reply to the Queen’s Gambit Declined with .. .e6.} dxc4 {the most challenging move, taking the game into different variations than occur after 3. Nf3.} 4. e4 e5 5. Nf3 {an important decision by White, deciding to avoid the exchange of queens on d1.} (5. dxe5 Qxd1 6. Kxd1 Be6 7. f4 g6 8. Nf3 Na6 9. Be3 O-O-O 10. Ke1 Bc5 11. Kf2 f6 12. Be2 Nh6 13. Bxc5 Nxc5 14. exf6 Ng4 15. Kg3 Nxf6 16. Ng5 Rd2 17. Nxe6 Nxe6 18. Bxc4 Nd4 19. Rad1 Nh5 {Prudnikova,S-Stefanova,A/Belgrade 1998/CBM 63 ext/1/2-1/2 (52)}) 5... exd4 6. Nxd4 {this is comparatively rare, but keeps the queens on the board.} (6. Qxd4 {heads for a queenless middlegame. Here is a contemporary example of a Black victory at the GM level.} Qxd4 7. Nxd4 b5 8. a4 b4 9. Nd1 Nf6 10. f3 Ba6 11. Be3 Nfd7 12. Rc1 c5 13. Nb5 Bxb5 14. axb5 Nb6 15. Bf4 N8d7 16. Ne3 g6 17. Nxc4 Bg7 18. b3 O-O 19. Kf2 f5 20. e5 Rfe8 21. Nxb6 axb6 22. Bc4 Kf8 23. e6 Bd4 24. Kg3 Ne5 25. Bxe5 Bxe5 26. f4 Bd4 27. Rc2 Ke7 28. Kf3 Red8 29. Rd1 Ra3 30. h3 h5 31. g4 hxg4 32. hxg4 Rh8 33. gxf5 gxf5 34. Rg2 Rh3 35. Rg3 Rxg3 36. Kxg3 Ra1 37. Rd2 Rc1 38. Ra2 Kf6 39. Ra8 Rc3 40. Kg2 Rxc4 41. bxc4 b3 42. Rh8 b2 43. Rh1 Be3 44. Re1 Ke7 45. Rb1 Bc1 46. Kg3 Kxe6 47. Kh4 Bxf4 48. Rxb2 Ke5 49. Ra2 Kd4 50. Ra4 Kc3 51. Kh3 Kb3 52. Ra6 Kxc4 53. Ra4 Kxb5 54. Rxf4 c4 55. Kg2 c3 56. Rf1 Kc4 57. Kf3 c2 58. Ke2 Kc3 59. Ke3 b5 60. Ke2 b4 {0-1 (60) Ju,W (2519)-Shen,Y (2443) Jiangsu Wuxi 2011}) 6... Bc5 {only one game in the database with this move (a loss for Black).} (6... b5 {is preferred at top levels. Here is an example from Max Euwe, a great Slav player: } 7. a4 b4 8. Nb1 c5 9. Bxc4 Nf6 10. Nb3 Qxd1 11. Kxd1 Be6 12. Bxe6 fxe6 13. Be3 Nxe4 14. f3 Nd6 15. Bxc5 Nc4 16. N1d2 Nxd2 17. Kxd2 Nd7 18. Rac1 Nxc5 19. Nxc5 Bxc5 20. Rxc5 Ke7 21. Rc7 Kf6 22. Rhc1 Rhd8 23. Ke3 Rd5 24. Rb7 Re5 25. Kf2 Rd8 26. Rcc7 Rd2 27. Kg3 Ree2 28. Rf7 Ke5 29. f4 Kd5 30. Rfd7 Kc4 31. Rxd2 Rxd2 {1/2-1/2 (31) O’Kelly de Galway,A-Euwe,M Beverwijk 1952}) 7. Be3 Nf6 {this was played in the database game. It ignores the fact that the Bc5 is hanging, however, and gives White a possibly winning tactic.} (7... Qe7 {was found by both Fritz and Houdini to keep the balance.}) 8. Bxc4 {obvious but not best.} (8. Nxc6 Nxc6 9. Qxd8 Kxd8 10. Bxc5 Be6 {although material is even, Black’s king is stranded in the center and White’s two bishops look powerful. The engines show White around a pawn up equivalent.}) 8... O-O (8... Qe7 {is still needed to avoid the Nxc6 tactic.}) 9. Qd3 Nbd7 {now Black is fine.} 10. f4 Ng4 {aiming to eliminate the two bishops for White.} 11. Rd1 (11. O-O-O {is what Houdini assesses is needed to keep the game level, moving the king to relative safety.}) 11... Nxe3 (11... Qh4 $5 {is what Houdini pointed out for Black.} 12. g3 Qh3 {and now White’s king is in the center with a weakened position.}) 12. Qxe3 Nb6 13. Bb3 Qc7 (13... Qe7 {is the better way to move the queen off the d-file, pressuring e4 and protecting the Bc5.}) 14. Qd3 $2 {this just gives up the f4 pawn with no compensation.} Bg4 {this in-between move before the pawn capture actually detracts from Black’s threats, as now the Nd4 could move to e2 and out of a potential pin by a Rd8.} (14... Qxf4 {is simplest and best.} 15. Qf3 Qh4 16. g3 $19 Qh3) 15. Rd2 $2 (15. Nde2 $142 $5 $17) 15... Qxf4 $19 16. Rf2 $2 (16. Qg3 {minimizes the damage.} Qxg3 17. hxg3 Rad8 18. Nf3 $19) 16... Qc1 17. Bd1 Bxd1 {still winning, but Black misses the more devastating attack on the d-file} (17... Bxd4 18. Rc2 (18. Qxd4 $2 Rad8) 18... Bxc3 19. bxc3 Qxd1 20. Qxd1 Bxd1 21. Kxd1 Rad8 22. Kc1 $19) 18. O-O Qg5 (18... Bc2 {is overlooked by Black.} 19. Qxc2 (19. Rxc1 $4 {a tasty morsel with a slight problem, notes Fritz.} Bxd3 20. Nce2 Nc4 $19) 19... Qxc2 20. Nxc2 $19) 19. Nxd1 $6 {the alternative rook capture would add a defender for d4, although White is still going to lose a piece.} (19. Rxd1 Rad8 20. Nce2 $19 Bxd4 21. Nxd4 c5 22. Rf5 Qe7) 19... Rad8 20. Rf5 Bxd4 21. Kh1 Qe7 22. Qe2 f6 23. b3 Rfe8 {Black continues to make progress with simple, powerful moves. White cannot cover all his weaknesses and Black’s heavy pieces and bishop dominate.} 24. R5f4 Qd6 (24... Nd5 $5) 25. Qc2 Be5 26. Rh4 Qd2 27. Qb1 { evaluated as slightly worse by Houdini, although my opponent likely felt he had better practical chances by keeping the queens on.} Re7 (27... Qe2 $5 { makes it even easier for Black} 28. Nf2 Rd2) 28. Nf2 Qb2 29. Qe1 Qxa2 30. Qe3 Bd4 31. Qh3 h6 (31... Bxf2 {is one of those moves that the engines love, since it’s "winning even more", but during a real game would be unnecessary and risky to play.} 32. Rxh7 Qe2 33. Rh8 Kf7 34. Qh5 Qxh5 35. Rxh5 Rxe4) 32. Ng4 Qe2 {now Black penetrates with the queen and the end is in sight.} 33. Rb1 Bb2 34. Kg1 Rd1 35. Rxd1 Qxd1 36. Kf2 Bd4 37. Ne3 {and my opponent resigned, with further material loss and mate coming after Qd2} 0-1'/>

The basic ideas in the Slav I find easy to comprehend and implement during a game.  Black's central pawn presence is supported with c6 and the light-squared bishop normally finds a home on f5 before e6 is played, with standard development occurring with Be7/Bb4 and Nbd7 in many lines.  This, along with the opening's generally solid nature, have given me no cause for complaint over the years.  There is also enough variety in the different variations, including some White gambits and Black sidelines, that keep the opening from being stale.  It is also an opening in which knowledge and preparation can pay off against any level of opposition, for example in the simul game with GM Alex Yermolinsky (which also highlights my poor endgame play, but that is another story) and in the "Punishing Slav" game.

In order to increase my winning potential against queen pawn openings - if White wants a draw against the Slav, he can usually obtain one easily - and expand my chess horizons, I've been looking at the Dutch Defense. However, I'll never abandon the Slav, which has done well for me, from the very beginning until the present day.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a class player who generally plays 3.Nf3. Sometimes, I'll play 1.Nf3 and still end up in a Slav. My opponents seem to play 2...e6 right away. In my experience as White and my play as Black, the Semi-Slav gets more play than the Slav.