Saturday, February 10, 2018

Some Thoughts on the Black Kingside Fianchetto and White's c-pawn

There are 5 first moves for white, that have a statistical advantage: e4, d4, c4, g3 and Nf3. Nf3 usually transposes to one of the 4 pawn moves. Black has various good choices against all of these, and a subset of them involve a kingside fianchetto against all of white's choices.

I am familiar with the black choices that allow white the most freedom, the King's Indian Defense (KID) and Pirc/Modern. When black plays these, white can usually pick from a variety of setups with the c-pawn and the Nb1, if white has not opened with 1.c4. For this essay, I will call these the KID, Barry, and Pirc.


White has moved c2-c4 and Nb1-c3
There is a lot of theory here, and white may not have the Nf3, but play f2-f3 or develop the bishops before the Ng1.

Black will attack d4 with either c7-c5 or e7-e5. The pawn on c4 is committal, has taken a tempo, and can become a target. White will not usually have time to make an e4-e5 push, before black attacks d4 with a pawn.

White does get queenside space, and can more easily resist if black goes for queenside play, than the other options. In the most popular variations, white attacks on the queenside, while black attacks on the kingside, but white has a variety of options for more positional play.

It is not advised for white to respond to the e7-e5 break with dxe5, as the exchange variations are quite difficult for white to win. The permanent hole on d4 is quite troubling for white, while black and control d5 by placing a pawn on c6

The Barry

White has moved c2-c3 and Nb1-d2
White has strong control of d4, a pawn chain that blocks the a1-h8 diagonal, but the development of his queenside is awkward. Black can either try for a queenside pawn expansion to eventually open up the diagonal, or look toward an Open Game (Ruy Lopez closed) setup, where he has not committed his queenside pawns.

Black is several tempi ahead of a Spanish or Italian with a similar structure. I think black is equal here wherever white places the light square bishop (e2, d3, or c4).

The Pirc

White has played Nb1-c3 and left the c-pawn at home.
White has control of d5, but the d4 square is temporarily weakened. White has not used a tempo with c2-c4 so e4-e5 is more likely to work.  The main long term difference is that white can push his d-pawn to d5, or trade pawns on e5 or c5 without a permanent weakness at d4. Pawn moves are commital, and also use a move. The Pirc/Modern allows white to put pressure on black the earliest, but will result in wild games as black must play dynamically or be suffocated.

All of these approaches work for white. If you play the Pirc/Modern as black, than you will likely already know this formation causes some issues for black. I suggest playing as white lines that cause you trouble as black. Either you will have success as white, or you will learn something about how to play the black side.

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