Slav Defense

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Welcome to my 3rd Beginner Chess Openings Series on the Slav Defense. My 1st and 2nd Beginner Chess Openings Series featured the “Stonewall Attack” and the “French Defense.” These three openings represent a comprehensive opening repertoire for the beginner chess player. Examining the big picture of this beginner opening system, you will find that the general ideas and pawn formations are very similar – enabling the beginner chess player to focus more on understanding general positional concepts and patterns of development and less on memorization of move orders. The Slav Defense operates on similar principles found in the Stonewall Attack and French Defense, in that the pawns will be placed primarily on 1 color (the light squares c6, d5, e6) and the pieces will emphasize control of the dark squares in the center (c5, d6, e5, etc..)
Basic Pawn Structure in the Schallopp Variation of the Slav Defense

Basic Pawn Structure in the Schallopp Variation of the Slav Defense

Of the 3 openings that I have chosen for this comprehensive beginner chess opening series, the Slav Defense is definitely the most complex. There are just so many complicated lines that I have decided to focus exclusively on the Schallopp Variation because it is the simplest to learn and still very effective. The credibility of the Schallopp Variation is enhanced by it’s regular use at the top level by Super-GMs Alexey Shirov, Boris Gelfand, and Alexey Dreev. The Schallopp Variation is distinguished from other lines in the Slav Defense because it thematically involves the deployment of the light-squared bishop to f5 where it will be active and outside of the pawn chain (e6, d5, c6). In the video for Part 1 of this Beginner Chess Openings series, I examine four different games to provide the big picture on main lines in the Schallopp Defense involving an early Nf3 and e3 by white.

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Game 1: Inarkiev vs Shirov – Early 0-0-0 and Psychotic Attack

Inarkiev plays one of the main lines with an early Nf3 and e3, leading to 6. Nh4 to gain the positional advantage of the 2 bishops. Shirov employs an excellent manuever with 8. …Ne4 and 9. …Nd6 – placing the knight on d6 where it will exert maximum influence on the center and also pressuring white’s Nh4 to entice some weakening of white’s kingside with 9. g3. Black’s solid play in the opening deprives white of activity, and with 14. …0-0-0 and 15. …Rh5 black’s attack is rolling smoothly on the h-file. Shirov continues by sacrificing a rook for 3 pawns and a strong initiative, demonstrating just how dangerous the opening H-file can be in a situation of opposite-side castling. Shirov’s plan in this game is an excellent example for black against the early Nh4 by white.

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Game 2: Carlsen vs Gelfand – Solid Positional Play Achieves Equality

Carlsen employs a similar line as Inarkiev in game 1, however he plays h3 instead of g3 – a less committal move that doesn’t weaken the white kingside as much. Gelfand releases the tension in the center with 10. …dxc4 and proceeds to achieve equality with the thematic break 15. …e5. Although Carlsen went on to win the endgame, black had reached a very acceptable position out of the opening.

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Khismatullin vs Dreev: How to Attack if White Castles Queenside?

White plays an interesting combination of main line ideas, first chasing the bishop pair with 6. Nh4 and then activating the queen and putting pressure on b7 with 7. Qb3. Dreev reacts with strong development and immediately attacks white’s king after 13. 0-0-0 with 13. …a5! Dreev flexibly leaves his king in the center to confuse white and strive for the initiative, leading to a clear advantage for black out of the opening.

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Babula vs Dreev: Delayed Exchange Variation with Early Qb3

Babula employs a delayed Exchange Variation and attacks b7 early with 6. Qb3 – it is very important to note that you don’t want to respond with Qb6 because these doubled pawns on b7 and b6 can become very weak. Dreev employs a solid variation that does not allow any tactics from white, specifically playing an early 9. …Nd7 to avoid any problems with his knight on c6. White achieves superficial pressure on the queenside, but Dreev is able to push the white pieces back and seize the initiative with a series of forcing moves. After 20. …c5 black has achieved an advantage out of the opening due to his well-coordinated, centralized pieces and dynamic pawn center, while white’s pieces are not coordinated at all and his knights look ridiculous on h4 and a4. Due to legitimate pressure achieved in the opening, Dreev went on win a nice endgame as after 40. Nd4 black can simply respond with 40. …Rc4 and will be winning a few more of white’s pawns.

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