Watson on Bologan: English 1 c4 c5 for Black

11/14/2012 – "This DVD by one of ChessBase's most knowledgeable contributors contains a comprehensive look at 1...c5 employed as an anti-English repertoire," writes John Watson. "I've always loved Viktor Bologan's creative style as a player. Bologan isn't the most charismatic presenter, nor is he the worst; fortunately, the high quality material speaks for itself." Instructive review and sampler.

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Viktor Bologan: English 1 c4 c5 for Black

Review by John Watson

The recent English 1 c4 c5 for Black DVD by Viktor Bologan is a comprehensive look at 1...c5 employed as an anti-English repertoire. In general this is an instructive work by one of ChessBase's most knowledgeable contributors. I've always loved Bologan's creative style as a player, and I also recommend his other DVDs, which tend to be quite ambitious, e.g., a repertoire for White against the Sicilian in three DVDs lasting over almost 17 hours, using the Open main lines. Similarly, he presents an anti-French repertoire which bites the bullet and has White play 3 Nc3 main lines, with all the complexity that entails. And in an earlier DVD he presents a full King's Indian Defence repertoire, no easy task. Bologan isn't the most charismatic presenter, nor is he the worst; fortunately, the high quality material speaks for itself.

I suspect that Bologan is less obsessed with the details of this 1...c5 project than he is in his other DVDs; he prefers to concentrate on the main lines and is sometimes a little too casual about White's alternatives. But he also gets important things right. Let me look at the 'Fischer' variation :

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Symmetrical 5 Nf3 e6 6 a3"] [Black "Bologan analysis"] [Result "*"] [ECO "A37"] [Annotator "Watson,John"] [PlyCount "22"] [SourceDate "2012.08.10"] 1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. Nc3 e6 6. a3 {Now Bologan's main line goes} d5 ({After} 6... Nge7 7. b4 {, Bologan doesn't go into the mess of 7..Nxb4, but continues} b6 8. b5 ({I prefer} 8. Rb1 {with a limited edge}) 8... Bxc3 $6 ({This seems inferior. Why not} 8... Na5 {?}) 9. dxc3 Na5 {, targetting c4. However, I think} 10. Ne5 {gives White the better chances, e.g., } Bb7 (10... Rb8 $2 11. Qd6) (10... d5 $2 11. Bg5 O-O 12. Bf6) 11. Bxb7 Nxb7 12. Bg5) 7. b4 Nf6 ({Bologan analyses} 7... cxb4 8. axb4 dxc4 9. Qa4 (9. b5 $1) 9... Nf6 (9... a5 10. b5 Nb4 11. Ba3 Nf6 $5) 10. b5 Ne7 11. Qxc4 {with the idea Ba3, with advantage.}) 8. bxc5 O-O ({Bologan also gives} 8... d4 9. Na4 ({ here I think} 9. Nb5 {gives a small advantage, e.g.,} O-O 10. d3 a6 11. Nd6 Nd7 12. O-O Nxc5 13. Nxc8 Rxc8 14. Rb1) 9... e5 10. O-O h6 11. d3 O-O 12. Rb1 Re8 13. Nd2 Re7 14. Qc2 Qc7) 9. d4 (9. O-O dxc4) 9... dxc4 10. O-O Nd5 11. Bd2 ({ Here} 11. Nb5 $1 $14 {with the idea e4 seems to give White some advantage.}) 11... b6 $1 {(Bologan), and Black can claim equality.} *

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Symmetrical 5 Nf3 e6 6 0-0"] [Black "Bologan analysis"] [Result "*"] [ECO "A37"] [Annotator "Watson,John"] [PlyCount "28"] [SourceDate "2012.08.10"] 1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. Nc3 e6 6. O-O (6. d3 Nge7 7. Bg5 h6 8. Bd2 {is probably the most accurate way to get to the main line, generally transposing.}) 6... Nge7 {The most important line in this 5 Nc3 e6 variation goes} 7. d3 O-O 8. Bg5 ({Bologan gives the interesting line} 8. a3 d5 9. Bg5 h6 10. cxd5 exd5 11. Bxe7 Nxe7 12. d4 cxd4 13. Nxd4 Nc6 14. Nxc6 bxc6 15. Rc1 Ba6 16. Re1 Re8 17. b4 Bc4 18. e4 a5) 8... h6 9. Bd2 d5 10. a3 b6 11. Rb1 a5 $1 { Bologan's preferred order - I like this move. The best-known line in both my and Marin's book is} (11... Bb7 12. Qc1 Kh7 13. b4 cxb4 14. axb4 dxc4 15. dxc4 Qc8 {, and both Marin and Bologan follow Jobava-Alekseev, Moscow 2006 with 16 Ne4 for another 7 moves before Bologan deviates and tries to improve for Black. Objectively, I think White retains the better of things in that case, but as I show in my book, the move 16 c5! is quite strong and makes that disagreement less significant.}) 12. Na4 $6 {I think this is substandard. White has more natural alternatives, including 12 Qb3 and:} ({a)} 12. Nb5 Ba6 13. Qc1 (13. Qb3 $5) 13... Kh7 (13... g5 {and}) (13... Nf5 {appear equal.}) 14. Bc3 {, and here 14...Qd7 15 Bxg7 Kxg7 is about equal, and} d4 15. Bd2 Qd7 16. Qc2 Nf5 {should also hold the balance}) ({b)} 12. Qc1 Kh7 13. Qc2 {is Marin's suggestion:} Rb8 14. Rfd1 {, and instead of his 14...Bb7,} Nf5 $1 {should be played, since} 15. e3 (15. cxd5 Ncd4 16. Qc1 Nb3 17. Qc2 Nbd4 18. Nxd4 Nxd4 $11) (15. Qb3) 15... d4 16. Nb5 dxe3 17. fxe3 Qd7 {is equal.}) 12... dxc4 13. dxc4 e5 14. e4 Nd4 { with the idea ..Be6 or ...Bb7 and Black obviously stands well.} *

What we're finding with these videos is that, although the main point of both DVDs and the '60-minutes' series is to give a broad and necessarily simplified look at an opening line, they can still contain original and relevant theory.

Finally, I was interested in Bologan's choice of an early ...g6 in the line:

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Symmetrical 2Nf3 Nc6 w ...g6"] [Black "Bologan analysis"] [Result "*"] [ECO "A35"] [Annotator "Watson,John"] [PlyCount "32"] [SourceDate "2012.08.10"] 1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 g6 {This is respectable but not thought of as giving Black positive chances. The most important variation continues} 4. e3 Nf6 5. d4 cxd4 6. exd4 d5 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8. Qb3 Nxc3 ({Bologan also thinks that} 8... e6 {equalises, and that may be the right path. He analyses 9 Bb5 and 9 Nxd5, which are both unclear, but I think that} 9. Bg5 $1 {is a better way to fight for a small advantage.} f6 10. Bd2) 9. Bc4 $1 {A well-known trick.} Nd5 10. Bxd5 e6 11. Bxc6+ bxc6 12. O-O Qd5 {Bologan thinks that Black stands satisfactorily here.} 13. Qc3 {The 'main line', but this doesn't impress. Developing at the same time as targeting Black's dark squares is consistent. Bologan gives two moves:} ({a)} 13. Bf4 f6 14. Rfc1 g5 15. Bg3 h5 16. h4 Qxb3 ( 16... g4 17. Ne1 $1 {and Nd3}) 17. axb3 gxh4 18. Bxh4 Be7 {. Bologan says this is equal. For a player of his strength I imagine the position isn't difficult, but these DVDs should present practical lines for 'normal' players, and even a master won't be happy that Black has no real chances, whereas I think White still has a minor edge after either of two moves: a2) Black also has to prove full compensation after the simple} 19. Rxc6 {, e.g.,} ({a1)} 19. d5 $5 {(a computer suggestion) gives a small advantage:} exd5 (19... cxd5 $2 20. Rxa7 $1 Rb8 (20... Rxa7 21. Rxc8+ Bd8 22. Rxd8+) 21. Bg3 e5 22. Nxe5 $1) 20. Rxc6 O-O ( 20... Kf7 21. Nd4) 21. Nd4 {with a modest positional advantage. Nothing special, but no fun for Black to play}) 19... Rg8 (19... Bd7 20. Rca6) 20. Rc7 a5 21. d5 $1) ({b)} 13. Bg5 {is also interesting, probably slightly in White's favour after} Qxb3 14. axb3 Bg7 15. Rfc1 Bb7 16. Ra4 f6 17. Bf4 {due to Black's somewhat more significant weaknesses. Bologan gives} Bf8 {and stops, when the reorganisation} 18. Nd2 g5 19. Bg3 {is still not fully equal. Again, this is probably good enough for a professional like Bologan as Black, but potentially uncomfortable for everyone else. You might want to look into 1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 e5 to retain more dynamic chances.}) 13... Be7 14. Bh6 f6 15. Qe3 Bd7 16. h4 Kf7 {Here Black covers many more squares than in the previous note and is at least equal.} *

Sampler: Victor Bologan - English 1.c4 c5 for Black


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