Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Exchange Slav: The Boring Way

1.d4 d5 2.c4 d6 3.cxd5 cxd5 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.Nf3 Nc6

This is the tabiya (common starting position) for the Exchange Slav.

Statistics: +21%, =58%, -21%

The position is symmetric. Only 2 pawns are off the board, but an open c-file means the rooks will likely be traded off early. The better player has fewer opportunities to outplay their opponent than in many positions. Still, some interesting games begin here.

6.Bf4 Bf5 7.e3 e6 8.Bd3 Bxd3 9.Qxd3

Statistics: +2%, =94%, -4%

8.Bd3, exchanging off light-squared bishops, is White's most direct attempt at a draw. This is a sensible line if Black is a stronger player.

Black often agrees to the draw by playing:

9...Bd6 10.Bxd6 Qxd6

Statistics: +1%, =98%, -1%

For example:

Kramnik-Anand, Groningen 1993

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. cxd5 cxd5 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bf4 Bf5 7. e3 e6 8. Bd3
Bxd3 9. Qxd3 Bd6 10. Bxd6 Qxd6 11. O-O 1/2-1/2

Movsesian-Svidler, Shenyang 2000

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. cxd5 cxd5 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. Bf4 Bf5 7. e3 e6 8. Bd3
Bxd3 9. Qxd3 Bd6 10. Bxd6 Qxd6 11. O-O 1/2-1/2

Dorfman-Grischuck, Mallorca 2004

1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 c6 4. cxd5 cxd5 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bf4 Bf5 7. e3 e6 8. Bd3
Bxd3 9. Qxd3 Bd6 10. Bxd6 Qxd6 11. O-O O-O 12. Rac1 Rfc8 13. h3 h6 1/2-1/2


Temposchlucker said...

Looks like endgame heaven.

likesforests said...

Heh! Yes and no. If you're aiming for a win, you want something to work with when you reach the ending. For example, the Ruy Lopez / Exchange Variation promises White a kingside pawn majority with queens, a set of pawns, and a set of minor pieces already off the board. ;)

likesforests said...

This position has more play left in it than the statistics imply, but if Black really wants a win he plays 6...a6 or 9...Be7 to preserve some material.

drunknknite said...

Your post makes this opening sound so dry. I play this opening for Black and I never EVER play for a draw from the opening so I know many ways for Black to get good, complicated play.

This opening is not ambitious for White. When White plays this you know he is at least content with a draw.

If Black is not content with a draw, then there is a game. Black needs to find ways to differentiate the position. One way I like is to play e5 and play with an IQP (if White doesn't exchange on e5 then Black can play e4 and is winning with the plan f5-f4). This gives good attacking chances and is especially effective if you can catch White just going through the motions of the position without looking at the next pawn exchange.

Obviously Black wants to keep as many pieces on the board as possible, so usually I like to just defend the squares on the c file with my pieces and let my rooks come into the action somewhere else... for instance Black can play Bg6 instead of Bd3 and open the h-file with the Bishop exchange.

It's also an interesting position because White really doesn't have much to do. Any move on the queenside could be fatal. A plan like a3-b4 leaves the c4 square completely abandoned and Black should win easily, but even a move like b3 may allow Black to make use of the c3 square. Similarly, a move like a3 may allow a Black knight to post up on b3. So before Black commits to any attack, he can just prod the queenside looking for White to slip. Posting a knight on c4 will usually provoke b3, and then Na3-b5 and the knight is ready to post up even deeper in Black's camp. And before the knight goes to b5 you may even be able to get in b5-b4, which is completely crushing. The object in these kinds of positions if you're not going to open another file is to take away all your opponent's plans and gain a small space advantage. Then after you have brought the game to a complete halt where both sides are seemingly aimlessly maneuvering you try to find a position where you can safely open the position and begin an assault, and then it's a game of cat and mouse. Unless as so often happens at the club level they overlook your idea completely and you are allowed to just run them over like a bulldozer, Botvinnik style...