Avrukh against the Slav

There has been some recent chat about Avrukh’s line against the Slav (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3) and whether 4…Bg4 is a complete solution.

Avrukh’s line continues 5.Qb3 Qb6 6.Nc3 e6 7.Nh4!? when some have echoed Boris’s observation that this is tempo down on another Slav line (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bf5 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4 Bg4 7.Qb3 Qb6). This is not so significant for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the other line is now not highly regarded for Black, so White being a tempo down on it still leaves plenty of scope for an edge. Secondly, and more importantly, White’s play in this line is all about slowly exploiting a long-term advantage (the bishop pair); it’s not a razor-sharp race.

An interesting TN was recently introduced for Black by GM Larry Kaufman, in scoring a fine win against GM Boris Gulko.

7…Bh5 8.h3 Qxb3N 9.axb3 Na6 10.g4 Bg6 (Kaufman mentions 10…Nb4, when after 11.Ke2 we are heading the same way as below) 11.Nxg6 hxg6 Now Gulko’s 12.g5 looks an error, as Kaufman says.  Kaufman mentions 12.Bg2 and says “Rybka rates the game nearly equal.” I would say this is a position where the computer assessment is inaccurate. e.g. 12…Nb4 13.Ke2 The combined Quality Chess office opinion (Aagaard, Shaw and Greet) is that White is better. It’s not huge, but this is the sort of position White must grind out with his two-bishop edge. Maybe, Bd2, f2-f4, and gradually prepare a kingside advance (perhaps g4-g5, h3-h4-h5).

The Slav is one of the toughest tests of any 1.d4 repertoire, so it will be difficult to do better than this whichever line White chooses. In 2009, big time players such as Topalov, Carlsen, Morozevich and Wang Yue have all played 7.Nh4!?. If it’s good enough for them…

12 thoughts on “Avrukh against the Slav”

  1. Well, I should note that Kaufman recommends Nb4 instead of 10…Bg6 (if now Ke2, maybe g5). There are also possibilities of playing Na6 earlier. I’m still not sure.

  2. It strikes me that another approach would also be to hold back on g2-g4 for a move or two and play 10.Bd2 immediately , meeting 10…Nb4 with 11.Rc1. Then there are interesting lines such as 11…Bd6 12.c5 Bc7 13.Nb5!?

    Of course there are earlier alternatives for Black. White is probably only slightly better at most, but these sort of positions are going to be decided by who plays better over the next 20,30,40 moves etc, as would invariably be the case anyway even if White could prove an “edge”! – you are rarely going to be able to blow your opponent away with opening analysis in the 4.e3 Slav.

    I’d actually be happy playing this line as either colour.

  3. Unrelated, but could someone provide the first the first 5-7 moves Avrukh currently expects to use against the KID and GID?

    For example:

    1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 O-O 5. Nc3 d6 6. e4 e5 7. d5
    1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 d5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. e4 Nb6 7. Ne2

    I’m trying to get a head-start on his recommendations. I want some familiarity. Although, it’s fine if he hasn’t settled on a move order yet.

  4. I’m quite lost on the first ten moves or so of the GM Rep 2 lines as well, but it has been said that it’s fianchetto against everything. But after fianchettoing I am lost.

  5. Yes, and there are many plans for the fianchetto lines. I’m not sure what to expect. Although I would like the above move-orders.

    I also hope that Avrukh carefully deals with transpositional possibilities and fashionably sidelines. For example, if I’m trying to reach the above lines, this move is annoying:

    1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 O-O 5. Nc3 Nc6

    now if I try to get into e4 lines: 6. e4 e5 7. d5 Nd4 8. Nge2 c5. Normally, c5 is met by dxc6 because Black’s pawn already advanced to d6 but here it doesn’t work and Black has an excellent position. This is one pitfall. If 6. Nf3 is tried: 6.Nf3 d5 7. cxd5 Nxd5 8.O-O Nb6 we’ve been MOVE-ORDERED into a totally different main-line than I listed above for this Grunfeld. This 5. …Nc6 move despite being strange, is a transpositional weapon and I’m not sure how to meet it. Hopefully Avrukh examines such offbeat ideas. Although, I’m having enough trouble finding the way to advantage against the Grunfeld and KID. Still, White is a move up and has more space so I’m sure that the g3 lines provide some tiny edge with best play.

  6. Well, OK, I may have found a solution: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 O-O 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.e3 d6 7.Nge2 e5 8.d5 (or Black plays the strong exd4). I’m not sure if it’s as good as the main line but Black seems to have a reasonable game. Anyway, moves like 5…Nc6 could have caused significant problems after a thoughtless 6. e4. Avrukh should carefully examine transpositions so we don’t get into trouble this way.

  7. @James


    10.Bd2 instead of 10.g4 could also be interesting. Either way, as you suggest, the result will be decided in the middlegame or endgame.

    The 4.e3 Bg4 Slav is indeed exactly the sort of heavyweight line that GMs are willing to play with either colour. In my case, so far I have played it with Black, including scraping a draw with Etienne Bacrot last year (the 50-move rule saved me).

    Al and Nic,

    re the Volume 2 anti-KID and Grunfeld lines, I can’t tell you move order details yet. Boris has a lot of experience playing these fianchetto lines, so I am sure he will be careful of move order tricks.

  8. Here’s another Slav line that I’m having trouble with:

    1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 d5 4.e3 a6 5.Bd3 Bg4 6.Nbd2 e6 7.O-O Nbd7
    8.Qc2 Bh5 9.b3 Bg6

    Avrukh doesn’t cover it at all but I’m not sure how to get an advantage. Then again, even the lines Avrukh covers have only a tiny edge. Allowing Black’s light-squared bishop comfortably out seems to cause a lot of problems in the 4. e3 line. The a6 variation of the Slav isn’t so strong against the move orders with Nf3 and Nc3 or even Nc3 and e3.

    OK, I think 10. e4 does actually lead to a small edge.

    Still, it seems that the toughest tries against Avrukh’s choices are 4. e3 a6 followed by Bg4 and the earlier 4. e3 Bg4. If these lines were somehow made to give White a little more, then this would be the perfect repertoire.

  9. @AL


    Regarding this line, you say “Avrukh doesn’t cover it at all.” Actually, on page 271, Boris writes, “8…Bh5 will just transpose to one of these lines, as no independent variations have been seen with it in practice.”

    The point is Black’s other bishop is still on f8, and it is 99% sure it will either go to e7 or d6, thus transposing to Boris’s lines. I agree that 10.e4 (playing in exactly the style Boris suggests) may give a small edge.

    I sense that you believe only getting a tiny edge against the Slav is a flaw in the repertoire – I would suggest it is a great achievement, as the Slav is one of Black’s soundest defences.

    Re your general point about 4.e3 lines allowing Black’s light-squared bishop to develop. True. However, we can target that bishop, and 4.e3 also has the major plus of defending the c4-pawn. Compare the other main lines against the Slav with 4.Nc3: Black often takes on c4 and White plays a2-a4 to make sure he regains the pawn. Much later in the game White often suffers due to the nasty holes on b3 and b4. Swings and roundabouts…

  10. “Regarding this line, you say “Avrukh doesn’t cover it at all.” Actually, on page 271, Boris writes, “8…Bh5 will just transpose to one of these lines, as no independent variations have been seen with it in practice.”

    Right, except that my line includes an early Bg6 so, yes he doesn’t cover it.

    And no, I don’t consider it a flaw, I’m just a little disappointed that White doesn’t get more. I’d consider it a flaw if I knew a line against the Slav that gave White a clear and stable advantage but I know of no such lines right now.

    BTW: Against Bg4, I’ve adopted cxd5 because even with your recent suggestions, I think it’s equal and the structure is a bit more difficult to play for White. I don’t like cxd5 in principle because Black’s knight can go to c6, Black is less cramped and White has less central pressure but I’ve found that I do get some initiative in a position where White does have a tiny edge. Although, I’m surprised to find this and I’m wondering if maybe I’m wrong. After all, compared to the exchange Slav with Bf4, White’s dark squared bishop is passive… but Bg4 may not be as useful as Bf5 due to Ne5 tricks. Do you think cxd5 is logical at this point?

  11. Logic in Chess is always evasive, as it depends upon particulars just as much as general considerations. I dont want to answer this question, as my gut instinct is 50-50, and it depends on analysis. What I will say is that in practice it is probably a good idea, as you are getting good positions from it. Chess is after all a game, and all we try to do with our books is to suggest ways to get a head start.

  12. Hi Jacob, any thoughts on an updated GM1 + 2 to get rid of the kinks and crush some of Black’s solutions to many of Avrukh’s lines?

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