PIRC DEFENCE
There is a huge quantity of games played with the Pirc Defence. However, the number of really important ideas is comparatively small, and the central variations which are called theory are still easily comprehensible. Thatís why this opening is very wide-spread, particularly among club players. The centrepiece of our new Training CD is a "small database" with eight database reports and 116 key games, where the author Grandmaster Aleksei Lugovoi has compiled all his knowledge about this opening. The entire material has been checked and revised by Alexander Khalifman, FIDE world champion 1999, so the quality of this database is very high. A further databases includes all Pirc games available from ChessBase, more than 80,000 in total, make the CD a top product also from the quantitative point of view.
 

The Pirc Defence

By the Grandmaster School in St. Petersburg

There is a huge quantity of games played with the Pirc Defence. However, the number of really important ideas is comparatively small, and the central variations belonging to the Pirc theory are still easily comprehensible. That is why this opening is very widely used, particularly among club players.

The centrepiece of our new Training CD is a "small database" with eight database reports and 116 key games, where the author Grandmaster Aleksei Lugovoi has compiled all his knowledge about this opening. The entire material has been checked and revised by Alexander Khalifman, FIDE world champion 1999, so the quality of this database is very high. A further database includes all Pirc games available from ChessBase, more than 80,000 in total, making the CD a top product also from the quantitative point of view.

The Grandmaster School St Petersburg was founded by Alexander Khalifman. The FIDE World Champion of 1999 and other Grandmasters from St Petersburg give chess lectures to interested students of all ages.

Sample line: 4.Bg5

This section looks at a rather malicious development system. For a long time it was less popular than other variations, but it is currently found in many games between strong players. Black has to play very accurately to avoid getting into trouble.

So, we play 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Bg5 and get the position in question. There are two possible plans for White's play. First, the active bishop can exert a strong pressure along the h4-d8 diagonal, greatly enhancing the pawn attack f4 and e5. Secondly, White can play for an exchange of Black's strong dark-squared bishop (Qd2 and Bh6).

Black's counterplay is primarily on the queenside: c6 and b5 or c5. In some lines White's bishop on g5 stands badly and can be exchanged after h6, g5 and Nh5 (of course, for White's queen must stand on d2).

This system often produces positions which require both sides to play precisely. We shall look at the following possibilities:

1.) 4...Nbd7?! - a feasible yet passive move which I would not recommend for Black. After the natural response 5.f4 White has a large advantage in the centre, and Black's pieces stand too passively for creating serious counterplay.

2.) 4...h6 - a consistent move. White's active bishop often frustrates Black, so the wish to finally force its position is quite natural. There are four sensible responses to Black's last move. The most peaceful of them is perhaps 5.Bxf6, and after 5...exf6 Black has no problems. f6-f5 allows him to activate his dark-squared bishop and get an excellent play. Also 5.Bf4 is not popular because the bishop is not in a good position here, blocking White's own f-pawn. Besides this, after the possible breaks e7-e5 or g6-g5, it proves to be out of place as well.

The move 5.Be3 poses more serious problems to Black. In this case he is usually not in a rush to play Bg7, but prefers to immediately launch an active play on the queenside by 5...c6 or 5...a6, the latter move being more popular even though it involves additional risks.

At present the most widely used continuation is 5.Bh4. White keeps the bishop on the important h4-d8 diagonal and is going to start an active play in the centre of the board. Black's most natural response in this case is 5...Bg7. 5...c6 is also possible, but in my opinion this line is less promising for Black because with the bishop on the h4-d8 diagonal the c-pawn can be advanced to c5 immediately in some lines, and by playing c7-c6 Black loses this opportunity.

3.) 4...c6 5.Qd2 - a forced move, since in the case of an active 5.f4 Black has 5...Qb6, making White play 6.Rb1, thus losing his right to castle on the queenside. 5...b5 - continuing with the plan. Black can also steer into one of the variations already discussed by playing 5...h6.

It should be noted that the initial moves of the variation with 4.Bg5 are of great importance, and any slight inaccuracy in Black's play may quickly result in a hard position. For example, when Azmaiparashvili carelessly played 5...Qa5 in the position shown on the diagram, he was immediately punished by Gulko.

6.Bd3 (b4 was threatening, winning the pawn). The other advance 6.f3 is evidently weaker, because this square might be useful for the knight and because it's better for a pawn to step two squares forward or stay in its place.

This position is important for the estimation of the whole variation. Black deliberately delays the bishop's development to g7, waiting for White to reveal his plan. Top level grandmasters play 6...Nbd7 or 6...h6. The move 6...e5, though standard for such structures, does not work here, because after 7.dxe5 dxe5 8.Bxb5! White gains a great advantage.

6...Nbd7 - a flexible yet risky move. White has to make a choice between the aggressive 7.f4 - Macieja,B - Azmaiparashvili,Z 0-1 and the more fundamental 7.Nf3. The following play is very complex and quite risky for Black in both cases, as is usual in the Pirc Defence.

6...h6 - a familiar move, but the position has already changed. 7.Bxf6 is now more dangerous for Black, but the retreats Bh4 or Be3 have become more interesting.

4.) 4...Bg7 - the most popular response. The main continuation is 5.Qd2, but White also has several alternatives. 5.e5 - a rare move. An early advance of the central pawns does not usually bring success against the Pirc Defence. Still, this move is more justified here than in other lines, since the pressure of White's strong g5-bishop on Black's position is quite unpleasant. Black has to work to equalize the position.

5.f4 - a normal but inflexible move. As a rule, after the waiting move Qd2 White succeeds in making Black reveal his plan. Now Black can transpose into the main variation after 5...c6 6.Qd2, or choose another interesting line: 5...h6 6.Bh4 c5!?. The position after this move is very sharp, and the player either needs good memory and Fritz's aid or fine calculating abilities and tactical vision to play it well.

5.Qd2 - this continuation is especially unpleasant for Black. Now he must play either 5...h6 or 5...c6, because if he plays 5...0-0 he may suffer a dreadful attack on the kingside, and 5...Nbd7 is too passive.

5...c6 6.f4 - the other possible move is 6.Bh6 which is regarded in detail in the section devoted to the variation with 4.Be3 (4.Be3 Bg7 5.Qd2 c6 6.Bh6) 6...b5 7.Bd3 0-0 8.Nf3 Bg4 - a series of natural moves producing a position with chances for both sides.

5...h6. White has several opportunities, and the most ambitious of them is 6.Bh4. The move 6.Bf4 is less popular, but in my opinion this line also provides many opportunities for an interesting and creative play.