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Very Hot Topic (More than 25 Replies) Pirc 4 Bf4: Best Lines/Move Orders (Read 32503 times)
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Re: Pirc 4 Bf4: Best Lines/Move Orders
Reply #1 - 02/06/18 at 19:57:26
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For history, Carl Stutz (NM from USA) was playing 4.Bf4 regularly in the 1980s. I have lost touch with him, for all I know he is still playing it today. Back then Stutz had a game annotated in Chess Horizons, and Patrick Wolff concluded 4.Bf4 was a very interesting line. Wolff frequently played the Pirc before he became a GM. Before Wolff's opinion appeared in print, I was emboldened by the idea that 4.Bf4 was "inferior", and tried the Pirc against Stutz, losing rather quickly to a stereotyped mating attack. I would dig up my game score except there is nothing to be learned from it -- unlike Wolff, I almost never played the Pirc. Perhaps I can find the Chess Horizons game in my personal database.

Fixed typo dig for did.
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Pirc 4 Bf4: Best Lines/Move Orders
02/06/18 at 19:03:04
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There is no shortage of ways to meet the Pirc defence (1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6). Already at move four white has quite a wide choice of moves and not least of these are the two bishop moves 4.Be3 and 4.Bg5. In terms of played games, coverage in litterature and the interest in discussing these lines on this very forum they are popular subjects.

In contrast the seemingly related other bishop step 4.Bf4 has a number of played games several magnitudes less, a lot less coverage in litterature and apart from like one thread from about ten years ago, no real dedicated thread on this forum. The last of these things seems to me like something that can and should be rectified; perhaps especially considering that some limited recent musing (on chesspub and elsewhere) has pointed in the direction that black probably needs to take definite care to play precisely and from an early stage even. So, in other words I am starting a Pirc 4 Bf4: Best Lines/Move Orders thread. Subject of discussion is whichever line/-s of the 4.Bf4 variation seems interesting to discuss, previous analysis – for example in chess books, general strategic considerations, best move orders, games, history, etc. etc. In short pretty much everything. As for discussion of lines that are not strictly reaching the position after 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Bf4 (the 4.Bf4 Pirc), for example 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.Bf4 (the 4.Bf4 Modern), I won't mind if it is brought up here as well.

So what can be said about (1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Bf4)? Some strategic considerations I am thinking of:

a) It keeps ideas of Qd2+Bh6. This seems very much important for white in his quest to put pressure on black. Conceivably Bh6 can also be quite a versatile resource because the general idea of going Bh6 seems to remain in positions even with slightly different white piece configurations; for example I will note that regardless of what white puts on the f3 square (Nf3, f3-pawn or nothing) Bh6 can still be used and be effective. In addition actually executing by going Bh6 seems to sometimes cause problems for black in setting up the way he would like. The transposition to the line 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.Qd2 c6 6.Bh6 for example is a real possibility and not everyone would like to go for this (Kornev recommends 5...c6 in his recent book though so not him).

b) After 4.Bf4 white is inherently still quite flexible with where to put his pieces. This is obviously good and much similar compared to the state of things in the sister variations 4.Bg5 and 4.Be3. What is perhaps missing compared to those variations is the possibility to throw in f4 in the mix for white. Arguably this is not the end of the world but at the same time in both 4.Be3 and 4.Bg5 there are some times, especially against permissive black play, where going f4 is direct and strong. Not to sound alarmist though; even without this there are good opportunities to punish black if he plays sub-optimally (and not rarely in ways involving Bh6).

c) There is something to be said for controlling e5 directly like this. For one going e4-e5 as white becomes somewhat easier and can definitely be used as a resource at certain moments (arguably for example 4...a6 5.e5 is already a way to make black's life a bit less enjoyable). One should always reckon with the possibility of black going e5 at some point though. This is one of the freeing breaks he seeks to achieve in the Pirc after all and with a bishop on f4 there could be tempo losses for white in there. Good news for white however is that 4.Bf4 makes sure e5 is controlled well enough that black is not going to go e7-e5 himself without some kind of preparation. Most natural is of course to develop with Nbd7 or Nc6 as black and then sometime try for e7-e5. In my experience of the Pirc only the combination of achieving e5 and otherwise having a sensical position is enough to eventually equalise though and it is not totally clear knight developments early solves black's problems; although this can be discussed of course. As more of a footnote one can also imagine black going Nh5 to drive away the white bishop. Generally though white is not against moving his bishop again in principle - as long as it has drawn out something from black like a premature lunge or weakening.

I'll post some thoughts on concrete lines later but for now please everyone enjoy the evening and feel free to reply if you want.
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