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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Playing the Colle

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run into the Colle lately, always by players who think they can play the first 6 or 7 moves before they even look to see what their opponent has done. This almost never works because strategy often must be modified depending the specific setup adapted. I always meet the Colle with …g6 and …Bg7. In fact I’ve been doing it since I saw this game played by Euwe against the Stonewall in a tournament in Johannesburg back in 1955 (I didn't see it in 1955, but rather a few years later!)

The Colle has its advantages: The White K quickly reaches safety in its castled position (something often neglected by lower rated players.) White opens up the center early and the possibility of a K-side attack and endgame advantage of 3P’s to 2 on the Q-side make it attractive. Some players claim the Colle is too tame, and indeed, that may be the case against stronger opponents.

Tim Harding wrote, “Once upon a time the Colle was thought to be a patzer-bashing machine.” It can be. White posts his B at d3, castles and plays e4. If Black doesn’t exchange P’s White pushes e5 and drives the N from f6 sand the classic B sac is in the air. As Harding pointed out, even if some of the preconditions of the sac are missing, the sacrifice often works in practice because it’s difficult for Black to find the right defensive moves!

Since the old days White has adapted ideas such as introducing the QB and R’s into the attack and moving the QN over to g3 to allow it to participate in the attack. Harding also warned that White must be prepared to switch to a central or Q-side strategy if appropriate. That’s what I said at the very beginning of this post! Unfortunately it’s not understood by lower rated players or, if they do understand it, they often ignore the advice because it would mean studying something other than the standard strategy aimed at a direct K-siode attack; that defeats the whole attraction to the Colle for many players.

Harding, in his book Colle System, states, “The Colle formation is not very good for White against the K-Indian setup. This is a good reason why White should not go 3.e3 unless Black has played …e6.”
In their book Winning with the Colle, Ken Smith and John Hall recommend meeting …g6 with Bg5, thereby switching to the Torre Attack. I’ve been playing the Torre for years and have found this to be quite satisfactory.

Here is a brief example of what I often run into when facing the Colle.

I’m not saying the Colle is bad. I just don’t think you can mindlessly play it regardless of what Black does. You have to be prepared to shift gears and play a different strategy when the situation calls for it. In that respect, playing the Colle correctly requires just as much study and understanding as any other opening…a point many players miss.

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