The Chigorin Defense is a rarely played defense to the Queen's Gambit that begins with 1. d4 d5 2. c4 Nc6.
It violates several classical principles: black does not maintain the center pawn at d5, the c-Pawn is blocked, and often black must be willing to trade his c8B for white's N on f3. In addition, sometimes he is forced to sacrifice a P, but there are chances of regaining it later. In return Black gets quick development and piece pressure on the center. While it's generally considered “playable” it's only rarely seen. GM Alexander Morozevich is the only modern GM who regularly plays it.
Theoreticians will say that blocking the Pawn on c7 with the N is bad because the P on c7 should either go to c6 to support the d5-Pawn or attack the center by ...c5. Proponents claim that black's active piece play in the center counterbalances the disadvantages. In many older books, prejudices against Chigorin's Defense resulted in wrong evaluations. This idea of Chigorin's was later demonstrated in openings as the Nimzo-lndian and the Gruenfeld.
Chigorin never liked QP openings because he hated any opening which lead to slow pressure on the opponent's position and a lengthy positional struggle. He always aimed for play where there was a possibility of creating concrete plans and variations, not abstract reasoning. He suffered a number of painful defeats in his matches with Steinitz and Tarrasch, but they were better players.
Chigorin rebelled against what was known as the “Modern School” in his day, i.e. the teachings of Steinitz and Tarrasch, who attempted to establish laws that applied in every situation because they restricted creative thinking. Chigorin believed it was necessary to take into account the specific features of the position and to make a dynamic appraisal of each position's strategic and tactical possibilities.
The Chigorin Defense is a fighting opening in which black can count on equal play with adequate counterchances. The positions reached often result in unusual P-structures. Morozevich pointed out that the advantage was that his opponents wasted a lot of time because they didn't know where to place their pieces or what they should be aiming for. In the end, it was his belief that abstract evaluations don't matter when it comes to actually playing the game and no attempts to refute the Chigorin Defense have led anywhere. Besides Morozevich such players as Smyslov and Spassky have played it. And why not? In the Chigorin black's aim is to obtain active piece play, giving maximum scope to his pieces from the very start.
If you like attacking chess Chigorin's games are instructive and fun to play over. Jimmy Adams' Mikhail Chigorin: The Creative Genius is a great book at a reasonable price.
The following game is one of Chigorin's duels with Steinitz where he used his defense and managed to equalize without much trouble. True, he lost the game, but it was due to later mistakes, not the opening.