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The Triangle Setup – A Complete Defense Against 1.d4

By Davide Nastasio

Last year I played the Dutch and the English defense. While I had good experiences online with the Dutch, I really had bad experiences in tournament–where real chess is played! So this year I badly needed a makeup change in my opening repertoire as Black against 1.d4. The answer to my prayers came in the form of this DVD from Chessbase, which makes Caissa a real goddess. She answers prayers. GM Michal Krasenkow is clearly a coach at heart, because the first thing which hit me in his introductory video was “you need to play this opening, and then come back to the DVD for guidance, and see where you deviated from the lines proposed here….” This advice is just worth the price of the DVD, because it is the only and true way one learns an opening. I followed the advice to the letter. I began to watch the videos, and then played a lot of blitz games where I had some bad surprises. Then I returned to the videos and discovered what, strangely, my mind had remembered wrong! It was a great learning experience, and I’m honestly happy to have known such a great teacher through this DVD. Now let’s go to describe the DVD format and content. One video of introduction, and one video on the line 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.Bxe7 Qxe7.


One video on the line:  1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c6 4.Nbd2 f5.  This is where GM Krasenkow recommends the Stonewall to fight against this White’s structure.


Two videos on the line: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c6 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2 b5


Three videos on the line: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c6 4.Qc2 dxc4 5.Qxc4 Nf6


Four videos on the line: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c6 4.e3


One video on the line: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.cxd5


One video on the line: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.e4


Eight videos on the line:  1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.Nf3 dxc4


All the theoretical videos are followed by 13 video clips on test positions, which show the student how much of the topics treated in the videos he/she understood. Then there is an extra database with 80 deeply annotated games, and 5 articles written by GM Krasenkow to give the students a better understanding of the lines treated. I feel some players could find the title misleading (a complete defense against 1.d4) because at club level many White players use the London System: 1.d4, 2.Nf3, 3.Bf4; or the Veresov 1.d4,d5  2.Nc3 and Bg5; maybe also the Torre Attack.  But in the DVD I didn’t find an example on how to counter these openings.

In reality, the author begins with: “Dear Chess Friends, the semi-slav defense followed by e7.e6 and c7-c6… etc.” For example the author begins by saying: “White can play 3.Nc3 or 3.Nf3” and he always refers only to moves after White has played 2.c4.  But we all know that White can play: 1.d4,d5  2.Bg5 or 1.d4,d5  2. Nc3 right away.  Or 1.d4,d5  2. e4, etc. However, thanks to living in this wonderful internet age, I contacted directly the author to address this problem, and he kindly answered with the following: “No, I don’t cover Queen Pawn’s Opening (without c2-c4) at all. I don’t think the Triangle makes sense in that case.” I asked him if he would do a second DVD covering those (let’s say, unorthodox) openings arising after 1.d4, which are quite common at club level.  His answer was: “No, it is a marginal topic from Black’s point of view.”

So I believe the point on the title is settled, this DVD doesn’t give a complete defense against 1.d4, but it gives a complete defense against 1.d4 followed by 2.c4, and the author does a good job for that. I also checked how many games the author had against the openings I mentioned above, and in fact, he was right: out of hundreds of opponents playing 1.d4 against him  followed by 2.c4, only 6 games were played without 2.c4, so the author was right in trying to give a repertoire which would cover likely the 90% of the games beginning with 1.d4. Of course, the next question for club tournament players like me is “but what do I do if White plays one of those systems mentioned above?” Well, luckily Chessbase is the Answer! First of all let’s review the advice of GM Krasenkow against a possible Catalan setup, where Black should use a Dutch Stonewall. Chessbase  already has a DVD covering such opening in depth by IM Valeri Lilov (one of the greatest coaches in the world!): Then for the not orthodox 1.d4 openings which some club players could use to surprise us, this is another product one should have: In this DVD IM Andrew Martin covers the openings which happen frequently at club level, and are not covered by GM Krasenkow.

Honestly, I really like GM Krasenkow’s DVD, and found that every time I lost a game, I just had to return back to the DVD and see that I missed some of his words of advice. This was a product I referenced over and over, and I’m quite happy with it. This is one of the games from the database provided by GM Krasenkow with his own comments; in this game it is possible to see the traditional tactics played in this opening, how to mount the attack on the kingside with relative piece play, and a beautiful sacrifice:

(23) Gleizerov,Evgeny (2545) 
       Hector,Jonny        (2500) [E04]
       Excelsior Cup Gothenburg (4), 10.01.1997 [Tisdall]
       [Annotations from CBM 57 are updated and adapted for this survey; my additional notes are marked MK.]

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 [MK: 3…e6 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2 b5 6.0–0 Bb7 7.a4 Nf6 8.Ne5 a6 9.Nc3 Qb6 – game] 4.Nc3 e6 5.g3 dxc4 6.Bg2 b5 7.Ne5 Qb6 8.0–0 Bb7 9.a4 a6 10.e4 [MK: 10.b3 cxb3 11.Qxb3 is not dangerous for Black: 11…Qxd4 (11…Be7 12.Be3 Nd5 , like in Romanishin – Goloshchapov, is quite possible, too; 11…b4!?) 12.axb5 axb5! 13.Rxa8 Bxa8 14.Bf4 Bb4 15.Nxb5 cxb5 16.Bxa8 0–0= 1–0 Tregubov,P (2642)-Fier,A (2653)/Barcelona 2009/CBM 133 (39)] 10…Nfd7 [10…c5!? 11.d5 Nbd7 12.f4°; MK: 10…Be7 is risky due to 11.d5! cxd5 12.exd5 0–0 (12…exd5 is now bad as the rook on a8 is always hanging, cf. annotations to Romanishin – Goloshchapov: 13.Nxd5 Nxd5™ 14.Bxd5 0–0 15.Be3 Qc7 16.Bf4±; ¹12…b4 13.Be3 Qc7 14.d6! Bxd6 15.Bxb7 Qxb7 16.Qxd6 bxc3 17.Rfd1ƒ) 13.d6 Bxd6? (13…Qxd6™ 14.Bxb7 Ra7 15.Qf3±) 14.Bxb7 Ra7 15.Bg2 Bxe5 16.Be3 Qc7 17.axb5+– 1–0 Krasenkow,M (2495)-Sherbakov,R (2495)/Katowice 1992/TD (27); MK: 10…Nbd7 is more accurate than the text move. White has hardly anything better than 11.Nxd7 (11.Be3 Rd8 12.Qe2 c5! 13.axb5 axb5 14.Nxd7 Nxd7 15.d5 Be7 is good for Black) ] 11.Nxd7 [11.Bf4 Ftacnik  11…Nxe5 12.Bxe5 Nd7 13.Bf4÷; MK: 11.Nf3!?] 11…Nxd7 12.d5 [12.Be3 Ftacnik  12…b4 13.a5 Qc7 14.Ne2÷] 12…Bc5 [12…b4!? 13.dxe6 fxe6 14.Ne2!° is sound, with black’s compromised pawn structure offering white at least enough compensation for the sacrifice.; MK: I don’t see any problems for Black after 12…cxd5 13.exd5 e5 , e.g. 14.Ne4 (14.Be3 Bc5 15.Qg4 g6) 14…Bc5 15.Qg4 Qg6 0–1 Pukkila,M-Kilpi,T (2270)/Kuopio 1995/EXT 2000 (38); MK: 12…e5!? 13.Be3 (13.dxc6 Qxc6 14.Nd5 Bc5 15.axb5 axb5 16.Rxa8+ Bxa8 17.b4 cxb3 18.Bh3 Nb6 19.Nxb6 Bxb6 20.Ba3 b2 21.Qd2 Bd4 22.Qb4 Bc5 23.Qxb2 Bxa3 24.Qxa3 Qxe4µ 0–1 (39) Halkias,S (2574)-Dvirnyy,D (2520) Istanbul 2012; 13.b3 b4 14.dxc6 Qxc6 15.Nd5 c3 16.a5 Bc5µ 1/2 (56) Dvirnyy,D (2515)-Alsina Leal,D (2540) Forni di Sopra 2012) 13…Qd8 deserves attention, too.] 13.dxe6 fxe6 14.Bh3 [14.Qg4 0–0 gives black good counterplay on the f- and e-lines.] 14…Rf8 [Black plays with a great risk, his counterplay may not be strong enough.] [14…Nf8 looks better. Although black’s king is in danger here, it seems even more exposed in the game. 15.Qg4 (15.a5 Ftacnik  15…Qa7 16.Qh5+ g6 17.Qe2„) ] 15.Qe2 [White prefers to keep his king position as solid as possible, in keeping with a sensible Russian style.] [15.Bxe6! is the critical move. 15…Bxf2+ (15…Rd8 16.Qh5+ g6 17.Qxh7±) 16.Kg2 Nc5 a) 16…0–0–0 17.Bg5 (17.Bg5 c5 18.Bg4 Bd4 19.Bxd7+ Kxd7 20.Bxd8 Rxd8±) ; b) 16…Rd8 Ftacnik  17.Qh5+ g6 (17…Ke7 18.Bxd7) 18.Qxh7±; 17.Qh5+ (17.Bh3 Nd3 18.Qh5+±; 17.Bxc4 bxc4 18.Qh5+ Kd8 19.a5 Qb4÷) 17…g6 18.Qe5 Nd3 19.Qg7 threatening Qd7 and Bh6. Black’s position looks shattered, f or example, 19…Bc8 (19…Nc5 20.Bg5) 20.Bh6 wins. However, Gleizerov is not so confrontational, and prefers the neater path. Neat is practical, but sometimes neat is second best.] 15…Bd4 [By controlling the e5 square, black prevents the kind of invasions seen in the previous note. He also greatly improves the coordination of his pieces (his queen is no longer bound to defend c5 against Qh5+ routines) and the bishop on d4 monitors both sides of the board.] 16.Bxe6 Nc5 17.Bh3 [17.a5 Ftacnik  17…Qc7 18.Bf5 g6÷] 17…Kf7 [Simply castling by hand and creating the kind of pressure on the e- and f-lines seen in the note to white’s 14th move. Nevertheless, black must use quite a bit of time to set up this counterplay now, and white should be able to secure his advantage in the meantime.] 18.axb5 [This move tends to improve black’s chances in this type of position, and here does not seem to be an exception. The use of the d5 square is more than balanced by Black’s improved pawn structure and activated bishop on b7.] [18.Be3 is more what I would expect from Gleizerov. 18…Nd3 a) 18…Rad8 19.axb5 axb5 (19…cxb5 20.Nd5!) 20.e5 is obviously better for white.; b) 18…Bxe3 19.Qxe3 Kg8 is perhaps the best of the alternatives.; 19.Qh5+ (19.Bxd4 Ftacnik  19…Qxd4 20.Qh5+ Kg8 21.Be6+ Kh8 22.Bf5 g6 23.Bxg6 Qg7 24.Bf5 Nxb2÷) 19…Kg8 20.Be6+ Kh8 21.Bf5 is terrible for black.] 18…cxb5 19.Nd5 Qd8 [19…Bxd5?! Ftacnik  20.Qh5+ Ke7 21.Bg5+ Bf6 22.exd5±] 20.Rd1 Nd3 21.Qh5+ [21.Rxd3 Ftacnik  21…cxd3 22.Qxd3 Ba7! (22…Bxd5?! 23.exd5 Qxd5 (23…Qf6 24.Be6+ Ke8 25.Be3²) 24.Be3 Rad8 25.Rd1²) 23.Qb3 Kg8 24.Be6+ (24.Nb6+ Kh8 25.Nxa8 Bxf2+ 26.Kf1 Bxg3+–+) 24…Kh8 25.Bf4 Bc8³] 21…Kg8 22.Be6+ [22.Be3 Ftacnik  22…Bxe3 23.fxe3 Qe8µ] 22…Kh8 23.Bf5 [White has achieved the kind of attack we have seen in other variations, but with his own king in the firing line as well.] [23.Be3 Ftacnik  23…Bxe3 24.Nxe3 Qf6–+] 23…Bxf2+ 24.Kg2 [24.Kf1 Ftacnik  24…g6 25.Bxg6 Qd7 26.Nf4 Qg7 27.Bf5 Bb6µ] 24…g6 [24…h6!? 25.Qg6 (25.Bxh6 Rxf5! 26.Qxf5! gxh6 27.Rxd3 cxd3 28.Qe5+) 25…Rxf5 26.Qxf5 Bd4 gives black good compensation for the exchange. White is greatly hampered by the need to keep the bishop on b7 blocked. However, there is no need to sacrifice anything yet either.] 25.Bxg6 Qd7 26.Nf4 [26.Bf5?? Rxf5 27.Qxf5 Qxf5 28.exf5 Bxd5+; 26.Bd2 Ftacnik  26…Bd4 27.Bc3 Bxc3 28.bxc3 Qg7–+] 26…Qg7! 27.Bf5? [Gleizerov walks into a sneaky punch. Better was] [27.Nxd3 cxd3 28.Bf5 But there are a lot of nasty tricks to watch out for here as well. 28…Rxf5! (28…Rad8? 29.Bh6 Qf7 (29…Qxb2? 30.Bxf8 and black has no meaningful check.) 30.Qxf7 Rxf7 31.Kxf2 Bxe4 32.g4) 29.Qxf5 Rf8 30.Qe6 Qd4 31.Bf4 Bxe4+ 32.Kf1 Be3 (32…Bg1 Ftacnik  33.Rd2 Be3 34.Rf2 Bxf4 35.gxf4 d2µ) 33.Qe7! and white will be happy if he escapes with a draw. (33.Qe7 Kg8 34.Qe6+ Rf7µ) ] 27…Rxf5 28.Qxf5 Rf8 29.Qe6 [29.Qh5 Ftacnik  29…Rxf4! 30.Rxd3 Bxe4+ 31.Kh3 Bf5+ 32.Kg2 Qb7+–+] 29…Qd4 [The presence of the knights, by comparison to the previous note, must favor black, whose steed is a monster on d3.] [29…Nxc1?! Ftacnik  30.Rd7 Bxe4+ (30…Rxf4 31.Rxb7 (31.Rxg7 Bxe4+ 32.Qxe4 (32.Kf1 Bxg3+ 33.Kg1 Ne2#) 32…Rxe4 33.Rb7 Nd3 34.Rxa6³) 31…Qxb7 32.gxf4 Qg7+ 33.Kf3÷) 31.Qxe4 Qxd7 32.Qe5+ Kg8 33.Qg5+÷; 29…Rxf4 Ftacnik  30.Rxd3 Bxe4+ 31.Qxe4 Rxe4 32.Rd8+ Qg8 33.Rxg8+ Kxg8 34.Kxf2+–] 30.Nd5 [Loses by force] [30.Nxd3 Ftacnik  30…Bxe4+–+; 30.Qe7! Ftacnik  30…Qxe4+ 31.Qxe4 Bxe4+ 32.Kh3 Bf3 33.Nxd3 Bxd1 34.Nxf2=] 30…Be1! [Now the king hunt begins. Since the h3 square is off-limits due to the sudden appearance of black’s bishop on c8 when needed, the white king has limited room to run.] [30…Ne1+ Ftacnik  31.Kh3 Qxd1 32.Qe5+ Kg8 33.Qg5+ Kh8=] 31.Be3 [31.Ra3 Ftacnik  31…Bc8–+] 31…Qxb2+ 32.Kg1 [32.Kh1 Ftacnik  32…Rf1+ 33.Bg1 Rxg1+ 34.Kxg1 Qf2+ 35.Kh1 Qf1#] 32…Bf2+ 33.Bxf2 [33.Kh1 Qe2! (33…Qe2 Ftacnik  34.Bxf2 Nxf2+ 35.Kg1 Ng4 36.Rd2 Qxd2 37.Qxg4 Qd4+–+) ] 33…Qxf2+ 34.Kh1 Bc8! [Also 34…Qf3+ Petursson  35.Kg1 Bxd5 36.exd5 Nf2 37.Qe5+ Rf6 38.Qe8+ Kg7 39.Qe7+ Kg6 40.Qe8+ Kh6–+] 35.Qe7 [35.Qb6 Ftacnik  35…Bg4! 36.Rxd3 Qxb6 37.Nxb6 cxd3–+ (37…cxd3 Petursson  38.Nd5 d2 39.Ne3 d1Q+ 40.Nxd1 Rf1+ 41.Kg2 Rxd1–+) ] 35…Bh3 [White is mated on the light squares. Hector can still please a crowd.] 0–1


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