The Semi-Slav Defense is one of the most exciting and most reliable openings in all of chess and it has been successfully employed by strong grandmasters ever since its conception, and the Meran positions are the most thematic for the opening.
The Meran Semi Slav positions are characterized by black’s pawn advance on the queenside (b5, a6, c5), which aims to liberate the bad c8 bishop and enable it to develop on the long a8-h1 diagonal.
The Meran is what the Semi Slav is all about, and from it the most exciting and most thematic Semi Slav positions arise. It’s very theory heavy, some variations have been analyzed more than 30 moves deep, and you have to know them all If you want to play the opening with success.
The good news is that the Meran is very simple to understand. The ideas and patterns in the opening are very logical, and even if you can’t remember the exact move order, you are going to know what to do. That means that with experience, creating plans in Meran positions will become easy.
The Meran can be divided into three parts by where white retreats his bishop after black gains a tempo on it with the move b5. By far the most popular move is Bd3, leading to long theoretical battles, often resembling the wildest King’s Gambit positions and not a d4 QG opening. The other two moves are played far less often; Be2 and Bb3. You have to know them all. All three are different and theoretical.
All three require knowledge and understanding. And all three are simple to learn! At least the ideas and plans are.
Spend time learning the Meran and you will have covered almost 50% of all Semi Slav positions you have to know. For more info, I would recommend my favorite book on the Semi Slav: “Meran and Anti Meran”, written by one of the best Semi Slav players of all time, Alexey Dreev.
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