The Moscow Semi-Slav

The Moscow Variation is one of the most interesting Semi-Slav positions. It’s maneuvering, positional, and it requires a deep understanding of the pieces and the squares in the position.

It branches out of Bg5, the main alternative for e3 for white. Bg5 is considered to be a more aggressive move, as it can lead to the super sharp Botvinnik or Anti-Moscow positions. But if black doesn’t go for the Botvinnik variation, and plays h6, white now has a choice to make. He can either retreat the bishop to h4, a move that leads to mad positions called the Anti-Moscow, or he can simply take the f6 knight. If he takes, we enter the Moscow Variation of the Semi Slav.

One of the main features of the Moscow is that white has given up his bishop pair. That means that if the position opens up, black is going to have the two very powerful bishops to play with. It also means that if the position stays closed, white’s knights are going to have a blast. In particular, black’s bad bishop on c8 needs help.

It’s harder to liberate it in the Moscow than it is in normal Meran positions. Black is usually going to go for e5, making sure his bishop can roam the diagonal. But e5 is not easy to achieve.

There are certain rules in the variation you should always take into account:
– If you can play e5 with black and get away with it, play it!
– If you can play e4 with white, play it!
– If white plays e4, you take it with dxe4!
– Black’s bishop should go to g7!
– If attached, the black queen should go to d8!
– When the white bishop is on g3, you never play c5!

These are general rules, and sometimes they are wrong. But they will usually be correct.

For more information on the Anti Moscow, look at games by Alexey Dreev and get his book “Moscow and Anti-Moscow”.

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