Chess Openings for Black ๐ŸŽ“ GM Smirnov (Owens Defense 1. e4 b6) – Pt 1/2

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This chess opening for Black is greatly underestimated. Owen’s Defense starts starts with 1. e4 b6. It’s a relatively unknown opening that should surprise your opponent right from the start of your game, dragging them into unknown territory and forcing them out of their opening repertoire so that they have to think for themselves! Being full of tricks and active possibilities for Black, it is one of the best chess openings to keep up your sleeve, especially when playing against amateur players, at the local chess club, or in quick games.

In this exclusive video, GM Igor Smirnov takes a close look at Owen’s Defense and clearly explains the key moves and ideas behind it. Black uses a hyper-modern concept: let your opponent place his pawns in the center, seemingly in control, but then make them the targets of your attack with this menacing weapon!

The variations are wild and crazy, Black’s idea is to fianchetto the queenside bishop, and weaken White’s position b doubling their pawns. A non prepared White player can quickly find themselves in great trouble. Watch the look of shock on your opponent’s face from the very first move!

John Owen once defeated the chess prodigy and legend Paul Morphy in an informal game in London with this chess opening for Black. If it can catch out even the very best players in history, it’s certainly a chess opening worth remembering when you want to try something a little different.

What’s more, the opening can also be adapted and used by White where instead of playing 1. e4 b6, White can instead play 1. b3! If Black then plays 1…b6 anyway, it doesn’t hurt at all to have an extra tempo as White.

Many players consider the move 1…b6 to be an incorrect line, falling away from basic opening principles of battling for the center, but GM Igor Smirnov says that they couldn’t be further from the truth. Already underestimating the effect of Owen’s Defense could be a deadly mistake from White.

Add this chess opening to your repertoire as Black, or White, with this video from GM Igor Smirnov.

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40 Comments

  1. Amazing. Smirnov just focused on 1. e4 b6 2. d4 Bb7 3. Bd3 e6 4. Nc3 which is a move that doesn't make any sense to me. 4. Nc3 just gives black a nice square for the bishop and prevent white from playing both c3 or c4 later. The white queen will go to e2 anyway so why on earth didn't he discussed 1. e4 b6 2. d4 Bb7 3. Bd3 e6 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. Qe2?
    White is not in a hurry. He just want to castle and react accordingly to the black moves.
    After 5. … Nf6 white can even play 6. Nc3 and play like in the video…or exchange on 6 exd5 with the idea of obtaining a strong center. IMHO the best move is 6. e5 gaining space and forcing black to make a choice. White is ready for every move black can come up with. For instance if 6. e5 Ne4 white just castle 7. 0-0. Now if Black plays Be7 then c4 comes. If Black plays c5 then White can play c4 again with a nice advantage in all the lines.

  2. Hi Igor, THANK YOU for your videos on 1.b3 and 1… b6. I've always struggled at tournaments. I watched your videos, went to a tournament and won. (Tied 1st and 2nd). I won my first two games, drew the third game (against the highest rated player in my section [U1800] and co-winner), took a bye on the fourth, and won the fifth round for a total score of 4/5. I've never played these openings, but wow! They suit my personality with strong counter attack possibilities. In the second game I was forced to play an exchange sacrifice (R for N + P) and easily won the end game. In the last game, my opponent played what you called "a known mistake" and I went after it with all my energy and won a piece in the first five moves. I have to say, I love this opening complex and the concepts you present. In two hours I learned more than I could possibly imagine and played better than I have every played before. BTW, none of my opponents followed your lines (Nc3/Nc6)… but I think your point was to know the principles so this can be played against anything the opponent would do (or not do). Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    P.S. I also purchased your "Chess Psychology" book. I haven't finished it yet, but a lot of my mentality during the game was based on your principles. I did lose my opening advantage in the middle game (but maintained a won end game in all but one game.. so maybe it was more like giving up the initiative). But I kept telling myself to make "good moves" rather than look for the perfect move. By the end of the game all but one of my opponents were in time trouble (game in 90) while I was comfortable with plenty of time. I also shifted between calculating specific variations and thinking strategically based on your advice of when to do what. Which saved me a lot of time and energy.

    Again, I can not thank you enough. Chess has become fun again.

  3. white opens withd4, here you say play pawn b6. What stops whitepawn next going onto 5th rank?

  4. White should aim for a Kings Indian pawn formation with pawns at c4 and d5, when Blacks b6 fianchetto structure is weak. How about that?

  5. What if White plays Ncd2 instead of Nc3… It seems that leaves the King Bishop with not much to do. I just plant it on e7 and keep pressure on e4?

  6. thanks again… I now think to use it…

  7. Okay, this is only the third time I've played this opening. I won the first two games but not this one. I was playing someone who was +400 points on me. The opening worked to perfection, I just didn't play through well. I focused on the win when I had several chances to either force a draw or maintain some form of equality at the end. ANY advice on how to keep this game rolling from a psychological point of view? I know the first 10+ games are just training, according to the videos, but I really really really wanted this one…. Here's the game:

    [Event "Felix Schwarz Memorial"]
    [Site "?"]
    [Date "2016.11.12"]
    [Round "?"]
    [White "Jack, 2172."]
    [Black "Dan Waite, 1744."]
    [Result "1-0"]
    [ECO "B00"]

    1. e4 b6 2. d4 Bb7 3. Nc3 e6 4. Nf3 Bb4 5. Bd3 Nf6 6. Qe2 d5 7. exd5 Qxd5 8.
    O-O Bxc3 9. bxc3 Qh5 {(Maybe 0-0)} 10. c4 {Unexpected. 10. Ba3 is also
    possible. Maybe 10. Bf4 or 10. Qe5 to a.) defend on the Kingside and b.)
    attack the loose c7 pawn and c.) Take control of the dark squares.} (10. Ba3
    Bxf3 11. gxf3 Nbd7 12. Kh1 c5 13. Rg1 {Seems even but uncomfortable.} O-O)
    10… O-O 11. Bb2 Nbd7 12. Qd1 {No need to rush this move? Maybe Rfe8 and push
    the e-pawn or c-pawn.} Bxf3 {Unexpected. My instincts tell me this was not the
    best move for white, yet the pawn structure will be the same?} 13. gxf3 {Or
    the immediate e5?} Rfe8 14. Kh1 e5 15. d5 ({Mixed emotions. I know this idea
    activates the B at b2 but the central activity looks very strong… I felt it
    could lead to a decisve long term advantage for Black.} 15. d5 e4 {The second
    idea behind 14… e5. I thought 15. de Nxe5 was good for Black.}) (15. dxe5
    Nxe5 16. Bxe5 {It seems like White is "solid" but yet in shambles. I thought
    about getting the N to f4…} Rxe5) 15… e4 16. Be2 e3? (16… Ne5 {Keeps
    the pressure on White.} 17. Bxe5 Qxe5) 17. f4 ({Much better.} 17. Qd4) 17…
    Qf5 (17… Qh4 18. Bd4 exf2 19. Rxf2 Ne4 (19… Re4 20. Qd2) 20. Rg2) (17…
    Qh3) 18. fxe3 Rxe3 19. Bd3 Qh3 (19… Ne4 {Better but I don't like to be
    pinned and the Rook is on an island.}) 20. Bd4 {Unexpected. I had lost track
    of this Bishop coming to the center. I was to focused on what it would do on
    f6 and b7.} Rg3 (20… Ng4 21. Qd2 Ndf6) (20… Ne4 21. Kg1 Rg3+ 22. hxg3 Qxg3+
    {Forces a draw. Which would be a big thing for a 1744 player against a 2172
    player. But a.) I never considered this line and b.) I was focused on winning
    because I had worked so hard on getting this advantage. NOTE: time control was
    game in 45. I had 20 minutes left, my opponent had 4 at this point in the game.
    }) 21. Qe2 Re8 22. Qf2 Ng4 ?? {Blundering the piece and the game.} (22… Rxd3
    {I looked at this move when I played …Qh3 figuring the exchange sac plus all
    the week pawns would give me reasonable chances in the end. But I was still
    stuck on playing for the win.} 23. cxd3 Qxd3 24. Rac1 Ng4 25. Qg2 Qxd4 26. Qxg4
    Nf6 27. Qd1 Qe4+ {Looks to be an even game with Whites exposed King and
    terribly vaunerable pawns.}) 23. Qxg3 {The game ended 1:0} 1-0

  8. sorry Igor, but in the system with bishop d3 at he third, white, after Nc6, can play c3

  9. i have questions what about if a3 was played then our Bb4 plan will be failed.

  10. And 1 more if Bd3 takes the Knight when e5 was played Ne4 played by black if Bishop will take kindly make a video on that

  11. 1 more videos on 1.e4 b6 2 f4 Bb7 3. d3

  12. 1 more variation if on 6th move white pins the Black knight instead

  13. Im Not rly good at chess and hope someone can help me out with my question. how about the move a3 early on?. Does black take the knight or just move back? Also a5 is Not possible bec b6 is blocked right?

  14. so after 5 minutes and 22 seconds we finally get started. come on bro.

  15. I really don't understand , can someone help me , what if a3 played ? does the bishop goes back or what ?????

  16. white can play in morphy style: he'll put his knight on e2 and defend his centre with f3, and possibly do the same with other knight. after that white gets huge space advantage and easy attacking position while black has nothing to do.

  17. Wow! Its a surprising opening against unprepared players. Thanks Igor

  18. Very well explained and logical. Thank you for this.

  19. Igor, you are the best lecturer ever.I just like your teaching very much.Please make more videos on a repertoire for black after 1.d4

  20. Been playing this opening for a week or so now, been getting some really nice positions, keep rewatching this video to betrer understand the variations, thanks for the great video!

  21. What after 1.e4 b6 2.d4 Ab7 3.Ad3 Cf6 4.Cc3 Cf6 5.Cge2 ..? this is the most challenging

  22. Interesting option, and well explained, thanks.

  23. Its well to play this at tournament games to play to win? Because I like it but I want to win and I don't know if this is OK for me ๐Ÿ˜€

  24. Wouldn't bishop to b4 just lead to some pawn moves like a3 then b4(if the bishop decides to stay on the diagonal)?

  25. enjoy
    1. e4 b6 2. d4 Bb7 3. Bd3 g6 4. Qe2 Bg7 5. c3 d6 6. h3 Nf6 7. Nf3 O-O 8. O-O Qd7
    9. Bf4 a6 10. Na3 Nc6 11. Nc2 Nd8 12. Rad1 Ne6 13. Bg3 Nh5 14. Bh2 f5 15. exf5 Nef4 16. Bxf4 Nxf4 17.Qe3 Rxf5 18. Bxf5 Qxf5 19. Rfe1 Rf8 20. Rf1 Nxh3+
    21. gxh3 Qxh3 22. Nce1 Bh6 23. Qxe7 Bxf3 24.Nxf3 Qg4+ 25. Kh2 Bf4+
    26. Kh1 Qxf3+ 27. Kg1 Qg4+ 28. Kh1 Qh3+ 29. Kg1 Qh2# 0-1

  26. my bishop never gets to keep that pin for more then a turn or 2 before white plays A3

  27. Thanks for the videos! They helped me a lot since i started playing again after an 8 year pause, and had almost no memory of lines i used to play before. Im an 1800 rated trying to get fit again. I felt i needed something easy to memorise with less possible lines. I could say it worked for me! I won weaker opponents and sometimes crushed by evenly mached and stronger ones, but after some games (and some unexpected endgame loses due to my inactivity) i got familliar with the position and even stronger opponents struggle to take me down! Thanks again, gr8 analysis

  28. this is for black or white I need for white

  29. Excellent Video, and an excellent opening. I will definitely be using it! Thank you very much. My opponents won't know what hit 'em! Check it Out! Ciao!!!

  30. I know this video is old, but really I find the Owens Defense isn't played because after e4, b6, d4, Bb7 white can play Nd2. (which for some reason was ignored on this video)

    He doesn't have to play Bd3 like black would in reverse (nimzo-larsen attack). That one tempo prevents the black player from playing a sort of tarrasch you would similarly see the white player utilize against the french defense.

    White will never be in fear of a pin from our light squared bishop as c3 can be played at a moments notice after Nd2.

  31. What should we do about 1) e4 b6; 2) d4 Bb7; 3) Nc3 e6; 4) Nf3 Bb4; 5) Nd2 ?? d5 or d6 seem reasonable? Maybe BxN?

  32. Butchering the English language and hyping bad openings is the Ruski way!

  33. Both part 1 and 2 is well delivered. Good pacing, clear to understand accent (mostly lol) and not skipping small tactical resources. It ends with a conclusion.

    What's I was missing were a few odds and ends, such as why it isn't in some cases bad to play …d7-d5. Also long-term middlegame plans weren't covered. Opening has far less meaning without it actually. For the first oddity/end, here's this variation which I came up with in seconds, but have no real answer to it:

    1. e4 b6 2. d4 Bb7 3. Bd3 e6 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. Bd2 *

    After 10 hours of thinking, Stockfish 11 @ 5.5 MNodes/Sec came up with 5…d4. But am I not locking up my Bb7?

  34. What should we do, if the white knight develops on e2 instead of f3? Thanks for your answer in advance

  35. I've played this opening way too much in my blitz games.. and I love it, lol. Mainly cuz that 1st line you discussed often happens, and it's just so pleasant for black that I have no comments.

  36. thanks bro.i wish all GM is like you

  37. Thank you great way of explaining bravo ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป

  38. thank you so much for this simple but brilliant ideas

  39. One thing I like about the Owen Defense is that White frequently usually makes the most common and predictable moves. White sees that Black is "ceding" the center and usually tries to take advantage of it by playing d4. Then White sees that his e-pawn is under attack and then plays either Nc3 or Be3. Then, when Black plays Nf6, adding even more pressure on the e-pawn, White either pushes that pawn or plays Qe2. Black is going to see these moves from White time and time again.

    I've been experimenting with Owen Defense and I have seen this setup from White very frequently – and it seems White is making these moves more out of reaction than any kind of "book" knowledge.

    I've also noticed that White frequently loses his e-pawn in those lines when his c3 knight is pinned. Black can frequently play Bxc3 (removing one of the e-pawn's defender) and follow it up with Bxe4. Losing the bishop pair is usually worth being a pawn up, especially when that is a center pawn.

  40. There is very little discussion about when white plays an early Nge2 in response to his knight on f3 being pinned.

  41. Ty, maybe mi new favorit opening. After studying it i will use it in mi games.

  42. Only opening I know with black ๐Ÿ˜… got up to 900 with it lol, anyone recommend some other good ones?

  43. 26:10 Why is taking with the fianchettoed bishop not an option here?

  44. I guess he doesn't know the a2 pawn doesn't exist. Or does it…

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