display | more...
back to Chess Openings

One of Black's less popular replies to 1.e4, Owen's Defense seeks to control the central light squares with the aid of the fianchettoed bishop on b7 which controls the long white diagonal from a8-h1. Black plays 1...b6 and seeks to continue with 2...Bb7, 3...e6, 4...Nf6, 5...Bb4 or 5...c5, piling pressure on the White center pawns while completing development. The main problem is that White is able to defend the central pawn on e4 adequately while not falling behind in development, which means that Black may be short of plans by the time the middle game is reached.

1.e4 b6
2.d4 Bb7

+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
| r  | n  |    | q  | k  | b  | n  | r  |
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+ 
| p  | b  | p  | p  | p  | p  | p  | p  |
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    | p  |    |    |    |    |    |    | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    |    |    | P  | P  |    |    |    | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
| P  | P  | P  |    |    | P  | P  | P  | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+ 
| R  | N  | B  | Q  | K  | B  | N  | R  |
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+

White now has three main alternatives - 3.Bd3, 3.Nc3 and 3.Nd2. The first (3.Bd3) option is fine, probably transposing to the main line below, but allows Black the unclear line 3...f5!?, when after 4.ef Bxg2 5.Qh5+ g6 6.fg Bg7 (6...Nf6?? 7.gxh7+ Nxh5 8.Bg6++) 7.gxh7+ Kf8 8.hxg8+ Kxg8 a wild position is reached in which both sides must be careful, though theory currently holds that White is better:

+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
| r  | n  |    | q  |    |    | k  | r  |
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+ 
| p  |    | p  | p  | p  |    | b  |    |
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    | p  |    |    |    |    |    |    | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    |    |    |    |    |    |    | Q  | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    |    |    | P  |    |    |    |    | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    |    |    | B  |    |    |    |    | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
| P  | P  | P  |    |    | P  | b  | P  | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+ 
| R  | N  | B  |    | K  |    | N  | R  |
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+

The second option (3.Nc3) allows Black to carry out the aims of the opening more easily after 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bd3 e6 5. 0-0 Bb4 6.Qe2 c5. This leaves us with the most solid White option:

3.Nd2 e6
4.Nf3 Nf6
5.Bd3 c5
6.c3 Nc6
7.0-0 cd
8.cd d5
9.e5 Nd7
10.a3

+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
| r  |    |    | q  | k  | b  |    | r  |
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+ 
| p  | b  |    | n  |    | p  | p  | p  |
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    | p  | n  |    | p  |    |    |    | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    |    |    | p  | P  |    |    |    | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    |    |    | P  |    |    |    |    | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
| P  |    |    | B  |    | N  |    |    | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+
|    | P  |    | N  |    | P  | P  | P  | 
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+ 
| R  |    | B  | Q  |    | R  | K  |    |
+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+----+

White has maintained a strong central position and will be close to completing development in a couple of moves. In this kind of position Black hopes to create chances on the queenside by attacking White's central pawn structure before White makes too much headway on the kingside. Similar ideas are found in the French Defense, but with the important difference that here Black has wasted time by developing his white-squared bishop to a closed diagonal (notice how useless the bishop on b7 is in the diagram above, locked in by the black pawns on e6 and d5). In fact, both bishops are a problem for Black in this opening - the black-squared bishop must develop to the passive e7 square.

The main temptation for White is to get too carried away by how nice the position feels - even though Black is cramped, he has a solid position and a plan which cannot be refuted straight out of the opening. But if White stays patient and continues to develop sensibly with Re1, Qe2, b4, Nb3, Rac1 then Black will come under a steady pressure that will only increase as the endgame approaches.

I have not included those variations where Black also fianchettoes his King's bishop via ...g6 and ...Bg7 as this is not properly speaking an Owen's defense and can arise through many different move orders. This form of opening is often referred to as a "hedgehog" formation.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.