Bogoljubov Plays the Bogo-Indian


Table of Contents

Yesterday, we looked at the basics of the Bogo-Indian Defense.

Today we turn back the clock to see how the great Efim Bogoljubov, the man after whom the variation is named, played the defense. It is interesting to see him using different strategies across today’s three games, which shows the flexibility offered by the Bogo-Indian Defense.

1.d4 Nf6

2.c4 e6

3.Nf3 Bb4+

Bogo-Indian DefenseThe Bogo-Indian Defense

Combating the White Centre

An early outing for the Bogo-Indian Defense came in the match Bogoljubov played against Akiba Rubinstein in 1920. Rubinstein won the match, 6.5-5.5.

Rubinstein, one of the greatest of all 1.d4 players, could always be relied upon to put any Black defense to the test. He went straight into what is now the most popular line with 4.Bd2 and after 4…Bxd2+ 5.Qxd2. Bogoljubov fianchettoed his queen’s bishop and allowed Rubinstein to build up in the centre.

White built up a slight but stable advantage in the middlegame, thanks to the extra space.

Rubinstein - Bogoljubov in the Bogo-Indian Defense

Position after 15.f4

Bogoljubov, ably assisted by the solid Bogo-Indian, defended very well, combated the white centre and emerged with a safe extra pawn in the endgame.

Bogoljubov Misses a Chance in the EndgamePosition after 65.h5

Rubinstein managed to draw after 65…Nc5? 66.Ne6+ Nxe6 67.Bxe6 Kd6 68.Bf5. Bogoljubov missed his chance; 65…Nd3!, followed (if necessary) by …Nd7-e5, would have prevented White’s bishop from defending the queening square. Black would queen first, with a winning attack on the unprotected white king. A missed opportunity, for sure – but a good demonstration of the resilience of the defence.

Isolating the Queen’s Pawn

Perhaps Bogoljubov’s best game with ‘his’ defense came against Ernst Grünfeld at the DSB Congress in Breslau. Grünfeld, best-known for the opening which is named after him, tried to gain the advantage of the bishop pair after 4. Nbd2 O-O 5. a3, but the wily Bogoljubov chose to retreat his bishop with 5…Be7 

He then used his c- and d-pawns to attack the White centre.

The Bogo-Indian Defense Attacking the Centre

This strategy left Grünfeld with a potentially weak isolated queen’s pawn.

Grünfeld against Bogoljubov

Bogoljubov kept White’s attacking chances at bay and won a very good game in just 25 moves. This game is annotated in the course, The Active Bogo-Indian Defense, by International Master Irina Bulmaga.

Dark-squared Strategy

Frank James Marshall was another King of 1.d4. He contested a Bogo-Indian Defense with Bogoljubov at the London British Empire Club tournament, in 1927. This time, Bogoljubov utilised a dark-squared strategy in the centre.

1. d4 Nf6

2. Nf3 e6

3. c4 Bb4+

4. Bd2 Bxd2+

5. Nbxd2 O-O

6. Qc2 d6

7. e3 Nc6

8.a3 e5

9. d5 Ne7

Dark-squared Strategy

A dark-squared strategy

One of Black’s ideas in this structure is to move the knight from f6 and then play …f7-f5, possibly with a kingside attack to follow. Marshall, who always tackled his opponents head-on, tried to keep a grip on the f5-square but his plan backfired.

Marshall Loses a Piece

Position after 15.Nh4

Bogoljubov pounced with 15…e4! The point is that 16.Bxe4 runs into 16…Nxe4 17.Qxe4 Ng6! winning the knight on h4. Even after 16.Be2 (as played) Bogoljubov won a piece with 16…g5 (albeit at the cost of weakening his kingside). The players traded mistakes later on but the game ended in a draw (the least likely result!).

Chessable Courses

Active Bogo-Indian Course

In addition to the The Active Bogo-Indian Defense, by International Master Irina Bulmaga, there is also a Short and Sweet version which has just gone ‘live’ today. This presents an ideal opportunity to get to know the Bogo-Indian before deciding whether or not you like the ‘full course experience.’

Short and Sweet Bogo-Indian

Play Through the Games

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Check them on individual course pages