Colle System: A Simple, Strong Opening Choice


Table of Contents

The Colle System is an excellent opening for beginners and stronger players alike.

  • The Colle System is very light in opening theory, which frees up your training time to work on other areas of your game.
  • This chess opening ensures you can adopt a relaxed approach to the start of the game because you won’t be concerned about getting caught in an opening trap or homemade novelty.
  • The Colle System allows you to take your opponent into unfamiliar territory early in the game.
  • No matter what defense Black chooses, you will find yourself playing similar strategies against all of them. This makes remembering what to do much more straightforward.

A Brief Introduction to the Colle System

The Colle System is named after a Belgian chess master Edgar Colle. Edgar Colle played the opening in the 1920s, but his compatriot Georges Koltanowski did much to popularize the opening.

Edgar Colle played many excellent attacking games with the system named after him. In his game against Jules Delvaux, Colle ripped open the castled king’s position in classical style.

Refusing to be outdone, Georges Koltanowski used a double-bishop sacrifice against Marcel Defosse to expose his opponent’s king.

Koltanowski stayed loyal to the Colle System throughout his playing career and taught it to many of his students. He described the Colle System as the “businessman’s opening” because it is a self-contained opening with very little theory.

The Colle System is an ideal opening for busy chess players or players who wish to devote more time to studying other areas of their game.

This video is from The Aggressive Queen’s Gambit Declined course

Ideas and Strategies in the Colle System

The good news for chess players wanting to learn the Colle System is that the opening theory is minimal. The main moves are the more popular by a long way which narrows things down nicely.

Familiarity with the typical middlegame positions against Black’s chosen defense will serve you better than trying to memorize opening lines. Even in theoretically equal positions, it is possible to win because of your deeper middlegame understanding.

Despite its unassuming appearance, the Colle System can lead to some extremely aggressive kingside attacks. However, do not neglect to take control of the center or seize space on the queenside if your opponent allows you the opportunity.

Remember, in chess, it is best not to neglect any area of the board because you are fixated on one plan.

A typical Colle System position is reached after – 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 c5 5.c3 Nc6 6.Nbd2 Bd6 7.0-0 0-0

A typical position in the Colle System, which arises after the moves 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 c5 5.c3 Nc6 6.Nbd2 Bd6 7.0-0 0-0

In this position, typical of the Colle System, White can play for the e4-advance. Another option is to seek to expand on the queenside with the b4-advance. Both these moves get prepared with dxc5.

Capturing on c5 deflects the bishop from d6, where it can support the …e5 advance. By bringing the bishop to c5, the b4 pawn push comes with a gain of tempo.

When learning the Colle System, it is best to play in the center as a direct approach is easier to understand than the more subtle, positional approach with b4.

One of the advantages an opening like the Colle System provides is freeing up time for you to work on improving your middlegame and endgame skills. The Colle System grants you this time by reducing the number of training hours you allocate to studying chess opening.

Highlighted course

The Modernized Colle-Zukertort Attack

Defending Against the Colle System

One of the most dependable defenses to 1.d4 for Black is the Nimzo-Indian Defense, so it makes sense to start with the same opening moves.

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.e3 and Black has a choice of playing 3…c5 or 3…b6. If you choose to play 3…c5, you can meet 4.c4 with 4…d5 and transpose into the Tarrasch Defense.

3…b6 allows you to enter a Queen’s Indian Defense after 4.c4 when White has not played a kingside fianchetto. The flexible 3…b6 will enable you to meet the standard Colle System with 4.Bd3 Bb7 5.Nbd2 c5 brings us back to a standard defense against the Colle.

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.e3 c5 4.Bd3 d5 5.c3 Be7 6.Nbd2 0-0 7.0-0 b6

A good defense to the Colle System, that provides both flexibility and solidity, is 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.e3 c5 4.Bd3 d5 5.c3 Be7 6.Nbd2 0-0 7.0-0 b6

One of the advantages to this move order is if you usually play the Nimzo-Indian or Bogo-Indian Defenses against 1.d4 2.c4, you will be in comfortable opening territory after an early c4.

In this position, Black develops the bishop to b7 and meets Ne5, f4 with …Ne4. Thanks to the bishop on b7, White cannot win a pawn by capturing twice on e4.

The …Nc6 Variation

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 c5 5.c3 Nc6 6.Nbd2 Bd6 7.0-0 0-0

A typical position in the Colle System, which arises after the moves 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 c5 5.c3 Nc6 6.Nbd2 Bd6 7.0-0 0-0

Remember, it is vital to prepare e4 by first capturing on c5 to deflect the bishop.

8.dxc5 Bxc5 9.e4 Qc7 10.exd5 exd5

Taking on an isolated queen's pawn is regarded as the most dynamic approach by Black in the Colle System ...Nc6 variation.

In return for the isolated queen’s pawn, Black gets dynamic piece play and easy development for the rest of his pieces. This approach has scored well since the black position is easy to play.

However, having the better pawn structure is an advantage, and White has the simple strategy of heading for the endgame. In this position, Nb3-d4 gets aided by the fact White gains a tempo by attacking the bishop on c4.

The …Nbd7 Variation

Instead of developing to the natural c6 square, Black will sometimes choose to develop the knight to d7. The reason is to recapture on c5 with the knight and gain a tempo by attacking the bishop on d3.

White’s most promising strategy is still to aim for e4, only this time, it is best done with the support of a rook on e1.

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 c5 5.c3 Nbd7 6.Nbd2 Bd6 7.0-0 0-0

Against the ...Nbd7 variation it is best if White prepares the e4 advance with Re1.

Always pay attention to your pieces even when it doesn’t appear that any contact is likely. Notice that Nbd2 blocks the queen from defending the bishop on d3.

This undefended bishop is why 8.dxc5 is not a good move in this position. Do not play the opening on auto-pilot, or you could drop the bishop after …Nxc5.

8.Re1 Qc7 9.e4 cxd4 10.cxd4 dxe4 11.Nxe4 Nxe4 12.Rxe4

Capturing with the rook gives White's attack a head start because the rook is heading for h4.

Now it is White who is playing with the isolated queen’s pawn. This time the rook on e4 ensures White’s attack gets an early start.

The rook on e4 will soon make its way to h4, where it aids the bishop on d3 in putting pressure on h7.

Lars Bo Hanse only needed a further seven moves to defeat his 2465 Elo-rated opponent.

In Conclusion

The Colle System allows you to side-step the mass of theory that has accumulated around 1.d4 and 2.c4. There is a lot of flexibility in the early stages of the Colle System, which allows you to change things depending on how your opponent defends.

The Colle System provides you with a solid position in the opening that contains the potential for devastating attacks, and the option to play in a more positional manner.

Although it is well-suited for beginners there is no reason not to play the Colle System against stronger opponents.

The Colle System Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Colle system good?

The Colle System is an excellent opening.

Is the Colle system good for beginners?

Because there is very little opening theory to learn before you can play the Colle System, it is a perfect opening for beginners. The common middlegame strategies add to the ease of use in the Colle System.

How do you play against the Colle System?

An excellent approach against the Colle System is to gain a share of the center with pawns on e6, d5, and c5. Support the c5-pawn with b6, which allows you to fianchetto the bishop on b7. Develop your pieces to their most natural squares, and you will have a solid position to use against the Colle System.

Highlighted course

The Modernized Colle-Zukertort Attack

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