Quick KO’s in the Colle-Zukertort System


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This is a guest post by International Master Richard Palliser, one of the authors of the new Chessable course, The Killer Colle-Zukertort System.

It’s been a fortnight or so since Chessable published The Killer Colle-Zukertort System. In this modern era, that’s plenty of time for users, aided by the Quickstarter section, to already enjoy playing the Colle-Zukertort in their own games. White’s basic setup is a simple one:

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 c5 5.b3 Nc6 6.Bb2

It’s not hard to appreciate why this remains an excellent weapon at the club and amateur levels. White will complete development with 0-0 and Nbd2, after which against any slightly passive black set-up he will be quick to seize the initiative and attacking chances with Ne5 and f2-f4.

Another key attacking concept for White involves making use of those fine, raking bishops on b2 and d3, as American lawyer Alex Davis got to do in a recent game.

Alex Davis (1610) – ‘Cyclist9’ (1995)

Lichess blitz (3+3), 06.12.2022

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 e6 3.e3 Nf6 4.Bd3 Nbd7 5.b3 c5 6.Bb2 Be7 7.0-0

The standard Colle-Zukertort set-up. Note the attacking potential of White’s two bishops, although you may not be able to guess where they’ll land in this game!

7…0-0 8.Nbd2 a6

8…b6 9.Ne5 Bb7 10.Qe2 is the main line of this particular black set-up. White connects the rooks ahead of preparing to support the well advanced and powerfully placed knight on e5 with f2-f4.


Thematic play, and now Black, as often happens at amateur level, arguably mixes up his systems.


9…Nxe5 10.dxe5 Nd7 11.c4!? is given in The Killer Colle-Zukertort System and gives White a very pleasant edge. Now, Qc2 is one idea, Qh5 another, and even cxd5 exd5; e6 might be a threat.

10.f4 b5!?

Consistent, if also provocative.


Exchanging off the dominating knight, but Alex is fully aware that the lines which are opening for White’s bishops will more than compensate. Besides, Black might just fall for the trap…


With 11…Bxd7 12.dxc5 Qxc5 13.Qf3 Black has kept his kingside intact, but White still enjoys an edge and attacking chances, with Bd4 followed by Qg3 and Nf3 one way to begin to take a firm grip on the position.


A strong exchange and one which forces Black to find the least natural of the three possible recaptures.


12…Bxc5? 13.Bxh7+! Kxh7 14.Qh5+ Kg8 15.Bxg7! echoes the game and is also winning for White. For example: 15…f6 16.Bh6 Bxe3+ 17.Kh1 Ne5!? 18.Bxf8 and White will land up material ahead and still with much the safer king.

12…Qxc5!? 13.Bxh7+! Kxh7 14.Qh5+ Kg8 15.Bxg7!. Even here the classic double-bishop sacrifice is on, although Black has some defensive chances thanks to his active queen: 15…Qxe3+ 16.Kh1 Kxg7 17.Rf3 d4! (and not 17…Qxd2?? 18.Qg4+ Kh8 19.Rh3+) 18.Qg4+! Kh8 19.Qh3+ Kg8 20.Qg3+ Kh8 21.Re1!? (continuing to dangle the knight before Black) 21…Nf6! 22.Rexe3 dxe3 23.Qh4+!? Nh7 24.Qxe7 exd2 25.Rd3 is a long, but important line. Materially Black has enough for the queen, but with such an active queen and the safer king, White is probably slightly for choice.

13.Bxh7+! Kxh7 14.Qh5+ Kg8 15.Bxg7!

Alex gets to land every Colle-Zukertort player’s dream: a decisive double-bishop sacrifice. There’s simply no defence.

15…Kxg7 16.Qg4+!

A key follow-up, forcing the king to the h-file ahead of lifting the rook.

16…Kh6 17.Rf3 1-0

While White should always be on the lookout for making Nxd7, dxc5, and the classic double-bishop sacrifice work, more usually the dominant knight stays on e5, acting as a bridgehead while White builds up on the kingside. A good example of such play was recently given by none other than Ginger GM Publishing Manager, Dylan Mize.

Dylan Mize – Frank Whitsell

KC Invitational, 05.12.2022

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 e6 3.e3 c5 4.b3!

Dylan unsurprisingly knows his stuff, ruling out any possibility of …c4 before placing the light-squared bishop on d3.

4…Nf6 5.Bd3 Nc6 6.0-0 cxd4 7.exd4

Many a player as Black has released the tension so in the centre. It does mean that White is unlikely to win with a double-bishop sacrifice, but it comes at a cost: White will exploit the half-open e-file to control the key e5 point and so make it difficult for Black to obtain counterplay.

7…Be7 8.Bb2 0-0 9.Nbd2

White’s ideal minor piece set-up. But isn’t …Nb4 going to be annoying? Well, no.

9…Nb4 10.Be2

Retaining a key piece and now White will simply reset with a2-a3 and Bd3.

10…b6 11.a3 Nc6 12.Bd3

Taking stock, White has made three moves with this bishop; Black, three with his queen’s knight. The engines, possibly with a nod to their old failure to see long-term danger, claim that Black is OK in this type of position, but for a human matters are not so pleasant – just where is Black’s counterplay?

12…Bb7 13.Qe2

Further precision. Control of e4, as well as e5, is very useful for White. Instead, 13.Ne5?! Nxe5! 14.dxe5 Ne4 frees Black’s position and equalises.

13…Re8 14.Rae1!?

Involving the final piece. White can also leap without delay: 14.Ne5 followed by f2-f4, with definite attacking chances and a pleasant edge.

14…a6 15.Ne5!

Here we go. Black’s last two moves haven’t added a huge amount to his position and he now faces a scary-looking attack with f2-f4 even able to be followed up with Rf3-h3.


15…Nxe5!? 16.dxe5 Nd7 17.Nf3!? Nc5 18.Nd4 is also a pleasant edge for White. Yes, the key light-squared bishop can be exchanged, but White will still control all the potential entry points on the c-file. Just compare the dominant knight on e4 with the passive bishop on b7 and while Black lacks counterplay, f2-f4 possibly even followed by f4-f5 will arrive.

16.f4 Ne7

A common defensive manoeuvre, as Black desperately tries to offer some support to his king.


Super-aggressive, but well why not with 17…Ne4 just costing Black a pawn? Now White might even begin to increase the pressure with Qg2-h3, and Dylan has also set a little trap…


Black is determined to challenge the annoying knight on e5, but this turns the bishop on d6 into a loose piece.


LPDO, as John Nunn would say. And that was already that! With 18….Kxf7 19.Qxe6+ Kf8 20.Qxd6 White has ripped open the black king and netted a pawn. He also retains two very mobile and useful pawns in the f4 and g4 duo, and still devoid of any play, it’s hard to blame Black for already throwing in the towel.

It’s worth being aware that both 1.Nf3 and 1.b3 still allow White the option of a timely transposition to the Colle-Zukertort, as demonstrated of late by the world no.1 no less.

Magnus Carlsen (2859) – Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa (2678)

Meltwater Tour Final 2022, 19.11.2022

1.b3 d5 2.Bb2 Nf6 3.Nf3 c5 4.e3 e6 5.d4 Bd6 6.dxc5!?

A modern approach, but the thematic set-up with 6.Bd3 is the one recommended in The Killer Colle-Zukertort System.

6…Bxc5 7.c4 0-0 8.Nbd2 Qe7 9.a3

White hints at expansion with b3-b4, also enjoys a bit of pressure on d5, and will have two finely-placed bishops once the light-squared one arrives on d3. Carlsen eventually triumphed after a long, hard fight (1-0, 74).

The Colle-Zukertort player should always be looking out for a timely exchange on c5 and it’s an especially potent weapon in what might arguably be considered the main line of the whole opening, where Black sets up with …Nc6 and …Bd6.

Ruben Koellner (2412) – Kemal Bashirov (2178)

25th OIBM Open, Tegernsee, 12.11.2022

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Nbd2 d5 4.e3 c5 5.b3 Nc6 6.Bb2 Bd6 7.Bd3 0-0 8.dxc5!?

8.0-0 is the recommended move order in The Killer Colle-Zukertort System and here play may well transpose to our main game: 8…Qe7 9.dxc5!? Bxc5 10.a3 e5 11.b4! and we’re back in Koellner-Bashirov. Instead, here 9.Ne5 Qc7! is a modern resource that has proved quite awkward for White.

Black challenges e5 and also threatens 10…cxd4 11.exd4 Nb4. Thankfully, White can easily avoid this position with 9.dxc5.

8…Bxc5 9.a3!

A useful move. White wants to expand with b3-b4, as well as c2-c4.

9…Qe7 10.b4! Bd6 11.0-0 e5 12.c4!

All as recommended in the course. Black might think he’s done well to get …e5 in, but he’s actually still some way from being able to claim equality. Can you see why White need not fear 12…e4?


12…e4? 13.Bxf6! gxf6 (13…Qxf6 14.Bxe4! dxe4 15.Nxe4 Bxh2+ 16.Nxh2 also leaves White a clear pawn to the good and in control) 14.cxd5 exd3 15.dxc6 bxc6 16.Nd4. Black’s structure is far from appetising, either c6 or d3 should quickly fall and White is clearly for choice, as shown in the course.

Instead, 12…dxc4 13.Nxc4 Bc7 14.Ncd2!? is a crafty retreat, endorsed in the course. White’s control of e4 (if 14…e4? 15.Bxf6 again) leaves him with a pleasant edge.

13.cxd5 Nxd5 14.b5!

Black is under heavy pressure and now quickly makes matters worse for himself.

14…Nb8?! 15.Rc1 Bg4? 16.Qc2

Already there isn’t a satisfactory defence. White’s main threat isn’t even Bxh7+, but rather Be4, overloading the knight on d5.

16…Bd6 17.Bxh7+ Kh8 18.Bf5! Bxf5 19.Qxf5

White has won a pawn and seriously weakened the black king’s defences. Not a bad outcome after 19 moves!

19…Nd7 20.Ne4 f6?

Or 20…N7f6 21.Nfg5!. Even here White enjoys near-decisive pressure with Qh3+ and the line-opening f2-f4 on the way.

21.Nh4! 1-0

There’s just no real way to cover g6.

The Killer Colle-Zukertort System supplies a complete repertoire for White with 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 and also examines the Colle Queen’s Indian, 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.e3, as well as taking a look at 1.d4 e6 2.Nf3. It doesn’t, however, examine King’s Indian and Modern set-ups – both Simon and myself consider e3 and Bd3 too tame and easy for Black to face there.

While set-ups with …d5 and …e6 are very common at all levels, stronger club players are sometimes put off 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 by Black’s alternatives to 3…e6. The good news, as shown in the course, is that White need no longer fear the Grünfeldesque 3…g6: 4.c4 Bg7 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.e4! is currently causing problems for Black. White also has good chances for an edge after 3…Bg4 4.Nbd2!? and while 3…Bf5 is very solid for Black, here you may wish to follow the course and surprise Black with 4.Nh4!? (4.c4 with a transposition to the Slav and Avrukh-type play is the alternative). Finally, there’s also 3…c5 4.dxc5 when White can play positionally with c2-c4, but we prefer to follow-up with 4…e6 5.b4!?, aiming for a fun and reversed Abrahams-Noteboom-type position.

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