If White combines the moves characteristic of the Queen’s Gambit with the fianchetto of his king’s bishop, the result is the Catalan Opening. Although the setup had also been encountered earlier, it did not get a name until 1929 after a tournament in Barcelona, the capital city of Catalonia. Today the Catalan enjoys great popularity at the highest level, with both Kramnik (2006 in Elista) and also Anand (2010 in Sofia) scoring extremely important victories with this system with White in their WCh matches against Topalov.
A characteristic of the Catalan is that the bishop often exerts very strong pressure on the h1-a8 diagonal from g2. But the price to be paid is that the c4-pawn is not so well protected as in the Queen’s Gambit – in many variations White even offers to sacrifice this pawn. Black has above all a fundamental decision to take, whether to take the c4-pawn with his d-pawn early (mostly on move 4) or later (mostly on move 6) or whether he prefers to support his centre with ...c6. Should Black decide to go into the Open Catalan with 4...dxc4, then 5.Qa4+ with the immediate recovery of the pawn is considered to be relatively harmless, since after 5...Nbd7 6.Qxc4 the position of the queen on c4 can be exploited for the quick development of the queenside by 6...a6 7.Bg2 b5 8.£c2 Bb7. Black will get in ...c5 without problem and achieve equality.