The Colle System is a Queen’s Pawn Opening in which white seeks to play the same set-up against almost any response black throws at them! A typical beginning to the game might be 1. d5 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. e3


Colle System


This unassuming set-up isn’t considered very ambitious for white, but in return white gets a reliable set-up that can be used regardless of the opponent’s plans. In the Colle System, white simply wants to finish piece development, castle kingside, and then eventually look to strike in the center with e3-e4.



Let’s take a look at how the game might proceed.

Colle System – Black plays …c5

1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. e3 c5 4. c3 (4. dxc5 is possible, but it’s not easy to hold onto this pawn) 4…e6 5. Bd3 Nc6 6. Nbd2 Bd6 7. 0-0 0-0

Mainline Colle System

We’ve arrived at white’s ideal set-up in the Colle System. If black hasn’t played …cxd4 by this point, white often decides that this is the best moment to play 8. dxc5

This move forces the black bishop to move again, and after 8…Bxc5 9. e4, white succeeds in striking at the center. After the d2 knight moves, the dark-squared bishop will also be free to develop, and white has a harmonious position in a roughly equal middlegame.

Black plays …cxd4

We can reach a different pawn structure if black does decide to capture the d-pawn at some point. For example, from the line above, let’s say that black played 7…cxd4 8. exd4 0-0:


Carlsbad Colle

This pawn structure (The Carlsbad structure or the Orthodox structure) is well-known from a wide variety of different openings. Both sides have the queen’s pawn in the center of the board, but one side has a semi-open e-file and the other side has a semi-open c-file.

To make use of the semi-open c-file, black will likely want to play …b7-b5-b4 (“The Minority Attack”).  White is likely to want to play on the kingside, perhaps with Ne5 and even f2-f4 in some lines.

As is typical for the Colle System, understanding typical middlegame plans becomes more important than rote memorization of opening theory!

Other Black Set-ups

Black does have other ways to tackle the Colle System without playing …d5 and …c5.

It’s hard to analyze such options concretely – because of the lack of pawn tension in the Colle System, each player has a free hand to develop as they please! Any real action will likely be differed to the middlegame.

I’ll provide one line for illustrative purposes: 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. e3 c5 4. c3 b6 5. Nbd2 Bb7 6. Bd3 Be7 7. 0-0 0-0 8. Qe2 Nc6:



Nf6 Colle System

With an equal middlegame. White will eventually want to play e3-e4 to liberate the dark-squared bishop.


Since the Colle System is not considered an ambitious try for an opening advantage, it has never been too popular in professional chess. I personally don’t recommend that my students play the Colle System, since playing the same pawn structures over and over again can limit your chess horizons!

Nonetheless, this opening remains very popular with amateur players who have no interest in studying opening theory. The ability to consistently reach a good middlegame position with a clear plan appeals to a lot of chess players.

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